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Social Sciences

Rasheeta Chandler
Getting Black College Women PrEPed: PrEParing to be sexually savvy

When used consistently, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the provision of antivirals to non-Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infected persons, has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of acquiring HIV. PrEP is currently available in the US as an FDA-approved measure that employs a daily oral dose of emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Turvada). Black women, the population with the highest rate of new sexually transmitted infection (STI) acquisition/HIV infections among women, are at risk of being infected while attending college. Learning they are HIV infected may impact these young women’s ability to focus on schoolwork, perhaps even leading some to withdraw from school resulting in a true personal loss as well as a loss to society. We are proposing to minimize racial, ethnic, and gender disparities by creating an HIV PrEP educational program that will inform Black female college students of PrEP as a potential HIV preventive option. This study will pursue two specific aims: 1. Develop two PrEP education intervention modalities (in-person and on-line) tailored for Black female college students and compare their impact by assessing the perceived risk of acquiring HIV and PrEP knowledge, intentions, and efficacy in a sample of 50 Black female college students before and after participating in one of the programs. 2. Using a focus group methodology with two groups of PrEP participants, formatively evaluate PrEP to assess feasibility and acceptability and response to delivery modalities. This pilot study will inform a future pilot randomized control trial (RCT) proposal.

Daniel Dilks
A specialized neural system for character detection in adult humans

Recent behavioral studies suggest that our judgment of another’s “character” (i.e., whether someone is a good or bad person) is fast, automatic, and accurate—and also key to human social perception and moral judgment. Given the importance of such “character detection,” then, we hypothesize that humans may have evolved a specialized brain system for detecting whether another is good or bad, friend or foe. In the proposed research, we plan to directly test our novel hypothesis using brain scanning of human adults. More specifically, while in the scanner, each participant will read several kinds of stories leading them to judge another’s character, competence, or thoughts. If humans have evolved special brain tissue for character detection, then we predict that such brain tissue will activate significantly more to the character stories than to either the competence or the “thought” stories. The findings from this project are important for three reasons: i) they will provide the first evidence of a brain system specialized for character detection in human adults; ii) they may help explain our exquisite sensitivity to social cues; and iii) they may offer new and important insight into how moral judgment works.

Caroline Fohlin
Financial Markets

The proposed research undertakes an in-depth exploration of financial markets during the key period of economic and financial development at the start of the 20th century (1900-29) and promises to reveal new insights into the fundamental questions of how markets work— and why they sometimes don’t.

Repeating cycles of growth and crisis highlight the core problem of financial markets: uncertainty. Markets are prone to crisis when uncertainty emerges: situations in which information is lacking or too complex to permit ready translation into potential outcomes with at least rough probabilities. Uncertainty hits for many reasons, both systemic (such as wars, natural disasters, or fundamental economic innovations) and idiosyncratic (such as firm-specific news or innovations). The more widespread the uncertainty, the more likely is the incitement of panic. Uncertainty is partially mitigated by information, so we must also analyze the structures and institutions that help promote information revelation—such as disclosure regulation, listing requirements, and market competition.

The project entails unearthing and gathering new sources to compile a comprehensive database of stock prices, company capital stock, shares in circulation, dividends, analyst (e.g. Moody’s) ratings, corporate structure, industrial sector, patenting activity, and geographical location for every stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange during the period. This unprecedented database will allow new insights into the question of how best to organize and regulate financial markets in order to promote economic growth while safeguarding liquidity and stability.

Jessica Thompson
Early cultural diversity and resource stress in Central Africa

Modern humans have used cultural adaptations to colonize nearly every part of the planet. Archaeologists have long debated when, where, and how our ancestors in Africa developed the complex behaviors that led to this success. The stone artifact record provides important material evidence of past human behavior, showing how ancient foragers interacted with one another and responded to resource stress in the past. Northern Malawi, in central Africa, falls within a natural corridor between southern and eastern Africa, and follows the shores of one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water. Lake Malawi has recently yielded one of the most complete ancient environmental records ever recovered in Africa, and shows that large megadroughts swept the region at the time that early human populations were beginning to disperse from Africa. Large quantities of stone artifacts preserved next to this record demonstrate that people also lived in this region at the time, but it is unclear how they interacted with one another or their environments on a landscape scale. This project will use new methods of archaeological survey and excavation to understand early human resource use at this large scale, and test novel hypotheses about human behavioral variability and response to resource stress during periods of drought. The work will provide one of the most detailed Stone Age records from central Africa, thus providing a key contribution to modern human origins research.