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Seed Grant Descriptions

A listing of current groups and projects supported by Tri-Co Mellon Faculty Forum Seed Grants. If you are interested in learning more about any of them please contact please the conveners for more information. 

Philadelphia Area Contact / Topology Seminar

Conveners: Josh Sabloff (HC), Lisa Traynor (BMC), Paul Melvin (BMC), Thomas Hunter (SC)

The weekly PACT seminar brings together researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates from the TriCo and beyond to explore developments in low-dimensional, contact, and symplectic topology.  The seminar's "mini-course" format -- in which one member typically spends three to six sessions explaining research ideas in more depth than is feasible during a one-time seminar -- enables detailed discussions of the participants’ own work or topics of particular interest to the participants. The seminar serves to encourage collaboration between participants and encourages participation by graduate and undergraduate students. In fact, a nontrivial portion of the research presented at this seminar is developed in collaboration with undergraduate students.

Best Teaching Practices Workshops in Foreign Languages

Conveners: Inés Arribas (BMC) and Benjamin Cherel (SC)

This group gathers language instructors of the Tri-Co community together with the purpose of exchanging, discussing and demonstrating concrete activities that have already been implemented and tested in our classrooms. The goal is to learn from each other and to get fresh ideas to try and apply in our next classes. Engaging in these exchanges is a great venue for collegiality, professional growth and renewed interest in our daily classroom activities as foreign language instructors.

Behavioral and Experimental Economists of the Mid-Atlantic (BEEMA) 2016

Conveners David Owens (HC); Syon Bhanot (SC)

The standard model of economic behavior is based on a set of assumptions about individual rationality, willpower, and preferences. Increasingly, researchers are studying these assumptions, finding that they are not always consistent with observed behavior. We are a group of researchers in the Mid-Atlantic region studying these topics, primarily using the experimental method (both in lab settings and in real-world, "field" settings). In recent years, with Tri-Co support, our group (called BEEMA) has hosted a series of seminars and dinners to build an academic community in behavioral and experimental economics in the region. We have also organized three BEEMA conferences that have brought notable speakers in the field together with local academics, to further foster academic collaboration. With the 2016 Roots Grant, BEEMA will continue our work in building an academic community around our subfield, focusing on conferences, seminars, and group gatherings.

Tri-College Project in Ethics, Politics, & Economics

Conveners: Ben Berger (SC), Tom Donahue (HC)

The Tri-College Project in Ethics, Politics & Economics aims to promote and explore the connections among  moral philosophy, political theory, normative economics, legal theory, and all other disciplines which examine what people should do about conflicts of values. In so doing, the Project aims to help students, faculty, and other members of the Tri-College Consortium take

the strengths and skills of each of these disciplines and fashion them into a rich and powerful intellectual apparatus, one which promotes an outlook and a skill set that help its users arrive at well-reasoned, realistic judgments about which actions or institutions are ethically better or less bad, given the facts about political, legal, and economic forces; facts into which political, legal, and economic theory give us a good deal of insight. To do this, the Project intends to capitalize on the Tri-College's impressive strengths in all of these disciplines, inviting students and faculty from each one of these disciplines to gather to discuss the benefits of learning and using the concepts, problems, and intellectual tools of their intersecting counterparts. The Project will invite to the Tri-College visiting speakers who are known for their skill in explaining to broad audiences the benefits of working at the intersection of these fields. The Project will also invite students specially interested in Ethics, Politics & Economics to gather to discuss how the integrated perspective offered by the intersection of these disciplines can help prepare them, both intellectually and ethically, to grapple with the moral dilemmas that life brings to each of us. The Project thus proposes to create an integrating workshop for the Tri-Co's value-weighing disciplines, one where students and faculty can explore how these disciplines' interconnections can help them further their work and education.    

The Tri-Co Comics and Graphic Narratives Working Group      

Convener: Shiamin Kwa (BMC)

This core group of faculty from the TriCo, working in a variety of disciplines, meets several times a year to discuss readings, to collaborate on curricular offerings, and to share new critical work on comics related issues. In addition to these meetings, the group is committed to inviting artists and scholars to campus to share their work in public events open to the community of students, faculty, staff, and others who engage in the study, creation, or appreciation of comics and graphic narratives. Previous invited guests have included James Sturm, Director of the Center for Cartoon Studies, and artists such as Marnie Galloway, Laura Park, and Kevin Huizenga. Members of the TriCo community who would like to join our group are encouraged to contact Shiamin Kwa (

The Tri-Co Political Theory Workshop

Conveners: Paulina Ochoa Espejo (HC) and Joel Alden Schlosser (BMC)

The Tri-Co Political Theory Workshop is a faculty forum to discuss new work in all types of political theory, political philosophy and related fields in the humanities and social sciences. The workshop combines faculty and resources from Haverford, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr, as well as other faculty in colleges and universities in the wider Philadelphia region, to create a thriving venue for developing new research. The workshop’s long-term goal is to strengthen the political theory community in the Tri-College consortium, and to foster high-quality scholarship that has an impact well beyond it. More information is available at

Philadelphia Theoretical Chemistry Club

Conveners: Joshua Schrier (Chemistry, HC), Michelle Francl (Chemistry, BMC), Paul Rablen (Chemistry, SC), and Joseph Subotnik (Chemistry, Univ. of Pennsylvania)

