Research

2012 Salomon Awards

Ebony N. Bridwell-Mitchell

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology: $15,000

 

Learning One's Place: How Teachers Become Integrated into Professional Communities

Teachers’ professional communities are important sources of learning, social support, and capacity for implementing school reform. Bridwell-Mitchell seeks to understand how teachers become integrated into professional communities by examining status learning. Status learning is the extent to which there is a small difference between teachers’ self-perception of their status in the community compared to the perceptions of their colleagues. Bridwell-Mitchell will assess the extent to which status learning results in teachers being less-integrated into professional communities and thus, having less access to learning opportunities and social support. The potential findings have important implications for better understanding the internal dynamics of school organizations, including the importance of formal and informal socialization for supporting teacher persistence and success in their schools and the profession.

 

Nitsan Chorev

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology: $15,000

 

India and China’s “Development Cooperation”  with Africa:  The Case of Pharmaceutical Companies

Both India and China have dramatically increased their engagement with Africa in recent years. Chorev’s project, one of the first comparative studies in  this area, will examine the very different strategies employed by Chinese and Indian pharmaceutical companies when trading with African countries. Through interviews with drug companies in India and China, and distributors and regulators in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Kenya, Chorev will study the strategies employed by the Chinese and Indian companies, the causes for their chosen strategies, and the respective impact they have on the economic and social development in the African countries. Chorev’s research has the potential to make a number of important contributions to current scholarly and policy debates on African development, including insights into the types of commercial relations more likely to be beneficial for the receiving countries. 

 

Eric M. Darling

Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, & Biotechnology: $15,000

 

Stem cell enrichment via molecular beacon technologies

Adipose-derived stem cells pose exciting possibilities for cell-based regenerative therapies. However, stem cells must first be separated from other cell types before therapeutic use, a process that has proven difficult using standard approaches. Darling offers an alternative strategy using recent findings in his lab that shows molecular beacons can be used to visually identify stem cells that express genes associated with specific tissues, like bone. Since molecular beacons function by emitting narrow wavelengths of light, labeled cells can also then be rapidly sorted via flow cytometry. Furthermore, multiple flourophores can be employed to target several genes simultaneously, which would increase the specificity of the sorting process. Darling aims to develop and evaluate a set of molecular beacons that will facilitate the study of stem cell heterogeneity while also providing possibilities for clinical translation.

 

Erika J. Edwards

Richard and Edna Salomon Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: $15,073

 

Uncovering biases in gene recruitment during the evolution of C4 and CAM photosynthesis in flowering plants

CAM and C4 photosynthetic syndromes have both played fundamental roles in the evolutionary success of flowering plants, but investigations have historically focused on each as separate and unrelated adaptations. Edwards’ novel approach is to study the similarities instead, in the hopes of better understanding the preconditions that would promote the evolution of one pathway over the other.  This project will examine a plant lineage that has evolved both CAM and C4 syndromes multiple times over the past 30 million years. Edwards will analyze the transcriptomes of select species and identify the major gene lineages that have been recruited into each origin of CAM and C4. Edwards expects to show that, regarding ancestral enzyme diversity, there was not a strong genetic constraint driving the evolution of one syndrome over the other.

 

Rachel S. Franklin

Assistant Professor (Research), Population Studies and Training Center

Associate Director, Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences: $15,000

 

The Geography and Policy of Depopulation in the Developed World:  A Pilot Study on Germany and the United States

Research in geography, planning, and related fields typically focuses on issues related to population increase, but for much of the developed world growth in some locations is paired with population decline in others. Franklin’s project will develop two case studies as the basis for a larger research proposal on sources and impacts of population decline in the developed world. The United States represents localized population decline in the context of overall population increase. Germany, in contrast, is a highly developed country faced with the near-term prospect of population decline. Franklin aims to establish the geographical scale of population decline in both countries, to develop a typology of declining places, and to offer an assessment of the range of policy responses proposed in both countries to meet the current and future challenges of population decline.

