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Faculty Completed Grants

Below you will find profiles of past sponsored programs that have been completed or that are noteworthy for a number of reasons. They tell the story of faculty innovation and pursuit of new knowledge and expression, across the liberal arts, sciences and engineering.

Cat Norris, Psychology

Ambivalence as a Catalyst for Changing Health Behaviors

Donor:  Pennsylvania Department of Health, Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (C.U.R.E.) program

Award Date:  9/9/2016 | Project Period:  1/1/2016 – 12/31/2017

This project examines the impact that ambivalence can have on healthy decision making.  Ambivalence—the simultaneous experience of both positive and negative feelings—may be a necessary catalyst for changing addictive behaviors; it may also prevent healthy decisions if it distracts attention away from the decision at hand.  Both potential impacts of ambivalence, as well as an intervention that may diminish the deleterious effects of ambivalence on attention, will be researched in this project which will examine the neural signatures of these processes and study how individual differences (e.g., personality) affect the experience of ambivalence.  The data collected may also shed light on the positive role ambivalence can play in adopting healthy behaviors.

 

Kelly McConville, Mathematics & Statistics

Support Vector Machines and Support Vector Regression for Imputation in Bureau of Labor Statistics Surveys

Donor: American Statistical Association

Award Date: 8/29/2016 | Project Period: 9/1/2016 - 1/25/2017

Item nonresponse is a common issue for many surveys. One solution to item nonresponse is to impute the missing values, which provides the end user with a complete dataset. The integrity of that partially imputed dataset relies on the ability of the imputation method utilized to decrease nonresponse bias while still maintaining the true structure of the survey variables and the true relationships between these variables. During the fellowship, Dr. McConville will develop imputation methods based on support vector machines (SVM) and support vector regression (SVR). This work would require adapting these statistical learning techniques to handle data collected using a complex sampling design. Using the SVM/SVR imputation model, McConville will study the properties of the imputed estimator under different missing data mechanisms and various sampling designs. In particular, she would construct SVM/SVR imputation models for the asset and liability variables in the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) and would draw comparisons between this statistical learning tool and the existing methods of imputation currently used for CE.

 

Ralph Gomez and Janet Talvacchia, Mathematics

Generalized Geometry Workshop

Donor: National Science Foundation

Award Date: 7/12/2016 | Project Period: 7/15/2016 - 6/30/2017

Ralph Gomez and Janet Talvacchia, in conjunction with Marco Aldi and Daniele Grandini of Virginia Commonwealth University will host a weekend-long workshop in September 2016 on generalized geometry at Swarthmore College. Generalized geometry is a contemporary approach to the study of differentiable manifolds in which the group of diffeomorphisms is extended to include additional symmetries known as B-field transforms. This enlarged symmetry group, which arises naturally from the point of view of loop spaces, has been studied extensively by geometers and string theorists and continues to provide an invaluable bridge connecting the two fields. In addition, generalized geometry provides a framework for studying relationships between the various types of classical geometric structures that can occur on a manifold and has been a source of surprising results in this regard. This topic has intrinsic interest from a differential geometric point of view as well as interest with respect to possible physical applications.

 

Erin Bronchetti, Economics

The Real Value of SNAP Benefits and Health Outcomes

Donor: University of Kentucky USDA Center for Poverty Research

Award Date: 5/31/2016 | Project Period: 9/15/2015 - 1/31/2017

The goal of this project is to evaluate the effect of SNAP on health outcomes and food security using regional food price variation (and thus variation in the real value of SNAP benefits) as well as other local economic conditions such as unemployment. Erin Bronchetti, along with P.I Hilary Hoynes (UC Berkley) and Garret Christensen (UC Berkley) will use panel data of regional food prices and the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) as measured by the USDA’s Quarterly Food at Home Price Database (QFAHPD), as well as unemployment and other regional economic characteristics, to look at how SNAP, which is not adjusted for regional food prices, affects the mental and physical health outcomes of SNAP recipients, in conjunction with geo‐located National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data. By looking at SNAP recipients only, it avoids the problem of selection into the problem and will obtain well‐identified causal estimates of the effect of the program in terms of adequacy of the benefits for purchase of the Thrifty Food Plan.

 

Erin Bronchetti, Economics

Pay to Plan or Pay to Act?

Donor: Russell Sage Foundation

Award Date: 5/16/2016 | Project Period: 7/1/2016 - 6/30/2017

This research investigates how individuals respond to incentives that encourage planning (“Pay to Plan”) versus incentives that reward action (“Pay to Act”). Erin Bronchetti, along with Judd Kessler (UPenn), Ellen Magenheim (Swarthmore College), Dmitry Taubinsky (UC Berkley), and Eric Zwick (U Chicago)  study this question by conducting a field experiment, in which subjects are invited to participate in an online course in computer code writing. Subjects are randomly assigned to groups that face different levels of financial incentives for task completion (completing three weekly coding modules) and plan-making (creating three calendar events specifying when during the week they will complete the coding tasks). The results will provide new evidence on plan-making, follow-through, and incentives.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

A Probe of the Hybrid Colliding Wind and Cetrifugal-Magnetosperic X-Ray Emission of Plaskett’s Star

Donor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Award Date: 1/27/2016 | Project Period: 1/19/2016 - 1/18/2018

Plaskett’s star is an extremely massive, close 0-0 binary system. Recent spectropolarimetric observations have detected a magnetic field of ~ 3 kG on the secondary, as well as a very short rotation period of 1.21 d. The secondary is the first 0 star suspected to harbor a centrifugally supported magnetosphere, and the primary is close enough for its wind to interact with the magnetosphere of the secondary. We propose a 315 ks HETGS observation, with which we will measure variations in the Doppler width and shift of emission lines as a function of both orbital phase and secondary rotation phase. We will also make high precision measurements of f/i line ratios, constraining the spatial distribution of X-ray emitting plasma.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

Chandra Cycle 17 Archive Theta1: Phase-Resolved Chandra Grating Analysis of the Prototype Magnetic O Star Theta1 Ori C

Donor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Award Date: 1/27/2016 | Project Period: 1/1/2016 - 2/28/2018

Overluminous in X-rays by  an order of magnitude compared to non-magnetic 0 stars, theta1 Ori C (07V) is the prototype magnetic massive star, and the star that powers the Orion Nebula. We propose to carefully extract and decontaminate the HETGS grating spectra in 14 pointed, archival Chandra observations of this star. We will apply temperature, line-ratio, and line-width diagnostics - all as a function of phase for this star with its rotationally modulated, tilted dipole magnetosphere. The exquisite Chandra grating data, with nearly 100 measurable spectral emission lines spanning a wide range of temperatures, will provide information about the shock physics and the spatial distribution of the hot plasma in this classic magnetically channeled wind shock X-ray source.

 

Barbara Milewski, Music

Hidden in Plain View: The Music of Holocaust Survival in Poland's First Postwar Feature Film

Donor: National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship Program

Award Date: 12/8/2015 | Project Period: 1/1/2016 - 8/31/2016

Barbara Milewski will illuminate a hidden story of Jewish survival during the Holocaust embedded in the first feature film released in Poland after WWII. Forbidden Songs, a light musical comedy based on satirical street songs that were banned by the Nazis, is replayed annually in Poland as a commemorative symbol of national resilience. Yet within the larger context of this work that celebrates the abiding pluck and wit of Poles lies a subtler message, told through the music, about the experience of the screenwriter, Ludwik Starski, a Polish Jew who survived in hiding during the War. Relying on archival sources and interviews with those who knew the film’s creator, Dr. Milewski will produce the first comprehensive analysis of the film's music. In addition to publishing her research, she will create the first authoritative English translation of the film and its songs, ensuring that both researchers and the general public outside of Poland have access to a significant treasure of heritage cinema.

 

Wol A Kang, Chinese

A Language Pedagogy Workshop on Teaching Chinese at Liberal Arts Colleges

Donor: Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges

Award Date: 10/23/2015 | Workshop Dates:  10/7/2016 - 10/9/2016

This three-day workshop aims to bring together Chinese Language teachers and scholars in AALAC institutions to share their ideas, perspectives, experiences and innovative pedagogy as well as strategies involving students in research. It will provide a forum for these faculty members to reflect, exchange teaching methods, enhance pedagogical and scholarly presentations, and discuss the challenges and issues they are facing while teaching at their home institutions. It will also provide an opportunity for Chinese language teachers to form connections and identify shared interests that can serve as platforms for collaborative panels or sessions at relevant conferences or other workshops.

 

Emily Gasser, Linguistics

Lexical and Grammatical Documentation in South Halmahera-West New Guinea (SHWNG)

Donor: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Award Date: 10/1/2015 | Project Period:  11/1/2015  - 10/31/2016

The 1200 languages of the Austronesian family are spoken across the Pacific, from Taiwan and the Philippines to Madagascar, New Zealand, and Hawaii. Some areas of Austronesian are well-documented and thoroughly analyzed, while others are several severely under-studied. The South Halmahera-West New Guinea (SHWNG) languages, spoken on the island of Halmahera and in the Papua region of eastern Indonesia, fall squarely in the latter category. Dr. Gasser will travel to Indonesia this June to collect wordlists and basic grammatical data from roughly ten so-far-undocumented SHWNG languages. The data gathered by this project will be incorporated into a large, publically available online database, the Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database, to be used in comparative studies to reconstruct the linguistic history of the region. While in the field, she will continue her existing collaboration with the Universitas Negeri Papua to train future researchers in language documentation practices.

 

Jennifer Peck, Economics

The Effects of Nitaqat on Aggregate Saudi and Expatriate Employment and Earnings

Donor: Harvard Kennedy School

Award Date: 9/4/2015 | Project Period: 5/14/2015 - 5/31/2016

In collaboration with Conrad Miller of the University of California, Berkeley, Jennifer Peck will study the aggregate effects of the Nitaqat program on the labor market, with attention to market-level effects and other spillovers to non-targeted firms. While Nitaqat directly incentivizes firms to meet quotas for Saudi workers, its effects on aggregate Saudi and expatriate employment rates and earnings are theoretically ambiguous. Firms under the quota may increase their Saudi employment by hiring workers away from firms already satisfying the quota; decreases in expatriate employment at some pressured firms may be offset elsewhere; and wages for Saudi workers may or may not adjust in response to the program.  To understand the nature of these potential spillovers, the study will first adapt tools from network analysis to partition firms based on prior observed worker movements across firms. Then variation across firms in ex-ante distance from hiring quotas will be used to estimate the overall employment and wage effects of Nitaqat, varying the level of aggregation to estimate spillovers.

 

Amanda Bayer, Economics

Using Research to Promote Diversity, Inclusion, and Innovation in Economics

Donor: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Award Date: 8/6/2015 | Project Period: 9/1/2015 - 6/1/2017

The economics profession includes disproportionately few women and members of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups, relative both to the overall population and to other academic disciplines. The lack of diversity negatively affects the discipline, constraining both the range of issues addressed and the capacity to understand familiar issues from new and innovative perspectives. This project employs state-of-the-art research to enhance diversity, inclusion, and innovation in the practices, programs, and research at the Federal Reserve and in the economics profession more broadly.

 

Amanda Bayer, Economics

Enhancing Inclusivity in Economics at Liberal Arts Colleges

Co-PI: Fernando Lozano, Pomona College
Donor: Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges

Award Date: 6/25/2015 | Workshop Dates: 2/5/2016 and 1/5/2017

The importance of diversity and inclusiveness in economics education and policymaking is unquestionable, yet only 30% of economics Bachelor’s degrees are awarded to women and 11% to US citizen black, Native American, or Hispanic or Latino students (National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS 2011). These workshops convene economists from liberal arts colleges to acknowledge and explore how we fall short in creating an environment of inclusivity for our students and unintentionally deter women, students of color, or low-income students. After learning about inclusive, innovative, and evidence-based teaching practices, workshop participants can join in coordinated, randomized interventions designed to diversify the group of students studying economics at liberal arts colleges.

