Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, June 20, 2011

Latest interdisciplinary junior faculty topics

Descriptions are based on approved proposals.

Adolescent Substance Use and Abuse
Medical School, School of Public Health and School of Social Work
Four faculty positions
Faculty lead: John Traynor

Addiction is a chronic brain disorder with both genetic and environmental risk factors. In teenagers and young adults, drug and substance use is associated with failure in school, social alienation and stigmatization, depression, and risky sexual activity. Adolescents particularly are disposed to trying legal and illegal substances as their brains still are developing in the areas that govern decision-making, judgment and self-control. This also means that it is easier for drugs to cause changes in brain chemistry, plasticity and function, which can critically affect adult behavior. To increase our understanding in this area, this faculty cluster will explore questions such as: Why are adolescents so susceptible? What does drug exposure do to the adolescent brain and are these effects permanent? How can we improve education and policy towards adolescent drug abuse? What interventions and or treatments are most appropriate for the adolescent brain?

Children in Poverty
School of Education, Ford School and SSW
Three faculty positions

Faculty leads: Sandra Danziger, Susan Dynarski and Sheldon Danziger
As of 2010, about one-fifth of all children in the United States live in poverty. Compared to their peers, these children are at a substantial disadvantage in their social, physical and emotional development. They progress through school at a slower rate, have lower educational achievement, face greater physical and mental health challenges, and mature into adults who are less likely to go to college and achieve economic security. The group of faculty hired for this cluster will focus on developing an integrated understanding of the effects of child poverty and effective ways to address this societal concern.

Distributed Health Technologies
College of Engineering, School of Dentistry and Medical School
Three faculty positions
Faculty lead: Sunitha Nagrath

In the era of “targeted therapies” and “personalized medicine”, not only it is essential to develop the technologies that are point-of-care but it is equally important to bring these advanced health technologies out of academic institutions to the patient’s bedside and/or into homes. Hence, the idea of “Distributed Health Technologies” (DHT) that will design, develop and test technologies that are compatible with large-scale distribution to the general community. DHT not only will enable the delivery of personalized medicine but also will help to discover the therapeutic biomarkers for targeted therapies. The cluster will accelerate the process of integrating engineering solutions into clinical medicine from the conception stage, which is the thrust of next generation of life sciences technologies.

Diversity and Complexity of Biological Networks
LSA, Medical School and SPH
Five faculty positions
Faculty lead: Mercedes Pascual

With advances in the quantity and quality of biological data has come the realization that biological function cannot be understood by isolating a small subset of components. Understanding how large biological systems are structured and how this structure relates to function, dynamics and development, is one of the central scientific challenges of the 21st century. This cluster will bring together scientists to (1) address the structure and function of biological networks at different levels of organization, (2) better understand how the diversity and complexity of networks affect their robustness to environmental change and variability, and (3) develop new computational and statistical approaches for analyzing networks.

Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Impacts: Integrated Assessment and Modeling
CoE and School of Natural Resources and Environment
Two faculty positions
Faculty lead: Joyce Penner

Sustainable development in the face of environmental and climate change is one of the highest-stake societal issues currently on policy and research agendas, domestically and internationally. The climate and environmental change issues are extreme in their requirements for an integrated view of multiple processes and knowledge from multiple domains to understand key processes and assess the potential effects of future technological advances, and political and economical decisions. Policy choices dealing with climate change are of major importance to the economic health of the Great Lakes region and the nation. It is the goal of this cluster to integrate and extend the university’s contributions to Integrated Assessment modeling of climate change.

Sustainable Food Systems
A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ross School, LSA, SNRE and SPH
Five faculty positions
Faculty lead: John Vandermeer

Today’s global food system produces unprecedented quantities of food. Nevertheless, the World Health Organization estimates that over one billion people lack adequate food to satisfy the minimum standards of nutrition. Even more perplexing is the fact that obesity has become a major health problem for some, even as hunger continues to plague others. Moreover, the modern agricultural system is increasingly recognized as environmentally unsustainable. For consumers, food safety has emerged as a critical issue and for producers — farmers and farm workers — workplace safety and unfair compensation threaten the sustainability of their livelihoods. The complex and multi-dimensional challenges of our food system require an interdisciplinary approach that both engages multiple disciplines and considers systemic effects such as feedbacks and interdependencies.

