Science and Mathematics Faculty Grants 2014-2015

Guntram Herb (Geography) was awarded a grant to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute titled On Native Grounds: Studies of Native American Histories and the Land, which was sponsored by the Community College Humanities Association and was in residence at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC for three weeks this summer. This institute provided college and university faculty participants with the opportunity to engage in dialogue with leading scholars in Native American history and scholarship. While at the Institute, Guntram conceptualized a new research project on Native American tribes astride the US-Canada border.

Jeff Howarth (Geography) and a colleague at University of California-Santa Barbara have been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s IUSE program (Improvement in Undergraduate STEM Education) for an interdisciplinary project titled Multimedia Learning Principles for Design-it Yourself Online Instruction of GIS Concepts. The theoretical goal of the project is to evaluate the generalizability of multimedia learning theory to the domain of solving spatial problems with computer-based geographic information systems. The practical goal of the project is to provide STEM educators with evidence-based guidance for presenting instruction online that can help them develop blended learning environments as an alternative to traditional lecture and lab classrooms. At least three undergraduate students will be involved with this project.

Will Amidon (Geology) has received a grant from the National Geographic Society for a project titled Finding Early Martian Landscapes in Idaho. The goal of this research is to understand the role of glacial outburst floods in forming amphitheater-headed canyons on the Snake River Plain of Idaho. This work should provide useful clues to how similar canyons formed on the surface of Mars. Two Middlebury undergraduates will be working with Will on this project.

Matthew Kimble (Psychology) has been awarded a research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health through NIH’s R15 AREA program. The grant provides three years of funding to support a project titled Neurophysiological and Behavioral Studies of Expectancy Bias in Trauma Survivors, which will use electroencephalography and eye tracking technology to better understand how psychological trauma affects how individuals look at the world. The project will involve multiple students through the life of the grant as independent study students, thesis students, and summer and regular semester research assistants. This grant represents Matt Kimble's third NIMH funded project in this research area.

Anne Kelly Knowles (Geography) has been awarded a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation for a project titled Telling the Spatial Story of the Holocaust. This project grew from her ongoing work with the Holocaust Geographies Collaborative, an international group of geographers and historians exploring the geographical dimensions of the Holocaust with spatial methods, notably GIS (geographic information systems). Knowles’ new project will incorporate corpus and computational linguistics as well as GIS, video, and manual methods of geovisualization to represent victims’ experiences of place and time during the Holocaust. Her research will take her to Poland, Lancaster University in the UK, Stanford, USC, and UCLA.

Jeff Munroe (Geology) has been awarded a Franklin Grant from the American Philosophical Society for a project titled Developing a Record of Holocene Environmental Change from an Idaho Ice Cave. The grant will cover field research expenses for Jeff and a Middlebury undergraduate to collect samples from the ice cave as well as the expense of acquiring radiocarbon dates for organic matter within the ice deposit. The goal of the project is to develop a record of winter snowfall and atmospheric dust deposition spanning the past several centuries.

Tom & Pat Manley (Geology) have received a grant from the Lintilhac Foundation for a project titled High-Resolution Bottom Mapping of Lake Champlain. This grant provides funding to begin a long term effort to update the 2005 bottom bathymetric map of Lake Champlain using multibeam technology which Middlebury acquired with a 2011 grant from the National Science Foundation. When completed, this new bottom map will provide a significant increase in the resolution of the lake bottom that is important to the recreation, research and management communities.

David West (Geology) has been awarded a fellowship from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation for a project titled Exploring Iceland’s Active Geology. The grant will support ten days of field investigation in Iceland that will enrich his teaching of structural geology, tectonics, and volcanic hazards in both introductory and upper-level geology courses. The experience will also provide a springboard for organizing an Iceland field course for students during Middlebury College’s recently established Summer Term.

