The Thomas Jefferson Fund is proud to support 19 ambitious projects selected for two years (2021-2023) between French and American researchers on various topics and from a variety of institutions. Three projects are in the Humanities and Social Sciences, one in Science for Society and 15 in STEM.
Immigrant Legal Status and Integration Across Four National Contexts
Immigrant legal status is a central axis of stratification in Europe and the United States, (re)producing inequality across multiple domains including socioeconomic status, political participation, and wellbeing. Yet we know very little about how the impacts of immigration status may vary across national contexts. What barriers and opportunities are faced by immigrants across a continuum of legal statuses, and how do immigrants navigate these circumstances across contexts? To answer these questions, the researchers will analyze over 800 semi-structured original interviews conducted with Latin American immigrants in the United States, France, Spain, and the UK between 2010- 2020.
The origins and development of the mental timeline
The ability to represent abstract concepts sets humans apart from all other animals. For example, although we cannot see or touch time, we possess rich temporal representations. What enables this cognitive feat ? As evidenced by language, gesture, and cultural artifacts, people from cultures around the world tend to borrow from the domain of space to represent time. By thinking about time in terms of space, we are able to ground our representations of an abstract domain in a more concrete one. These space-time associations provide adults with robust temporal representations that support reasoning about and memory for temporal order. To what extent might these associations be a product of our biology versus a cultural invention ? To answer this question, the researchers will use implicit looking time and pupillometry measures to explore the origins and developmental trajectory of space-time associations beginning in the first few days after birth and extending into adulthood.
Topology and geometry of tropical varieties and applications
Tropical geometry is a current development in contemporary mathematics, founded through the cumulative efforts of mathematicians of diverse horizons, with the aim of explaining various limiting phenomena in mathematics and physics. The project will contribute in advancing the understanding of the geometry of tropical spaces and the scope of their applications by initiating collaborations. The researchers will focus on the exploration of two facets: intrinsic properties of tropical spaces through the study of their topological properties in relation with our complex geometry, and applications to number theory and arithmetic geometry, in the study of solutions within the set of rational numbers of systems of polynomial equations, one of the oldest problems in mathematics.
Retrospectively Gated Multispectral 4D Photoacoustic Cardiac and Brain Imaging
Neurocardiology focuses on the interaction between the brain and the heart. While the relationship between brain injury and heart disease is still largely unknown, there is evidence suggesting a relationship between brain damage and heart dysfunction, a finding that could be of clinical importance to determine the risk a patient has of developing heart failure after experiencing traumatic brain injury (TBI). The project focuses on improving imaging techniques of both the brain and heart using a relatively novel technique : photoacoustic tomography. The researchers will apply photoacoustic to a mouse model of TBI. Through this project they will be able to study the interplay between the brain and the heart and determine how they relate by investigating blood flow in the brain and fat accumulation in the heart. This will allow them to determine the downstream effects of TBI, while also helping them to determine how photoacoustic imaging could eventually be applied in the clinic.
Multi Scale Interactions in the PacifiC (MUSIC) – Development of Tropical Instability Waves parameterizations for improving El Nino simulations in Earth Systems Models
The Eastern Equatorial Pacific (EEP) is home to the El Nino/Southern Oscillations (ENSO), the strongest year-to-year climate fluctuation with widespread effects on global weather patterns. Extreme ENSO events are becoming more frequent and increasingly disrupt ecosystems in the context of climate change. However, simulations of the EEP mean climate still suffer from strong biases in current Earth System Models (ESMs), such as too cold simulated sea surface temperatures. Recent studies pointed that Tropical Instability Waves (TIWs), small-scale meandering circulation features, partly explain some observed ENSO characteristics and are responsible for a net warming of the EEP. Yet, ESMs’ coarse resolution hinders their aptitude to simulate TIWs properly. Building upon the researchers’ previous work, the project aims to develop TIWs parameterizations to be implemented in ESM to reduce mean state bias, improve ENSO simulations, and in turn lead to increased confidence in future climate projections.
Meshing techniques for the simulation of wave propagation in plasmas
In the context of harnessing fusion energy, the numerical simulation of electromagnetic wave propagation (and absorption) from plasma-facing antennas is of high interest, especially to improve heating techniques. This project focuses on the particular topic of adaptive meshing for the simulation of wave propagation in plasmas with the aim to enable optimal performance of a promising class of numerical methods, the so-called quasi-Trefftz methods. These methods have been developed specifically to tackle efficiently wave propagation problems through inhomogeneous media, such as experimental fusion plasmas. In this framework, the mesh, a discretization of the computational domain, is key to the performance of the method in terms of accuracy and computing time. The work includes the development of efficient meshing techniques robust in the high-frequency regime, based on the quality of the electromagnetic field representation and based on local physical properties of the plasma.
