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Full List of Faculty Grants

Below you will find profiles of current and past sponsored programs awarded since 2015. They tell the story of faculty innovation and pursuit of new knowledge and expression, across the liberal arts, sciences and engineering.

Michael Brown, Physics & Astronomy

Observing Density Evolution During Merging of Plectonemic Taylor States

Sponsor: Department of Energy
Award Date: 8/23/2022

This DOE Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (DOE INFUSE) project requests the assistance of Swarthmore College's expertise to build a set of diagnostics to measure plasma density at several locations simultaneously in the company's new fusion proof-of concept experiment called ECLAIR. The new fusion concept relies on the merging of plectonemic Taylor states first observed at Swarthmore on the SSX experiment and later on the MOCHI experiment at the University of Washington. The diagnostic will be tested on SSX first before shipping them and implementing them on ECLAIR. The results will be compared to existing theory and numerical simulations to help determine the viability of the new fusion concept.

Project Period: 09/01/2022 - 08/31/2023

Michael Brown in lab

Nicté Fuller Medina, Linguistics

Open Educational Resources for Linguistics 001

Sponsor: Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc.
Award Date: 08/16/2022

Dr. Fuller Medina will create an openly licensed syllabus for Linguistics 001, Introduction to Languages and Linguistics, based on the second edition of Essentials of Linguistics. This open access textbook licensed under Creative Commons will provide a cost-free alternative to purchasing a textbook. Once submitted to the PALCI repository, the course syllabus will become available to instructors at other institutions who can adopt the same textbook and supplemental resources. In addition, the open educational resources present to students an important alternative model of knowledge production and knowledge sharing.

Project Period: 06/07/2022-06/21/2023

Portrait photo of Nicte Fuller Medina

Benjamin Geller and Catherine Crouch, Physics & Astronomy

Investigating How Life Science Students Develop Lasting Skill in Making Connections Between Physics and Biology

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 08/16/2022

Every year, thousands of students take Introductory Physics for Life Sciences (IPLS) courses as a requirement for entering the health professions or studying the life sciences. These courses emphasize physical concepts and competencies that life science professionals have identified as the most useful, and present them in an appropriate biomedical context. Helping future practitioners become more skilled and motivated to use physics has great potential to improve their work. IPLS courses can be effective and can have a long-lasting positive impact on students' attitudes toward physics and on their skill in using physics to solve biological problems later in their careers. This project aims to understand how IPLS courses achieve those outcomes. The investigators will explore how the topics covered, the pedagogical strategies employed, and the messages conveyed shape students' experiences. The conclusions of this research will guide other colleges as they launch or revise their own IPLS courses.

Project Period: 10/01/2022 - 09/30/2025

Benjamin Geller and Catherine Crouch portrait photos

Karen Chan, Biology

SICB 2023 Symposium: Large-scale phenomena arising from small-scale biophysical processes

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 08/02/2022

This award supports a symposium and a workshop at the January 2023 annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). The symposium brings together biologists and engineers studying questions about emerging large-scale influences of single cells in different study systems. Single cells, despite their small size, can organize and behave in ways that have unexpected and wide-reaching consequences. The speakers will present and discuss the latest findings and techniques, marrying state-of-the-art field, laboratory, and mathematical approaches. There will also be a complementary workshop to discuss strategies for engaging in successful cross-disciplinary research to promote the use of mathematics, physics and engineering tools to address biological problems. Results from the meeting and workshop will be published in the Society’s journal, Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Project Period: 10/01/2022 - 09/30/2023 

Karen Chan standing outside

Amy Kapit, Peace & Conflict Studies

Student Rights Watch: Monitoring, Documenting, and Investigating Violations of Students’ Rights

Sponsor: Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH)
Award Date: 06/24/2022

This project will help SAIH to identify and analyze data on violations against students’ human rights, with the goal of informing advocacy and campaigning to increase protection of student activists. As part of this work, Professor Kapit will carry out data collection and develop an initial methodology, code book, and preliminary set of indicators that SAIH can use to produce an annual Student Rights Watch Report. The project will draw on existing scholarship and practice on indicator development and citizen-led reporting to develop a process for monitoring and reporting on violations of student activists’ rights.

