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2024 Summer Research Grant Awardees


Dr. Sutirtha Bagchi

Department of Economics

Villanova School of Business


Project Title: The Salience of Personal Income Taxes: Does how you pay your taxes matter?

Several revenue agencies globally have eased the collection of income taxes from their citizens by making it easier to file tax returns. More specifically, these agencies have creatively used the information reported by employers on employee compensation and reports filed by financial institutions with information on interest and dividends to pre-fill tax returns for their citizens that are then sent to them for verification. At that point, filing one’s return simply involves confirming the numbers provided by the agency, signing the return, and returning it with either a check (if payment is owed) or with a request for a refund. Such systems of filing tax returns have been adopted widely in a number of European countries, with about 87 percent of Denmark’s taxpayers and 74 percent of Sweden’s having their returns generated by the tax authorities in 1999 according to a U.S. Treasury study. There has been significant interest recently in developing a similar system for the U.S., but those efforts have been stymied, both by firms like Intuit as well as those advocating for smaller government. In the view of the latter, an automated tax filing system would result in individuals becoming less aware of the true costs of taxation and, consequently, facilitate an expansion in the size of government. Those are the claims I wish to examine critically: Does the adoption of automated tax filing systems result in individuals becoming less aware of their tax burden, and does it lead to an increase in the size of government?


Dr. Farshid Baghai

Department of Philosophy

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Project Title: The Kantian Origin of Adorno's Concept of Metaphysical Experience

Metaphysical experience is one of the most obscure concepts in Theodor W. Adorno’s Negative Dialectics. The obscurity stems partly from the way in which the concept of metaphysical experience is antinomic. To describe the antinomic character of metaphysical experience, Adorno situates it in relation to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. He distinguishes two conceptions of antinomy in Critique of Pure Reason: first, the explicit conception of antinomy that the transcendental dialectic exposes and resolves; and second, the implicit conception of antinomy that remains insoluble and structures Critique of Pure Reason and Adorno’s own concept of metaphysical experience. Yet Adorno does not clarify what he means by the antinomic structure of Critique of Pure Reason and how this structure underlies his own concept of metaphysical experience. Focusing on the transcripts of his May-July 1959 lecture course Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, this research reconstructs Adorno’s response to these questions, and, in so doing, demonstrates the Kantian origin of Adorno’s concept of metaphysical experience.


Dr. Rebecca Brand

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: Meeting the Basic Psychological Needs of Women During Childbirth: Examining Differences Between Black and White Women

Supporting mothers’ well-being during the perinatal period benefits both mother and baby. Research from our lab and others indicates that women’s satisfaction with their childbirth experience predicts postpartum well-being. Our lab has been the first to apply the Basic Psychological Needs theory and to demonstrate that maternity care providers’ support for women’s autonomy, belonging, and competence needs predicts childbirth satisfaction, postpartum depression, and maternal self-efficacy. Black women in particular have high rates of postpartum depression and poorer childbirth outcomes than their non-Black counterparts. The goal of the current study is compare Black women’s perceptions of Basic Psychological Needs support during childbirth with White women’s, as well as relationships between this support and postpartum well-being in the two samples.


Dr. Dana Brookover

Department of Education and Counseling

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: The Career Development and Social Determinants Framework: Theory Development and Outcome Research

This proposal outlines the plans for a mixed-methods study, which occur during Summer 2024. The outcome research study will consist of the author collecting quantitative and qualitative data surrounding an intervention to improve school counselor's support of K-12 students in their postsecondary and career readiness and development. There is no existing research on school counselors’ career development programming within the social determinants of health. The author of the current proposal will further refine a novel theoretical framework (the CDSD-F) focused on career development and the social determinants of health in K-12 settings. The author will also provide evidence of the intervention's impact on school counselor participants' knowledge of the CDSD-F, their college and career readiness counseling self-efficacy, and their perceived level of advocacy in their role. Ultimately, through the support of the USG program, the author plans to set a foundation for a continued research line surrounding the CDSD-F, including seeking external funding to provide interventions and track outcomes with K-12 students themselves.


Dr. Danai Chasaki

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

College of Engineering

Project Title: Secure Ad-hoc Networking Protocol for Vehicular Safety Systems

Modern cars are implemented with a number of environmentally-aware safety systems, from radar-induced braking, to oncoming-vehicle detecting headlight controls. Similarly, with the dawn of semi and fully-autonomous vehicles, cars themselves are being equipped with an even wider range of sensors and are able to respond to more stimuli than ever. In this world, inter-vehicular information sharing and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication to exchange road-safety related
message is of paramount importance. Message exchange should conform to standard security goals of authentication, integrity and anonymity. Our project uses a bandwidth-efficient communication protocol which prioritizes message retransmissions by other participating vehicles in a manner that results in low latency and propagation over a wider area on the roadway. Communication between vehicles and roadside units (RSUs) is being protected by pseudo IDs and Hadamard matrix credentials for each vehicle and RSU.


