2016 Interdisciplinary Research Grants

Carnival as a Performative Art Form


The Brazilian Carnival artists have been strong social agents for community engagement through the parades that bring people of all social levels together for a one-of-a-kind experience. Professor Loyce Arthur and I, Professor Armando Duarte, have been working over the past four years to bring a similar experience to local and University communities. During Summer 2016, we are interested in refining the creative elements in these events in an on-going process that gives us an opportunity to grow creatively as carnival artists and engaged scholars. We have been eagerly looking for an opportunity where we could both work and dialogue together about Brazilian carnival, bringing together under a microscope our individual expertise about how carnival costumes and dances are and have been created. We propose to work side-by-side and step-by-step to create carnival costumes and dances with local participants. We will discuss, evaluate, and record each of the elements involved in the collaboration starting with the history of how these two art forms influence each other as well as the social and artistic meaning behind the forms, progressing on to the practical methods used to make costumes and dances, and ending by creating our own dances and costumes based on our findings for the 2016 Iowa city carnival parade. We are focusing on a variety of topics from, carnival bodies in motion, to the roots of carnival in African-Brazilian and African-Caribbean cultures, to the existing social elements involved in the schools of samba activities. We will have philosophical discussions about social behavior during carnival time in Brazil, the Caribbean, and in Europe. We expect that we will continue to work on the dance piece beyond the Iowa City Carnival parade and present our findings together at the University of Iowa in classes and at conferences around the country. 

Heterogeneous Network Data Analytics to Improve Urban Sustainability


Modern urban systems are increasingly facing significant challenges in sustainable development due to a persistent increase in motor vehicles and population density. These changes may lead to higher fuel consumption, higher greenhouse gas emission, and low efficiency in public services (e.g., transportation, tele-communication). The key task for city planners is to intelligently manage urban systems so as to minimize energy consumptions and pollution, while maximizing the efficiency of the public service systems.

A unique feature of urban systems is that resources are usually interconnected and organized in forms of networks, e.g., traffic networks, cellular networks, and power system networks. With the development of computer and sensing techniques, huge amount of heterogenous data are being collected from these urban networks (e.g., vehicle trajectories, cellular statistics, and power system status) . Urban sustainability efforts can greatly benefit by utilizing these ​big network data. ​For instance, urban sustainability efforts can leverage actionable insights and decision support provided by applying data mining approaches on the available data. However, applying data mining approaches on network data for urban sustainability is non-trivial because of its large scale in terms of size and dimensions, heterogeneity, and privacy-sensitiveness.

In this project, we plan to design novel data analytical approaches and deploy them for analyzing transport network data. We have access to transport network data from New York City and two major Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Changsha. We plan to design novel geospatial network mining algorithms for optimizing urban transport systems in terms of (1) traffic congestion, (2) greenhouse gases, and (3) urban mobility in cities and suburbs. 

The Influence of Age at Implantation on Sequential Learning Processes in Children with Cochlear Implants


Cochlear implants allow children who are deaf to perceive speech, enabling them to acquire spoken language. Children who receive cochlear implants earlier in life tend to achieve better language outcomes than those who are implanted later. One possible reason for this is that children who are later-implanted miss out on language input during a ‘sensitive period’ for language development. This early language deprivation may have a negative impact on the development of brain pathways that support language learning, making these children less efficient language-learners. In the current study, we propose to test this hypothesis using a dynamic learning task designed to assess the ease with which children learn novel grammatical sequences. We will also administer parallel tasks that will assess children’s ability to learn non- linguistic visual and motor patterns. These paradigms will allow us to determine whether there is a relationship between age at implantation and learning efficiency in verbal, visual, and motor contexts, as well as the specificity of this relationship to language. The research builds on a prior research study conducted by the two collaborators, one from the University of Iowa (Elizabeth Walker) and one from University College London (Hannah Pimperton). This earlier study examined the relationship between age at implantation and vocabulary learning in children with cochlear implants. The proposed research will expand on previous efforts of the collaborators by exploring novel grammar learning, a different domain of language acquisition than vocabulary learning. Theoretically, we intend for these efforts to contribute to our understanding of sensitive periods for language development, as well as the impact of auditory deprivation on domain general and domain specific aspects of learning. Clinically, our goal is to provide evidence that will inform decision making for parents and medical professionals regarding the optimum age for cochlear implantation in children who are congenitally deaf. 

The Meek and the Mighty: Exploring Diversity Programs Among Big Ten Universities


In the United States, college graduates experience better employment opportunities, increased income, and greater wealth than high school graduates. Despite the widespread benefits of attending college, universities have traditionally served students from White and middle-to-upper class backgrounds and have unsuccessfully retained diverse students, resulting in the further marginalization of underrepresented populations. In fact, it is estimated that 6 out of 10 Black and Latino/a undergraduates at a four-year institution will fail to graduate (Museus & Quaye, 2009). Recognizing a need for greater inclusion of and support for underrepresented students, universities have turned their attention to the development of diversity and cultural programs to both encourage greater diversity within the institution and to provide supportive services to students from traditionally marginalized backgrounds. Although evidence suggests that greater diversity initiatives in higher education fosters students’ academic and social growth (Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, & Gurin, 2002; Hurtado, 2001; Denson & Chang, 2009; Villalpando, 2002), little is known about the establishment and spread of these programs across universities. Therefore, this research seeks to further explore processes and patterns of developing and implementing diversity and supportive programs, as well as the impact of these efforts on student and institutional outcomes.