Provost’s Office Awards Grants for Faculty Research

Dr. Selma Botman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, has announced the 2022-2023 grant recipients for the Provost Faculty Research Fund.

“The University is again committed to sustaining the diverse and broad scholarship endeavors of our full-time (non-tenured and tenured) faculty members,” said Dr. Botman, “with grants up to $7,500 that provide material support and academic encouragement for their endeavors. Annually, the Provost’s research initiative invests over $100,000 to seed new research ideas and support faculty in innovative intellectual pursuits.”

(The range of activities supported by the Research Fund can be found on the faculty resources section of the Provost’s website.)

This year’s awardees are

  1. Dr. Jill Becker-Feigeles and Dr. Lynn Levy
  2. Andrew Catlin
  3. Dr. Jonathan Dauber
  4. Dr. Hanni Flaherty
  5. Dr. Lisa Henshaw
  6. Dr. Shalom Holtz
  7. Dr. Sai Praveen Kadiyala
  8. Dr. Rana Khan
  9. Dr. Moshe Krakowski
  10. Dr. Rain Lee
  11. Dr. Ariel Malka
  12. Dr. Lata McGinn
  13. Dr. Ari Mermelstein
  14. Dr. Mary Beth Morrissey
  15. Dr. Pablo Roldan
  16. Dr. Amiya Waldman-Levi
  17. Dr. Joshua Waxman

Below are brief descriptions of the projects and their importance.


Dr. Jill Becker-Feigeles, Clinical Associate Professor/Dr. Lynn Levy, Clinical Associate Professor

Wurzweiler School of Social Work
Project Title: The Heights: A Virtual Community

The Heights is a two-dimensional virtual community that has been utilized widely by professors in the Wurzweiler online program. Drs. Jill Becker & Lynn Levy have been the primary developers in the expansion of the content over the past three-plus years and have presented at several conferences to speak about “Creating Community in an Online Platform.”

“Our goal is to expand usage of the Heights throughout Wurzweiler’s programs and ultimately throughout the university system. To accomplish this, we must have an enhanced platform to support the technology necessary to embed The Heights across all Canvas shells, inclusive of those not connected to our online learning partners. We believe this has applicability for programs across the University. This will continue to distinguish YU and Wurzweiler as innovators in the realm of online education. The implementation of pre- and post-assessments will be used to measure program effectiveness, artificial intelligence development and marketing.

 “Our long-range conceptualization includes building a three-dimensional component to The Heights and developing a marketable product with content that can be adapted to a cross-section of organizations, agencies and educational institutions.”


Andrew Catlin, Clinical Assistant Professor

M.S. in Data Analytics and Visualization (Katz School)
Project Title: Labeling Anti-Semitic Hate Speech

“These are three small inter-related projects. Each project has been designed with two goals in mind: 1) to support our ongoing work on Yeshiva University’s anti-Semitic Hate Speech Research Initiative, and 2) to provide Katz students with practice performing research while using market-relevant tools such as graphical databases, natural language processing and implementing consensus algorithms to reduce bias in labeling.

“Facebook and YouTube algorithms increase ad revenue by serving up content that amplifies preconceived views and leads to radicalization and polarization. Offline, bad actors have throughout history directed hatred at “out groups” to gain power over others. The technology of the internet has extended their reach like the technology of the megaphone aided Hitler’s rise to power. It is our hope that by better identifying the sources and trends of anti-Semitic hate speech, we can one day reduce it or at least reduce its impact.”


Dr. Jonathan Dauber, Associate Professor of Jewish Mysticism and Director of the Ph.D. Program

Jewish Philosophy (Bernard Revel)
Project Title: Sefer ha-Bahir: Translation and Commentary

“The upcoming publication of my book, Sefer ha-Bahir: Translation and Commentary, aims to make Sefer ha-Bahir accessible to a wide audience. An extended introduction will examine the history and context of the work in light of the latest scholarship, and the body of the project will include a translation of Sefer ha-Bahir and a line-by-line commentary that will clarify the basic meaning of the text in accessible, jargon-free English. Finally, the project will be supplemented by extensive additional notes that will be of interest to scholars and those looking for a more in-depth analysis of Sefer ha-Bahir.

