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Faculty Grant Profiles

Swarthmore faculty receive external grants to support their research, their teaching and other scholarly and creative projects, and their sabbatical activities.

The featured projects below tell the story of faculty innovation and pursuit of new knowledge and expression, across the liberal arts, sciences and engineering. Grants are organized alphabetically by academic department and then the faculty member's last name.

A comprehensive list of sponsored research since 2015 can be found on this page.

If you are a faculty member with a current individual fellowship that you would like to be featured, please email


Humanities Faculty
Art & Art History

Brian Goldstein

Brian Goldstein

Sunset Over Sunset: Exploring the Street-Level View of Postwar Urban Redevelopment Using Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles Photography

SPONSOR:  National Endowment for the Humanities
AWARD DATE:  12/14/2020

The artist Ed Ruscha’s 1966 photographic book, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, depicted a continuous view of both sides of the famed street, shot from his truck. Less well-known are the images he created by repeating this drive every few years across Sunset. Sunset over Sunset is a collaborative project that will spatially organize and interpret the vast and unparalleled archive of Ruscha's Sunset Boulevard photographs, recently digitized by the Getty Research Institute, to gain new perspectives into the histories of urban development, photography, architecture, and planning. The project advances the digital humanities by building a replicable, open-source model for making street-level photographs and other address-based data sets broadly accessible as primary sources and by joining visual and non-visual evidence to create a novel resource for place-based research by scholars and the general public. This is a collaborative project with Francesca Ammon (University of Pennsylvania) and Garrett Dash Nelson (Leventhal Map & Education Center).

PROJECT PERIOD:  01/01/2021 – 12/31/2022

Ron Tarver

Ron Tarver headshot

An Overdue Conversation with My Father and The Long Ride Home

AWARD DATE: 04/08/2021

As a Guggenheim Fellow, Ron Tarver will continue his most recent work, entitled An Overdue Conversation with My Father, which involves the appropriation of photographs his father, Richard Tarver, produced in the 1940s and 50s. These constructed contemporary images reflect on the pervasive legacy of racial strife of the era that parallels the experience of similar Black communities. Additionally, he will create a book and exhibition curated from thousands of color transparencies of people in the Black community who celebrate a western heritage. With the working title “The Long Ride Home: The Black Cowboy Experience in America,” this work will recognize the multifaceted narratives intentionally forgotten in the great American myth of the West. These photographs reaffirm this thriving culture of Black-owned ranches, rodeo operations, parades, inner-city cowboys, and retired cowhands.

PROJECT PERIOD: 06/01/2021-05/31/2022

This is an independent faculty award.

English Literature

Bakirathi Mani


Bakirathi Mani in front of a colorful mosaic

Visiting Faculty Fellowship

AWARD DATE: 05/28/2021

During the fellowship period, Mani will work on a public-facing book on race, representation, and South Asian diasporic identity. This monograph investigates the relationship between photography and racial belonging, situating the family photograph as a social text that captures the intimate domestic as well as public historical dimensions of racialized citizenship among South Asians in diaspora. Taking as a starting point Mani's personal archive of photographs, mapping her family’s migration from India to Japan to the Middle East and United States across three generations, the book incorporates close readings of photographic images alongside oral histories of migration. Mani deploys the family album in order to reflect on what it means for racialized immigrants to create archives of self-representation. 

Project period: 08/31/2021-12/07/2021

This is an independent faculty award.



Krista Thomason

Krista Thomason


Worms in the Garden: Bad Feelings in a Good Life

AWARD DATE: 04/20/2021

Dr. Thomason will spend an academic year as the Philip L. Quinn Fellow at the National Humanities Center to complete her book, Worms in the Garden: Bad Feelings in a Good Life. Figures in the history of philosophy from Seneca to Śāntideva have warned about the damaging effects of negative emotions. Today, the burgeoning wellness industry offers apps and other tools for overcoming negativity. Worms in the Garden is an apology for bad feelings. Philosophers argue that our emotions are reflections of what we care about or what matters to us. Feeling compassion for others, for instance, shows that we care about their suffering. Dr. Thomason argues that negative emotions are no different: they show that we value ourselves. Human emotional life is like a complex ecosystem, and bad feelings are the worms. Ecosystems aren’t better off without their worms and neither are we. The trick is learning how to enjoy our gardens, worms and all.

PROJECT PERIOD: 09/21/2021 - 05/22/2022

This is an independent faculty award.

Alan Baker

Alan Baker

RUI: STS: Standard Research Grant: Mathematical Explanation in Science

AWARD DATE: 08/10/2015

This project will analyze case studies of mathematical explanation in evolutionary biology to inform the philosophical debate about the nature of mathematical explanation in science. It will take place over three consecutive summers, and will make essential use of undergraduate researchers in philosophy, mathematics, and biology; specifically, it will integrate research and education by involving advanced undergraduate students in the project. Doing so will serve to broaden the scope of participation in science by exposing students in mathematics and in philosophy to a collaborative style of research that is often lacking in these disciplines; it will provide a model for institutional interdisciplinarity, fostering intellectual and logistical connections between the natural sciences and the humanities.

