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Faculty Grant Profiles

Swarthmore faculty write grant proposals to support their research, their teaching and other scholarly and creative projects. When funded by external grants these activities are sponsored programs: activities faculty often engage in during their sabbatical. Some faculty members also receive on-going research grants that span multiple years.

Faculty grants often include support of summer stipends for Swarthmore student researchers, costs for outreach and dissemination of research results, and indirect costs to support the administrative infrastructure necessary for research.

Below you will find profiles of sponsored programs that are in progress at Swarthmore this fiscal year (July 1 through June 30) 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.

View the archived list of sponsored programs that ended prior to the current fiscal year.

 

Dawn Carone, Biology

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

 

Marc Remer, Economics

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

National Science Foundation
Award Date: 8/17/2018

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: 9/15/2018 - 8/31/2020

 
Mark Remer

Chris Graves, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Cottrell Scholar Collaborative: Teacher Scholar Ambassadors for PUI – R1 Partnerships, Phase II

Sponsor: The Ohio State University/Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement
Award Date: 08/08/2018

This collaborative research project, supported by The Research Corporation and The Ohio State University, seeks to leverage partnerships between primarily undergraduate institutions (PUI) and research intensive (R1) universities to promote high quality undergraduate research experiences.  With support from the Ohio State University, student researchers from Purdue and Swarthmore will visit each other’s respective campus laboratories and engage in the research at the partner institution. The project allows a student researcher at Swarthmore to experience research activity at a larger research institution and a student from Purdue to join Professor Graves’ research team for a summer research experience.

Project Period: 6/1/2018 - 6/30/2019

 

Megan Rose Brown, History

Empires on the Move:  Teaching and Researching Colonization and Mobility

Sponsor: Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges
Award Date: 7/19/2018

“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:  7/19/2019 - 6/30/2020

 
Photo of Megan Rose Brown

Peng Xu, Chinese

A Pedagogy Workshop on Teaching East Asian Performing Arts at Liberal Arts Colleges

Sponsor: Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges
Award Date: 7/19/2018

This workshop will increase scholarly understanding of the visual dimension of drama in Ming and Qing China through an interdisciplinary approach to dramatic texts that portray or engage other forms of art, such as painting, gardening, woodblock printing, costuming, and performance arts (e.g., guqin-playing, female dance, ballad singing, and court pageantries, etc.).  Bringing together drama scholars with cross-genre, cross-media, and cross-disciplinary research projects, all of which involve close reading of dramatic texts as a fundamental part of their scholarship, the group will conduct a close examination of a highly selective collection of these texts.

Project Period:  7/19/2019 - 6/30/2020

 

Daifeng He, Economics

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

Donor:  Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Award Date:  7/31/2018

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:  8/1/2018 – 7/31/2019

 

Joseph Nelson, Educational Studies

The Listening Project

Donor:  The Spencer Foundation
Award Date:  4/11/2018

"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:  9/1/2017 - 8/31/2018

 

Victor Barranca, Mathematics & Statistics

RUI: Compressive Sensing and Neuronal Network Structure-Function Relationships

Donor:  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 – 05/31/2021

 

Tristan Smith, Physics & Astronomy

Model-independent probes of cosmic expansion and radiation content of the universe

Donor:  National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)
Award Date:  05/14/2018

Estimates of the expansion history of the universe have allowed us to build the current standard cosmological model. Today, precise measurements of the cosmic microwave background and large-scale structure of the universe give us far more information, shedding light not only on the cosmic expansion history, but also the energy budget and perhaps even interactions between the different species composing the universe.  We plan to systematically characterize the power of efforts to probe the cosmic expansion history at a range of different epochs. This work may yield insight on pressing challenges for theorists today, including the physics of dark matter, neutrinos, and the nature of dark energy.  This research will be conducted in partnership with Haverford College PI Daniel Grin.

Project Period:  05/15/2018 – 05/14/2021

 
Photo of Tristan Smith pointing at a blackboard.

