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2010-2011 Focal Point Projects

The Built Environment & Human Health

Co-organizers: Bin Jiang (Landscape Architecture, graduate student), Chaihui Wang (Architecture, graduate student), David Buchner (Kinesiology and Community Health, faculty), William Sullivan (Landscape Architecture, faculty)

There is growing recognition that the environments in which we live, work, and play have considerable impact on our health. Although we have some understanding of the extent to which specific elements of the built environment (e.g., exposure to green spaces, crowding, noise) impact health, we lack a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of the built environment on human health and well-being. Lack of a compre¬hensive understanding prevents designers, planners, public health officials and others from comprehending the trade-offs among various design or policy possibilities. Overcoming this gap in our knowledge requires an interdisciplinary collaboration among scholars in public health, medical geography, environmental design and planning, and human and community development.

Through the Built Environment and Human Health Focal Point we are building just such a collaborative team. Our primary tasks during the 2010-2011 academic year are to learn from each other and from the literature in the various fields that we represent – public health, medical geography, environmental design and planning, and human and community development. Learning together will prepare us to seek future funding. The Built Environment and Human Health Focal Point will meet for three hours per week during fall of 2010 and spring of 2011. In addition, a subcommittee of our group will work over the summer of 2011 to prepare materials for future funding. We will dedicate the fall 2011 semester to complete our proposal. Our team includes collaborators from National Taiwan University’s Healthy Landscapes, Health People Laboratory.


iRISE: Illinois Researchers in Partnership with K-12 Science Educators

Co-organizers: Robert Clegg (Physics and Bioengineering and Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology, faculty and director, respectively), Sharlene Denos (Project Coordinator), Barbara Hug (Curriculum and Instruction, faculty), Fouad Adb El Khalick, (Curriculum and Instruction, faculty), Jose Mestre (Departments of Physics and Educational Psychology, faculty), Elyse Rosenbaum (Electrical and Computer Engineering, faculty), Yaroslav Daniel Bodnar (Biophysics and Computational Biology, graduate student), Nathan D. Jack (Electrical and Computer Engineering, graduate student), Patrick Mears (Physics, graduate student), Kaushik Ragunathan (Biophysics and Computational Biology, graduate student), Greg Scott (Chemistry,graduate student)

The iRISE project will develop a 3-unit graduate course “Introduction to Science Education: Bridging University Research and K-12 Teaching” to be offered during the Spring 2011 semester as Physics 598SE with cross-listings in The College of Engineering, The School of Chemical Sciences and The School of Molecular and Cellular Biology. The course will focus on teaching science as inquiry and connecting graduate students’ research with K-12 curricula. Students will also be introduced to the diversity of the K-12 classroom, will learn how to develop, teach and assess lessons for middle-grade learners and will prepare their lessons and assessment tools for publication online or in a science education journal. Each student will tie their research-based lesson to the science curriculum recently approved for Champaign School District Unit 4 and will field test them with a selected cohort of 30 middle school students at the Don Moyers Boys & Girls Club in Champaign. The final, revised lessons will be packaged for dissemination on the iRISE course website.

iRISE will also offer a one-day workshop to be held in the summer of 2011 for Illinois middle school science teachers. The workshop will package the concepts, lessons, and demonstrations developed by graduate students in the iRISE Physics 598SE course for dissemination to K-12 teachers. We will hire a Teacher Consultant to review the lessons to ensure that they are realistic for K-12 classrooms and teachers. We will also hire 5 graduate student instructors from the Physics 598SE course to teach the workshops. All K-12 teachers will receive continuing education credit for their attendance at the workshop and the iRISE program will actively recruit teachers from Title 1 middle schools in Illinois and cover all costs associated with attendance in order to maximize the benefit to high need schools and students. 