Dr. Justin DeBenedetto

Department of Computing Sciences

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: Improving Large Language Models by Starting Small

Large language models (LLMs), such as the GPT model driving ChatGPT, have garnered a lot of attention in academic and non-academic communities in recent years.  With their rising popularity, there have been a number of challenges presented including how academic researchers, without the computing resources to train a large language model, can still contribute to shaping their future development.  The Baby Language Model challenge shared task (BabyLM) was designed to focus on model efficiency on small language models to push for improvements to future large language models.  The project in this University Summer Grant proposal is to build models for submission and publication for BabyLM 2024.  The proposed research builds upon existing success in curriculum learning from my BabyLM 2023 work and incorporates recent work on quality estimation to allow for filtering out low-quality data.  This work provides an exciting opportunity to bring Villanova research to an international research community while helping to improve future language models while reducing their financial and environmental training costs through improved efficiency. 


Dr. Joseph Drury

Department of English

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Project Title: City of Whims: The Secret History of Eighteenth-Century Clubs

"City of Whims: The Secret History of Eighteeenth-Century Clubs" is a chapter from a larger project, Whimsy: A Literary History, 1700-1850. The book explores the history of an understudied aesthetic category, “the whimsical,” from its origins in early eighteenth-century British material and literary culture to its apotheosis in the mid-nineteenth-century America of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Its central claim is that whimsy emerged in this period as a key concept for expressing ambivalence about the new opportunities for self-exploration and self-fashioning made possible by an emerging consumer society. This chapter will explore whimsy's emergence as an aesthetic category in satirical writing on early eighteenth-century clubs. In these works, the convivial hilarity generated by eighteenth-century associational activity breaks whimsy free of its origins in caustic, often cruel satire, allowing it to set a new course as the guiding ethos of a new urban sociability characterized by a tolerance for other people's eccentricities.


Dr. Jacob Elmer

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

College of Engineering


Project Title: Selecting the Optimal Integration Site for a Transgene in Human T Cells

The human genome contains 3 billion bases of DNA spread out across 23 chromosomes.  If you were to tie the chromosomes together into a 2-nm thick string, it would be almost 7 feet long that you could use to jump rope.  The goal of this project is to identify specific regions of our immense genome that can be targeted with CRISPR/Cas9 and other sequence-specific genome editing techniques to safely integrate a new gene while also ensuring high expression levels of the gene.  Specifically, we will use the Sleeping Beauty Transposase enzyme to randomly integrate the gene for green fluorescent protein (GFP) in the genome of human T cells (since they are used in several existing gene therapies).  The T cells will then be sorted based on how bright they are (e.g., how much GFP they express) to isolate cells in which the GFP gene was integrated into a favorable area of the genome.  The genomic DNA of those cells will then be extracted and sequenced to determine which integration sites provided high level GFP expression.  Integration sites that are close (within 50,000 bases) to proto-oncogenes will be eliminated for safety concerns.  This work will provide valuable preliminary data for an NIH R15 proposal while also identifying one or more genomic “safe harbors” in the T cell genome that other users can target for gene delivery.


Dr. Holly Ferraro

Department of Management and Operations

Villanova School of Business

Project Title: Examining race and racism in organizational behavior studies: A conceptual analysis review and roadmap

This paper represents a pioneering step in establishing the field of ""race in organizations."" Our study aims to comprehensively examine management research from 1992 to the present, building upon Nkomo's 1992 groundbreaking work. Our objectives include: (1) exploring varied meanings attributed to race, encompassing definitions and measurements; (2) identifying theoretical paradigms underlying race studies to illuminate its role in organizational contexts; (3) conducting a systematic literature review using identified paradigms and a multilevel framework; and (4) outlining future research directions. Utilizing a literature review methodology, our findings underscore a historical tendency in organizational research to treat organizations as race-neutral, impeding progress in understanding race-related dynamics. Nkomo's critique in 2021 emphasizes the persistent neglect of race studies, advocating for a dedicated field. We conclude that theorizing race in organizations is imperative for dismantling the enduring effects of racism, providing a foundation for future research methodologies and promoting a reevaluation of core organizational behavior concepts.


