Announcing the Summer 2020 Digital Research Grant Awards

The Princeton Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism + the Humanities is pleased to announce summer research grants supporting 31 faculty-student collaborations, 28 independent graduate student projects, and 11 independent undergraduate student projects. The call for proposals was developed in recognition of the fact that student internships, employment, and research travel were curtailed due to COVID-19. The scope of work includes examinations of digital archives and online data sets, the creation of maps, the development of renderings and/or visualizations, and interviews conducted via digital platforms. Six grants support student-faculty collaborations to expand digital modules for urban-focused courses in Fall 2020 and beyond. These include place-based and experiential courses in urban studies, East Asian studies, engineering, and the arts. Twenty three departments and programs are represented by award recipients. 

Given the number of independent research proposals and the convergence of methods exploration, the Princeton-Mellon Initiative will convene several thematic working groups and methods workshops during the summer. Eleven projects deal directly with the urban experience under COVID-19, including research that examines mobility, migration, and the right to the city during the pandemic, as well as the auditory experience of lockdown and social distancing. Another concentration is in race, ethnicity and equity in the city: inequality and development in the Global South; Black entrepreneurship and systemic discrimination in America’s urban centers, structural violence in Philadelphia, and poverty and racial segregation. Many focus on ethnographic research and the study of place and space, in all parts of the globe.

To fund this research the Princeton-Mellon Initiative repurposed its spring budget and raised support from campus partners. The summer grants are made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Metropolis Project of Princeton University, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Department of Sociology, the Department of Anthropology, and the Princeton Environmental Institute. The Princeton-Mellon Initiative will work with the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning to enhance campus resources for place-based, experiential remote instruction, and grantees will have the opportunity to discuss their projects and findings in September.

“We are thrilled to be able to fund 71 student projects this summer, and organize methods workshops and working groups where there is demand,” said Co-Director of the Princeton-Mellon Initiative and History Professor Alison Isenberg. “Given all of the new challenges posed for students, faculty and staff this summer, in the realm of research there are some bright spots.  Princeton has a world-class roster of digital resources and databases and an extraordinarily talented and creative group of librarians and archivists. After archives shut down in March, several graduate students had research breakthroughs in undertaking Zoom interviews for their first oral history forays. This global pause is an opportunity for students and faculty to experiment with mixed methods, sharpen new research skills, and mine databases. There has also been a surge of interest in cities, and the significance of the built and natural environments.  Multidisciplinary programs like the Mellon Initiative are well-suited to support this kind of research innovation and collaboration. We are deeply grateful to our campus partners for making this program a possibility for so many students and faculty.”

About the Princeton Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities: The research grants support the Princeton-Mellon Initiative’s theme, Cities on the Edge. Projects explore the way in which cities exist on the edge of sustainability and climate change, are sites for the connective and comparative study of migration, and allow for scholarship that foregrounds hemispheric comparisons and connections. Established in 2014 with grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Princeton Mellon Initiative is an interdisciplinary project, hosted by the School of Architecture, that supports fellowships, courses and programming for faculty and students that highlight the opportunities for social justice-oriented scholarship and civic engagement within urban studies. For more information, visit

Grants have been awarded to: 

COVID and Urban Space

Tyler Adkins (PhD, Anthropology), Post-Soviet Domestic Spaces in Gorno-Altaysk, Russia Under Quarantine

Mai Alkhamissi (PhD, Anthropology), COVID in Cairo

Kyle Chan (PhD, Sociology), When Did Cities Begin to Lockdown? Local Government Action and Urban Mobility Data in the Early Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Clemens Finkelstein (PhD, Architecture), The Hum of Viral Equilibrium: COVID-19 Pandemic Lulls the Planetary Ambient

Thalia Gigerenzer (PhD, Anthropology), “The Rooftops Will Stay Free:” A Multimedia Study of Gender and Space during Lockdown in Delhi, India

Max Horder (PhD, Anthropology), Mapping Cultural Polarization under Lockdown in London

