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Center for Future Work Places and Practices awards summer grants for transdisciplinary research

June 22, 2023

The Center for Future Work Places and Practices (CFWPP) recently announced the recipients of the center’s 2023 summer seed grants. Alongside funding research initiatives related to the future of work, the center also organized a unique, speed networking session at Virginia Tech Inn on May 9, 2023.  

The Center for Future Work Places and Practices is housed within the Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) at Virginia Tech. Launched in January 2023, the center utilizes a transdisciplinary approach to designing, developing, and deploying future workspaces, processes, and domains. CFWPP’s work emphasizes human-centered approaches that benefit both the individual and the broader workplace. 

At the networking meeting in May, Suqin Ge, the Director of CFWPP, discussed the goals and objectives of the center. She kicked off the session by highlighting their desire to connect researchers from different colleges and encourage collaboration. In order to encourage a smooth flow of conversation and useful opportunities for networking, the center set up tables in a circular formation, each with a placard representing a specific area of research. In two networking sessions, attendees moved from table to table to meet new people and learn about their research in a unique, speed networking session. Conversation flowed easily throughout the room as participants connected over shared research interests in the future of work. 

After the networking session, Ralph Hall, the Associate Director of CFWPP, announced a request for proposals for the center’s seed grants, which were due by May 19, 2023. On June 15, 2023, the center announced the recipients of the grants, which range from $1,000 to $2,000 for the summer. The grant can be used to cover summer salaries for faculty members, stipends for graduate students, and expendable materials. 

Aki Ishida, Associate Professor at the university’s School of Architecture; Sarah Henrickson, Chair at the Department of Health Systems and Implementation Science at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and Justin H. Price, a Board-certified family physician and Hospital Medicine Specialist at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, received a $2,000 grant for their project “Visual Ethnography in Medical Workspaces.” By utilizing the qualitative methodology of visual ethnography, the project will communicate the challenges and opportunities of medical workspaces based on direct on-site observation of clinicians in their clinical workspaces. The aim is to better understand how clinicians interact with technology and with their patients.

Two researchers from Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine – Mengxi Zhang, Assistant Professor and Mary Wesley, Senior Instructor – teamed up with Assistant Professor Sol Lim from the university’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering for a project titled “Harnessing Wearable Technology to Combat Maternal Mortality.” With the $2,000 grant, they will explore how wearable technology can be used for monitoring major risk factors during pregnancy, whether such technology can reduce risks, and what challenges and opportunities exist in the process.

Na Meng, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science, and Abhijit Sarkar, Senior Research Associate at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, received a $2,000 grant for their project titled “SafeNavigator: Vision-Impaired Navigation with Safety Alerts.” The project aims to create a new audio navigation system, SafeNavigator, which can smartly interact with visually impaired individuals to help them explore unknown spaces in a safer way. 

The grants are designed to foster collaboration between researchers from different colleges at Virginia Tech, with at least one faculty member affiliated with CFWPP. The innovative nature of the awarded projects has the potential to significantly advance the center’s mission while contributing to a future of work that promotes human-centric usage of technology for a better world.