 

Eunhee Kim

Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences: $15,000

 

Statistical Methods for Combining Multiple Biomarkers in Cancer Studies

With improved biological and medical technologies, non-invasive and accurate imaging biomarkers are more commonly used for disease diagnosis and screening. The integration of multiple biomarkers has emerged as an important method in cancer management for its potential to improve prognostic or predictive accuracy; however, few statistical methods currently exist to accommodate multiple biomarkers and assess their effectiveness. Kim proposes to develop a novel statistical method for combining multiple, continuous-scale imaging biomarkers to evaluate response to cancer treatment. Additionally, this project will develop user-friendly, open-source software that implements the method developed in this project. Kim’s research has potential clinical roles in individualized cancer therapy and the improved management of cancer patients.

 

Savvas M. Koushiappas

Assistant Professor, Department of Physics: $15,000

 

Novel statistical techniques in astro-particle physics

Koushiappas aims to tackle one of the most interesting problems in astro-particle physics: the origin of diffuse light at very high energies (γ-rays), or light that does not seem to originate from any sources. An analogy can be made with viewing the distant lights of a city. One cannot distinguish every single light bulb in the city, but collectively one sees "diffuse" light originating from this direction. In astro-particle physics, this diffuse light corresponds to γ-rays, and the physical processes that give rise to γ-rays point to interesting and exotic sources such as active galactic nuclei, black holes, cosmic rays, and perhaps dark matter. Koushiappas will apply novel mathematical techniques to state of the art data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Using this new statistical approach, coupled with experimental data, Koushiappas expects to shed light on the complex properties and origin of γ-rays.

  
Nicola Neretti

Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry: $15,000

 

A large-scale drug screen for healthspan-extending interventions

As life expectancy increases in industrialized countries, more people are at risk of chronic age-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. An effort is under way to identify pharmacological interventions that can reduce such risks, but large-scale experimental testing of drugs is still prohibitively time-consuming and expensive. To address these challenges, Neretti proposes to perform an in silico large-scale drug screen by using a novel algorithm to compare changes in gene expression across experiments; this algorithm has successfully identified a significant similarity across species between resveratrol treatment and dietary restriction, one of the most robust interventions known to extend lifespan in several model organisms. This methodology aims to identify new associations between existing drugs and healthspan, and will be the basis for additional studies in experimental gerontology.

 

Matthew T. Rutz

Assistant Professor, Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies: $15,000  

 

Tracing Middle Babylonian Scholarship: Text, Transmission, and Tradition in Nippur, ca. 1500–1000 BCE

Archaeologists working in Mesopotamia (Iraq) have recovered thousands of clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform writing, many of which the work of ancient scholars who produced various written forms of knowledge, including medicine, divination, and lexicography. This book project will study ancient scholarship in the Babylonian city of Nippur in the late second millennium BCE, a transitional and formative period for cuneiform literature as a whole. Rutz will gather together manuscripts scattered in museum collections in the US, Germany, and Turkey, and study this corpus using a powerful imaging technique, Polynomial Texture Mapping, as well as a well-established platform for digital publication, the Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus. These digital images and text editions will be used to study the texts’ contents within the wider context of early Mesopotamian scholarship.  

 

Vanessa L. Ryan

Assistant Professor, Department of English: $13,798

 

The Invention of the Intellectual: Edwardian Fictions of Decline

A growing chorus of writers have recently deplored the demise of the public intellectual in contemporary culture. If the figure of the intellectual is in decline today, when was its height? This project offers a pre-history of the current debate over the death of the intellectual, uncovering the nineteenth-century origins of our idea of the modern intellectual and our fear at its disappearance. Looking at British authors, poets, and social critics of the late nineteenth century and Edwardian period, Ryan’s project examines the crucial role these writers played in shaping public and literary discussions over cultural authority both then and now. Ryan will consider the debates specifically as a response to the increasing professionalization of science at the end of the nineteenth-century.

