The Expanding Horizons Initiative (EHI) has five main goals:

  • To elevate the College’s national and international reputation and stature.
  • To strengthen the College’s research enterprise by increasing external funding, scholarly productivity, and creative activity.
  • To support the development of teaching innovations, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches, that can lead to enhanced learning outcomes.
  • To encourage our faculty to initiate research, scholarship and creative endeavors that align with the pathways of the university’s Think Big strategic plan: igniting interdisciplinarity; integrating humanity and technology; achieving social impact; and shaping the Agora.
  • To create opportunities for students at all levels in the College to be involved in or benefit from the research, scholarship, and creative endeavors of our faculty.

Each year, the EHI will pursue these goals by announcing funding opportunities in a variety of categories:

Faculty and Student Research

  • Interdisciplinary Grants
  • Disciplinary Grants
  • Social and Racial Justice Grants

Curricular Innovation

  • The Morrell Heald Endowed Fund for Curricular Innovation
  • Teaching Innovation Grants

Faculty Development

  • Grant, Manuscript or Performance Pre-Review Fund
  • Finish Line Fund

The 2022 EHI awardees

Grants to Support Faculty and Student Research and Scholarship

Interdisciplinary Grants

Peer-Led Learning Communities to Support Underserved Students in Science and Math Gateway Courses

A major point of departure from the pathway leading to an undergraduate STEM degree or health career occurs when students, especially students from educationally underserved backgrounds, perform poorly in introductory science and math gateway courses. We plan to develop, implement, and assess the impact of peer-led learning communities (PLLCs) for students in the Emerging Scholars Program (ESP), the Posse Program, and other underserved first-year students who enroll in CWRU science and math gateway courses. The PLLCs will consist of groups of students who meet on a regular and frequent basis to study together and support each other’s efforts to excel. As the name implies, PLLCs will be led by undergraduate students who have already taken and performed well in the gateway courses. Since the PLLC leaders will also serve as role models for the PLLC participants, eligible ESP and Posse students will be given preference in the selection process. Quantitative academic performance data, quantitative surveys, and qualitative interviews will be used to assess the impact of PLLCs on the gateway course performance of PLLC participants and several psychosocial characteristics of the participants and peer leaders—characteristics that directly correlate with and strongly predict successful STEM performance outcomes. Undergraduate student researchers will assist in the assessment process.

Local Psilocybin Use and Themes of Psilocybin Use in the Media

Using hallucinogenic drugs as therapeutic agents for treating mental illnesses characterizes what has been labeled the “psychedelic renaissance” currently underway in modern medicine. Although still illegal and with initial human trials evaluating the efficacy of this class of drugs in progress, this study will investigate how psilocybin (i.e., the “magic mushroom”) is currently being used in non-recreational ways. The first objective of this Interdisciplinary EHI proposal (INT-L) is to collect preliminary exploratory ethnographic data on how and why people are using psilocybin within the context of a local (unlicensed) alternative health practice. Leveraging contacts made by the PI (Hoffer), this project element will examine 1) how an alternative healer uses psilocybin with her clients, as well as 2) the ways her clients make sense of, integrate, and understand that use. A second objective of this proposal is to conduct a media study developing, integrating, and testing Machine Learning (ML) techniques to extract themes about psilocybin in news media. Results from this EHI project are expected to generate two peer reviewed publications. Because this project will be investigating a unique population and is developing an innovative ML technique, it will make important scientific contributions. Using a collaborative crossdisciplinarity research team approach, it will also contribute to scholarship across a range of academic fields.

Miocene climate and the rise of the Andes in Bolivia

The Andes Mountain chain is a classic example of mountains formed by subduction — where one tectonic plate slides underneath another. These mountains rose during a period of global warmth that peaked with temperatures as much as 6˚ C above present. As the mountains rose, they altered regional and global climate. Distengling the relationships between mountain uplift and climate change millions of years ago is critical to understanding Earth’s history, as well as its future, because models of human-caused global warming are built and tested by simulating the distant past. Yet, the rate and timing of Andean mountain uplift remains debated. In particular, two paleontological sites where we have previously worked in southern Bolivia have played central roles in revealing the uplift and climate history of the Central Andes, but different lines of evidence from these sites conflict. Differences in geochemical data between these sites suggest cooling associated with a rapid ~2 km rise in elevation. In contrast, paleontological and geological data suggest comparably warm settings and stable landscapes. We will travel to southern Bolivia to investigate and sample a little-studied third site that may be intermediate in age. Our goals are to analyze the sedimentary formations and fossils in this area in order to establish the site’s age and document its record of climate and uplift. Our interdisciplinary team is uniquely positioned to carry out this research. We are the only research group collecting both biological and geological data to address these contentious questions about the rise of the Andes.