Speech Production Research Education Initiative

Co-organizers: Torrey Loucks (Speech and Hearing Science,faculty), Chilin Shih (East Asian Languages and Culture and Linguistics, faculty), Ryan Shosted (Linguistics, faculty), Mark Hasegawa-Johnson (Electrical and Computer Engineering, faculty), Panying Rong (Speech and Hearing Science, graduate student), Chris Carignan (French, graduate student), Po-Sen Huang (Electrical and Computer Engineering, graduate student), Scott Hajek (Linguistics, graduate student)

The Speech Production Research Education Initiative will create a forum that facilitates the study of speech production by connecting many labs and providing students with an integrated view of this topic. Speech production is a complicated process that starts with cognition as a speaker makes a plan for speech, and follows with muscle commands in which a speaker controls breathing and muscle movements for articulation. We tend to take the system for granted not realizing its importance to health, science, society and the economy. This project brings together unparalleled resources in speech production expertise at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign to provide graduate students with cross-disciplinary training in speech production to tackle tough problems that impact health, language preservation and marketable communication technologies. Societal problems that can be addressed include 1) improved treatment of communication disorders; 2) recording the speech physiology of understudied languages for enhanced preservation; 3) visualizing speech / brain relationships; and, 4) advanced machine recognition of speech. Our forum will take students to different labs on a regular basis throughout the year, where they will discuss research projects and engage in hands-on experimentation. Students from Speech and Hearing Science, Foreign Languages, Linguistics and Engineering will be exposed to the equipment used by each lab. A host student will demonstrate the use of the equipment in the context of data collection and develop a short training regimen. On a monthly basis, one student will present a recent journal article that uses speech production methodology. The Project will culminate in a summer symposium where experts who represent the breadth of speech production applications will be invited.


Water for Life: Addressing a 21st Century Crisis

Co-organizers: Michael J. Plewa (Crop Sciences, faculty, and WaterCAMPWS), Brian Miller  (IL-IN Sea Grant College Program, director), Benito Mariñas (Environmental Engineering (Civil and Environmental Engineering, faculty, and WaterCAMPWS), Susan Schantz (Vet Biosciences, facult, and Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program, director), Elizabeth Jeffery  (Food Sciences and Nutrition, faculty, and Office of Research, College of ACES, assistant dean), Justin Pals (Crop Sciences, graduate student), Yukako Komaki  (Civil and Environmental Engineering, graduate student), Susana Kimura (Civil and Environmental Engineering, graduate student), Clara Jeong (Crop Sciences, graduate student), Jennifer Osiol (Crop Sciences, graduate student)

The great challenges of the age demand a rigorous interdisciplinary scientific approach in which the scholarship and skills of many are integrated into sustainable solutions. Potable freshwater is essential for life; it impacts all areas including health, food, energy, and economic output. While the United States has abundant freshwater, competing demands severely limit this resource for growth in the 21st century. Recent environmental catastrophes, such as regional floods and droughts, enhanced source water contamination and resistant waterborne pathogens demonstrate the fragility of our municipal water systems. Aquifers throughout the U.S. exhibit declining water levels, chemical contamination, saltwater intrusion and inadequately replenished groundwater. Many aquifers will experience severe supply problems in the next 20 years. Major rivers and watersheds are also being overdrawn and are becoming saltier downstream and have increased levels of chemical pollutants. Ensuring the availability of clean, abundant freshwater for human use is among the most pressing issues facing the United States and the world. To meet these global challenges, graduate students today need to be involved in interdisciplinary approaches in research, innovation, education and implementation to meet the existing and future scientific and engineering challenges in developing and maintaining sustainable water supplies. The goal of this project is to integrate graduate students from diverse academic backgrounds around a focus on the toxicological aspects of water quantity, quality, and novel technologies required to address the challenges of the 21st century.


Public Histories of Social Struggles Against Inequality and “Downstate Landscapes”

Co-organizers: Teresa Barnes (History and Gender and Women’s Studies Program, faculty), Ken Salo (Urban and Regional Planning, faculty), Kerry Pimblott (History, graduate student), Sang Lee (Urban and Regional Planning, graduate student)

This project will connect UIUC humanities and social science scholars with histories embedded in the public urban landscapes that surround us here in central Illinois.  The central concept is that there is a need to build interdisciplinary bridges to histories of struggle around issues of social inequality in central/“downstate” Illinois. We want to learn more about the spaces, landscapes, people, neighborhoods and communities which in many ways sustain our work. We will also situate local landscapes in more global economic contexts, as, for example, international commodity flows influence local economic processes.

The seminars will model important approaches to how public histories can inform and enrich urban landscape studies and vice versa, providing a critical counterweight to dominant professional discourses that neglect the experiences and voices of marginalized citizens. An important aspect of the seminars will be our attention to and investigations of the particular ways in which these landscapes have developed as segregated, racialized, deeply gendered, and often environmentally degraded spaces.

