Faculty Grants 2015-2016

Ioana Uricaru (Film and Media Culture) has received a major prize from the Romanian National Center for Cinema’s annual production support competition. This grant provides production support for a film titled Honeymoon/Lemonade which  tells the story of a Romanian single mother who is a recent immigrant to the US. Lemonade was previously developed through the Cannes Film Festival's Cinefondation Residency and the Sundance Screenwriters' and Directors' Labs. This project is the focus of Ioana's academic leave next year as a writer director. The grant amount of €656,000 was the largest awarded in this year’s competition and will cover about 70% of the film’s costs.

Lorraine Besser (Philosophy) has received support from a Templeton Foundation-funded initiative called the Happiness and Well-Being Project, based at St. Louis University. She and a collaborator at the University of Virginia received a two year grant to work on an interdisciplinary project titled What is the Good Life? The Happy Life, the Perfectionist Life, or the Psychologically Rich Life? This project investigates the possibility that a psychologically rich life is a candidate for the good life. They will conduct a series of studies to determine whether or not people consider a psychologically rich life to be a good life and to determine whether such people structure their lives differently from people who consider happiness or perfection to be the good life. 

Ioana Uricaru (Film and Media Culture) has been awarded one of this year’s Berlin Prizes by the American Academy in Berlin in support of Paperclip, a screenplay  and film project that she will be working on during her academic leave in 2016-2017. This residential fellowship provides a stipend and housing during Fall 2016 when she will be doing research in German museums, libraries, and archives related to the screenplay, which is set in German at the end of World War II.  

Nick Muller (Economics) has received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency for two different collaborative research projects. With colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University, he is working on a project titled Air, Climate and Energy (ACE) Center: Science Supporting Solutions. The goal of this research is to explore the interface between air pollution, climate change and energy use. With colleagues at the University of California-Davis, he is working on a project titled Optimal Energy Portfolios to Sustain Economic Advantage, Achieve GHG Targets, and Minimize PM2. This research explores air pollution, climate change, and economic activity in California. These grants provide salary funding for his 17-18 academic leave and summers for the next three years.

Ata Anzali (Religion) has been awarded a fellowship from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation for a project titled A Comparative Exploration of Sufi Sacred Spaces: The Cases of North India and the Balkans. The grant will fund travel to the Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia, and Kosovo and to northern India to enable Ata to learn, first-hand, about the lived experience of Muslim devotees in Sufi sacred spaces. The goal of this project is to help Ata complement his text-based understanding of the rich tradition of Sufism and thus enhance his ability to teach about it.  

Tom Manley (Geology) has received a grant from the Lintilhac Foundation for the second year of a project titled High-Resolution Bottom Mapping of Lake Champlain. This long term effort will update the 2005 bottom bathymetric map of Lake Champlain and provide a significant increase in the resolution of the map of the lake bottom that is important to the recreation, research, and management communities.   

Pat Manley (Geology) has been awarded a fellowship from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation for a project titled Reading the Rocks: A History of Modern Geology. The grant will fund travel in England and Scotland this summer to geologic locations that are key to understanding the history of modern geology and to museums and historic sites that will bring to life the geologists who founded this field. Pat’s goal is to enhance her teaching of introductory and advanced geology by adding sections on the history of geologic thought.

William Hart (History) has received a one month library research grant from the Friends of the Princeton University Library to support research in Princeton’s Rare Books collection during the coming year. This grant will help support his 2016-17 academic leave when he will be working on a book project titled, I Am a Man: Martin Freeman and the Cant of Colonization. Hart’s project uses the life of Martin Freeman (Middlebury College, Class of 1849)--the third African American to enroll at Middlebury College, who served as teacher and president of Liberia College between 1864 and his death in 1889--as a window onto the nineteenth-century project of racial removal. To more fully understand Freeman’s desire to emigrate and to explain his struggles in Liberia, Hart will consult a number of primary-source tracts that argue acutely for relocating free African Americans abroad; that explain to American readers the critical work of the American Colonization Society in “saving” African Americans and continental Africa from herself; and that address how to deal with the cultural, political, and financial difficulties faced by colonizationists in Liberia. 

Jon Isham (Economics and Environmental Studies) received a Fulbright Scholar Award for teaching/research in Ghana during his academic leave in 2016-2017. Jon and his family will spend 10 months in Ghana at Ashesi University College, the first residential liberal arts college in Sub-Saharan Africa, whose curriculum features service learning, social innovation, and design thinking. At Ashesi, Jon will teach a course in microeconomics and social entrepreneurship, and he will also research the African case for social entrepreneurship in the liberal arts.

