Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Recent Grants

Foundations and corporations provide key strategic support for Brandeis' educational, research and social missions. Browse the latest grants awarded to Brandeis faculty and staff below. 

Lumina Foundation

PI: Thomas Shapiro, Heller School
Project: Stalling Dreams: How Student Debt is Disrupting Life Chances and Widening the Racial Wealth Gap

In an effort to improve the accessibility of postsecondary education, Lumina Foundation funded the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity (IERE, formerly the Institute on Assets and Social Policy) to identify and highlight the needs of borrowers of color who take out loans to pay for school. Students who are Black, Hispanic, and Native American tend to have higher unmet financial need, incur more student loan debt, and struggle financially to stay in school, but relationships among wealth, debt, and student success look different across different communities of color. IERE, in partnership with other universities and organizations, will help state and federal policymakers to include people of color in building more nuanced systems for financing post-secondary education.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

PI: Karen Hansen, Sociology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Project: Cascading Lives: Stories of Loss, Resilience, and Resistance

The Gates Foundation/Raikes Foundation-led Voices for Economic Opportunity Initiative selected Hansen’s project, making this the university’s first Gates Grand Challenge awardee. Alongside Nazli Kibria of Boston University, Hansen will gather and disseminate the life histories of people who have suffered economic decline, highlighting the dynamic and often unceasing nature of inequality. Hansen and Kibria will interview men and women from Massachusetts and Georgia who have experienced a shock—such as a familial, health-related, or occupational disruption—to assess the presence or absence of resources that may detour or accelerate the cascade.

Ford Foundation

PI: Anita Hill, Heller School
Project: Reimagining Equality for the 21st Century

In partnership with Collective Future Fund, the project advances Hill’s effort to develop social policies that combat systems, structures, and cultures that support multiple forms of inequality. She will develop an interdisciplinary curriculum that illuminates historic inequalities around the globe and a documentary play targeting workplace inequalities based on first- and second-hand accounts of workplace sexual harassment and violence. Professor Hill also secured a major grant from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to undertake “Elevating With Urgency the Public Discussion of Gender-Based Violence in 2020”.

Russell Sage Foundation

PI: Amber Spry, AAAS and Politics
Project: Identity Measurement in the United States

Spry won a Presidential Authority Grant from the foundation to pilot new methods for studying political identity. Relying on the Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey, Spry will test an alternative approach to understand respondents’ identities by allowing them to allot “identity points” across multiple social categories, such as race, class, religion, and gender. This more nuanced and expansive approach to studying political identity could have implications in better understanding voters and their preferences as well as their positions on public policy.

Davis Education Foundation

PI: Dorothy Hodgson, Dean, School of Arts & Sciences
Project: Exploring Beyond Boundaries: The Brandeis Undergraduate Research Opportunities Project

The Davis Education Foundation, a longstanding supporter of Brandeis, provided a two-year grant to promote scholarly inquiry across campus in the creative arts, humanities, social sciences, and the sciences, which is being coordinated through the new Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations. The grant will develop digital infrastructure and training programs for students, Peer Mentors, and faculty, ensuring that mentored research becomes an indispensable feature of the undergraduate experience.

Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation

PI: Shantanu Jadhav, Psychology and Neuroscience
Project: Neural Coordination Mechanisms for Memory Function and Dysfunction

The Odyssey Program (managed by Health Research in Action) enables innovative pre-tenure researchers to pursue high-risk, high-reward pilot projects in biomedical science. Jadhav’s project aims to understand at the molecular and cellular level how the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex coordinate with one another in the formation of memories, and to develop new techniques to remedy cognitive dysfunction by restoring that coordination.

Alphawood Foundation

PI: Charles Golden, Anthropology
Project: Piedras Negras and Sak T’Zi: Conflict, Détente, and Economy in the Western Maya Lowlands

The foundation awarded a generous grant to support archaeological excavations, epigraphic research, and regional surveying in and around the sites of Piedras Negras, Guatemala, and Lacanja-Tzeltal, Mexico. The work will clarify details of the Classic period (ninth century AD) of Maya politics and economies through a comparative study of these neighboring, often competing, kingdoms of the Usumacinta River basin. Professor Golden is exploring how, as the kingdoms expanded, trust among polities broke down and Mayan dynasties failed. The model may be applicable in other cultural contexts where emergent states contend with the challenges of maintaining coherence across expanding territory.

Merck Family Fund

PI: Sara Shostak: Sociology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy
Project: Towards Holistic Evaluation of Urban Agriculture in Massachusetts

Shostak received a grant to study neighborhood-level impacts of urban farms and evaluate the scope and effectiveness of urban agriculture organizations. In her research, Shostak has identified the need of many practitioners for a fuller, deeper understanding of how their work affects communities and residents’ experiences. This community-based research is revealing urban agriculture’s effect on public health, neighborhood resiliency, and the environment.

