A new program within the Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research will be an incubator for young researchers from across the University of Michigan.
The Population Dynamics and Health Program will focus on the field of population science, which examines how characteristics and processes within a population affect the health and well-being of that population.
The program is funded by a five-year, $3.8 million grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Jeffrey Morenoff, director of the Population Studies Center and principal investigator of the grant, hopes the program will boost collaboration across campus for social science researchers. For example, it may be helpful for a person studying how a population might carry a higher rate of diabetes to work with a geneticist who studies genetic risk factors for diabetes.
“Within this field of population science, it is increasingly important to build bridges with researchers who study genetics and epigenetics, or researchers in the College of Engineering or the School of Information, who might be developing methodologies that could be or should be applied to social science population-level analysis,” he said.
“We want to be able to stimulate innovative collaborations, and to make it easier for our faculty to network with faculty from elsewhere.”
Perhaps the most important component of the new program will be its development core, says Morenoff.
Through the development core, these research collaborators would be able to apply for small research grants to fund projects. These projects have needs ranging from collecting Census data to paying research assistants to collect study data through phone calls or neighborhood canvassing to funding physical lab space to examine blood samples.
To help new investigators be more successful in applying for funding through organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the Population Dynamics and Health Program will also hold a summer grant-writing retreat.
The summer retreat, also part of the program’s development core, will provide one month of salary for the attendees, and pair the attendee with a more senior faculty member who will provide mentorship through writing a grant. The retreat will end with a mock review panel to provide specific feedback for the young investigators.
“The PDHP is particularly well designed to help early career investigators launch productive programs of scientific research harnessing support from NIH. The NIH peer review process is exceptionally thorough, and often daunting for early career investigators,” said William Axinn, faculty affiliate with PDHP.
“The intensive mentoring program offered through the PDHP will support early career investigators through every step of the process, equipping them to succeed in securing support for their population dynamics and health related research.”
The program’s administrative core will help manage research projects and disseminate faculty research while the program’s scientific and technical core will provide resources and guidance for research affiliates to complete their research projects.
“PDHP will provide an environment that is broadly supportive of population researchers at the University of Michigan — helping them to connect and collaborate with each other, providing access to data and cutting-edge statistical and computational approaches, and supporting them to succeed in obtaining external funds to support their research,” said Narayan Sastry, faculty affiliate with PDHP.