2021 Interdisciplinary Research Grants

Digital tablet among books on library shelf

Building Public Humanities Ecologies for Critical Computing in LIS


Over the past two decades, LIS programs have trended toward information science, data science, and computer science, deemphasizing human- and community-centered practices inherent in what is rapidly becoming the lost "L" of LIS: librarianship. This project brings together researchers from intersecting fields to develop a model for digitally-engaged library and information sciences that is rooted in humanistic inquiry and community engagement. Its co-directors aim to build on the University of Iowa’s commitment to the digital and public humanities in order to create frameworks for engaging a humanistic approach to computational and digital literacies across the LIS disciplines, extending from undergraduate coursework to continuing education programs for practicing librarians across Iowa and the Midwest.

Librarians have historically been at the forefront of what we now call public humanities, as information professionals serving the public by programming literary events, providing book advisory, fostering local history projects, and connecting information-seekers in various ways to resources from core humanities disciplines. Libraries themselves also provide a crucial, secular “third place” for intersecting community information needs, community formation, and community organizing. Thus, this project's co-directors view librarianship as a fungible domain of theory and practice within which we can recenter community and the humanities at the heart of computational and information sciences. They will use the four-week grant period (July 5–30, 2021) to produce a grant application for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for additional funding to develop our program of practice in the School of Library and Information Science; and an article draft representing a body of research arguing toward fungible and critical computational practices that apply across LIS disciplines.


Benjamin Devane, College of Education

Micah Bateman, School of Library and Information Science

Lindsay Mattock, School of Library and Information Science


Differentiate Takotsubo Syndrome and Acute Myocardial Infarction: Machine Learning from Bedside Echocardiography


Takotsubo syndrome (TTS) and acute myocardial infarction (AMI) have distinctive pathophysiology, treatment strategies, and prognosis. Although cardiac catheterization with coronary angiography can provide differential diagnosis, frontline physicians often face a dilemma when cardiac catheterization or thrombolytic therapy can potentially result in lethal bleeding consequences. Misdiagnosing TTS as AMI also leads to initiation of potentially harmful pharmacological or device treatment, which worsens hemodynamic compromise. Recently, evidence is accumulating that the occurrence of TTS is increased due to direct and indirect COVID-19 infection. In order to avoid unnecessary invasive procedures, healthcare provider infection, and procedure room contamination, it becomes more important than ever to effectively and efficiently triage TTS and other “AMI-mimickers”. This project's co-directors propose to establish a machine learning (ML) model echocardiography, a portable real-time noninvasive diagnostic tool, to classify and triage patients with suspected AMI. Since more ML integration into routine healthcare workflows is likely inevitable in the future, successful completion of this project will also serve as a proof-of-concept for ML’s potential in bedside cardiovascular emergency care. This project will help to realize the ultimate goal of improving (differential) diagnostic accuracy and efficiency to support frontline physicians’ decision-making under challenging clinical conditions.

During the collaboration, group members will develop ML algorithms to distinguish TTS and AMI/ ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) based on (retrospectively) bedside echocardiography images from 450 patients (TTS, STEMI and referent control patients) in TTS registry of University of Iowa, compared to a board-certified cardiologist team for diagnostic accuracy. The specific imaging features identified by the ML model will be further analyzed for potential clinical relevancy (prognostic implications). The project will culminate in a manuscript to be submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal, so as to be externally validated with scaling analytics on a vast amount of datasets across different medical centers and through International Takotsubo (InterTAK) Registry.

This group will be in residence for four weeks, from May 17 to July 9, 2021.


Kan Liu, Internal Medicine – Cardiovascular Medicine

Xiaodong Wu, Electrical & Computer Engineering

girl wearing AI headset

Immersive Virtual Mathematics Education for Teachers (Project VIME)


Educators require additional professional development regarding the delivery of effective math instruction for children who struggle with mathematics, including children with disabilities. Due to the limitations associated with conventional forms of professional development, instructors rarely receive adequate training in the administration of systematic instruction or supports prior to entering the field. Providing educators with multiple opportunities to practice effective mathematic instruction has the potential to improve the performance of students in special and general education settings. Computers and telecommunication technology are increasingly recommended to facilitate candidates’ practice of instructional methods prior to placement in a classroom. However, many simulations must be directly administered by qualified professionals, allow few opportunities for practice in novel situations, and do not provide the level of immersion needed for the acquisition or generalization of targeted practices.

This group's project builds upon an interdisciplinary effort involving specialists in mathematics, professional development, and computer engineering to build an automated, virtual reality simulation capable of guiding, correcting, and assessing teacher candidates. The simulation will provide repeated opportunities to practice instructional strategies across a variety of conditions resembling authentic classroom interactions. Over a four-week period (June 7 through July 2, 2021), funding through the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Grant will support the refinement and testing of a simulation involving a question-based mathematics strategy. Additionally, the group will finalize planning and outreach efforts related to a larger experimental validation of the simulation scheduled for fall 2021. Work during the grant period will further encompass the preliminary development of a web-based curriculum design interface for end users and a second training simulation related to discrete-trial training, a highly structured approach to the instruction of math and other subjects for individuals with severe disabilities.


Seth King, Special Education (Teaching & Learning)

Anne Estapa, Mathematics (Teaching & Learning)

Tyler Bell, Electrical & Computer Engineering

drawing of pregnant woman and female activists

New Grammars for Reproductive Justice


This team will analyze interview data for a book project, New Grammars for Reproductive Justice. Intended as a book for both academic and public audiences, New Grammars for Reproductive Justice traces the struggle among health care providers and reproductive justice advocates to invent vocabularies that account for the intersecting systems of oppressions and histories faced by poor women, people of color, queer, trans and non-binary people. Drawing from current research in transgender studies, feminist studies, and rhetoric, this project makes use of the reproductive justice framework developed by women of color to analyze ongoing debates over language use and inclusivity within reproductive health care and advocacy.

