(from left) Navid Ghaffarzadegan, Ran Xu, Divya Srinivasan, Joe Gabbard, James Kong, Maury Nussbaum, Shyam Ranganathan, Susan White

ISCE awarded teams, 8 faculty
(from left) Navid Ghaffarzadegan, Ran Xu, Divya Srinivasan, Joe Gabbard, James Kong, Maury Nussbaum, Shyam Ranganathan, Susan White

(August 1, 2017) Assistant Professors Dr. Navid Ghaffarzadegan and Dr. Divya Srinivasan were the two out of six PIs across campus who received 2017-18 Scholar Awards from the Virginia Tech Institute for Society, Culture and Environment (ISCE) this year.  Awarded research teams are pursuing an array of interdisciplinary pilot projects in preparation for seeking external funding from sources such as National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation, to support their research agendas.

Dr. Ghaffarzadegan, postdoctoral associate Ran Xu, and their colleague from Ohio State University have a project titled “Shaping Health Research Workforce for Tomorrow: Understanding Career Paths and Productivity of Early Career Health-Policy Researchers.” The team will investigate the trends of career choices, research focus, and collaboration patterns of new doctorates in health policy.

Shaping health research workforce for tomorrow: Understanding career paths and productivity of early career health-policy researchers

Navid Ghaffarzadegan, PI, industrial and systems engineering
Ran Xu, Co-I, industrial and systems engineering

A robust science workforce is required to flourish national health research and development goals. While most past studies of health research workforce focus on biomedical scientists, this project’s focus is on a different and under-examined group that contribute to health: health policy researchers. Health policy research is essential in forming future research and health practice in the US by modifying/reforming high level decisions. From the science policy standpoint, it is vital to better understand career choice, research focus, and collaboration patterns of this population, especially early career ones. 

The primary aims of this project are to investigate (1) trends of career choices and research topics of new doctorates in health policy over the last 20 years; and (2) effects of peers, advisers and institutional factors on their career choice and research topics.

Dr. Srinivasan will collaborate with Dr. Susan White from Psychology, Dr. Shyam Ranganathan from Statistics, and three other ISE faculty (Drs. Maury Nussbaum, Zhenyu “James” Kong, and Joe Gabbard).  Her team project is titled “Bio-Behavioral Monitoring of Self-Injurious Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorder,” and they will research innovative technological solutions to self-injurious behavior in persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Bio-behavioral monitoring of Self-Injurious Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Divya Srinivasan, PI, industrial and systems engineering
Susan White, Co-I, psychology
Shyam Ranganathan, statistics
Maury Nussbaum, Co-I, industrial and systems engineering
Zhenyu Kong, Co-I, industrial and systems engineering
Joseph Gabbard, Co-I, industrial and systems engineering

Self-injurious behavior (SIB) are one of the most dangerous characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder, often leading to injury and hospitalization. They include actions such as head-banging and self-hitting, which are typically rhythmic and repetitive. Tracking these behaviors is of immense importance to understanding possible triggers of SIB, and to inform potential treatment interventions. Caregivers experience immense pressure to maintain constant vigilance and consistency to track these behaviors, since if an episode of SIB is unnoticed and/or the specific responses not executed (e.g., offering a replacement action), the child could potentially regress. Hence, there is a critical need for innovative technological solutions to monitor behaviors associated with SIB and to inform/evaluate interventions.

The first goal of this project is to develop a real-time SIB prediction system using wearable sensors and innovative data analytics methods. We will collect movement behavioral data from 6 ASD patients in both clinical and naturalistic settings. Novel movement features grounded in dynamical systems theory will be used to develop an adaptive Bayesian multilevel logistic regression framework to predict the real-time probability of SIB events. The second goal is to pair this system with intuitive mobile interface designs that provide timely alerts and interventions for mitigating SIB episodes.

For more information, please go to the article “Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment announces 2017-18 interdisciplinary scholars awards” on Virginia Tech News.