This project will involve two kinds of seminars. First, led by selected faculty and graduate students, Focal Point participants will read works about selected communities, histories and sites of struggle related to social justice and labor issues. These seminars will be led by graduate student participants. The second category of seminars is innovative. Seminar participants will visit the sites and communities which they have read about. These will be research seminars “on the move” where participants will be given the opportunity to see the places they have read about and to meet local people who are knowledgeable about  those local histories and landscapes of social inequality.  We plan to use web-based technology to record and disseminate our off-campus activities; this could serve as a pilot for enhancing access to education via an online resource for future campus and community learning and dialogues. 


Race, Region, and Sexual Diasporas

Co-organizers: Martin Manalansan (Anthropology and Asian American Studies Program, faculty), Chantal Nadeau (Gender and Women’s Studies Program, faculty and director), Richard Rodriguez (English and Latina/o Studies Program, faculty), Siobhan Somerville, English and Gender and Women’s Studies Program, faculty), Sarah Cassinelli (English, graduate student), Ryan Jones (History, graduate student)

Our activities, including a regularly scheduled reading group and two public symposia, will assemble and sustain a group of graduate students and faculty to investigate and generate new scholarship on “Race, Region, and Sexual Diasporas” in the interdisciplinary field of queer studies.  Questions about temporality and space have become important sites for debate within queer studies, suggesting new ways of calibrating research on flows of capital, information, people, knowledge, and culture.   Our activities will explore this scholarship in depth and will serve as a catalyst for the production of new research on these questions.  We will ask, for example:  What are the possibilities or limitations afforded by a focus on transnational “regions” for mapping gay, lesbian, transgender or queer worlds?  To what extent do different models of queer regionalism deterritorialize or reterritorialize queer culture within or beyond geopolitical boundaries?  How do areas defined by market, state, and labor relationships within global capitalism require shifts in how we think about the production and movement of specific racial, sexual, and gender norms and cultures?  How does an emphasis on the rural demand reconsideration of commonly held assumptions about the production of sexual identities, race, and queer culture?

In collaboration with the reading group, a symposium on “Queering the Middle:  Sexual, Diasporas, Race, and a Queer Midwest,” is being planned for October 7-8, 2010.  In April 2011, we will hold a graduate student symposium as a culmination of the year’s activities.  We intend to pursue the publication of original scholarship from these symposia, in either a peer-reviewed scholarly journal or an anthology.  In the long term, a new graduate course on “Queer Region:  Race, Region, and Sexual Diasporas,” based on our activities, will be developed for the Gender and Women’s Studies program and potentially cross-listed with another unit.  


Reinventing East Asia: The Global Political Economy of Information

Co-organizers: Poshek Fu  (History and Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, faculty), Dan Schiller (Graduate School of Library and Information Science and Department of Communication, faculty), Jing Jing Chang (History, graduate student), Wenrui Chen (Institute of Communications Research, graduate student), Shinjoung Yeo (Graduate School of Library and Information Science, graduate student)

Reinventing East Asia consists of a group of graduate students and faculty members from the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, History, Institute of Communications Research, and Library and Information Science, who aim to develop and advance scholarship in the field of global political economy of information within an East Asian context. We seek to develop new theoretical frameworks to understand how the information industries in East Asia have been reorganizing themselves to integrate into the global political economic system and how such transformations impacted their social structures and everyday cultures. Specifically, our project reexamines the contours of “information economy” and reassess how East Asian countries, in various ways, have been mobilizing information industries not only for economic growth but also for resurgence of political power. These nation states reassert their political and economic power through redefining their cultural identities in "rewriting the nation" and reinventing their traditions in more palatable forms. We attempt to interrogate how and under what conditions such actors as nation states, multinational corporations, citizens/consumers compete and/or ally with each other.

Through a series of lectures by leading scholars in the field of political economy of information in East Asia on such themes as cultural media globalization, and cybersecurity in East Asia, among others, our group will contribute to new approaches to graduate level education pedagogy by conceptualizing the range of practices in East Asia in comparison with those in the U.S. toward an in-depth conversation across national-cultural boundaries.