 

Allen Kuharski, Theater & Barbara Milewski, Music

Chopin Without Piano

Donor: The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage

Award Date: 6/15/2015 | Project Period: 7/1/2015 - 11/2/2015

Swarthmore College’s Performing Arts is partnering with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, FringeArts, and the Centrala theater company in Warsaw, Poland, for the North American debut of Chopin Without Piano. This theatrical and musical piece will give audiences insights into Chopin, the historic figure, and a rare opportunity to focus on the mastery of his orchestral writing of two concerti. A dramatic spoken text, constructed from primary and secondary sources, “sounds” in place of the virtuosic piano and includes a contemplation of how the arts provide refuge and solace for life in turbulent times. This endeavor is spearheaded by Swarthmore’s two American experts on Polish theater and music: Allen Kuharski, Stephen Lang Professor of the Performing Arts and Chair of the Theater Department; and Barbara Milewski, Associate Professor of Music in the Department of Music and Dance. Dr. Kuharski has brought Polish theater to Philadelphia venues to wide critical acclaim; Dr. Milewski's research on Chopin has won prestigious awards in the U.S. This performance of Chopin Without Piano is arguably the most evocative contribution of Polish contemporary work to Philadelphia's cultural ecology to date.

 

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Understanding of Interactions Between Porphyrin Ligands and G-Quadruplex DNA

Donor: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (C.U.R.E.) program

Award Date: 4/28/2015 | Project Period: 1/1/2015 -12/31/2017

Unusual tetrastranded DNA structures, called quadruplexes, play important roles in a variety of biological processes and are linked directly to cancer and aging. The proposed project will contribute to our fundamental understanding of drug molecules interactions with quadruplexes; shed light on the origin of drug selectivity for a specific DNA target, and provide guidance in preparation of novel cancer drugs that act via stabilization of quadruplex DNA.  In a broader sense the project will contribute to our understanding of cancer and aging, areas that have a major impact on human health and wellbeing. Importantly, it will serve as a teaching tool to inspire, excite, and motivate Swarthmore undergraduates to choose careers in sciences.

 

BuYun Chen, History

Women at Work:  Reconstructing Nügong through Text and Image

Donor: American Council of Learned Societies

Award Date: 3/25/2015 | Workshop Dates: 5/6/2016 - 5/7/2016

In recent decades, scholars have argued that the classic axiom about the gendered division of labor in Chinese society – namely, “men till, women weave”– was more ideological than descriptive. The majority of this scholarship has embedded women’s work in late imperial China within larger questions concerned with the long-term trajectory of economic growth in China. By contrast, this collaborative reading workshop examines the everyday practices of nügong – translated variously as “women’s work,” or “womanly work,” – through an interdisciplinary approach to the texts on the production of textiles in Ming-Qing China (1550-1750). In this workshop, we reconstruct the material conditions of women’s textile work by identifying how, where, and with what women worked. The workshop will bring together social and cultural historians, historians of technology, and art historians to participate in cross-disciplinary close readings of the images and texts, which depicted how women spun and wove cloth. Our goal is to clarify the historical relationship between gender and labor by engaging with the underlying conditions of knowledge and skill formation.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

Probing the Extreme Wind Confinement of the Most Magnetic O Star with COS Spectroscopy

Donor: NASA Space Telescope Science Institute

Award Date: 2/25/2015 | Project Period: 2/1/2015 - 1/31/2018

In collaboration with Florida Institute of Technology, we are obtaining phase-resolved UV spectroscopy of the recently discovered magnetic O star NGC 1624-2, which has the strongest magnetic field ever detected in an O-star by an order of magnitude. We will use the strength and variability of the UV resonance line profiles to diagnose the density, velocity, and ionization structure of NGC 1624-2’s enormous magnetosphere that results from entrapment of its stellar wind by its strong, nearly dipolar magnetic field. With this gigantic magnetosphere, NGC 1624-2 represents a new regime of extreme wind confinement that will constrain models of magnetized winds and their surface mass flux properties. A detailed understanding of such winds is necessary to study the rotational braking history of magnetic O-stars, which can shed new light on the fundamental origin of magnetism in massive, hot stars.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

Testing the Wind-Shock Paradigm for B-Type Star X-ray Production with theta Carinae (B0.2V)

Donor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Award Date: 9/26/2014 | Project Period: 9/22/2014 - 9/21/2016

This project involves a detailed X-ray spectral analysis of a particular star, theta Carinae, that is already known to have unusual X-ray properties, perhaps due to the low-density of its stellar wind. As Co-Investigator, Dr. Cohen will extract use his expertise in atomic physics, thermal plasma emission, and spectroscopic modeling to help the PI (Prof. Veronique Petit, Florida Institute of Technology) determine the physical properties of the hot plasma in this star’s wind. He will also – along with Swarthmore student Zack Li ’16 – compute numerical simulations of the X-ray production mechanisms in this star’s wind.

 

Nick Kaplinsky, Biology

A quantitative high resolution understanding of heat stress sensing and responses

Donor: National Institutes of Health

Award Date: 9/4/2014 | Project Period: 9/15/2014 - 8/31/2017

A wide range of important human diseases are characterized by protein misfolding. Protein misfolding is also caused by a range of cellular stresses such as high temperature stress. This project takes advantage of a newly developed automated microscopy system to quantitatively investigate how cells sense and respond to high temperature stresses. In addition, the cellular functions of BOBBER1, a molecular chaperone which helps other proteins fold and function correctly, will be investigated using a genetic screen. Swarthmore students will participate in this project as part of independent research projects performed for academic credit as well as during ten-week, full-time summer research opportunities.

 

Aimee Johnson, Mathematics and Statistics

Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Support of the 2014-2015 Philadelphia Area Math Teachers’ Circle

Donor: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

Award Date: 9/1/2014 | Project End Date: 5/15/2015

The Philadelphia Area Math Teachers’ Circle provides opportunities for professional mathematicians and middle-school math teachers to engage in collaborative and intensive mathematical  problem-solving.  At our monthly meetings, we tackle challenging problems and work as a team to find interesting approaches and insights.  We often tie the material to the Common Core Standards which guides many of the skills that today’s teachers cover, and along the way we develop a community to support all of us as we improve and practice our mathematical skills. During the 2014-2015 academic year, we explored topics such as the following: Which is better, Coke or Pepsi?  How do you find a winning strategy to a simple card game? And how do you divide a brownie tray into two equal pieces if there is already a piece is missing? We also examined magic squares and different types of geometry, and did some origami. We are working to improve our social media presence in order to increase our outreach to teachers in the Philadelphia Area. It is our goal to be of service in the pursuit of excellence in teaching and in promoting mathematical problem solving skills for everyone.

 

Steve Wang, Mathematics & Statistics

Collaborative Research: Toward a global timeline of biological and ocean geochemical change during the early Cambrian

Donor: National Science Foundation, Integrated Earth Systems

Award Date: 9/1/2014 | Project End Date: 8/31/2017

The Precambrian-Cambrian transition marks a turning point in the history of life, characterized by a dramatic increase in the diversity and disparity of animals, the widespread acquisition of mineralized skeletons in dozens of animal groups, the appearance of predators and the development of complex food webs, and the expansion of animal habitats. Recent research suggests that the Cambrian “explosion” cannot simply be understood as an adaptive radiation triggered by one or a few key innovations, but instead must be viewed as a widespread diversification triggered by external factors – environmental, ecological, or both. Numerous drivers for the Cambrian radiation have been hypothesized, but the lack of a high-resolution global record of early Cambrian biological and environmental change has made them difficult to test. Our goal is to combine multiple sources of data to construct a precise global timeline of biological and ocean geochemical change through the early Cambrian, enabling us to explore hypotheses about the causes of this critical period in Earth history. This project is a collaboration with Adam Maloof (Princeton), John Higgins (Princeton), Susannah Porter (UCSB), Sam Bowring (MIT), and Mark Webster (University of Chicago). This grant will provide summer research opportunities for six students.

 

Jill Gladstein, English Literature

The Writing Program Administration (WPA) Census Data Project

Donor: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Award Date: 8/25/2014 | Project Period: 9/1/2014 – 1/31/2018

Large-scale, national data have typically not been available to answer comprehensive questions about current practices in post-secondary writing programs. The National Census of Writing (NCW) Data Project addresses this oversight by providing a data-based picture of writing programs at over 900 public and not-for-profit four- and two-year institutions in the fifty states. The Census includes a 200+ survey related to different sites of writing at a given institution including: 1) first-year writing, 2) identifying and supporting diversely-prepared students, 3) Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) and writing beyond the first year, 4) the undergraduate and graduate major/ minor in writing studies, 5) writing centers, 6) administrative structures of writing programs, and 7) the demographics of respondents. The Census Database makes the processed data publicly available and sustainable, by creating interfaces for scholars and administrators nationwide to query the data set and to update their institutions’ profiles at regular intervals.

 

Frank Durgin, Psychology

NIH AREA: Cognitive Biases in the Perception of Spatial Orientation

Donor: National Institutes of Health

Award Date: 8/2/2013 | Project End Date: 8/31/2015

Human perception and action takes place in a spatial context in which the coding of three-dimensional space must represent both egocentric (body-centered) and exocentric (world-centered) coordinate frames. Angular perceptual variables are particularly important for egocentric coordinate frames that represent where things are relative to our viewpoint and to our body. Such representations are crucial for actions, such as reaching and grasping, but also for locomotor navigation. This project studies systematic distortions we have identified in the perceptual coding of angular variables with particular attention paid to the exocentric angular references frames (horizontal, vertical) within which our perceptual space is experienced. We will use a variety of research tools including visual and haptic virtual reality, real outdoor environments, and carefully manipulated indoor environments to try to characterize and understand the functional significance of systematic distortions in our perceptual experience of angular variables (including, for example, the apparent direction of our gaze and the apparent slants of hills). This research may contribute to better understanding the coordinate transformations required for normal action as well as the informational basis for failures of these systems.

 

Ken Sharpe, Political Science

How Character and Practical Wisdom are Learned: Re-designing Institutions To Get the Practitioners We Need

Donor: The John Templeton Foundation
Program Name: New Assessments and Measures of Virtues

Award Date: 5/13/2013 | Project End Date: 11/30/2015

My recently finished, co-authored book Practical Wisdom (Penguin/Riverhead 2010) argues that character and practical wisdom (Aristotle’s phronesis) are critical to doing well in today’s core social practices such as friendship, parenting, doctoring, lawyering, teaching, and banking. But institutional structures often corrode the practical wisdom and character upon which these practices depend. The overuse of rules and incentives, for example, short circuits the kind of experiences—the mentoring, the modeling, the learning through trial and error, the reflection—through which practical wisdom is learned. This project aims to change the public and professional agenda regarding character and practical wisdom by showing what can be done to strengthen the character and moral skills of practitioners. I will focus on components of practical wisdom that enable practitioners to make ethical choices in their daily interactions with clients, students, patients and others in the public whom they serve. Five concrete cases (medical schools, police departments, hospitals, law schools, and universities) will show that institutional re-design can work to encourage character and practical wisdom. The interconnected research, publications and curricula materials produced will provide the basis for developing a larger project that will issue in another book.

 

Elizabeth Bolton, English Literature

Place-based writing in Morocco: from commodification to vernacular creativity

Donor: Council for International Exchange of Scholars, U.S. Dept. of State
Program Name: Fulbright Scholar Program

Award Date: 5/9/2013 | Project End Date: 6/30/2014

Can participatory media, especially practices such as vernacular cartography and digital storytelling, counter the misrepresentations produced through structures of imperialism, orientalism and national ideology by enabling more nuanced, varied and contested voices and narratives to emerge? This project’s planned collaborative work with the Morocco Literacy Project in the High Atlas mountains, Moroccan and international students at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, and the Ben Msik Community Museum’s folktale project aims to affirm local communities while expanding possibilities for transnational communication. The resulting online “exhibition” and increased visibility of these stories hopes to benefit both the storytellers and scholars interested in the experiences of often marginalized speakers, helping to extend the reach of these organizations in Morocco and attract students to Arabic language and Islamic Studies programs at Swarthmore.