Ethan McAlpine (Anthropology ’21), Documenting the Deaf Experience during the Times of COVID-19

Jagat Sohail (PhD, Anthropology), Refugee Life in Berlin under COVID-19

Aaron Su (PhD, Anthropology), Remaking Space and Place with Chinese Medicine: COVID-19 and Beyond

Mazdak Ttamjidi (PhD, Anthropology), COVID-19 and the Transformation of Leisure in Tehran

Junbin Tan (PhD, Anthropology), Contact and Distance: NYC Anesthesiologist’s Encounters with COVID-19; An Unsettled Migrant Underclass: Distance and Alienation amid COVID-19

Race, Place, and Inequality

Devanne Brookins (Princeton-Mellon Fellow), Curtis Goos, Erika Larsen, and Anh Ton (all MPA ’20), Visualizing Urban Fragmentation and Inequality, focus on development in the Global South

Rachel Brown-Weinstock (PhD, Sociology), The Rural Ghetto: Concentrated Poverty and Racial Segregation in the “Micropolitan” South

Nazifa Chowdhury (Sociology ’20), Race and School Choice in New York City

Sarah Drapkin (History ’22), Systematic Discrimination and Its Place in the American Dream

Dannelle Gutarra Cordero (African American Studies) and Turquoise Brewington (Public and International Affairs ’22), The Not so “New Normal”: Reconciling the History of Black Maternal Health in Light of Black Death During COVID-19

Dannelle Gutarra Cordero (African American Studies), Maya Houser (Public and International Affairs ’22), and Toussaint Webb (Computer Science ’22), Black Entrepreneurship in America’s Urban Centers

Tessa Flanagan (Civil and Environmental Engineering ‘21), Philadelphia, ‘The City That Bombed Itself’”

Lauren McGrath (Anthropology ‘21), Visualizing Urban Structural Violence in Philadelphia: Past, Present, and Future

Mikey McGovern (PhD, History), “Just in Numbers?” Statistics and Civil Rights in the Postwar United States

Ryan Parsons (PhD, Sociology), The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and the Production of Racial and Spatial Control

Adéráyọ̀ Sànúsí (PhD, Anthropology), An Ethnographic Study of Digital Policing in Lagos

Tom Taylor (MPA ’21), Public Library Funding in California

Gender and Sexuality in the City

Catherine Ahn, Esra Durukan, Sarah Etaat (all M Arch ’20), The Women’s School of Planning and Architecture

Alexandra Diyana Sastrawati (PhD, Anthropology), Queerness and Depression in Contemporary Singapore and Japan

Adia Weaver (Anthropology ’21), Structural Memory & Virtual Realities: Visualizing Collectivity and Indigeneity in Digital Landscapes

Christopher Zraunig (PhD, Anthropology), Queer Aging in the City

Remote Learning for Place-Based Courses

Sigrid Adriaenssens (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Joe Scanlan (Lewis Center), James McDonagh (CEE ’21), and Beatriz Oliva (CEE ’22), Online Teaching and Learning of Engineering and Art Courses

M. Christine Boyer (Architecture), Grace Lee (M Arch ’22), Sonia Ralston (M Arch ’21), and Taka Tachibe (M Arch ’21), Digital Learning Modules for introduction to Urban Studies

Franz Pritchard (East Asian Studies) and Jaylin Spruill (East Asian Studies ’22), Digital Learning Unit Exploring the Posthuman Condition for EAS 303, Japanese Film & Media Studies

Design + Materiality

Erin Besler (Architecture) and Xuefei Gao (Architecture ’22), Analysis of Local City Building Codes Requiring Full-Scale, Architectural Mock-ups on Construction Sites in Contemporary Urban Centers

Beata Corcoran (Anthropology ’22), Water Storage within Informal Settlements in Brazil and South Africa: Cultural and Environmental Implications for Urban Design

Chase Galis (Architecture '21), Photos from the Lamp Department: General Electric and the Effects of Public Lighting in New York City

Janet Kay (Society of Fellows/Art & Archaeology) and Avner Goldstein (Classics ’21), Digital Mapping of Religious Architecture in Roman Britain

Madeleine Marr (Politics ‘21), Applying a Theory of Intersectional Infrastructure to Urban Revitalization Parks

Forrest Meggers (Architecture/Andlinger Center), Lucia Alias (Columbia University), Michael Faciejew (PhD, Architecture), Urvashi Uberoy (Computer Science ’20), and Ryan Xia (Computer Science ’22), An Interactive Animation of the Process of Carbonation and Degradation of Reinforced Concrete

Visualizing Urban Change

Rhae Lynn Barnes (History), Susan Baek (Public and International Affairs ’23), Abby Clark (English ’21), and Ava Vilensky (Class of ’23), Digitally Reconstructing New York’s Concert Saloon & Fraternal Order Network 

Sean Fraga (History/Princeton Writing Program) and Johnatan Reiss (Class of ’23), Mapping Seattle’s Steamboat Suburbs, 1900–1930

Karolina Koziol (PhD, Anthropology), Harbin as a Palimpsest

German Labrador Mendez (Spanish and Portuguese) and Liam Seeley (Spanish and Portuguese ’23), Still Lives. The (Bio)politization of Popular Urban Cultures and the Cultural Production of the Spanish Crisis, 2008-2020

Spyros Papapetros (Architecture), Carson Chan, Clemens Finkelstein, and Vajdon Sohaili (all PhD, Architecture), Frederick Kiesler’s Magic Architecture: The Story of Human Housing

Landscape and the Urban Environment

Megan Eardley (PhD, Architecture), Interviews with architects, developers, and property managers working in extractive industries in Johannesburg

Rūta Misiūnas (Architecture G3), The Resprouting of a City: A Mapping and Research Proposal for the Collective Gardening Communities of Panevezys, Lithuania

Rachel Price (Spanish & Portuguese), Mitra Abbaspour (Art Museum), and Larissa Guimaraes (M Arch ’21), Digital exhibition by Brazilian artist and landscape architect Waldemar Cordeiro 

Katharine Schassler (Civil and Environmental Engineering ’22), Living Degrowth

The Arts

João Biehl (Anthropology) and Francisca Weirich-Freiberg (Anthropology ’21), Writing Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment

Judith Hamera (Lewis Center) and Scott Overbey (Economics ’21), Interesting Times: Highways Performance Space and the Economies of Los Angeles Live Arts, 1989-2019

Josh Kotin (English) and Ian Davis (PhD, English), Interpreting the Socioeconomic Conditions of Members of the Shakespeare and Company Lending Library 

Migration and Immigration

Tiffany C. Cain (Society of Fellows/Anthropology) and Ashley Morales (Public and International Affairs ’22), Museums and Forced Migration Research Network

Purcell Carson (School of Public and International Affairs) and Drew Pugliese (Art & Archeology ’23), The Trenton-Salcaja Project: Visualizing the Economy of a City through Stop-Motion Animation Bursts

Katherine Clifton (Office of Religious Life), Courtney Cappelli (Public and International Affairs ’22), Marie Li (Class of ’23), and Alice McGuinness (Class of ’23), Religion & Resettlement Mapping Project

Hannah Postel (Office of Population Research), Marina Carlucci (Sociology ’21), and Cy Watsky (Public and International Affairs ’21), Mobility Effects of Immigration Restriction: Evidence from Chinese Exclusion

Beyond the Smart City

Kyle Barnes (Computer Science ‘21), Invisiborders: Wearable Politics

Claire Dong (Electrical Engineering ’21), Net Tracking with Computer Vision

Matthew Marquardt (Chemistry ‘21), Using 3D Modeling Simulations to Understand and Optimize a New Transparent Wavelength Selective Luminescent Solar Concentrator Dye

Elena M'Bouroukounda (Architecture G3), Revisiting Augmented Reality through Analog Translations