AnGayle (AJ) Vasiliou (Chemistry and Biochemistry) has received a National Science Foundation grant through the Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) mechanism for a project titled RUI: Sulfur Chemistry: Molecular Mechanisms. The proposed work seeks to answer questions regarding the reaction mechanisms for the thermal decomposition of sulfur compounds encountered in petroleum and biofuels, which is currently poorly understood and in some cases completely unknown. This knowledge gap prevents any progress in refinery cleanup methodology, and the proposed work could lead to technology improvements in current desulfurization processes for both petroleum and biomass refineries. Six Middlebury undergraduates will be working with AJ on this project.
Middlebury College is one of the baccalaureate partner institutions participating in a major grant from the National Institutes of Health to the University of Vermont. This grant continues the Vermont Genetics Network support that has been an important source of funding for faculty and student research during the past decade. Project grants support summer and academic-year effort for faculty members from June 2016-May 2017, and pilot grants support summer effort for faculty members from June 2016-August 2016. The following faculty members received individual grants from this program to support their research this year:
David Allen (Biology) received a pilot grant titled Elevational Gradient in Black-legged Tick Density and Borrelia-infection. The proposed work aims to understand how the population and phenology of the black-legged tick, the Lyme disease vector, change with elevation. Understanding this relationship will allow for more targeted tick control and Lyme disease prevention efforts. The grant includes support for two undergraduate students.
Amanda Crocker (Neuroscience) received a pilot grant titled Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Plasticity and Diversity in Neural Circuits. The proposed work aims to understand how long-term memories are encoded molecularly within individual neurons, and the work has the potential to provide novel molecular pathways and drug targets for age-related cognitive decline and diseases. The grant includes support for two undergraduate students.
Michael Dash (Psychology and Neuroscience) received a pilot grant titled Metabolic Consequences of Synaptic Plasticity. The proposed work aims to characterize the basic biological processes that maintain balance between energy supply and demand in the healthy brain, and the work will provide a foundation for novel therapeutic targets to treat the widespread impairments in energy balance and cellular communication characteristic of most neurodegenerative disorders. The grant includes support for one undergraduate student.
Michael Durst (Physics) received a renewal of his project grant titled High-Speed 3D Multiphoton Fluorescence Imaging with Temporal Focusing Microscopy. The proposed work aims to improve the speed of 3D multiphoton microscopy through temporal focusing, with the goal of reaching video-rate 3D imaging in biological tissue. The grant includes support for two undergraduate students.
Glen Ernstrom (Biology and Neuroscience) received a renewal of his project grant titled Genetic Analysis of Neurotransmitter Release in C. Elegans. The proposed research investigates how the pH of synaptic vesicles regulates how neurons signal. Greater understanding of this process could aid the development of novel drug therapies to either enhance or inhibit neurotransmitter release. The grant includes support for four undergraduate students.
Clarissa Parker (Psychology and Neuroscience) received a renewal of her project grant titled Genome-wide Association for Ethanol Sensitivity in the DO Mouse Population. The goal of this work is to use a highly recombinant mouse population to map genes in mice. A better understanding of the pathways linking genetic variation and expression to neuronal function and behavior in mice will provide novel insights that can inform the prevention and treatment of psychiatric disorders in humans. The grant includes support for two undergraduate students.
AnGayle (AJ) Vasiliou (Chemistry & Biochemistry) received a renewal of her project grant titled Thermal Composition of Biomass: Molecular Pathways for Sulfur Chemistry. The aim of this research is to elucidate the detailed chemical mechanisms and kinetics associated with the thermal decomposition of sulfur compounds found in biomass feedstock. The results of this work can be used to develop a sound strategy to suppress the formation of poisonous sulfur compounds during biomass decomposition, generating clean liquid fuels and ultimately lowering sulfur emissions. The grant includes support for two undergraduate students.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the University of Maine are hosting an NSF Day to be held on Thursday, October 13, 2016 from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm at the Cross Insurance Center, 515 Main Street in Bangor, Maine.
NSF Days provide basic insight and instruction on how to compete for NSF funding for science, engineering, and education research. This day-long workshop will provide background on the Foundation, its mission, priorities, and budget. During the day, there will be an overview on proposal writing, NSF’s merit review process, and programs that fall within the seven scientific and engineering directorates, as well as funding opportunities that cross disciplinary boundaries.
NSF representatives will be on hand to answer questions and to host discipline- and program-specific breakout sessions to personally engage in discussions with attendees.
See more details in the draft agenda.
Registration is $35 and must be completed by October 7, 2016.Space is limited. Fees include continental breakfast, lunch, and snack breaks. Registration fees are non-refundable (but may be transferable with at least three days notice, if necessary).
Will Amidon (Geology) has received support from the National Science Foundation for a project titled Testing Models of Passive Margin Rejuvenation in the Eastern U.S. He and a collaborator at the State University of New York Plattsburgh received a three year grant to work on understanding mountain uplift and erosion over the last 100 million years (Myr) in the northeastern United States. The work address the fundamental question of why mountains still exist in the northeastern U.S. despite more than 300 Myr since that last major tectonic collision. One idea is that the northeast has experienced subtle tectonic events in the last 100 Myr which were strong enough to grow mountains, but difficult to detect through conventional methods. Seven Middlebury undergraduates will be working with Will on this project.
Frank Winkler (Emeritus Professor, Physics) has been awarded funding from the NASA-funded Space Telescope Science Institute for his role in a collaborative research project involving researchers at Curtin University in Australia and Johns Hopkins University. This project entails observations from the Hubble Space Telescope and is titled Diagnosing the super-Eddington accretion/outflow regime using the microquasar MQ1 in M83. The goal of the observations, which come as a follow-up to previous studies from Hubble and from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, is to better understand an unusual black hole in the southern spiral galaxy M83, also known as the southern pinwheel. Previous studies suggest that the black hole provides the energy source for radiation in excess of what simple physics models allow (the “Eddington limit”) , and has done so for thousands of years. The team hopes to learn how this is possible, or else why this interpretation may be incorrect.
Michael Linderman (Computer Science) has received funding from the National Institutes of Health for a research project entitled Developing a Genomics Literacy Measure. This NIH Small Grant, awarded to Michael earlier this year while he was at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has been transferred to Middlebury. The grant will fund the development and validation of a new measure to assess genomic literacy that is reliable across diverse groups of examinees. This tool will enable the rigorous measurement of genomic literacy in the general population and the evaluation of educational programs designed to improve genomic literacy.
Ioana Uricaru (Film and Media Culture) has received a major prize from the Romanian National Center for Cinema’s annual production support competition. This grant provides production support for a film titled Honeymoon/Lemonade which tells the story of a Romanian single mother who is a recent immigrant to the US. Lemonade was previously developed through the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation Residency and the Sundance Screenwriters’ and Directors’ Labs. This project is the focus of Ioana’s academic leave next year as a writer director. The grant amount of €656,000 was the largest awarded in this year’s competition and will cover about 70% of the film’s costs.