Current Projects and Grants

Active projects within the period of performance

The Role of Air Quality and Built Environment in Social Isolation and Cognitive Function Among Rural, Racially/Ethnically Diverse Residents at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

The National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded $4.2 million to a team of researchers from Florida Atlantic University, the University of Miami, Colorado State University, and Washington State University to understand how Alzheimer’s disease relates to air quality and the built environment. Diana Mitsova, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Urban and Regional Planning, is a co-principal investigator for this grant.

The project will involve a total of 1,087 community-dwelling adults ages 45 and older who have not been previously diagnosed with ADRD from 50 neighborhood, block groups within five communities along Lake Okeechobee.

An interdisciplinary team from nursing, social work, urban and regional planning, and epidemiology will examine the effects of smoke-related air pollution during agricultural burn and non-burn seasons on social isolation, cognitive function and risk of ADRD in rural residents at the southern end of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County. As part of the study, researchers also will deploy easy-to-install, low-cost air pollution monitors in about 60 homes to assess ambient smoke levels.

For the study, the research team will gather electronic data using smartwatches in a subsample of 120 residents representing five Lake Okeechobee communities. The smartwatch subsample will be monitored for physical activity, social activity and cognitive performance. Biomarkers will provide passive continuous sensing of heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, height/weight and calculated BMI.

“Our research team will use mobile devices and AI to explore how momentary changes in smoke from agricultural burns could lead to anxiety, depression and irritability, resulting in decreased physical activity, movement and social activity outside the home and in various built and social environments,” said Lisa Kirk Wiese, Ph.D., principal investigator and an associate professor in FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. “We will be gathering real-time data from our study participants that will provide detailed insights to immediate changes to behaviors and mood that occur when they encounter low air quality or distressed environments and how this translates to cognitive performance.”

A key factor in this work has been the continuous engagement of rural community residents and organizations in the design, implementation and evaluation of research to decrease dementia risk.

“Amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tau tangles – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease – can begin 20 years before any symptoms start to appear,” said Christine Williams, DNSc, multi-PI and professor emeritus in FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. “Most research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias targets older adults. Our study will include middle-aged adults when dementia risks begin to accelerate. As a result, we will be able to promote early awareness of the disease and earlier modification of the associated risk factors.”

Research co-investigators of the project include experts across various scientific fields: Janet Holt, Ph.D., an academic researcher in FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing; JuYoung Park, Ph.D., a professor in the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work, within FAU’s College of Social Work and Criminal Justice; Diana Mitsova, Ph.D., chair and professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning within FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science; Lilah M. Besser, Ph.D., research assistant professor, Department of Neurology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Sheryl Magzamen, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Epidemiology, Colorado State University; Jeffrey Pierce, Ph.D., professor of atmospheric science, Colorado State University; and consultant Diane Cook, Ph.D., Regents Professor and a Huie-Rogers Chair Professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Washington State University.

“This study will provide evidence for the interactions between community and individual factors that heighten dementia risk in rural and diverse communities that face severe, adverse social determinants of health as well as high rates of this disease,” said Safiya George, Ph.D., Holli Rockwell Trubinsky Eminent Dean and Professor, FAU Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. “Importantly, the findings from this study will inform a mitigation model and public health interventions that will diminish the threat of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in rural settings and ultimately improve quality of life and reduce health care expenditures.”

NSF CNS: # 2115275

SRS-RN Planning Grant: Integrated and Convergent Sea Level Adaptation for Urban and Rural Systems in the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Regions (01/01/2022 - 12/31/2022)

The NSF awarded $149,577 to a team of researchers from FAU and three other institutions to build an interdisciplinary research network to address the challenge of responding to sea level rise along the Gulf of Mexico. Diana Mitsova, Ph.D., Professor of Urban and Regional Planning,  is a co-principal investigator collaborating with researchers from the University of Miami, Texas A&M, and Louisiana State University.

NSF Grant Awarded to Challenge Response for Sea Level Rise Along Gulf of Mexico

The planning grant will address the challenge of responding to sea level rise (SLR) in linked urban-rural systems located along the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Region (GCR). The typical SLR response strategies in the GCR are often practiced differentially across urban versus rural areas. The aim of this planning grant is to build a team that will engage diverse stakeholders working together toward a consolidated SLR adaptation strategy that enables urban and rural communities to collaboratively sustain the natural and physical infrastructure that links them together.

Compared with much of the world, the rate of SLR is quite high across much of the GCR and its landscape is a relatively low-lying coastal plain. Moreover, disadvantaged minority groups compose a large fraction of both the urban and rural population in this region, yielding a high degree of social vulnerability.

Mitsova remarks, “There is a growing understanding that the risks of sea level rise faced by communities require a collaborative foresight that will take into account a wide range of cross-sector interdependencies. The goal is to identify key issues and outline potential areas of future inquiry that would be most beneficial to the affected communities.”