Noah Giansiracusa, Mathematics and Statistics

RUI:  Exploring the Algebraic Geometry of Matroids

Donor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  05/03/2018

There have been recent breakthroughs in matroid theory coming from the importation of tools and ideas from algebraic geometry.  This project proposes a program to continue this momentum by developing a module-theoretic framework for matroids, a moduli space of matroids, and a geometric setting for discrete polymatroids - all with a view toward some longstanding problems in the matroid literature.  The broader impacts of this proposal include undergraduate research mentorship and a summer enrichment program, focusing on interactions between math and law, for disadvantaged underrepresented students at a nearby underfunded public high school.

Project Period:  09/01/2018 – 08/31/2021

 

Brian Goldstein, Art History

Bond:  Race and the Modern City

Donor:  Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts 
Award Date:  03/29/2018

Bond: Race and the Modern City is the first book-length study of the architect J. Max Bond, Jr. Bond. The preeminent African-American architect in the postwar United States, Bond was a civil rights activist, innovative educator, and designer of major commissions across scales.  Yet his work remains little known.  Indeed, throughout his life Bond occupied a unique position as both central figure and outlier, professionally successful but always one among a tiny percentage of black American architects.  By tracing this tension across key sites in Bond's life and work, including Cambridge, Paris, Kumasi, New York, and Washington, DC, this project uses the biography of one exceptional architect to chart an alternate history of architecture and urbanism in the modern and postmodern eras.  In doing so, Bond rethinks much broader histories of the fundamental and often surprising ways that race has shaped American places.

Project Period:  06/10/2018 – 05/31/2019

 

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology

Quantification of the Wnt Morphogen Gradient in Hydra and Mechanically Induced Symmetry Breaking

Donor:  Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Award Date:  05/09/2018

The Wnt/ß-catenin pathway plays an important role for developmental patterning and tissue homeostasis.  Misregulation in Wnt signaling has been linked to numerous diseases in humans, including cancer.  During development, Wnt proteins are secreted and form a concentration gradient that conveys positional information to cells.  This allows Wnt signaling to exert long range effects on tissue patterning and growth, controlling anterior-posterior polarity in a variety of organisms.  Recent technological advances enable us to visualize endogenous Wnt proteins.  This opens the door to quantitative studies of the Wnt gradient during development and allows us to investigate the mutual regulation of mechanically-induced morphological changes and Wnt signaling in axial patterning.  How these mechanical oscillations influence the Wnt gradients and vice versa remains an unsolved question.  We study this mutual regulation in the freshwater cnidarian Hydra and seek to quantitatively dissect the interplay of Wnt gradients and mechanical forcing during symmetry breaking regeneration in Hydra.

Project Period:  05/25/2018 – 10/31/2019

 

Peng Xu, Chinese

Art in Drama: Reading Dramatic Texts at the Interstices of Performance Culture and Visual Culture

Donor:  American Council of Learned Societies & The Henry Luce Foundation
Award Date:  04/16/2018

This collaborative reading workshop will add to our understanding of the visual dimension of drama in Ming and Qing China through an interdisciplinary approach to dramatic texts that portray or engage other forms of art, such as painting, gardening, woodblock printing, costuming, and performance arts (e.g., guqin-playing, female dance, ballad singing, and court pageantries, etc.). In this workshop, we bring together drama scholars with cross-genre, cross-media, and cross-disciplinary research projects all of which involve close reading of dramatic texts as a fundamental part of their scholarship. Each of the thirteen participants has proposed one to two dramatic texts at the center of their ongoing research projects to be the primary material for an intensive group discussion.