PROJECT PERIOD: 08/15/2015 - 07/31/2021


Steven Hopkins

Steven Hopkins pictured outside

A Work of Tears

Sponsor: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
Award Date: 04/08/2021

As a Guggenheim Fellow, Professor Hopkins will continue his work on women’s lamentation as ethical witness, producing a scholarly article and a book manuscript, A Work of Tears. This project is the culmination of fifteen years of interdisciplinary study, bringing together Greek, Greek Christian, South Asian Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish sources and traditions. Using the methodologies of comparative literature and the comparative history of religions, this study will uncover pre-modern roots of female witness in the service of a virtue ethics whose condition is that of mourning. Such an ethics is rooted not only in attentiveness to personal pain and personal witness but to the pain of others, giving rise to the possibility of awakening empathy and compassion, and not only rage or revenge.

Project Period: 01/01/2022-06/30-2022

This is an independent faculty award.



Luciano Martínez

Luciano Martinez

Radical Desires: Homosexuality and Revolution in Latin America

SPONSOR:  U.S. Department of Education
Award Date:  03/29/2018

This library travel research grant, administered by the University of Florida and funded through the Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center program, will support travel for Dr. Martínez to explore the vast holdings of the university’s Latin American and Caribbean Collection (LACC). This research project focuses on sexual liberation and political revolution movements in Latin America. Working at the intersection of literary criticism, cultural studies, and gender studies, the resulting book will map and analyze cultural and literary representations of Latin American homosexuality in relation to the political agendas of the revolutionary left and the sexual liberation movement of the 1970s.

Project Period:  04/01/2018 – 07/31/2018


Natural Sciences and Engineering Faculty

Functional Analysis of Locus-Specific Pericentric Satellite Expression

SPONSOR: National Institutes of Health
AWARD DATE: 9/5/2019

The goal of this project is to understand the basic structure and function of specific DNA sequences found near chromosomal centromeres – constricted regions to which spindle fibers attach, enabling duplicated chromosomes to segregate to opposite poles of a dividing cell. Tandemly repeated DNA sequences reside within these regions of chromosomes and have been historically poorly studied due to difficulties in the genomic assembly of repetitive DNA sequences. In cancer cells, these repetitive sequences are misregulated such that they become expressed, and we aim to understand both their sequence diversity and consequences of their expression. The proposed project promises to engage and train undergraduate researchers in innovative genomics, cytological and proteomics techniques, which will propel future careers in genomics and biomedical research.

PROJECT PERIOD: 9/5/2019 - 8/31/2022

Dawn Carone headshot

Dawn Carone


Elucidating the impact of the Npc1nmf164 mutation in the postnatal cerebellar development of a mouse mode of Niemann-Pick TypeC disease

Sponsor: Rowan University/National Institutes of Health
Award Date: 8/24/2018

Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) is an inherited lysosomal storage disease often caused by mutations in Npc1, a protein that exports cholesterol out of the lysosomes, resulting in abnormal accumulation of cholesterol and other lipids in endosomes and lysosomes.  NPC results in significant neurological symptoms, including ataxia, cognitive impairment, and dementia, that lead to premature death. Professor Carone’s preliminary research indicates cellular and structural changes in susceptible neurons and microglial cells are occurring during postnatal developmental stages and this study further explores how protein mutations related to NPC impact the cerebellum during the postnatal development stage.

Project Period: 8/1/2018 - 7/31/2021

Eva-Maria Collins

Eva-Maria Collins in front of a blackboard

RUI: Investigating non-linear tissue deformations using Hydra mouth opening as a quantitative in vivo model

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 09/10/2021

Epithelial tissues are found throughout the body and exercise a variety of critical functions. They also withstand extreme deformations: bending, stretching, and compression. This project creates an interdisciplinary research and education program aimed at characterizing the causes and effects of extreme deformations in epithelial tissues in the freshwater polyp Hydra. Professor Collins will study Hydra mouth opening, a physiologically important process that relies exclusively on tissue deformation wherein epithelial cells experience azimuthal strains up to 200% within tens of seconds. Mouth opening is quick and can be visualized using epifluorescence microscopy. Professor Collins will design a 3-week mouth opening laboratory module for her Systems Biology course, as well as a hands-on exercise on Hydra behavior for the Science for Kids program at Swarthmore College, which serves children from the neighboring town of Chester.