Miocene: of, relating to, or being an epoch of the Tertiary between the Pliocene and the Oligocene or the corresponding series of rocks

Machine Learning on the Surface Texture of Paintings for Attribution and Conservation

Applications of artificial intelligence in art are receiving increased attention. To this end, our broad collaboration seeks to expand the toolset of conservation and authentication of painted artist works by using machine learning to differentiate among different artists based on the surface topography or texture of the painted surface at the microscale. Collaborators include CWRU’s departments of Physics and Art History and Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Factum Foundation in Spain. Paintings are scanned by high resolution profilometers and analyzed by machine learning and other image processing techniques. Our initial results, with paintings by CIA students indicated a spectacular attribution accuracy of greater than 95% and with the finest details most informative. In addition to further studies with CIA students, our collaboration with the Factum Foundation focuses on several real-world works of the renowned Spanish Renaissance painter, El Greco aiming to discover the contributions of members of El Greco’s workshop.

Photopharmacology in the Visual Cycle

The visual cycle is essential for sustaining vision in humans. Specifically, this metabolic pathway is responsible for the generation of the visual chromophore that represents the critical first step of light absorption in the visual transduction system. Modifying the activity of this metabolic pathway is proposed as a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of diverse retinal diseases. Here, we aim to develop novel pre-clinical drug candidates using rational pharmacologic and photo-pharmacologic techniques to overcome the inadequacies of visual cycle modulating drugs currently in clinical trials. Specifically, we propose a model whereby small molecule inhibitors of the major vitamin A isomerase are synthesized in an inactive form, which become active in the eye during bright-light conditions, when the inhibitory activity is important for protection.

Do insects sniff with their wings?

When humans and many other animals need more information about an odor, they sniff. This behavior delivers more odor from the air to the receptors in their nose. It has been proposed that, in addition to generating lift and thrust, the flapping wings of flying insects may also function as a “sniff” to deliver more airborne odor to the receptors on their antennae. Tracking an odor to its source is an important behavior that allows insects to locate critical resources for survival and reproduction. The primary goal of this project is to measure the effects of wing beats on airflow and the delivery of odors to the antennae of flying insects. Whether and under what conditions the odor signal is enhanced or degraded is unknown. These studies will introduce a novel approach to revealing how and under what conditions the interaction of wing flapping and changing environmental conditions affect the characteristics of the odor plume encountered by the insects’ odor sensors. This will be the first in depth study to address the long-standing biological question of how wingbeat induced air flows affect how flying insects use odor plumes to locate resources important to survival and reproduction.

Disciplinary Grants

The International Survey of Human Rights

This project will administer the International Survey of Human Rights (ISHR) and a special module on human rights derogation to residents of Central Asia countries. The ISHR is a 40+ items questionnaire designed to assess adult residents’ knowledge of, opinions of, beliefs about, attitudes toward, and experiences with human rights. Through a series of Likert scales, respondents are asked questions that assess several dimensions of their engagement with human rights ideas, documents, and situations. Working with Qualtrics, the EHI support will permit ISHR administration to adult residents of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Thinking and Talking About Money

Money scares and perplexes us. At one moment, it engenders security and protection; at another it elicits worry and panic. Money deflates, inflates, and stabilizes; it is liquid, moving from hand to hand; it is made illiquid, being tied up in assets we cannot sell. Money makes the modern world go around by facilitating exchange, discharging debts, storing value, and keeping score. It is one of the most enigmatic of social institutions. “Thinking and Talking About Money” is a new research program exploring how ideas of money function within economic theory. It brings to bear research strands in linguistics and cognitive science on economic thinking from the Enlightenment to the present. This project fits within a larger enterprise of what we call systems rhetoric, an attempt to explain how language use in specific institutional formations shapes the way we think and act.

CWRU-UBonn Graduate Student Collaborative Experience

This project will support a graduate student exchange experience between collaborating faculty Protasiewicz and Streubel, at CWRU and the University of Bonn, Germany, respectively. One student from each research group will travel overseas and spend 1-2 months at the host institution and perform research, learning new skills from the host lab as well as bringing new skills and ideas into each host lab. This student exchange plan will energize a proposed collaboration between the PIs, and the results will be integrated into Protasiewicz’s NSF proposal to be submitted in Fall 2022. The collaborating PIs are also organizing a symposium proposal for the Fall 2022 National American Chemical Society meeting entitled “International Crossroads of Organometallic and Group V Chemistry” in Chicago where they plan to have invited speakers from many different countries. The two students will clearly receive many benefits from the project, including research training and international experiences. The research undertaken is aligned with several of the Think Big Strategic Plan goals. One ultimate long term societal impact of this research concerns the development of new classes of light sensitive materials for sensing applications for challenging unreactive molecules such as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). The more immediate and shorter term impacts concerns developing new chemical strategies to synthesize multifunctional reversible systems constructed from earth abundant elements that act as fluorescence turn-on sensors, as well as promoting the training of future scientists skilled to tackle tomorrow’s grand scientific challenges.

