Grants

Kottos Awarded $2.8M DARPA Grant for High-Level Photonic Research

Led by Professor of Physics Tsampikos Kottos, Wesleyan will serve as the lead institution for a four-year grant developing cutting-edge technology toward the next generation of navigation systems, optical diodes, efficient frequency converters for night vision, and high-powered filters.

Led by Professor of Physics Tsampikos Kottos, Wesleyan will serve as the lead institution for a four-year grant developing cutting-edge technology toward the next generation of navigation systems, optical diodes, efficient frequency converters for night vision, and high-powered filters.

Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, and Wesleyan University will lead a complex, multi-institution initiative to research and develop the next generation of national instrumentation technology thanks to a four-year, $2,794,606 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Awarded this August, the grant is the culmination of at least eight years of photonics research by Kottos and his fellow collaborators, and will have significant implications for the future of a variety of technologies employed by the federal government and the private sector. An agency of the US Department of Defense, DARPA funds research and development projects that push the boundaries of technology and science. The focus of Kottos’s project is to “develop models and photonic devices that utilize dynamical (hidden) symmetries in order to achieve extreme light-matter interactions” and has three main targets:

  • Target 1: Develop the next generation of navigation instruments by designing photonic architectures with an extreme response to small perturbations. The goal is to use them to hone gyroscopes and accelerometers, which measure and guide the rotation and maneuvers of vehicles like race cars and jet airplanes.
  • Target 2: Utilize the temporal dimension (or time) as an altogether different degree of freedom in order to manipulate the flow of light. Applications vary from efficient night vision cameras, to management of thermal radiation in turbine aircraft engines.
  • Target 3: Investigate how to protect sensitive sensors from high-powered sources—this could include a pilot’s eyes from a laser source, an antenna from a directed electromagnetic burst, or a radar receiver from its own outbound signal.

Wesleyan Receives Major Grant to Teach Hindi and Urdu, Expand South Asian Programming

The annual Navaratri Festival is an example of Wesleyan’s long-time commitment to South Asian cultural programming.

Wesleyan has received a two-year $165,699 grant under the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) program to support the teaching of Hindi and Urdu, the research of STEM faculty and students in India, and the increase of cultural programming related to South Asia.

“This grant will allow Wesleyan to become one of a very small number of liberal arts institutions in the country with classroom instruction in Hindi and Urdu,” said Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies. “We are excited about the ability this grant will give us to support STEM faculty and students doing summer research in India as a way of growing opportunities for international experiences in the sciences. Together with our existing faculty strength in South Asian studies (currently nine faculty across the arts, humanities, and social sciences) and the president’s initiative to expand Wesleyan’s visibility in India, the new grant will help to further solidify Wesleyan as a leader in South Asian studies.”

Gilmore, Greenwood Recipients of NASA Grant to Map Venus’s Craters

Caption: Radar image of Venus. Alpha Regio tessera is partly covered by the dark parabola of the impact crater Stuart on the volcanic plains.

Professors Martha Gilmore and James Greenwood recently received a NASA grant to study crater parabolas on Venus using radar data. Pictured is a Magellan radar image of Venus. Alpha Regio tessera is partly covered by the dark parabola of the impact crater Stuart on the volcanic plains. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Like planet Earth, the geology of Venus is diverse; consisting of areas of flat plains and deformed, mountain-like terrains called tesserae. And like Earth, Mars, and the Moon, Venus is checkered with hundreds of craters.

“What’s odd about Venus’s craters, is that craters we do see are relatively young, indicating the surface of Venus has been covered by planet-wide volcanic flows,” says Martha “Marty” Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences. “The tesserae are the only terrains older than these volcanic flows and thus our only hope at accessing rocks from the first billion years of Venus’s history, when the planet may have had an ocean and may have been habitable.”

As the recipient of a three-year $430,801 grant from NASA’s Solar System Workings Program, Gilmore and James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, will use Magellan radar data to create the first map of crater ejecta on Venus classified by origin on plains or tessera terrain. Their project is titled “Radar Emissivity and Dielectric Permittivity of the Venus Surface Beneath Crater Parabolas.” Crater parabolas refer to the shape of the ejecta deposits as they are carried westward by the high-altitude Venus winds.