 

Steve Wang, Mathematics & Statistics

Collaborative Research: Estimating the Tempo of the Cambrian Explosion

Donor: National Science Foundation, Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology

Award Date: 5/1/2013 | Project End Date: 4/30/2016

The Cambrian Explosion has long been regarded as one of the most important but most perplexing events in Earth history. It puzzled Darwin, who thought it a serious challenge to his ideas. We now know that there is a Precambrian fossil record, of which Darwin was unaware, but the significance of the Cambrian Explosion is still unparalleled: after approximately 3 billion years of mostly unicellular existence, multicellular life suddenly (on geological timescales) diversified, as nearly all of the major 'types' of animals (phyla or body plans) appeared during the early Cambrian. Furthermore, after approximately 3 billion years of soft-bodied existence, life suddenly evolved mineralized skeletons in many different lineages independently. We still do not know what drove this event: ecology (predator-prey interactions), biology (changes in the developmental toolkit), environment (changes in oxygen levels) or some combination of all three. In this project, we attempt for the first time to combine all available geologic and fossil data to assemble a detailed record of biological and environmental change in the Cambrian. This project is a collaboration with Susannah Porter (UCSB) and Adam Maloof (Princeton). This grant has provided summer research opportunities for two students, who presented a poster at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Denver in 2013.

 

Nelson Macken, Engineering

FarmBio (with Drexel University)

Donor: United States Department of Agriculture

Award Date: 2/4/2013 | Project End Date: 8/21/2015

Exergy is an expression of the maximum theoretical available work from a substance if it were to achieve equilibrium with the environment. The fundamentals of exergy are based on the first and second law of thermodynamics that have been used in process analysis since the middle of the last century. More recently, exergy has been suggested as a useful tool in life cycle analysis for estimating depletion of renewable resources. In exergy analysis, the available work from natural resources is quantified. For sustainable development, the depletion of exergy must be minimized. This is a distinct improvement over energy-based analyses, since all energy cannot be converted to useful work. We intend to complete an energetic and exergetic life cycle analysis, which includes the production and conversion of biomass to bio-oil. Switchgrass (a perennial grass with high yields in a variety of soil conditions), equine waste and woody residue from forest reserves will be converted to bio-oil using a fast pyrolysis process. This thermochemical technique is being considered by the USDA for processing energy crops and agricultural residues. Our study will involve collaboration with Prof. Sabrina Spateri of Drexel University and will provide research experiences for several Swarthmore undergraduates.

 

K. David Harrison, Linguistics

Endangered Language Documentation in India, Colombia and Paraguay

Donor: Anonymous

Award Date: 10/10/2012 | Project End Date: 10/31/2014

Working with local scholars and Swarthmore students, the PI will continue and expand documentation and revitalization work on three indigenous languages: Koro (in India), Páez (in Colombia), and Chamacoco (in Paraguay). The project will partner with local scholars to create a robust online presence for it through talking dictionaries and digital archives. This grant provides summer grants for both students and faculty. For more information, please visit: Nasa yuwe talking dictionaryChamacoco–English online talking dictionary, and In The Search For 'Last Speakers,' A Great Discovery (NPR).

 

Matt Zucker, Engineering

DRC-Hubo - Leveraging a 7-Hubo Infrastructure and Unified Algorithmic Framework for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (with Drexel University)

Donor: Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center – Office of Naval Research

Award Date: 9/14/2012 | Project End Date: 2/28/2014

Swarthmore Engineering Assistant Professor Matt Zucker is a member of one of seven teams nationwide that were chosen to participate in a competition to build a high-tech robot designed for use in disaster response for dangerous situations such as radioactive or bio-contaminated areas. The competition is sponsored by The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Professor Zucker is part of a 10-school collaboration, led by Drexel University, who must work together to build a robot to mount, drive and dismount a vehicle; travel across rubble; remove debris; open a door and climb a ladder; use a tool to break through a concrete wall, then locate and shutoff a leaky valve; and remove and replace a pump. Professor Zucker (and one of his students) will work on the task of opening a door, taking any challenges from the lab into the classroom for his next seminar class. The competition takes place over 27 months. Phase 1 lasts 15 months, ending in winter 2013/14 with a competition testing the robots’ ability to complete the 8 specified exercises. From there, DARPA will select teams to advance to Phase 2, where there will be a head-to-head competition 12 months later.

 

Ann Renninger, Educational Studies

Collaborative Research: Online Collaboration to Understand Preservice Teachers' Developing MKT

Donor: National Science Foundation

Award Date: 8/9/2012 | Project End Date: 8/31/2015

Mathematical content knowledge (MKT) refers to both the mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge that teachers bring to teaching. This project focuses on the development of elementary preservice teachers’ understanding of information about their pupils’ mathematical content knowledge and of instructional practices that will enable their pupils to learn and understand mathematics. In this project faculty participants and their undergraduate preservice teachers from four diverse institutions will work in their mathematics methods courses with the National Science Foundation-sponsored Math Forum Virtual Fieldwork Sequence, a structured set of online modules that support preservice teachers to (a) work with grade-level mathematics content, (b) identify pupils’ strengths and needs, and (c) provide feedback to “live” pupils online. Preservice teachers will be studied through their fieldwork as student teachers, allowing assessment of their application of learning from the module content in their fieldwork and of the development of their MKT. Project design allows (1) study of preservice teachers’ MKT, (2) pilot use of these data in online professional development with faculty participants, and (3) the development of a prototype for online professional development that supports instructors to optimize use of the Virtual Fieldwork Sequence to support the development of their preservice teachers’ MKT.

 

Alan Baker, Philosophy

New Directions Fellowship: Emergence in Complex Systems

Donor: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Award Date: 6/8/2012 | Project End Date: 9/1/2014

The goal of the project is to use simulations of complex systems to investigate philosophical questions concerning the concept of emergence. In particular, I plan to address the following questions: (1) Under what conditions is a global property genuinely novel? (2) Is there a notion of unpredictability that is neither completely idealized or completely human-centric that can help distinguish emergent from non-emergent properties? (3) What combination of constraints and lack of constraints is most conducive to the emergence of complexity over time? Simulations are widely used in complexity science, but typically they are constructed in order to better understand some specific ‘target’ real-world phenomenon. My plan is to construct and explore simulations which are directed instead at better understanding the notions of emergence and complexity themselves. One specific idea is to look at game-like simulations, and to explore how the complexity of strategies available to each side changes as the game unfolds. Games are also a good context for looking at ‘enabling constraints’: rules or laws which cut down on the space of possibility but also allow new kinds of behaviors to occur.

 

Brad Davidson, Biology

Signaling pathways in early heart development

Donor: National Institutes of Health
Program: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Award Date: 5/30/2012 | Project End Date: 6/30/2014

In developing embryos, a select group of progenitor cells will form heart tissue. Our research is focused on understanding how the identity of these heart progenitors is first established. In particular, we study how heart progenitors interpret a rich array of signals produced by neighboring cells. We conduct this research using the simple embryos of a marine invertebrate, Ciona intestinalis. Although Ciona is a member of our own chordate phyla, Ciona embryos are constructed from relatively low cell numbers. We are therefore able to precisely monitor the emergence of the heart progenitors and their interactions with neighboring cells. Additionally, the Ciona genome encodes single copies of signaling molecules that have been duplicated in humans and other vertebrate chordates. Ciona’s genetic simplicity allows us to rigorously define how discrete signals contribute to heart formation. Mistakes in the interpretation of cellular signals contribute to congenital defects in human heart formation. Unfortunately, such mistakes occur with great frequency and approximately one percent of all children are born with a heart defect. By studying heart cell identity in the simple embryos of our invertebrate cousins, we aim to help in the diagnosis and treatment of these prevalent human disorders. This grant will provide student research opportunities for up to four students.

 

K. David Harrison, Linguistics

Tuvan Machine Translation

Award Date: 4/5/2012 | Project End Date: 4/5/2013

Kalmyk Machine Translation

Award Date: 8/1/2012 | Project End Date: 8/1/2013

Donor: Microsoft Corporation

A faculty and student team in the Linguistics Department will build, test and deploy a machine translation model for Tuvan, a Turkic language of Siberia. The team will be one of the first to use the newly released Microsoft Translator Hub, which allows small and under-resourced languages to acquire custom translation tools. Machine translation for Tuvan will help advance scientific research in computational linguistics. It will also have positive social impact for the Tuvan-speaking community by lowering barriers to information access. A second, similar project has also been funded: A faculty and student team in the Linguistics Department will build, test, and deploy a machine translation model for Kalmyk (Mongolian), a language that was very nearly wiped out during 1940-2000 through genocide, forced relocation, and coercive cultural assimilation. It is now spoken, and is undergoing dramatic revitalization, in the Republic of Kalmykia (Russian Federation) and Xinjiang Province (PRC), Mongolia, and in diaspora communities in the U.S. and France. Once launched in the MT Hub, Kalmyk will serve as a model and incentive for other Mongolian languages. These grants provide three summer grants for students and two for faculty.

 

Tomoko Sakomura, Art

Poetry as Image: The Visual Culture of Waka in Japan, 1550-1650

Donor: The Japan Foundation

Award Date: 4/2/2012 | Project End Date: 8/26/2012

Since flourishing in the tenth century, waka, the Japanese court poetry of thirty-one syllables, remained a potent cultural force throughout premodern times. This project examines the culture of waka poetry as a visual culture and explores the mediating role played by waka artifacts during the 1550s to the 1650s, when the court in Kyoto navigated an unstable sociopolitical landscape due to successive changes in warrior governance. Embraced by regional warlords and urban mercantile elites in the Kyoto capital, waka visual culture served to promote the historical legacy of the institution of waka and by extension the political and cultural authority of the imperial court. In part reflecting an expanded waka community, waka artifacts produced during the century of 1550 to 1650 are striking in their modifications of established models and the ways in which they re-imagine the courtly past. This project charts how waka artifacts forged alliances within the Japanese archipelago, as visual markers of one’s participation in the centuries-old culture of waka and as visible testaments to one’s social standing within the sociocultural network centered on Kyoto. Related publication: "Summoning the Thirty-six Poets: A Look at a Poet-Portrait Screen.” Impressions 32 (2011): 144-165.

 

Ellen Magenheim, David Huffman & Erin Todd Bronchetti, Economics

Attention, Intentions, and Follow-Through in Preventive Health Behavior: Evidence From a Large Scale Field Experiment On Flu Vaccination

Donor: The Donaghue Foundation, in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Award Date: 3/23/2012 | Project End Date: 9/30/2013

Vaccination against infectious disease is an important public good, with benefits ranging from higher workplace productivity to improved public health. As with many other preventive health behaviors, however, compliance is relatively poor, and the nature of the individual decision-making underlying this is not fully understood. This study analyzes evidence collected from six college campuses (N=9,356), where information about flu vaccination was provided via online messaging. We implemented a field experiment, with three interventions. Our results indicate that inattention to information, preferences, and lack of follow-through on intentions all act as barriers to vaccination. Two of the interventions – one involving a modest financial incentive, another involving a message coming from a fellow student (peer) – significantly increased rates of opening e-mail messages about flu shots, relative to the control group. The financial incentive also appears to have fostered thorough reading of the messages and affirmative intentions to get a vaccine, and we find that it ultimately doubled take-up of flu vaccine relative to control. These results shed light on the nature of decision-making underlying an important preventive health behavior, and are informative about potentially effective policy interventions. For more information, read Swarthmore Economists Ask: What Convinces College Students to Get Flu Vaccines?