Project period: 09/15/2021-08/31/2024


Undergraduate Faculty Research Grant

Sponsor: Society of Toxicology 
Award Date: 04/27/2021

This grant will support two undergraduate students studying the effect of chemicals on neural function in the planarian Dugesia japonica. This invertebrate system is small, inexpensive, and easy to maintain, making it suitable for undergraduate research and rapid chemical screening. Utilizing a robust and sensitive robotic platform with multiple distinct behavioral endpoints, Dr. Collins’s group leads the field in chemical high-throughput screening (HTS) in planarians. Through close collaboration with Dr. Collins and other lab members, students will learn how to critically interpret their data, work effectively in a team, and present their results in written and oral form through weekly reports and regular lab meetings.

Project Period: 09/01/2021-05/31/2022

Bradley Davidson

Bradley Davidson headshot

RUI: Comparative analysis of endocytic trafficking during cell division

AWARD DATE: 04/16/2021

This collaborative research project between Swarthmore, Colby College, and Princeton University explores the interplay between cell division and signals that cells exchange to coordinate their behavior. Signal-dependent coordination of cell behavior is essential for the growth of all life forms. Signaling also plays a crucial role in dividing stem cells. Errors in signaling are the primary cause of cancer. The combined expertise will enable comprehensive investigations of signaling in dividing cells using an array of organisms, along with cutting edge genetic manipulation and imaging technologies. Additionally, this collaboration will pursue an ambitious outreach program which will include the development of a class focused on cancer biology for elementary school students in an underserved school district as part of the established Science for Kids summer program at Swarthmore College and integration between Summer Scholars Programs at Colby, Princeton and Swarthmore which focus on preparing URM and other diverse students for a successful college transition.

PROJECT PERIOD: 05/01/2021-04/30/2024


EAGER: Exploration of evolutionary mechanisms across multiple scales


AWARD DATE: 01/10/2021

This research project, funded by NSF’s Early-Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) and in collaboration with the University of Florida and the University of Georgia, will address questions of evolution and embryonic development through the comparative study of two sea squirts (a group of marine organisms closely related to humans and other vertebrates). In particular, this research will focus on a very poorly characterized group of sea squirts called the doliolids. Doliolids have acquired a number of highly divergent traits including the ability to produce four distinct body types specifically designed for feeding, dispersal, aesexual reproduction or sexual reproduction. The relative simplicity of sea squirt genomes and the low number of cells in sea squirt embryos will facilitate rigorous analysis of the evolutionary acquisition of new traits across multiple biological scales. This project will also provide a diverse group of trainees, including those that identify with groups underrepresented in the biological sciences, the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research spanning computational, molecular, cellular, developmental, ecological and evolutionary biology.

PROJECT PERIOD: 01/15/2021 - 12/31/2022

Chemistry & Biochemistry

Daniela Fera

Daniela Fera

Dissecting the interactions and conformations of protein kinases to understand biochemical signaling

AWARD DATE: 02/19/2021

Protein kinases act as molecular on/off switches in the cell. They are important for intracellular communication and their functions vary from controlling cell growth and metabolism to controlling cell death. With funding from the Cottrell Scholars program, the proposed research will focus on a protein kinase, called Lyn, which is a critical regulator of the immune response. Researchers in both the Fera lab and in Prof. Fera’s biochemistry lab course will perform a molecular “dissection” of Lyn and its regulatory modules using approaches from structural biology, biochemistry, and biophysics, to understand what keeps Lyn “off” until triggered to turn “on”. This is important for understanding how the immune system acts against the correct targets, i.e. outside “invaders”, and how to modulate the pathways in cases in which they are deregulated and might cause autoimmune disease. The approaches used in these analyses will also provide a proof-of-concept for studying other dynamic molecules and how they interact with other macromolecules to get a wider view of signaling inside a cell. Through this work, students will engage in authentic research experiences, gain skills that will help them in future scientific endeavors, and make important contributions to science.

PROJECT PERIOD: 07/01/2021 - 06/30/2024


Dissecting the interactions and conformations of protein kinases to understand biochemical signaling

AWARD DATE: 02/19/2021

Protein kinases act as molecular on/off switches in the cell. They are important for intracellular communication and their functions vary from controlling cell growth and metabolism to controlling cell death. With funding from the Cottrell Scholars program, the proposed research will focus on a protein kinase, called Lyn, which is a critical regulator of the immune response. Researchers in both the Fera lab and in Prof. Fera’s biochemistry lab course will perform a molecular “dissection” of Lyn and its regulatory modules using approaches from structural biology, biochemistry, and biophysics, to understand what keeps Lyn “off” until triggered to turn “on”. This is important for understanding how the immune system acts against the correct targets, i.e. outside “invaders”, and how to modulate the pathways in cases in which they are deregulated and might cause autoimmune disease. The approaches used in these analyses will also provide a proof-of-concept for studying other dynamic molecules and how they interact with other macromolecules to get a wider view of signaling inside a cell. Through this work, students will engage in authentic research experiences, gain skills that will help them in future scientific endeavors, and make important contributions to science.

