• The Office for Research has announced the addition of three new University research centers
  • The centers are focused on health, policy, and science education and communication
  • The Office for Research now supports 46 distinct institutes and centers


Building on Northwestern’s history of thought leadership in interdisciplinary programs and centers, the Office for Research has announced the addition of three new University research centers.


The centers — focused on health, policy, and science education and communication — address a variety of important social issues, further extending the diverse range of Northwestern discovery and its impact.


Continuing the University’s exploration of human health, the newest research center will provide insight into the development and experiences of those in the sexual and gender minority (SGM) community.


Led by Brian Mustanski, medical social sciences, the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) will advance research that benefits SGM people while enhancing broader understanding of this community’s unique qualities.


“Recent progressive developments have created extraordinary opportunities to conduct innovative research on vital health concerns and needs of SGM populations,” says Mustanski. “We also have the chance to train scientists and clinicians in the best practices to meet those needs, and reduce and ultimately eliminate barriers to services and inequities in health and wellbeing.” While the struggle for SGM equality and health research is not new, he adds, recent increased attention to SGM health has laid a “promising foundation for groundbreaking research, education, and service.”


The Institute will foster collaborations across research domains and provide opportunities for high-level multidisciplinary scholarship and training for the next generation of SGM scholars. It will also use innovative methods to disseminate knowledge to the SGM community, the public, scholars, service providers, educators, and policymakers.


“While there are other institutes focused on sexual health or broader sexuality studies from a social science and humanities perspective, our effort marks one of the first university-wide initiatives dedicated to sexual and gender minority health and wellbeing,” says Mustanski. The focus on wellbeing is critical, he notes: SGM people experience disparities in many domains of health and social status, but they also demonstrate remarkable resiliency and cultural vibrancy. “There is much that can be learned from this community to better society.”


To remain inclusive, the Institute will use “Sexual and Gender Minority” as an umbrella term intended to reflect the diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as those whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity varies, those who may not self-identify as LGBT, or those who have a specific medical condition affecting reproductive development who sometimes identify as intersex.


The Institute is supported by the Office of the Provost; the Office for Research; and Feinberg School of Medicine.


Forced Migration


Another newly expanded University research center aims to address policies surrounding forced migration and the impact of refugees on local economies.


Within the Center for Forced Migration Studies (CFMS), its refugee resettlement research program is breaking new ground.


It is the first such effort in the United States and will help inform the country’s reconsideration of relevant policy strategies while highlighting long-term benefits of resettlement programs. Projects led by Northwestern investigators will shape innovations that better integrate refugee and asylum policy within America’s broader immigration framework.


The goal of CFMS, which is part of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies, is to help better understand refugee movements through research, documentation, education, and outreach. The new University research center engages an international and interdisciplinary group of researchers, students, practitioners, refugee legal aid organizations, policymakers, community based organizations, writers, and artists to re-conceptualize refugee protection.


Founded by Galya Ruffer, political science, in 2011, CFMS also works with Northwestern graduate and undergraduate students interested in refugee and forced migration studies. Over the past several years, students have had the opportunity to engage in refugee research and education as fellows, research assistants, and interns.


“There’s a real opportunity for Northwestern to lead the way in researching these problems and helping to develop sustainable answers,” says Ruffer. “In our resettlement research program, for example, we are expanding our knowledge of the long-term impacts of resettlement and working collaboratively with programs such as Northwestern’s Design for America to offer solutions. I see the CFMS as a leader in reengineering refugee policies and producing new approaches to how we address refugee crises.”


Science in Society


Having promoted impactful science education, communication, and community engagement for nearly a decade, Science in Society (SiS) is now one of Northwestern’s newest University research centers. Created in 2007, SiS houses 13 initiatives that train and connect University researchers to the Evanston and Chicago communities.


“Whether we’re supporting underserved K-12 students, their hard-working teachers, or early career scientists, Science in Society provides opportunities for key skills development backed by rigorous evaluation,” says Michael Kennedy, SIS director. “Becoming a University research center helps us to expand our commitment to high-quality, community-responsive STEM education programs.”


The center’s hallmark Science Club program engages underserved middle-school students using a long-term mentorship model. The program is based at a Boys & Girls Club site in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, with club staff and Chicago Public Schools teachers forming an integral part of the Science Club leadership team.


Since launching in 2008, Science Club has garnered wide praise and a $1.4 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Science Education Partnerships Award. It also earned the inaugural 2013 STEM Impact Award from the Afterschool Alliance.


In early 2016, SiS will expand again, opening a second Science Club site in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. A new $1.2 million NIH grant will help establish Science Club Summer Camp: a dual-pronged initiative comprised of a two-year STEM professional development program for elementary school teachers and a summer program for Chicago youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.


Read more in Discover Research at Northwestern. >>


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