A drone shot of the Yuen Campus in Hong Kong

Provost's Global Faculty Awards

2022-23 Latin America PGFA Recipients

Academic Events

Neurocritical Care in South America

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Burden of Disease Reports indicate that Latin America has the highest incidence of intracranial injury worldwide due to high rates of road traffic crashes and violence. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) accounts for around 85% of all trauma-related fatalities, yet there remains a serious lack of both the resources available in various Latin American localities and of epidemiological information regarding the existence of neurological critical care units (NCCUs) and their capabilities in South America. As such, it is of utmost importance that low-income countries develop their own research in neurological intensive therapy.

This project will add the University of Chicago as a co-sponsor of the upcoming “Neurocritical Care in South America” conference planned to take place in September in Santiago Chile. The project supports a traumatic brain injury day-of-activities with leadership by investigators from the University of Chicago and participation of Latin American Brain Injury Consortium (LABIC) experts and global leaders in neurotrauma. The day will include educational lecture series, expert discussion panels with participation of local investigators, and research for a in developing collaborative research proposals. There will also be a post-conference development of written summaries of research proposals in order to enhance and maintain the collaborative process. The project will set the ground for future collaborations between UChicago, the LABIC organization, and key global neurotrauma educators and researchers.  

UChicago faculty leads: Christos Lazaridis, Department of Neurology (PI); Fernando Goldenberg, Department of Neurology
Local partner: Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Pan-American Perspectives on Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer, specifically pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, is a very common and deadly cancer worldwide. In fact, death from pancreatic cancer is greatly increasing and is projected to surpass colorectal cancer as the second leading cause of cancer death in just ten years. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer are typically non-specific and do not present until later stages of the disease, making detection – especially early detection – incredibly difficult. Interestingly, notable pancreatic cancer disparities exist in both the U.S., where black Americans have the highest rates of pancreatic cancer, and Brazil, where pancreatic cancer incidence and mortality were greatest in states with the highest socioeconomic deprivation.

This interdisciplinary team of PIs will organize a virtual collaborative symposium to promote academic collaboration on pancreatic cancer diagnosis and management. The symposium will convene UChicago experts and Brazilian colleagues at the Cancer Institute of São Paulo University (ICESP) and enable cross-cultural exchange of clinical experiences in pancreatic cancer epidemiology, diagnosis, early detection, and treatment. It will also cultivate important research collaborations between the two institutions in order to identify innovative approaches to prevent and early detection via endoscopic techniques, biomarkers, and genetic testing.

UChicago faculty leads: Namrata Setia, Department of Pathology (PI); Uzma Siddiqui, Department of Medicine; Sonia Kupfer, Department of Medicine
Local partner: Instituto do Câncer do Estado de São Paulo (ICESP)

Exploratory Trips

The Transpacific: Mapping Artistic Exchanges between Asia and the Americas

The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago is developing a major exhibition, The Transpacific: Mapping Artistic Exchanges between Asia and the Americas, opening Fall 2024. The exhibition uses the Pacific Ocean as a point of departure to explore how different types and moments of exchange produced new artistic forms as artists and intellectuals traversed the Pacific.

This exploratory trip to Brazil will establish a collaborative strategy with regional partners and conduct comprehensive research for for the exhibition in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasília.

UChicago faculty leads: Orianna Cacchione (PI), Wu Hung, Claudia Brittenham, Department of Art History
Local partner: Instituto Tomie Ohtake

New Drivers of Migration: Violence & Migration in North and Central America

By its very nature, migration requires cross-border communication between scholars, governments, and civil society. This project will reconvene a group of academics and advocates addressing migration in Mexico, the U.S., and Central America for a conversation about the impact of violence from state and non-state actors as the new dominant factor in determining migration flows in the Central and North America regions.

This year, as the pandemic hopefully nears its end and migration patterns settle into new, more stable patterns, the cohort is planning a smaller exchange of visits between the principal organizers of the 2019 conference to prepare for future roundtable meetings. These visits – four in total – will allow UChicago and Colegio de México faculty to travel to the others’ campus to discuss changes in research models, travel restrictions, and migration policy and plan for a 2023-24 resumption of a full regional roundtable.