PROJECT PERIOD: 07/01/2021 - 06/30/2024


Analysis of the Initiation of an HIV Broadly Neutralizing Antibody Lineage in a Single Host

AWARD DATE: 03/23/2020

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a rapidly evolving pathogen that escapes immune defenses provided by most vaccine-induced antibodies. Proposed strategies to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) by vaccination require a deeper understanding of evolution of the immune response to infection, since these protective antibodies typically take ~4-5 years to develop. In HIV-infected individuals, viruses and antibody producing B-cells evolve together, creating a virus-antibody “arms race,” with populations of viruses and antibodies present throughout infection. This research will analyze critical early time-points of the arms race in a donor who developed antibodies of significant breadth, to guide immunogen design. Undergraduate research students supported by this Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) will explore an issue of critical public health importance using cutting-edge techniques, be co-authors on published work and be mentored by experts committed to their long-term career development.

PROJECT PERIOD: 04/01/2020 – 03/31/2023

Christopher Graves

Enabling New Catalytic Chemistry for Aluminum with non-Innocent and Recox-Active Ligands

SPONSOR: The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation

AWARD DATE: 7/25/2019


Kathleen Howard

Kathleen Howard


Characterization of the interaction of M1 and M2: Influenza A proteins critical to viral assembly

SPONSOR: National Institutes of Health
AWARD DATE: 8/23/2019

The threat of future influenza pandemics, coupled with the growing resistance to current antiviral drugs, makes the development of new influenza drugs a national healthcare priority. This proposal describes experiments designed to provide an atomic-level understanding of how influenza viruses assemble and then bud from infected cells. This structural information could inform efforts to inhibit the replication of viruses, offering a significant potential for a new generation of anti-flu drugs. Undergraduate research students supported by this award will explore an issue of critical public health importance using cutting edge biophysical techniques, participate in established interdisciplinary collaborations, be co-authors on published work and be mentored by experts committed to their long-term career development.

PROJECT PERIOD: 9/1/2019 - 8/31/2022

Liliya Yatsunyk

Liliya Yatsunyk

Mitochondrial G-quadruplex structures in health and disease

SPONSOR: National Institutes of Health
AWARD DATE: 10/13/2020

The mitochondrial genome has been implicated as a paradigm for G-quadruplex structure formation, but the function of these structures in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is unknown. This study, led by Dr. Brett Kaufman at the University of Pittsburgh, will establish the location, regulation, response and resolution of G-quadruplex structures the mitochondrial genome and will lay the groundwork for using sequence-specific formation of G-quadruplexes to treat disease. Dr. Yatsunyk will use various methods to perform biophysical screening of a large number of mtDNA derived sequences. The objective is to determine the G4 forming potential of mtDNA derived sequences.

PROJECT PERIOD: 08/01/2020  - 06/30/2024


Deciphering the structure and dynamics of quadruplex DNA and DNA-ligand complexes

SPonSor:  The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation
Award Date:  07/29/2016

The Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award is provided to support faculty who are engaged in both outstanding research and teaching.  Research supported by this project will support the development of new and promising highly selective therapies to battle cancer.  Unusual DNA structures called G-quaduplexes (GQ) are involved in a significant number of cancer-related biological processes.  Finding ligands that bind these structures may open new insights into the development of individualized therapies against cancer.  Studying GQ DNA structures of telomeres and oncogene promoters and uncovering their interactions with small molecule ligands will provide a better understanding of cancer while also paving the way for more efficient and selective therapies.  The interdisciplinary nature of the research design and its potential to advance the quadruplex field will provide transformative training for Swarthmore undergraduates.

Project Period:  09/01/2016 – 08/31/2021


Carr Everbach

Image of Carr Everbach

Scar Detection and Treatment with Droplet Activation

AWARD DATE: 07/28/2020

The application of microbubbles to diagnostic and therapeutic modalities has been vast from tumor imaging to drug delivery to sonothrombolysis. The main limitations of microbubbles is their stability after venous administration as well as their size, which constrains them to the intravascular compartment. Recent development of phase-change agents (PCAs) has led to expanded applications of ultrasound contrast and movement into the extravascular space. In collaboration with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Professor Everbach will provide cavitation monitoring and quantification for in-vitro studies of the effect of ultrasound on perfluorocarbon liquid droplets in a model (non-living) system.

