Seed Grant Program

Seed grants are awarded with funding provided by the Binghamton University Road Map through the Provost's Office and the Division of Research.

The goal of these seed grants is to encourage faculty to develop collaborative projects that stimulate the advancement of new ideas that can build Binghamton University's expertise toward a national reputation in the broad area of material and visual worlds. This competitive, peer-reviewed program is providing initial support for proposed long-term programs of collaborative research that have strong potential to attract external funding.

Information on how to apply for seed grant funding for the 2024–2025 academic year can be found on the TAE landing page. The deadline for proposals is February 16, 2024.

Deadline for a Letter of Intent was December 4, 2023 and has passed. LOIs are required for proposals with a large budget and strongly recommended for all proposals. The LOI is not binding, however it will help to gauge interest in the next, potential round of seed grant applications. This information will also be helpful to have in the event additional funding channels are identified.

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the following seed grants were awarded:

Are You Ready for the Future? Artificial Intelligence, Poetry, and Art in a Posthuman Age

Tina Chang, creative writing program

Pliny the Elder and Traditions of Natural Histories conference October 27-29, 2023

Hilary Becker, middle eastern and ancient mediterranean studies; Meg Leja, history; Olivia Holmes, center for medieval and renaissance studies

At the bi-millennium of the birth of the Latin author–administrator–statesman–soldier Pliny the Elder, we are reminded that the elder Pliny and his Natural History represent an important opportunity for the study of not only the man and his work, but also the craft and intellectual milieu with which he was engaged. Pliny’s work is of great importance both in the arc of writing “natural histories” and in encyclopedism. Its import is observable in the reception and transmission of the Natural History in the later Roman and post-Roman worlds. In the spirit of Pliny’s endeavor, this conference aims to explore the traditions that guided the study of the natural world across the first millennium CE and beyond, along with the ways in which “natural historians” carried out their work, and how contemporary scholars approach and utilize the bounty of information his text contains. The conference seeks to bring together researchers interested not only in the Roman author himself, but also in the legacy of the Natural History or the contours of natural philosophical inquiry in various premodern societies. Given the persistence of “dark-age” stereotypes with regard to scientific inquiry, we hope to focus on connections between antiquity and the earlier Middle Ages in Byzantine, Islamic, and European societies, as well as on comparative global approaches that might highlight differences between the Natural History and texts with similar objectives produced in east or south Asian societies.

Unmixing and Mapping Pigments: A Statistical Approach for Art and Artifacts

Jeff Pietras, geological sciences and environmental studies; Hilary Becker, middle eastern and ancient mediterranean studies

What pigments were used to paint a work of art? While that work was being created, did an artist run out of materials and need to use pigments from another supply source? Or was there perhaps more than one team of artists painting in a room, using pigments from non-identical sources? Increasingly, scientists, conservators, and archaeologists are working to map the distribution of pigments, making it possible to better understand the state of a work of art and how it came to be created. X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy is a proven technique to identify pigments on art and archaeological artifacts. Knowledge of pigment composition aids in provenance studies, detecting forgery, and recognizing restorations among other topics. XRF data can be used to differentiate pigments within a family of colors based on subtle chemical variability; however, this requires detailed investigation of each spectrum. This issue is compounded now that elemental maps are routinely collected consisting of thousands of data points. Calculating the relative abundance of mixed pigments provides a further challenge. This study investigates the utility of a statistical model, positive matrix factorization (PMF), to unmix pigments based on elemental concentration data from XRF analysis of known pigment mixtures. PMF modeling provides a fingerprint and relative abundance of statistically significant factors from large datasets. Gaining a better understanding of mixtures and providing a technique to unmix them is an important step forward in the scientific study of pigments.

For the 2022-2023 academic year, the following seed grants were awarded:

The D.I.Y. Bing Punk Rock Archive

Jennifer Stoever, English; and Claire Kovacs, Binghamton University Art Museum

The D.I.Y. Bing Punk Rock Archive is a university-community collaboration dedicated to collecting and digitally preserving the rich history of punk rock music, art, style in the Southern Tier between 1975 to the present. It is an online crowdsourced archive of materials: oral histories, recordings of/at the event, digitized recordings, and scans performed of flyers, photos, CD/cassette/record covers, T-Shirts, advertisements, set lists and other items shared by community members. In particular, it amplifies the stories, experiences, style, and sound of women who helped create punk in the Southern Tier, in their own words—and encourages all visitors to directly engage with the history of punk. The D.I.Y. Bing Punk Rock Archive fundamentally reconsiders music and its ephemera as “objects” of commodity and collection and instead re-thinks them as catalysts for stories, memories, and the building of collectives both past and present. In having community members organize the collection and build new ways of understanding and contextualizing the materials directly into the metadata and the structure of the Omeka database, the D.I.Y. archive will push toward new understandings of the relationship between subculture, style, and place, and the importance of the local in musical movements, particularly for marginalized communities.

For the 2020-2021 academic year, the following seed grants were awarded:

Paint and Its Afterlives

Pamela Smart, art history; Hilary Becker, classical and near eastern studies; and Valerie Imbruce, Office of External Scholarships and Undergraduate Research Center

The collaborative, interdisciplinary Materials Matter project is vested in thinking through materials, from their elemental forms through their social histories. Here, we wish to focus our attention on artists' paint, in the chemistry and ambition of its formulation and its various afterlives when rendered as a painting. But rather than outline a specific research project, we propose to host a symposium that will create conditions favorable to the identification of new questions and an enriched network of collaborators. We anticipate that the symposium will help to build expanded networks of expertise, yield both scholarly and pedagogical initiatives, lay the ground for a more ambitiously scaled and externally funded conference, and serve to enhance the visibility and reputation of the Material and Visual Worlds TAE.

Smaller Narratives for a Larger World

Giovanna Montenegro, comparative literature and Romance languages; Jeroen Gerrits, comparative literature; Joshua Reno, anthropology; and Lubna Omar, anthropology

“Smaller Narratives for a Larger World” seeks to expand a current radio show project, “Broadcasting World Literature,” which has been hosted by the Comparative Literature Department since fall 2018 with the aid of an IASH Public Humanities grant. As a collaboration between the departments of Anthropology and Comparative Literature, but seeking broader collaboration across Harpur College, we are applying for a M+VW seed grant to enable the project to expand in two directions.

  1. By broadening the radio show’s theme, exploring the significance of narrative and storytelling across the humanities and social sciences beyond their strictly literary application. Accordingly, the radio show would be co-hosted by two graduate students from different departments.
  2. By broadening the scope of the project in terms of media outlets and events, most notably by expanding the existing ORB website into a digital production and distribution platform showcasing work from faculty and students in a variety of forms (papers, blogs, video essays, etc.) and by organizing a series of workshops. We seek to appoint one
    or two graduate students to maintain the digital platform and organize content and to invite guests to campus to lead the workshops.

The Hostile Terrain 94 Exhibit

Randall McGuire, anthropology; Nancy Applebaum, LACAS; and Barrett Brenton, Center for Civic Engagement

Hostile Terrain 94 is a participatory art project sponsored by the Undocumented Migration Project, a non-profit research-art-education-media collective housed at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1994, the United States Border Patrol implemented the strategy of “Prevention Through Deterrence” that discouraged undocumented migrants from crossing the U.S/Mexico border near urban centers. Forcing crossers into “Hostile Terrain” resulted in the deaths of thousands. The exhibition consists of ~3,200 handwritten toe tags that represent migrants who died crossing the Sonoran Desert of Arizona between 1994 and 2019. These tags are geolocated on a wall map of the desert showing the exact locations where remains were found. This installation will simultaneously take place at a 150+ institutions, both nationally and globally in 2020. At Binghamton University, we will mount the exhibit in the Grand Corridor of the Fine Arts Building in early October. We are scheduling a series of events during the duration of the exhibit that will minimally include a keynote speaker, a panel of faculty who have done research/humanitarian aid work along the border and a student run program. Later in October, we will move the exhibit to a location in the community with a series of events there.

Medieval Cultural Heritage Around the Globe: Monuments, Literature, and the Arts, Then and Now

Roberta Strippoli, Asian and Asian American Studies; Olivia Holmes, English and Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CEMERS)

The conference, hosted by CEMERS, will be held at Binghamton University’s Downtown Center on October 23 and 24, 2020. It will include numerous panels and four plenary sessions — featuring scholars working in a range of disciplines and global areas — 
examining issues related to cultural heritage across the globe, both in terms of how medieval peoples created their world through artifacts and images, and of how our contemporary world is created by the artifacts and images that we have inherited and that now surround us.

For the 2019-2020 academic year, the following seed grants were awarded:

Modern Choreography

Patrick Madden, computer science, and David Wynen, theatre

The project focuses on the development of a new smartphone app for dancers and choreographers, integrating step notation with the audio and video features found on current phones. Development of the app will be coordinated with colleagues within the dance community, with the end goal being the production of a tool that would be of wide use, and that would raise the visibility of both the Theatre and Computer Science departments of Binghamton University.

Changing Bodies: the Politics, Semiotics and Sounds of Fitness Centers

Joshua Reno, anthropology; Sabina Perrino, anthropology and linguisits; and Sarah Gerk, music

Changing Bodies is an investigation of fitness centers, or “gyms,” which are typically unisex, supposedly non-competitive arenas for physical training and recreation. Combining ethnographic, linguistic and musicological methods, we aim to explore voluntary bodily transformations, and the ideologies, signs and affects supporting and stemming from them. Fitness centers are particular cultural domains that nevertheless offer a novel way to engage with questions of change and becoming, which are central problems for both the humanities and social-sciences. At gyms, change is actually felt and embodied, hoped and planned for, under one’s control in some ways, resistant in others. At a time when so much change appears inevitable or irresistible, from political differences to environmental and financial crises, what does it mean for bodies to be (or appear) mutable? A body is an assemblage of shifting capacities, meanings and constraints. How do people hope to accomplish intentional bodily change, and what historical and cultural factors make it possible for some and seemingly all but impossible for others?

For the 2018–2019 academic year, the following seed grant was awarded:

The Abstract Body: Medicine, Science, and the Knowability of Human Experience

Matthew Wolf-Meyer, anthropology, and Fa-Ti Fan, history

The human body has long been subject to the abstractions of scientific and medical knowledge production, moving from the materiality of the body to the visual, textual, and eventually, quantitative, representation of organs, processes, and illnesses. Scholars have long focused on this movement from the materiality of the body to its visual and textual representations. The present moment, in which the human body is increasingly subject to computer-aided abstraction, has been attended to less thoroughly. The Abstract Body is a two-day workshop bringing together a variety of scholars interested in a wide variety of mechanisms of bodily abstraction. Our conversation will be situated in the overlapping theoretical models of "blackboxing" and reification. This workshop aims to catalyze the potential of these theoretical models in reconceptualizing the human body as a site of scientific and medical abstraction. The workshop will consist of pre-circulated papers, which will be discussed by an assigned discussant, opening a conversation for assembled participants. Our hope is to collect the papers in an edited volume or special issue of a journal.