Faculty Grant Profiles
Swarthmore faculty receive external grants to support their research, their teaching and other scholarly and creative projects, and their sabbatical activities.
Faculty grants, which may span multiple years, often include funding for student researchers, outreach and dissemination of research results, and the administrative infrastructure necessary for research.
The featured projects below tell the story of faculty innovation and pursuit of new knowledge and expression, across the liberal arts, sciences and engineering. A comprehensive list of sponsored research 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 email@example.com.
- Humanities Faculty
- Natural Sciences and Engineering Faculty
Daniela Fera, Chemistry & Biochemistry
Dissecting the interactions and conformations of protein kinases to understand biochemical signaling
SPONSOR: Research Corporation for Science Advancement
AWARD DATE: 2/19/2021
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: 7/1/2021 - 6/30/2024
Hillary Smith, Physics & Astronomy
Heat Capacity and Enthalpy of Amorphous Materials
SPONSOR: AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY
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: 9/1/2021 – 8/31/2023
Brad Davidson, Biology
SPONSOR: National Science Foundation
AWARD DATE: 1/10/2021
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: 1/15/2021 - 12/31/2022
- Social Sciences Faculty
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
sponsor: 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 - 6/30/2021
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