Grant News

Check out these recent articles about grant-funded research and initiatives at Bates from the Bates Communications team!


GRANTS@BATES

September 2016

 In this issue:

  • Three New Bates Professors Bring Research Support with Them
    • Andrew Kennedy Studies Epigenetics of Memory Formation, Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome
    • Aleks Diamond-Stanic Looks through Hubble Space Telescope at Stellar Mass
    • Jeff Oishi Models the Sun’s Magnetic Field
  • Tom Wenzel Grant for Nationwide Implementation of Active Learning in Analytical Chemistry
  • Amy Douglass Receives NSF Grant for Research on Eyewitness Identifications
  • Nathan Lundblad Serves as Visiting Associate Research Professor at Joint Quantum Institute
  • Mara Tieken Selected for Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement

 

Three New Bates Professors Bring Research Support with Them

In a first for GRANTS@BATES, we profile not one, not two, but three new tenure-track faculty at the college who were able to bring external support for their research with them from their prior positions: Andrew Kennedy (Chemistry), Aleksandar Diamond-Stanic and Jeffrey Oishi (Physics and Astronomy). A total of eleven new faculty were hired this year for tenure-track positions or long-term lectureships, and we look forward to highlighting the achievements of more new members of the Bates community in coming months and years

Andrew Kennedy Studies Epigenetics of Memory Formation and Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome

Epigenetics, the study of how genes are silenced or made available, is a rapidly growing area of biochemical science. Andrew Kennedy, a new member of the Chemistry Department and the Neuroscience Program, combines analysis of large-scale gene expression data with behavioral studies of mice to identify and synthesize molecular compounds with the potential to trigger changes in the epigenetic mechanisms that are involved in the formation of memory. With challenges to memory formation being an important neurological symptom of several syndromes, both heritable and acquired, pharmacological agents that could improve the functioning of these mechanisms would be transformative.

One example of such a disorder is Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder associated in humans with insufficient expression of the TCF4 gene on chromosome 18. Andrew’s research attracted the notice and support of the Pitt-Hopkins Research Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation established by families of children with Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome in 2013 to raise funds in support of research with the potential to lead to new therapies, while he was still a postdoctoral research associate in the laboratory of J. David Sweatt (then the chair of Neurobiology and director of the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, now chair of Pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine). In support of Andrew’s continued efforts, the Pitt-Hopkins Research Foundation has extended a grant of $40,000 to Bates, to enable Andrew to complete a final year of work that he began at UAB under Dr. Sweatt’s supervision. A recent paper in the journal Cell Reports, on which Andrew was first author, identified a potential therapeutic approach, which Dr. Sweatt has characterized as “an important step forward.”

In preparation for his arrival at Bates, Andrew also applied to participate in the INBRE Investigator program, part of the Maine INBRE grant from the National Institutes of Health administered by the MDI Biological Laboratory. (A slot had been opened as a result of Jason Castro’s NSF CAREER grant, reported in a previous issue of GRANTS@BATES, which compelled Jason’s “graduation” from the INBRE Investigator program.) Through a competitive process, Andrew’s work was selected by the Maine INBRE Scientific Advisory Board, and approved by NIH, which provides him with guaranteed research funding of $339,300 over the next three years. Bates received confirmation of the first year’s installment, of $84,828, just before the beginning of the Fall semester.

Please join the Office of Sponsored Programs in welcoming Andrew to Bates, and looking forward to the opportunities that NIH and PHRF support of his research will provide to our students.

Aleks Diamond-Stanic Looks, through the Hubble Space Telescope, at Stellar Mass

Since 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has provided laypersons with unprecedentedly sharp images of distant space phenomena, and provided astronomers and astrophysicists with heaps of data with which to try and answer hitherto unanswerable questions about the universe. One such question, proposed to the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)—which runs HST-enabled research programs under contract from NASA—by Aleks Diamond-Stanic while he was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is “How compact is the stellar mass in Eddington-limited starbursts?” To help Aleks answer this question, STScI has given Bates a $107,883 grant, which will enable Aleks and three students per year to work on answering this question over the next two years. Please join in congratulating and welcoming Aleks, and awaiting the answers from the stars above!