Innovative perennial cropping systems with enhanced performance development of Kernza intermediate wheatgrass
Kernza intermediate wheatgrass is a deep-rooted grass recently improved for grain production (tradename Kernza). It is raising attention as a promising dual-use grain and forage perennial crop which provide an excellent design to promote agroecological cropping systems, facilitating low input food-feed production while promoting high environmental performances in fields (e.g. soil protection, carbon sequestration, soil quality improvement, leaching mitigation). Previous results identified establishment practices, weed management, and yields longevity as three critical research needs, limiting its widespread adoption in fields. The project suggests crop tillers demographic as key determinant of seedings establishment in fields, weed competitiveness, and multi-years forage-grain production. A comprehensive and multi-sites (France, US, Canada) assessment of tillering activity in fields is therefore used to answer questions of initial and persisting tillering activity of Kernza.
The ongoing miniaturization of conventional electronics relying on CMOS technology is accompanied with serious heat generation, which requires alternative solutions beyond Moore’s law. A key contender for future energy-efficient computing and signal processing devices is based on the manipulation of magnons, which are the fundamental excitations of spin waves, in thin ferromagnetic films. Furthermore, new functionalities have emerged from non-boolean and wave-based computing concepts. In this respect, the direct interference of short wavelength magnons has proven to be a propitious alternative for high-speed computation functionalities. Several recent studies demonstrated that the propagation of spin waves in ferromagnetic thin films can be shaped in a similar fashion to basic concepts in optics. With the aim of exploring the potential of magnonic interferometry, the researchers will study the spin-wave beamforming in continuous thin films generated from curvilinear-shaped antennas.
Identification of a Mitochondrial Glutamine Carrier
Our body breaks down the food we eat and appropriates nutrients to all of our individual cells. Our cells further digest these nutrients for energy and use their byproducts for structural maintenance. Our cells have specialized compartments, called mitochondria, that efficiently produce usable energy and cellular building blocks from available nutrients. Of course, nutrients must enter mitochondria in order for mitochondria to be effective. When our bodies digests proteins, they produce a very important nutrient called glutamine. Glutamine is used by mitochondria to ensure cells are always able to produce energy even when other nutrients (such as sugars and other amino acids) are being used for structural maintenance. However, the identity of the protein that shuttles glutamine into mitochondria is unknown. The project aims to identify this glutamine-shuttling protein by applying sophisticated analytical and genetic techniques to track cellular metabolism.
Computational fluid dynamics : numerical approximation and long time behavior
Climate change and weather prediction are two different phenomena, although related. They are both based upon having good mathematical models. Once the model is established, some quantities of interest are investigated and studied. The current models are continuously updated by adding some quantities of interest. For example, it is essential to add equations to take into account moisture. Some models include adding equations modeling clouds, the moisture coming from oceans, uncertainly, and random effects. The way to introduce them is very delicate, and there is no systematic way of doing it. Furthermore, these models become very complicated and challenging to study mathematically. Hence, it is imperative for the mathematical community to introduce a fundamental study of these models. The critical question about these models is the long-time behavior. The numerical approximation could be sufficiently accurate to predict the future with precision.
Compact objects in dwarf galaxies: a missing piece to elucidate galaxy evolution
Dwarf galaxies are the most common type in the Universe and therefore crucial to a holistic understanding of galaxy evolution: however, both current and next generation observations will remain strongly biased towards giant galaxies. This inhibits the ability to address fundamental questions spanning many fields in astronomy. In particular, the question of how giant galaxies form supermassive black holes is one in which dwarfs are well suited to answer. The researchers will work to improve naïve and generalized approaches, by using newly-developed topological models together with Bayesian statistical analysis. They will infer the properties and role of compact objects, such as black holes, in two dwarfs-dominated galaxy surveys. The galaxies in these surveys mimic those found in the early universe and will serve as an ideal testbed for novel approaches to be applied to high-redshift galaxies, eventually ameliorating the overall understanding of galaxy evolution.
Narratives of Racialization: Mediterranean sources and tropes of race in the premodern and postmodern eras
Race is a cultural construction that relies on tropes and narratives to shape the organization of societies. Despite the disappearance of state-sponsored racism from today’s world, racism continues to affect the distribution of resources, both material and symbolic, along the lines of racialized groups. The research looks at how racial tropes contribute to social marginalization in the premodern and postmodern Mediterranean. Recognizing that racism did not disappear with the disappearance of the racial regimes on the 20th century (e.g. Nazi Germany), the researchers look at the premodern and postmodern forms of racialization from below. From manuscripts illuminations to video games, the goal is to collect sources from the many Mediterranean linguistic traditions that can effectively represent how processes of racialization circulate across different cultures.
Design and development of sustainable nanomaterials for environmental remediation
As the population of the world continues to increase there is an ever increasing strain on critical natural resources on which we rely. Clean water remains one of the most precious resources available to us across the world, a lack of which has already caused local disasters and has the potential to turn into a global humanitarian disaster. In modern society water contamination from commercial production facilities to human waste removal consumes vast quantities of water, which need to be decontaminated before human consumption in costly processes which require significant amounts of energy and sometimes rare materials. In order to remediate these issues, cheap, efficient, and scalable methods must be developed for wastewater treatment. The researchers will utilize and integrate experimental synthesis and measurements with highly accurate simulations to accelerate the design low-cost environmentally friendly nanomaterials for adsorption of molecular water contaminants such as heavy metals.