During their two-week Obermann residency, Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz and Shui-yin Sharon Yam will analyze transcripts from approximately sixty hours of semi- structured interviews with stakeholders, such as representatives from national reproductive rights and justice organizations, health service providers, and queer, trans, and/or non-binary parents. They will study these interviews in order to illustrate the wide range of affective responses, ethical rationales, political arguments, and lived experiences stakeholders mobilize to make sense of this tension between gender specificity and neutrality in language. Ultimately, New Grammars for Reproductive Justice queries the possibilities for crafting better language in the context of reproductive health care and politics—language that is more inclusive, accurate, and affirming for all those who birth and/or parent.


Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz, Communication Studies and Gender, Women's & Sexuality Studies

Shui-yin Sharon Yam, Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at University of Kentucky

Illustration of multiracial crowd

Planning the University of Iowa College of Education Annual Summer Racial Justice Institute


The summer of 2020 launched a racial reckoning in the United States as the onslaught of killings of unarmed African Americans at the hands of law enforcement and vigilantes sparked nationwide protests. These peaceful protests forced the country to re-examine the disconnect between its ideals and reality, as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s had done before. The organization of the Iowa Freedom Riders and Des Moines Black Lives Matter also signal Iowans realize the import of the moment and are interested in impacting change. Even prior to the recent racial unrest. Iowa has been named among the worst states for Black Americans to live in based on multiple measures, including the income gap, education gap, rates of homeowners, and incarceration rates. The Institute will engage Iowans from throughout the state in better understanding racial justice and how to realize it in their own communities.

This project, funded by a Laura Spelman Rockefeller Grant, builds upon sociologist Charles S. Johnson’s Fisk University Race Relations Institute to address current racial tensions we see manifested in the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Jacob Blake, and Walter Wallace, Jr. Just as Johnson believed social science and education were acts of social justice, the University of Iowa College of Education Summer Racial Justice Institute will assemble an interdisciplinary team of scholars from Iowa as well as other institutions, students—both graduate and undergraduate students—and community leaders to facilitate learning utilizing research and scholarship to deepen participants’ understanding of race, racism, and racial justice. The Institute will offer K-12 educators, community members, business owners, medical professionals, law enforcement, and concerned citizens a much needed opportunity to gain a holistic understanding of the historical and contemporary experiences of impacting racially minoritized populations in Iowa as well as important opportunity to craft actionable plans to advance racial justice in their own communities.

By the end of the grant period, co-directors will have processes and materials to realize the vision of the institute. This will include how participants and facilitators will be identified, a plan to gather data indicating the experiences and learning of participants and facilitators at the institute, a budget for the hosting the institute, and a plan to support participants after the institute.


Ain Grooms, Educational Leadership & Policy

DeeAnn Grove, West Wind Education Policy

Katrina Sanders, Educational Policy & Leadership

African American men holding hands

Untying Tongues: Tongues United, Black Queerness, and Queer Media Archives


The American canon of LGBTQ+ media is habitually whitewashed. Although Jess Cagle dubbed the 1990s the “Gay 90s” in a 1995 ​Entertainment Weekly​ cover story, queerness within 1990s media discourse often centers texts like ​Will & Grace ​and ​Ellen​, but rarely includes discussions of LGBTQ+ people of color. When queers of color are mentioned within this canon, it is often through a white cisgender lens: Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary ​Paris is Burning​, for example, or via the parody of Black queerness within the sketch comedy series ​In Living Color​’s (FOX, 1990-1994) “Men On...” sketches, ones that filmmaker Marlon Riggs once said, “justif[ied] all of the very traditional beliefs about black gay sexuality.” As such, critical study of Riggs’s groundbreaking film ​Tongues Untied (​ 1989) is long overdue, not only as a disruption to the normative racial and sexual politics of the American LGBTQ+ media canon, but also in order to center the film within the broader social and cultural politics of 1990s America.

The majority of existing work that either mentions or engages with ​Tongues Untied ​is deeply textual in nature. In other words, little consideration has been given to the social, cultural, reception, and production contexts of the film. Thus, the collaborators of this project center Black queerness within the American LGBTQ+ media canon in their jointly-authored book Tongues Untied,​ currently under contract with McGill-Queen’s University Press as part of the “Queer Film Classics” series. The book not only engages the textual features of Riggs’s documentary, but also illuminates the struggles, contestations, and triumphs associated with the film’s production, release, and reception.

This group's four-week virtual collaboration from July 1 to July 30, 2021, will produce full drafts of two of the book’s chapters.


Alfred Martin, Communication Studies

Andrew Owens, Cinematic Arts

color photo of African American teacher working with two grade-school students

Educators of Color in Iowa (IDRG Special Project)


This interdisciplinary project combines literature, research, and methods from educational leadership, youth and adult development, and rehabilitation counseling to examine the lived experiences of educators of color (EOCs) (from paraprofessionals through superintendents) across the state of Iowa. From the first phase of the project, findings from original survey data highlighted the negative effect of racialized school climates on EOCs' sense of belonging and burnout at work. This initial survey study provided a description of what EOC experience at work, but not necessarily how EOC navigate and manage race-based stress daily. Thus, the purpose of the next phase of this project is create a richer description of EOCs' daily routines and environments (e.g., home, work, community) through the collection of in-depth quantitative and qualitative data. Findings from these data will be used to develop evidence-based psychological interventions as well as school-wide professional development trainings. We also intend to develop an NIH grant proposal to support the next phase of the project and intensive data collection and analysis required for project expansion.