Each year, Tufts Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President sponsors two seed grant programs, Tufts Collaborates and Tufts Innovates; sparking research collaboration among disparate faculty members, and catalyzing innovative ideas for learning and teaching across campus. Over the course of their implementation, the seed grants have supported no small number of projects-- 183 to be exact, including 28 in the 2016-17 academic year alone.
In the past, faculty at Friedman have been the beneficiaries of sponsorship for various research ideas, ranging from a food security intervention in rural Kenya, to developing wireless sensors for nutrition monitoring. Read about the Friedman's most recent round of groundbreaking grant-funded projects, detailed below.
How and Why are Certain Diets Sustained?
A Cohort to Capture Behavior Change and Personalized Dietary Patterns
Nicola McKeown, PhD, HNRCA Scientist and Director of Friedman's Nutritional Epidemiology Program, spent last summer and fall gathering data and eventually drawing the initial phase of the ADAPT (Adhering to Dietary Approaches for Personal Taste) study to a close. The overarching goal of this first phase was to explore the feasibility of conducting research studies among populations of individuals consuming a variety of popular diets, including Paleo, low-carb, vegetarian, raw, Mediterranean, and others. The response was enthusiastic: "Over 7,000 folks said they would be interested in participating in a larger study," said McKeown.
"We will be able to address a number of questions related to sustainability, cost, how well people who ‘self-identify’ as following these diets actually adhere to the principals of these diets."
"A Cohort to Capture Behavior Change and Personalized Dietary Patterns" is essentially a continuation of the same line of questioning, this time drilling down further to capture information on variation in nutrient intake, adherence, health, and lifestyle factors among followers of these varied dietary patterns. "It’s all under the same umbrella," said McKeown, when asked about long term goals for the project. "Once we have baseline data from the [Tufts Collaborates] grant, we can use it to apply for more funding…and collect biological samples."
McKeown envisions a range of fruitful applications for the data they will gather. "We will be able to address a number of questions related to sustainability, cost, how well people who ‘self-identify’ as following these diets actually adhere to the principals of these diets," said McKeown. "The first step is to get the study up and running and enroll as many study participants as possible."
The Tufts Collaborates Grant was awarded to Principal Investigator Nicola McKeown, Sara Folta, Christina Economos, Christian Peters, Paul Jacques, Alice Lichtenstein, and Remco Chang.
A Community Collaboration to Boost Literacy
Improving Literacy with a Novel Nutrition Supplement and Locally-Created Reading Material
Last winter, Professor Susan Roberts traveled to the village of Dandu in Guinea Bissau to do research on nutritional foods for mothers, infants and children. As Roberts came to know the people who lived there, it became clear that they were sorely in need of a primary school. What began as research gathering mission expanded to include the co-founding of a new school in an area where adult illiteracy comes close to 100%. Since opening its doors in January of 2015, the school has enrolled around 270 students.
"We're collecting local oral stories to turn into written stories to use as part of the accelerated learning."
Now Roberts is taking steps to further elevate literacy rates in the area by leading a Tufts Collaborates grant-funded project, "Improving Literacy with a Novel Nutrition Supplement and Locally-Created Reading Material."
"It's an intervention combining new nutrition formulations for malnutrition prevention and treatment with accelerated learning via tablets," Said Roberts.
"We're collecting local oral stories to turn into written stories to use as part of the accelerated learning." The people who live in Dandu, she said, will be providing the first batch of stories. "The goal is, through a high-powered combination of great nutrition and enhanced, locally-relevant learning, to improve literacy in rural subsistence farming villages in Guinea-Bissau."
The Tufts Collaborates Grant was awarded to Principal Investigator Edward Saltzman, Stephanie Gottwald, Paul Muentener, Maryanne Wolf, Robin Kanarek, Susan Roberts, Patrick Webb, and Nina Schlossman.
Read the Tufts Nutrition Magazine Article about Roberts' Work in Dandu
Mapping Disease in Real Time, Online
Precision Mapping for Non-Communicable Diseases in USA Elderly
Elena Naumova, PhD, Friedman's academic dean for faculty, is assembling an interdisciplinary team of Tufts researchers to harness innovative information tech and preexisting national data repositories to develop real-time, online maps of non-communicable diseases in the US. Drawing data from two decades of hospitalization records, the dynamic maps will be used to quantify the impacts of health policies on the US aging population by identifying the trends and hot spots of severe health conditions in residential locations.
"Our team is unique in its constellation of disciplines and in ability to devise novel comprehensive solutions for healthy aging."
An ambitious initiative with far-reaching implications for public health, Naumova's team plans to test their initial map modules in terms of comprehension, reaction time, and other characteristics of visual aids. The ultimate goal: to increase the targeted impacts of health and environmental policies on the wellbeing of the population on a nation-wide scale.
"In the last decade, many research fields have demonstrated substantial advances when interdisciplinary knowledge was applied to research design, implementation, interpretation and communication of findings," said Naumova, "Our team is unique in its constellation of disciplines and in ability to devise novel comprehensive solutions for healthy aging."
The Tufts Collaborates Grant was awarded to Principal Investigator Elena Naumova, Dariush Mozaffarian, Linda Tickle-Degnen, Elizabeth Marfeo, Keren Ladin, Remco Chang, and Melissa Cruz.
Tufts Collaborates and Tufts Innovates grant awards range from $500 to $50,000. A peer‐review process evaluates each proposal for its specific merit, potential for impact, and the degree to which the proposal adheres to the goals of the seed grant programs.
A new round of Tufts Collaborates and Tufts Innovates will be announced in September 2016. More information can be found here.