PROJECT PERIOD: 04/01/2020 – 03/31/2024

Mathematics & Statistics

Victor Barranca

Victor Barranca sitting outside

RUI: Compressive Sensing and Neuronal Network Structure-Function Relationships

sponsor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  05/16/2018

Revealing the relationship between neuronal network structure and brain function is of central importance to neuroscience and applied mathematics. However, measuring the connectivity of large neuronal networks remains a challenge both experimentally and theoretically. This project formulates a novel framework for the reconstruction and characterization of neuronal connectivity by taking advantage of the widespread network sparsity found in the brain and utilizing recent advances in compressive-sensing (CS) theory.

Project Period:  06/15/2018 – 05/31/2022


Linda Chen

Linda Chen headshot

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 06/21/2021

Algebraic geometry is a central area of mathematics that studies varieties, which are geometric objects defined by systems of polynomial equations. Moduli theory aims to understand specific varieties by considering how they behave in a family of such varieties. A moduli space consists of all geometric objects of a particular type. This research project consists of problems that arise from the fruitful interactions between algebraic geometry and new developments in other fields of mathematics such as combinatorics, which is concerned with organizing and analyzing discrete structures. This project will fund undergraduate research and Dr. Chen will continue efforts towards broadening participation of members of underrepresented groups in the mathematical sciences.

Project Period: 07/01/2021-06/30-2024


Mid-Atlantic Algebra, Geometry, and Combinatorics Workshop

SPONSOR: National Science Foundation
AWARD DATE: 02/15/2017

Swarthmore College is a partner institution in this collaboration with Haverford College, Drexel University, and the University of Pennsylvania. The Mid-Atlantic Algebra, Geometry, and Combinatorics (MAAGC) workshop is an annual conference series held in Philadelphia which brings together senior researchers and junior mathematicians to promote collaborations and regional interactions. Each MAAGC workshop has brought four outstanding mathematicians from across North America to give talks about new advances in algebraic combinatorics, algebraic geometry, representation theory, and other related fields.  MAAGC workshops are designed to strengthen and connect the scientific communities in algebra, geometry, and combinatorics by facilitating positive interactions among students, postdocs, and faculty at research universities as well as small colleges in the Mid-Atlantic. 

Project period: 03/01/2017-02/28/2022


Equivariant and Combinatorial Algebraic Geometry

sponsor:  The Simons Foundation
Award Date:  01/30/2017

The Simons Foundation has awarded a grant to Dr. Chen to support her research on combinatorial and enumerative problems in algebraic geometry, and fruitful interactions between modern methods in algebraic geometry and new developments in combinatorics, representation theory, symplectic geometry, and other fields. Fundamentally linked to these problems are the study of moduli and parameter spaces and their cohomology theories, and the study of objects that are combinatorially rich in structure.  Her work discusses recent and ongoing work on equivariant and quantam Schubert calculus of homogeneous spaces, brill-Noether theory of curves, K-theory of degeneracy loci, affine Grassmannians, Hessenberg varieties, and generalizations of the moduli space of curves.

Project Period: 09/01/2017 - 08/31/2022

RUI: Combinatorial Algebraic Geometry: Curves and Their Moduli


Joshua Goldwyn

Joshua Goldwyn

RUI: Structural and Dynamical Specializations of Axons that Enhance Neural Coincidence Detection

AWARD DATE: 03/11/2020

Mathematical research has led to essential insights into the dynamics of neurons and function of the brain. The long-term goals of our work are to create new mathematical methods that describe auditory centers in the brain and advance knowledge of the auditory system and hearing. In this Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) project, we will study neurons in the auditory brainstem of mammals and birds that are essential components of how animals determine the locations of sound sources. We will develop mathematical theory to explain the biophysical and dynamical specializations of these coincidence detector neurons and also consider how hearing loss may degrade neural coincidence detection.  A central component of the project is the training of undergraduate students in computational neuroscience, a fast-growing field at the interface of mathematics and neuroscience.   

PROJECT PERIOD: 06/01/2020 - 05/31/2023

Amanda Luby

Image of Amanda Luby

Implementation of Item Response Theory to improve forensic proficiency testing

AWARD DATE: 07/10/2020

Fingerprints have been used as evidence in criminal cases for decades, and their probative value has been reaffirmed in countless legal decisions. Yet, in recent decades, questions have arisen about the accuracy with which an examiner can identify the source of a blurry, partial print, and about the probability of observing a match between two prints made by different fingers. One way to assess examiner performance in real criminal cases is through tests of examiner performance, e.g., proficiency tests or error rate studies. Although proficiency tests are widely used in forensic science for training and  procedural purposes, they are not being utilized to their full potential. This project proposes an industry-wide adoption of Item Response Theory (IRT), which is well-established in the field of educational testing, to improve forensic proficiency testing. This is a collaboration with the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE).

