Syracuse University's Cluster Hires Initiative brings new faculty for interdisciplinary teaching and research, while promoting collaborations among existing faculty in a broad spectrum of disciplines including STEM, social sciences, humanities and creative arts.
The 10 cross-disciplinary clusters bolster the University’s research enterprise and reaffirms its commitment to hire, develop and retain diverse faculty.
Aging, Health and Neuroscience
The primary goal of the Aging, Health and Neuroscience (AHN) cluster is to foster interdisciplinary research excellence to generate high-quality scholarship that bears on issues essential to the health and well-being of the population. At the core of the collective interests of the cluster members is a desire to enable long and healthy lives. These issues form the essential mission the National Institute of Health: “To seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life and reduce illness and disability.” The AHN cluster takes a biopsychosocial approach that capitalizes on three pillars of strength on campus: the Aging Studies Institute, (behavioral) health research, and the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Group. The AHN cluster expands the reach of these areas by building bridges that: 1) facilitate the development of excellent and fundable research programs across areas of established strength at Syracuse University (e.g., gerontology, neuroscience, behavioral health) and develop niche areas (e.g., population health, sports and health, and cancer); 2) foster synergistic, multidisciplinary approaches to science as a stepping stone to the successful securing of NIH funding, including interdisciplinary training and center grants; 3) encourage Syracuse University research center and institute development; and 4) enhance the student experience across multiple schools and colleges in various disciplines as well as interdisciplinary programs such as the Gerontology Minor, Graduate Certificate of Population Health and Aging, Neuroscience Integrated Learning Major, and Neuroscience Graduate Concentration.
Janet Wilmoth - Cluster Lead, Aging Lead
Sandra Hewett - Neuroscience Lead
Aesoon Park - Behavioral Health Lead
Natalie Russo - Neuroscience Co-Lead
Shannon Monnat - Population Heath Lead
Brooks Gump - Sport and Health Lead
Katherine McDonald - Sport and Health Co-Lead
Melissa Pepling - Cancer Lead
Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Systems and the Human-Technology Frontier
The Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Systems and Human-Technology Frontier cluster is organized around the relationships between two topics that are set to have profound impacts in the world around us: 1) the changing nature of human-machine teaming and interactions; and 2) the rapidly developing technologies of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence. At the broadest level, these two topics are transforming the nature of human work, the capabilities of robotic systems, the design and governance of cities, the conduct of international relations and conflict management, decision-making processes in legal, public service and commercial realms, and the meaning of human identity itself. The technological, social and policy questions associated with these emerging systems, and the ways they reconfigure human-technology dynamics, are some of the most pressing challenges of our times. This cluster offers cutting-edge scholarship and teaching at Syracuse University, positioning us as the premier site for interdisciplinary—that is, STEM, social science, humanities, law and policy—approaches to these topics.
Faculty involved with this cluster represent all schools and colleges at Syracuse University and together work on such topics as autonomous systems and sustainability, the future of work, artificial intelligence and security, emerging technologies and risk management, and AI governance and marginalized communities. Faculty associated with this cluster actively contribute to the Autonomous Systems Policy Institute, as well as to interdisciplinary initiatives around artificial intelligence and human-technology interactions across campus. They regularly engage with stakeholders in industry, government and advocacy groups and provide key insight into how these emerging technologies can be designed, regulated and incorporated into the world around us in productive and ethical ways.
Across schools and colleges, a range of research labs and centers, listed below, play key roles in Syracuse University’s commitment to advancing multifaceted understandings of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence and their impacts. Future plans for this cluster include additional tenure-track faculty hires, post-doctoral positions, and new degree offerings at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Related Research Initiatives
Big Data and Data Analytics
In 2018, Syracuse University established a Big Data and Data Analytics cluster, investing in bioinformatics, data mining and cybersecurity, marketing and business analytics, and sport analytics. The mission of the cluster is to develop and apply computationally efficient data analysis technologies for problems involving large amounts of data in many different disciplines, with multidisciplinary collaborations between domain experts and computational researchers. Big data researchers will address problems such as secure data mining, statistical analysis, pattern recognition and anomaly detection, working with university research groups that have major computing and data-intensive research projects, and with Syracuse University Information Technology Services. Innovative and transformative research efforts will build on the data-intensive research and infrastructure at Syracuse University, uniting data-driven domain application research with broad foundational research in data science in a “hub and spoke” model.