Project Period:  04/23/2018 – 10/31/2019

 

Luciano Martínez, Spanish

Radical Desires: Homosexuality and Revolution in Latin America

Donor:  U.S. Department of Education
Award Date:  3/29/2018

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:  4/1/2018 – 7/31/2018

 
Photo of Luciano Martínez

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology

CAREER:  Emergence of Population Diversity from Stem Cell Decision Making in Asexual Planarians

Donor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  3/28/2018

Diversity of individuals is indispensable for population survival and evolution. This project examines how phenotypic diversity can emerge from decision making of individual stem cells in a multicellular regenerative organism. Asexual freshwater planarians are famous for the regenerative capabilities that are based on a large number of adult pluripotent stem cells (ASCs). These ASCs allow them to reproduce by binary fission, thus creating a clonal population and raising the question of how this species is able to create sufficient diversity to survive on evolutionary time scales. Using tools from statistical physics, we recently demonstrated that reproduction is largely stochastic, but that reproductive patterns exist whose molecular and physical determinants remain to be investigated. This proposal aims to test the hypothesis that population diversity arises from a joint effect of the specifics of planarian reproduction mechanics and epigenetic diversity of ASCs in individual worms.

Project Period:  3/1/2018 – 6/30/2021

 

Steve Wang, Mathematics & Statistics

RUI: Comparing age selectivity in modern extinctions and the fossil record

Donor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  3/2/2018

This project will study the relationship between taxon age and extinction risk for modern taxa, and compare it to relationships in the fossil record.  Steve and his team will use fossil data from the Paleobiology Database, and modern extinction threat assessments from the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.  Preliminary analyses have found no relationship between taxon age and extinction risk - a pattern similar to what has previously been seen in past mass extinctions, and dissimilar from that seen in background extinctions.  However, these preliminary analyses are not directly comparable to previous analyses on fossil data due to differences in methodology. The team will work to adapt the methodology for modern species to fossil data, and to investigate how potential biases in methodology and fossil and modern databases affect these results.

Project Period:  4/15/2018 – 3/31/2019

 
Photo of Steve Wang

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology

Unraveling the Role of Mechanics for Tissue Self-organization in Vivo

Donor:  Research Corporation for Science Advancement
Award Date:  2/6/2018

This project addresses fundamental questions regarding the role of mechanical interactions for pattern formation in development. It has two aims: (1) to determine the role of mechanical properties for cell behaviors during tissue organization and body axis formation and (2) to obtain in vivo measurements of the forces individual cells experience and their connection to cell signaling during these patterning processes. Using a multiscale approach from the molecular to the organismal level, this study will provide insight into how macroscopic organism-level patterning emerges from physicochemical interactions on the microscopic scale.

Project Period:  1/1/2018 – 6/30/2020

 

Jennifer Peck, Economics

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

Donor:  Harvard Kennedy School
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:  6/1/2017 – 5/31/2018

 

Dawn Carone, Biology

Locus-Specific regulation of pericentric satellite sequences

Donor:  The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation
Award Date:  7/26/2017

This research project will generate a high-resolution map of specific HSATII sequences within the human genome in order to propel further functional studies to understand the consequence of locus-specific HSATII misregulation in cancer. A full characterization of the level of variation within the HSATII sequence family, an analysis both fundamental and pure, is essential to understanding the regulatory roles of pericentric satellites. This rich resource, and the tools to be developed during the scope of the project, will be of value both within the genomics community, the broader cancer research community, and in the training of our future scientists.

Project Period: 9/1/2017 - 8/31/2019

 

Linda Chen, Mathematics and Statistics

Equivariant and Combinatorial Algebraic Geometry

Donor:  The Simons Foundation
Award Date:  1/30/2017

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:  9/1/2017 - 8/31/2022

 

Catherine Crouch, Physics & Astronomy

Do connections persist? A pilot study investigating the lasting impact of a physics course designed to facilitate connections with biology

Donor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  6/13/2017

This early-stage, exploratory research study is designed to lay the groundwork for future large-scale research studies. The study addresses two central research questions: (1) Do IPLS students demonstrate a greater ability to leverage physics later biology coursework, compared to their peers with no physics or traditional introductory physics?; and (2) Do IPLS students view physics as more connected to biology and chemistry, compared to their peers? The research team will work with biology faculty to develop a set of tasks administered to upper division biology students and conduct longitudinal case studies with life science students.

