Grants

Knight Foundation Supports Wesleyan Media Project

The Wesleyan Media Project has received a grant of $74,800 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to track and analyze campaign ad spending in the 2014 midterm election cycle. The project is directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, along with Michael Franz of Bowdoin College and Travis Ridout of Washington State University. A resource for journalists, policymakers, scholars and voters, the project has worked to increase transparency in federal elections since it was established in 2010 with support from Knight Foundation.

Read more about the grant and the Wesleyan Media Project’s work here.

Hughes Receives NSF Grant for Research on Planetary Systems

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support her research on “Dust and Gas in Debris Disks Reveal the Origins of Planetary Systems.” The grant, awarded on April 21, is worth $532,943.

Hughes’ research focuses on understanding the formation and evolution of planetary systems.  She particularly studies the huge disks of gas and dust surrounding a young star, which can give insight into how and when a star planet might form. The disk is made up of  “junk” left over from the star’s formation.

The main technique Hughes uses to observe these circumstellar disks involves collecting radio waves. Invisible to the human eye, radio light allows astronomers to peer into dense dust clouds and trace the motions of small molecules.

Read more about Hughes’ research on planetary system formation in these past articles:

http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2014/03/06/hughesscience/
http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2013/05/26/hughes/

Oliver Honored with NIH Award for Protein Translocation Research

Don Oliver

Don Oliver

Professor Don Oliver received a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) (R15) for his research titled “Mechanism of SecA-dependent protein translocation.” The grant, worth $374,148, was awarded on April 15.

Oliver is the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Oliver studies how proteins are targeted to and transported across biological membranes utilizing bacteria as a simple model system.”The current genetic and biochemical studies are designed to elucidate a molecular motor protein, SecA ATPase, that drives proteins through a universally conserved protein-conducting channel by a largely unknown molecular mechanism,” he said.  “Clarification of the transport mechanism by this motor and its interplay with the channel is essential for understanding comparable protein transport systems in higher cells.”

In addition, such studies should allow for the development of novel antibacterial agents against SecA in order to combat the spread of multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogens.

The grant funds will be utilized to support two Ph.D. Students, a BA/MA fifth-year student, and four undergraduate research students that comprise of Oliver’s research group.

NASA Supports Greenwood’s Research on the Moon’s Water

James “Jim” Greenwood

James “Jim” Greenwood

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences James “Jim” Greenwood has received a $331,000 grant from NASA to support his research on the moon’s water.

His proposed research, tracking water in rock samples brought back by the Apollo missions, will “take a giant leap towards solving one of the most important questions in planetary science – whether the Moon is wet or dry,” Greenwood said.

“We’ll be studying pockets of glass trapped in early and late-crystallizing minerals in lunar mare basalt samples,” Greenwood said. “We will measure water and other volatile elements in these trapped melt pockets to reconstruct the volatile history of the samples as they cooled and crystallized near the lunar surface.”

The NASA grant is part of NASA’s Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research program.

Greenwood intends to use the grant, which will be distributed over four fiscal years, to fund one Wesleyan undergraduate per summer to conduct research in his lab. The grant will also allow Greenwood to do critical measurement work at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

This project is only the latest initiative in Greenwood’s intensive work on lunar rocks, and the Moon’s relative wetness. Most recently he and four colleagues co-authored a paper in the prestigious journal Science, casting doubt on the theory of abundant lunar water, while simultaneously boosting theories around the Moon’s creation, several billion years ago.

 

Knight Foundation Supports Wesleyan Media Project

The Wesleyan Media Project received a grant of $74,851 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to track and analyze campaign ad spending in the 2014 midterm election cycle.

The project is directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, along with Michael Franz of Bowdoin College and Travis Ridout of Washington State University. A resource for journalists, policymakers, scholars and voters, the project has worked to increase transparency in federal elections since it was established in 2010 with support from the Knight Foundation.

Petit Family Foundation Supports Green Street’s Science Summer Camp

A summer science camp for girls – featuring three Wesleyan faculty, several Wesleyan students and two teaching artists – will be supported by a new $10,000 grant from the Petit Family Foundation. The camp, a pilot program of the Green Street Arts Center, will expose about 10 local 5th grade girls to “real world examples of women in science” and introduce them to the wide variety of scientific careers.

“We still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields,” said Sara MacSorley, Green Street’s director. “We want to support young girls in our community. A key piece to increasing the number of women in the sciences is to provide role models and support systems.”

The idea for the camp was born out of conversations MacSorley had last year with several Wesleyan faculty around connecting the PIMMS (Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science) program at Green Street to research going on in campus labs.

Those faculty – Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies;  Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics; and Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology — will teach in the camp, assisted by Wesleyan students from their respective departments. Teaching artists Lindsay Behrens and Meredith Arcari, who work in Green Street’s Science and Art AfterSchool Program, will help include the arts integration approach to learning science concepts.

The campers will be chosen from among the current AfterSchool students at Green Street. With the help of the Wesleyan teaching assistants , they’ll do hands-on experiments, art projects and a final science show for family and friends.

“An evaluation piece – this is really cool – will be to have the girls draw a picture of a scientist at the very beginning, before they interact with any of the faculty or students,” MacSorley said. “Then at the end of the week, we’ll ask them to complete the same task. This exercise has been done in other places with surprisingly diverse results.”

The Green Street project was chosen from among 40 proposals this year to the Petit Family Foundation. To read more about the foundation go here.

 

Oliver Received NIH Grant for Protein Translocation Research

Professor Don Oliver received a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) (R15) for his research titled “Mechanism of SecA-dependent protein translocation.” The grant, worth $374,148, was awarded on April 15.