UChicago faculty lead: Angela García, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice
Local partner: El Colegio de México

Research Projects

The Inca Road and Long-Term Development in Peru

This project aims to explore how economic corridors at the time of the Spanish conquest shaped subsequent patterns of economic and social development in Peru, dating from the period of Spanish colonization through independence and up to the present day, opening a new chapter in cutting-edge research on the Americas by bringing critical primary materials into the digital age for the first time. Overall, the project seeks to advance research and public dialogue on the long-term economic and social consequences of the Inca Road across the Andean region in South America. 

The PIs will examine the Ministry of Culture’s maps of the Inca Road, overlaying historical maps of pre-colonial roads, infrastructure, and cultural heritage on top of contemporary digital maps they have created in order to merge the historical data to their data set. Through this, the project will deepen public awareness of previously underappreciated consequences of the Inca Road, as well as provide a clear answer to their hypothesis about long-term development: wealthier and more connected areas on the eve of colonization became poor in subsequent centuries due to the extractive nature of colonization whereas poorer areas at the time of colonization became wealthier over time as colonizers settled there in large numbers and fostered long-term growth.

UChicago faculty lead: Michael Albertus, Department of Political Science
Local partner: Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE); Ministry of Culture, Government of Peru

Reducing regional inequalities in Brazil through more accurate and equitable estimation of property taxes

Among the few taxes that Brazilian municipalities are allowed to charge – and can therefore rely on as revenues from its own boundaries – are property taxes. There is no federal legislation that dictates how to establish the market value, so it is up to the municipal ordinary law to define it and provide the parameters to be adopted for the evaluation. Given its impact on the municipalities’ revenues, the need for the estimation of this plan has led to regional inequalities that arise from the availability of required data, complexity of estimation models, and financial constraints to purchase software. As such, this project will advance the estimation of mass appraisal models using spatial regimes regressions, with the ultimate goal of reducing regional inequalities in municipal planning in Brazil and elsewhere.

This project will work with an extended research project that contributes to reducing the regional inequalities in municipal planning in Brazil and elsewhere through the more accurate and equitable estimation of property taxes. To do this, the spatial econometric method presented by Anselin and Amaral (2021) – which lets the data determine the spatial regimes endogenously by integrating the regression fit optimization into a spatially constrained clustering algorithm – will be fully implemented and documented as free open sources additions to PySAL, a Python Library for spatial analytical methods. This will allow for easy, free, accessible, and scalable estimation of endogenous regimes models, including housing models and generic value plans. Ultimately, the project aims at achieving three central goals: to further develop new estimators for endogenous spatial regimes, implement these estimators as free and open software, and apply these methods and tools to a research project about housing markets and mass appraisal in Brazil.

UChicago faculty lead: Luc Anselin, Department of Sociology
Local partner: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG)

Defining the role of Cx46 in breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women in developing and developed countries in the world. In Chile and the U.S., breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that vesicles released into the extracellular space (extracellular vesicles) by tumor cells circulate in body fluids, including blood and urine. In collaboration with Dr. Rodrigo Acuña in his laboratory in Chile, Dr. Viviana Berthoud explores the mechanisms of breast cancer in hopes of developing novel therapies to delay or stop its metastasis. This project looks to further the effort to develop an assay to determine whether the transfer of information from the Cx46-containing EVs to cells expressing connexins present in normal breast tissue occurs through connexin channels (instead of by EV internalization).

Understanding the mechanism underlying the participation of Cx46 in breast cancer and metastasis would help assess breast cancer progression and develop novel therapies to stop or delay the cellular processes of pro-tumoral transformation. Overall, the project is a vital opportunity to strengthen the collaboration and to contribute to the future development of novel therapies that have milder side effects than those current in use but maintain the potential to improve quality of life for breast cancer patients across the globe.  

UChicago faculty lead: Viviana Berthoud Barrandeguy, Department of Pediatrics
Local partner: Universidad del Desarrollo

Why Do States Do What They Do?: Evidence from Colombian Paramilitarism

A central issue in social science exists in the origins of and incentives to build effective states. Both historically and in the present day, it is clear that states vary greatly in their capacity to construct effective states, with noticeable gaps in their respective abilities to tax, regulate, and provide key public goods like order and infrastructure. In Colombia, the state has a history of very weak central authority that has lacked the monopoly of violence and faced a plethora of different armed groups. As such, this project will use the experience of Colombian paramilitarism to test hypotheses about the sources of variation in state capacity.

