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The Graduate Center, CUNY
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Ranaldi R.,The Graduate Center, CUNY
Reviews in the Neurosciences | Year: 2014

Reward seeking is controlled by conditioned stimuli (CSs). There is a positive relation between mesocorticolimbic dopamine (DA) and the performance of learned reward-directed behavior. The mechanisms by which reward-, including drug-, associated stimuli come to acquire the capacity to activate the DA systems are not fully understood. In this review, we discuss the possible neurochemical mechanisms within the ventral tegmental area that may be involved in how CSs acquire the capacity to activate ventral tegmental area (VTA) DA neurons based on principles of long-term potentiation in the VTA and the role of mesocorticolimbic DA in reward-related learning. We propose that CSs function as such because they acquire the capacity to activate VTA DA neurons. Furthermore, CSs come to acquire this control of VTA DA cells when there is coincident N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor stimulation on VTA DA cells and strong depolarization of VTA DA cells, possibly by muscarinic acetylcholine receptor stimulation on these cells. This coincident activity leads to the strengthening of CS-associated glutamatergic synapses and the control by CSs of mesocorticolimbic DA systems and reward-directed behavior. © 2014 by De Gruyter.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: COGNEURO | Award Amount: 376.57K | Year: 2015

When we open our eyes, we seem to effortlessly perceive the external world and have the impression that our representations of the external world are highly accurate. Yet the reality is that our perceptions of an identical event can vary from one moment to the next and this variation is at least in part due to the timing of stimulus arrival relative to the on-going brain waves, i.e., the oscillation in the electrical activity of the brain. With support from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Ro and colleagues of the City University of New York (CUNY) will conduct a systematic series of experiments to assess the timing of visual information processing between different regions of the brain and the joint influence of feedforward and feedback information on visual perception. Using converging methodological approaches that include structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG), fast signal optical imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and psychophysical methods, this project introduces an innovative approach to the understanding of variations in visual processing.

This research will advance our knowledge of visual perception, which in turn will provide a solid foundation for developing better visual substitution or rehabilitation techniques for the nearly 300 million individuals worldwide with congenital or acquired visual processing deficits. This research will also provide cutting-edge training opportunities in neuroscience for postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate and graduate students, including women and underrepresented minorities. Finally, these studies will yield a large amount of TMS, MRI, EEG, and optical imaging data that will be available for sharing with other researchers.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DDRI Cult Anthro | Award Amount: 22.36K | Year: 2016

It is widely observed on the Earth today that glaciers are shrinking, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity. We also know that the future trajectory of the global warming patterns underlying these and other developments will be affected by the choices humans make and, especially, the energy policies their countries pursue. Therefore, researchers are seeking to understand where these policies come from and how governments and citizens determine their energy futures. Social science researchers in particular ask how competing environmental and geopolitical policies arise. Anthropology is particularly well placed to provide insights into such questions because the field focuses on the everyday activities, understandings, and processes that bring ordinary people to make these momentous decisions. In other words, anthropology brings large-scale geopolitical issues into an everyday focus.

City University of New York anthropology graduate student Zeynep Oguz, with the guidance of Dr. Gary Wilder, will investigate the case of oil and natural gas exploration processes in Turkey.The researcher has chosen Turkey because there the government-run Mineral Exploration and Research Institute (MTA) has partnered with public and private oil companies to search for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. This conjunction of stakeholders enables the researcher to observe the involvement of multiple actors in a resource exploration setting, including experts, statespeople, private businesses, and environmental activists. Further, in contrast to extraction, the early stage of hydrocarbon exploration have been understudied by social scientists even though it is critical to the making of key decisions. The researcher will focus on the production, circulation, and appropriation of techno-scientific knowledge about potential hydrocarbon resources. He will employ a range of social science research methods including participant observation in gas and oil exploration. He also will interview geologists and engineers involved in the process to capture their everyday practices and worldviews about resources, the environment, and the future. He will trace the circulation of data sets, field reports, maps, and other findings derived through hydrocarbon exploration, and conduct further interviews to assess how government officials and members of civil society utilize scientific information to make or contest energy policy. Findings from this research will provide insight into the factors that affect, perpetuate, or obstruct decision-making processes in energy policy and climate change mitigation. It will also contribute to new and more general social scientific understanding of how knowledge is made, circulated, and utilized.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY | Award Amount: 42.23K | Year: 2017