Project Period: 05/15/2022 - 12/16/2022

Amy Kapit headshot

Elaine Allard, Educational Studies & Barbara Thelamour, Psychology

Keeping La Promesa: A Mixed-Method Investigation of Cross-cultural Dynamics in an Immigrant-Serving High School

Sponsor: Spencer Foundation
Award date: 05/31/2022

This mixed-methods study investigates how secondary schools can support adolescent immigrant and emergent bilingual students. Immigrant adolescents from Latino, African, and Asian backgrounds increasingly find themselves side-by-side in English as a second language (ESL) classrooms. These classrooms can reflect intergroup tensions from the home countries, exacerbated by U.S. anti-Blackness and anti-immigrant sentiment. This diversity also offers possibilities for promoting positive cross-cultural relationships, academic success, student well-being, as well as for developing multilingual and anti-racist pedagogies. Focusing on a Philadelphia high school where the project directors have a long-term research relationship, the study uses ethnography and survey to examine how immigrant students experience cross-cultural relations and how these experiences impact their academic achievement, well-being, and language learning. By exploring teaching and learning from multiple perspectives, the project offers insights for scholarship, policy, and pedagogy in immigrant and emergent bilingual education.

Project Period: 09/01/2022-03/31/2024

Portrait photographs of Elaine Allard and Barbara Thelamour

Vidya Ganapati, Engineering

Artificial Intelligence Approaches to Low-Dose Computed Tomography

Sponsor: American Association of University Women
Award Date: 04/15/2022

Computed tomography (CT) is an imaging technique widely used in fields such as biology, materials science, and geoscience to elucidate the 3-dimensional internal structure of samples. CT works by rotating an object and measuring the absorption of an x-ray beam at different rotation angles. Effectively, CT images the “shadows” formed by objects under x-ray illumination; these shadows are known as projections and can be used to reconstruct the 3D object structure. However, x-rays cause damage to samples; minimizing the x-ray dose is highly desirable in many scientific and medical applications, such as in imaging of fragile bone fragments and the mouse brain. Low-dose CT causes less damage than traditional CT, but poses challenges to 3D object reconstruction. This project creates novel techniques to solve the problem of 3D reconstruction using probabilistic deep learning methods.

Project Period: 07/01/2022 – 06/30/2023

Portrait of Vidya Ganapati

James Blasina, Music

Summer Stipend: Gender, Nation, and Empire in Music for St. Katherine of Alexandria, 1050–1400

Sponsor: National Endowment for the Humanities
Award Date: 04/13/2022

During the Middle Ages, devotion to St. Katherine of Alexandria galvanized countless ordinary people to make pilgrimage to her relics, and artists, writers, architects, and musicians to create lasting works in her honor. Yet, despite her widespread appeal and representation, no evidence supports Katherine’s historical existence. How can we account for the breadth and fame of the cult of this apocryphal saint? James Blasina’s forthcoming monograph looks to a large but understudied body of evidence for the initial flourishing of Katherine’s cult: liturgical chant. Examining representations of St. Katherine in musical sources from c. 1050 to c. 1400, the book demonstrates that St. Katherine rose to prominence in the earliest centuries of her cult because she functioned as both an emblem of power in the consolidation of states and hierarchies, but also as a voice of gendered dissent for individuals and communities who were increasingly marginalized over the same period.

Project Period: 06/01/2022-08/31/2022

James Blasina standing outside

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

Modeling Rotationally Modulated X-ray Variability in Massive Star Winds Using Co-rotating Interaction Regions

Sponsor: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Award Date: 03/22/2022

Massive stars produce very hot gas and associated X-ray emission in their dense, radiatively-driven winds. In recent years, time-variable X-ray emission has been reported in an increasing number of massive stars, leading to the hypothesis that large-scale wind structures, modulated by the rotation of the star, produce the observed X-ray variability.  As part of the NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory's theory program, co-investigators Dr. David Cohen and Dr. Alexandre David-Uraz (Howard University) will conduct the first detailed, non-isothermal 2D and 3D hydrodynamic simulations to assess the role of so-called co-rotating interaction regions in the production and modulation of X-rays. These new models will help interpret data from Chandra and other X-ray telescopes, shedding light on the puzzling physics of the origin of the large-scale wind structures.