Project Period:  8/15/2017 - 7/31/2020

 

Aaron Grocholski, Physics & Astronomy

Calibrating the Luminosity of Carbon Stars: An Archival Study of Galaxies in  the Nearby Universe

Donor:  National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)
Award Date:  7/28/2017

Studies have shown that the uncertainty in the contribution of carbon stars to integrated galaxy light can cause galactic mass and age estimates to change by a factor of 2. We propose to significantly improve this calibration by performing an archival HST study of the resolved carbon star populations within ~4 Mpc. We use a sample of 40 galaxies with deep HST photometry to determine accurate star formation histories and compare the properties of the carbon stars to those of underlying populations. Our study will design a more effective empirical calibration of carbon stars and improve understandings of galaxy evolution.

Project Period:  7/1/2017 - 6/30/2020

 

Donna Jo Napoli, Linguistics

RISE (Reading Involves Shared Experience) ebooks for deaf children

Donor:  Donfinger-McMahon Foundation
Award Date:  6/13/2017

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:  7/1/2017 - 6/30/2020

 
Photo of Donna Jo Napoli

K. Ann Renninger, Educational Studies

Collaborative Research: Hybrid Professional Development to Enhance Teachers’ Use of Bootstrap

Donor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  8/23/2017

Bootstrap's current professional development (PD) program for math teachers is a 3-day in-person event which assumes that teachers are somewhat facile with algebraic functions. This project studies how to develop teachers' understanding of CS and strengthens their math proficiency. A total of 270 middle-school math teachers—a majority from rural areas or serving Native American or Hispanic students—will participate in Bootstrap PD under this project. Assuming typical adoption rates, these teachers should reach 6,000 students within the project period alone. Building Bootstrap content into the Math Forum exposes thousands of NCTM's teachers to the potential of integrated math/CS curricula.

Project Period:  9/1/2017 - 8/31/2020

 
Photo of K. Ann Renninger

Christopher Graves, Chemistry & Biochemistry

RUI: Redox Active Aluminum Nitroxide Complexes for the anti-Markovnikov Hydrofunctionalization of Alkenes

Donor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  6/16/2017

Dr. Graves’ research addresses the important chemical challenge of limitation in the advance of new aluminum complexes around which sustainable and benign catalytic systems can be developed.  The goals of this proposed research are to synthesize aluminum complexes of redox-active nitroxide ligands that exhibit reversible, multi-electron electrochemical and chemical transformations. This novel redox chemistry will be exploited to expand the reaction portfolio of aluminum complexes and will enable new catalyst systems based around this abundant element.

Project Period:  7/1/2017 – 6/30/2020

 

Mathew Zucker, Engineering

A high-throughput imaging and classification system for fruit flies

Donor:  FlySorter, LLC/National Institutes of Health
Award Date:  8/19/2017

Dr. Zucker has received funding to collaborate with FlySorter, LLC in a project that focuses on lab automation for biologists working with fruit flies. The goal of this research is the development of a device to automatically sort fruit flies (by sex, eye color, etc.) in order to address the challenges in research that limit experimental population sizes and/or genetic diversity, introduce human error, thereby freeing lab hours for better use.

Project Period:  08/01/2017 – 01/31/2018

 

Michael Brown, Physics & Astronomy

Collaborative Research:  Analysis of wave mode content in fully turbulent, moderately collisional plasma through laboratory experiment and kinetic simulation

Donors:  National Science Foundation and Department of Energy
Award Date:  9/15/2017

This project, a joint venture with researchers at Bryn Mawr College and the University of Maryland, College Park, aims to explore and understand the turbulent characteristics of hot, magnetically dynamic, moderately collisional laboratory plasma generated by a plasma gun launched into a flux-conserving plasma wind tunnel. Experiments of this nature will be conducted on two different plasma machines: the Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment (SSX) and a new experiment in development at Bryn Mawr College. The measurements will then be compared to kinetic simulations of the experiments using Gkeyll and Eurus developed at the University of Maryland and University of Iowa, respectively. Comparisons will focus on metrics geared to investigate the wave mode content of these plasmas, including correlation of magnetic field and density, variance anisotropy, and wavenumber spectra.

