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From babies' spatial skills to collective bargaining, social science research gets funding

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Syl Kacapyr

From studies on the vocal organs to how foreclosures have affected racial integration, social science research at Cornell just got a boost from the university's Institute for the Social Sciences (ISS).

The ISS has announced the winners of its small grant competition for fall 2012.

"We are very pleased with the breadth of the projects funded," said Senior Vice Provost Ronald Seeber, acting ISS director. "The ISS is funding 11 innovative and interdisciplinary projects from four colleges within the university."

Twice a year the ISS holds a competition awarding up to $12,000 to Cornell faculty to support social science research. The ISS favors junior faculty proposals but supports interdisciplinary social science research projects, including conferences, from all faculty.

This fall's award winners include Matthew Hall, assistant professor of policy analysis and management, who will examine foreclosures 2005-12 to assess the effects the recent recession and housing bubble bust are having on racial integration in American neighborhoods.

Suzanne Mettler, the Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions in the Department of Government, is conducting a longitudinal study of U.S. adults first surveyed in 2010 following the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. She's probing how public policies, once created, influence public attitudes, potentially reshaping the political process.

Marianella Casasola, associate professor of human development, is breaking new ground focusing on spatial transformation in infants. As infants understand spatial language -- such as the meaning of left, right, up and down -- Casasola is examining whether their spatial skills, linked to math and science achievement, are enhanced.

The research of Tarleton Gillespie, assistant professor of communication, and Tony Liao, Ph.D. candidate in the field of communication, delves into the world of augmented reality by analyzing why and for what purpose companies frame emerging technologies and how competing visions of the future ultimately shape products.

Using weather and pollution data from German government agencies and hospital records 1998-2010, Nicolas Ziebarth, assistant professor of policy analysis and management, is analyzing how hot and cold waves interact with pollution and affect human health, potentially increasing the incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental illness.

In the Department of Near Eastern Studies, Lauren Monroe, assistant professor, and Christopher Monroe, senior lecturer, together with colleagues from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Azusa Pacific University, are conducting the first archaeological excavation at Tell Abil al-Qamh in Israel where three communities, the Israelites, Arameans and Phoenicians, once coexisted. The team is analyzing materials collected at the site to understand how the communities that once lived in this border town revealed their cultures and identities.

Calum Turvey, the W.I. Myers Professor of Agricultural Finance in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, is digitizing 30,000 household surveys collected in rural China 1920-33 by John Lossing Buck, Class of 1914, Ph.D. 1933, whose work resulted in the founding of the field of agricultural economics. Working with scholars at Nanjing Agricultural University, Turvey plans to re-examine the field surveys through the literature of Buck's wife, Pearl S. Buck, M.A. '25, the Nobel laureate whose writings include "The Good Earth."

Sam Tilsen, assistant professor of linguistics, is using magnetic resonance imaging to collect and analyze video images showing vocal organs -- the lips, jaw, tongue and velum -- at work. The project is expected to advance understanding of speech articulation and lead to novel articulatory therapies.

Felix Thoemmes, assistant professor of human development, is looking at the causal effects of mediation analysis using finite mixture models to account for unobserved heterogeneity.

In addition to the above research grants, the small grants program is supporting two conferences.

Sarosh Kuruvilla, department chair of international and comparative labor, is convening scholars to develop a collaborative research project addressing how collective bargaining is organized at the industry and company levels in China where labor strikes are illegal but nonetheless occurring.

In the Department of Human Development, Anthony Ong, associate professor, and Corinna Loeckenhoff, assistant professor, are organizing the Fourth Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference, "New Developments in Aging, Emotion and Health."

Lori Sonken is event coordinator for the Institute for the Social Sciences.

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