The project team will bring together an inclusive and diverse group of researchers, community leaders, and policy makers who do not normally interact. This planning grant provides unique opportunities to (a) coalesce interdisciplinary teams, focus on the commonalities at the urban-rural linkages, (b) identify priorities, needs, and incentives of diverse stakeholders, (c) build knowledge and trust across these communities, and (d) formulate the research objectives, hypotheses, and methods for an innovative research network structure. The team’s will focus on the inclusion of minority constituencies, groups, and institutions that have been historically excluded from the SLR response conversation.

NSF RAPID Grant (CMMI #2028968)

Project Summary

As the 2020 hurricane season kicks into full gear in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the potential impact of storms will further exacerbate the vulnerabilities of renters and others living in precarious housing conditions.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University, in collaboration with Georgia State University, have received a RAPID grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to capture momentary and time-bound data on the subjective perceptions of resilience of individuals and households, including their coping and adaptive capacities. These individuals and households face multiple challenges, including health risks, precarious housing conditions and exposure to weather and climate hazards. Within the context of rapidly evolving policy mandates and short-term measures such as moratoriums on evictions, the study will address the uncertainties stemming from the pandemic that vulnerable populations face during tropical weather events.

The research team will study areas that include counties in south and central Florida and the Panhandle, which are still recovering from Hurricanes Michael and Irma, and which saw an influx of displaced individuals from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The unique and transformative elements of this research will be to advance knowledge and theory building on several topics related to housing, health and hazards.

The grant, titled “RAPID: Health, Housing, and Hazards: COVID-19, Subjective Resilience, Vulnerabilities, and Policy Evolution in Hurricane Prone Counties,” is spearheaded by Alka Sapat, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Professor and Director, FAU’s School of Public Administration within the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters.

Sapat is collaborating with co-principal investigators Diana Mitsova, Ph.D., Associate Professor in FAU’s School of Urban and Regional Planning within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and Ann-Margaret Esnard, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Initiatives at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. The research team has collaborated on several NSF-funded projects during the last decade.

For additional details, see or visit the NSF website here.

Project Period: 05/15/2020 - 04/30/2021

Project Amount: $175,848

NSF CRISP Type 2 (CMMI #1541089)

Collaborative Research: Probabilistic Resilience Assessment of Interdependent Systems (PRAISys)


For additional information refer to the main project website.

The research team was awarded NSF supplemental funding to the amount of $158,000 in the Summer of 2019.

Total amount: $2.4M (FAU $296,793 + Supplement $58,000, total $346,793) [Collaborative award with Lehigh University and Georgia State University]

Grant period: 09/01/2015 – 08/31/2020

Project Team :

Florida Atlantic University

Diana Mitsova-Boneva , Principal Investigator, CMMI #1541089, Associate Professor of urban and regional planning 

Alka Sapat , Associate Professor of public administration 

Georgia State University

Ann-Margaret Esnard , Professor of public management and policy 

Lehigh University

Paolo Bocchini , Principal Investigator, CMMI #1541177, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering 

Brian Davison , Associate Professor of computer science and engineering 

Alberto Lamadrid , Associate Professor of economics 

Richard Sause , Joseph T. Stuart Professor of structural engineering 

Lawrence Snyder , Professor of industrial and systems engineering 

Wenjuan Sun , Research Associate of civil engineering 

Project Summary

After a disruptive extreme event, such as an earthquake or severe storm, the socio-economic recovery of the affected region depends on the recovery of its infrastructure systems. Lifelines, such as power and water distribution systems, transportation networks, communication systems, and critical buildings have a primary role in disaster response, management, and long-term recovery. The failure to rapidly restore the services required for personal, social, and commercial activities leads to continued socio-economic losses and progressive depopulation. This collaborative project brings together scholars in Civil Engineering, Systems Engineering, Computer Science, Economics, Urban Planning, and Policy Making. Its purpose is to establish and demonstrate a comprehensive framework that combines models of individual infrastructure systems with models of their interdependencies for the assessment of interdependent infrastructure system resilience for extreme events under uncertainty. The “PRAISys” platform (Probabilistic Resilience Assessment of Interdependent Systems) will emphasize a probabilistic approach that permeates all aspects of the models, including the interdependencies. Some types of uncertainties that were not considered before (e.g., the possibility of using contingency plans that provide services without functioning infrastructure) will be classified; while mathematical and computational tools will be devised to capture their characteristics. PRAISys will enable better management and design of next generation infrastructure, more resilient to extreme events and to component failures under normal conditions. This will reduce the likelihood of extreme events becoming catastrophic in terms of casualties and injuries, long-lasting socio-economic losses, and environmental impact. The results of the research will be disseminated to the public in various forms: through series of seminars for professionals and administrators; by participating in Lehigh University’s STAR academy program for disadvantaged middle and high school students; through scientific publications and presentation; and by curriculum development.

