Science and Mathematics Faculty Grants 2012-2013

James Larrabee (Chemistry & Biochemistry) has received a three-year research grant from the National Science Foundation through NSF's Research in Undergraduate Institutions activity. This is Jim’s fifth NSF-RUI grant in his career. This grant provides funding to enable at least six undergraduate student to participate in his research, which should lead to a better understanding of enzyme mechanisms that could help other researchers design better drugs. Title: Magnetic Circular Dichroism of Dicobalt(II) Enzymes.

Amy Briggs (Computer Science) has been awarded a research grant from the National Science Foundation to support her work in curriculum development for high-school computer science. The award will fund her upcoming leave and participation in the four-year collaborative project Broadening Participation in Computer Science: AP Computer Science Principles Phase II with colleagues at the College Board and Duke University. The goal of the project is to create and deploy a new AP course in Computer Science, designed to promote the interest of more students and increase the numbers of underrepresented students who engage in computer science education and pursue computing careers.

Jason Arndt (Psychology) was awarded funding through the National Science Foundation’s Research Opportunity Award program to enable him to spend part of his 2012-13 leave collaborating with a colleague at the Georgia Institute of Technology examining associative memory processes using Electroencephalography (EEG). Their research project is titled The influence of attention on associative memory in the young and old.

Steve Trombulak (Biology and Environmental Studies) has been awarded a fellowship from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation for a project titled Enhancing the Quality of Instruction in Conservation Biology. The grant will enable Steve to travel to Australia to work with the key developers of “systematic conversation planning” in order to incorporate this new perspective into the conservation biology course he teaches at Middlebury. While in Australia, he will visit the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the first in the world designed using SCP principles and tools.

David Dorman (Mathematics) has been awarded a fellowship from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation for a project titled In Pursuit of Mathematical Biology. This grant supports David’s Spring 2014 leave.   The objective for this grant is to deepen his knowledge of mathematical biology and epidemiology and to hone his ability to teach courses in those areas at the undergraduate level. The grant provides travel funds to enable him to attend workshops and courses and to visit Harvey Mudd College to learn how they designed and implemented their strong mathematical biology major.

The Environmental Studies program has been awarded a grant  by the Northern New England Campus Compact  for a project led by Diane Munroe, Coordinator for Community Based Environmental Studies.  The grant is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Education program and is intended to support NNECC’s Campuses for Environmental Stewardship efforts.  The grant will fund efforts by the ES program and individual affiliated faculty to incorporate community-connected experiences focused on the topical areas of either climate change or water quality into their courses next year.  Participating faculty include Molly Costanza-Robinson (Chemistry, Biochemistry and ES), Michelle McCauley (Psychology), Jeff Munroe (Geology), Jonathan Isham (Economics and ES), Rebecca Kneale Gould (Religion and ES), and Catherine Ashcraft (ES).

Peter Nelson (Geography) has received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop a research partnership with HUD in conjunction with his ongoing cooperative research with the Economic Research Service of USDA. This expanded collaborative effort will use American Housing Survey Micro-Data to further analyze the geography of high cost lending in rural America during the Great Recession.  

Barbara Hofer (Psychology) has received funding for her 2013-14 leave from the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. She will be teaching one course, Virtual Selves: Psychology and Emerging Technology, and conducting research on digital connections and the study-abroad experience. The award covers a stipend and expenses for two study trips in Denmark, as well as housing and round-trip travel.

Susan Watson (Physics) has been awarded supplemental funding from the National Science Foundation to cover travel expenses to Denmark for her and two students for each of the next two years. While at the University of Copenhagen, where her main collaborator has relocated, she and her students will continue the quantum physics research funded by the original grant. In addition, the supplemental funding will cover costs for these students to be trained at the National Center for Nanoscale Systems at Harvard.

John Schmitt (Mathematics), with colleagues from Dartmouth College, Bard College, Haverford College, St. Michael's College, SUNY Albany, Wesleyan University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, has received funding for a series of four conferences on discrete mathematics to be held at various locations in the Northeast over the next two years. The first was hosted by Middlebury at Bread Loaf during September. The main purposes of these conferences are to enhance the national infrastructure for research and education in discrete mathematics by creating and strengthening a regional network of interacting researchers and to facilitate the dissemination of cutting-edge research ideas, methods and results.