Project Dates:  8/15/2017 - 8/14/2020

 
Photo of Michael Brown

Daniela Fera, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Structural analysis of antibody virus complexes to guide immunogen design

Donor:  amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research
Award Date:  8/21/2017

Previous structural efforts of a bnAb has revealed how it binds to the HIV envelope, but it is still unclear how its germline antibody binds. Thus, the goal of the proposed research is to determine a high-resolution structure of an early intermediate from this lineage in complex with the envelope to see how the two bind. Because the early intermediate is closely related to the germline antibody, this information will allow us to deduce how the germline antibody binds to the virus envelope and thus develop a peptide immunogen that can mimic the antibody epitope on the envelope trimer.

Project Period:  8/1/2017 - 7/31/2018

 

Jennifer Peck, Economics

Childcare as a potential barrier to women’s employment in Saudi Arabia

Donor:  Harvard Kennedy School
Award Date:  7/27/2017

Some firms have continued to employ only male workers even after the Nitaquat program. We hypothesize that 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. This pilot will gather information on firms’ assessments of these constraints through administrative data analysis, interviews, and a firm survey. The goal of this pilot is to lay the groundwork for a full-scale RCT in close collaboration with MLSD partners to test policies, alleviate these constraints, and increase female employment.

Project Period:  7/1/2017 - 6/30/2018

 

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

Donor:  National Institutes of Health
Award Date:  3/24/2017

The proposed research will improve the selectivity and efficacy of anticancer therapies by contributing new knowledge about non-canonical G-quadruplex (GQ) DNA structure, and the interactions of GQs with small molecule ligands. GQ DNA has been firmly established as an important therapeutic target for cancer. Unfortunately, DNA-centered drug discovery programs suffer from limited structural information available for GQs, especially in the presence of ligands. To address these challenges, this research will perform comprehensive crystallographic investigations focused on telomeric and oncogene promoter G-quadruplexes. This work will be accompanied by spectroscopic and calorimetric studies of the thermodynamic parameters of ligand binding to GQ DNA (e.g., stoichiometry, affinity, selectivity, driving forces). Kinetic information can help identify the timescale of G-quadruplex formation and thus biological processes that can be affected by the presence of these structures. Collectively, the proposed work will enhance our understanding of GQ structural plasticity, supply coordinates for drug discovery platforms, shed light on the origin of ligand selectivity for a specific DNA target, and guide the design of novel highly selective anticancer therapies while providing transformative training to Swarthmore undergraduate students.

Project Period:  6/1/2017 - 5/31/2020

 

Brad Davidson, Biology

RUI: The role of mitotic trafficking in cell fate specification

Donor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  5/12/2017

 
Brad Davidson’s research focuses on understanding how cell division impacts inductive signal processing to increase understanding of how cell fate induction is impacted by intracellular trafficking of signaling components.  This grant will seek to characterize mitotic trafficking of FGFR enriched signaling domains, delineate the role of specific endocytic pathways in signaling domain redistribution, and delineate how mitotic kinases impact endocytic trafficking of FGFR enriched domains.  This research will provide fundamental insights regarding the interplay between division and signaling in both embryonic and stem cells.
 