Sustainability and Behavior
Taubman College, SNRE and Ford School
Three faculty positions

Faculty leads: Arun Agrawal, Jonathan Levine and Carl Simon
An important key to a successful approach to sustainability is the human behavioral response. Consumers routinely eschew environmentally sound, money-saving activities, such as the use of energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, smart thermostats and low-flow showerheads. Yet if they were widely adopted, currently available technologies could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to levels within the capacity of earth systems to process sustainably. This cluster will address the fundamental questions of why people behave the way they do in different socio-economic, organizational/institutional, and structural contexts and what can be done to encourage behavioral changes that lead to more sustainable outcomes.

Urban Studies: Social Inequality and the Prospects of Equity and Sustainability in Southeastern Michigan
Taubman College, LSA and SSW
Four faculty positions
Faculty lead: Angela Dillard

This cluster will bring scholars and researchers together to examine the problems of 21st century urban areas in a region that is perhaps one of the most extreme expressions of the post-industrial condition. The study of southeastern Michigan offers a tremendous opportunity to address a global condition in a local compass and thus to dramatically expand the fields of urban studies. The cluster’s goal is the generation of both knowledge of and proposals for the region that are generalizable to other urban locations, both nationally and internationally. This cluster envisions the creation of a “Detroit School” of urban studies, which will contribute new ways of thinking, especially about equity and sustainability, to the range of fields and interests that urban studies intersects.

Proposals approved for funding in May 2010

Computational Media for Interactive Systems
Taubman College, CoE, School of Art & Design and School of Music, Theatre & Dance
Five faculty positions
Faculty lead: Satinder Singh Baveja

Genes, Environment and Behavior
LSA and Medical School
Five faculty positions
Faculty leads: Dr. Henry L. Paulson and Martin Sarter

The Mediterranean Perspective on Global History and Culture
Taubman College and LSA
Four faculty positions
Faculty lead: Michele Hannoosh

Rehabilitation Robotics
CoE, Medical School and School of Kinesiology
Four faculty positions
Faculty lead: Daniel Ferris

Reproductive Sciences
CoE and Medical School
Five faculty positions
Faculty leads: Dr. Timothy Johnson, Dr. Bishr Omary and Dr. Gary D. Smith

Proposals approved for funding in May 2009

Digital Environments
School of Information and LSA
Four faculty positions
Faculty lead: Gregory Dowd

Environment, Information and Sustainable Development: The Asia-Africa Nexus
School of Information, LSA and SNRE
Four faculty positions
Faculty lead: Paul N. Edwards

Financial Markets
Ross School, Law School, LSA and Ford School
Four faculty positions
Faculty lead: Susan Collins

Multiscale Cell Mechanics
CoE and Medical School
Five faculty positions
Faculty lead: Krishna Garikipati

Petascale Computing
CoE and LSA
Four faculty positions
Faculty lead: Sharon Glotzer

Sustainable Built Environment
Taubman College, CoE and SNRE
Three faculty positions
Faculty lead: Nancy G. Love

Proposals approved for funding in April 2008

Data Mining, Learning and Discovery with Massive Datasets
CoE and LSA
Five faculty positions
Faculty lead: Douglas Richstone

Energy Storage
Five faculty positions
Faculty lead: Gary Was

Global Change: Cryosphere and Sea-Level Impacts
CoE and LSA
Three faculty positions
Faculty lead: Christopher Poulsen

LSA, Medical School and School of Nursing
Five faculty positions
Faculty lead: Valerie Traub

Microbial Ecology: Relationships to Human and Environmental Health
LSA, Medical School and SPH
Four faculty positions
Faculty lead: Deborah Goldberg

Social Science and Energy
LSA and Ford School
Three faculty positions
Faculty lead: Carl Simon

Information about all these proposals is available at