Maryland today | New Directions Seed Grants support 7 research projects…

The University of Maryland has awarded new seed funding to seven projects focused on topics ranging from documenting community heritage to discovering atomic catalysts.

The grants come from the New Discovery Fund, which advances important new lines of research and creative work with high potential for impact. It is supported by the Maryland Catalyst Fund program within the Division of Research and matching funds from the Research Fellows’ colleges and departments.

“We are thrilled to support these dynamic, diverse and creative research initiatives through the New Directions program,” said Vice President of Research Gregory F. Ball. “The projects have the potential to have a significant impact on local, regional and national communities.”

This year, a racial and social justice stream was included to support research on systemic, institutional and structural racism and injustice, resulting in the selection of four projects.

The following projects have been shortlisted for the New Directions Awards:

North Brentwood Digital Heritage Project: In Prince George’s County’s first community incorporated by African Americans, university anthropology professor Mark Leone is working on a participatory heritage framework designed to empower community residents and descendants through digital historic preservation. The community faces challenges related to stormwater management and the impacts of gentrification.

Identification of parental sexual orientation socialization strategies: conceptual development and measurement: Jessica Fisher, a research assistant in the Department of Family Sciences, is advancing research on sexual minority youth, who have poorer mental health and higher substance use than their heterosexual peers. She pursues a testable conceptual model of the socialization of parental sexual orientation and a self-report measure of these practices that can be used in future research and interventions.

Initiative Against Black Racism: Sociology professor Rashawn Ray is leading this effort to address racism in our local community and on our campus, produce scholarships that advance a national conversation and political agenda on social justice, and empower students to consider and create a racially equitable future.

Deep Learning Accelerated Discovery of Atomic Catalysts: Mechanical Engineering Professor Keystone Teng Li is leading research to develop a novel data-driven deep learning accelerated design methodology for the discovery of high-performance atomic catalysts, which facilitate highly efficient chemical reactions in the creation of green and renewable fuels, reducing carbon emissions and preserving clean water.

“The system is not for us.” Exploring Black and Latino Parents’ School Exclusion Experiences in a Local District to Reduce Inequity: Sophia Rodriguez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, Policy, and Leadership, is conducting a qualitative case study focusing on the experiences of exclusion of Black and Latino/x parents in a local community school district. The study will draw on data from interviews and focus groups of 75 parents to contribute to research and advocacy efforts aimed at increasing racial and social justice for underrepresented parents.

Measuring quantum energies of molecules in extreme rotational states: Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Amy Mullin’s group will investigate how extreme rotational energy affects vibrational states in centrifuged molecules by directly measuring quantum energies in different vibrational states using a spectroscopic method known as combination differences. The ability to measure rotational energies separately from vibrational energy will inform current models of molecular quantum states, contribute to our understanding of heat transport at the molecular level, and lay the foundation for understanding the dynamics of gas-phase molecules in extreme energy environments.

Assessing the Determinants and Implementation Processes of Racial Equity and Social Justice Law in Montgomery County, Maryland: Kellee White, associate professor of health policy and management, will assess the determinants and implementation processes of Montgomery County’s new Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, which mandates legislative committees on the racial equity and requires racial equity impact assessments and statements for management, legislative and budget priorities. It also plans to develop a framework for evaluating the implementation of racial equity and social justice policies.

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