Pete Ryan (Geology) has been awarded a grant through the National Science Foundation’s RUI mechanism to research rates and mechanisms of mineral reactions and associated chemical changes that occur as tropical soils mature. The project, titled Landscape-scale Implications of Mineral Reaction Rates and Mechanisms in Tropical Soils: Insights from Soil Chronosequences and Synthesis Experiments, involves field work in Costa Rica during the first year, with one Middlebury undergraduate and collaborators from the University of Costa Rica, followed by lab and analytical work with collaborators at IACT in Granada, Spain that will involve one Middlebury undergraduate and a student from the University of Costa Rica. Over the next two years, four additional undergraduates will work on this project at Middlebury.

Jeff Howarth (Geography) and Jeanne Albert (Center for Teaching, Learning & Research) have each received a small grant to develop a blended approach to courses they’re scheduled to teach this coming year: GEOG 0120 -  Fundamental of GIS and MATH 0100 - A World of Mathematics. These grants are part of the Next Generation Learning Challenges Wave 1 grant initiative based at Bryn Mawr College. The purpose of this initiative is to integrate open source courseware modules available through the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative (CMU OLI) into traditional classroom-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses within a liberal arts college setting to enhance student engagement as a means of improving course completion, persistence in the science/math major, and college completion.

Molly Costanza-Robinson (Environmental Studies and Chemistry & Biochemistry), with co-coordinators at Vassar and Furman, has received funding through the Mellon Foundation’s Faculty Career Enhancement program for an inter-institutional project titled Sustainability in Europe: The Limits of Possibility. This award provided funding for a diverse group of 18 faculty from Vassar, Denison, Furman, DePauw, Claremont-McKenna, and Middlebury (including Rebecca Gould, Andrea Olsen, Lynn Owens, and Helen Young) to embark on a 10-day travel seminar to Denmark and Germany to engage with scholars and community leaders associated with successful environmental sustainability initiatives. The goal is bring back case studies, problem solving strategies, ideas, and inspiration for advancing sustainability education across the curriculum.

Vermont Genetics Network grants for Research in the Biomedical Sciences
Middlebury College is one of the baccalaureate partner institutions participating in a major grant from the National Institutes of Health to the University of Vermont. This grant continues the Vermont Genetics Network support that has been an important source of funding for faculty and student research during the past decade. The following faculty members received individual grants from this program to support their research this year:

Michelle McCauley (Psychology) Renewal of project grant to continue her work developing a new pediatric interview (title: Adapting the Cognitive Interview for Pediatric Health Interviews: Identifying Why the ECI Works). The grant provides funding for summer and academic-year effort from June 2012-May 2013 and includes a summer stipend for one undergraduate summer research student.

Mark Spritzer (Biology) Renewal of project support for ongoing research related to adult neurogenesis and spatial cognition (title: Effects of Testosterone on Spatial Working Memory and Adult Neurogenesis). The grant provides funding for 2012 summer effort and includes summer stipends for three undergraduate students and academic-year support for two additional undergraduate assistants.

Suzanne Gurland (Psychology) New pilot project grant to support research into children’s prior expectancies of their teachers as a causal determinant of the quality of their relationships with those teachers (title: Do children's expectancies determine teacher-student relationship quality?). The grant provides funding for summer effort during 2012 and includes funds for Dr. Gurland and one student to attend the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting.

Mark Spritzer (Biology) has received funding from BioTherapeutix, LLC to support experiments related to research with colleagues at other institutions on the efficacy of various growth factor derivatives in treating the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Frank Winkler (Physics) has recently been awarded funding from the NASA-supported Space Telescope Science Institute for two research projects related to observations made from the Hubble Space Telescope earlier this year. The project Stellar Life and Death in M83: A Hubble-Chandra Perspective, in collaboration with an international team of scientists from the US and Australia and led by  colleague at Johns Hopkins University, is conducting the most detailed study ever undertaken of the galaxy M83, some 15 million light years away. Known as the "southern pinwheel," it  has produced six supernovae over the past century — more than any other galaxy except one.

The project The Remarkable Young Supernova Remnant in NGC 4449, in collaboration with colleagues at STScI, Dartmouth, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, will focus on the remains from a supernova that probably occurred 60-100 years ago. Although no sightings of this event were recorded at the time, today its remnant is the brightest such object known in the universe.

Noah Graham (Physics) has been awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for work with collaborators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dartmouth College, Tübingen University in Germany, and Stellenbosch University in South Africa on a project titled Scattering Theory Casimir Methods and Coherent Structures in the Early Universe. The project, which will involve three undergraduate researchers, will focus particularly on techniques for calculating quantum-mechanical Casimir forces and on how oscillons — stable, localized, self-organizing lumps of nonlinear waves — might affect the process of cosmic reheating that followed the Big Bang.

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