PROJECT PERIOD: 06/01/2020 - 05/31/2025

Physics & Astronomy

David Cohen

David Cohen in the office

Where are the shocks in O Star Winds? Understanding constraints from f/i ratios in He-like ions

AWARD DATE: 02/16/2021

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope designed to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes. The Chandra X-ray Center operates the satellite, processes the data, and distributes it to scientists around the world for analysis. The most massive and luminous stars in the Galaxy produce X-rays in their outflowing stellar winds. In this project, we will model the relative strengths of particular emission lines seen in Chandra spectra in order to determine the distance above the surface of the star at which the X-rays are produced. This will inform theories of the X-ray production itself. Undergraduate students will be significantly involved in this labor and data intensive effort, gaining important experience in x-ray astrophysics.

PROJECT PERIOD: 01/11/2021-01/10/2023


Amy Graves & Cacey Bester

Amy Graves and Cacey Bester

Collaborative Research: RUI: Jammed granular matter within networks of pins: Structure, elasticity, plasticity and rheology under shear

AWARD DATE: 11/25/2019

This study aims to engage computational and experimental studies in the active, modern fields of jamming and clogging, employing a novel strategy of imposing controlled pinning sites. Such a study will not only elucidate these transitions, but provide a step towards applications in which pinning sites may be used to broadly control the rheology of a granular sample, with likely extensions to related areas of soft condensed matter, physics of life, and the engineering of novel materials. In this Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) project, an experimentalist and theorist at each institution (Bucknell University and Swarthmore College) will work collaboratively, both within and between institutions. Fifteen summer undergraduate research associates and roughly half that many students supported during the academic year will be actively involved in all facets of the proposed work, including direct collaboration across two institutions on both experiments and simulations. 

PROJECT PERIOD: 12/01/2019 - 11/30/2022

Hillary Smith

Hillary Smith in the lab

Heat Capacity and Enthalpy of Amorphous Materials

AWARD DATE: 10/28/2020

Glasses are solids, like crystals, but isotropic and without long-range order, like liquids.  When an amorphous solid is heated, before crystallization occurs, the material softens, becoming a viscous liquid that is deeply undercooled below its usual melting temperature. Significant heat is absorbed in this “glass transition,” raising the entropy of the material with respect to its crystalline structure. Dr. Smith will lead an investigation of the heat capacity and enthalpy, together with the free energy and entropy, of glasses with diverse physical properties.  This project will use experimental tools to obtain a complete thermodynamic description of several glasses in their amorphous, crystalline, and supercooled liquid states.

PROJECT PERIOD: 09/01/2021 – 08/31/2023

Tristan Smith

Tristan Smith at blackboard

RUI: Looking beyond LCDM—observational consequences of models that ease the Hubble tension

AWARD DATE: 07/22/2020

Over the past twenty years, greater precision in cosmological measurements have revealed intriguing tensions that challenge the standard cosmological model. The most pressing of these is a disagreement between two distinct ways scientists estimate the current expansion rate of the universe (known as the Hubble constant). One estimate is based on direct measurement that uses observations of supernovae; the other is based on indirect measurement that uses observations of the afterglow of the big bang. Whereas the data from these two estimates used to agree, advances in measurement precision now yield values for the Hubble constant that are statistically different. This “Hubble tension” may be pointing scientists to new and unexpected physics not included in the standard cosmological model. This Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) project will advance the field of cosmology by refining what this tension may signify about new and unanticipated physical processes and in doing so has the potential to enhance our understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe.

PROJECT PERIOD: 09/01/2020 - 08/31/2023


Fundamental Tests of Gravity Across Time, Space and Mass

Sponsor: Research Corporation for Science Advancement
Award Date: 02/12/2019

This Cottrell Scholar Award has a dual focus on furthering research in the area of gravitational physics as well as providing significant training and learning opportunities to undergraduate students.  The focus of the project’s research will help to fill a gap in our knowledge of gravitational physics with a direct application to gravity theories that attempt to address one of the most pressing questions in physics: the physical nature of the current epoch of accelerated expansion.  Additionally, Tristan will develop a summer science communication program at Swarthmore College with the intent of training summer research students in effective communication.

Project Period: 07/01/2019 – 06/30/2022


Social Sciences Faculty

Marc Remer

Marc Remer

Collaborative Research: Empirical Models of Supracompetitive Pricing in Differentiated Products Markets

AWARD DATE: 08/17/2018

This project is a collaboration with Georgetown University and the Ohio State University to improve the understanding of market power in differentiated product markets. The researchers will study supra-competitive pricing using a model of price leadership that fits the U.S. beer market, exploring why prices rose more than predicted by current modeling after the Miller/Coors joint venture, why price increases were limited to Anheuser-Busch/Inbev and MillerCoors, and the impact of multi-market contact. The research team will also examine ways to test and quantify cartel collusion by studying evidence from recent price fixing cases within the canned tuna industry.