Project Period: 03/01/2022 - 02/29/2024

David Cohen in an office

Kevin Webb & Tia Newhall, Computer Science

Developing Dynamic and Interactive Materials to Teach Computing Systems Concepts to All Students

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 03/17/2022

An understanding of computers and how they work is increasingly viewed as a necessary skill to operate in the modern world. While a number of free initiatives exist for introducing learners to basic programming skills, there is a lack of emphasis on increasing student comprehension of computer systems, knowledge crucial to gaining competencies in highly-sought technology areas. Professors Webb and Newhall, along with Dr. Suzanne Matthews (United States Military Academy, West Point), developed an award-winning free online textbook, Dive into Systems. The textbook provides an accessible introduction to computer systems, computer organization, and parallel and distributed computing. Funding from the National Science Foundation to Swarthmore and West Point will support enhancements to Dive Into Systems such as interactive learning exercises, animated video content, and broader dissemination of the materials through engagement with the CS community.

Project Period: 04/01/2022 - 03/31/2025

Kevin Webb and Tia Newhall portrait photos

Karen Chan, Biology & Carr Everbach, Engineering

Collaborative Research: IOS:RUI: Hydrodynamic consequences of spines on zooplankton: Functional morphology of horns and tails on barnacle nauplii

SPONSOR: National Science Foundation
AWARD DATE: 02/10/2022

Zooplankton, a collection of morphologically diverse microscopic animals and larvae that swim in the water column, are a vital link in marine food webs.  Many of them have elongated body extensions or spines. The function of these spines is not well understood. This project will use larval barnacles to elucidate general principles about the hydrodynamic consequences of spines at the size and speed range of zooplankton and improve understanding of the functioning of critical larval stages of barnacles. This collaboration between Swarthmore College and the University of California Berkeley will enable teams of undergraduates from various majors to gain authentic cross-disciplinary research experience.

PROJECT PERIOD: 05/01/2022-04/30/2025

Photo portraits of Karen Chan and Carr Everbach

Christopher Graves, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Development of a tunable redox-active aluminum catalyst system for the atom transfer radical polymerization of olefins

SPONSOR: American Chemical Society 
AWARD DATE: 12/01/2021

The development of more sustainable chemical processes is a central challenge in chemistry. Aluminum is readily available, inexpensive, and non-toxic. The development of aluminum complexes that act as catalysts for high-impact chemical reactions serves as an important challenge of significance to green and sustainable chemistry. An area where aluminum complexes have not found widespread utility is as reagents for redox-based transformations. Dr. Graves’s lab has been addressing this unmet challenge through the synthesis of aluminum complexes of redox-active ligands. Through synergistic reactivity between the aluminum ion and a ligand, these complexes offer novel reaction pathways that expand the utility of aluminum-based catalysts. This project will expand the research program to address needs in polymer science. Specifically, the project team will seek to develop a new set of aluminum complexes supporting both a tris-pyrazolylborate (Tp) ligand, as a highly modifiable auxiliary, and an ⍺-diimine ligand, as a source of redox activity.

PROJECT PERIOD: 1/1/2022 - 8/31/2025

Chris Graves photo

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology & Ameet Soni, Computer Science

Inferring Brain Function via Quantitative Behavioral Phenotyping in Free-Moving Planarians

SPONSOR: The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation of The Pittsburgh Foundation
AWARD DATE: 11/17/2021

How the brain works is a key question in biology and medicine. Because behavior is an accessible readout of brain function, it can be used as a gateway to understand how the brain works. The asexual freshwater planarian Dugesia japonica is ideally suited for studies of behavior, because its brain is of intermediate complexity and shares key neuronal genes and neurotransmitters with humans. This project will reveal the natural behavioral realm of this freshwater planarian using a novel behavioral classification system that can be used to predict which neuronal functions are affected by genetic or chemical perturbations. If successful, this project will yield new insights into the neuronal control of behavior that are relevant to more complex organisms, including humans.

