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Four Penn Law professors awarded major grants in support of research

September 03, 2019

Four Penn Law scholars have been named the recipients of major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. William Maul Measey Professor of Law Tom Baker, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History Sarah Barringer Gordon, Professor of Law Allison Hoffman, and Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice Senior Fellow and Academic Director Paul Heaton have each been awarded grants in support of their vital research, scholarship and other work within the academic community. 

“Our professors are at the forefront of interdisciplinary research and scholarship in many fields, among them legal history, health care law, and criminal justice. These grants will allow them to advance their important work, enriching the intellectual life of the Law School and the legal academy as a whole,” said Ted Ruger, the Law School’s Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded Gordon and Kevin Waite, Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Durham University, a $242,000 collaborative research grant for their project, “The Long Road to Freedom: Biddy Mason (1818–1891) and the Making of Black Los Angeles.” The NEH is an independent federal agency which “supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.”

Gordon and Waite were selected on the basis of their proposal to co-author a book and create a website detailing the story of freedwoman Biddy Mason, who played a pivotal role in developing the First African Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Gordon is an expert on religion in American public life and the law of church and state. Much of her work focuses on the ways that religious liberty developed over the course of American national history. Waite is a political historian of the nineteenth century United States with a focus on slavery, imperialism, and the American West.

Heaton and former Quattrone Center fellow Amanda Bergold have been awarded $175,000 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their project, “Improving Filler/Suspect Similarity in Eyewitness Lineups Using Facial Recognition Systems.” The NSF is an independent federal agency created with a mission “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; [and] to secure the national defense[.]” The agency funds projects in mathematics, computer science and the social sciences.

Heaton’s and Bergold’s project will examine the use of facial recognition software in eyewitness lineups. Through this work, they expect to develop core insights that can enable law enforcement agencies to create better eyewitness lineups that reduce erroneous identifications, which are a leading contributor to wrongful convictions. Heaton is an expert on legal and regulatory program and policy evaluation; his research aims to apply methodological insights from economics to inform issues in legal and criminal justice policy. Bergold, now an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Marist College, is a social psychologist who studies how the principles of psychology can be applied to the legal system. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) awarded a grant of $162,000 to Baker and Hoffman in support of their work to organize the 2020 Health Insurance Exchange Conference, “Ten Years After the ACA: Imagining Health Insurance Futures.” The RWJF is the United States’ largest philanthropic organization dedicated solely to health, and supports research on issues including substance abuse and improving access to health care.

With the Health Insurance Exchange Research Group of the Leonard Davis Institute of the University of Pennsylvania, Baker and Hoffman will plan the Spring 2020 invitation-only conference, the seventh in an annual series of conferences that brings together researchers, state and federal public officials, and private sector business leaders to discuss the possible futures of health insurance and the role of health insurance exchanges.

Baker is is an expert on insurance whose research explores insurance, risk, and responsibility. Hoffman is an expert on health care law and policy whose work examines the purposes and effects of health insurance regulation.