Project Period:  5/15/2017 - 4/30/2021

 

Linda Chen, Mathematics & Statistics

Mid-Atlantic Algebra, Geometry, and Combinatorics Workshop

Donor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  2/15/2017

Linda is Co-PI on this collaborative grant to Haverford College that provides support for speakers and participants in the Mid-Atlantic Algebra, Geometry, and Combinatorics (MAAGC) workshop. MAAGC, an annual Philadelphia conference bringing together senior researchers and junior mathematicians, promotes collaborations and regional interactions, while highlighting recent developments in algebra, geometry, and combinatorics. MAAGC workshops bring mathematicians from North America together to discuss advances in algebraic combinatorics, algebraic geometry, representation theory, and other related fields.

Project Period:  3/1/2017 - 2/29/2020

 

Christopher Graves, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Aluminum-Nitroxide Complexes: Redox-Active Aluminum Complexes for Applications in C–H Activation

Donor: Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement
Award Transfer Date: 9/1/2016

The objective of this research is to synthesize aluminum complexes of redox-active nitroxide ligands that are capable of multi-electron redox processes. The rationale for this work is that by showing novel redox activity the aluminum complexes will establish new functional groups and catalytic systems, namely for C–H activation chemistry, based on this abundant and inexpensive element. Dr. Graves will synthesize a series of Al-nitroxide complexes and then the redox behavior of the ligand will be used to install multiply-bound function groups (Al=E, E = CR2, NR, O) at the aluminum cation. He will probe the solution electrochemical behavior of the complexes and correlate their behavior with reactivity. The aluminum complexes will be used as reagents for the C–H activation of hydrocarbons and the synthesis of functionalized organic compounds. Ultimately Graves expects that by exploiting the redox behavior of the Al-nitroxide complexes he will create a new catalytic manifold for C–H activation. The results will expand the utility of aluminum reagents in synthesis while offering novel catalysts for a synthetically useful reaction.

Swarthmore Project Period: 9/1/2016 - 8/31/2018

 

Catherine Crouch and Benjamin Geller, Physics & Astronomy

Collaborative Research: Community Sourcing Introductory Physics for the Life Sciences

Donor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 8/31/2016


The Introductory Physics for Life Science (IPLS) Portal will enhance the education of hundreds of thousands of life science students each year by providing engaging and effective IPLS instructional materials and helping IPLS instructors use these materials. This collaborative effort of the American Association of Physics Teachers and eight colleges and universities, including a community college and a Hispanic-serving institution, will create an open-source, peer-reviewed, and innovatively structured environment for IPLS content. Initially containing materials from multiple NSF-funded research and development projects, the Portal will become a development platform for IPLS curricula. The site will serve as both an archive and a dissemination tool, including a course-building interface for faculty. Instructors will be supported in creating innovative and individualized courses, mixing and matching from multiple sources tuned to their needs, offering a flexible and low-cost alternative to traditional textbooks. 
 

Project Period: 9/1/2016 - 8/31/2020

 

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

Donor:  The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation
Award Date:  7/29/2016

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:  9/1/2016 – 8/31/2021

 

Kelly McConville, Mathematics & Statistics

Advances in Model-Assisted and Small Area Estimation Strategies for Forest Inventories

Donor: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Award Date: 7/27/2016

The Forest Service is responsible for ongoing research in all areas of forest management, including conducting the Interior West component of the Forest Inventory and Monitoring Program. Dr. McConville, along with her undergraduate students will be facilitating the use of new model-assisted and small area estimation techniques in forest inventory applications. The development, evaluation, and distribution of new statistical methods and tools combines modern techniques with current real world applications.