Teagle Foundation

PI: Melissa Stimell, International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life
Project: Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation (ENACT)

A three-year grant will support the pioneering Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation (ENACT), a national initiative that aspires to become a model for civic education. As Supreme Court Justice Brandeis said, the “most important political office is that of a private citizen.” ENACT cultivates among undergraduates the knowledge, skills, confidence, and habits of civic participation. ENACT focuses students’ learning on state government, and Teagle funds will expand ENACT into 50 states; enrich the digital platform which serves as the resource center of the ENACT community; and evaluate outcomes on student learning and campus culture.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

PI: Dolores Acevedo Garcia, Heller School

The Institute for Child, Youth, and Family Policy (ICYFP) was awarded a three-year grant to build the next generation of, its pioneering research project to monitor and analyze whether children of all racial/ethnic groups have adequate and equitable opportunities for healthy development. The grant will allow the ICYFP team to deepen their work by significantly expanding their innovative database, which feeds all policy research work; developing equity-focused analysis to highlight the state of wellbeing and equity among U.S. children; updating their signature indicators, including the Child Opportunity Index; enhancing their data storytelling and visualization capacity to improve the reach of their analysis; and increasing the project’s impact through targeted outreach and dissemination efforts. has also received funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Human Frontier Science Program

PI: W. Benjamin Rogers, Physics
Project: Building a Stably-Propagating Cell

The Rogers Laboratory received one of only 20 highly competitive, multi-year research grants, which underwrite groups of investigators from different countries and disciplines to undertake innovative basic research into fundamental biological problems. Rogers is working with colleagues from Japan and Australia to engineer a self-propagating cell from simple components, demonstrating how stable, controlled cell division could have first emerged and launched the evolution of life by natural selection. The cell will have a lipid membrane encapsulating DNA and transcription-translation machinery and be able to grow and divide by internally synthesizing its own membrane material.

Simons Foundation

Jané Kondev, Physics, was named a 2020 Simons Investigator in Physics. Kondev is a theoretical physicist who works on problems in molecular and cell biology. His lab works on the regulation of gene expression, the packing of DNA in cells and the self-organization of the cytoskeleton. One of the major themes of his research is how genes specify geometry, such as the size of cytoskeletal structures or the shape of the cell’s genome.

Matthew Headrick, Physics, along with 15 colleagues, is investigating the connection between quantum mechanics, gravity and information, to show how fundamental physical phenomena like spacetime and black holes emerge from the very nature of quantum information. The project, “It from Qubit: Quantum Fields, Gravity, and Information,” is a large-scale effort to foster communication, education, and collaboration of physics and quantum theory researchers to answer questions like whether the universe exists outside our horizon and if quantum computers simulate all physical phenomena.

Bong Lian, Mathematics, is part of the Simons Collaboration in Homological Mirror Symmetry, a part of the bigger Simons collaboration program at the University of California, Berkeley. Mirror symmetry is the relationship between two very different-looking physical models of nature that give rise to the same physics. These programs bring mathematical experts into conversations of high energy physics (particularly string theory) to prove the homological mirror symmetry.

Adobe, Amazon, and Guardian Life Trust

Project: Computer Science Graduate Fellowships
The Michtom School of Computer Science works with industry partners to fund data analytics and machine learning research and give doctoral students hands-on experience with actual data from a wide variety of fields, including biomedicine, finance, and social science.

Henry Luce Foundation

PI: Gannit Ankori, Rose Art Museum
Project: Repositioning an Iconic Collection as an Academic Tool and Essential Destination

This three-year project aims to consolidate the Rose Art Museum’s position as a leader in the university museum field dedicated to modern and contemporary art (1900 to today). Rotating exhibitions—enhanced by new curatorial work, historical scholarship on the collection, interpretive materials, and a limited series of publications (the Rose Papers)—will elevate the Rose experience for this and future generations of museum-goers, students, and scholars.

Templeton Religion Trust

PI: Wendy Cadge, Sociology and Chaplaincy Innovation Lab
Project: Chaplains as Facilitators of Covenantal Pluralism: Building Demand-Based Models and Training Programs

This comprehensive three-year study will examine the demand for chaplaincy and spiritual care across the country. In partnership with Gallup, the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab will conduct a national survey and interviews to learn who in the public has engaged with chaplains in recent years and what their experiences have been. As most attention to chaplaincy and spiritual care focuses not on these demand questions but on the supply of chaplains, the project will use this new knowledge to think about how chaplains can best be trained for their work, deepening practitioner’s capacities for presence, awareness of existential issues, engaging across religious difference, and other skills.

Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

PI: Sarah Shoemaker, University Archives & Special Collections
Project: Digital Preservation of Helmut Hirsch Papers and Historical Materials

Helmut Hirsch—a young German Jew and member of the Nazi resistance—was tried in secret and convicted by the regime for involvement in plots to bomb Nazi headquarters at Nuremberg and other sites. Hirsch was formally granted American citizenship two months before he was executed in prison, but not before he gathered correspondences, diaries, notebooks, artworks, poetry and other writings, and photographs that constitute a personal and human search for identity and an examination of life and death. This special collection was donated to Brandeis by Hirsch’s sister. With key funding from the Delmas Foundation, the University Archives will digitize these materials, ensuring global access to this poignant personal narrative for scholars and students.