Is the second language acquisition of relative clauses governed by grammar or meaning? A corpus-based study

In both first and second language learning, relative clauses (RCs) have received considerable attention as complex structures and important meaning-making devices. The Noun Phrase Accessibility Hierarchy (NPAH) has been shown to predict the difficulty of acquiring RCs based on distinct grammatical units (e.g., subjects – the man who came; object-of-comparison – the man who I am taller than). However, it has been shown that semantic factors impact acquisition ease, not just grammatical factors. This study addresses the role of semantics (i.e. animacy) vis-à-vis grammar (the NPAH) by analyzing intermediate through advanced learner data in International Corpus of Learner English. RCs are identified through a combination of Natural Language Processing tools, python scripts, and manual coding. Support for the animacy hypothesis would have important theoretical implications in that the previously accepted grammar-driven acquisition of RCs may not be as important as frequency-based meaning bias in RC use, supporting the usage-based theory of language.

American Regional Theatre’s Past, Present, and Future

By traveling to various institutions around the country, conducting interviews, and researching their archives, the hope is that my research will not only detail the history of American regional theatre, but also inspire other scholars and historians to access and utilize archived material from these theatres. Furthermore, by employing students to engage with theatres not on the west coast (in the midwest and south) and to assist with interdisciplinary subjects (most notably marketing, nonprofit management, labor history), this project aims to satisfy both the “Ignite Interdisciplinary” and the “Achieve Social Impact” pathways of the university’s Think Big strategic plan. The funds for this research and the resulting book will be instrumental in supporting a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to assist with the digitization of the Karamu House or Cleveland Play House archives (reworking a previous grant application in conjunction with the Kelvin Smith Library).

Icon Dresden: Baroque City, Air War Symbol, Political Token

“Icon Dresden” is the first comprehensive book-length study of the Eastern German city of Dresden that explores the role of Dresden’s history as a cultural icon in changing political and societal environments before and after its Second World War destruction by bombs in February 1945. It untangles the connection of the city’s century-long history as a deliberately designed cultural center and leading travel destination, with the widely embraced narrative of victimhood about Dresden’s destruction. The book challenges the prevailing notion that the bombing of Dresden was exceptional, showing instead that such a narrative stems from a propagandistic exploitation by various political camps. As a consequence of these established notions, Dresden’s destruction history is still not sufficiently contextualized, but has been enveloped in general proclamations declaring the need for world peace. I trace how this handling of the past in conjunction with the changing political systems and their imprint on the cityscape explains the general social resentment to change among many Dresden residents and how such attitude has led to the city’s problematic role as the home of xenophobic and Islamophobic movements and as a place of strong support for far-right political parties. “Icon Dresden” offers a novel approach to Dresden and its history, the visual and narrative representation of the city, rebuilding decisions, Dresden’s place in East and West German and international memory, and its growing problematic political situation after reunification.

Grants to Support Curricular Innovation

The Morrell Heald Endowed Fund for Curricular Innovation

Building Interdisciplinary Experiential Education for Addressing Critical Community Health Issues

This proposed project will seek to provide CWRU undergraduate students with unique, cross-school, community engaged educational experiences focused on health-related community concerns in greater Cleveland. The product of this proposed project will be a new course in the Anthropology Department to be taught as a pilot course (N=3-5 students) in Spring 2023. The course will focus on developing skills needed for interdisciplinary community health. The course will be engaging with nursing students as part of their primary care and population-based health courses.

Teaching Innovation Grants

A HoloAnatomy-Based Human Anatomy & Physiology Lab for Pre-Allied Health Career Students

This Human Anatomy & Physiology lab course will utilize state-of-the-art instructional tools to greatly enhance student learning of human anatomy. HoloAnatomy is a mixed reality software curriculum that was developed by a team of faculty, computer programmers, and biomedical illustrators at CWRU. Used in conjunction with a HoloLens headset, the HoloAnatomy program enables students to visualize anatomical structures of the human body as a hologram projected into the physical environment around them. Unlike static models that only allow a surface view of a structure, the HoloAnatomy software can isolate and superimpose individual organs and tissue layers. As a result, students may work in teams to examine and “look inside” a three-dimensional human body to develop a comprehensive understanding of the relationships between structures. This immersive, interactive learning environment will facilitate a student’s appreciation of anatomy and provide a solid foundation for their success in post-graduate programs.

The EHI Grant, Manuscript or Performance Pre-Review Fund is accepting submissions on a rolling basis. The fund will pay an honorarium to an expert reviewer to provide timely, constructive, and comprehensive feedback on a soon-to-be submitted grant/fellowship application, peer-reviewed manuscript/book, creative work or performance. Apply HERE!