Project Period: 7/27/2016 - 8/30/2019

 

K. David Harrison, Linguistics

Collaborative Research: Plant and Fungal Diversity of Tafea Province, Vanuatu, a Threatended Hotspot

Donor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 3/29/2016

Vanuatu is a group of 80 islands located in the South Pacific, situated roughly equidistant from New Caledonia, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands, all of which are globally important biodiversity hotspots. Despite its significance as a treasure trove of biodiversity, Vanuatu’s plants and fungi remain poorly documented, rendering it a “biodiversity black hole” and, thus, leaving a significant gap in our knowledge of biogeographic relationships with neighboring island countries. Along with its rich biological diversity, Vanuatu is also the most linguistically dense country in the world, with 112 languages for a total population of only 253,000; nine of these languages are found only in Tafea Province. The researchers will complete the first comprehensive survey of angiosperms, gymnosperms, ferns, lycophytes, bryophytes, endophytic and macro-fungi, and lichens ever undertaken in Tafea Province. Formal student training will also take place at the University of the South Pacific, California State University–East Bay, Swarthmore College, University of Hawai‘i, and the New York Botanical Garden. Because most land in Vanuatu is held under customary ownership, and local people are the stewards of their environments, the loss of biocultural knowledge is a serious threat to their ability to manage biodiversity resources sustainably.

Project Period: 7/1/2016 - 6/30/2020

 

Amanda Bayer, Economics

A Workshop to Enhance Inclusivity in Economics at Liberal Arts Colleges: 2018

Donor:  The Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges
Award Date: 6/24/2017

This workshop continues and expands the collaborative work begun in 2015 to enhance inclusivity in economics at liberal arts colleges. Thanks to support received from AALAC that year, economists from fifteen liberal arts colleges (Barnard College, Furman University, Grinnell College, Haverford College, Middlebury College, Oberlin College, Occidental College, Pomona College, Smith College, Swarthmore College, Vassar College, Washington & Lee University, Wesleyan University, Wellesley College, and Williams College) have been exploring ways to diversify the group of students majoring in economics at liberal arts colleges. Activities include meetings (in February 2016 and January 2017), sharing curricula and strategies, and conducting coordinated, randomized evaluations to generate credible evidence on whether these approaches are effective.

Project Period:  7/1/2017 – 6/30/2019

 

Michael Brown, Physics & Astronomy

Plasma Accelerator on the Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment (with Bryn Mawr College)

Donor: U.S. Department of Energy, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)
Award Date: 9/23/2015

David Schaffner (Bryn Mawr) and Michael Brown will design, develop, and test two flexible, low-cost, small-scale plasma acceleration modules for the purpose of injecting energy in the form of high velocity non-axisymmetric magnetized plasma into a fusion chamber at high energy efficiency and high repetition rate. This module will be built onto the existing Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment machine. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop plasma acceleration/energy injection technology that can be used in conjunction with a variety of fusion machines. This project aims to prove the ability to provide significant energy to a fusion plasma system on a small scale, with minimum additional infrastructure.

Project Period: 9/28/2015 - 9/27/2018

 

Kathleen Howard, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Conformational Studies of the Region of Influenza A M2 Protein Involved in Viral Budding

Donor: National Institutes of Health
Award Date: 8/25/2015

Influenza A viruses cause recurrent seasonal epidemics and global pandemics. The threat of future pandemics, coupled with the growing resistance to current antivirals, makes the development of new influenza drugs a national healthcare priority. Basic information on the life cycle of influenza is still emerging and could lead to new tactics for inhibiting viral infectivity. In particular, new insight into how influenza buds at the plasma membrane of infected cells has recently been discovered. The influenza M2 protein has been shown to be critical to viral budding and is the focus of this proposal. 

Viral fission studies have demonstrated that M2-facilitated budding is cholesterol dependent although the atomic-level details of the interaction between cholesterol and M2 are not known. Capitalizing on the PI’s expertise in both EPR and NMR techniques, both spectroscopic approaches will be used to provide a structural understanding for how the M2 protein facilitates viral budding.  M2 localizes to the highly curved neck of budding viruses. Structural information on the conformation of the M2 protein within high curvature regions could inform efforts to inhibit the replication of viruses, offering significant potential for developing a new generation of anti-flu drugs.