Oliver is the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

NASA Grant Supports Herbst’s Observations with Spitzer Space Telescope

Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, director of graduate studies, received a $5,000 grant from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to support observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope. The title of the proposal is “Planet Formation in the Circumbinary Disk of KH 15D.”

Herbst and his colleagues are measuring the brightness of the T Tauri binary system KH 15D covering several important missing orbital phases around minimum light and one near maximum. Data is crucial to understanding the mechanisms behind the observed reddening in the system, which has implications for planetformation and disk evolution.

Learn more about this study online here.

 

Center for Prison Education Receives $300,000 Grant from Ford Foundation

The Center for Prison Education has received a grant of $300,000 from the Ford Foundation, supporting the continuation of the program which has delivered a Wesleyan education to Connecticut prisons since 2009.

The grant will not only help fund the classes taught at the Cheshire and York Correctional Institutions, but also support CPE’s re-entry services, which assist students who complete their sentences in continuing their college education post-release.

“Support from the Ford Foundation recognizes the necessity of bringing educational opportunities to our prisons, the success of the Center for Prison Education’s model for doing so, and the ability of incarcerated students to meet the challenges of even the most demanding liberal arts education,” said Dara Young, manager of the CPE.

College of Film and the Moving Image Secures Challenge Grant with Mellon Foundation

Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image includes the Film Studies Department, the Center for Film Studies, the Cinema Archives and the Wesleyan Film Series.

Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image includes the Film Studies Department, the Center for Film Studies, the Cinema Archives and the Wesleyan Film Series.

This month, the College of Film and the Moving Image (CFMI) secured a $2 million challenge grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

If Wesleyan is able to raise $4 million for the College over the next four years, the Mellon Foundation will offer an additional $2 million gift.

In 2011, Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities received a similar challenge grant from the Mellon Foundation. Through support from generous donors, Wesleyan completed that match in 2013, establishing an endowment for the Center for the Humanities for the first time in its 50-year history.

The CFMI is dedicated to advancing understandings of the moving image in all its forms—film, television and digital media—through pedagogy, scholarship, community outreach and historical preservation. The focus throughout is on the study and practice of visual storytelling, and the model of a close-knit, interactive college is well suited to the inherently collaborative nature of work in the world of film, television and digital media.

Department of Defense Supports Kottos’ Symmetric Optics Research

Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics, received a $575,000 grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research‘s Multidisciplinary University Research Program (MURI). MURI is a basic research program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The award will support Kottos’ study on “PT-Summetric Optical Materials” through April 2017. During this time, Kottos will develop a theoretical framework for Parity-Time (PT) Symmetric Optics using mainly polymetric platforms. Additionally, efforts will be made towards identifying other platforms/areas where PT-Symmetric ideas can be applied. Kottos will be coordinating his research with faculty at the University of Central Florida, Rice University, Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Utah.

“We plan to explore a variety of opportunities provided by this reflection symmetry for a new generation of photonic materials, structures and devices that will exhibit novel optical properties and functionalities,” Kottos said. “We plan to pursue prospects in the areas of open quantum systems, plasmonics, and transformation optics. Our results may be also applicable to ultrasonics where stealth properties are often desired.”

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research granted six other awards to various academic institutions to perform multidisciplinary basic research. The AFOSR awards, totaling $67.5 million, are the result of the Fiscal Year 2013 competition conducted by AFOSR, the Army Research Office, and the Office of Naval Research under the Department of Defense’s MURI Program.

State Grant Supports Intel Math Institute Hosted by PIMMS, Green Street

PIMMS/ Green Street Director Sara MacSorley and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen.

PIMMS/ Green Street Director Sara MacSorley and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen.

A new state grant will support the creation of an Intel Math Institute for local teachers at Wesleyan starting this summer. The Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS), a partner of the Green Street Arts Center, will develop the course for Middletown and Meriden teachers, supported by the Connecticut State Mathematics and Science Partnership grant of $158,483.

The Institute will pair an intensive, 80-hour math course with ongoing academic-year professional development and arts integration workshops, to help teachers link Common Core concepts to classroom instruction. Artists from Wesleyan’s Green Street Arts Center will take the math course alongside the teachers and develop workshops for K-8 educators that integrate the arts into math instruction.

“The arts, like science and math, build skills in observation, visual thinking, pattern recognition, and problem-solving – all valuable skills for the next generation,” said PIMMS and Green Street Arts Center Director Sara MacSorley. “We want to create a space for interdisciplinary teaching and learning. This is the first time we’ve formally integrated the arts into a math professional development opportunity.”

The Institute will be co-taught by Christopher Rasmussen, assistant professor of mathematics, and Math Education Specialist Sharon Heyman, currently the only Intel-trained instructors based in Connecticut. Rasmussen taught an Intel Math course to teachers in the Danbury, Conn. area in 2013.

“I am proud and thrilled that Wesleyan has been awarded a Connecticut State Mathematics and Science Partnership Grant to implement an Intel Math Institute,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “We have long practiced interdisciplinary math and science education on campus, and we are eager to share what we’ve learned with teachers from across the state.”

PIMMS, with 35 years of demonstrated experience in delivering high-quality professional development for math and science teachers, will lead this partnership. MacSorley will serve as project coordinator. She  cited the award as a model for the state’s commitment to maintaining  workforce competitiveness through improved math and science instruction – with an arts-integration twist.

(Photo of Sara MacSorley by Catherine Avalone/ The Middletown Press)