2022 - 2023 Seed Grant Winners

Spring 2023 Winners

Brenda Cabrera-Mendoza - Psychiatry

Sex-specific characterization of genetic risk for alcohol use:  Although alcohol use disorder (AUD) is more prevalent in men, women are more vulnerable to medical consequences induced by alcohol consumption. Disparities in communities, social factors, and drinking patterns provide only a partial explanation for the gap in rates of adverse alcohol-related consequences. Thus, the evaluation of sex differences in alcohol-related genetic risk might contribute to the elucidation of the factors involved in this imbalance. The proposed study aims to evaluate sex-specific alcohol-related polygenic risk and identify the molecular functions underlying its effect. Our results will provide novel insight into the role of genetic risk in alcohol-related disorders in men and women. The findings of this study will advance our understanding of genetic predisposition to alcohol use and the downstream molecular mechanism likely involved in the increased vulnerability of women to adverse alcohol-related consequences. Furthermore, our results will help develop more targeted prevention strategies to address alcohol use and related harms. Moreover, this study will include diverse ancestry groups. Such strategies are crucial to reach health equity and justice, which are so much needed in our society. diverse ancestry groups. Such strategies are crucial to reach health equity and justice, which are so much needed in our society.

Catherine Chantre - Public Health

Identifying PTSD prevalence, HIV vulnerability, and exploring social support mechanisms among young internally displaced persons in Nampula, Mozambique Displacement due to armed conflict can be traumatic and have negative consequences on the mental health of affected populations. Exposure to traumatic events like forced displacement is associated with an increased risk of stress disorders, which are known to increase HIV risk behaviors in adult populations. Mozambique has one of the highest burdens of HIV in the world with a prevalence of 11.5% and young people (15–24-year-olds) are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, with young women almost twice as likely to get HIV as young men. An insurgency in northern Mozambique has displaced about 900,000 inhabitants from Cabo Delgado province. It is critical to understand the impact of the conflict and resulting displacement on the mental health of internally displaced young people in northern Mozambique and determine if this impact has translated into heightened HIV vulnerability for this population. We will conduct a cross-sectional study through surveys and in-depth interviews among young displaced and non-displaced people (18-25 years old) to determine the mental health burden of internally displaced young people in Nampula, Mozambique, understand how young, displaced people identify and leverage social support, and estimate the prevalence of HIV risk behaviors among the internally displaced young population.

Maria de Los Angeles - School of Art

True North, An Artist Book My book will be innovative in the quality and exploration of drawing and printmaking. The project will reach many communities, especially immigrants. In my work, significant themes are about the role of women in supporting family units as mothers, daughters, and siblings. Intergenerational women-led structures keep many families together when facing the adversity of the immigrant experience.  Ultimately, I plan to help the effort toward immigration reform. I have wanted to do this project for the last twenty years, and it’s time. My book will be about my family’s story and how we have navigated a mixed-status immigrant journey in the USA. Some pages will feature my sibling’s version of the events that shaped us. I’m the oldest of eight children. I already have a drawing-based practice and have done thousands of pictures which are now the inspiration for the artist’s book. I will make the original artist book and edition of six and make it in the Yale School of Art. I will combine etching, silkscreen, monotype, drawing, painting, and embroidery.

Neeru Gandotra - Genetics

NBS (Newborn screening): a public health necessity for All  NBS is an essential public health program that screens every newborn in the US for preventable disorders using metabolic and genomic technologies. However, a clear diagnosis sometimes requires trio genomic analysis of newborn and both parents. At times, we are limited to one parent’s DNA (usually the mother). To bypass trio analysis, I optimized the long read sequencing technology utilizing an aliquot of the newborn DNA to phase pathogenic variants to parental haplotypes. NBS programs may seem like a necessity, but this service is not available to all. India, with the second largest population in the world, has <3% of their newborns screened for IEM/NBS disorders. While we are advancing technology to improve accuracy of diagnosis in the US, it’s still far from a convenient public health program in India. It is pertinent to disseminate this technology and start such programs there. I have initiated a dialogue with women faculty and organizations in India in addition to delivering lectures and sharing the knowledge in the field of genomics/NBS to engage the young minds. This aligns with the mission of WFF to serve diverse groups and create mentoring and networking opportunities to improve the quality of life of the newborns globally.