Project Period: 9/1/2015 – 6/30/2019

 

Alan Baker, Philosophy

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

Donor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 8/10/2015

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: 8/15/2015 - 7/31/2019

 

Kevin Webb, Computer Science

Collaborative Research: Infrastructure and Development of a Computer Science Concept Inventory for CS2

Donor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 6/26/2015

This collaborative project involving four institutions (University of California-San Diego; University of Illinois, Chicago; University of California-Berkeley; and Swarthmore College) will develop a Concept Inventory (CI) for the second introductory programming course (CS2) in computer science. CIs are validated assessments of course content knowledge, and can be used to compare teaching approaches, identify student misconceptions, and quantify learning gains. In physics, the Force Concept Inventory was responsible for a widespread shift in the ways that physics students are taught. The development of a CI for CS2 will have a similar impact on the way computer science will be taught across the country.

Project Period: 7/1/2015 – 6/30/2019

 

K. David Harrison, Linguistics

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
Donor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 12/5/2014

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: 5/1/2015 - 4/30/2019

 

Brad Davidson, Biology

Chordate heart gene network

Donor: National Institutes of Health
Award Date: 8/27/2014

Human heart defects are pervasive and the underlying genetic causes are often poorly understood. In our research we are using sea squirt embryos, simple marine invertebrates with a surprisingly close relationship to humans, to study heart genetics. By studying the simple interconnections between heart genes in sea squirts, we aim to unravel the much more dense and complex networks of genes that control human heart formation.


We will also focus on developing cutting edge technology for comprehensive analysis of the conserved cardiac transcription factor, Ets, and Co-Factor binding patterns during establishment of the heart lineage. These efforts will be tailored to promote intensive training of undergraduate researchers in the formulation and execution of independent research projects.

Project Period: 9/1/2014 - 8/31/2018

 

Jennifer Peck, Economics

Phase II:  Policy Research Engagement, Human Resources Development Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Evidence for Policy Design, Harvard Kennedy School


Donor: Harvard Kennedy School
Award Date: 7/14/2014

Professor Peck’s expertise is in development and labor issues in resource-rich countries, and some of her recent work focuses on the impact of Saudi labor market policies on the growth of the private sector. Her experience in these areas will help advance the aims of Phase II of this policy/research engagement between the Human Resources Development Fund (HDRF) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) program at Harvard Kennedy School. Her contributions to this project include organizing and participating in policy research symposia to review research results and policy developments.
 

Project Period: 11/1/2014 - 10/31/2019

 

Vince Formica, Biology

Evolvability of Social Networks

Donor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 1/27/2014

The position an individual occupies in a social network can profoundly affect its resources, risks, and fitness. However, it is unclear whether or how network position has the capacity to evolve through natural selection. This study will determine the biological level of organization most relevant to the evolution of social dynamics by studying 12 wild populations of forked fungus beetles for three consecutive breeding sessions and tracking social networks and pedigrees of populations. Direct (individual) and indirect (social group) contributions to genetic variance will be compared to determine the relative roles of individual traits and social partners' traits in the expression of network position.


The behavioral and genetic data collected during the study will serve as the backbone for a semester long course in Molecular Ecology and Evolution. Research results will also be used to create lab modules for introductory courses and will be used to develop a workshop for Swarthmore College's Science for Kids Program. In addition, the study will provide independent undergraduate research opportunities.

Project Period: 2/15/2014 - 1/31/2019

 

Art McGarity, Engineering

Performance and Effectiveness of Urban Green Infrastructure: Maximizing Benefits at the Subwatershed Scale through Measurement, Modeling, and Community-Based Implementation (w/ Temple, U of MD, and Johns Hopkins)

Donor: Environmental Protection Agency
Award Date: 10/29/2013

Abstract: Professor of Engineering Arthur McGarity received $1 million in EPA funding to monitor and evaluate Philadelphia's new green infrastructure practices and address water pollution from stormwater runoff. Click here to read more about the EPA grant.

Project Period: 10/1/2013 - 9/30/2018

 

Tristan Smith, Physics & Astronomy

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:  7/01/2019 – 6/30/2022