Dr. Lynne Hartnett

Department of History

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Project Title: Lenin's Neighbors: Russian Revolutionary Networks and Political Exile Communities in Liberal Britain, 1881-1918

My book manuscript is a study of Russian revolutionary networks and political exile communities in Britain between the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 and the start of the Russian Civil War in 1918. It explores Russian émigré networks in London, the individuals who comprised them, and the political and cultural influence they exerted in Russia, Britain, the United States and Europe. In this project, I present networks of political activism as personalized sites of interaction, negotiation, and adaptation where political agendas blended with cultural creativity, humanitarian impulses colored social interactions, and the prevalence of mass communications and fluid borders fostered global debates about freedom, justice, human rights, and despotism in the modern world.


Dr. Jacky Huang

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

College of Engineering

Project Title: A Pipeline to Integrate Artificial Intelligence with Big-Data to Investigate the Transmission of Antibiotic Resistance Genes from Food Animals to Humans in the U.S.

This proposal addresses the critical issue of antibiotic resistance (AMR) transmission between food animals, specifically U.S. cattle, and humans. Since the 1940s, antibiotics have played a vital role in treating infectious diseases in food animal species, benefiting both animals and humans by enhancing food production, feed efficiency, and preventing zoonotic infections. However, the emergence of AMR genes poses a significant threat as pathogens develop resistance through various mechanisms. Dr. Huang's group proposes a one-year plan to collect, extract, and analyze AMR data from U.S. cattle and humans via an innovative artificial intelligence (AI)-based pipeline. This approach integrates phylogenetic trees and a graph neural network (GNN) to identify potential transmission pathways by combining evolutionary analysis with cutting-edge deep learning techniques. The anticipated outcomes include the development of an integrated pipeline providing a rational quantitative approach to study AMR gene transitions between food animals and humans to offer valuable insights for stakeholders and AMR policymakers. The significance of this research lies in its contribution to addressing the recalcitrant challenge of antibiotic resistance. The outcomes will not only lead to paper publications and USDA/NIH proposals but also lay the foundation for a communication platform connecting stakeholders with essential AMR database. This study marks a transition in Dr. Huang research from multivariate statistical analysis to advanced AI techniques. This will enhance the visibility of Villanova University in the ongoing AI research in the global discourse on antibiotic resistance in agriculture.


Dr. Vikram Iyengar

Department of Biology

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Project Title: Do party crashers alter group dynamics? How social networks respond to changes in size and sex ratio in maritime earwigs

Social networks, described as the structure of interactions between members of a group, can help us understand relationships and processes that occur between individuals, communities, and entire populations. Interactions between individuals create an emergent social network, while simultaneously the social network may, in turn, act as a selective force upon the individuals within it. Importantly, social network analysis (SNA) breaks down these interactions with a variety of testable metrics, which provide crucial insight on how individual characters and population parameters relate to the spatial distribution of organisms, selective pressures, and fitness. The maritime earwig (Anisolabis maritima) is an excellent model organism for social network studies because large sample sizes are attainable and earwig populations can be easily manipulated (i.e., additions, subtractions, selection for specific body size or sex, etc.) to explore different aspects of group dynamics. These insects are generally found in high densities under driftwood, and our research group has been able to recreate similar shelters that enable us to monitor interactions between labeled individuals. Although we have described A. maritima social networks in stable groups, we know that maritime earwig groups are dynamic, as individuals appear to join and leave shelters regularly in nature. Herein I propose to broaden this new area of investigation by tracking individuals in established groups, and then altering the group size and composition to determine how adding individuals affects social networks.


Dr. Kyle Juretus

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

College of Engineering


Project Title: Machine Learning Assisted Logic Synthesis for Increased Integrated Circuit Efficiency

Machine learning is enabling exciting new applications but sustainability concerns due to the large energy expenditures required to train the models are rarely discussed. One factor contributing to the power usage is the inefficiency of the current heuristics utilized to optimize logic circuits, resulting in integrated circuits that use more power than they should. Ironically, machine learning offers a means to expand the search space and criteria possible over current heuristic based methods. This proposal aims to re-architect current automation tools with machine learning guided optimization to reduce the power consumption of integrated circuits. Specifically, the University Summer Grant funds will be utilized to develop a machine learning based optimization methodology and collect the data to show parity with heuristic based approaches. The collected data will allow for the guidance and development of further machine learning based approaches to expand to new criteria and search spaces, opening up the door to reduce the power of integrated circuits and connect security based objectives into the electronic design automation design flow.


Dr. Rory Kramer

Department of Sociology and Criminology

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: Data Transparency Through the Veil: Crime, Data, and Distortion 125 Years after Du Bois

In the past decade, most social sciences have embraced W.E.B. Du Bois as a founding figure of their fields, methodologically and theoretically. Criminology has only begun to do so and this delayed embrace of Du Bois is a symptom of the long history of data distortion in the field. Social scientists studying crime have too often accepted data produced by the criminal justice system for its own justification as legitimate and unbiased. In general, criminal justice systems have been slow to join the open data movement and those that have have done so in the hopes that data transparency will lead to better, more efficient structures and less racial inequality in treatment and outcome. However, this presumption that open data will lead to progressive outcomes runs against the history of the use of criminal justice statistics to legitimate racial inequality and promote anti-blackness.