This award supports a two-part international workshop on changing notions of community in global perspective. Previous research has demonstrated that strong community ties are linked to civic efficacy, participation, cooperation, and volunteering, and are, therefore, an important measure of social well-being. But recently, researchers have observed dramatic increases in social heterogeneity, weakening ties and potentially underming trust within and between communities. The workshop asks if these developments are inevitable and what the outcomes will be. It addresses these questions using a comparative, community studies approach. Social scientists from the United States, Mexico, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom will use anthropological ethnographic and archival data to examine current shifts in how communities are formed, how they change, and the kinds of ties that are formed within and between them. The work will have impact by 1) increasing understanding of the causes and consequences of community change in the contemporary world; 2) supporting international research collaboration; and 3) promoting education through the inclusion of graduate student participants and by communicating results to the public.

The two-part workshop will be convened by Dr. Jeff Maskovsky (City University of New York) and Dr. Sophie Bjork-James (Vanderbilt University). Community studies experts will share data on how communities across the world are changing and whether those changes strengthen or weaken social ties. The first workshop will seek to answer multiple, interrelated questions: From global perspectives, what are the primary influencers of community change? What social factors have the most impact in strengthening or weakening community ties? How does increased diversity affect community ties? And what can ethnography and history contribute to current debates? The workshop will emphasize a comparative perspective and will develop knowledge of community change across regional, national, international, and global contexts. The second workshop will distill findings and prepare for the publication of an edited volume designed to reach four high impact audiences: students in graduate and undergraduate anthropology courses, anthropologists studying community change, scholars in other disciplines working on similar topics, and the English language reading public.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ALGEBRA,NUMBER THEORY,AND COM | Award Amount: 180.00K | Year: 2016

The existence of irrational numbers has fascinated mankind since antiquity; their approximation by rational numbers is of great importance in both theory and applications. The Markoff Diophantine equation arose in Markoffs fundamental work (in 1879) characterizing those irrationals that are badly approximable. The equation arises in several fields of mathematics. Its integer solutions have a tree structure, and investigation of the arithmetic properties of these Markoff numbers (the first of which is associated with the golden ratio, in a sense the most badly approximable irrational number) leads to important questions in graph theory. This research project investigates the connectivity of graphs related to the Markoff tree. In addition to its importance for number theory, this investigation has deep connections and applications to, among other topics, the product replacement algorithm (the most prevalent but still poorly understood tool in computational group theory) and expander graphs in computer science.

Investigation of the arithmetic properties of Markoff numbers leads to the question of whether the graphs obtained by the modular reduction of the Markoff tree are connected (strong approximation). Superstrong approximation is the assertion that these graphs are in fact highly connected, that is to say form a family of expanders. The past decade saw a remarkable explosion of activity in the area of superstrong approximation for thin groups (Zariski dense subgroups of infinite index). Much of the research was driven by development of the affine sieve. In the case of thin groups with Levi factor of its Zariski closure semisimple, the strong and superstrong approximation and their applications in affine sieve are by now well-understood. On the other hand, the tori pose particularly difficult problems, both in terms of sparsity of elements in an orbit and their Diophantine properties as well as in terms of strong approximation, which in this case amounts to Artins primitive root conjecture. This research project will investigate strong and superstrong approximation in a setting that is intermediate in level of difficulty between that of tori and that of thin linear groups, namely, that of nonlinear actions on a surface defined by the Markoff equation as well as in the context of other surfaces of Markoff type. Superstrong approximation results for thin linear groups will play an important role in this investigation, as will techniques and methods related to progress on Langs conjecture and to the classification of algebraic Painlevé VI equations.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Fellowship | Program: | Phase: GRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOWSHIPS | Award Amount: 506.00K | Year: 2016

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is a highly competitive, federal fellowship program. GRFP helps ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based masters and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and in STEM education. The GRFP provides three years of financial support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM and STEM education. This award supports the NSF Graduate Fellows pursuing graduate education at this GRFP institution.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DDRI Cult Anthro | Award Amount: 20.16K | Year: 2016

Monetary unions are created to foster political, social, and economic integration among a group of member states by facilitating the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. The research supported by this award asks, What happens when one of the monetary unions member nations faces economic crisis and its citizens respond in part by establishing monetary systems of their own? Are they just demonstrating human resiliency and adaptability? Or are they also challenging the very idea of having a formal shared market and associated currency that do not correspond to the nation with which people identify? There is now a global movement towards greater economic integration, so these are important questions for all of us.