 

Bruce Dorsey, History

Murder in a Mill Town: A Cultural History of the New Nation

Donor: Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University

Award Date: 3/2/2012 | Project End Date: 6/30/2013

Murder in a Mill Town: A Cultural History of the New Nation Murder in a Mill Town is a cultural history of the United States during the beginnings of the market and industrial revolutions. The book investigates a controversial murder trial, in which a Methodist minister was charged with impregnating and killing a female factory worker outside the burgeoning mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1833. This nationwide scandal exposes how American lives were transformed by industrialization, including new configurations of gender, sexuality, religion, politics, medicine, and print culture. Contending that life and narrative are inseparably intertwined, Murder in a Mill Town illuminates the interdependence of day-to-day storytelling and transformations in the working and reading lives of Americans during the early American republic.

 

Rick Valelly, Political Science

Dismantling Straight Government

Donor: American Council of Learned Societies

Award Date: 2/16/2012 | Project End Date: 8/31/2013

Before the 1940s, actors in the federal government did not organize and direct anti-gay affect. But abruptly, from 1941 into the early 1950s, the politicization of homosexuality emerged and was institutionalized in Congress, the armed forces, the White House, and the Civil Service Commission, with far-reaching state and local repercussions. The legacy of exclusions has decisively ended during the current presidential administration. What happened when? Why? And why have the exclusions finally been dismantled now? Through focusing on the courts, litigation, changes in major party dynamics, and public opinion I seek to answer these questions -- and in the process also capture the exceptionally interesting voices, claims, arguments, and conversations within this historical arc.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

Deriving Emission Measures and Mass-Loss Rates from Chandra Grating Spectra of OB Stars

Donor: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Award Date: 1/27/2012 | Project End Date: 2/28/2015

Massive, luminous stars create many of the Universe’s heavy elements via nuclear reactions in their intensely hot and dense cores. These newly formed elements – along with a significant amount of mass, momentum, and energy – are returned to the Galactic environment by the dense, supersonic outflows of material driven from these luminous stars’ surfaces, called stellar winds. Our research group has discovered a new technique, using X-ray spectral absorption measurements, for determining the stellar wind mass-loss rates of massive, luminous stars. We have demonstrated the new technique and applied it to X-ray spectra from one star, and now we will apply it to more than a dozen massive stars with spectra in the Chandra X-ray data archive. Profs. Cohen and Jensen will be working together on this project, along with at least one Swarthmore student, and we will make supporting observations using the (optical) Peter van de Kamp Observatory on the roof of the Science Center. Important, initial work on the new X-ray absorption technique was done by Erin Martell ’09 and Emma Wollman ’09.  Read Erin Martell '09 and Emma Wollman '09 Honored at Physics Conference for more on their work.

 

Rachel Buurma, English

The Historical Classroom: Disciplinary History for the 21st Century

Donor: American Council of Learned Societies
In collaboration with: Laura Heffernan, Dept. of English, University of North Florida

Award Date: 1/23/2012 | Project End Date: 8/31/2014

In our co-authored book The Historicist Classroom, we tell the story of the discipline of English literature in a new way, emphasizing the inseparability of teaching from research. Dominant disciplinary histories of English describe our discipline’s past as divided between eras in which we valued literature and eras in which we produced knowledge about its historical contexts, a rift that lives on when we describe our undergraduate teaching as value-making and our scholarly research as fact-producing. Though these divisions have become increasingly inscribed in the institutions in which we work, we suspect that they do not accurately represent our day-to-day experience as English professors. We argue that this history has remained untold because its primary scene is that most devalued of disciplinary spaces: the classroom. We examine the archives of mid-century literary critics like Cleanth Brooks, Edmund Wilson, W.K. Wimsatt, Monroe Beardsley, J.L. Lowes, L.C. Knights, Sterling Brown and J. Saunders Redding, following the life of their research through their classrooms, libraries, and offices by examining the syllabi, lecture notes, and graded papers they left behind. These neglected materials show how English literature’s pedagogies create value without necessarily invoking literary canons, aesthetic form, or trans-historical ideas of the human.

 

Stephen Miller, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Structural and functional studies of autoinducer-2 processing proteins

Donor: National Institutes of Health, Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) Grant

Award Date: 1/13/2012 | Project Period: 2/1/2012 - 1/31/2016

Bacteria engage in communication using small chemical signal molecules. These signals allow bacteria to coordinate their behaviors and gain advantages similar to those of multi-cellular organisms. One of these signals, Autoinducer-2, is produced and recognized by many bacterial species, facilitating interspecies communication. Previously, we demonstrated that several species of bacteria are able to internalize this signal. We have identified two proteins involved in processing the internalized molecule, and this project seeks to determine the products and mechanisms of these processing steps. We will use a variety of techniques, including x-ray crystallography, to study these proteins and signal molecules at the molecular level. Ultimately, we hope to be able to use this communication to modify or control bacterial behavior as a supplement to or replacement for antibiotics.

 

Robert Paley, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Planar Chiral Sulfinyl Diene Iron(0) Tricarbonyl Complexes as a Platform for Diastereoselective Synthesis of Spiroketals

Donor: American Chemical Society, Inc.

Award Date: 11/1/2010 | Project Period: 11/1/2011 - 7/31/2016

The preparation of spiroketals and the ability to control the absolute stereochemistry of the spiroketal stereocenter remain important challenges for the synthetic organic chemist. These structural motifs continue to attract considerable attention by virtue of their presence in numerous structurally complex natural products as well as due to the perception that these units contribute significantly to the biological activity of these compounds. Indeed, spiroketals have been described as "privileged pharmacophores" and even truncated natural products that still include this subunit retain significant activity. The goal of this project is to further develop methodology derived from our preliminary findings that a planar chiral, enantiomerically pure sulfinyl diene iron(0) tricarbonyl complex can direct the stereochemical outcome of the formation of a spiroketal. This use of an "organometallic scaffold" is a unique approach to the stereoselective preparation of spiroketals. The incorporation of a sulfinyl diene into the spiroketal ring offers a number of new and as-yet-unexplored opportunities for the construction of novel spiroketals as well as for the synthesis of natural products and natural product subunits.

 

Peter Collings, Physics & Astronomy

The Kinetics of Aggregating Dyes

Donor: Petroleum Research Fund, American Chemical Society

Award Date: 6/10/2011 | Project End Date: 8/31/2015

The spontaneous aggregation of molecules in solution is an important process, both for the creation of many biological structures and for the formation of complex fluids like emulsions and liquid crystals. Understanding the aggregation process represents an active area of interdisciplinary research, with biologists, chemists, physicists, and engineers among those involved. Most of the research to date has been the study of the aggregation process under equilibrium conditions. This work has revealed a great deal about both the nature of the process and the types of structures formed. The goal of the grant is to study the aggregation process as it approaches equilibrium. Such studies should be able to uncover the pathways that allow the molecules to join an aggregate and shed more information about the structure of the aggregates. Since many aggregating molecules happen to be strong absorbers of visible light, the systems to be investigations are food, textile, and laser dyes.

 

Aimee Johnson, Mathematics & Statistics

Philadelphia Area Math Teacher's Circle

Donor: Verizon

Award Date: 12/8/2011 | Project End Date: 6/30/2015

A sizable body of research shows that American students are lagging behind their international peers with regard to mathematical reasoning and problem-solving capabilities, and the newly-adopted Common Core State Standards require a significantly enhanced focus on problem-solving techniques. The Philadelphia Area Math Teachers' Circle aims to support middle school math teachers as they incorporate these new standards into their classrooms. It has been shown that meaningful professional development in mathematics teaching involves deepening teachers' understanding of mathematics and building professional relationships in supportive communities, so the PAMTC will provide a summer immersion program and monthly meetings where a mixture of middle school math teachers and math professors will engage in intense and creative mathematics. We will nurture the inner mathematician in our participants, focusing on those involved in middle school education as that is a crucial time in a student's mathematical development.

 

Jane Gillham, Psychology

Depression Prevention Initiative: A Study of IPT-AST in School Settings

Donor: National Institutes of Health

Award Date: 7/15/2010 | Project End Date: 4/30/2015

Depression is major public health problem that is very common during adolescence, affecting as many as one in five youth by the end of high school. There are several effective psychological treatments for depression (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, family therapy). A major aim of this project is to evaluate a school-based intervention designed to prevent depression. The intervention, Interpersonal Psychotherapy-Adolescent Skills Training (IPT-AST), was developed by Drs. Jami Young (PI) and Laura Mufson. Dr. Gillham is working with Drs. Young and Mufson to evaluate the efficacy of this program with middle and high school students.

 

Andrew Ward, Psychology

The Role of Attention in Self-Regulation

Donor: National Institutes of Health, Research Project Grant (R01) Program (via University of Minnesota)

Award Date: 2/12/2009 | Project End Date: 4/30/2015

This project explores the interacting role played by situational factors and individual mental processes in the self-regulation of emotions and behavior. From binge eating to excessive anger, many sources of adverse physical and mental health share a common theme: the inability of individuals to control their own behavior. The goal of this research is to understand why individuals often fail at self-regulation and explain how they can succeed.

 

Tia Newhall, Computer Science

CSR:Small:RUI: A Fast Backing Store System on top of Network RAM, Flash, and other Cluster-wide Storage

Donor: National Science Foundation

Award Date: 8/27/2011 | Project Period: 9/1/2011 – 9/30/2016

It is increasingly important to design parallel computing systems that efficiently support data-intensive computing. Parallel scientific applications, such as global climate modeling, often perform large amounts of disk Input/Output because the data they process cannot all fit at one time into physical computer memory (RAM). As the disparity continues to grow between the speeds of magnetic disk and other hardware such as RAM, interconnection networks, and solid state devices, the cost of disk I/O is increasingly the bottleneck of system performance. Recent advances in fast random access storage devices means not only that magnetic disk will likely become obsolete in the near future, but also that backing storage in parallel systems will be more heterogeneous, complicating future parallel operating system design. The objective of this project is to solve problems associated with supporting heterogeneous backing storage in parallel systems. The goals are: to provide parallel cluster operating systems with a simple interface to cluster-wide storage, freeing them from needing specialized policies for every combination of backing storage device; to create a cluster-wide backing store system that adapts to changes in cluster-wide resource utilization and storage capacity; and to take advantage of the strengths of different underlying physical storage devices.

 

Catherine Crouch, Physics

Creating a Common Thermodynamics

Collaborative Research with the University of Maryland
Donor: National Science Foundation

Award Date: 8/11/2011 | Project End Date: 8/31/2014

Modern biology increasingly involves the interplay of tools and modes of thinking that are drawn from a range of scientific disciplines – chemistry, physics, math, and computer science. Leading biologists and professional organizations are calling for an undergraduate biology majors to receive more extensive training in the physical sciences and mathematics. Many phenomena of critical importance to the life sciences such as diffusion, exchange of energy between chemical and physical forms, and electrochemical equilibrium are based on thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, topics often taught superficially and in a conflicting manner in introductory physics and chemistry. In this project, led by national leaders in physics education at the University of Maryland, a team of STEM education experts in physics, chemistry, and biology will develop active learning modules on these topics that can serve as supplements to any introductory physics class for biologists. Catherine Crouch serves as one of the “consulting experts” from other institutions for this project overseeing the choice of topics and design of these modules; the primary development and testing will be initially carried out at Maryland.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

O Star Wind Mass-Loss Rates and Shock Physics from X-Ray Line Profiles in Archival XMM RGS Data

Donor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Astrophysics Data Analysis Program (ADAP)

Award Date: 1/14/2011 | Project End Date: 12/31/2013

Previous work by Prof. Cohen's group showed how the X-rays we observe from massive stars are affected by their passage through these stars' stellar winds. The winds absorb some of the X-rays, changing the observed spectra in characteristic ways. By modeling these changes, thewind densities and thus the wind mass-loss rates can be inferred. Knowing stellar wind mass-loss rates is important because this mass-loss represents a means by which chemically enriched elements make their way into the Galactic environment and also because the amount of mass lost by a star via its stellar wind will affect the nature of its eventual supernova explosion. This project extends Prof. Cohen's stellar wind X-ray absorption analysis from a small number of stars observed with the Chandra X-ray telescope to a larger, previously unanalyzed group of stars, observed with the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray telescope.