By combining a critical examination of the flaws in Du Bois' earliest theorizing about the relationship between migration and crime and contemporary public facing data from the Philadelphia Police Department designed to buoy public support for the PPD and separate data transparency efforts led by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office used to argue for a less punitive criminal justice system, this project seeks to critique data transparency as panacea, and instead argue that data created by the criminal justice system, no matter the origin, reflect the anti-blackness as the core of the system.


Dr. Andrew Liu

Department of History

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Project Title: The Big Tiger? China and the Asia-Pacific

My current project reimagines China’s transformation into the latest workshop of the world by locating it within transformations of global political economy during the second half of the twentieth century. I pay special attention to local officials and rural industries in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) who adopted “flexible” economic practices (linghuo, tanxing) in the 1970s and 80s. These entailed: casual and impermanent employment contracts; labor-intensive industries without fixed capital, producing jackets, toys, and radios; and making goods not for domestic use but aimed overseas. Local officials promoted “flexibility” in response to the perceived crises and “rigidities” of socialist planning. Their tactics also mirrored a well-known story of Euro-American crisis in the 1970s, wherein firms and governments responded to “stagflation” — or, rising inflation paired with high unemployment —by adopting “flexible” austerity strategies that departed from the postwar industrial model pioneered in the US known as “Fordism” (Harvey 1989). What has been overlooked, however, is an integrated analysis of this stagnation alongside Asian economic expansion. In pursuing these connections, my project intervenes into debates concerning Cold War history; the history of China and its “opening up and reform” policies (gaige kaifang) after the passing of Mao Zedong (1893-1976); global political economy; and histories of race and labor. 


Dr. Jill McCorkel

Department of Sociology and Criminology

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: Prosecutorial Charging Decisions and Women's Incarceration

I am requesting a 2024 University Summer Grant to support a new research project that investigates that relationship between prosecutorial charging decisions and women’s incarceration. Specifically, I will utilize the summer grant to 1) write and submit a grant application for a Stoneleigh Foundation Fellowship, and 2) complete the second chapter of my solo-authored book manuscript. The award of a Stoneleigh Foundation Fellowship will support the research I plan to conduct while in residence with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office during my Fall 2024 - Spring 2025 sabbatical.


Drs. Michelle McKay and Christina Whitehouse


Fitzpatrick College of Nursing


Project Title: Management of the Symptom Burden Experience of Older Adults with Mobility Limitations

Almost 18 million adults 65 years of age and older have mobility limitations, which may include the inability to walk a quarter of a mile or climb stairs independently. Limitations in mobility can lead to disability, decreased quality of life, and poor health outcomes. As the aging population increases, the number of older adults with mobility limitations is expected to rise. Older adults report a variety of symptoms that are responsible for their mobility limitation which impacts participation in daily life. The management of the symptom burden experience and mobility limitations from the perspective of the healthcare provider has not been previously studied. In the proposed qualitative descriptive study, how healthcare providers assess and manage the symptom burden experience of community-dwelling older adults with mobility limitations will be explored. This study builds on previous research focused on the symptom burden experience of older adults with mobility limitations and will directly support an externally funded grant application for the development and testing of a symptom burden risk assessment tool and an innovative intervention to identify and manage the symptom burden experience of older adults to improve mobility and decrease the associated negative outcomes.


Dr. Mary Mullen

Department of English

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: The Colonial Politics of Public Interest

The Colonial Politics of Public Interest investigates nineteenth-century constructions of public interest in literature, liberal theory, and cultural discourses. The book focuses primarily on public debates about the Irish Famine but connects these debates to global events, especially British interventions in Palestine and slavery emancipation and compensation in the West Indies. It concludes that public interest is a strategy for managing minority and colonial difference in an era of globalization: it establishes a vision of the public and an understanding of interest that depends upon but disavows difference. With the support of a University Summer Grant, I expect to complete a draft of Chapter 5, “The Price of Emancipation."