PROJECT PERIOD: 09/15/2018 - 08/31/2020

Daifeng He

Daifeng He

Direct and spillover effects of Medicare payment changes on nursing home quality and volume

AWARD DATE:  07/31/2018

Daifeng He will work with research partners at the College of William & Mary to study the causal effects of Medicare payment rates on Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) volume and quality.  This project will provide evidence about how these subsequent changes will affect SNFs and lay the groundwork for informing policymakers about the effects of the ACA’s productivity adjustments for hospitals and other healthcare facilities.  Importantly, the results will inform legislative debates about state certificate of need laws, state Medicaid payment policy, and federal antitrust regulations.

PROJECT PERIOD:  08/01/2018 – 07/31/2019

Jennifer Peck

Jennifer Peck

Exploring Fixed Costs in Female Hiring:  The Role of Adjustment Costs and Cultural Barriers to Women’s Employment

AWARD DATE:  08/22/2017

Saudi Arabia’s Nitaqat program has sharply increased female employment in the private sector.  However, hiring was not spread evenly across firms. Some have shown rapid growth in female employment; others have continued to employ only male workers.  This study will begin studying if this may be due to fixed costs. While hiring female workers may be attractive to firms trying to meet nationalization quotas, firms must first invest in the capacity to hire women. Workplace adjustments may also be needed to comply with cultural norms.  This pilot will gather information on firms’ assessments of these constraints through a combination of administrative data analysis, interviews, and a firm survey. While the focus will be on fixed costs, the evidence gathered as part of this study will likely shed light on the perceived barriers to hiring women, providing crucial evidence for future work on female labor force participation in the region.

PROJECT PERIOD:  06/01/2017 – 12/31/2020

Educational Studies

Edwin Mayorga

Edwin Mayorga headshot

Cultivating Communities Together: Examining and Supporting School+Community Collaboration

Sponsor: Spencer Foundation
Award Date: 08/25/2021

Using a “queer, intersectional, and abolitionist” lens, Cultivating Connections Together (CCT) is a historical ethnographic study of the changing Philadelphia education landscape and a community-driven examination of the goals and practices of current partnership models. CCT seeks to bring attention to the vital role Black politics plays in defining the relationships between communities and schools historically and today. The documentation and examination of partnership models in operation today will strengthen the educational experience for students and families by providing vital insight on what the underlying goals are of partnerships and what practices are effective in meeting those goals. Findings will be disseminated through multiple platforms, including the publication of a “Community Report” for the general public, a number of potential peer-reviewed journal publications, and collaboratively authored online writing to release findings.

PROJECT PERIOD: 10/01/2021 - 12/31/2022

K. Ann Renninger

K. Ann Renninger headshot

Mastery-Oriented Professional Development for Integrating CS into Math

AWARD DATE: 03/12/2021

Roughly half of the US states have adopted K-12 Computer Science (CS) standards to date. Many districts, however, cannot afford standalone CS classes. Integrating CS into existing courses is a promising alternative, but little research guides districts on how students learn CS in integrated contexts or how teachers gain confidence, interest, and skill to teach integrated computing content. Swarthmore College is a subaward partner institution in this collaboration with Brown University, Bootstrap, and the Oklahoma Department of Secondary Education. The award expands ongoing work to prepare 8th and 9th grade math teachers in Oklahoma to integrate computing more extensively. The mixed-methods research draws on surveys and longitudinal interviews with teachers, recordings of classrooms, samples of student work, and data on student assessments. This project is funded by the CS for All: Research and RPPs program.

PROJECT PERIOD: 01/01/2021-12/31/2021


Mathematical Thinkers Like Me

SPONSOR: EF+Math Program of the NewSchools Venture Fund
AWARD DATE: 08/27/2020

Swarthmore College is a subaward partner institution in this collaboration with the EF+Math and The 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education. Dorwin P. Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action K. Ann Renninger will study the development of conceptual understanding, equity, and executive functions in math education, in particular for students of color, through online collaborative problem solving and student story-telling and sharing of their evolving identities as mathematical thinkers. In addition, she will work closely with and serve as a mentor for a research technician and undergraduate research students who are assisting with project data collection, reduction, and analysis.

PROJECT PERIOD: 08/01/2020 – 07/31/2023

Joseph Nelson

Joseph Nelson

The Listening Project

AWARD DATE:  04/11/2018

"The Listening Project" is a collaboration with New York University that will offer a new direction in research for a solution to the “crisis of connection" in today’s schools.  This research will specifically focus on the pivotal context of middle schools where this crisis starts to emerge. This work is rooted in our shared capacity to listen to one another so that we may understand, be understood, see, be seen, and care and cooperate across and within communities.  The team will train a sample of NYC middle school teachers and 7th grade students of color in the practice of "transformative interviewing" to enhance listening skills, build relationships between and among students and teachers, and foster learning, satisfaction, and a sense of a common humanity.