 

Linda Chen, Mathematics & Statistics

Moduli spaces in enumerative and combinatorial geometry

Donor: National Science Foundation, Algebra, Number Theory and Combinatorics (ANTC)

Award Date: 9/15/2008 | Project End Date: 6/30/2011

Professor Chen is studying several enumerative and combinatorial problems in algebraic geometry. In particular, she will study Gromov-Witten theory of Deligne-Mumford stacks with applications to classical enumerative geometry, higher-dimensional analogues of the moduli space of curves, and (equivariant) cohomology and (equivariant) Schubert calculus of Hessenberg varieties and affine Grassmannians. These are distinct projects, but are similar in that each of the spaces involved has a rich combinatorial structure. It is a fundamental problem in algebraic geometry to understand objects satisfying certain geometric criteria, often naturally parametrized by an algebraic scheme or stack. Such moduli and parameter spaces are at the forefront of mathematical and scientific research. Enumerative and combinatorial problems which arise are of particular excitement as part of a collision of the fields of algebraic geometry, algebraic combinatorics, symplectic geometry, and representation theory, as well as topology and theoretical physics.

 

Lynne Schofield, Mathematics & Statistics

Creation of Data for Analyzing Cognitive Ability in the National Longitudinal Studies of Youth

Donor: National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Child Health and Development

Award Date: 11/21/2011 | Project End Date: 8/31/2013

Strong cognitive skills are important to lifetime wellbeing, as measured by labor market success, family stability, health, and numerous other dimensions. The most compelling evidence about the relationship between cognitive ability and such outcomes as mid-life labor market success has been developed using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY), but there are serious shortcomings with available data and with methods used to draw inferences from these data. We will develop the statistical methods that are used to analyze cognitive ability data. These statistical methods are data hungry; they require that researchers have the full array of item responses for instruments used to assess cognitive ability. Where technically and legally feasible, we will provide data to the research community that will allow the use of modern statistical methods, substantially improving inferences about the relationship between early-life cognitive ability and later-life outcomes.

 

Nick Kaplinsky, Biology

The mechanism of action of a NudC domain small heat shock protein

Donor: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA)

Award Date: 5/7/2010 | Project End Date: 4/30/2013

A wide range of important human diseases are characterized by protein misfolding. In the cell, protein chaperones ensure correct folding of newly synthesized proteins as well as the refolding of stress-denatured proteins. It follows that a full understanding of protein misfolding diseases depends on understanding chaperone mechanisms. The goal of this project is to understand the biological functions of BOBBER1 (BOB1), a recently identified Arabidopsis protein chaperone. BOB1 is the first chaperone of its kind with roles in both development and in temperature responses suggesting that it has important and unique functions. BOB1 contains an evolutionarily conserved NUDC protein domain. Because NUDC domain chaperones like BOB1 are found in many organisms including humans, understanding how BOB1 functions will contribute to a fundamental understanding of cellular mechanisms of protein quality control.

 

K. David Harrison, Linguistics

Language Hotspots: Linking Language Extinction, Biodiversity and the Human Knowledge Base

Donor: National Geographic Society and others

Award Date: April 2008 | Project Period: 2008 - 2013

In partnership with National Geographic's Enduring Voices Project (a collaboration with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages), Professor Harrison is working to document endangered languages, help train native speakers to revitalize their languages, and exploring the interface between cultural diversity and biodiversity. The project, focusing on global Language Hotspots (zones marked by the greatest diversity, most severe extinction threats, and lowest levels of scientific documentation) investigates endangered languages still spoken in locales from the Bolivian Andes to Siberia, from India to Oregon. By collaborating closely with native speakers, they will document and map the diversity of languages within hotspots, assess current threats to linguistic survival, and explore some of the many complex knowledge systems, especially knowledge of the natural world encoded within them. The project also provides technical support and training for communities engaged in language revitalization. 

 

Steve Wang, Mathematics & Statistics

RUI: Confidence Intervals for the Duration of a Mass Extinction

Donor: National Science Foundation (NSF), Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) program

Award Date: 8/19/2009 | Project End Date: 12/31/2012

A key issue in paleontology is determining the pace of mass extinction events. For instance, the Cretaceous/Tertiary extinction wiped out nearly two-thirds of all species then living on earth, including the (non-bird) dinosaurs. Was this event a geologically sudden one occurring over weeks or years, or a gradual one occurring over millennia or an even longer time period? Previous research has focused on methods for testing whether an extinction event is either sudden or gradual. Such a dichotomy, however is an oversimplification. Rather than asking whether the world is black or white, we should ask what shade of gray it is. Thus, a more appropriate question is not whether the extinction was sudden or gradual, but rather how sudden or how gradual? That is, how long did it take for the affected species to go extinct? In this research, I aim to develop statistically rigorous methods for answering this question, which is an important step in inferring the causes of mass extinctions.

 

Elizabeth Vallen, Biology

Identifying cellular and molecular interactions along the pathway to symbiosis

Donor: National Institutes of Health, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Senior Fellows (F33)

Award Date: 1/7/2011 | Project End Date: 9/30/2012

The objective of this work is to understand the events that occur upon the onset, maintenance and breakdown of the symbiotic relationship between cnidarians (corals and sea anemones) and photosynthetic algae. The algae are phagocytosed from seawater and evade the host immune response and alter subcellular trafficking to allow their intracellular persistence. The algae, of the genus Symbiodinium, use energy from sunlight to make sugars from carbon dioxide and water, and give much of this sugar to their host. This relationship is essential for the growth of corals and its breakdown, known as coral “bleaching,” and can result in the collapse of reef ecosystems. This project examines the interactions between a model system, the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, and Symbiodinium. Unlike many of its closely-related cousins, Nematostella is not naturally symbiotic. Nematostella is the only salt-water cnidarian with full genomic sequence available, allowing a detailed and complete analysis of its responses to challenge with Symbiodinium. This work will be done in collaboration with Mark Martindale and his colleagues at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center at Kewalo Marine Laboratory in Honolulu, Hawaii. This laboratory utilizes and in many cases, has developed, a number of techniques that will be useful in these and future studies.

 

Ann Renninger, Educational Studies

Interest, the Self, and K-16 Mathematics and Science Learning: Making Connections and Charting the Way

Donor: American Educational Research Association

Award Date: 8/28/2011 | Project End Date: 9/30/2012

Using a wiki and videoconferencing, this proposed AERA Conference will bring together researchers from the fields of motivation, mathematics education, science education, learning science, and developmental psychology, all of whom study the role of interest and the self in the learning of mathematics and science content, within differing research traditions, using varied conceptual frameworks and measures. Research on interest suggests that students’ interest can be supported to develop even if they initially have low self-efficacy, lack academic goals for learning, and/or are not able to self-regulate. Research on the self has also been linked to student outcomes such as adoption of tasks and achievement goals, persistence in academic tasks and enjoyment of academic work. However for research on these topics to move forward and impact K-16 learning of mathematics and science, the conceptualization and measurement of these variables needs to be clear. The proposed conference is designed to encourage members of distinct research groups to bridge research traditions, find complementarities, and forge next steps in the direction of future research.

 

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Synthesis and Characterization of New Cationic Porphyrins: Applications to Cancer Treatment and Chirality Sensing

Donor: The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Faculty Start-up Awards Program

Award Date: 12/6/2007 | Project End Date: 8/31/2012

Water-soluble porphyrins have received considerable attention as telomerase inhibitors in anticancer therapy. Telomerase is selectively expressed in cancer cells, and is therefore a target for the design of new anticancer drugs. This research will include the synthesis of specific novel cationic porphyrins and a detailed characterization of their interaction with biological molecules. Understanding the nature of these interactions will aid in the development of more efficient antitumor drugs and chiral sensors. These projects will have high impact on three major areas: (1) anticancer therapy research; (2) chiral sensing; and (3) training undergraduates to become independent researchers.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

Experiments and Modeling of Photoionized Plasmas at Z

Donor: Department of Energy (via University of Nevada, Reno)

Award Date: 10/13/2009 | Project End Date: 8/19/2012

In collaboration with scientists at Sandia National Laboratories, Professor Cohen is performing experimental and modeling studies on the dynamics of photoionized plasmas, with a focus on atomic kinetics and radiative properties. Three main aspects will be emphasized: (1) the study of the time-evolution of these plasmas; (2) the transition from photoionized plasmas to collisional plasmas; and (3) the development and benchmarking of theoretical models and codes that can best describe the atomic kinetics and radiative properties of plasmas in these scenarios, with a focus on astrophysical applications.

 

Tali Moreshet, Engineering

Collaborative Research: Energy-Aware Memory Synchronization for Embedded Multicore Systems

Donor: National Science Foundation, Multicore Chip Design and Architecture: (MCDA)

Award Date: 8/1/2009 | Project End Date: 7/31/2012

High-end embedded systems such as smart phones, game consoles, GPS-enabled automotive systems, home entertainment centers, and other “ambient intelligence” systems are becoming increasingly important in everyday life. Making such systems energy-efficient presents new challenges with broad implications for the economy and the environment. Such high-end embedded systems are multicore architectures, which require management of resources such as memory connectivity and scheduling. This project investigates the energy implications of system-level concurrency issues in high-end embedded systems that are not limited by real-time constraints. In particular, it aims to develop energy-efficient techniques of synchronizing memory accesses, and tries to understand the optimal division of tasks between hardware and software. This project is a collaboration with Brown University, and involves two disciplines, computer engineering and computer science.

 

Alan Baker, Philosophy

New Directions Fellowship

Donor: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Award Date: 3/21/2008 | Project End Date: 7/31/2011

This fellowship supports interdisciplinary research in philosophy and the emerging field of complexity science. The project focuses on both the nature of complexity itself and the methodology of complexity science. One of the most interesting - and provocative - claims made on behalf of complexity science is that it marks a radical break with 'traditional' scientific methodology. An important philosophical question central to this project is whether there is in fact anything radically new about the methodology of this discipline.

 

Amanda Bayer, Economics

Diversifying Economic Quality: A Wiki for Instructors and Departments

 Donor: Consortium on High Achievement and Success (CHAS)

Award Date: 11/18/2010 | Project End Date: 6/30/2012

According to data compiled by the American Economic Association (AEA), just over 10 percent of full professors in Ph.D. granting departments are women and only 3 percent are African American or Hispanic. Disproportionate participation rates continue in the undergraduate population as well; about one third of economics majors are women, and about 10 percent are students of color. These participation rates are lower than those typically observed in science and engineering. This project aims to advance diversity in the profession by improving the way faculty and departments present economics to undergraduates. With a special emphasis on teaching practices that encourage women, students of color, and members of other underrepresented groups to continue their study of economics, Div.E.Q. presents useful information in an efficient manner, digesting and summarizing the relevant research and identifying recommendations with empirical support. The wiki-format website allows economists to share their research and learn from the collected wisdom of others. Dr. Bayer created Div.E.Q. with the assistance of several Swarthmore students and alums and recently established an official relationship with the AEA Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession.

 

Diego Armus, History

Smoking in Buenos Aires. A History in the 20th Century.