Dr. Sergey Nersesov

Department of Mechanical Engineering

College of Engineering


Project Title: Iterative Control Framework with Application to Space Rendezvous and Docking

In this project, we propose to implement the Iterative Control Framework (ICF) earlier developed by the PI in the problem of space rendezvous and docking. Spacecrafts are typically controlled in all six degrees of freedom by impulsive thrusters that eject a stream of exhaust gases to cause a reaction force on the vehicle in the opposite direction. Since the duration of ejection is very short, this application is extremely suitable for the ICF that relies on implementation of control inputs of finite-time duration (especially, short-time duration). Space rendezvous and docking is one of the most sophisticated maneuvers in space technology referring to the motion of two spacecrafts in orbit approaching each other with the desired position, speed, time (i.e., rendezvous) and attitude alignment (i.e., docking). In this research, the PI will 1) Develop control objectives for each stage of the space rendezvous and docking, 2) Obtain a mathematical model of spacecraft relative motion, 3) Based on the mathematical model obtained, implement ICF at different stages of rendezvous and docking to achieve control objectives for each stage.


Dr. Ebelechukwu Nwafor

Department of Computing Sciences

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Project Title: Leveraging Large Language Models for Enhanced Intrusion Detection in Internet of Things (IoT) Environments

In the rapidly evolving landscape of Internet of Things (IoT), the need for robust and efficient intrusion detection systems (IDS) is essential. This proposal aims to enhance intrusion detection in the IoT ecosystem by exploring the use of advanced large language models (LLMs) like BERT, GPT-4, and LLaMA-2. It focuses on using these models for innovative threat detection and mitigation via sophisticated language and pattern recognition techniques. The study will compare the performance of each model with current IoT IDS solutions, assessing fine-tuning and language embeddings methods. It will also evaluate the models' sustainability in terms of computational efficiency, cost, and energy usage, with the goal of setting new standards in IoT network security and practical model deployment.


Dr. Matthew O'Reilly

Department of Chemistry

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Project Title: High Throughput Experimentation Method Development for Efficient Preparation of Biologically Relevant Cyclic Tetrapeptides


Short chains of amino acids called peptides have broad ranging bioactivities and applications in industry, but are limited by their lack of bioavailability, proteolytic sensitivity, and high production costs. Cyclization of small peptides provides cyclic peptide macrolactams that are stable to enzymatic proteolysis, often conferring them long biostability and, in some cases, efficient membrane permeabilization. Further, cyclic peptides can bind a broad array of biological targets due to myriad side chain combinations, and the cyclic system has conformational constraints that lead to rigidity, which can enhance their potency and selectivity for targets. Cyclic tetrapeptides (CTPs) have some of the tightest conformational limits and are among the most challenging cyclic peptide moieties to synthesize while also being highly valuable. Unfortunately, macrolactamization reactions that generate these products are commonly low yielding or result in exclusively decomposition, often due to oligomerization of the linear precursor. We hypothesize that high throughput macrolactamization reagent arrays will provide consistent and reproducible strategies for the preparation of strained cyclic peptides, and the data we generate will allow ourselves and others to propose more rational retrosynthetic disconnections of other strained cyclic peptides. Preliminary data has been generated toward these goals, and our proposed work will allow us to complete a manuscript, and the findings will be incorporated into an NSF grant application. Further, a handful of undergraduate and master’s students will gain fundamental training in chemical research while carrying out the proposed goals.


Dr. Olukunle Owolabi

Department of Political Science

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: Postcolonial Transformations in Portugal and Lusophone Africa

I am applying for a University Summer Grant to provide one month of summer salary to work on a book chapter and conference paper that I will present at the upcoming International Political Science Association (IPSA)/Portuguese Political Science Association (PPSA) conference in Lisbon Portugal, September 11-13, 2024. My paper (co-authored with Tiago Fernandes, Associate Professor of Political Science, University Institute of Lisbon) will examine the long-term political consequences of colonialism, authoritarian state-building, and the 1974 Carnation Revolution that toppled Portugal's Estado Novo dictatorship (1930-74) and its colonial regimes in Africa.  This conference paper will form the introductory chapter of a new collaborative book project that examines the legacies of empire, authoritarian state-building, and revolution/anti-colonial resistance for Portugal and its former colonies in Africa (i.e. Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Sao Tome & Principe). This book project expands my existing research on Portuguese colonialism in Africa (see Owolabi 2017, 2023) and my co-author's research on the democratic political legacies of the Portuguese Carnation Revolution (see Fernandes 2015, 2018, 2024). Our new collaborative book, Postcolonial Transformations in Portugal and Lusophone Africa, will include contributions from social scientists and historians at leading universities in Europe and North America. We plan to present this research at upcoming conferences in Lisbon (September 11-13, 2024) and in Chicago, IL (April 2025). Our ultimate goal is to produce a collaborative edited volume for publication with a major university press (i.e. Oxford, Notre Dame, Ohio) or academic trade press (e.g. Routledge, Lynne Rienner) in 2026. 


