University of Southern California


Current Collaboration Fund Projects

The Research Collaboration Fund supports research collaboration among faculty and students working on interdisciplinary research topics, such as water, neuroscience, genomics, digital humanities, or climate change. The aim is not to fund specific research projects, but rather to support teams of faculty who aim to establish or foster a community of scholars at USC organized around a broad topic of shared interest. The awards fund the activities that help to develop this collaborative group.

Paleosciences Research Consortium at USC

The diverse fields that contribute to the paleosciences produce cutting-edge research with wideranging relevance for the most critical problems facing our world, ranging from human health to conservation to climate change. They have immediate importance to science and society for several reasons: (1) they reveal the imprint of past biotic and climatic changes on the modern world; (2) they provide the strongest direct evidence for macroevolution, the unifying framework of all biology; (3) they include the most publically accessible scientific endeavors (and the best represented in popular culture). Most elite national and international higher education institutions already have mechanisms for cross-field and interdepartmental paleoscience collaborations, yielding significant scholarly output that appeals to both the specialized research community and a broad public audience.

The goal of this proposal is to strengthen paleosciences research at USC by establishing a USC Paleosciences Research Consortium (PRC). The PRC will strengthen current USC intra- and intercampus communication, as well as develop new research collaborations and student training opportunities among a diverse set of individuals in the immediate proximity of USC whose research dovetails in the paleosciences.

Adam Huttenlocker, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Cell & Neurobiology
David Bottjer, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, Earth Sciences
Sergey Nuzhdin, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, Biological Sciences
Nathan Smith, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Dinosaur Institute
Craig Stanford, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, Biological Sciences

Interdisciplinary Research Initiative on Race, Class, and Aesthetics in Urban Placemaking (RCAUP)
U.S. and global cities are undergoing an unprecedented transformation. With the majority of the world’s population now living in urban areas for the first time in human history, more people are vying for a place in the city than ever before. Communities are grappling with neighborhood change resulting from immigration, density, and gentrification. One of the most enduring urban challenges, indeed what the Provost could call a “wicked” problem, is how our public and private sector investments to redevelop the city often end up disproportionately displacing low-income communities of color. From the City Beautiful movement to urban renewal, inextricable to this process has been a politics of aesthetics in which certain people’s neighborhoods are labeled “blight” in order to make way for others. Contemporary versions of this dynamic occur through top-down “placemaking” projects for the “creative class” that deploy urban design, culture, and the arts in ways that exacerbate privilege.

We propose an initiative that over a three year period 1) encourages a network of faculty to develop a common vocabulary and collaborative research projects through a jointly organized symposium series, retreats, and field visits 2) synergizes students’ education through classes that accompany the symposium with further readings, discussions, and projects 3) provides
leadership and a public voice to the fruits of our collaboration through a narrated website, including edited videos of the symposium.

Annette Kim, Sol Price School of Policy
Josh Kun, Annenberg School for Communication
Taj Frazier, Annenberg School for Communication
Holly Willis, School of Cinematic Arts
Francois Bar, Annenberg School for Communication

Big Data and Human Behavior Speaker Series
Processing large amounts of data, often of qualitatively different types, has become one of the biggest impetus of modern scientific discovery. Recent advancements in technology – coined under the term “Big Data” – utilize this ever growing availability of data by relying on various machine learning algorithms. This innovative approach is used to investigate global social and economic trends, optimize healthcare systems, and even analyze mental processes of individuals and their well-beings. Overall, big data of social sciences has become a vibrant and highly multidisciplinary research area which integrates psychology, machine learning, communications, networks analysis, electrical engineering, sociology, political science, biomedical engineering, health informatics, business, and mathematics.

Aim to build a more cohesive community of big data researchers and students at USC. Specifically, in addition to the speaker series, we will host an annual “big data social” to
foster collaborations between graduate students from the various sectors of the university.

Morteza Dehghani, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences

USC Law and Global Health Working Group

The Law and Global Health Working Group aims to establish USC as a leader in marshaling the tools and methods of many disciplines to examine difficult issues that arise when global health and law intersect.