Donor: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University

Award Date: 4/20/2011 | Project End Date: 6/1/2012

For most of the 20th century, the cigarette was a crucial icon of Buenos Aires consumer culture, a symbol of pleasure and power, sexuality and individuality, and one of the most malleable tools used by millions of men, women, and youth to deal with the stressful and exciting scenarios offered by modernity. Only in the past decades have these very appealing images begun to be replaced by ones of suspicion, disease, and death. This research project explores the history of smoking, tracing its path from a well-accepted, celebrated habit, to a medicalized, noxious, and condemned addiction. It examines the relationship of the practice of smoking to structures of national and international corporate capitalism; to elite, middle-class, and popular leisure activities; to mass marketing and advertising; and to the anti-smoking campaigns of the late 20th century. Using such diverse sources as tobacco company advertising, national and foreign cinema, literature, tango and rock lyrics, print and audiovisual media, cartoons, medical journals, public health statistics and surveys, school curricula, and oral histories, this book project interweaves discourses, state policies, medical and civil society initiatives, and people’s perceptions and experiences into a history of smoking in a cosmopolitan city of the Western world.

 

Lala Zuo, Modern Languages and Literatures, Chinese Section

Pilgrimage to Shanxi Historical Villages: Making Connections to the Past and Comparisons to China’s Urban Future

Donor: ASIANetwork Freeman Foundation

Award Date: 1/24/2011 | Project End Date: 5/15/2012

This ASIANetwork grant from the Student-Faculty Fellows Program for Collaborative Research in Asia will enable a team of five motivated Swarthmore students and Professor Lala Zuo to conduct six weeks of exploratory research on the social and cultural problems of historical villages in Shanxi, China. Shanxi is well known for its abundant historical and cultural heritage sites. Though less developed than other provinces in East China, Shanxi is the “gold mine,” in a sense, due to its coal deposits, which are about one third of China's total. For this reason, heavy industries, such as coal production and power generation, congregate in Shanxi and cause severe environmental and public health issues for many people living in the villages. This will be an exciting and immersive journey for the students to discover how the historical villages preserve connections to Chinese tradition and history despite being impacted by urbanization and modernization. While working with the overarching goals of making connections between modern and pre-modern China and comparing the rural society to the urban society, each member of the team will also have a particular focus, such as the education system, women’s social status, linguistic characteristics, health care, and the understanding of national identity.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

Multi-wavelength Study of Early-type Stars Observed with Chandra HETGS

Donor: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Award Date: 2/2/2010 | Project End Date: 2/29/2012

The most luminous and massive stars ("early type" stars) in our galaxy expel a steady outflow of material from their surfaces at very high speeds, constituting a strong stellar wind. These winds deposit large amounts of energy and material in their galactic environments, and they can significantly reduce the mass of these stars over their lifetimes. Massive stars also are strong sources of x-ray emission, from very hot plasma embedded in their stellar winds. In this project we will model how the x-ray emission propagates through the bulk, cold wind and compare the predictions to high-resolution spectra from the Chandra X-ray Telescope archive.

 

Erin Todd Bronchetti, Economics

Public Insurance and the Health of Immigrant Children

Donor: Foundation for Child Development, Changing Faces of America's Children - Young Scholars Program

Award Date: 3/15/2010 | Project End Date: 12/31/2011

Immigrant children are a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population and are disproportionately represented among the poor and uninsured. Rules regarding their eligibility for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) have changed substantially over the past fifteen years in the wake of 1996 welfare reform. However, the effects of such changes on the health of these children are not yet understood, and the general question of the impacts of public insurance eligibility on child health is largely unanswered by the extant literature. Using cross-state variation in the timing and extent of changes in Medicaid/SCHIP eligibility for immigrant children since 1997 and data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), this project studies the impact of public insurance on health outcomes, health care access and utilization, and well-being for children in immigrant families.  

 

Pieter Judson, History

Everyday Empire: A New History of Habsburg Central Europe, 1780-1948

Donor: American Academy in Berlin
Award Date: 1/19/2010 | Project Period: 1/1/2011 - 6/1/2011

Donor: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
Award Date: April 2010 | Project Period: 7/1/2011 - 12/31/2011

This NEH fellowship will enable Professor Judson to complete a pioneering history of the Habsburg Monarchy and its successor states for Harvard University Press, one that combines local and regional histories with an analysis of the common political and cultural institutions that united the diverse regions of the Monarchy and influenced them long after the Monarchy’s demise in 1918. Judson's new narrative framework offers scholars a credible alternative to the fragmented nation-based accounts that have traditionally dominated the historiography of Central and Eastern Europe. It draws upon his experience analyzing the histories of several multi-lingual regions in East Central Europe, as well as his work on trans-regional political institutions and political movements in the Habsburg Monarchy. To create a narrative framework for the entire region, Judson will combine his own research and conceptual practices with methodologies borrowed from other specialists whose innovative local studies of the past 30 years have also challenged the explanatory power of nationalist approaches to history.

 

Lisa Smulyan, Educational Studies

Philadelphia Area New Teacher Network

Donor: Verizon

Award Date: 12/15/2010 | Project End Date: 9/28/2011

The Philadelphia Area New Teachers Network was established in summer 2008 to support new teachers in the Philadelphia metropolitan area who elect to teach in high poverty urban schools. The Network is open to all new teachers in the Philadelphia area who are graduates of the 19 colleges/universities that comprise the Consortium for Excellence in Teacher Education. The Network provides monthly professional development meetings for first, second and third year teachers in the Philadelphia metropolitan area; provides a summer institute for these new teachers that helps them prepare for the beginning of school and helps them connect to and establish new networks for support and development; provides these same new teachers with mentors to work with them in the context of their classrooms and schools; offers a professional development and support program for mentors that consists of regular study groups and workshops; studies the effect of induction and mentoring programs on the experience and retention of new teachers by documenting and assessing the program.

 

Stephen Miller, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Characterization of receptors of the bacterial signaling molecule autoinducer-2

Donor: National Institutes of Health, Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) Grant

Award Date: 1/28/2008 | Project End Date: 8/31/2011

This project encompasses biochemical and crystallographic studies of the molecular basis of bacterial communication. In particular, it focuses on signaling via autoinducer-2 (AI-2), a signal that is unique in its ability to mediate interspecies communication. Miller will use biochemical approaches to identify AI-2 receptor proteins in several bacterial species and determine the chemical identity of AI-2 recognized by these species through crystallographic studies of ligand/receptor complexes. Understanding of the molecular basis of AI-2 mediated communication could eventually be exploited to manipulate bacterial behavior.

 

Tali Moreshet, Engineering

BRIGE: Power-efficient easy to program 1000-core desktop supercomputer

Donor: National Science Foundation, Broadening Participation Research Initiation Grants in Engineering (BRIGE)

Award Date: 8/15/2009 | Project End Date: 7/31/2011

Parallel computing in the form of chip multiprocessors has become an industry standard. The number of cores on a chip is expected to continue to increase in an effort to achieve continued performance growth while meeting thermal and power limits. However, the increasing power-performance scalability of multi-cores raises two main concerns. First, it is unclear how software will take advantage of the increasing hardware parallelism, and second, power consumption and thermal constraints are still a major design limitation. This project addresses the energy-efficiency of a new approach to parallel computing, which targets single task completion time. Ensuring that the new architecture meets power and thermal constraints will enable it to serve as a viable alternative approach to parallel computing. To address the first concern, the work intends to demonstrate the programmability of this architecture by exposing students to multicore architectures and parallel computing. This includes providing students with research experience in energy-aware computer architecture and parallel programming, as well as incorporating these topics into existing courses and introduction of new courses.

 

Kathleen Howard, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Determining the Conformation of the Influenza A M2 Protein using EPR Spectroscopy

Donor: National Institutes of Health, Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) Grant

Award Date: 1/22/2008 | Project End Date: 6/30/2011

This project involves structure determination of the M2 protein. M2 is a membrane-bound protein that is an essential component of the influenza A virus. There are several compelling reasons for studying this system. A structure of the M2 protein would further basic understanding of the biology of influenza. A M2 structure also has compelling public health interest, as the M2 protein is the target of the current antiviral drugs amantadine and rimantaine. The M2 protein has also been identified as a potential target of a future universal influenza vaccine. Finally, as a relatively small membrane protein, M2 is an experimentally tractable and valuable biophysical model for understanding ion channel function and as a testing ground for exploring the basic principles of membrane protein folding. The primary technique we plan to use is site-directed spin-label (SDSL) electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy.

 

José-Luis Machado, Biology

Stoichiometry of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum: a long-term ecological field-based curriculum for biology undergraduates

Donor: National Science Foundation, Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI)

Award Date: 6/1/2008 | Project End Date: 5/31/2011

This grant will help to enrich the ecology curriculum at Swarthmore College by establishing a long-term field study demonstrating the mechanistic and experimental nature of ecological science in which undergraduates can engage at all levels of instruction, from freshman to senior year. The setting for this research is the Crum Woods, a tract of 236 forested acres (95 ha) adjacent to the College. Students will investigate the balance of multiple chemical elements, their influence on distribution and productivity of plant populations, community structure, and ecosystem functions and services.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

X-Rays from Magnetically Confined Hot Plasma in Tau Sco

Donor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (via East Tennessee State University)

Award Date: 3/1/2009 | Project End Date: 5/30/2011

The goal of this collaborative project, directed by Prof. Richard Ignace at East Tennessee State University, is to observe the unusual young, magnetic hot star, tau Scorpii, repeatedly with the Suzaku X-ray Telescope in order to determine how the rotation of the star modulates the X-ray emission. In this way, we can reconstruct the spatial distribution of the hot plasma that emits the X-rays on this star, and determine the connection - if any - between the star's magnetic field and its X-ray emission. Some background information about tau Sco and its X-rays and its magnetic field is available on Prof. Cohen's website.

 

Alison Holliday, Chemistry & Biochemistry

The effect of chiral modifier properties and temperature on chiral separations using ion mobility

Donor: Research Corporation, Cottrell College Science Awards

Award Date: 11/4/2008 | Project End Date: 12/31/2010

An object is called chiral if its mirror image cannot be superimposed on the object itself, just like a pair of human hands. Often, the different chiral forms have very different biological and environmental effects. Most pesticides are applied as a mixture of chiral forms, even when only one form has the desired biological activity. The other chiral form can have a negative environmental impact, and so methods for determining the chiral composition of pesticides in environmental matrices are increasingly important. Chiral ion mobility spectrometry is a new and rapid technique for chiral separations. Ion mobility spectrometry employs a potential gradient and a counter-flow of drift gas to separate gas-phase ions based on their size and charge. In chiral ion mobility spectrometry, a neutral chiral modifier is added to the drift gas. However, the mechanism of chiral separation is currently unknown, and its elucidation will simplify optimization of the technique for separation of environmental species. Using an optimized chiral ion mobility method, Professor Holliday will separate the enantiomers of two important classes of pesticides: pyrethroid insecticides and aryloxypropanoic acidherbicides.

 

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Synthesis and Characterization of New Cationic Porphyrins: Applications to Cancer Treatment and Chirality Sensing

Donor: The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Faculty Start-up Awards Program

Synthesis and G-quadruplex DNA Binding of Novel β-substituted Cationic Porphyrins: Applications to Cancer Treatment

Donor: Research Corporation, Cottrell College Science Awards

Award Date: 11/14/2008 | Project End Date: 12/31/2010

Water-soluble porphyrins have received considerable attention as telomerase inhibitors in anticancer therapy. Telomerase is selectively expressed in cancer cells, and is therefore a target for the design of new anticancer drugs. This research will include the synthesis of specific novel cationic porphyrins and a detailed characterization of their interaction with biological molecules. Understanding the nature of these interactions will aid in the development of more efficient antitumor drugs and chiral sensors. These projects will have high impact on three major areas: (1) anticancer therapy research; (2) chiral sensing; and (3) training undergraduates to become independent researchers.

