NRT Community-Engaged Design Projects

NRT trainees work in multidisciplinary teams with community stakeholders to solve challenges important to the community

A core element of the CASBBI NRT experience is participation in a year-long community-engaged design project. Teams of NRT trainees are immersed in community settings, challenging the traditional hierarchies between researchers and participants by engaging community stakeholders as full participants in the research process. The NRT trainees work with community stakeholders to identify challenges and needs within a community, formulate a research question, and engage in participatory design to develop and test ecologically valid solutions.

Are you or an organization that you work with interested in partnering with the training program to solve problems that are important to the communities that you serve? Click here to learn more. 


2020-2021 Projects

Project 1: RISE-OUT: Risks and socio-ecological factors associated with opioid use treatment

Overdose deaths in Virginia increased by more than 48% between September 2019 and September 2020. This community-engaged design project seeks to identify the socio-ecological risk factors for opioid overdose emergency room visits that are not collected as part of traditional overdose reports. The research team is developing a county-level risk model using publicly available data and is identifying treatment-related risk factors using original data generated through surveys of patients and healthcare providers. The team collaborated with academics, peer recovery coaches, opioid treatment providers, and individuals in recovery from opioid use disorder and recently received funding from CASBBI to expand data collection. View their Spring 2021 NRT Retreat presentation slides here.

Angeela Acharya
Computer Science PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort
Rebecca Bates
Nursing PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort
Stefanie Gonçalves
Clinical Psychology PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort
Alyssa Izquierdo
Clinical Psychology PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort

Project 2: Students with disabilities in COVID-19: Parents’ perspective

The COVID-19 pandemic forced most schools in the United States to an online learning format. This community-engaged design project is investigating how COVID-19 has impacted students with disabilities and their families in the DC area. The research team is collecting information about student services, activities, and mental health from parents and caregivers of students with disabilities, through daily and weekly surveys and qualitative interviews. The team collaborated with stakeholders from Fairfax Special Education PTA, FREDLA, Georgetown, and Total Family Care Coalition. View their Spring 2021 NRT Retreat presentation slides here.

Fahim Faisal
Computer Science PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort
Jillian Nelson
Clinical Psychology PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort
Lindsay Owen
Educational Psychology and Special Education PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort
Lily Spinelli
Masters Social Work
2020-2021 Cohort

Project 3: IMPACT-PD: Improving messaging between patients and their care team in Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disorder that includes both physical and cognitive symptoms. This community-engaged design project seeks to improve symptom monitoring in Parkinson’s Disease by developing an app that can be used by patients and their care team. The research team is conducting a user-needs survey and is exploring ways to collect and deliver meaningful data that empowers patients. The team is collaborating with stakeholders including patients with Parkinson’s Disease, caregivers, neurologists, and representatives from PD Avengers and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. View their Spring 2021 NRT Retreat presentation slides here.

Keri Gladhill
Psychology PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort
Shriniwas Patwardhan
Bioengineering PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort
Lindsay Shaffer
Psychology PhD Program
2020-2021 Cohort

For Community Partners

The CASBBI NRT program connects teams of graduate students with community partners to conduct a year-long research project. The goal of these projects is to develop solutions that directly address urgent community needs. Click here to read about the 2020-2021 research projects. 

Our network of partners is essential to the success of our NRT program. If you are interested in working with the NRT program, please contact Siddhartha Sikdar, Director of the NRT Program, at ssikdar@gmu.edu

Benefits to partnering with the CASBBI NRT program

  • Have a voice in shaping research and outcomes relevant to the communities you serve
  • Connect with Mason graduate students from different disciplines who are interested in developing solutions relevant to community needs
  • Establish a pipeline for aspiring scholars in the community that you serve to the University
  • Grow and expand your network to include professionals in other sectors

Ways to be involved

  • Participate in informational interviews with the NRT students to help them understand the complex dimensions of the problems faced by the communities you serve
  • Connect students to others in your network who might be willing to share their perspectives on community needs and potential solutions
  • Brainstorm with the students to help them identify workable solutions or approaches 
  • Do you have another idea for how to partner with the NRT to solve problems that are important to you? We’d love to hear it! Please contact Siddhartha Sikdar, Director of the NRT Program at ssikdar@gmu.edu.