NSF Awards $297,135 to Falk College’s Brooks Gump for Undergraduate Trauma Research with Veterans
Brooks B. Gump, the Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health in Falk College, was awarded a three-year, $297,135 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue the Research Education for Undergraduates (REU) program focused on training veterans interested in becoming trauma researchers. This REU has been operating since 2012 and is a student-focused opportunity that draws on personal experiences of veterans who understand the nature and context of traumatic events. By gaining a scientific understanding of trauma, students develop essential skills to improve the quality of life for themselves and others, including veterans.
“The program provides a unique opportunity for veteran and non-veteran undergraduates to work together on the common goal of research to better understand the consequences of trauma experienced by veterans. There is a significant degree of important bonding that takes place over the course of our program. These connections help veterans transition and reintegrate into the undergraduate culture while providing ‘traditional’ students, who are non-veterans, with an important perspective from those who have first-hand knowledge of the context for this research,” says Gump.
The project, “REU Site: Training Diverse Undergraduate Teams of Veterans and Non-Veterans to Conduct Trauma Research with Veterans: Collaborative Research,” is directed by Gump and co-directed by professor Karen Wolford, who also coordinates the interdisciplinary graduate certificate program in trauma studies at SUNY Oswego. Other faculty from these institutions and SUNY Upstate Medical University are involved in the program, as well as Falk College’s Keith A. Alford, associate professor of social work, and Dessa Bergen-Cico, associate professor, public health.
The month-long REU immersion program, now in its fifth year, brings together veterans and non-veterans in a safe environment to pursue trauma research activities, and is currently planning for its 2016 program, June 6 through July 1. It involves coursework, mentored student-faculty interactions and development of a research project. Participating students receive a stipend for attending the summer session. Room and board are provided free of charge, as needed, with some travel cost assistance available for out-of-state participants.
With generous support from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and Falk College, Ivan Castro, a veteran and past participant of the REU program, now supports it as project manager. The collaborative partnership with IVMF makes it possible to bring special guest presenters to campus. The Summer 2016 program organizers are coordinating a feature presentation by Linda S. Schwartz, VA Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning. In her role, Schwartz serves as the VA’s principal advisor on all matters of policy and organizational strategy by providing VA decision makers with the advice, counsel and support necessary to fulfill the VA mission.
For undergraduates interested in graduate school, it can sometimes be challenging to find meaningful research experiences that offer hands-on opportunities coupled with close work and mentoring with skilled faculty researchers. The REU program is an ideal way to gain valuable research experience while increasing marketability for admission to competitive graduate programs.
“The data from our evaluation suggest this program might serve as a model for re-integration of returning veterans, particularly for those returning to higher education. It offers a unique and valuable research lesson for all participants,” adds Gump.
In addition to his ongoing supported research by the NSF, Gump serves as principal investigator for two other external grants. First, the National Institutes of Health’s research project, “Environmental Toxicants, Race and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children,” investigates the relationship among race, socioeconomic status, blood lead levels, cardiovascular responses to acute stress and cardiovascular disease risk. Second, Project Time Off is funding a study to examine how past and current vacationing behavior impacts psychological and physical health (http://www.projecttimeoff.com/).
Gump joined the faculty at Syracuse University in 2010. He currently serves on the editorial board of the journals, Psychosomatic Medicine and Health Psychology, and serves as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous other journals, including Pediatrics, American Journal of Epidemiology, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and Social Science and Medicine. He recently served a four-year term on the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Health, Behavior, and Context review subcommittee. The recipient of numerous research awards for his work, Gump was honored with Falk College’s Faculty of the Year in Research for 2012-2013.