 

Paul Rablen, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Benchmarking the calculation of proton-proton NMR coupling constants via electronic structure theory using different density functionals and basis sets

Donor: Swiss National Science Foundation, International Short Research Visits

Award Date: 1/5/2010 | Project End Date: 12/11/2010

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy provides one of the most powerful means to explore the structures of organic compounds in the laboratory. One-dimensional proton NMR spectroscopy, which is the simplest and most common version of NMR, provides primarily two kinds of information: chemical shift values and coupling constants. However, even for relatively simple molecules, analysis of the experimental chemical shift values and coupling constants is not always straightforward or unambiguous. Such analysis is often aided by comparison to chemical shift values and coupling constants predicted by quantum mechanical calculations. Many of these calculational methods have only become widely available and practical in the fairly recent past, and so it is of interest to test their accuracy in a systematic matter. Over the past two years, Paul Rablen (Swarthmore College) and Thomas Bally (University of Fribourg) have explored the reliability of proton chemical shift calculations. They found that even fairly modest levels of calculation (ones not requiring too much computer time and memory), if properly selected, yield excellent results. This grant by the Swiss National Science Foundation to the University of Fribourg will enable Paul Rablen to spend three months at the university, where he and Professor Bally will continue and extend their collaboration. They will now focus on the calculation of coupling constants, which have to date been the subject of considerably less attention than calculated chemical shift values.

 

Michael Brown, Physics & Astronomy

Novel CTs: dipole-trapped, oblate, Hall

Donor: Department of Energy, Office of Science

Award Date: 2/2/2006 | Project End Date: 11/30/2010

This project uses the Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment (SSX) to study the dynamics, stability, and equilibrium of Compact Torus (CT) configurations, an important subject for fusion science. The goal of the research is to identify and study schemes using magnetic fields that could eventually be used as a commercial fusion reactor. Collaborating organizations include General Atomics, Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory, and the University of Colorado.

 

Eric Jensen, Physics & Astronomy

Binary Debris Disks: Follow-on Observations of Spitzer Discoveries

Donor: NASA (via Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology)

Award Date: 9/1/2008 | Project End Date: 9/30/2010

The goal of this project is to observe binary debris disks newly discovered by Professor Jensen and his collaborators at University of Arizona, University of Hawaii, Planetary Science Institute, and JPL. Using the Infrared Spectrograph (IRS), one of the three instruments on the Spitzer Space Telescope, will allow the team to better constrain the temperature (and potentially composition and grain size) of the dust. These constraints will significantly enhance their ability to determine the dust temperature and luminosity in these systems, and provide a small but well characterized catalog of binary systems as the basis for future observational studies. The new observations should also give Professor Jensen and his partners better information on where the dust is located relative to the stars, and thus some insights into planet formation in binary star systems.

 

Miguel Diaz Barriga, Anthropology

The Border Wall, Immigration, and Citizenship on the United States/Mexico Border

Donor: National Science Foundation, Cultural Anthropology

Award Date: 3/26/2009 | Project End Date: 9/30/2010

Dr. Miguel Diaz-Barriga, Swarthmore College, and Dr. Margaret Dorsey, University of Pennsylvania, will undertake anthropological research on how people living in South Texas understand and are affected by the border fence between the United States and Mexico. In the context of heightened national attention to issues of illegal immigration, South Texas has become a unique field site for understanding contemporary American notions of citizenship and patriotism. The researchers will use ethnographic methods to study residents along the border in Hidalgo County, Texas. They will focus on "border wall talk" and its relation to how people understand citizenship. They will conduct extensive interviews with politicians, activists, business leaders, land owners, and local residents. The researchers also will carry out participant observation research in informal settings in Hidalgo County, such as locally-owned taquerias, Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, and coffee shops to understand the nature and circulation of border talk in local culture. These qualitative data will be complemented with a quantitative survey of area residents, which will provide data for comparison with national level surveys. The research will enable social scientists to better understand the complex interplay between transnational expressions of citizenship, national patriotism, and multiple local perspectives. This will lead to better frameworks for understanding the dynamic nature of borders in the contemporary world and contribute to better policy for border concerns.

 

Peter Collings, Physics & Astronomy

Aggregation and Liquid Crystal Properties of Two Chromonic Systems

Donor: American Chemical Society, Petroleum Research Fund

Award Date: 3/24/2006 | Project End Date: 8/31/2010

Dyes that form anisotropic aggregates often possess liquid crystal phases at high dye concentration. Such systems are referred to as chromonic liquid crystals and have been known to exist for some time. Only recently have experiments begun to reveal quantitative information about the aggregation process and the fundamental properties of the liquid crystal phases. This project utilizes optical polarizing microscopy, x-ray scattering, and absorption spectroscopy to determine the structure of the aggregates and nature of the aggregation process in two chromonic liquid crystals systems that have not been previously investigated.

 

E. Carr Everbach, Engineering

Sonolysis in Acute Coronary Syndromes

Donor: National Institutes of Health, Research Project Grant (R01) Program (via University of Nebraska Medical Center)

Award Date: 10/02/2008 | Project End Date: 8/31/2010

Coronary thrombosis on a ruptured coronary plaque is the main cause of acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Several in vitro and pre-clinical investigations have examined the effect of high mechanical index (MI) ultrasound to enhance clot lysis. Drs. Xie and Porter at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have shown, in a peripheral arterial graft thrombosis, that a high MI impulse from a diagnostic ultrasound transducer during an intravenous microbubble infusion is able to recanalize these vessels successfully without the need for fibrinolytic therapy. This therapy has been referred to as sonolysis. Preliminary mechanistic studies with Professor Everbach as collaborator have shown that an essential component for effective sonolysis is inducing cavitation of the microbubbles as they transit through small micro-channels within the thrombus. The central hypothesis of the current study is that coronary recanalization in ACS with sonolysis can be over 90% successful using the combination of three-dimensional ultrasound guided by low MI microbubble sensitive imaging pulse sequence schemes which maximally concentrate the microbubbles within the affected area prior to high MI delivery.

 

Ann Renninger, Educational Studies

The Math Forum's Virtual Fieldwork Sequence

Donor: National Science Foundation (via Drexel University), Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI)

Award Date: 9/01/2007 | Project End Date: 8/31/2010

There is a gap for students, preservice teachers, and many teachers between their own thinking and the learning of mathematics. Although mathematics involves sense making and problem solving, typical instructional methods have focused on the teaching of procedures and algorithms for standard problems. This project will develop and deliver a set of online modules that will be extensions to courses that preservice teachers already take in preparing for teacher certification in mathematics. It is expected that preservice teachers will develop their understanding of and develop their own mathematical thinking, the diagnosis of what pupils are doing and the strategies for developing a sound pedagogy.

 

Tom Stephenson, Chemistry

Atom-Molecule Inelastic Collision Dynamics in Open Shell Systems: O + NO and Cl + NO

Donor: American Chemical Society, Petroleum Research Fund

Award Date: 1/27/2006 | Project End Date: 8/31/2010

Professor Stephenson's research explores the inelastic collision dynamics of the O + NO and Cl + NO systems. O + NO collisions have been identified as critical to an understanding of the radiative cooling of the upper atmosphere, and as the source of deviations of quantum state population distributions from the local thermal kinetic energy distribution in the thermosphere. Cl atoms are critical oxidizing agents in the terrestrial atmosphere. Stephenson examines the inelastic dynamics of Cl with NO to determine the degree of spin-orbit selectivity in their interactions. Both sets of experiments will contribute to both atmospheric models and to insights into spin-orbit and electronically non-adiabatic effects on atom/molecule interactions.

 

Steve Wang, Mathematics & Statistics

Estimating True Ranges of Fossil Taxa from Stratigraphic Data when Recovery Potential is not Uniform

Donor: American Chemical Society, Petroleum Research Fund

Award Date: 3/8/2006 | Project End Date: 8/31/2010

Paleontologists often want to determine when a fossil species went extinct. To do this, they estimate the age of the last (youngest) fossil discovered of that species. Because the fossil record is incomplete, however, there may be a large gap in time between the last fossil discovered and the actual time of extinction. It is therefore necessary to estimate the proper range extension - the missing gap between the last fossil discovered and the true time of extinction. Many methods exist for estimating such range extensions, but they often make unrealistic assumptions about the process of fossil preservation that are valid only under idealized conditions. In this research, I aim to develop methods for determining range extensions that more realistically reflect the biological and geological processes that affect fossil preservation.

 

Eric Jensen & David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

A New Observatory for Undergraduate Training and Faculty Research at Swarthmore College

Donor: National Science Foundation, Program for Research and Education with Small Telescopes (PREST)

Award Date: 8/1/2007 | Project End Date: 7/31/2010

This grant is for the acquisition of a 24-inch-diameter (0.6-meter) research telescope to be housed on the roof of Swarthmore College's Science Center. This telescope will be used for faculty and student research, including monitoring of accretion in young stars, a study of the winds of OB stars, and a study of Be star disks. These areas of research address open questions at the forefront of stellar astrophysics. The primary instrument on the telescope will be a high-resolution spectrograph.

 

Alison Holliday, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Rapid Identification of Environmental Contaminants Using an Electrospray Ionization - Ion Mobility Spectrometer / Chiral Ion Mobility Spectrometer (with Excellims Corporation)

Donor: National Science Foundation, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and Recovery Act

Award Date: 6/9/2009 | Project End Date: 6/30/2010

This project emphasizes the implementation of chiral ion mobility spectrometry for the analysis of samples with complex environmental matrices. While Excellims Corporation works on instrumentation development, research at Swarthmore will focus on developing complementary sampling and sample preparation techniques for the analysis of pesticides in soils and natural waters.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

The Origin of Hard X-Rays in M17's Remarkable 04+04 Binary

Donor: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Chandra General Observer Program

Award Date: 6/8/2009 | Project End Date: 6/2/2010

In this collaborative project with West Chester University, Professor Cohen will use the Chandra X-ray Observatory to study an unusual, very young binary star system that is a surprisingly strong source of variable X-ray emission. Both stars in this binary system are extremely massive, and their strong stellar winds are thought to be the site of their X-ray production. The high-resolution X-ray spectrum, measured with Chandra, will enable Prof. Cohen's group to discriminate between two competing theories of X-ray production in massive stars - one involving the collision between stellar winds in a binary system and the other involving magnetic channeling of the stellar winds. The group will be doing detailed atomic and hydrodynamical modeling of the stars, in addition to the spectral analysis.

 

Ted Fernald, Linguistics

ACLS Fellowship: A Reference Grammar of the Navajo Language

Donor: American Council of Learned Societies

Award Date: 3/1/2009 | Project End Date: 5/31/2010

With roughly 100,000 native speakers, Navajo is the largest native speech community in North America, but the language is generally not being passed on to the youngest generation. While high quality reference materials are available for the internal structure of Navajo verbs, a systematic description of Navajo sentence structure is lacking. This fellowship will enable Professor Fernald to work with his co-author to prepare a Navajo reference grammar accessible to educators, curriculum planners, linguists, and other scholars. It will also support community efforts to strengthen the use of Navajo and maintain its rich linguistic and literary tradition.

 

Steven P. Hopkins, Religion

Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship in India for the 2009-10 academic year

Donor: J. William Fulbright Foundation

Award Date: 4/1/2009 | Project End Date: 5/31/2010

Professor Hopkins has been awarded a J. William Fulbright Foundation Senior Research Fellowship – his third Fulbright – to travel to South India to complete work on a book-length project entitled Bodies of Desire, Bodies of Lament; Time, Love, and Landscape in a Messenger Poem of Medieval South India. While in India, Hopkins will be affiliated with Institute Français d'Indologie, Pondichéry, Tamil Nadu. The core of his project is a translation into American English verse of the medieval Sanksrit "messenger poem" Hamsasandesha ("The Goose Messenger"), composed by Shrivaishnava philosopher-theologian and saint-poet Venkatesha (c.1268-1369). Building on his two previous books and various articles about Venkatesha's poetry, Hopkins will explore the ways in which the writer re-envisions the pan-Indian story of Rama and Sita using motifs of vulnerable love and violent emotion present in the South Indian Tamil devotional tradition – the agonies of separation, lament, loss, keening desire, and anticipated bliss.