Steve Dorus - Genom, Bioinform and Health Information Lead
Chilukuri Mohan - Genom, Bioinform and Health Information Lead
Scott Pitnick - Genom, Bioinform and Health Information Lead
Raja Velu - Business Analytics Lead
Shane Sanders - Sports Wellness Lead
Institute for Material and Living Systems
The mission of the BioInspired Institute is to promote world-class interdisciplinary research to quantitatively understand and control complex biological systems, and rationally design programmable smart materials to address grand challenges in health, medicine, and materials innovation. The institute is organized around four key focus groups:
- Drug Discovery to develop new approaches for targeting drug-resistant bacteria and other diseases.
- Smart Materials to design and make dynamic and adaptive materials that accelerate innovation.
- Mechanics of Development and Disease to use the paradigm of mechanical forces to understand and control living tissues for better health.
- Form and Function to develop new insights and technologies inspired by animal function.
Lisa Manning - Lead
Jeremy Steinbacher - Operations Director
James Henderson - Executive Committee
Shikha Nangia - Executive Committee
James Hougland - Executive Committee
Roy Welch - Drug Discovery Lead
John Chisholm - Drug Discovery Lead
Zhen Ma - Development and Disease Lead
Jennifer Ross - Development and Disease Lead
Christian Santangelo - Smart Materials Lead
Pranav Soman - Smart Materials Lead
Melissa Green - Form and Function
Susan Parks - Form and Function
Citizenship and Democratic Institutions
The Citizenship and Democratic Institutions cluster draws together researchers who address critical issues related to the multiple and contested meanings of local, national and global citizenship, and how diverse institutions, such as journalism and mass media, law, government, politics, the military and the market, influence civic engagement and social and economic well-being. Issues and debates that form at the nexus of citizenship and democratic institutions—fake news, mass incarceration, voter participation, public education—have received an enormous amount of public and academic interest across a broad array of disciplines and have attracted the attention of numerous funders. This comes at a time when public confidence in the institutions that support democracy is in the balance, and when the public’s trust in the information they need to participate in democracy is critically low. The cluster is organized into three main areas: Journalism, Democracy and Citizenship; Law, Criminal Justice and Policy; and Democratic Institutions and Citizenship.
Energy and Environment
A multidisciplinary team of faculty from across campus organize the Energy and Environment cluster at Syracuse University. Researchers from the natural sciences, engineering, computer science and information studies, architecture and urban planning, social sciences and humanities come together to provide holistic views of major projects while also maintaining focus in three subclusters.
Global Environmental Change: Led by Professor Christopher Scholz, researchers in this subcluster are discriminating anthropogenic versus natural climate changes and predicting ongoing changes on various time scales. An interdisciplinary team of scholars works to assess climate change effects on global ecosystems and societies, how to mitigate those impacts, and how communities and environmental networks adapt to cumulative planetary-scale stresses. This group conducts research and training at the interface of multiple fields, preparing the next generation of scientists, policymakers, managers and communicators to sustain and manage natural resources on a rapidly changing planet.
Carbon Neutral and Next Generation Energy Technologies: Led by Professors Mathew M. Maye and Shalabh C. Maroo, researchers in this subcluster provide expertise in understanding energy generation, conversion, storage, distribution and utilization, carbon capture and sequestration technologies, as well as expertise on the materials, processes, and reactions that make up such systems at length scales ranging from the nano- to macro-levels.
Heathy and Intelligent Built Environments: Led by Professor Jensen Zhang, researchers in this subcluster focus on the techniques for efficient energy conversion, storage and utilization; microenvironments around individuals; macroscopic building design and engineering; urban planning; energy and environmental management; the intersection of water and energy at local and regional scales; the impact of indoor environmental quality on human health, performance and well-being; and smart buildings, infrastructure and cities.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The Innovation and Entrepreneurship cluster is positioning Syracuse University to be the leader in focusing on understanding, enhancing and capitalizing on the innovation process rather simply focusing on the end product. This cluster builds on a growing campuswide ecosystem, leverages existing expertise and reputation to expand research, knowledge and impact, and facilitates cross-campus synergies in innovation and new product and technology development, all while catalyzing significant alumni engagement and funding.