Cynthia Packert (History of Art and Architecture) has been awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in support of her academic leave in 2016-2017. The project, titled 'Brand BAPS': Swaminarayan Hinduism, Visual Culture, and Sectarian Identity, represents the culmination of 5 years of prior research in the US and India on this transnational Gujarati sect of devotional Hinduism, focusing in particular on its elaborate neo-traditional temples and other multi-media visual productions.

Cynthia Packert (History of Art and Architecture) has been awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar Award in support of her academic leave in 2016-2017. The project, titled From Gujarat to the Globe: The Art, Architecture and Visual Culture of Swaminarayan Hinduism, involves four months of research in India and includes travel to unpublished and little-known historical sites that are important to the development of Swaminarayan art and architecture in Gujarat and beyond.

Stephen Abbott (Mathematics) has been awarded a one-month research fellowship from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in support of the book project, titled Mathematics as Art in Contemporary Theater, that he will be pursing during his academic leave in 2016-17. The fellowship will enable him to conduct research on the Center’s collection of Tom Stoppard materials, as well as other 20th century  theater materials. 

Eilat Glikman (Physics) has been awarded a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to lead a research project titled Probing Accretion and Obscuration in Luminous Red Quasars. This one year project, involving collaborators from Yale University, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the Astronomical Observatory of Rome and the Leibniz Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany, is based on observations of two luminous quasars with the XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory. These quasars are hypothesized to be growing at their maximally allowed rate, giving off tremendous luminosity. However, because of dust in their immediate environments, their visible light is extinguished. These X-ray observations will measure the amount of gas that is blocking visible light and probe the growth of the quasars independently for comparison with other existing estimates. The result of this work will complete the multi-wavelength study of this key population of quasars.  

Frank Winkler (Emeritus Professor, Physics) has been awarded funding from the NASA-funded Space Telescope Science Institute for his role in two collaborative research projects, both of which entail new observations using the Hubble Space Telescope. One project, entitled Thermal Equilibration and Cosmic-Ray Acceleration in Astrophysical Shocks: UV Spectra of the SN1006 Remnant, will combine forthcoming Hubble ultraviolet spectra with new data Winkler hopes to gather at the 6.5 meter Magellan telescope in Chile in April, to explore the fundamental physics of shock waves in a cosmic environment. The other project, entitled State Transitions of the Ultra-luminous X-ray Source in M83, is intended as a follow-up to better understand a highly unusual object in the "nearby" (15 million light years away) galaxy M83, where matter falling into a black hole produces so much radiation that fundamental laws of physics are close to being violated. The projects involve collaboration with colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Johns Hopkins University, and Curtin University in Australia.

Ata Anzali (Religion) has been awarded funding from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute in support of a research project titled The Making of Modern “Mysticism” in Iran. As a Roshan Institute Fellow, Professor Anzali will be spending his academic leave next year in Iran, carrying out research designed to shed light on the ways in which the process of modernity influenced the formation of religion and spirituality in Iran during the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The aims of this research project are consistent with the Roshan Institute’s focus on preservation, transmission, and instruction of Persian culture.

Jill Mikucki (Biology) has received funding from the National Science Foundation for her expenses in a collaborative research project titled Minimally Invasive Drilling Glacial Exploration (MIDGE). Originally awarded to Jill when she was at the University of Tennessee, the grant has now been transferred to Middlebury and will support the design and testing of a minimally invasive thermoelectric probe for sample retrieval from subglacial environments in Antarctica. These dark environments provide an excellent opportunity for researching survivability and adaptability of microbial life, and they represent potential terrestrial analogues for life habitats on icy planetary bodies. This grant will support the efforts of a Ph.D.-level technician and at least one undergraduate student.

Kareem Khalifa (Philosophy) has received a visiting fellowship from the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh in support of his 2016-17 academic leave. He will spend the fall at the Center pursuing his current research project titled Explanation, Pluralism, and Representation. Using case studies from a variety of scientific disciplines, he will examine the extent to which there are universal features of scientific explanations. ​He will devote special attention to the use of mathematical structures by economists and physicists  in certain explanations to challenge the popular philosophical claim that the fundamental role of explanation is to represent causal structures.

