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Investigator Spotlights

Dartmouth researchers were awarded $31.7 million during September, including $14.6 million in new and competing awards. View the complete list of awards, as reported by the Office of Sponsored Projects. Here, Vox spotlights four investigators and their work.

Marie Bakitas, assistant professor of anesthesiology and medicine

 Marie Bakitas
Marie Bakitas

National Institute of Nursing Research
Early vs. Later Palliative Cancer Care: Clinical and Biobehavioral Effects

Better living, better dying: Bakitas’s prior research has shown that proactively educating patients and their caregivers about symptoms, advance directives and communication, using regular, standardized phone calls leads to measurable improvement in quality of life and a significantly lower risk of death in the year following enrollment in the study program.

Art and science of care: This grant funds “more specific services to the patient's family caregivers” as well as research “to understand which components have the greatest effects," says Bakitas. Her team will also measure biological signs of stress and immune function, she says, “to see if these markers fluctuate with changes in quality of life, and if there is any relationship of these effects to survival or other clinical outcomes.”

Teamwork: Co-investigators on the grant include Ira Byock, Mark Yeager, and Katherine Lyons. Physicians and researchers from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, the VA hospital in White River Junction, Vt. (including Stefan Balan and Lisa Lambert) and basic and clinical science researchers at Dartmouth and elsewhere are all engaged in this project.

Amit Chakrabarti, associate professor of computer science

chakrabarti

Amit Chakrabarti (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

National Science Foundation
“Data Streaming through a Complexity-Theoretic Lens”

New algorithms: There is much to be learned from mining and monitoring the massive amount of data our digital society produces. “But sheer scale makes traditional algorithmic thinking inadequate,” says Chakrabarti. We need “data streaming algorithms” which, ideally, can process data as it is generated.

Security alert: “I’m trying to model real-world questions of finding ‘typical’ digital traffic patterns and detecting attacks by combing through massive streams of data,” he says. Understanding normal patterns of the Internet, telephone networks, and credit card transactions could help flag threats in near-real time.

Teamwork: Chakrabarti works with graduate students Chrisil Arackaparambil and Joshua Brody, as well as Graham Cormode at AT&T Labs and Andrew McGregor at UMass Amherst. And he’s eager to connect with Dartmouth colleagues in other fields. “They might be surprised to learn that they can compute much more data than they thought they could.

Ardis Olson, professor of pediatrics and of community and family medicine pediatrics

olsion

Ardis Olson (photo courtesy of Ardis Olson)

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
“Healthy Teens TXT ME: IT to Change Teen Health Risk Behaviors”

Text for teen health: Can the information technology (IT) methods teens use every day help them “change health behaviors after a doctor visit?” asks Olson.

Communicating beyond the clinic: Olson knows that personal digital assistants (PDAs) work well as a screening tool during primary care visits. This study asks if contacting teens with text messages between appointments and linking health-conscious teens via a social network site increases their “attempts to change physical activity or reduce smoking.”

Teamwork: The study is based in the primary care network Clinicians Enhancing Child Health. Dartmouth collaborators are Meg Gerrard of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Punam Keller of the Tuck School of Business. Dartmouth students and local teens will help craft the health messages, Olson notes.

Robert Hawley, assistant professor of earth sciences

hawley

Robert Hawley (photo courtesy of Robert Hawley)

National Science Foundation
“Understanding the Physical Properties of Northern Greenland Near-Surface Snow: A Spatial Variability Study”

Off road: Hawley will take part in a coast-to-summit trek across the Greenland Ice Sheet using over-the-snow vehicles. He will lead a research team who “will be digging snow pits and drilling shallow boreholes, to measure the physical properties of the snowpack,” he explains. The data will help interpret measurements of the ice sheet made from space.

Long view: Hawley’s traverse will pass near several routes taken by researchers during the 1950s. “We’ll get to see 50 years of change, which is a rare perspective in the modern era of three-year grants.”

Teamwork: “My closest collaborator on the project will be Zoe Courville, a research mechanical engineer at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory,” says Hawley. “We have worked together for many years informally, so it’s exciting to have a formal project together.”

By KELLY SEAMAN

Last Updated: 1/12/10