Dierker, Rose Win $2.8M NSF Award for Innovative Approach to Teaching Statistics

Lisa Dierker

Wesleyan professors Lisa Dierker and Jennifer Rose were recently awarded a $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to extend and disseminate their research on passion-driven statistics. The grant begins in the fall of 2018 and extends through 2023.

Recognizing the rapidly increasing importance of data-oriented skills in the modern workforce, passion-driven statistics was developed as a novel approach to make statistics and quantitative methods courses more accessible and engaging, particularly for traditionally marginalized students. It moves away from canned exercises, toward more applied, real-world, project-based learning experiences.

”An empowering curriculum needs to rise to many challenges,” Dierker said. “Those include promoting inquiry across a wide range of disciplines, building new skills as challenges arise, facilitating the use of modern computing tools, providing support for students regardless of educational background, and framing statistics as an exciting set of tools for understanding a complex world. We are confident in and excited about this project’s ability to do all of that.”

Robinson Lab Awarded Grant from National Institute on Drug Abuse

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and integrative sciences, is the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The grant will be awarded over two years, starting on July 1, and will support a study titled “Dissecting Cortical Contributions to Risky Decision-Making.”

Robinson and his research students will use optogenetics in rats to inhibit parts of the brain’s prefrontal cortex during the decision-making process.

“The aim would be to see how we make decisions when faced with risk,” Robinson explained. “Are certain areas of the prefrontal cortex involved in tracking the outcomes of previous choices in order to influence future decisions? Or, do they simply promote more or less risky behavior when a choice presents itself?”

The Robinson Lab focuses on the brain mechanisms underlying motivation and reward and how they come together to produce desire and risky decision-making. These findings would be relevant to various forms of addiction such as drug abuse and gambling disorders.

McNair Program Receives Refunding, Will Continue to Support Underrepresented Students


Wesleyan McNair fellows Eduardo Centeno ’18, Lorena Fernandez ’18 and Daniel Lee ’18 gather at the 25th Annual Ronald E. McNair Scholars Symposium at the University of California – Berkeley in July 2017 with Carl McNair, pictured second from left. Carl McNair is the brother of the program’s namesake, Ronald McNair.

This semester, Wesleyan’s Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which assists students from underrepresented groups in preparing for, entering and progressing successfully through post-graduate education, received a five-year renewal grant from the U.S Department of Education. Wesleyan’s program will receive $232,265 annually, for a total award of $1,161,325. The federal money is supplemented with an additional $50,000 per year from the President.

Since 2007, the program has supported 135 students all of whom were first-generation college and low-income and/or from groups underrepresented in graduate school. The program provides research opportunities and funding, mentoring, graduate school admissions assistance and academic support to students planning to pursue PhDs and focuses on students in STEM.

Newman’s Own Foundation Awards Grant to Support Internships

On Nov. 28, Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship received a $10,000 grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation to support student internships.

“The gift from the Newman Foundation will be used to offer stipends to students doing social impact and entrepreneurship work during the summer,” explained Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. “We are grateful for the support of Newman’s Own and our other donors who make this work possible.”

Trustee Emeritus Bob Patricelli ’61 P’88 P’90 is a board member for Newman’s Own and has generously encouraged the foundation to support Patricelli Center programs over the past six years. Through the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation, Bob and Margaret Patricelli support Wesleyan in many ways including serving on the Patricelli Center Advisory Board.

Newman’s Own Foundation turns all net profits and royalties from the sale of Newman’s Own products into charitable donations. Since 1982, Paul Newman and Newman’s Own Foundation have given more than $500 million to thousands of charities and nonprofit organizations worldwide.

Thomas Awarded NSF Grant for Paleoceanographic Research

Ellen Thomas

The availability of sufficient dissolved oxygen in seawater is critical for marine life, and places where oxygen falls below a critical concentration — or “dead zones” — are often associated with mass die-offs of fish, shrimp and other creatures.

With future global warming, the oceans are on course to see progressively less dissolved oxygen available. Scientists currently use often not well-tested computer models to predict the expansion of dead zones, but a team of researchers from Wesleyan, University California Riverside and Syracuse University are hoping to use oceanic sediment samples to better predict where die-offs may occur next.

Their study, titled “Refining Foraminifera I/Ca as a Paleoceanographic Proxy for the Glacial Atlantic Ocean” was funded by a National Science Foundation grant on Aug. 16. The award, worth $423,739, will be awarded to the three universities over three years.