The development, calibration, and validation of PRAISys will enable research on stochastic interdependencies among infrastructure systems in the wake of an extreme event. This requires advancements in several disciplines. For instance, a new hybrid reliability model, which combines graph theory for network analysis and classic system reliability to model the probabilistic dependencies among infrastructures will be studied. The new concept of “uncertain dependencies,” which are rigorously modeled and include “contingency plans” will be introduced. Advancements in stochastic network optimization will be sought, to predict the optimal strategies and to inform the disaster management. Social network data will be used as an additional source of information on the recovery of a region, in real time, mining public posts. A comprehensive decision framework will combine the results of the simulation platform with expert opinions and surveys to identify the importance of various aspects of recovery. Finally, new techniques for the collection of large sets of data from utility companies, local government, and other authorities will be studied.

Funding Agency :  CMMI Division, National Science Foundation



Co-PI, Florida Watershed Study (with F. Bloetscher and D. Meeroff, PIs)

Funding Agency: Federal Emergency Management Agency/ Florida Department of Emergency Management

Total amount: $1.7M

Grant period: 09/01/2019 – 12/31/2020


Co-PI, Crash Risk for Low-Income and Minority Populations: An Examination of At-risk Population Segments and Underlying Risk Factors (with E. Dumbaugh, L. Merlin, and D. Saha)

Funding Agency: Florida Department of Transportation

Total amount: $83,115

Grant period: 2019-2020


PI, Crash Risk for Low-Income and Minority Populations: An Examination of At-Risk Population Segments and Underlying Risk Factors (with E. Dumbaugh)

Funding Agency: Collaborative Sciences Center on Road Safety (CSCRS) (National UTC)

Total amount: $33,316

Grant period: 2019-2020


Co-PI, Salty Urbanism Adaptation: Using Natural and Nature-based Features to Enhance Ecosystem Services and Quality of Life in Response to Sea-Level Rise (with J. Huber and C. Polsky)

Funding Agency: Florida Sea Grant

Amount: $184, 737

Grant period: 2019-2021


Co-PI, ADAPT: Adaptation Design and Planning Tool for Urban Areas in the Coastal Zone (PI Jeffery Huber, School of Architecture, FAU)

Funding Agency: Florida Sea Grant

Amount: $186,874

Grant period: 02/01/2016-01/31/2019


Co-PI, Analyzing the Effects of Neighborhood Characteristics and other Factors on the Disaster Readiness and Resilience of Older Adults in Southeast Florida (with Dr. Alka Sapat, School of Public Administration)

Funding Agency: CUES – Abacoa Endowment

Amount: $25,983

Grant period: 2019-2020


Consultant on the mentoring team for Dr. Lilah Besser’s NIA Grant 1 K01 AG063895-01A1 (PI: Dr. Besser, Lilah).  Project Title: Longitudinal associations between neighborhood greenspace and brain aging in cognitively normal older adults

Funding Agency: National Institutes of Health

Total Amount: $632,070

Grant period: 05/15/2020 – 05/14/2025 



PI, The Nature Conservancy, “Suitability Analysis for Living Shorelines in Southeast Florida Estuarine Systems” (Amount: $17,228), Grant period: 8/31/2014 – 01/31/2016

Co-PI, Kresge Foundation, “Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Public Health in Southeast Florida” (PI, Roderick King, Florida Institute for Health Innovations, Dr. Len Berry & Dr. Colin Polsky, FAU), (12/2013 – 12/2015), $250,000.

Co-PI (Lead Co-Author), a research grant awarded by the State of Florida for “A SUS Climate Change Task Force: Science addressing the needs of Florida Agencies, Industry and Citizenry” (with Principal Investigators:  Len Berry and  Marguerite Koch-Rose (1/11-1/12); $175,000.

Co-PI, USGS, “Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Framework for USGS Ecosystem Portfolio Model” (with Principal Investigator:  Ann-Margaret Esnard; 2012, $23,274.

PI , The National Park Service (in collaboration with the FAU Environmental Sciences Everglades Fellowship Initiative), “Seasonal Flushing of Oil and Grease from Urban Runoff to the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve” (4/09-5/11), with Jaap Vos as Co-PI; $46,854

Co-PI (as a University stakeholder), Rooftop Solar Challenge Phase II funded by DOE, federal flow-through with Broward County as the lead agency, 09/2013 – 07/2015; $1.575 million (FAU $20,000).

Collaborator, National Science Foundation [CMMI #0726808] “Displacement Due to Catastrophic Hurricanes: Assessing Potential Magnitude and Policy Implications for Housing and Land Development” [2009-2010, with Principal Investigators: Ann-Margaret Esnard, and A. Sapat, $301,643]

Reports & Publications

Related Projects

Research Assistants

In the news:

FAU Lands $4.2 Million NIH Grant for Air Quality, Alzheimer's Study

Interdisciplinary Faculty Team Wins Multi-Institutional NSF Grant To Study Infrastructure Resilience, Lehigh University

New funding for FAU projects, Florida Climate Institute