Victoria Hallinan - Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

The Moiseyev Dance Company Tours America: “Wholesome” Comfort During a Cold War  In 1958, many Americans had their first opportunity to see Soviet people up close in the form of the Moiseyev Dance Company, a folk-dance troupe the USSR sent to the US as part of Cold War cultural exchange. Rather than increasing fear of communist contagion, Americans identified the dancers as fellow human beings with similar values to Americans themselves. In The Moiseyev Dance Company Tours America: “Wholesome” Comfort During a Cold War, I argue that the visit engendered empathy because it “comforted” Americans. Americans adored the dances and dancers, particularly the dances’ “boy-meets-girl” love stories and idealized view of diverse cultures living together, from Tajikistan to Ukraine. In the context of American anxiety about emasculation, changes in traditional gender roles, and homosexuality, Americans found the Moiseyev’s depiction of heteronormative relationships soothing. Similarly, the Moiseyev’s multicultural message and alleged appreciation for people of all backgrounds provided reassurance in the context of the Civil Rights struggle and racial violence in 1950s America. The troupe’s almost Disney-like depiction of heterosexuality and diversity made Americans extremely receptive to this simplified vision of love and cooperation among peoples, as it seemed more attractive than the reality of America’s contemporary gender and racial issues.

Edwina Orchard - Child Study Center

Understanding Experiences of Cognitive Change in Early Motherhood  This project aims to understand subjective experiences of cognitive change among mothers during the postpartum period. Despite anecdotal reports of memory issues and forgetfulness during pregnancy and the early postpartum, most studies fail to detect objective differences in memory and attention between new mothers and non-mothers. This study proposes to use semi-structured, open-ended interviews to explore maternal life stories of “baby-brain” which may help to develop ecologically valid tasks and paradigms. We will recruit 35 mothers between 6-9 months postpartum, for a 45-minute interview about their cognitive changes since becoming a mother. Thematic analysis will be used to integrate and interpret results. The outcomes of this research will serve as pilot data for future large-scale grants and guide future research on maternal cognition. Understanding the cognitive changes of early motherhood can have implications for maternal healthcare and how women’s cognitive abilities are perceived by society, employers, and themselves. The proposed study aligns with the Women’s Faculty Forum goal of advancing gender equity by investigating and highlighting the experiences of new mothers. The research will be conducted by women, about women, and for women, and will provide a mentoring opportunity for a student or trainee.

Emily Ritchie - Psychology

What Is This, the 1950s?: Effectively Challenging Sexism in the 21st Century  People choose to respond to sexist or otherwise discriminatory comments in various ways, depending on their personal background and current motivations. Recently, it has become common to call out sexism with statements such as “What is this, the 1950s?” or “It’s the 21st century.” However, these remarks implicitly validate the behavior in a past time, implying that this would have been okay 70 years ago—it’s just not anymore. In this project, I will examine the reactions of both victims and observers of sexism, comparing the efficacy and downstream consequences of the “1950s”-type comments to ones that unequivocally call out the behavior as immoral. Results will reveal the nuances of addressing sexism and can inform research on responding to other forms of discrimination as well.

Huili Sun - Biomedical Engineering

Estimating the effects of maternal health to neonatal brains via infant EEG   Maternal health and maternal sensitivity are critical factors that influence the early development of the infant brain, and they are associated with the infant’s future temperament, emotionality, and behavioral patterns. However, the undervaluation of women’s health during the pre- and postnatal period and maternal-newborn care is a worldwide problem, particularly in low-income and teenage pregnancy settings. To address this issue, we propose to develop a data-driven framework that utilizes deep-learning methods to predict the effects of maternal health on neonatal brains using infant EEG data collected in the United States, Brazil, and South Africa. Our objectives are twofold: 1) to investigate the relationship between maternal health and neonatal brain maturation at the regional and network level, and 2) to explore how maternal depression influences children’s behavioral patterns in early childhood.This study aligns with the mission of the WFF by highlighting the importance of maternal health in low-income settings and advocating for further mental and financial support from both society and government levels. By shedding light on the significance of maternal health and its impact on the developing brain, this project aims to improve maternal-newborn care and ultimately enhance the well-being of infants and their families.

