By Jessie McCartney

The Katz School of Science and Health has named the grant recipients of its inaugural Faculty Research Initiative, which was established to encourage innovation and expand existing research in STEM and the health sciences. 

The grants, which range from $1,000 to $5,000, will support projects including the use of machine learning models to determine whether the risk of default by consumer lenders is understated, the creation of smart wearables that can facilitate the recovery of stroke patients and an initiative that encourages women entrepreneurs in STEM. 

In these interdisciplinary projects, Katz School faculty are working with industry and academic partners, including Yeshiva University’s Syms School of Business, Stern College for Women and Mercy College’s graduate program in occupational therapy.

“This year’s initiatives run the gamut of the Katz School’s research priorities for the next five years — in particular, AI, cybersecurity, biotech, fintech and clinical applications and primary research,” said Paul Russo, dean of the Katz School and vice provost at Yeshiva University. “These projects will open doors for our graduate research assistants, and I can’t wait to see some of the technologies that come out of them.”

The following is a list of projects that the grants will fund:

PROJECT TITLE: Machine Learning Methods in Consumer Lending: Possibilities and Pitfalls

Artificial intelligence and machine learning models have increasingly been used to determine eligibility and interest rates for consumer debt. However, existing research on the adoption of these technologies is limited due to lack of model transparency.

This project aims to implement a modern neural network model of consumer credit performance and compare the model against an existing structural model. These findings will have broad implications for how fintech and mainstream lenders build and deploy artificial intelligence and machine learning models, and for the trillion-dollar consumer credit industry more broadly.

PROJECT TITLE: Building IoT-based Upper Limb Exoskeletons for Stroke-Rehabilitation

Tele-rehabilitation is gaining prominence, particularly for its financial viability and at-home practice. This project will explore the effectiveness of tele-rehabilitation in treating upper-limb stroke patients. Sai Praveen Kadiyala and Rana Khan aim to build an exoskeleton specifically designed for upper-limb stroke patients using a network of connected smart devices referred to as IoT, or internet of things.

The project will take a two-pronged approach. After conducting an extensive survey of published works that focus on building exoskeletons for upper-limb stroke rehabilitation, Kadiyala and Khan will incorporate IoT aspects into existing exoskeletons. They will then design architectures containing new features, build the proof-of-concept exoskeleton models and compare the effectiveness of their proposed novelties.

PROJECT TITLE: Improving Commercial Success of Innovations Led by Women in STEM

The number of women entrepreneurs in STEM lags far behind the number of men. Only 20% of Fortune 500 chief innovation officers are women, women founders represent 2-3% of venture capital investments, women make up 2-3% of venture capital partners, and there is a 16% gender wage gap among STEM professionals. Half as many women as men are likely to start their own business, and 95% of women who do start their own business fail within a year because they can’t secure funding and other necessary support. 

In this project, Lorraine Marchand will work with women entrepreneurs in the early stages of their technology startups. She will implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the approach described in her book, The Innovation Mindset: Eight Essential Steps for Transforming Any Industry, as well as her Resource Guide for Women Innovators, to increase the chances of commercial success for women innovators in STEM. The work is intended to raise the profile and number of women entrepreneurs in STEM and to demonstrate that women innovators can raise funds and experience commercial success by following a structured process and with appropriate coaching and support.

PROJECT TITLE: Studies of Cell Cycle Regulation During Meiosis and in Spermatogonia Stem Cells 

This project will focus on the mis-regulation of the cell cycle in testicular cells and study how it can lead to infertility or testicular cancer. The goal is to obtain new information about cell cycle regulation in normal and cancerous cells, particularly through studying a recently identified protein that may play an important role.

Katz School graduate students will be involved in all aspects of the proposed research, and they will be trained in a variety of advanced cell and molecular biology techniques. In the past, Katz graduate students involved in projects such as these have published as co-authors on peer-reviewed publications.

PROJECT TITLE: Healthy Aging: A Wellness Intervention Program

There is evidence that social-emotional factors contribute to older adults’ engagement and satisfaction in life despite a decline in physical and mental health as they age. This collaborative project between the Occupational Therapy program at Mercy College and the Katz School’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate program will test the effectiveness of health, aging and wellness (HAW) group programs.

The research team will conduct a pilot study comparing in-person and remote delivery of the HAW programs for older adults living independently in a community. The program combines yoga, hope theory and mindfulness to support physical, mental and emotional aging in place. This work builds on a preliminary study in which the researchers found that the newly developed HAW program had a positive impact on older adults’ sense of hope.


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