PROJECT PERIOD: 11/1/2021 - 10/31/2023

Eva-Maria Collins and Ameet Soni headshots

Jeff Gauthier, Biology

Tracking Long Term Memories in the Hippocampus

SPONSOR: Pennsylvania Department of Health
AWARD DATE: 11/30/2021

The Gauthier lab aims to understand how the brain supports cognition, in particular learning and memory. To study the mechanisms of these processes, the lab employs a mouse model system that allows for rich measurements of neural activity. The project will develop a method for studying neural activity on much longer time scales than was previously possible. Though the project focuses exclusively on questions of basic science, the findings could eventually lead to better understanding of human diseases that affect memory, such as Alzheimers, or suggest new algorithms for artificial intelligence.

PROJECT PERIOD: 6/1/2021 - 5/31/2025

Jeff Gauthier headshot

Cat Norris & John Blanchar, Psychology

Compliance With and Responses to COVID-19 and its Vaccine: Moderating Effects of Political Beliefs, Individual Differences, and Social Influences, and Impact on Mental Health and Psychological Well-Being

SPONSOR: Pennsylvania Department of Health
AWARD DATE: 11/30/2021

The purpose of this project is to examine how factors such as political beliefs and partisanship, social networks and influence, news media consumption, and personality factors impact thoughts and feelings about COVID-19 and willingness to be vaccinated, as well as the effects of all of these factors on mental health and psychological well-being. As Drs. Norris and Blanchar have previously collected data about these issues as part of a separate study on the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, they will be in a unique position to assess how feelings, attitudes, and behaviors have changed over time, and how these changes have impacted both physical and psychological well-being.

PROJECT PERIOD: 6/1/2021 - 5/31/2023

Cat Norris and John Blanchar headshots

Benjamin Zinszer, Psychology

Does non-linguistic segmentation still predict literacy in an L2 education? Statistical learning in Ivorian primary schools

SPONSOR: Language Learning
AWARD DATE: 11/17/2021

Statistical learning (SL) is a learning mechanism that does not directly depend on participants’ knowledge of a language, but appears to predict language and literacy outcomes for children and adults. However, research linking SL and literacy has not addressed children who first learn to read in a second language acquisition context, which is a common educational context in primary schools worldwide. We consider several studies that linked visual and auditory SL with childhood literacy in Australia, China, Europe, and the US, and we propose an adaptation of non-linguistic visual and auditory SL experiments in the West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire where students are educated in French and speak a local language at home.

PROJECT PERIOD: 11/17/2021 – 11/16/2022

Benjamin Zinszer seated outside

Eric Jensen, Physics & Astronomy

The Confirmation and Characterization of Small TESS Planets

SPONSOR: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
AWARD DATE: 10/1/2021

TESS (the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) is a current NASA mission that identifies stars that appear to be periodically dimmed by orbiting planets.  To confirm these signals, a worldwide network of astronomers observes the candidate planet-host stars when they are predicted to be dimmed.  The NASA/TESS Guest Investigator Program is supporting this collaboration between Dr. Eric Jensen at Swarthmore and Dr. Karen Collins at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to carry out and coordinate these follow-up observations. Jensen maintains a web interface at Swarthmore used by observers to schedule observations and maintains software for scheduling observations on a network of automated telescopes. Jensen and Collins manage the target list and data submitted by other observers.

PROJECT PERIOD: 3/19/2021 - 3/18/2022

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology

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

Eva-Maria Collins headshot

Edwin Mayorga, Educational Studies

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

Edwin Mayorga headshot

Linda Chen, Mathematics & Statistics

RUI: Combinatorial Algebraic Geometry: Curves and Their Moduli

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

Linda Chen headshot

Bakirathi Mani, English Literature

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.


