21CC funds 15 new urban research projects both local and global

Seven faculty-led studies, eight PhD candidates receive grants totaling more than $124,000

City skyline with green space

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Johns Hopkins University's 21st Century Cities Initiative, a hub for urban research, recently awarded 15 seed grants to faculty and doctoral researchers pursuing projects in Baltimore and beyond.

Seven JHU faculty-led studies—including projects pertaining to female entrepreneurship, the effect of urban green spaces on environmental quality, and the impact of the federal Opportunity Zones program in West Baltimore—won funding through 21CC's Applied Research Seed Grants.

The initiative also distributed eight awards to Hopkins PhD candidates pursuing research on urban issues, including New York City rent laws, college choice for disadvantaged youth, and the impact of homelessness on the health of pregnant women.

Altogether, the grants totaled more than $124,000. Eight of the research projects are based in Baltimore City; other locations include Miami; Atlanta; and New Haven, Connecticut, plus two international projects focused on urban areas in Uganda and China.

The annual grants are a cornerstone for 21CC, an interdisciplinary platform for research and education on topics that affect cities, including economic opportunity and quality of life.

"We think it's important to support the development of new research at Johns Hopkins on urban issues," 21CC interim faculty director Andrew Cherlin says. "The small grants we give out can make a big difference in getting projects by faculty and graduate students off the ground."

Applied Research Seed Grantees

New Haven Debt Map: This community-based project seeks a better understanding of debt issues facing low- to moderate-income families in New Haven, Connecticut. Hopkins researchers Vesla Weaver and Emily Zackin will work with a Yale colleague and two Connecticut-based nonprofits.

The Environmental Hopkins Observation Network (e-HON): Based in Baltimore, the project will deploy sensors to assess how different types of urban green spaces influence environmental quality. The JHU research team consists of Katalin Szlavecz, Ben Zaitchik, and Tamas Budavari.

Opportunity Zones in West Baltimore: This team will investigate the impacts of the federal Opportunity Zones program in West Baltimore, including the new capital and small businesses the program has attracted, and who is benefitting from the changes. JHU researcher Sandra Newman is working with Columbia University colleagues and three members of the Baltimore City Council: Leon Pinkett, Kristefer Burnett, and John Bullock.

Social Accountability in Kampala: This project will explore the feasibility of social accountability initiatives as a means to improve health services for residents of informal settlements in Kampala, Uganda. JHU researchers Ligia Paina, Daniela Rodriguez, and Ummekulsoom Lalani are working with partners from Makerere University.

Breaking the "Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline:" Partnering with Baltimore City Head Start, researchers will analyze how teachers' well-being and relationships to children and their families can contribute to children's long-term development outcomes. The research team includes Lieny Jeon, R. Christopher Swanson, Arik Marcell, and Christina Harnett.

Solutions for Female Entrepreneurs: The goal of this data-based project is to understand the successes, challenges, and needs of Baltimore's female entrepreneurs in the creative industries. Antigoni Papadimitriou and Constantine Frangakis will partner on the research.

Genetics for the Greater Good: The project strives to educate community health workers in Baltimore to encourage families to collect and share their family health history and make informed decisions on prevention, testing, and treatment. Researchers will also look into preferences for learning about cancer and lung disease for schoolchildren and seniors. JHU researchers Panagis Galiatsatos and Joann Bodurtha are working with community and government partners in Baltimore.

21CC Award for Doctoral Research on Urban Issues

Opening Classrooms: Kelly Siegel-Stechler of the School of Education is analyzing how teacher practices correlate with "open classroom climates" in high school social studies classes in U.S. urban settings and in Miami–Dade County.

Homelessness and Maternal Health: Studying Baltimore's population of pregnant women experiencing homelessness, Kelley Robinson of the School of Nursing will investigate cases of maternal morbidity—unexpected pregnancy-related illnesses that result in significant health consequences.

Understanding Rent Regulation: "Does it matter whether people are aware they live in rent-stabilized units?" is the driving question for Hanchen Jiang of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, who is using microdata to analyze the relationship of behavioral responses to rent regulation policies in New York City and labor market outcomes.

Protecting Urban-Ag Participants: Sara Lupolt of the Bloomberg School of Public Health seeks to characterize the risks of soil contaminants for urban agricultural participants in Baltimore, with the aim of helping policymakers develop protective policies.

College Choice for Disadvantaged Youth: Interviewing 40 low-income, African-American youth in Baltimore, Allison Young of the Krieger School will explore their preparations and options for post-secondary education and employment.

Maternal and Newborn Health in Displacement: Focusing on displaced populations in urban settings, Marwa Ramadan of the Bloomberg School aims to develop a core list of reproductive, maternal, and newborn health indicators to measure the success of health interventions.

Housing Regimes in Urban China: Nanxi Zeng of the Krieger School is investigating how state actors, private capital, and societal forces have shaped the housing system in China's urban transformation since the late 1980s.

New Faces, Same Old Schools?: Investigating how American schools are adapting to new Hispanic populations, Dhathri Chunduru of the School of Education will study public schools in Atlanta.