PROJECT PERIOD:  09/01/2017 - 08/31/2019


Megan Rose Brown

Megan Brown

Empires on the Move:  Teaching and Researching Colonization and Mobility

Sponsor: Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges
Award Date: 07/19/2018

“Empire on the Move” will explore the intersections of academic work and pedagogy of a group of interdisciplinary scholars whose interests align with the themes of empire and mobility.  New works in history, literature, and anthropology, among other disciplines, demonstrate the significance of this topic, particularly because their visual, literary, and cartographic analyses lend themselves to digital learning initiatives.  By encouraging participants to think through teaching and research together the workshop will invite scholars to embrace this field as a way of enhancing cross-disciplinary endeavors and to return to their respective campuses with new ideas about the state of the field.

Project Period:  07/19/2019 - 06/30/2020


K. David Harrison

K. David Harrison

REU Site Proposal Building dictionaries to support endangered languages and preserve environmental knowledge in Mexico, Micronesia, and Navajo Nation

Co-PI's: Brook Lillehaugen, Ted Fernald, & Jamie Thomas

AWARD DATE: 12/05/2014

The project builds bridges between indigenous linguists in the US academic community, Mexico, Micronesia, and the Navajo Nation, with collaborative research that benefits all parties. It helps uncover deep connections between languages and landscapes by documenting the knowledge base about the natural world found in endangered languages. The resulting linguistic materials support local communities' language revitalization efforts. They will also be a resource to the broader scientific community seeking to understand language complexity, diversity and universals. The project begins with a two-week intensive, hands-on training session on current best practice for recording languages (or areas of grammar within languages) that have not yet been adequately documented. Students learn directly from professional linguists and indigenous language experts how endangered languages are being modernized, digitized, and expanded into new technological domains. In weeks three and four, students participate in a two-week field practicum. Working in teams led by indigenous language experts, students help record basic and specialized lexica, folk taxonomies, toponyms, and ethno-biological nomenclature. They explore and help document the rich knowledge base in each language that uniquely encodes the natural environment (flora, fauna, weather, geography, etc.). They also learn current best practices in sustaining indigenous languages and supporting global language diversity.

Project Period: 05/01/2015 - 06/30/2021

Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli

RISE (Reading Involves Shared Experience) ebooks for deaf children

AWARD DATE:  06/13/2017

RISE ebooks are a product of collaboration between Gallaudet University and Swarthmore College since 2013. Students from both institutions collaborate with children from the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf to create new RISE books. Our ebooks help deaf children—a group that, by and large, has been left out of the joys of reading—step into the world of books. We hope to secure the future sustainability of this initiative by helping produce the next generation of sign storytellers for bilingual-bimodal books.

PROJECT PERIOD:  07/01/2017 - 06/30/2020


Jane Gillham

Jane Gillham

Adolescent Mood Project: Efficacy of Counselor-Implemented IPT-AST

Sociology & Anthropology

Daniel Laurison

Daniel Laurison on Parrish Beach

Missing Voices: Why Poor and Working-Class People Avoid Politics
Andrew Carnegie Fellowship

AWARD DATE: 04/28/2021

This project seeks to understand a fundamental issue in American Democracy – the deep class and racial inequality in who participates. Missing Voices aims to address disparities in political participation by working with poor and working-class people to understand how they view electoral politics.The research builds on over 100 interviews already conducted, which demonstrate that poor and working class people often view politics as only for the rich. This project will use interviews and focus groups to discover how poor and working class people experience political organizations’ attempts to mobilize them, and why those attempts so often fail.

PROJECT PERIOD: 08/01/2021-07/31/2023



Watch: Linguist K. David Harrison describes his field work documenting endangered languages for the Talking Dictionary. Learn more about his grant-funded work with Tri-Co faculty.

Performance of Chopin without Piano

Barbara Milewski and Allen Kuharski brought the North American premiere of Chopin Without Piano to Swarthmore with a grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Watch a video from the performance.

Christopher Graves headshot

Synthetic Chemist Chris Graves Receives NSF Research Grant. The grant was awarded as a Sustainable Chemistry, Engineering, and Materials (SusChEM) Funding Opportunity, through the NSF’s Chemical Synthesis Program.

Crouch and Geller at circuit board

NSF Grant Will Measure Impact of Physics Course Built for Life Science Majors. Learn about the course taught by Catherine Crouch and Benjamin Geller.

Professor Art McGarity, Lang Center Scholar-in-Residence Arto Woodley, Jonathan Cohen ’17, and Alexandra Philyaw ’17

From Scrub, New Growth. Read about Professor Art McGarity's grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lead water projects for Philadelphia’s storm-water runoff.

Fusing Energies: Professor Mike Brown and the Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment (SSX) lab receive funding from the U.S. Department of Energy ALPHA project