Max Ward (History) has received  grants from the Japan Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities Japan-US Friendship Commission (NEH-JUSFC)​ in support of his research during his 2015-16 academic leave. He is currently a Visiting Researcher at Waseda University in Tokyo Japan, where he is completing a book manuscript titled Ghost in the Machine: Imperial Ideology and Thought Reform in Interwar Japan. ​This book explores the Japanese state’s efforts to police political dissent in the 1920s and how such efforts developed into an extensive apparatus to rehabilitate political criminals throughout the Japanese empire in the 1930s. His next project will analyze the contested claims to urban space in postwar Tokyo.

Priscilla Bremser (Mathematics) is Middlebury’s representative in a network of 61 liberal arts institutions that will benefit from a Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates (TEU) grant awarded to Vassar College by the National Science Foundation. Entitled Summer STEM Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates from Liberal Arts Institutions, this grant will provide opportunities in each of the next five summers for 24 students from the network to participate in programs that involve a pedagogy course (math or science) and a teaching practicum  with urban high school students. Co-investigators are faculty at Barnard College, Brown University,  Bryn Mawr College,  and Trinity College. Although no funds come directly to Middlebury, this grant provides an exciting opportunity for which our students are eligible to apply.  

Erik Bleich (Political Science) has received funding as a Co-PI on a National Science Foundation collaborative grant for a multi-year study titled Comparative Free Speech Jurisprudence. This project involves researchers from multiple countries who are assembling information on judicial decisions about freedom of expression in supreme courts around the world. Bleich will lead the data collection effort with regard to the European Court of Human Rights. At least two Middlebury College undergraduates will be involved in this research. 

Jeff Carpenter, Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, Peter Matthews, and Andrea Robbett (all Economics) have received a contract from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for a project titled Dominance Violations in Consumer Credit Choices. This research has the primary goal of revealing the welfare consequences of alternative consumer credit product designs, and will hopefully provide policy insights founded in behavioral economics. At least one undergraduate student will be involved in this project.

Murray Dry and Keegan Callanan (both Political Science) have received funding from the Jack Miller Center to host a lecture as part of the Constitution Day Initiative. This lecture will reach a wide range of students, faculty, and members of the Middlebury community and will  foster an understanding of the great constitutional questions that have animated our national life from the founding to the present day.

Jane Chaplin (Classics) and colleagues from Hamilton and Skidmore were awarded a grant from the Classical Association of the Atlantic States to support a project titled Summer Institute for the Collaboration of Liberal Arts Colleges to Broaden and Strengthen the Contribution of Classics to a Diverse Student Audience. Representatives from nearly thirty institutions will gather at Skidmore to compile data on Classics at non-PhD-granting institutions and to share insights on attracting and retaining students in order to keep Classics a vibrant part of undergraduate liberal education. The three-day conference will result in an online handbook of statistics and recommendations. In addition to the grant, the conference has financial support from all three institutions involved.

Susan Burch (American Studies), independent filmmaker Rick Tejada-Flores, and independent scholar Hannah Joyner have received a grant from the Media Projects Development Program at the National Endowment for the Humanities for a project titled Unspeakable: The Life of Junius Wilson. The goal of this project is to develop a 60-minute documentary  on Junius Wilson (1908-2001), a deaf African American man detained at a psychiatric institution in North Carolina for 76 years. The film will be based largely on the 2007 biography Susan co-authored with Hannah Joyner, and Susan will serve as a main advisor. The documentary explores the overlaps of race, deaf identity, gender, eugenics, incarceration, and civil rights through Mr. Wilson’s life story. It draws heavily on oral history, signed languages, material culture, and inclusive methodologies—central topics in Susan’s research and teaching. This funding supports preliminary work on the film, including site visits, select filmed interviews, script development, and archival research work.

Peggy Nelson (Sociology-Anthropology) and a colleague from Wellesley have been awarded a month-long residency at the Brocher Foundation in Hermance, Switzerland to work on their collaborative research next July. Their project, titled Social and Biogenetic Factors in the Making of New Families, is funded by National Science Foundation and fits well with the Brocher Foundation’s mission to host researchers who dedicate their work to ethical, legal, and social aspects of medical development and public health policies. They will use their time together to write a paper comparing the response to new medical technologies of clients who received fertility treatment in the United States with that of residents of various European Union countries who received fertility treatment in Spain.