Ellen Thomas, University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, research professor in earth and environmental sciences, will use her share of the funds to support undergraduate student summer research fellowships.

Angle Awarded NEH Grant to Fund Innovative Philosophy Teaching Institute

Stephen Angle

Stephen Angle

On Aug. 2, Stephen Angle, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy, together with colleagues at Notre Dame and Fordham, received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support a two-week NEH Summer Institute for college and university faculty focusing on the idea of teaching “Philosophy as a Way of Life.” Twenty-five faculty from around the country will be invited.

The award—worth $137,045—is part of the NEH’s recent $39.3 million in grants for 245 humanities projects across the country.

The “Reviving Philosophy as a Way of Life: A NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers” will be held at Wesleyan July 9-20, 2018.

Personick Awarded Grant from American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund

Michelle Personick joined the faculty this fall, and is teaching courses in Chemistry of Materials and Nanomaterials and an Integrated Chemistry Lab. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

During the fall 2017 semester, Michelle Personick will teach Nanomaterials Lab and a chemistry symposia.

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, received a two-year doctoral new investigator grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS PRF) to synthesize and test new metal nanomaterials designed to make industrial chemical processes more energy efficient. Her study, titled “Tailored Bimetallic Catalysts with Highly Stepped Facets for Selective and Energy-Efficient Epoxidation and Hydrogenation Reactions,” will be supported for two years with a $110,000 award.

“Global energy consumption is steadily increasing, and the chemical industry is the second largest consumer of delivered energy,” Personick said. “The chemical industry is unique in that it uses energy resources, such as petroleum and natural gas, both as fuels to heat reactors and as starting precursors or ‘feedstocks’ for the production of chemicals and materials.”

As demand for products of the chemical industry—such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, and specialty chemicals—increases, the consumption of energy in this sector increases dramatically. Most industrial chemical processes rely on a catalyst—a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction but is not used up in the reaction.

The goal of the funded research is to understand how tuning the shape and composition of metal nanoparticles changes their performance as catalysts in industrially important chemical transformations. The long-term objective is to apply this fundamental understanding to the design of nanoscale catalysts which make industrial chemical reactions more energy efficient and sustainable by (1) enabling the reactions to take place at lower temperatures and/or (2) eliminating the production of unwanted byproducts, such as carbon dioxide.

Petit Foundation Supports Girls in Science Summer Camp

Greenstreet Teaching & Learning Center 5.5.17

Pictured fourth from left, Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center, accepts a grant from the Petit family and the Petit Family Foundation on May 5.

This month, Wesleyan’s Green Street Teaching and Learning Center received an $8,000 grant from the Petit Family Foundation to support the 2017 Green Street Girls in Science Summer Camp.

The Girls in Science Summer Camp is open to all children going into grades 4, 5 and 6. Children perform experiments and explore chemistry, electronics and physics with Wesleyan faculty. Campers will meet college student mentors, learn about science careers, create scientific posters, and share what they learn with family and friends at a Science Showcase.

The camp will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Aug. 7-11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center and on Wesleyan’s campus.

NASA Supports Planetary Origin Research at Wesleyan

Jim Greenwood

Jim Greenwood

Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, professor of integrative sciences, have received a research award from NASA in the amount of $550,000 for a program titled “Experimental simulations of chondrule formation by radiative heating of hot planetesimals.”

The grant will allow Greenwood and Herbst to hire a post-doctoral fellow who will work in Greenwood’s lab in Exley Science Center to reproduce chondrules — small spherules of melted rock that formed early in the history of the solar system and hold clues to the origin of the planets.

“The origin of chondrules has been a cosmochemical mystery for many decades,” Herbst said.

Bill Herbst

Bill Herbst

Herbst and Greenwood received the support to test a new theory that they have proposed, known as the “flyby” model. In a paper to the journal Icarus published in 2016, the scientists showed that primitive solar system material irradiated by hot magma during a close flyby of a planetesimal with incandescent lava on its surface could be responsible for the formation of at least some chondrules.

The grant, which comes from the NASA program “Emerging Worlds,” will allow them to test this theory in detail.

Their interdisciplinary research grew out of a seminar series sponsored by the Planetary Science group, which is rooted in the Astronomy and E&ES departments, but has a wide following among faculty in other science and non-science departments at Wesleyan.