 

Leigh Tarentino

Assistant Professor, Department of Visual Art: $15,000

 

Picture Window

 A visual artist, Tarentino makes monumental, panoramic watercolor drawings and digitally altered photographic prints that are about transforming the contemporary American vernacular landscape into a fantastic imaginary place. Picture windows are designed for an unobstructed view of the landscape as if through a picture frame. Adopting that framing convention, Tarentino presents in the place of a typical view of a suburban neighborhood, a dreamy, ambiguous view of an otherworldly landscape. Multiple, overlapping curtain‐like layers of sheer fabric will be printed with digital photographs that together form an imaginary landscape constructed like a collage. With a rich surface texture and the physical presence of a large relief sculpture, this project made with digital printing is more like a hybrid of drawing, painting, and sculpture than it is a traditional photographic print. Picture Window will be presented in a solo exhibition in South Korea, in June 2012.

 

Michael Tesler

Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science: $13,000

 

Uncovering Racial Dynamics in American Politics with the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study

Tesler’s research suggests that the election of President Obama ushered in a new contemporary highpoint for the influence of racial considerations in American politics. This project supports the purchase of data from the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) that will provide unparalleled insights necessary to support a comprehensive account of racial dynamics in American politics since the 2008 Election. Access to this data will allow Tesler to develop his research about race and the Obama presidency into a second book, and to advance his secondary research projects on political communications. Moreover, CCES data will become an important public resource for all students of American political behavior at Brown.  

 

Mark Tribe

Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Culture and Media: $9,000

 

Forty More Years

Forty More Years will be an hour-long video about the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL. Shot on vintage Portapak video cameras, it will adopt the documentary strategies and methods of Four More Years, a canonical videoshot on Portapaks by the guerilla video collective TVTV 1972 at the Republican National Convention in Miami, FL. In this way, Tribe aims to investigate the potential of obsolete video technology for contemporary practice. This project will compare and contrast the 2012 RNC to the 1972 RNC, focusing particularly on the spectacle of political performance and the ways in which it is represented in mainstream media (television) and critiqued in alternative media (guerilla video). Further, Tribe hopes to advance the field of contemporary media art by revisiting a historically important work, and, in so doing, reframing contemporary American party politics as a reenactment of its own history.

 

Joshua Tucker

Assistant Professor, Department of Music: $12,440

 

Before the Nation and Beyond Hybridity: Popular Music in Belle Epoque Brazil

Since the 1930s, research on the work of Brazilian popular musicians has been defined by issues of hybridity and national representativity. Earlier music is typically treated as a precursor to representative genres like samba and bossa nova. Tucker argues that a serious consideration of alternate visions of musical activity that informs Brazilian cultural life is overdue.  In examining letters, performance programs, sheet music, and criticism from choro music from Brazil’s Old Republic (1889-1930), Tucker means to look beyond the issue of national sentiment, and ask how the era’s musicians and audiences conceived of music’s purpose; how the working out of these ideologies during a musical career led performers to connect different listenerships to different genres; and how these genres thereby came to bear a variety of distinct cultural values.

 

Petia M. Vlahovska

Assistant Professor, Department of Engineering: $15,000

Tension regulated phase separation in biomimetic multicomponent membranes

Cells and cellular organelles are encapsulated by membranes composed of hundreds of lipids. This lipid diversity is essential for cell functions such as signaling: lipid mixtures organize into rafts, which serve as platforms for molecular-binding events at the membrane interface. Raft dynamics is regulated by physico-chemical variables like composition, temperature, and tension. Vlahovska’s proposed research centers at the effects of tension on raft evolution and stability, which is virtually unexplored due to difficulties in tension control and quantification. Vlahovska proposes the use of electric fields and microfluidic flows to create well-defined tension conditions that will allow her to experimentally investigate lipid demixing and domain evolution in tense membranes. This knowledge will benefit bioengineering applications that exploit cell signaling machinery, e.g., targeted drug delivery.

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