With a team of RAs and journalists who will create a dataset of the organization of the fronts, their activities, and their composition, the project will identify paths towards more effective state authority in Colombia. The project will culminate in the production of at least two papers based on the novel data set, the first of which will focus on what explains the variation in the extent of public good projection and violence across groups, and the second of which will examine how patrimonial the fronts were by analyzing the nature of the organization and their respective networks. Colombia is still plagued with insecurity and a severe under provision of public goods, and understanding how the society may be able to counteract these problems is critical to build a better future.

UChicago faculty lead: Maria Angélica Bautista, Harris School of Public Policy 
Local partner: Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia)

Comparison of Intracranial Pressure Behavior Under Pulsatile versus Continuous Arterial Blood Flow in a Porcine Model of Intracranial Hypertension

Refractory intracranial hypertension (ICHTN) is a catastrophic neurological event observed in the context of acute severe brain injury. A progressive phenomenon, ICHTN often culminates in compromise of brain perfusion and leads to brain death. In collaboration with a researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), an Argentine government agency that oversees institutional scientific activity done in Argentina, and one at the Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires (HIBA), Dr. Mansour successfully developed a porcine model of intracranial hypertension. The collaboration has engaged researchers within the University of Chicago sections of cardio-thoracic surgery, department of neurosurgery, and the animal lab, and has more than proved to be productive and resilient in its exploration of innovative and novel approaches to management of acute brain injury.

With this funding, the team’s main goal is to solidify and enhance the ongoing collaboration between the University of Chicago, CONICET, and HIBA to allow the successful generation of invaluable and novel data that will be crucial to the understanding and development of interventions for the management of ICHTN. Their research has great potential to be groundbreaking, and it will be leveraged to explore novel therapeutic approaches to the treatment of acute ICP crisis.

UChicago faculty leads: Ali Mansour, Department of Medicine (PI); Fernando Goldenberg, Department of Neurology
Local partner: National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires

Virtual Reality: a critical immersive perspective from Rio de Janeiro

The goal of foreign language classes is for undergraduate students to develop a translingual and transcultural competence. One of the ways a student can develop such competence is through an immersive experience abroad; however, not all language students at the University of Chicago have the opportunity to visit the target language countries. As such, this project aims to use virtual reality (VR) videos to foster an inclusive and accessible learning environment for all UChicago undergraduate students learning about cultures of Hispanic and Portuguese-speaking countries.

More specifically, the funding will be used to establish a partnership with the research group “Turismo Audiovisual e Educação Turística” from Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF). Through the partnership, the researchers will be able to work together and develop critically relevant materials that can help Portuguese students at UChicago to immerse themselves in relevant social and cultural contexts: students will actively participate in the analysis of the target language, culture, and identities in an affordable, controlled, and guided setting. By working with Rio de Janeiro in particular, the project will showcase the diversity and contradictory city that summarizes the Brazilian reality, as well as give students access to materials that are rich in quality and cultural significance.

UChicago faculty leads: Juliano Saccomani (PI), Ana Maria Lima, Claudia Quevedo-Webb, Maria Cecilia Lozada, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Local partner: Universidade Federal Fluminense

Improving the Detection of Cardiac Amyloidosis in Latin America Using Deep Learning

Cardiac Amyloidosis (CA), a progressive disorder in which misfolded amyloid proteins deposit in the myocardium, is an increasingly recognized and potentially treatable cause of heart failure in older adults but remains underdiagnosed and undertreated, in many regions of the world. In South America, a lack of recognition of the disorder, limited availability of multimodality imaging, a lack of awareness, and high cost of available therapies all contribute to delays in CA diagnosis, which often result in critical delays in initiation of life-prolonging therapies. There is therefore a critical need to improve upon the current paradigm for the echocardiographic detection of CA.

This project will address these issues through an international multicenter study to curate a large, echocardiography database of CA patients, through which researchers will identify the prevalence and prognostic significance of classical CA features with an ethnically diverse and worldwide cohort and develop ideal deep learning (DL) echocardiography models to improve the detection of CA. Culminating in the publication of several manuscripts as well as a grand rounds presentation within the target regions, this project will help to raise awareness regarding the prevalence, detection, and treatment of CA in South America, as well as potentially lead to earlier CA diagnoses and reductions in downstream testing and healthcare costs.