Theoretical Chemistry seeks to explain, predict, and simulate chemical and physical properties of “molecules” (broadly-defined) by using quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and kinetics and has impacts not just on traditional “chemistry”, but also biochemistry and molecular biology (e.g., protein simulations), nanotechnology, and materials science.  Tri-Co faculty have had a long-term interest in theoretical chemistry, going back to Louis Green (Astronomy, Haverford) who performed early Hartree-Fock calculations of atomic energy levels for stellar spectroscopy in the 1950s and 1960s, and John Chesick (Chemistry, Haverford) who did research on basis sets for molecular vibrations as well as integrating quantum chemistry and atmospheric kinetics simulations into the undergraduate curriculum in the 1960s and 1970s.  Currently, there are three theoretical chemists in the Tri-Co.  Joshua Schrier at Haverford works on materials simulations, Michelle Francl at Bryn Mawr works on molecular topology, and  Paul Rablen at Swarthmore works on physical organic chemistry.  All of these faculty members involve a number of undergraduate student researchers in their projects, and have collaborations with experimental chemistry tri-co faculty members.

This Mellon Seed Grant funds a series of meetings to discuss research in theoretical chemistry with faculty and students from the Philadelphia area.  These meetings will build the local research community in the field, promote research and scholarly collaborations, and provide a stimulating intellectual environment for Tri-Co faculty and students.  During our previous funding period, we held five meetings with 111 attendees (Tri-Co faculty and students, and area university faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows.)

Popular Culture and Power in Pre-Modern and Modern Spain

Convener: Eli Cohen (SC)

Project Description: Pre-modern and modern Spain are marked both by extraordinary cultural productivity and by the difficulties posed by a transition to a new form of socio-political organization. Whereas pre-modern Spain witnessed the rise of the Spanish empire, a development matched by the cultural and artistic explosion of the period known as the Siglo de Oro, modern Spain has seen the transition from democracy to dictatorship to democracy again mirrored in the cultural output ranging from the Generation of '27 to the Movida Madrileña of the 1980's to more recent events involving, for example, the 15-M movement, which arose in opposition to the conservative social and fiscal policies of the current leaders of Spanish government. While historical differences of local and geopolitical context cannot be ignored, it is also possible to examine the relationship between cultural production and systems of power in Spain diachronically, exploring the development of parallels and divergences, traditions and ruptures throughout the course of the last five centuries of Spanish culture. The goal of this project is to recognize and reflect on specific conditions of difference and similitude in the historical relationships between popular culture and power from pre-modern to modern Spain.

Fostering values-driven leadership within the Liberal Arts education community: The role of ethics in teaching and practice, and exploration of the “Giving Voice to Values” pedagogy

Conveners: Ben Berger (SC), Denise Crossan (SC)

Over the last year a group of faculty and staff across the Tri-Co community have come together to share their interests in fostering civic engagement, social innovation and social entrepreneurship within curriculum and practice.  Consistently arising out of these conversations has been the importance of encouraging the expression an individual’s values, and the role of the ethics and/or values driven mission in the work that we do, and in the work and reflection that we actively foster amongst our students within the classroom and in practice outside of campus life. Giving Voice to Values (GVV) is an innovative approach to values-driven leadership development in education and the workplace, now delivered in over 840 pilot programs across all seven continents, pioneered by Dr Mary C. Gentile.  Drawing on actual experience as well as scholarship, GVV aims to fill a long-standing and critical gap in the development of values-centered leaders.   

The aim of the ‘Values-driven Leadership’ Mellon Tri-College Faculty Program will be to develop conversations, relationships and know-how among Tri-Co stakeholders to support the cultivation of ethical and values based engagement and leadership across our communities.  We will achieve this by holding a series of conversations with stakeholders (faculty, staff and students) over meals on each of our campuses to explore question such as: Where might/does voicing values fit in the curriculum? Are we prepared to engage? What are the implications of engaging with communities that are not one’s own? Are there limits to markets and to policy in achieving social good? How do values enter into our understanding of how markets do or should work? We also plan to invite Dr Mary Gentile to conduct a Giving Voice to Values train-the-trainer workshop for our community stakeholders and create a public lecture with panel of experts to discuss the potential for values-driven leadership within the Liberal Arts education community going forward.

Title: Mid-Atlantic Algebraic Geometry & Combiantorics (MAAGC) Workshop

Conveners: Linda Chen (SC), Elizabeth Milicevic (HC), Amy Myers (BMC)

Description: The Mid-Atlantic Algebraic Geometry & Combinatorics (MAAGC) workshop is an annual regional conference which aims to bring together senior researchers and junior mathematicians in algebraic geometry and combinatorics in order to exchange ideas and forge collaborations.  The workshop typically consists of four invited talks, a poster session for junior participants, a panel discussion featuring concrete and timely professional advice for mathematicians at varying stages in their careers, all while allowing for plenty of unscheduled free time for building mathematical connections.

Los Tempranillos: Early Modern Spain and Colonial Latin America Seminar of Greater Philadelphia  

Convener: María Cristina Quintero (BMC)

Started in 2013 and funded for by Mellon grants, our group has attracted scholars from many of the colleges and universities in the greater Philadelphia region, including the Tri-Co, Penn, Princeton, Temple and Westchester. Members meet at least three times a year to discuss work on numerous and varied aspects of the literature and culture of early modern Iberia and Latin America. Research interests include: readership in colonial Mexico, the origins of the novel in early modern Spain and England, the poetics of patronage in the Baroque, the discourses of orientalism, and the points of contact between spiritual traditions in India and early modern Spain. The Mellon grants have fostered an important and much-welcome sense of community among graduate students and faculty at all levels who look to the Tri-Co for leadership and indispensable material support. In addition, for the past two years, we have invited distinguished scholars to give a public lecture and a seminar for students.