City University of New York doctoral student, Helen Panagiotopoulos, with the supervision of Dr. Ida Susser, will address these questions through 15 months of ethnographic research in Greece. Greece is an appropriate site for the research because in 2009, faced with debts it could not pay, the Greek government instituted austerity measures as a condition of obtaining outside financial assistance. The austerity measures were followed by economic depression, large increases in unemployment, and a widepsread shortage of money. In this context, people established a variety of currency alternatives to acquire the goods and services they needed to survive, without euros, the currency of their monetary union, the Eurozone. These alternative currencies include Local Exchange Trading Schemes, such as barter, time banking, and mutual credit clearing, and crypto currencies such as Bitcoin and Free Coin. The researcher will carry out research in three sites, each of which is associated with a different alternative currency system. She will collect data through extended case analysis, interviews, participant observation, archival research, text analysis and analysis of online databases. Findings from this research will improve social scientific theory of the relationship between currencies, national sovereignty, and citizen allegiance. They will also be of interest to policy makers who need to understand how currencies shape social and political life and how people understand money and value.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: SOCIOLOGY | Award Amount: 870.91K | Year: 2014

Janet Gornick
CUNY Graduate School

Founded in 1983--LIS formerly known as the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) -- is a unique, cross-national data archive and research center which fosters primary research by providing access to household microdata. LIS operates as a consortium of countries, governed by an international board, and serving an international community of researchers. LIS has four, longstanding goals: 1) harmonize micro-datasets, from multiple countries, which include data on income, wealth, employment and demography; 2) provide a secure method that allows access to data with privacy restrictions; 3) create a remote-execution system to enable research conducted from off-site locations; and 4) promote the use of microdata in comparative research on social and economic wellbeing on a global level, conduct research onsite, and sponsor and host scholars using the LIS data.

LIS is a unique, cross-national data infrastructure, which is indispensable for understanding the social and economic wellbeing of people in today?s globalized world. Created expressly to foster primary research by providing access to household microdata, LIS enables the highest quality social science research, both theoretical and empirical, and informs analyses of a broad array of social and economic policies and institutions. LIS operates as a consortium of countries, governed by an international board, and serves an international community of researchers. LIS prepares and maintains two databases, the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Database and the Luxembourg Wealth Study (LWS). The LIS Database includes income, employment, and demographic variables at the person- and household-level; there currently over 250 micro-datasets from 46 countries, spanning 1968 to 2011; the LWS Database contains 20 wealth datasets from 12 countries and covers 1994 to 2007. LIS and LWS datasets, together, cover 86% of the world GDP and 64% of world population. New datasets and new countries are being added regularly.

Broader Impacts

LIS houses the only data infrastructure that includes income, wealth, and labor market microdata, spanning decades and from diverse geographic regions. The LIS datasets foster research on economic and social policies and their effects on outcomes including poverty, income inequality, employment status, wage patterns, gender inequality, and family structure. The LWS datasets enable research on wealth portfolios, asset levels, and the interplay between household income and wealth. The activities, goals, and accomplishments of LIS match NSF priorities (NSF Strategic Plan 2011-2016), most especially transforming frontiers of knowledge, building research infrastructure, encouraging international engagement in science, and promoting multidisciplinary research. Moreover, LIS fits well with NSFs longstanding emphasis on making knowledge accessible to policy-makers and the public at large. LIS serves thousands of researchers worldwide, from various disciplines, including economics, sociology, political science, policy studies, and public health. Users come from academia, government agencies, non-governmental agencies, supranational organizations and news agencies; one-third of registered users are American. LIS provides online instructional materials, user support, and annual training workshops. LIS is a physical and virtual venue for researchers to exchange ideas, results, and methods; these exchanges take place through the Working Paper Series, the Visiting Scholar Program, LIS conferences and workshops, and pre- and post-doctoral scholarships will develop valuable new skills in a stimulating interdisciplinary environment.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING | Award Amount: 62.21K | Year: 2016


The most recent occurrence of a mosquito borne disease moving into the US is the Zika virus. This project will make a significant contribution in developing and accessing optical recognition software for mosquito larvae of Aedes aegypti, the carrier of Zika virus. The project, focuses on optical recognition software from photos of mosquito larvae taken by citizen scientists. The successful application of identifying Aedes aegypti larvae will be useful for public health professionals and others assessing the spread of the mosquito in the southern United States.