Bakirathi Mani in front of a colorful mosaic

Daniel Laurison, Sociology & Anthropology

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

SPONSOR: Carnegie Corporation of New York
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

Daniel Laurison on Parrish Beach

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology

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

Eva-Maria Collins in front of a blackboard

Carolyn Bauer, Biology

Collaborative Research: IRES Track I: Stronger Together: Exploring How Communal Care Reduces Individual Costs During Challenging Years

SPONSOR: National Science Foundation
AWARD DATE: 04/16/2021

With funding from NSF’s International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program, Dr. Carolyn Bauer at Swarthmore is participating in this collaborative research project with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that studies how ecology shapes the reproductive consequences of communal breeding, a social strategy in which multiple mothers nurse offspring communally. In particular, this field study will examine how challenging environmental conditions influence physiological development of communally breeding Octodon degus, a social rodent endemic to Chile. This collaborative grant supports 5-6 students (both undergraduate and graduate students) per year. Collaborating institutions include four academic institutions in Chile (P. Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad de Chile, Universidad Andres Bello, and Universidad Mayor).

PROJECT PERIOD: 04/15/2021 - 03/31/2023

Carolyn Bauer in a facemask at a whiteboard teaching 3 students

Krista Thomason, Philosophy

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: 9/21/2021 - 5/22/2022

This is an independent faculty award.

Krista Thomason

Bradley Davidson, Biology

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

Bradley Davison headshot

Ron Tarver, Art & Art History

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.

Ron Tarver headshot

Steven Hopkins, Religion

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.

Steven Hopkins pictured outside

K. Ann Renninger, Educational Studies

Mastery-Oriented Professional Development for Integrating CS into Math

SPONSOR: National Science Foundation
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

K. Ann Renninger headshot

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


Daniela Fera

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

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

SPONSOR: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
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

David Cohen in the office

Bradley Davidson, Biology

EAGER: Exploration of evolutionary mechanisms across multiple scales

SPONSOR: National Science Foundation
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: 1/15/2021 - 12/31/2022

Brad Davidson

Brian Goldstein, Art & Art History

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

Hillary Smith, Physics & Astronomy

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: 9/1/2021 – 8/31/2023

Hillary Smith in the lab

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

K. Ann Renninger, Educational Studies

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: 08/1/2020 – 07/31/2023

Photo of Ann Renninger

Carr Everbach, Engineering

Scar Detection and Treatment with Droplet Activation

SPONSOR: National Institutes of Health
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: 4/1/2020 – 3/31/2024

Tristan Smith, Physics & Astronomy

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

SPONSOR: National Science Foundation
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: 09/1/2020 - 08/31/2023

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Deciphering the structure and dynamics of non-canonical DNA implicated in cancer

SPONSOR: National Institutes of Health
AWARD DATE: 07/20/2020

This project explores unusual DNA structures called quadruplexes and i-motifs that are involved in a significant number of cancer-related biological processes. The research will improve the selectivity and efficacy of anticancer therapies by contributing new knowledge about non-canonical nucleic acid structures, G-quadruplexes (GQ) and i-motifs, and details of their interactions with small-molecule ligands. The Yatsunyk Lab will perform comprehensive crystallographic investigation of telomeric and oncogene promoter GQs and i-motifs, both alone and in complex with novel and commercially available selective small-molecule ligands. Collectively, the proposed work will enhance our understanding of GQ and i-motif structural plasticity, supply coordinates for drug discovery platforms, shed light on the origin of ligand selectivity for a specific DNA or RNA target, and guide the design of novel anticancer therapies all while providing transformative training to Swarthmore undergraduates through an Academic Enhancement Research Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

PROJECT PERIOD: 9/01/2020 - 08/31/2023

Liliya Yatsunyk

Amanda Luby, Mathematics & Statistics

Implementation of Item Response Theory to improve forensic proficiency testing

SPONSOR: National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)
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

Amanda Luby

Daniela Fera, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

SPONSOR: National Institutes of Health
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

Joshua Goldwyn, Mathematics & Statistics

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

SPONSOR: National Science Foundation
AWARD DATE: 3/11/2020

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: 6/01/2020 - 5/31/2024

Joshua Goldwyn

Bradley Davidson, Biology

Signal-dependent regulation of chordate heart gene networks

SPONSOR: American Heart Association
AWARD DATE: 12/26/2019

Signaling between cells plays a key role in heart development. However, the mechanisms that mediate precise transcriptional changes downstream of these cardiogenic signals remain poorly characterized. Deciphering how cardiogenic signaling coordinates heart gene expression is essential for the diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart disorders. Our long-term goal is to gain a comprehensive understanding of cardiogenic signaling and how it impacts chordate heart gene networks. The complexity of this process in vertebrate embryos has hindered progress. We have begun to exploit the simplicity of Ciona robusta, a close evolutionary relative of the vertebrates, to investigate a conserved role for the signal dependent transcription factor, Ets, in early heart development. This AHA Institutional Research Enhancement Award (AIREA) will be tailored to promote intensive training of undergraduate researchers in the formulation and execution of independent research projects.

 Project Period: 01/01/2021 - 12/31/2021

Brad Davidson

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology

Comparative mechanistic study of developmental neurotoxicity of organophosphorus pesticides

SPONSOR: National Institutes of Health
AWARD DATE: 12/25/2019

Organophosphorus pesticides (OPs), a large and chemically diverse class, are the most commonly used and economically important insecticides worldwide, accounting for approximately 40% of recently used insecticides in the U.S. While legal OP concentrations are not acutely toxic to humans, studies suggest that chronic prenatal and infant exposures can lead to life-long neurological damage and behavioral disorders. Acute OP poisoning due to inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is well-understood. But, despite decades of OP research, it remains debated whether and how subacute OP exposure at regulated levels that do not significantly inhibit AChE causes morphological and cognitive defects in the developing human brain. We will investigate whether phenotypic differences of OP DNT result from interactions with different molecular targets and execute a comparative screen of OP neurotoxicity using the asexual freshwater planarian Dugesia japonica, an innovative high-throughput invertebrate system pioneered by the PI. This project will train students in computational image analysis and biostatistics and engage them in hands-on research in modern toxicology.

PROJECT PERIOD: 01/01/2020 – 12/31/2022

Eva-Maria Collins in front of a blackboard

Amy Graves & Cacey Bester, Physics & Astronomy

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

SPONSOR: National Science Foundation
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

Photo: Amy Graves and Cacey Bester

Dawn Carone, Biology

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

Jane Gillham, Psychology

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

Sponsor: U.S. Department of Education
Award Date: 8/25/2019

The purpose of this efficacy replication study is to test whether Interpersonal Psychotherapy-Adolescent Skills Training (IPT-AST), a Tier 2 depression prevention program, is effective when delivered through telehealth in high schools. In prior school-based studies, IPT-AST improved depression and anxiety symptoms, rates of depression diagnoses, overall functioning, and school-related outcomes for adolescents with depressive symptoms. The Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania is the lead institution for the project.

Project Period: 7/1/2019 – 6/30/2024


Jane Gillham

Kathleen Howard, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

Kathleen Howard

Christopher Graves, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

PROJECT PERIOD : 7/25/2019 - 7/24/2024

Tia Newhall & Kevin Webb, Computer Science

Dive into Systems - A Free Online Textbook for Introductory Computer Systems Topics

SPONSOR: Special Interest Group on Computer Science
AWARD DATE: 6/29/2019

The purpose of this collaborative project with West Point is to develop and promote a free online textbook that covers introductory computer systems, architecture and parallel computing. The expense of modern textbooks often limits their availability to students and universities that can afford them. As computational thinking and programming increasingly becomes a desired skill-set, cost-effective computing materials are needed to make computer science (CS) accessible to everyone. Our textbook covers topics that are applicable to a wide range of courses, including introductory computer systems, computer organization, C programming, and parallel computing. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first textbook that incorporates all of these concepts and introduces them at an introductory-level, assuming only a CSI background of the reader.

PROJECT PERIOD: 7/1/2019 - 6/30/2020

Tia Newhall and Kevin Webb

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: 07/01/2019 – 06/30/2022

Tristan Smith in front of a blackboard

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

Dawn Carone

Marc Remer, Economics

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

SPONSOR: 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: 06/01/2018 - 06/30/2019

Chris Graves photo

Daifeng He, Economics

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

SPONSor:  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

Daifeng He

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

Victor Barranca, Mathematics & Statistics

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

Victor Barranca

Tristan Smith, Physics & Astronomy

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

sponsor:  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.