Dr. Delia Popa

Department of Philosophy

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: Gestures of Resistence

In this research project, I examine the intentionality of gestures, which is oriented not only outwardly, but also inwardly, resulting in an antagonism of expression and impression. Therefore, gestures are not merely performative expressions, directed towards an external audience who can receive them and make sense of them, but also self-transformative, participating in regimes of bodily affectivity that carry a deeper metamorphosis of our subjective life. In order to analyze this transformative aspect of gestures, I investigate their relationship to self-alienation, political resistance, and emancipation. I start by noticing that, in situations in which we do not understand the language spoken by another, we often connect to their gestures, sharing elements of a secret bodily grammar despite the different interpretation we might have of each other’s exact intentions. Similarly, in situations in which the political discourse does not reflect the experience of the social actors involved, gestures crystallize hesitations, oppositions, and other modalities of working through problematic aspects of their social life.

The main research question I want to address in this project is the following: since our everyday gestures seem to be often nothing else than mimetic and automatic vehicles of our social alienation, how can they support self-transformation and political emancipation? Analyzing contemporary artistic works in which gestures play an essential role, the goal of this project is to show that the creativity of gestures stems from a resistance they oppose to normative contexts that are experienced as socially oppressive and subjectively inhibiting. Focusing on the way in which gestures accompany and impact our decisions, I will explore three aspects of this political dimension of gestures: connecting forms of life and aspirations, raising awareness to oppression, and cultivating solidarity. This conceptual framework will help further investigate their historical dimension, that is anchored in past experiences, oriented toward the future, and addressed to someone in the present. 


Dr. Megan Quigley

Department of English

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: The Long Song of Modernism

My new book project, The Love Song of Modernism: Fanfiction & Impersonality, will examine what happens when we think about literary modernism’s attachments to authors, literary characters, and even the Western European literary tradition itself, as a kind of fannishness. Combining traditional literary scholarship with fan studies, and building off archival and digital studies research, the book aims to rethink early 20th-century literature in light of contemporary re-writings. My project is in part a response to my earlier books, Modernist Fiction and Vagueness: Philosophy, Form, and Language (CUP, 2015) and Eliot Now (forthcoming, Bloomsbury, 2024) rethinking who and what counted as “modernist” in those works.


Dr. Shelly Rathee

Department of Marketing and Business Law

College of Villanova School of Business


Project Title: Critiquing the Obvious: Exploring Bias in the Evaluation of Bad Ideas

Creativity involves a balance between originality and usefulness (Puccio and Cabra 2012), encompassing the generation of ideas followed by their evaluation and development. While existing literature has predominantly concentrated on the idea generation or creation phase, there exists a notable gap in research pertaining to the idea evaluation stage (Dean et al., 2006). This research specifically focuses on the idea evaluation phase, contending that the presence of bad ideas (vs. good ideas) can introduce bias into this stage. When an idea is bad, individuals are inclined to invest more effort in the idea evaluation phase, as evidenced by factors like the time taken for evaluation and the quantity/length of discussion points. Additionally, the quality of their evaluation tends to diminish, impacting aspects such as implementability, effectiveness, and applicability of the discussed ideas. We posit that these hypotheses are rooted in the psychological phenomenon of negativity bias, where negative information tends to exert a more pronounced impact than positive information. The author proposes both secondary data analysis and a series of randomized experiments to empirically test these hypotheses. The secondary dataset will not only furnish the author with product ratings but also provide insights into what customers have written in online reviews. The experimental evidence will allow the testing of the theoretical mechanisms underlying the proposed effects. From a theoretical standpoint, this research enriches our comprehension of the idea development process and provides practical insights for managers, policymakers, and individuals engaged in product development and the evaluation of new ideas.


Dr. Jennifer Ross


Fitzpatrick College of Nursing

Project Title: The Effect of Next Generation NCLEX Case Studies on Sophomore Baccalaureate Nursing Students’ Clinical Judgment

In April 2023, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing launched a new version of the nursing licensure exam, the Next Generation NCLEX (NGN), to better assess graduate nurses’ clinical judgment. The purposes of this mixed-methods study are to explore the impact of NGN case studies on sophomore baccalaureate nursing students’ self-confidence and anxiety related to clinical decision-making based on clinical judgment, and perceptions of NGN case studies as in-class active learning strategy. Sophomore nursing faculty revised an unfolding case study to meet the requirements for NGN case studies to use as an active learning strategy in class. Students who consent to participate in the study complete the Nursing Anxiety and Self-Confidence with Clinical Decision-Making Scale at the beginning and end of the semester to determine changes based on NGN case studies, and open-ended questions to determine perceptions about NGN case studies as an active learning strategy. Descriptive statistics will be used to describe the sample. T-tests will be computed to determine changes in anxiety and self-confidence with clinical decision-making from pre- to post-test. Qualitative data will be analyzed using Conventional Content Analysis. USG funds are requested for data coding, cleaning, analysis, and manuscript development.


Dr. Sally Scholz

Department of Philosophy

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: A Normative Map of Sanctuary

A right to sanctuary emerged historically alongside the principle of civilian immunity in the peace and just war tradition. I discuss the history of sanctuary as a principle and argue that sanctuary ought to be understood in the tradition of, or connected to, civilian immunity in the ethics of war. Sanctuary thereby becomes the expectation rather than the exception. Moreover, the discussion of the normative core of both civilian immunity and sanctuary reveals that they ought to be understood as communal rights—not merely understood as individual human rights but as essential tools to preserve a social relation in light of circumstances designed to divide and disrupt. Sanctuary as a communal right is the non-exceptional state of relations between civilians, or non-state actors, aimed at securing the well-being of a collective.


Dr. Andrew Scott

Department of Humanities and Classical Studies

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: Historical Commentary on Herodian, Roman History, Book 3

My project is a historical commentary on the third book of Herodian’s Roman History, composed in the mid-third century CE. This book covers the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211 CE), a key figure in the history of the Roman Empire who fought his way to the throne as a civil war victor and eventually established a hereditary dynasty through his sons, Caracalla and Geta. A commentary of this sort aims to do several things. It will include a new English translation of Book 3 of Herodian’s history; an introductory chapter that discusses Herodian’s work in the context of its time and in relationship to other ancient sources, as well as the attendant modern scholarship; and a detailed, line by line commentary on the text, with a particular focus on historical issues and issues related to how and why Herodian presented his history in the way he did. One of the main hurdles to accessing Herodian’s work, a major source for the period 180-238 CE, is that, at present, a comprehensive commentary does not exist. My project, which is a single-authored monograph, is part of an international undertaking that seeks to produce commentaries for the entirety of Herodian’s eight-book work. Volumes on book 5 and books 7-8 have been published by L’Erma di Bretschneider (Rome), a leading Italian press with a wide international distribution, and my volume will be published as part of this series.


Dr. Lisa Sewell

Department of English

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: Mean Season

With the support of a University Summer Grant, I propose to complete the manuscript for my fifth book of poems, Flood Plain, which will be published by Grid Books press in October 2024. Place-based, body-focused, the poems in Flood Plain participate in the burgeoning field of contemporary ecopoetry and investigate wild lands, coastal regions, wetlands, dam-ruined rivers, and other places altered by human-initiated climate-driven changes. Influenced by ecotheory as well as the work of other ecopoets, the poems try to decenter the human and chart our enmeshment in and connections with the more than human world. One series of poems focuses on endangered species, another mourns the demise of the Colorado river and environs, and another explores the work of 18th century Dutch artist and naturalist, Maria Sybilla Marian. Flood Plain also grieves more personal losses, aligning them with the overall sense of loss and precarity the poems try to grapple with in relationship to climate change and the sixth extinction. By engaging with and investigating environmental injustice, I am working to develop a poetics that connects with and raises awareness about the dying earth.


Dr. Ken Sun

Department of BSociology and Criminology

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Project Title: Confronting Interlocking Crises: How Dispersed Chinese Families Manage Life and Death Situations Across (Geo)Political Contexts

How parents’ declining health complicates migrants’ lives across borders has largely eluded scholarly attention. My new book project asks what happens to migrant families when personal, national, and global crises converge and unsettle their day-to-day lives. Drawing on three waves of qualitative interviews (2017-2019; 2020-2021; 2022-2023) with (1) Chinese migrants in the US, (2) their aging parents in China, and (3) the caretakers of elders in China (N=353), I analyze how transnational family members respond to deteriorating parental health before the COVID-19 pandemic and amidst the pandemic and rising geopolitical tension.

First, I explore how Chinese immigrants strive to support their parents from afar, documenting how they develop strategies to cope with family crises when cross- and within-border mobility is limited. Second, I chronicle the ways at-home parents and their caregivers feel about the redistribution of family responsibilities when some or all of their children move abroad, and how the global pandemic complicates these feelings. Finally, my book addresses how increasing geopolitical conflicts between the US and China affect transnational family relations and bring new challenges to migrants’ cross-border lives. In doing so, my book uncovers the ways risks and uncertainties reshape global care chains transcending locales and policy contexts. It further highlights migrants’ struggles and resilience in an ever-changing transnational field.


Drs. Michael Tait and Kathryn Haymaker

Department of Mathematics and Statistics

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: Codes from graphs and graphs from codes

In this project, we will exploit the connections between graph theory, combinatorial number theory, and coding theory. These are three well-studied areas in mathematics which the community has recently understood are more connected than we realized. We will take advantage of our dual expertise (MT's research is mainly in graph theory and KH's research is mainly in coding theory) to capitalize on these connections. We plan to use constructions from coding theory to create objects in graph theory and combinatorial number theory, and we plan to use theoretical bounds on graphs to improve bounds on the maximum size of certain codes.


Drs. Kim Trout and Amy McKeever


Fitzpatrick College of Nursing

Project Title: Associations of race and insurance status with continuity of midwifery care for birth center patients in the US

Specific Aim: The aim of this proposal is to investigate associations of race and insurance type with the ability to remain within nurse practitioner/midwifery care from initial prenatal visit through the birth of an infant via statistical analysis of a national data set obtained from the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC).

Background and Significance: There are considerable racial and ethnic disparities in maternal-infant health in the United States, with Black women 2..6 to 4 times more likely to die from pregancy-related causes when compared with white women. Nurse-midwifery care has been proposed as a possible solution to address this crisis, as several studies have shown improved outcomes with nurse-practitioner and midwifery-led care. There is currently a dearth of research on the continuity of midwifery care from initiation of prenatal care through birth in relation to characteristics such as race/ethnicity and insurance status.

Methods: This will be a retrospective cohort study of a diverse population of pregnant patients from 2013 to 2022. We propose to calculate unadjusted and adjusted relative risks (RR) using Wald asymptotic confidence limits to examine adjusted associations of variables of interest with need to transfer care to a physician. We will also examine confounding variables such as pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), parity, and medical co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertensive disorders.The AABC have approved this request for data. 

Importance of this study: Achieving health equity for minority women and publicly insured patients requires a closer analysis of variables that affect health outcomes. 


Dr. Mojtaba Vaezi

Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

College of Engineering


Project Title: AI-Enabled Low-Delay Analog Channel Codes

Ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC), is one of the three main use cases of 5G cellular networks. This use case is becoming even more important in upcoming 6G networks. In 6G, URLLC implies transmitting information bits with maximum one bit error in one million transmission and a delay of less than 1 millisecond. Achieving both ultra-reliable and low-latency communications simultaneously poses a significant challenge, necessitating the development of novel channel codes beyond those employed thus far. This project exploits deep learning techniques to improve the decoding accuracy of a specific class of low-delay codes known as BCH-DFT codes, making them suitable for 6G URLLC applications. The anticipated outcome is the development of enhanced BCH-DFT codes that surpass current state-of-the-art codes, meeting the stringent bit error rates and latency requirements essential for 6G URLLC. This advancement is crucial for the continued evolution and effectiveness of future wireless communication systems.


Dr. Deena Weisberg

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: How do fantastical events in educational stories affect young children’s science learning?

Both adults and children learn from fictional stories. But how can scenarios that are untrue help us to learn truths about reality? Specifically, how can stories that contain fantastical elements (such as anthropomorphic animals) teach science concepts to young children? This proposal aims to answer that question by conducting an empirical study of children's science learning from stories with different types and levels of anthropomorphism. This work will expand my field’s understanding of how children navigate the boundary between reality and fiction and enhance my stature as a researcher with expertise on this topic. Further, this work will form the foundation of a series of best practices for content creators who make educational media, so that they will be able to design maximally effective books and videos to help all children engage with science. This work will thus contribute positively to Villanova’s visibility and reputation as a place where excellent scholarship is done to serve the greater good.


Dr. Jie Xu

Department of Communication

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Project Title: The Impact of Multimodal Features in Short Videos on Science Communication: Message Sensation Value, Risk Perception and Psychological Reactance

The current highly sensational and selective social media environment, exemplified by short-video platforms such as TikTok and Instagram Reels, poses tremendous challenges as well as opportunities to communicate critical public health, science, and risk information. Along with the soaring popularity, short video platforms have become a major source of misinformation, particularly concerning issues such as the COVID-19 vaccine and climate change. Grounded in the Activation Model of Information Exposure (AMIE) and the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), we propose a 2 (MSV: low vs. high) × 2 (topic: vaccine vs. climate change) × 2 (attitude congruity: pro- vs. counter-attitudinal) online experiment to examine the mechanisms of Message Sensation Value (MSV)’s persuasive effects in engaging attention and affecting risk perceptions and psychological reactance in science videos. This study seeks to answer two fundamental questions: Does MSV attract or distract attention for multi-modal short videos? How does MSV impact psychological reactance when processing pro-attitudinal and counter-attitudinal messages? We aim to provide theoretically based and practically applicable guidelines related to crucial public issues and contribute to understanding and improving health communication on social media video platforms. We hope to cultivate a more informed and critical audience and foster public trust of science communication. This project extends my previous work on MSV and reactance to a new direction engaging multimodal features of short videos. The work also furthers and strengthens my larger research agenda on media effects.