Texas Tech University

Human Development and Family Studies Professor Awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant

by Katie Main

We would like to congratulate Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) Associate Professor, Dr. Zhen Cong, who was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant entitled: "A multi-level dynamically coupled model for evaluating older adults' vulnerability and resiliency to disasters." Dr. Cong is the Principle Investigator (P.I.) of the more than $500,000 grant and her co-P.I. is Dr. Daan Liang, Professor and Interim Director of the National Wind Institute.

According to the NSF website, The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering.

Dr. Zhen CongDr. Cong is a gerontologist, she focuses on older adults' family relationships and their well-being with a cross-cultural perspective. She has been studying the social impact of wind disasters since 2011, with generous support from her colleagues Drs. Daan Liang, Ali Nejat, Kishor Mehta, Bradley Ewing, Weimin Gao, Guofeng Cao, Delong Zuo, Christopher Weiss, Eric Bruning, and Susan Urban-- most of whom are affiliated with the National Wind Institute.

Dr. Cong and Dr. Daan Liang applied for the grant in 2015. It was originally rejected, but Drs. Cong and Liang received valuable feedback.

"The program director gave us very helpful comments and suggestions. We revised it and submitted it again one year later. After several months, it was awarded."

Dr. Cong said she is grateful for all the amazing support she has received from Dr. Liang, her other collaborators and friends, her department, college, and university.

"I'm excited. I cannot wait to start working on this."

With the support of the grant, Dr. Cong said her research will add more granular and textured depictions of older adults under extreme stress, and explore future opportunities and challenges presented by social media and other emerging communication technologies.

"This research will systematically explain fundamental difference between older and younger adults as well as disparities among older adults in factors, processes, and outcomes with respect to preparedness, action taking, and mitigation. A new model will be constructed and validated to guide future disaster-related studies in the presence of aging populations and emerging technologies."

Dr. Cong would like to thank all who have provided generous support. She said in addition to all of the kind and warm support from individuals, the institutional support she has received is also strong.

She said the university awarded the department a proposal stimulus several years ago which paved the way to this grant. Additionally, she said The College of Human Sciences hosts a proposal-awarding program, acknowledging proposal submissions even when they are not funded.

"This encouraged me to continue submitting proposals after the initial failure. Our department provides valuable resources to make this happen. It does take a village."

Dr. Ann Mastergeorge, Human Development and Family Studies department Chairperson, said Dr. Cong has worked diligently to obtain external funding and receiving an NSF grant is very prestigious for the department and the university.

"It is the mission of HDFS and also in our department strategic plan to increase the number of externally funded grants-- especially to NSF and National Institute of Health (NIH). This grant increases our research portfolio visibility and in addition provides research opportunities for graduate students and enhances our collaborations both nationally and internationally."