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology

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

SPonsor:  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

Eva-Maria Collins

Joseph Nelson, Educational Studies

The Listening Project

SPOnSor:  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 - 8/31/2019

Joseph Nelson

Brian Goldstein, Art & Art History

Bond:  Race and the Modern City

SPonsor:  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

Brian Goldstein

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology

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

sponsor:  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

Eva-Maria Collins

Steve Wang, Mathematics & Statistics

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

sponsor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  03/02/2018

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:  04/15/2018 – 03/31/2020

Photo of Steve Wang

Eva-Maria Collins, Biology

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

sponsor:  Research Corporation for Science Advancement
Award Date:  02/06/2018

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:  01/01/2018 – 06/30/2020

Eva-Maria Collins

Luciano Martínez, Spanish

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

Olivia Sabee, Dance

The Wedding Guest

Sponsor: Pennsylvania Council on the Arts
Award Date: 10/16/2017

Olivia Sabee’s dance production, The Wedding Guest, was one of 71 projects recognized by the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Project Stream. It was previewed at Swarthmore College and performed at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in April 2018. The cast of The Wedding Guest brings together members of Agora Dance, a Washington, D.C.,-based contemporary dance company Sabee directs, with Swarthmore students. Daniel Underhill Professor of Music and Chair Thomas Whitman ’82, composed the score, performed by recent alumni, and theater artist Tara Webb ’94, designed the costumes.

Project Period: 10/16/2017-04/30/2018

Olivia Sabee headshot

Michael Brown, Physics & Astronomy

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

sponsor:  National Science Foundation and Department of Energy
Award Date:  09/15/2017

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:  08/15/2017 - 08/14/2020

Photo of Michael Brown

K. Ann Renninger, Educational Studies

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

SPonsor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  08/23/2017

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:  09/01/2017 - 08/31/2020

K. Ann Renninger

Jennifer Peck, Economics

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

sponsor:  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 – 12/31/2020

Jennifer Peck

Dawn Carone, Biology

Locus-Specific regulation of pericentric satellite sequences

sponsor:  The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation
Award Date:  07/26/2017

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

Dawn Carone

Christopher Graves, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

SPonSor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  06/16/2017

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:  07/01/2017 – 06/30/2020

Christopher Graves

Catherine Crouch and Benjamin Geller, Physics & Astronomy

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

Sponsor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  06/13/2017

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:  08/15/2017 - 7/31/2020

Catherine Crouch and Benjamin Geller

Donna Jo Napoli, Linguistics

RISE (Reading Involves Shared Experience) ebooks for deaf children

SPonsor:  Donfinger-McMahon Foundation
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 - 6/30/2020

Photo of Donna Jo Napoli

Bradley Davidson, Biology

RUI: The role of mitotic trafficking in cell fate specification

SPonSor:  National Science Foundation
Award Date:  05/12/2017

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:  05/15/2017 - 04/30/2021

Brad Davidson

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

SPonSor:  National Institutes of Health
Award Date:  03/24/2017

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:  06/01/2017 - 05/31/2020

Liliya Yatsunyk

Amanda Bayer, Economics

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

SPONSOR:  The Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges
Award Date: 06/24/2017

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:  07/01/2017 – 06/30/2019

Amanda Bayer teaching

Jennifer Peck, Economics

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

sponsor:  Harvard Kennedy School
Award Date:  07/27/2017

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:  07/01/2017 - 06/30/2019


Daniela Fera, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Structural analysis of antibody virus complexes to guide immunogen design

sponsor:  amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research
Award Date:  08/21/2017

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:  08/01/2017 - 07/31/2018


Matthew Zucker, Engineering

A high-throughput imaging and classification system for fruit flies

sponsor:  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


Linda Chen, Mathematics & Statistics

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


Linda Chen headshot

Linda Chen, Mathematics & Statistics

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

Linda Chen

K. David Harrison, Linguistics

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

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 03/29/2016

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: 07/01/2016 - 08/31/2023

K. David Harrison

Catherine Crouch and Benjamin Geller, Physics & Astronomy

Collaborative Research: Community Sourcing Introductory Physics for the Life Sciences