Sefer ha-Bahir is widely considered one of the most important works of the Jewish mystical tradition. Much of Kabbalistic thought and practice is contained, in rudimentary form, in the midrashic homilies that make up the work. Scholars have seen Sefer ha-Bahir as key to understanding the history of Kabbalah. Yet, making sense of the work is complicated by its seemingly bizarre biblical exegesis and its enigmatic parables. It is, accordingly, a work that requires extensive elucidation before it can be approached by readers.”


Dr. Hanni B. Flaherty, Assistant Professor & Chair of Advanced Clinical Practice

Wurzweiler School of Social Work
Project Title: Using Augmented Reality Technology to Improve Experiential Learning in Online Classes

“This study aims to explore the impact of artificial intelligence and immersive media technology on student experience and academic success in online social work classrooms. These technologies allow students to apply and practice their newly learned skills through simulated role-plays of situations the students will encounter in the field. As these simulations imitate the real-world clinical environment in a low-risk context, they replicate clinical situations’ critical components safely for students to test their clinical skills. This experience prepares students to respond effectively when presented with similar incidents in practice.

“Higher education is changing rapidly with the incorporation of online platforms, and COVID-19 has propelled this movement even further. As educators, we need to not only think of technology in terms of moving our class into the online realm either asynchronously or synchronously, but we must also consider how we can integrate new technologies to continue to provide the high level of experiential learning we provide in the traditional classroom. As higher education integrates more online education, new technologies can help professors create learning environments that engage students and increase a sense of community, knowledge attainment and mastery of the skill.”


Dr. Lisa Henshaw, Assistant Professor

Wurzweiler School of Social Work
Project Title: Exploring COVID-19 as a Shared Trauma and Secondary Traumatic Stressor Among Master’s-Level Social Work Students in Field Placement

“The goal of this research project is to gain a better understanding of students’ experiences during COVID-19 in their field placements working with clients. With COVID-19 being a traumatic stressor that is chronic and ongoing, we are looking to explore if students experienced any secondary traumatic stress or shared traumatic stress and to understand whether secondary traumatic stress and shared traumatic stress are related. Another element we are seeking to understand is what aspects of students’ field placement or school experience may have contributed or buffered their (potential) stress. For example, did supervision, self-care practices or connection with our school play a role? Our goal is to better understand these experiences so that we can develop programming informed by data and understand how to best support students in their field placement during the pandemic.”

“We have a lot of professional and scholarly knowledge about secondary traumatic stress specific to professional social workers and clinicians in the field. Knowledge about shared traumatic stress in response to single event traumatic events, such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, also exists. However, limited knowledge about students’ experiences or how STS and ShTS is experienced in response to COVID-19. As social workers preparing students for the profession, we are guided by our Code of Ethics. We have an ethical commitment to ensure we are meeting students learning needs during the pandemic and preparing them for practice. We also have an ongoing ethical commitment to our clients through how we support and prepare students for professional work. Social workers, clinicians and students are not immune to indirect trauma and the effects of the work. This is critical to acknowledge and teach students. Ultimately, it is essential students are supported in their field placements so that they can learn self-care skills as part of their professional development and effectively work with clients during an ongoing pandemic that will continue to impact our field and our world.”


Dr. Shalom E. Holtz, Professor

Bible, Hebrew, Near Eastern Studies
Project Title: Jewish Legal Practice in the Persian Period

“Until the 1890s, the lives of Judeans during the Persian period (538–330 BCE) were known only from some late biblical books. Then, the picture changed dramatically. A cache of Aramaic papyri recovered from the island of Elephantine in Upper Egypt brought to light a garrison of Judean soldiers with its own temple to a deity named YHW. Almost at the same time, from the other side of the fertile crescent, came the discovery of documents written in Akkadian cuneiform on clay tablets attested to the economic lives of Judeans living in the environs of the city of Nippur, in southern Mesopotamia. The turn of the 21st century saw the publication of nearly three hundred more texts from a Mesopotamian village named Al-Yahudu, or Judahtown.

“These documents inform our knowledge of practically every aspect of this early time in Jewish history. Most basically, they attest to the existence of people whose names, like Ananya or Gedalya, invoke the God of Israel. Beyond that, their written records bear on questions of daily life and even communal identity. Together with the Hebrew Bible, they constitute the basis for any exploration of formative stages of what would come to be known as Judaism.”


Dr. Sai Praveen Kadiyala, Post-Doctoral Fellow

M.S. in Cybersecurity (Katz School)
Project Title: Analysis and Characterization of Cyber-Attacks in Microservices

“Cyberattacks on microservices can be of two types: a) external, such as malicious attacks and password guess attacks, and b) internal, through low-volume deliberate denial of service, or DDoS, attacks. While the data to model external attacks is abundantly available, modelling internal attacks is a challenge due to the sparse yet significant nature of attacks. In this project, we aim to address this issue of effective modelling and mitigation of internal cyber-attacks in microservices.

“Microservice architectures are gaining more focus due to their potential to decentralize functionality, improve flexibility, and provide faster time to market of incremental changes especially in modern customer-facing applications like Netflix, Amazon, PayPal and eBay, to name a few.

“Minimizing downtime of applications is immensely beneficial for companies by improving customer satisfaction. Security is a major concern in these architectures as several services running on different ports increase the attack surface and expose underlying APIs. Interservice communications are unique and essential in case of microservice architectures which are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Identification of the vulnerabilities and the characterization and mitigation of attacks is therefore essential for realizing the full advantages of microservice architectures.”


Dr. Rana Khan, Director

M.S. in Biotechnology Management and Entrepreneurship (Katz School)
Project Title: Research in reproductive biology, mouse genetics and bioinformatics (in collaboration with Dr. Margarita Vigodner)

“To integrate the opportunity of being involved in cutting-edge research into the M.S. program and to build on the collaboration started last year, the BME program at Katz School partnered with Dr. Margarita Vigodner, whose research at Stern College for Women is answering some important questions on human fertility. Using a new approach of transgenic mice, BME students will delve deeper into the molecular regulation of spermatogenesis. The data generated from this research will be used for scientific publications, grants and presentations.

“Research conducted in Dr. Vigodner’s laboratory at Stern College for Women has provided some of the first insights into male infertility and in particular on the function of SUMO proteins, which through their expression levels and interaction with other proteins in testicular cells, may affect embryonic development.

“The funding from the grant will allow further experimentation and unraveling of the spermatogenesis mystery using the new direction of mouse genetics and analyzing the results of SUMO-protein inactivation in specific cell types. The significance of this work is that the more well understood the underlying molecular mechanism, the better treatment options that can be developed.”


Dr. Moshe Krakowski, Professor

Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration
Project Title: Hasidic Learning Project

“This project aims to understand how Hasidic schools function to construct both Jewish learning and Jewish culture, and how students’ Hasidic lives relate to their positions in American society more generally. The data I have gathered so far from Hasidic schools demonstrate that different Hasidic groups integrate Hasidic culture with American society in radically different ways. Choices that schools make about who teaches secular subjects, what textbooks are used and what language is spoken interact with students’ community language use and secular exposure to produce dramatically different models of secular cultural engagement, sometimes even within the same Hasidic group.

“Haredi Judaism is the most rapidly growing Jewish denomination, yet we know very little about Haredi culture and education. Even within American Haredi schools, the small amount of research that has been conducted tends to be in Yeshivish schools—those that follow the Lithuanian yeshiva model—rather than Hasidic ones. Simply understanding the Haredi phenomenon is critically important to all American Jews.

“In addition, it is worth recognizing that the nuanced findings in Hasidic contexts may also offer a model for thinking more critically about Jewish education in other contexts. Closely examining the cultural and religious choices of different Hasidic schools may help researchers better understand aspects of Jewish education in other communities that may have otherwise been taken for granted or overlooked.”


Dr. Rain Lee, Clinical Assistant Professor

Wurzweiler School of Social Work
Project Title: Investigating the Effectiveness of the 4Ms Framework in Telehealth-Based Primary Care

“The current study aims to evaluate the implementation of commonly called 4Ms (Medication, Mentation, Mobility, and What Matters) and examine patients’ satisfaction and encourage individuals to discuss advanced care planning via telehealth. This study attempts to meet two goals: 1) identify the most frequently used types of telehealth among older adults in an urban area and 2) determine how telehealth affects patients in terms of health outcomes and advanced planning.

“Health Information Technology was offered to increase the accessibilities of health care services for all populations and reduce health disparities, especially true when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to operate remotely and consequently compelled the field of medicine to pivot dramatically to telehealth.

“Although telehealth shows promising alternative primary care delivery in a provider-shortage area, a developed curriculum for telehealth is limited, and patients’ satisfaction has not been fully validated. Further, accessibilities and disparities are yet concerning for those individuals residing in a provider-shortage area. This study will examine the prevalence of health disparities in telehealth and evaluate the age-friendly health care program via telehealth for older adults.”


Dr. Ariel Malka, Professor

Department of Psychology
Project Title: Experiments on Democracy Attitudes and Survey Measurement

“I will collect survey data with a demographically representative American adult sample for two projects. The goal of one of the projects is to better understand anti-democratic sentiment in the American public. The other project has to do with survey measurement, and its goal is to test how the format of response scales influences measurement quality in surveys.

Project 1: Democratic backsliding is a major concern in the United States. Elite actions that help degrade or sustain democracy are influenced, in part, by political incentives that arise from public opinion. So, it is important to understand the depth of public commitment to democracy and the potential willingness of segments of the public to tolerate, rationalize, downplay or even support anti-democratic actions.

Project 2: Surveys are widely used to collect information about beliefs, opinions and behaviors in social science, business, public health and many other areas. Many survey questions involve forced choice rating scales, and the way these rating scales are formatted varies a great deal. I hope to improve understanding of the ways in which rating scale format influences measurement quality. Such insight could help researchers design more effective survey questionnaires and make more valid inferences from survey data.”


Dr. Lata McGinn, Professor

Clinical PsyD (Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology)
Project Title: Mind-Action-Mood Prevention Program Implementation

“Anxiety and depressive disorders pose a significant public health threat in the United States and across the world and have witnessed further increases since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The high prevalence of these disorders is paralleled by their high burden and disability. The initial onset of most anxiety and depressive disorders commonly begins in adolescence, and evidence indicates that adolescent-onset of illness is associated with poor long-term outcomes, increased comorbidity with personality and substance abuse disorders,) and significant psychosocial impairments such as academic failure, early pregnancy, poor relationships and longer hospitalizations.

“Given the enormity of individual and global consequences, many of which are cumulative and difficult to reverse, efforts to prevent and delay onset of anxiety and depressive disorders is critical.

“To target depression and anxiety symptoms for adolescents, we have developed a universal prevention program called the Mind-Action-Mood program (M&M) designed to be implemented as part of the social-emotional curriculum in high schools. M&M is a 10-session intervention designed to prevent or delay anxiety and depressive conditions in adolescents and is derived from a depression prevention program developed and tested in adults in a recent NIH funded study.

“The program will be implemented in the 2023-2024 academic year to grade 9 students in health class, and a delayed group condition will serve as a control. Student engagement variables will be collected and examined, and student comprehension will be measured through brief multiple-choice knowledge quizzes at the end of each M&M session. Follow-up data will be collected in grades 10, 11, and 12 for grade 9 students to evaluate long-term effects of the program.”


Dr. Ari Mermelstein, Associate Professor of Bible and Second Temple Literature

Department of Bible, Hebrew & Near Eastern Studies
Project Title: The Jewish Legal Tradition

The Jewish Legal Tradition brings together core concepts in jurisprudence and a variety of central texts from the Jewish legal tradition to demonstrate the contribution that such a conversation can make to each of these disciplines. This volume seeks to shine a modern lens onto the study of Jewish law by demonstrating the rich and largely untapped potential of legal theory to illuminate old problems and generate new questions. The volume is an exercise in pedagogy, modeling a philosophical analysis of central concepts in Jewish law through a guided analysis of primary sources.

“From the middle of the 20th century, advances made in the fields of legal theory and philosophy of law have significantly enhanced our philosophical, conceptual and phenomenological understanding of law in general and of specific legal systems in particular. The study of Jewish law as a legal tradition has flourished over that same period, especially in Israel, yet it has not been subjected to systematic analysis using the language, tools and approaches of modern legal philosophy. The Jewish Legal Tradition seeks to fill that gap.”