Fall 2022 Winners

Ola Elechi - Emergency Medicine

Evaluation of the Implementation of an Emergency Medical Care System: Using implementation tools early on, we can evaluate and increase the utilization and effectiveness of policies put into place. This study plans to evaluate the implementation as perceived by key stakeholders of a national emergency care system in Nigeria as delineated by the Basic Health Care Provision Fund. We will utilize the CFIR – Consolidated Framework of Implementation Research as a tool to guide the evaluation. Using information obtained, a consensus conference with stakeholders will be performed to assess key challenges and opportunities for improvement.   This study aligns with the mission of the WFF as it promotes the scholarship of women, particularly an underrepresented African woman such as myself. It also fosters mentorship between women, as the faculty mentor of this study is Dr. Christine Ngaruiya, in addition we will be working with female medical students in Nigeria. The study fosters gender health equity as the establishment of an emergency care system is imperative in aiding women in reaching hospitals. Currently 1 in 7 global maternal deaths occur in Nigeria, with poor access being a barrier for gender equity.  Implementation science has been lauded as a means of addressing inequity by ensuring the reach of an intervention is equitable.

Alexandra Haslund-Gourley - Department of Physics

Extended Office Hours Podcast: Last spring, I created a podcast entitled “Extended Office Hours” in which I interview experts in a wide range of fields in order to learn about their work and to hear their life stories. I was inspired to create this podcast after becoming starkly aware of how few female voices appeared in my favorite interviews. Through this project, I hope to offer a woman’s voice to the discussion of technical topics, encouraging other women and girls to feel comfortable and confident in pursuing whatever passions they might have. I was motivated to frame the interviews as “office hours” after reflecting on how much I have learned through attending such hours for my classes. Not only did these hours deepen my understanding of subject material, but they offered an opportunity to learn about my professors’ life experiences, to discuss what they are most passionate about, and to hear their life advice. I wanted to offer the experience of attending office hours to individuals who are out of school or who might not have access to the same educational resources that I am granted. (The podcast is currently available on Spotify.)

Florencia Montagnini - School of the Environment

Organic Agroforestry Systems with species of nutritional value and financial suitability: Organic Agroforestry Systems with species of nutritional value and financial suitability. Agroforestry systems (AFS) integrate trees into agriculture, favoring sustainable production, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem restoration, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and rural development. Organic AFS products can obtain favorable prices, however they generally include yerba mate, cacao, while nutritious crops are only grown in smaller homegardens. The need to combat hunger and malnutrition while simultaneously improving agriculture sustainability is a worldwide priority. This research examines novel, alternative AFS with species that fulfill these needs, as a student project under my supervision at Yale School of the Environment. The final report will include species lists, origin, traditional uses, and ecological characteristics that allow their use in AFS; designs with spatial and temporal arrangement of the system; financial analysis; and recommendations on promotion based on cultural and other characteristics of the target populations, focusing on smallholder farmers of tropical countries. The report maybe published as chapter of my upcoming book, Montagnini, F. (Ed.) 2023. Integrating landscapes: Agroforestry for biodiversity conservation and food sovereignty. 2nd. Edition. Springer, Cham. In preparation, June 2022. Thus it will contribute to enhance my student’s as well as my career, which fits well into the main WFF mission.

Ilana Zaks - School of Music

The Concertmasters: A History: The History of Concertmasters (working title) is a 40 minute documents film. The Concertmaster (CM) is the first chair or leader in an orchestra. After the conductor, the concertmaster is the second-most important leader in an orchestra. The symphony orchestra of 100 players, as we know it today, became a fixture in American society in 1842, with the founding of the New York Philharmonic. As of 2022, the orchestra has never had a female concertmaster, nor a female music director. The same can be said for the other four oldest orchestras, which make up the “Big Five”: Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and Chicago Symphony. As of 2014, less than 20% of Concertmasters are female in top US orchestras. How did this role start, and where is it going? Through the director’s own journey and aspiration to become the first female Concertmaster of one of the Big Five US Orchestras, The History of Concertmasters tells the history of the complex leadership role and surveys some of the most important living Concertmasters in US orchestras today.  The film identifies with the WFF mission through its intentional focus on gender equity in the professional orchestral world, and promoting the work of women in the Yale School of Music and beyond. The film premiere will also allow networking opportunities between music lovers and aspiring women leaders.