SPonsor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 08/31/2016

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: 09/01/2016 - 08/31/2020

Catherine Crouch and Benjamin Geller

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

Liliya Yatsunyk

Cat Norris, Psychology

Ambivalence as a Catalyst for Changing Health Behaviors

Sponsor: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (C.U.R.E.) program
Award Date: 09/09/2016

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

Project Period:  01/01/2016 – 12/31/2017

Cat Norris headshot

Ralph Gomez and Janet Talvacchia, Mathematics

Generalized Geometry Workshop

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 07/12/2016

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

Project Period: 07/15/2016 - 06/30/2017

Erin Bronchetti, Economics

The Real Value of SNAP Benefits and Health Outcomes

Sponsor: University of Kentucky USDA Center for Poverty Research
Award Date: 05/31/2016

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

Project Period: 09/15/2015 - 01/31/2017

Erin Bronchetti headshot

Erin Bronchetti, Economics

Pay to Plan or Pay to Act?

Sponsor: Russell Sage Foundation
Award Date: 05/16/2016

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

Project Period: 07/01/2016 - 06/30/2017

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

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

Sponsor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Award Date: 01/27/2016

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

Project Period: 01/19/2016 - 01/18/2018

David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy

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

Sponsor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Award Date: 01/27/2016

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

Project Period: 01/01/2016 - 02/28/2018

Barbara Milewski, Music

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

Sponsor: National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship Program
Award Date: 12/08/2015

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

Project Period: 01/01/2016 - 08/31/2016


Wol A Kang, Chinese

A Language Pedagogy Workshop on Teaching Chinese at Liberal Arts Colleges

Sponsor: Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges
Award Date: 10/23/2015

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

Workshop Dates:  10/07/2016 - 10/09/2016

Emily Gasser, Linguistics

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

Sponsor: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Award Date: 10/01/2015

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

Project Period:  11/01/2015  - 10/31/2016

Michael Brown, Physics & Astronomy

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

SPonSor: U.S. Department of Energy, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)
Award Date: 09/23/2015

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: 09/28/2015 - 09/27/2019


Jennifer Peck, Economics

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

Sponsor: Harvard Kennedy School
Award Date: 09/04/2015

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

Project Period: 05/14/2015 - 05/31/2016

Alan Baker, Philosophy

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

SponSor: National Science Foundation
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

Alan Baker

Kathleen Howard, Chemistry & Biochemistry

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

SPonsor: National Institutes of Health
Award Date: 08/25/2015

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: 09/1/2015 – 6/30/2019

Kathleen Howard

Amanda Bayer, Economics

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

Sponsor: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Award Date: 08/06/2015

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

Project Period: 09/01/2015 - 06/01/2017

Kevin Webb, Computer Science

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

SPonSor: National Science Foundation
Award Date: 06/26/2015

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: 07/01/2015 – 06/30/2020

Kevin Webb

Amanda Bayer, Economics

Enhancing Inclusivity in Economics at Liberal Arts Colleges

Sponsor: Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges
Award Date: 06/25/2015

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

Workshop Dates: 02/05/2016, 01/05/2017

Allen Kuharski (Theater) & Barbara Milewski (Music)

Chopin Without Piano

Sponsor: The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage
Award Date: 06/15/2015


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

Project Period: 07/01/2015 - 11/02/2015


BuYun Chen, History

Women at Work:  Reconstructing Nügong through Text and Image

SPONSOR: American Council of Learned Societies
AWARD DATE: 03/25/2015

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

Project Period: 05/06/2016 - 05/07/2016


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: 12/05/2014

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 - 6/30/2021

K. David Harrison

Erin Bronchetti, Economics

Pay to Plan or Pay to Act?

Sponsor: Russell Sage Foundation
Award Date: 05/16/2016

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

Project Period: 07/01/2016 - 06/30/2017

Liliya Yatsunyk, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Understanding of Interactions Between Porphyrin Ligands and G-Quadruplex DNA

Sponsor: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (C.U.R.E.) program
Award Date: 4/28/2015

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

Project Period: 1/1/2015 -12/31/2017

Liliya Yatsunyk headshot