 

Grace Ledbetter, Classics & Philosophy

Ballet and the Greeks

Donor: Penn Humanities Forum Mellon Regional Faculty Fellowship for the 2009-10 academic year

Award Date: 10/1/2008 | Project End Date: 5/31/2010

Every generation of artists configures its own relationship to the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Is Classicism a stable value, or is it continually reinvented? If we have lost a romantic, sentimental attachment to ancient Greece as a transhistorical cultural ideal, what significance can Greek myth have for us today? Ballet and the Greeks is a book-length study that examines how classical antiquity has influenced the origins and historical development of ballet, from the court ballets of the Renaissance, to the 20th-century Neoclassicism of George Balanchine. Balanchine’s Apollo, Orpheus, and Agon mark three pivotal moments of classicism in the cultural context of the 1940s and 1950s. Each of these ballets, somewhat paradoxically, employs Greek sources to innovate its art form radically.

 

Gene Klotz & Steve Maurer, Mathematics & Statistics

Collaborative Research: Math Images

Donor: National Science Foundation, Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) Program

Award Date: 7/15/2008 | Project End Date: 12/31/2009

The goal of this Phase 1 CCLI project, in collaboration with Drexel University, is to provide undergraduates with a project-based inquiry learning experience through constructing interactive educational wiki pages based on the mathematics behind computer-based images from diverse disciplines. This activity will strengthen their skills and interest in mathematics, computer science, and education, and encourages them to follow one of these career paths. At least half the students will be women and minorities, in order to explore the hypothesis that this interactive, personalized, community-oriented, highly visual approach can improve the learning and motivation of project participants from underrepresented groups.

 

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

Experimental and Modeling Studies on the Dynamics of Photoionized Plasmas

Donor: Department of Energy (via University of Nevada, Reno)

Award Date: 11/07/2006 | Project End Date: 9/14/2009

In collaboration with scientists at Sandia National Laboratories, Professor Cohen is performing experimental and modeling studies on the dynamics of photoionized plasmas, with a focus on atomic kinetics and radiative properties. Three main aspects will be emphasized: (1) the study of the time-evolution of these plasmas; (2) the transition from photoionized plasmas to collisional plasmas; and (3) the development and benchmarking of theoretical models and codes that can best describe the atomic kinetics and radiative properties of plasmas in these scenarios, with a focus on astrophysical applications.

 

Art McGarity, Engineering

Little Crum Creek Watershed Management Project – Phase 2

Donor: Chester Ridley Crum Watersheds Association

Award Date: 5/28/2009 | Project End Date: 8/31/2009

The goal of this project, in collaboration with the four municipalities in the Little Crum Creek Partnership and the Chester Ridley Crum Watersheds Association, is to improve the quality of the Little Crum Creek. The Department of Engineering completed several tasks under the direction of Professor McGarity, including the use of the StormWISE decision support model to prioritize drainage zones, landuse categories, and low impact development (LID) best management practices (BMP) for application in the Little Crum Creek Watershed. Based on these results, final recommendations will be made for LID/BMP projects.

 

Art McGarity, Engineering

Swarthmore College Environmental Science Outreach Program

Donor: Alexander Host Foundation

Award Date: 5/5/2009 | Project End Date: 8/31/2009

This program for high school students and teachers in the greater Philadelphia area is an integral part of the College’s charge to promote education and service to our surrounding communities. During the summer program participants gain real-world experience with urban water quality issues through the application of innovative watershed management models (computer simulations) along with field monitoring and laboratory analysis of collected samples to calibrate and validate the models. Project partners include the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watersheds Association and four Pennsylvania municipalities drained by the Little Crum Creek.

 

Steve Wang, Mathematics & Statistics

Mathematical Modeling and Bayesian Analysis of Paleocommunity Collapse during Mass Extinctions

Donor: National Science Foundation, Collaboration in Mathematical Geosciences (CMG)

Award Date: 9/15/2005 | Project End Date: 8/31/2009

The Earth's current biodiversity crisis deems an understanding of the dynamics of biodiversity and extinction one of the greatest challenges to current and future generations. This project-an interdisciplinary collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences-will explore the relationships between mass extinction, the shutdown of primary production, and the collapse of ecosystems. Preliminary results have already shown that small perturbations in primary production can lead to catastrophic secondary extinctions - an important finding for understanding the ramifications of recent damage to habitats and biodiversity losses. These findings will be extended by developing mathematical and statistical methods for partitioning primary and secondary extinction.

 

Miguel Diaz Barriga, Anthropology

SGER: A Nation Divided: Immigration and Citizenship on the Border

Donor: National Science Foundation, Cultural Anthropology, Small Grant for Exploratory Research (SGER)

Award Date: 9/11/2008 | Project End Date: 8/31/2009

In July 2008 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the United States government began construction on a section of the projected seven hundred mile border fence. This monumental project, combined with the U.S. presidential election further focusing already heightened national attention on the hot-button issue of "illegal" immigration, makes this an historic moment and the Lower Rio Grande Valley (South Texas) a unique field site. Anthropologists Miguel Diaz-Barriga and Margaret Dorsey, in their pre-investigative research, found a disconnect between local, Mexican American perspectives and national, policy-based perspectives on the twin issues of immigration and the construction of the border fence. The ethnographers plan to learn if this disconnect actually exists and if so, the extent to which it exists in addition to learning what Mexican Americans think about immigration policy, how they experience immigration, and the construction of the border fence. The research will be conducted starting in September 2008 in Hidalgo County for five months (September 2008-January 2009). The ethnographers will employ three methodologies: participant observation at a variety of grassroots forums; in-depth interviews; and analysis of immigration and border fence-related media such as television programs, news articles, pamphlets, and radio commentary in both English and Spanish. The researchers will conduct ethnographic fieldwork at a range of gathering spots in Hidalgo County such as popular, locally-owned taquerias, veteran's halls, and Democratic and Republican Party sponsored events. The researchers will conduct more extensive interviews with a range of relevant people: current state senators and congress members, candidates, participants in the political parties, and activists in border wall coalitions, an amalgam of business leaders, local residents, border land owners, and environmentalists. This project presents perspectives often missing in national and local debates over immigration--that of Mexican American border residents themselves. As such, it will also contribute to a more informed, nuanced, and multifaceted understanding of immigration and positively inform public policy.

 

Anthony S. Foy, English Literature

Donald C. Gallup Fellow in American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Donor: Yale University

Award Date: 4/10/2008 | Project End Date: 5/31/2009

These grants support research and writing related to Professor Foy's current book project, Black Ideography: Autobiography, Ideology, Image, which reconsiders the narrative self-presentation of African Americans from 1890 to 1965. Beginning with a number of postbellum slave narratives, this book examines the crucial influence of 'racial uplift' discourses on the development of black autobiography in the twentieth century; it also examines the sketches, engravings, and photographs in these texts to explore the symbiosis between ideological discourses, autobiographical practices, and visual images.

 

Art McGarity, Engineering

Wright-Hayre Fund grant

Donor: The Philadelphia Foundation

Award Date: 6/8/2008 | Project End Date: 5/31/2009

This grant funded the acquisition of environmental laboratory supplies. These supplies were used to support Swarthmore's summer environmental outreach program, which involves local high school teachers and students in research studies of urban water quality.

 

Ted Fernald, Linguistics

In Honor of Ken Hale: Special Session at the 2007 Athabaskan Languages Conference

Donor: National Science Foundation, Linguistics

Award Date: 11/20/2006

The Athabaskan Languages Conference meets annually and is the primary forum for research on the Athabaskan languages (Na-Dene family). This grant supported a special session at the 2007 Athabaskan Languages Conference that honored the memory and pioneering work of the late MIT professor Ken Hale. Professor Hale mentored many native speakers who subsequently made significant contributions to linguistic study of their own language. 2007 was the first time this conference met within the Navajo Nation. It was hosted by the Navajo Language Academy (NLA) with additional support from Swarthmore College.

 

Art McGarity, Engineering

Riparian Corridor Best Management Practices

Donor: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Coastal Zone Management Program

Award Date: 4/1/2008 | Project End Date: 3/31/2009

Keystone Conservation Trust, the Engineering Department of Swarthmore College, and the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watersheds Association partnered on this project to foster a leading edge application of tools from both the land and water protection communities. The scope of this project focuses on fostering better management of the land/water interface within and adjacent to riparian corridors, encouraging municipal and private implementation of restoration and protection measures, and on building stronger, more synergistic interactions between the land conservation and water protection communities. The context for this study is the Little Crum Creek watershed which drains four municipalities in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. A prioritization approach is used to ensure that the highest impact areas are identified and the most cost-effective practices are recommended for implementation by the participating municipalities.

 

Scott Gilbert, Biology

Developmental Biology of Turtle Shell Formation

Donor: National Science Foundation

Award Date: 2/1/2008 | Project End Date: 1/31/2009

The turtle shell is a remarkable evolutionary novelty and the aim of this project is to utilize a combination of embryological and molecular techniques to solve the question, "How does the turtle get its shell?" The turtle shell is composed of two main parts, the dorsal carapace and the ventral plastron. This grant will allow Gilbert and his team to build on the significant progress they have made in discovering how the plastron and carapace are formed.

 

K. David Harrison, Linguistics

Documentation of Middle Chulym: A Turkic Language of Siberia

Donor: School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Endangered Languages Documentation Programme, University of London

Award Date: 4/1/2005 | Project End Date: 4/1/2008

Professor Harrison has concluded a three-year, comprehensive multimedia documentation of Chulym, one of the most critically endangered and least documented of native Siberian languages. This is an international effort, involving both western scholars and scholars at the Siberian Languages Laboratory at Tomsk State Pedagogical University. A priority for the project is the creation of web-accessible digital archive to make Chulym data accessible to scholars and, of equal importance, to the native community itself in the future.

 

Diego Armus, History

The World of Consumption in Turn-of-the-Century Buenos Aires, Argentina

Donor: Ibero-American Institute (Berlin, Germany)

Award Date: 5/12/2007 | Project End Date: 12/15/2007

As part of an effort to identify and analyze primary sources relevant for a study of the world of consumption in turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires, Argentina I have worked at the library of the Ibero-American Institute in Berlin, Germany examining its Biblioteca Criolla. It is a unique collection of “pulp fiction” literature that circulated in Buenos Aires between 1890-1920.

 

Jane Gillham, Psychology

Postive Psychology and the Cultivation of Character Among Youth (AKA The Positive Psychology for Youth Project)

Donor: U.S. Department of Education, Partnerships in Character Education (via Wallingford-Swarthmore School District)

Award Date: 9/1/2002 | Project End Date: 9/30/2007

The Positive Psychology for Youth (PPY) Project reflects a collaboration between the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District and research teams at Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania. The major goals of this project are to develop and evaluate a curriculum that nurtures positive character development, positive emotion, and sense of meaning in high school students. The curriculum, based on recent research in positive psychology, is designed to build altruism, gratitude, optimism, perspective, and civic engagement among other virtues. In this study, positive psychology components will be integrated into the 9th grade Language Arts curriculum and evaluated with students in the Wallingford-Swarthmore ( Pennsylvania) School District.

 

Sara Hiebert Burch, Biology

Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program (USRP) Travel Grant

Donor: Merck Institute for Science Education

This grant allowed Professor Hiebert Burch and two Merck scholars (Barry Zee '08 and Doug Gilchrist-Scott '09) to present two posters at the 2008 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference in San Antonio, TX: (1) "Effects of a desaturase inhibitor on tissue lipid composition and dietary self-selection by the Djungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus)" and (2) "Temperature-dependent self-selection of dietary lipid saturation by an obligate homeotherm, Mus musculus."