Catherine Combelles (Biology) has received a sabbatical grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to support her 2015-16 academic leave. The grant will cover leave salary and expenses related to research that she will be conducting at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Toulouse, France. This grant will enable Catherine to acquire advanced metabolomic approaches for use in studies on the microenvironment of the developing follicle in cow ovaries.  

Frank Winkler (Emeritus Professor, Physics) has been awarded funding from the NASA-funded Space Telescope Science Institute for his role in a collaborative research project involving researchers at STScI and University of Toronto. This project entails  observations from the Hubble Space Telescope and is titled To be or not to be the Progenitor: The Question about Tycho-B. The goal of the observations is a better understanding of the star that exploded as a supernova in 1572, commonly known as Tycho's Supernova, after the 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe who made careful records of it at the time.

John Schmitt (Mathematics) received a grant from the NSF-sponsored Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications, located on the campus of the University of Minnesota, to attend a workshop this fall titled Probabilistic and Extremal Combinatorics. While there, he presented a poster highlighting his work with two collaborators, one from the University of Georgia and the other a College alumnus.

John Emerson (Mathematics) received a modest grant through the Yale University Provost’s Fund for support of a project  titled Advances in Statistical Software Environments, on which he is working while on academic leave this year. The project grows out of an interest in changing the way statistics is taught,  and  it will develop educational materials and supporting illustrations suited for guiding students in undergraduate courses in using modern statistical computation.

John Schmitt (Mathematics) and colleagues from Dartmouth College, Bard College, Smith College, St. Michael's College, SUNY Albany, Wesleyan University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute have received funding from the National Security Agency  for two conferences this year on discrete mathematics. 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.

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:

Glen Ernstrom (Biology & Neuroscience) Project grant for work on Genetic Analysis of Neurotransmitter Release in C. Elegans. The grant provides funding for summer and academic-year effort from June 2014-May 2015 and includes summer stipends for two undergraduate summer research students.

 Clarissa Parker (Psychology & Neuroscience) Pilot support for a new project titled Genome-wide Association for Ethanol Sensitivity in the DO Mouse Population. The grant provides funding for 2014 summer effort and travel to present a paper at a conference in Uppsala, Sweden. Clarissa also applied for and was awarded funds to support an undergraduate summer research student.

 An-Gayle Vasiliou (Chemistry and Biochemistry) Project grant to support research into Thermal Composition of Biomass: Molecular Pathways for Sulfur Chemistry. The grant provides funding for summer effort during 2014 and includes funds for two summer research students.

Catherine Combelles (Biology) has been awarded an R15 research grant through the National Institutes of Health’s AREA (Academic Research Enhancement Award) program. This grant will support work to determine the effects of endocrine-disrupting compounds on the oocyte and the ovarian follicle, the structure that nurtures the developing oocyte. Because the health of adults, neonates, fetuses, and embryos all depend upon normal oocyte development, the findings will help to provide a foundation for improving not only female reproductive but also adult health. The grant funds research at Middlebury, the University of New Hampshire, and Emory University, including supplies and travel to conferences as well as Catherine’s 15-16 academic leave. At least 15 undergraduates will be involved in this research over the  next three years.

Peter Nelson (Geography) and a colleague at Point Park University have received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled International Rural Gentrification; research teams from the United Kingdom and France are also funded through their own respective national funding agencies. The entire project is part of the Open Research Area funding scheme for international social science research that now involves agencies in four European countries as well as the NSF. The objective of this multi-national collaborative project is to undertake the first in-depth cross-national integrated comparative study of the theory, forms, and dynamics of rural gentrification encompassing France, the UK, and the USA. The US team will compile a comprehensive database of rural gentrification indicators for each of the three countries and then identify a set of communities in the US in which to carry out in-depth case study analysis focusing on the different forms of rural gentrification and the various actors involved in the process. Scholars from the UK and France will do similar case study analyses in their respective countries. In addition to funding all the costs of the research in the US, the grant will also fund trips to Europe to meet with the entire research team; this research will be the focus of Pete’s academic leave in 2015-16.Three undergraduate students will be involved in this research.     

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