Rebecca Salzhauer - Theater and Performance Studies

Violet: Violet is a story of faith, beauty, ugliness, and what it means to heal scars that lie beneath the skin. With music by trail-blazing female composer Jeanine Tesori and a libretto by Brian Crawley, the musical follows Violet, a young woman with a scar across her face who boards a Greyhound bus to travel toward a miracle – the healing touch of a televangelist who will make her beautiful. Raw and big-hearted with a score that ranges from folk to gospel and bluegrass to blues, Violet is a psychological and musical journey as much as a geographic one. For my senior project in Theater and Performance Studies, I will be playing the role of Violet in a production that runs December 8-10. A woman shaped by deep insecurity and resentment, Violet presents as prickly and defensive, reserving her soaring hopes for song. Through a rehearsal process focused on Violet’s interior and exterior selves – and the trauma that split her – I hope to find a cohesive, layered embodiment of an imperfect woman learning self-acceptance.

Radha Sarkar - Department of Political Science

Religious Discourse, Benevolent Sexism, and Social Policy Preferences: Experimental Evidence from Argentina: This project investigates the micro-dynamics of the Catholic Church’s influences on preferences regarding state support for women. I focus on religious discourse, an understudied yet crucial source of influence on the political preferences of millions of citizens. Through a survey experiment in Argentina, I aim to investigate the effects of Catholic gender ideals that emphasize motherhood and care-giving. In previous work that is currently under review, I have found suggestive evidence that such discourse elicits benevolent sexism, a mindset prompting protection toward women who conform to traditional gender roles and attributes, while punishing those who deviate. In this project, I aim to demonstrate how the dynamics of protection and punishment that are central to benevolent sexism can take manifest in social policy preferences targeting women. I hypothesize that a traditionalist Catholic gender message will boost support for state interventions enabling women to fulfill traditional gender roles, while heightening opposition to state support for women who do not conform to these standards, including single, childless, and non-heterosexual women. This study will elucidate who is thought to be worthy of state support, and how this is influenced by religious discourse.

Raquel Burgess - Social and Behavioral Sciences

Measuring the impacts of corporations on population health: Is Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) criteria sufficient or is a new index needed?: Our economic system is built on the assumption that the “social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.” (Friedman, 1970). Yet, the pursuit of profit often comes at the expense of other important societal assets, such as human health. The concept of the ‘the commercial determinants of health’ is used to describe corporate practices that influence the patterns of disease across populations. For example, corporations may provide unsafe working conditions or lobby against health policies.   Unfortunately, harmful corporate practices are felt most strongly by those who suffer from other disadvantages, such as racial minorities and women. For example, parental leave policies disproportionately affect women and inadequate maternal leave policies contribute to negative health outcomes for mother and baby.   My proposed project investigates ways in which we can shift the economic incentive structure such that corporations are encouraged to be better stewards of public goods such as human health. Specifically, I will investigate Environmental Social Governance (ESG) investing, a form of investing in which investors use information about how a company manages its social and environmental risks, to understand how ESG investing may be leveraged as a market mechanism to encourage corporations to improve their health impact.

Elizabeth Pfeffer - Jackson School of Global Affairs

Women and the Political Economy of Punishment: When we talk about crime and justice in the US, it is often through the lens of crime perpetrated by and victimizing men. But how do women assess their unique risks from crime and use this to determine policy preferences in the context of a country which teeters between agendas targeting law and order and “defund the police”? This project seeks answers through original survey research focused on fear of specific crimes such as rape and murder and attendant preferences for punishment or welfare as a political response. The agenda extends the reach of ongoing work, which offers a comparative perspective with women in the UK and Sweden. Investigating how women both nationally and internationally negotiate personal risk and communal wellbeing speaks to the Women Faculty Forum’s aim of uncovering new directions in gender research as applicable to diverse and salient areas of communal interest in the academy and beyond.

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