Jeff Oishi Models the Sun’s Magnetic Field

Like Aleks, new physics professor Jeffrey Oishi looks at the stars. Jeff’s primary tool, however, is a computer, not a telescope. He is part of a multi-institution, multi-disciplinary team, led by Prof. Benjamin Brown at the University of Colorado-Boulder, that is working on the NASA-funded project, Stellar Insights into Solar Magnetism: Exploring Fundamental Dynamo Physics across the Lower Main Sequence. Jeff is a theoretical and computational physicist who uses networks of multiple, high-powered processors to model fundamental physical processes at work in major astronomical phenomena—such as the sun’s magnetic field. Toward this effort, Bates has received an initial subgrant of $13,054, the first installment of an expected $114,483 over the next three years. Welcome and congratulations to Jeff!


Tom Wenzel Receives Grant for National Implementation of Active Learning in Analytical Chemistry

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant through their Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) to Prof. Tom Wenzel to support a series of workshops and on-campus site visits to assist instructors of analytical chemistry to implement active learning strategies in the classroom and laboratory at all types of colleges and universities. The project, in which Tom is collaborating with Prof. Renee Cole of the University of Iowa, will receive a total of $900,000 of support from NSF over the next three years, of which Bates’ share is $632,070. The remainder will go to Prof. Cole, whose role is to evaluate the effectiveness of the project’s methods at instilling the use of active learning among faculty participants and assessing student learning outcomes from the use of active learning strategies. This is the third and culminating grant for this project, which began in 2008 with a collaborative research grant on “Development of Contextual E-Learning Modules for Analytical Chemistry” from a predecessor of the IUSE program. We congratulate Tom on this strong vote of confidence from the NSF in his career-long contributions to improving the teaching and learning of chemistry.

For more information on the IUSE program, please see the current Request for Proposals at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2015/nsf15585/nsf15585.htm.


 

Amy Douglass Receives NSF Grant for Research on Eyewitness Identifications

Prof. Amy Douglass (Psychology) has received a two-year, $127,858 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Law and Social Sciences (LSS) program for her continued research collaboration with Prof. Neil Brewer of Flinders University of South Australia. This grant, “RUI: Can Brief Social Interactions Undermine System Variable Protections Against False Eyewitness Identifications?”, is the second from the LSS program for Amy’s collaboration with Prof. Brewer. Part of the expectations for an “RUI” (Research in Undergraduate Institutions) grant entail substantial involvement of undergraduate students in the research. Eyewitness identification procedures are designed to limit identifications of innocent people. However, current procedures do not account for the potential for brief social interactions to shape eyewitness decisions. These interactions may be subtle (e.g., one witness seeing how quickly another witness made an identification) or explicit (e.g., verbal pressure from a detective). The proposed research tests whether these interactions can affect eyewitnesses’ choices. Bates students will aid in the performance and analysis of a series of experiments designed to address this significant challenge.

For more information on the LSS program, please see the current Request for Proposals at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2015/nsf15514/nsf15514.htm.


Nathan Lundblad Starts Sabbatical at Joint Quantum Institute

Bates has entered into an intergovernmental personnel agreement with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that enables Nathan Lundblad (Physics and Astronomy) to participate in the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) as a Visiting Associate Research Professor. The JQI is a research center located on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park, and supported by NIST. This opportunity will enable Nathan, who is on sabbatical and a current recipient of the Philips Fellowship, to work closely with JQI scientists to test out new experiments involving the application of Bose-Einstein Condensates to solid-state physics.


Mara Tieken Receives Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement

Mara Tieken (Education) has been selected to receive this year’s Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty. This award “recognizes a faculty member who connects his or her teaching, research, and service to community engagement.” Mara will officially receive the award in October at the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities conference in Washington DC, where she will give a featured presentation.

Mara is principal investigator of the Spencer Foundation grant “Rural-Rooted and College-Bound,” a study of first-generation college students from rural school districts, and author of the book, Why Rural Schools Matter.

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