Exploring Governance Dynamics for Sustainable Energy Transitions in Overseas Island Jurisdictions: The Case of Martinique in the Caribbean
Small island jurisdictions continue to be strained by dependence on imported fossil fuels to run their economies and meet the needs of their societies. Seeking cleaner energy options and further energy independence through transitions to renewable resources such as wind, solar and geothermal have potential in many islands but have yet to reach fruition. Drawing from our experience in assessment of technical renewable energy potentials and policy, regulatory and institutional analysis of energy security in islands, our interest is planning pathways for achieving transition in the particular contexts of overseas island departments and territories. For this the researchers study the French departments in the Caribbean and Indian ocean, the nature of their energy governance and their transition goals, while navigating regional energy policy with independent island neighbors and comparing to U.S and Netherlands island territories in the Caribbean region.
Adapting to Survive : Understanding how pathogens overcome starvation to cause infection
Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant health challenges facing humanity, with numerous governmental agencies stating the need for new treatments. During infection bacteria must obtain all of their nutrients from us. This fact is leveraged by the immune system, which actively starves invaders of essential metals. Despite this, pathogens, such as the superbug Staphylococcus aureus, still cause devastating diseases. Disrupting the ability of pathogens to overcome host-imposed starvation is a promising new therapeutic strategy. However, how pathogens respond to nutrient limitation is poorly understood. The collaborative team has shown that non-classical regulatory mechanisms are necessary for bacteria to overcome metal starvation during infection. Using innovative interdisciplinary tools and experimental approaches, the researchers will build upon this finding and elucidate how pathogens overcome a critical host defense and identify new therapeutic targets.
Enabling Privacy Preserving in Federated Learning
Described as the “fuel of the digital era”, personal and private data is the fuel of all desires. Collected, analyzed and exploited, users’ data offer unprecedented opportunities for innovation, but raise real concerns about data privacy. The emergence of AI ebnabled-applications accentuates data privacy issues. Federated learning is a promising on-device machine learning scheme and new research topic on privacy-preserving machine learning. Federated learning becomes a paradigm shift in pracy-preserving AI and offers an attractive framework for training large-scale distributed learning models on sensitive data. However, federated learning still faces many challenges to fully preserve data privacy. The project tackles the cybersecurity challenges of federated learning systems in terms of data privacy. To achieve this goal, the researchers will extend different federated learning approaches to consider their limitations in terms of accuracy, confidentiality, robustness, explainability and fairness.
Towards a single-cell view of genetic reprograming for nitrogen-fixing symbiosis in soybean
Reduced soil fertility is a rising problem in modern agriculture leading to poor agricultural yield. So far, massive release of chemical fertilizers is a common strategy to compensate this yield gap, but this represents an extremely costly approach, both economically and ecologically. Unlike crops such as maize, rice or wheat, soybean can overcome nitrogen limitation by interacting symbiotically with soil bacteria in specific root-derived organs called nodules. To promote low input agriculture, it is crucial to have a good understanding of symbiotic nodules and root growth plasticity. Soybean being a key strategic culture in US and EU, this project aims at unravelling the molecular mechanisms controlling root and nodule formation by bringing together French and US experts of soybean biology and single-cell sequencing technology. The single cell methods, not applied to soybean to date, will allow to establish an atlas of expressed genes in each cell of differentiating roots and nodules.
Unveiling thermal channels in disordered macromolecules
To date, enzymes are one of the most efficient catalysts enhancing reactions by up to 15 orders of magnitude. Enzyme catalyzed reactions have been vital in processes ranging from the advancement of medicine to biofuels and waste treatment. Despite their array of uses, recent studies have only just begun to probe the fundamental mechanisms of the active site of enzymes, the area responsible for their catalytic abilities. Specifically the role of thermal channels at the catalytic site is largely unexplored. It is necessary to probe the impact of these localized vibrations on the catalytic ability of enzymes. This study will advance the current understanding of enzyme mechanisms by providing new insight into the engineering of thermal channels to control enzyme reaction rates, increasing their potential in all fields. By furthering the understanding of thermal vibrations within enzymes, the researchers will specifically have a significant impact on their therapeutic and sustainable applications.
Functionalized Graphene Templates for Metal Oxide Catalyst Nanoparticles in Zinc-Air Batteries
The storage of electrical energy is among one of most pressing challenges toward a sustainable planet. Efficient and low-cost energy storage systems not only favor the deployment of renewable energy sources, but also promote the growth of electric vehicle markets, just to cite a few urgent needs. Zinc-air batteries offer promising characteristics, including large theoretical energy densities combined with very low manufacturing costs that make them ideal candidates for novel energy storage solutions. Yet, Zinc-air batteries face several technological and engineering obstacles, such as the depletion of anode during cycling or the limited catalytic performance of the cathode (air electrode).
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