James Fathers, Director, School of Design
Quantum Information Science
The Quantum Information Science (QIS) cluster represents a rapidly advancing field generating new technologies, such as quantum computers, that have the potential to be transformative for society. In a quantum computer, the individual bits follow the laws of quantum mechanics, and thus are quantum bits, or qubits. Qubits exhibit some of the counterintuitive properties of quantum mechanics, including the ability to exist in a superposition of two states and the possibility of entanglement with other qubits. A processor able to take advantage of these elements would be capable of computations that are impossible on the best conventional computers. For certain calculations, this translates to the difference between a run time of minutes versus millennia. While quantum computers are still at a relatively early stage of development, progress has been rapid in recent years. A wide range of industry and government stands to benefit from access to quantum processing capabilities, with potential impacts in the development of new drugs and materials, computing solutions to hard optimization problems, and cryptography and secure communications. The QIS cluster builds on Syracuse’s existing strengths, forges connections across disciplines at the University, and helps to expand our collaborations with Department of Defense scientists, including at the nearby Air Force Research Lab in Rome, New York.
Related Research Initiatives
Social Differences, Social Justice
The interdisciplinary Social Differences, Social Justice cluster places Syracuse University scholars at the center of national and global discussions of social differences. By attending to racial, ethnic, indigenous, LGBT and gender identities; understandings of culture; ability; and disability, the cluster is centered around the pursuit of just futures. In recent years, racial, sexual and economic inequalities have dominated the headlines. Politicians have had to address issues of structural racism and sexual inequality. Terms like “white privilege” have entered the mainstream through the work of scholars from across the academy. Technology has both contributed to and provided new means to understand and challenge inequality. Syracuse University is uniquely positioned to influence these important conversations. We are geographically located in a significant place of historic change, home to movements for indigenous, women’s, African American and disability rights that continue to shape American and global struggles for equality. This history is reflected in the University’s continued commitment to diversity and inclusion that is reflected in scholarship and teaching in African American Studies, Composition and Cultural Rhetoric, Art and Music Histories, LGBT Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as in units and departments across campus. The cluster is divided into four main thematic and overlapping areas: Structures of Social Inequality; Art, Expression, and Resistance; Differences in a Digital World; and Historical and Global Transformations.
Virtual and Immersive Interactions
The Virtual and Immersive Interactions cluster is an interdisciplinary team of researchers and educators that integrates education, therapy, data visualization and communication in STEM, social sciences, education, humanities and the arts. In these times, it is vitally important to develop a better understanding of the applications of virtual and online technology. The strength of the cluster is grounded in the innovative structure that brings together researchers, scholars and practitioners to bridge the gap between theory and practice in these groundbreaking areas. The cluster is composed of three interrelated subcluster areas: Research, Development, and Pedagogy and Practice.
Research: The use of virtual, mixed and immersive reality technology—or Extended Reality (XR)—is growing rapidly. In order to educate future XR content creators, however, we also need to evaluate the ways that this content will affect users. Studies of the potential impact of XR content can help us not only extend our knowledge of the ways that people are affected by these technologies, but also develop ethical guidelines for content creators. Researchers at Syracuse University are conducting interdisciplinary studies in XR content creation, application and effects. These collaborations combine expertise in specialized areas of the creation, design and analysis of XR content and relevant research methodologies (e.g., psychophysiological methods), and field-specific knowledge of different disciplines.
Development: Data-driven design and analysis continues to prevail as a powerful influence in the decision-making process for scientists, engineers, architects, designers, content creators, educators and clinical practitioners. As the accessibility of data increases, the volume of information risks becoming so overwhelming that its significance may be lost. Accessible XR tools offer challenges and opportunities to take advantage of the new capacity to revolutionize information representation by moving away from 2D charts, diagrams and tables, and by making data spatially and temporally meaningful. Syracuse University researchers are using virtual and immersive tools to enhance and extend our capabilities in design and visualization.
Pedagogy and Practice: The rapid increase in online education has created a demand for effective virtual and immersive pedagogies (also called online, digital and computer-mediated pedagogies). Scholars and educators at Syracuse University draw on faculty expertise in instructional design, counseling and art therapies to prepare graduates to teach and practice within in-person contexts, as well as in virtual and immersive environments (e.g., tele-mental health) using cutting-edge pedagogies and practices.
There is also a growing use of XR virtual and online technology in mental health practice, such as biofeedback, desensitization or visualization, particularly as part of the treatment of trauma. The educational and clinical application subcluster will prepare future educators and mental health practitioners to engage virtual and immersive techniques in the implementation of their teaching, counseling, supervisory and creative arts therapy practices.
T. Makana Chock
David J. Levidow Professor
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Professor of Music Education
Associate Dean for Research, Graduate Studies and Internationalization
College of Visual and Performing Arts and School of Education
Setnor School of Music/Teaching and Leadership
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Engineering and Computer Science
Department of Counseling and Human Services
Associate Dean for Research, School of Education