UChicago faculty leads: Jeremy Slivnick (PI), Roberto Lang, Department of Medicine
Local partner: Centro Privado de CardiologíaInstituto Cardiovascular de Buenos Aires

Training Initiatives

STEM-OUT Mexico 2022

Mexico produces immense human talent in STEM fields, but the resources available for trainees are highly limited. Students who are incredibly eager to learn and contribute to scientific endeavors have very few opportunities to do so, and graduate students and postdocs in Mexico regularly face obstacles that inhibit them from establishing international collaborations, developing professional networks, expanding their horizons, and improving research outcomes.

Over the past three years, Drs. Hernandez and Pineda-Catalan have coordinated STEM-Out Mexico to try to alleviate these obstacles, providing much-needed research opportunities to Mexican students. STEM-Out Mexico is an initiative to train University of Chicago Scientists-in-Training (UChicago-ST), i.e., graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, in acquiring skills that are essential for STEM communication and outreach in an international environment. This edition, with the support of the Provost’s Global Faculty Award, the project will reinforce a UChicago Postdoctoral Fellow with training to manage the STEM-Out Mexico program and will develop our collaboration with Clubes de Ciencia, initiate new collaborations with other U.S. and Mexican Institutions, and expand existing ones within a unique and controlled environment that provides helpful international experience.

UChicago faculty lead(s): Sonia Hernandez, Department of Surgery; Oscar Pineda-Catalan, Division of Biological Sciences
Local partner: Clubes de Ciencia Mexico (CdeCMx)

Economics for Everyone

There is a growing sense among the political and economics communities in Latin America that knowledge in economics is not spread equally. Individuals are having to make decisions with limited and biased information, ultimately disrupting democratic processes and affecting a country’s long-run development trajectory. The type of critical thinking taught in an economics class would be particularly useful for students in Latin America in that it would cultivate a broader public understanding of the contemporary world through basic economic principles. As such, this project will bring economics education to Latin American students through Professor John List’s popular undergraduate course Economics for Everyone (E4E).

Together, the Joint Initiative for Latin American Experimental Economics, the Universidad Andrés Bello (UNAB), and the Colombian universities Universidad de Los Andes and Universidad del Rosario will adapt the E4E course such that it becomes appropriate and relevant to Latin American students, to test whether providing economics training to students can lead to more informed decision making and civic participation, and to student how a program can be scaled up to student populations at other institutions. The researchers will conduct a 5-day workshop at UNAB to discover the topics that resonate the most with Latin American students, as well as in what areas economic knowledge seems scarcest and most helpful. The ultimate objective of the project is capacity-building at the partner institutions and beyond that is self-sustainable after the initial investments in program development.

UChicago faculty lead: John List, Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics
Local partners: Joint Initiative for Latin American Experimental Economics, Universidad Andrés Bello, Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia), Universidad del Cema, Universidad del Rosario

Trauma Training in Cuba: A Chicago–Havana Partnership

Trauma is the leading cause of death of young people in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) and causes more deaths than malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis combined. As such, trauma teaching remains a top priority throughout the globe to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with trauma. In Cuba, however, there is no standardized method to teach trauma across the country, despite it being home to the largest medical school in the world, the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).

The Trauma Evaluation and Management (TEAM) curriculum, a one-day course administered by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), combines a morning of didactic instruction with afternoon case discussions and has proven to a very pragmatic, well-received, and low-cost tool for medical students and surgical residents in Cuba and abroad. This project aims to add simulation training in life-saving trauma interventions, providing comprehensive training in a standardized fashion to medical students and even surgical residents of different backgrounds. This holds great significance academically as the surgical literature supports the use of standardized, simulation-based trauma training courses to improve skills, confidence, and knowledge in trauma management. On a broader scale, the project will expand and enhance a teaching course that can be promulgated throughout the Americas to improve the quality of trauma care globally and lower its associated mortality rates.

UChicago faculty lead(s): Tanya Zakrison (PI), Selwyn Rogers, Department of Surgery
Local partner: Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM)