2015 Awards

UCSUR Names Recipients of 15th Annual Steven D. Manners Awards

Each year, the University of Pittsburgh University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) awards the Steven D. Manners Faculty Development Awards to promising research projects in the social, behavioral, and policy sciences on campus. These awards honor the memory of Steve Manners, a sociologist who began working at the Center in 1974 and served as its Assistant Director from 1989 until his death in September 2000. His research and service to the Center and the University community were dedicated to improving social conditions in the urban environment.

UCSUR made the first Steven Manners awards in 2001 and this year is awarding two Research Development Grants to support pilot research with scientific merit and a strong likelihood that the project will lead to subsequent external peer reviewed funding.

The following (2) received the 2015 Manners Award from UCSUR:

Carissa A. Low, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of Medicine and Psychology, Biobehavioral Oncology Program, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

“Technology-based assessment of stress during cancer treatment.”

The proposed pilot study will use passive data collected by mobile devices (i.e., smartphones and wearable direct-to-consumer fitness trackers with built-in heart rate monitors) to predict ecological momentary assessment of psychological stress during cancer treatment. The goals of the proposed research are (1) to test the feasibility and acceptability of using smartphone and wearable wrist sensors to predict stress ratings during chemotherapy for colorectal cancer and (2) to develop preliminary machine learning models to predict patient-reported stress from passively sensed data. The proposed study represents the first effort to integrate passive smartphone and physiological sensor data to predict stress as well as an initial attempt to develop automated stress detection models in the context of active cancer treatment, a time of significant and fluctuating daily psychological stress. The pilot data collected from 25 patients over four weeks of chemotherapy will be critical to establish feasibility and proof-of-concept for this work. If feasibility and preliminary models are supported, these data will guide an external funding application to develop and test a real-time behavioral intervention to reduce stress during cancer treatment.


Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh.

“The Intersection of Race and Socioeconomic Status in Early Family Life.”

Racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps appear in early childhood, persist into adulthood, and undermine long-term well-being. Existing research typically examines whether socioeconomic inequalities explain racial skills disparities; however, a growing literature exploring the intersection of race and SES reveal that the academic returns to SES differ for Black and White families. The processes underlying within-SES racial gaps remain unclear. Yet, increasing evidence suggests that differential proximity to (dis)advantage and corresponding disparities in social capital, cultural capital, and wealth shape family life in critical ways. Nonetheless, no studies have directly explored these pathways. This qualitative study will identify the causal pathways through which distal family factors influence micro-level processes in the family, and thus inform future empirical work and theoretical perspectives on how racial and economic skills gaps emerge and take shape.