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 and Neuroscience) received a renewal of his project grant titled Genetic Analysis of Neurotransmitter Release in C. Elegans. The proposed research will help to clarify nerve signaling mechanisms and potentially lead to improved drug therapies for neural disorders.The grant provides funding for summer and academic-year effort for Prof Ernstrom from June 2015-May 2016 and includes a summer stipend for one undergraduate student.

Clarissa Parker (Psychology and Neuroscience) received a project grant titled Genome-wide Association for Ethanol Sensitivity in the DO Mouse Population. The goal of this work is to use a highly recombinant mouse population to map genes associated with ethanol sensitivity. Understanding the pathways linking genetic variation and expression to neuronal function may enable targeting of specific molecules to treat alcohol use disorders in humans. The grant provides funding for summer and academic-year effort for Prof Parker from June 2015-May 2016 and includes summer stipends for two undergraduate students.

AnGayle (AJ) Vasiliou (Chemistry & Biochemistry) received a renewal of her project grant titled Thermal Composition of Biomass: Molecular Pathways for Sulfur Chemistry. The aim of this research is to elucidate the detailed chemical mechanisms and kinetics associated with the thermal decomposition of sulfur compounds found in biomass feedstock. The results of this work can be used to develop a sound strategy to suppress the formation of poisonous sulfur compounds during biomass decomposition, generating clean liquid fuels and ultimately lowering sulfur emissions. The grant provides funding for summer and academic-year effort for Prof Vasiliou from June 2015-May 2016 and includes summer stipends for two undergraduate students.

Michael Durst (Physics) received a project grant titled High-Speed 3D Multiphoton Fluorescence Imaging with Temporal Focusing Microscopy. The proposed work aims to improve the speed of 3D multiphoton microscopy through temporal focusing, with the goal of reaching video-rate 3D imaging in biological tissue. The grant provides funding for summer and academic-year effort for Prof Durst from June 2015-May 2016 and includes a summer stipend for one undergraduate student.

Jeff Munroe (Geology) has received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation through its Research in Undergraduate Institutions mechanism for a research project titled RUI: Alpine Loess, Periglacial Uplands, and Exotic Additions: Investigating Past and Present Dust Deposition in the Alpine Zone of the Uinta Mountains, Utah. At least six undergraduate students will be involved in this research, which will lead to better knowledge about modern and past dust deposition in this part of the western United States and thus has the potential to aid in land management decisions in the future.

Eilat Glikman (Physics) and colleagues at California Institute of Technology have received a grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled New Insights from a Systematic Approach to Quasar Variability. The goal of this project is to understand the physics of supermassive black hole growth in the nuclei of galaxies by utilizing time-domain information. The grant provides support for two Middlebury undergraduates who will work with scientists at Caltech, and use cutting-edge techniques in data science, to extract meaningful results from these large data sets.

Molly Costanza-Robinson (Chemistry & Biochemistry and Environmental Studies) has been awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation through its Research in Undergraduate Institutions mechanism for a project titled Elucidating Interlayer Chemistry for Design of  Novel, Nontoxic Organoclays for Contaminant Remediation. The project will involve 2-3 undergraduate researchers each year and will initially focus on elucidating how the chemistry of activated clay minerals (organoclays), specifically their interlayer crystallinity, relates to their ability to remove organic contaminants from wastewater. The second stage of the project will apply this information to the task of designing novel organoclays for more effective contaminant removal. Students in the Environmental Chemistry course will also participate in the project by testing the toxicity of the novel organoclays.

Noah Graham (Physics) has been awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for work on a project titled Casimir Forces From Scattering Theory. The project will carry out calculations of Casimir forces, which arise from quantum-mechanical fluctuations at the short distance scales relevant to nanotechnology.  The approach is based on developing broadly applicable numerical techniques for computing the reflection and transmission of light.  This work will be carried out in collaboration with a research group based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and will involve at least four Middlebury student researchers.

Jessica Teets and Orion Lewis (both Political Science) are part of a research team based at the University of Alberta that has received funding from the Social Science Research and Humanities Council of Canada for a project titled Policy Innovation and Institutional Change in China. This study uses an evolutionary approach to analyze how the interaction of policy ideas, individual preferences, and existing institutions in China create incentives for local officials to act as policy entrepreneurs in an authoritarian system. The grant provides travel funds for research in China and other project costs. At least two Middlebury undergraduate students will assist with this research.