Our Initiatives

Incubating Ideas at the Cutting Edge


We create and nurture initiatives from the most innovative urban scholars.

The Mansueto Institute provides a platform for researchers and scholars to incubate and anchor multidisciplinary initiatives. This includes support from a data scientist on staff, communications, and development. Each of our 7 initiatives affiliated with the Mansueto Institute is led by one or more faculty members.

We look for innovators across UChicago who are leading initiatives with the potential for local and global impact. Our initiatives share a commitment to the highest level of scholarship in the realms of science, the arts, humanistic inquiry, and practice. Initiatives are continually being sought and created towards incubating efforts that can grow and become self-sustaining.

Some initiatives focus primarily on scientific research and disciplinary frontiers, while others on learning and engagement. All initiatives share a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach to tackling the challenges and opportunities of cities.

The Mansueto Institute is currently accepting proposals for faculty-led research projects. Learn more and respond to the call here.

Million Neighborhoods

Faculty Lead

Luis Bettencourt

Professor, Ecology and Evolution and the College

Tackling Human Societies’ Greatest Challenges Neighborhood by Neighborhood

The Million Neighborhoods initiative is a collaborative network of diverse organizations working locally in Chicago and in neighborhoods throughout the world towards more sustainable and equitable human development. The network builds a common framework, tools, and data for mapping, planning, and coordinating solutions towards fulfilling the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Global Sustainable Development.

Kreisman Initiative for Housing Law and Policy

Faculty Leads

Luis Bettencourt and Emily Talen

Professor, Ecology and Evolution

Professor, Urbanism

Building a Community of Scholars to Advance Housing Research and Practice

The Kreisman Initiative for Housing Law and Policy brings together students, faculty, and professionals from multiple disciplines to develop new integrative knowledge, data, and policy about housing. The initiative focuses on the development of research fellows and graduate students with an interest in housing careers, and connects fundamental perspectives developed at the University with challenges in particular settings in the United States and around the world.

Center for Spatial Data Science

Faculty Lead

Luc Anselin

Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Sociology

Applying Spatial Analysis to Drive Breakthroughs in Social Science

The Center for Spatial Data Science (CSDS) asserts that location represents an important dimension of any social science research problem. From economics to criminology, or from sociology to public health, researchers at the CSDS create state-of-the-art methods and tools to demonstrate how space matters across leading edge problems in research and practice.

Array of Things

Faculty Lead

Charlie Catlett

Senior Computer Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory

Creating Sensor Networks and Software Tools to Promote Health and Well-being in Cities

The Array of Things is a network of interactive, modular sensors that collect real-time data on a city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. The initiative enables anyone to access data about climate, air quality, noise, and other factors that affect the livability of our built and natural environments.

Environmental Frontiers

Faculty Leads

Liz Moyer and Sabina Shaikh

Associate Professor, Department of Geophysical Sciences; and

Director, Program on the Global Environment

Empowering Students to Create a Scientifically Robust, Sustainable Future

Environmental Frontiers gives UChicago students a scientific and practical understanding of urban sustainable development, starting with projects on campus. Students work under the guidance of faculty to develop research and applied projects that explore and enhance campus sustainability, with an eye toward broader impact into whole urban areas and their neighborhoods.

Urban Architecture and Design

Faculty Lead

Bill Brown

Karla Scherer Distinguished Service Professor in American Culture; A Partnership with UChicago Arts

Advancing Urban Design through Innovative Research, Conceptualization, and Training

Urban Architecture and Design seeks to transform how we envision the future of the built environment. The initiative brings together UChicago faculty and the world’s leading design practitioners to pursue research, programs, and pedagogy that face the challenge of today’s environmental, social, and economic imperatives.

Urban Cognition Lab

Faculty Lead

Marc Berman

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology

Exploring How Urban Landscapes Affect Human Cognition and Decision Making

The Urban Cognition Lab investigates how the design of the physical environment affects an individual’s brain and behavior. Scientists develop experiments, methodologies, and instrumentation for discovering how people respond, physically and cognitively, to different kinds of places.  Their findings help spatial designers, policymakers, and planners build urban spaces that better foster humanwell-being and social life.

Working Groups

As stepping stones toward Initiatives, the Mansueto Institute supports faculty-led Working Groups, which foster interdisciplinary discussions and collaboration on themes related to the future of urban resilience, inclusivity, and prosperity. Themes may deal with theory, methods and/or new datasets, and have a localized focus while creating generalizable knowledge for cities globally.

Trauma Interest Work Group

Faculty Steering Committee Members from the Biological Sciences and Social Sciences Divisions

The Trauma Interest Work Group (TIWG) promotes the scientific, interdisciplinary understanding of trauma, and works to improve equity and justice on the South Side of Chicago and beyond. We do this through education, scholarship, clinical care, community engagement, and advocacy.