The Working Group will use a two-pronged approach: first, it will rely on its members to bring forward a wide range of global health topics for preliminary examination, and second, it will devote concerted attention to a particular topic each year, with the goal of stimulating academic interest amongst students and a community of scholars, ultimately creating multidisciplinary teams that can apply for external funding. The latter will draw in additional expertise from around the University, which will contribute to the group’s learning and expand the pool of faculty involved in the group’s work. Finally, to facilitate outcomes that reflect the interests of the group and to raise visibility for these issues across the university and in the broader community, an event will be held each semester or annually as appropriate, along with one larger event at the end of three years when the Working Group will host an invitational international conference to share the work it has done and learn from similar efforts being carried out at other institutions across the globe.

Sofia Gruskin, Keck School of Medicine
Alexander Capron, School of Law

Center for Technology and Innovation in Pediatrics

There currently exists a great need for novel medical devices designed specifically for children, as well as the adaptation and validation of existing adult devices for children. Children differ from adults anatomically and developmentally in numerous ways. The FDA has estimated that the development of pediatric medical devices lags behind that of adult devices by 5 to 10 years. This collaboration aims to unite programs, institutes, faculty, and students at USC and CHLA, along with industry and venture capital partners, in a topic-focused, interdisciplinary, systems-oriented manner, to create the USC/CHLA Center for Technology and Innovation in Pediatrics (CTIP). CTIP will raise the impact of our individual and collective work in pediatric device development to a national level of recognition and influence, and will allow future external funding applications to become more competitive.

Yaniv Bar-Cohen, CHLA/Keck School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics
Gerald Loeb, Viterbi School of Engineering, Medical Device Development Facility
George Tolomiczenko, Keck School of Medicine & Viterbi School of Engineering, Depts of Neurology and Biomedical Engineering

USC Transdisciplinary Collaboratory for Mobile and Connected Health (USC mHealth Collaboratory)

New mobile health (mHealth) technologies have the potential to reduce the cost of health care and improve health outcomes in the United States and across the globe. Today’s wireless, wearable, and deployable technologies provide unprecedented opportunities to passively capture digital ‘footprints’ that catalogue a person’s everyday behaviors, contexts, choices and even states. Data streams from a broad variety of sources – wearable and deployable sensors, social media, games, pictures and videos, location, purchase transactions, apps, and Internet use, just to name a few. We can now ubiquitously monitor physical activity, heart rate, blood pressure, stress, diet, smoking, social interactions, blood glucose, geographical location and a host of other physiological, behavioral and contextual signals in real time. Technologies like smart pill bottles and smart inhalers can monitor compliance. Wearable and deployable sensors are prolonging independent living for the elderly and disabled. Systems of wearable, deployable sensors combined with smartphones can provide real-time, personalized interventions that can be adapted on the fly as behavior changes, new data is accrued, new research comes to light, or new needs arise.  Finally, the emergence of cloud computing makes it possible to link sensors, mobile devices and powerful servers together and share data across them in a way that is transparent to the user.  These ubiquitous mobile technologies systems – powerful, networked computers always nearby – can support continuous, real-time, health monitoring and health care at both the individual and population level. Our distinctive strengths in interactive technologies, engineering, behavioral health and medicine could uniquely position USC as a major nexus for the development and testing of cutting edge user-centered technologies for treatment, prevention and health promotion across a broad swath of health domains.

Donna Spruijt-Metz, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Economic and Social Research/ Preventive Medicine
William Swartout, Institute for Creative Technologies, Computer Science

Neuroplasticity and Repair in Degenerative Disorders

The adult brain possesses a tremendous capacity for change in response to its environment through processes termed experience-dependent neuroplasticity. Recently this has been demonstrated to occur in neurological disorders including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disease as well as traumatic brain injury. Understanding the molecular underpinnings of neuroplasticity in the aging and diseased brain could provide a new innovative direction and novel insights towards the identification of new therapeutic targets for treating neurological disorders. This collaboration seeks to foster collaborative research among investigators interested in neuroplasticity. The goals of this initiative are to better understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders, and to carryout translational studies that include both applications of basic research findings to the clinic, as well as using clinical observations to better design studies within the lab.

Michael Jakowec, Keck School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
Giselle Petzinger, Keck School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
John Walsh, Davis School of Gerontology, Bio-Gerontology/Striatal Synaptic Research
Beth Fisher, Ostrow School of Dentistry, Department of Biokinesiology

Institute for Integrative Health Collaborative Research Group

In the past 3 years, there has been a 20% increase in the number of academic institutions (from 51 to 62; USC, represented by the IIH, was #51) belonging to the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (the “Consortium”). The increasing science of mind-body medicine includes an explosion in the number of peer-reviewed publications showing the effectiveness and the neuroscience of mindfulness practices on multiple health conditions. The fact that therapies and practices previously considered “alternative” by conventional medicine has now undergone a paradigm shift is emphasized by the recent change in name of the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). The USC-Institute for Integrative Health is thus fully aligned with this national trend in the philosophy, science, and practice of integrative health. The impact of achieving the specific aims identified below would propel USC into a national research leadership role in the rapidly growing field of integrative health.

Marc Weigensberg, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Pediatrics/County Hospital
Geaorge Salem, Ostrow School of Dentistry
Charles Kaplan, School of Social Work

Immigrant Health Initiative

This proposed project aims to extend the Immigrant Health Initiative (iHi), established in 2011 by the USC Collaboration Fund and led by a multidisciplinary team of distinguished immigration scholars at USC in developing new insights and health promotion and disease prevention strategies targeting immigrant and refugee communities living in the United States and elsewhere. Although immigrants are often viewed as possessing certain health advantages relative to native-born counterparts, these advantages quickly disappear with increasing acculturation and exposure to health risks of the dominant society. Furthermore, globalization and global climate change has accelerated the health impacts of acculturation and created a new class of “ecological refugees” that are poorly understood. Accelerated acculturation is especially evident along the U.S. Mexico border where residents on both sides experience adverse health impacts associated with migration and acculturation. Given the sheer number of immigrants in this country and their alarmingly increasing rates of obesity, hypertension, mental illness, heart disease, cancer, oral disease, and many other negative health outcomes, it is imperative to stop and reverse these disturbing trends in public health. With the participation of 12 faculty members from 8 USC schools, this collaborative project will utilize an existing critical mass at USC to address these challenges through networking across disciplines, mentoring students and junior faculty, exploring research topics, and ultimately develop a grant proposal for a Transdisciplinary Research Center for Immigrant Health at USC.

Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Keck School of Medicine
Lihua Liu, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Preventive Medicine

Interdisciplinary Research Cluster on Civics and Social Media

In a world where traditional forms of citizenship, politics, and civic life are rapidly changing, how can young people become more civic–‐minded and publicly engaged? How can digital technologies, participatory media, and social networking enable them to do so, and how are definitions of “civic” and “public” co–‐evolving with these practices, online and offline? These are the central questions that guide our proposal for an interdisciplinary Civics and Social Media (CASM) research.

Scholars from a wide range of disciplines at USC are working to understand youth engagement and social media, but they arrive at the conversation through different theoretical entry points and often with different stakes. The primary goal of the CASM research cluster is to shed light on these disciplinary investments while simultaneously working to break them down, creating interdisciplinary languages through which conversations can be sustained.

Henry Jenkins, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, Communication and Journalism
Gabriel Peters-Lazaro, School of Cinematic Arts
Sangita Shresthova, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, School of Communication

USC STEM Education Research Consortium

We live in an era with unprecedented changes due to advances in technology. These forces of technological advances are transforming the role of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in society. With outsourcing and off-shoring of engineering and science jobs, there is a growing concern about the level of interest among young students choosing STEM fields as college majors and eventual careers. The urgent need in STEM workforces calls for a comprehensive and collaborative pipeline effort in STEM education that begins in K‐12 and extends into college and university education, resulting in a fully prepared STEM workforce. The specific aims of this consortium are to engage in collaborative research to advance the STEM pipeline through strategic planning and leveraging USC’s diverse expertise in STEM education.

Gisele Ragusa, Rossier School of Education/Viterbi School of Engineering
John Slaughter, Rossier School of Education/Viterbi School of Engineering
Other Participating Faculty

AirPollBrain (APB) Group

The adverse impact of airborne pollutants on cardio-pulmonary health appears to extend to brain aging. Urbanization is likely one of the most important demographic shifts worldwide, which has led to increased exposure to pollutants. This program brings together faculty from Gerontology, the Viterbi School of Engineering, the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Keck School of Medicine to understand the scientific basis for the impacts of pollution on the brain, and to explore the health consequences.

Caleb Finch, Davis School of Gerontology, Bio-Gerontology
J.C. Chen, Keck School of Medicine, Environmental Health

Previous Collaboration Fund Projects

Previous Years