The primary goal of this work is to develop optical recognition software that identifies mosquito larvae in images submitted by citizen scientists participating in the GLOBE Observer. Citizen scientists will use an app available on smartphones or tablets through which they will submit larvae imagery and other environmental data. After reduction, the image will be processed on a server. If the query shows high accuracy, the result is sent to the GLOBE database. If inconclusive, the application will request the mobile device to send the original image for human identification through crowdsourcing or expert validation. Since the amount of data might require excessive computation and storage, the project will use Big Data tools and algorithms, e.g., MapReduce, to analyze the data. A secondary goal is to jumpstart a national campaign using citizen science to collect baseline data on the spread of Aedes aegypti and A. albopictus, the two species that transmit Zika, which may not otherwise be collected by public health agencies. Additionally, this project will serve as a responsive development laboratory to inform the ongoing development of GLOBE?s capabilities as a national, adult-focused citizen science program, while testing and refining mobile apps, map interfaces, and citizen science engagement and retention strategies in two pilot regions, the Gulf Coast and New York City, both identified by the Center for Disease Control as at high risk for Zika transmission and outbreaks in summer 2016. THE CROWD & THE CLOUD (C&C), an NSF-supported DRL/AISL project, will document the process of the work on film, and share videos and social media posts throughout the pilot phase. C&C will also include a video segment in its national public television premiere in Spring 2017.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SOCIOLOGY | Award Amount: 514.95K | Year: 2016

Despite decades of affordable housing policies, stable and sustainable housing for low-income households is scarce and inequality is at an all-time high. Traditional models of low-income ownership have often led to financial losses, foreclosure, a return to renting, or negative home equity. Relocating low- income households to higher income communities has proven difficult to do and successful only under limited conditions. Missing from these models of low-income housing policy is an understanding of the formal economic and institutional arrangements that connect households to economic and social capital. Community Land Trusts (CLTs) present an alternative policy model that provides quality affordable housing through shared equity and institutional arrangements that directly and indirectly provide access to economic, social and cultural capital. CLTs also stabilize the housing market for communities and steward the land so that its uses serve the needs of people who live there. This study investigates the extent to which CLTs bring about improvements in residents economic, cultural, and social capital and how they affect communities. The underlying hypothesis is that asset accumulation needs to be accompanied by ontological security -- the sense that the material and social worlds are trustworthy and constant -- if poor households are to advance. Looking beyond the individual, this study examines the extent to which CLTs are associated with increased community stability and well being. It aims to enlighten debates about how to balance public and private interests in housing, how to make the most of public subsidies, and how to integrate housing provision and community development.

The theoretical assumption of decades of low-income housing policy presumes that either market rate homeownership or relocation to more capital rich locations will facilitate the accumulation of economic, cultural and social capital. This study proceeds from an alternate analysis of the requirements for increased accumulation of different forms of capital. The institutional supports and obligations of CLTs and their community benefits are seen as critical in creating the conditions for the accumulation of economic, cultural and social capital by introducing stability into the lives of poor households and producing communities permanently accessible to and supportive of these households. Homeowners in two geographically dispersed CLTs serving ethnically and economically diverse low- and moderate -income populations will be surveyed along with comparison groups of other similar households seeking homeownership. The survey and CLT verified data will be used to examine how CLT homeownership affects household finances (economic capital), educational levels (cultural capital), community engagement (social capital), and sense of stability, safety and ability to move ones life forward (ontological security). Using multi-level models, individual and census data will be analyzed to better understand the community contexts of CLT and non-CLT households and to see how communities are affected by the presence of CLT homes. Census, housing and school data at the census tract level will be used to spatially examine the efficacy of CLT place-making and positive neighborhood effects by comparing previous respondent addresses to CLT and non-CLT present locations.

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