Dr. Mary Beth Morrissey, Associate Professor and Co-Chair, Doctoral Program Policy Sequence

Wurzweiler School of Social Work
Project Title: Trauma Among Social Workers, Attorneys, and Allied Professionals in Immigrant Services and Asylum

“The goals of this research project are to deepen understanding of social workers’ (and attorneys’ and allied professionals’) lived experience of vicarious trauma as they navigate the challenges of working with persons, families and communities who are migrating, experiencing displacement or seeking asylum. I want to thank the three students who will be assisting in this work: Francesca Acocella, Jeovani Mata and Dinorah Briceno Reolon.

“Training on qualitative and oral history methods will be provided to student researchers as well as an orientation to the ethical and existential precarity of this work. This research will help both to inform immigration policymaking in the United States and the design of social work education and training to reduce vicarious trauma in the delivery of immigration advocacy services and allow social workers to do this work in the long term.”


Dr. Pablo Roldan, Associate Professor

Department of Mathematics
Project Title: Change-Point Detection with applications in Finance and Cybersecurity

“A change point is a point in a time series (a data set ordered by time) that indicates an abrupt change in the statistical distribution of the data. In collaboration with Elisheva Siegfried (who is pursuing an M.A. in mathematics), we are working on a new method of Change-Point Detection (CPD) based on pre-processing the time series using Topological Data Analysis. This new method offers remarkable improvements over traditional CPD, increasing the detection rate while maintaining a low false alarm rate.

“CPD and estimation is an important area of research in mathematics, statistics and data science due to its wide range of applications across disciplines. Applications of CPD range across finance, climate change detection, speech recognition, medical monitoring, detection of onset of epidemics and cybersecurity, to name a few. In particular, we plan to apply our methodology to realistic interdisciplinary problems from finance (mixed time series of cryptocurrencies) and cybersecurity (microservice calls).”


Dr. Amiya Waldman-Levi, Clinical Associate Professor, Ph.D. OTR/L

Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program (Katz School)
Project Title: The Feasibility of Promoting Health Through Play Opportunities Program in Improving Parent and Child Outcomes for Underserved Families

“The Promoting Health Through Play Opportunities program is a strength-based intervention that provides tools to help parents become change agents in their children’s lives through the promotion of healthy play opportunities within the family context. This research project aims to enhance children’s development through playful interactions with their parents. We speculate that the program will be effective in improving parent and child joint play experience and the child’s social-emotional functioning.

“Children from underserved families are at risk for developmental delays compared to children from families who do have access to health services. Federally funded services are designed to “bridge the gap” between economically disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers. However, a clear gap exists in exploring strength-based interventions that provide tools to help parents become change agents in their children’s lives. This project will lay the necessary groundwork for future studies as well as for expanding occupational therapy services that can decrease health disparities among underserved families to support children’s growth and development.”

Collaborators:

  • Dr. Lola Halperin, Ed.D. OTR/L, Assistant Professor, Occupational Therapy Program, Sacred Heart University
  • Dr. Mindy Garfinkel, OTD OTR/L, ATP, Clinical Associate Professor, OTD, YU
  • Dr. Danette L. Brown, Ph.D., Executive Director, Seventh Avenue Family Center

Dr. Joshua Waxman, Assistant Professor

Department of Computer Science
Project Title: Minchat Shai Project

“We are producing a digital edition of Minchat Shai, a Biblical commentator whose focus was establishing and preserving the integrity of the Biblical text. Using Python, we are programmatically processing his commentary to extract textual assertions; comparing those to the Masoretic Text; generating variant texts based on his observations; generating hyperlinks to outside works; training and applying Optical Character Recognition (OCR) of handwritten Hebrew to his reference manuscripts; and producing phylogenetic trees of Biblical manuscripts.

“This is a Digital Humanities project and will produce a valuable interactive digital edition of a historically important commentary. It also fits into a developing field that I’ve coined Computational Girsology: the use of computational approaches to process, relate and decide amongst variant versions of a text. This can be important within the computer science field and for academic study of ancient Jewish texts (e.g., Tanach and Talmud).”