Amherst, MA, United States
Amherst, MA, United States

Amherst College is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States. Amherst is an exclusively undergraduate four-year institution and enrolled 1,817 students in the fall of 2012. Students choose courses from 38 major programs in an unusually open curriculum. Amherst is ranked as the second best liberal arts college in the country by U.S. News & World Report, and ranked tenth out of all U.S. colleges and universities by Forbes.Founded in 1821 as an attempt to relocate Williams College by its president, Zephaniah Swift Moore, Amherst is the third oldest institution of higher education in Massachusetts. Amherst was established as, and remained, a men's college until becoming coeducational in 1975.Amherst has historically had close relationships and rivalries with Williams College and Wesleyan University which form the Little Three colleges. It is also a member of the Five College Consortium. Wikipedia.

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Sims K.R.E.,Amherst College
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management | Year: 2010

Protected areas are a key tool for conservation policy but their economic impacts are not well understood. This paper presents new evidence about the local effects of strictly protected areas in Thailand, combining data on socioeconomic outcomes from a poverty mapping study with satellite-based estimates of forest cover. The selective placement of protected areas is addressed by controlling for characteristics which drove both protection and development and by instrumenting for protection with priority watershed status. The estimates indicate that protected areas increased average consumption and lowered poverty rates, despite imposing binding constraints on agricultural land availability. Socioeconomic gains are likely explained by increased tourism in and around protected areas. However, net impacts are largest at intermediate distances from major cities, highlighting that the spatial patterns of both costs and benefits are important for efforts to minimize conservation-development tradeoffs. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ALGEBRA,NUMBER THEORY,AND COM | Award Amount: 119.25K | Year: 2015

This project concerns a number of open problems in non-archimedean dynamics, a field on the interface between number theory and traditional (archimedean) dynamical systems. This project joins together the very different realms of dynamical systems and of number theory. Diophantine problems, which ask about the set rational number solutions to polynomial equations, have been a major theme in number theory from ancient times to the present day. On the other hand, the study of dynamical systems has arisen far more recently, exhibiting not only a purely mathematical beauty but also spectacular computer drawings of fractals and related sets. This project draws on, builds on, and joins together both fields. In addition, as in three earlier successful projects, the investigator plans to supervise some students in an REU summer research project to aid in their mathematical training. Any computational data produced in the REU will be published or posted on the web, for the benefit of the larger research community. Naturally, any results will also be disseminated via websites such as ArXiv and publication in mathematical journals. In addition, the PI is currently writing a graduate-level textbook on dynamics in one non-archimedean variable, as the field has too few expository texts today.

One key class of problems concerns Galois actions on non-archimedean dynamical systems, related to the central number theory problem of understanding the absolute Galois group of the rational numbers. On the one hand, non-archimedean dynamics provides the local information needed in arithmetic dynamics, which in turn realizes itself as a particular kind of Diophantine problem. A second class of problems concerns the ergodic properties, especially the entropy, of such dynamical systems; the entropy is a number that measures the amount of chaos and unpredictability in the system. These two topics are tied together by the study of Julia sets in Berkovich spaces, which are technical objects that, in the past decade, have proven to be of central importance in the study of non-archimedean dynamics. The project also draws on tools from complex dynamics, ergodic theory, and non-archimedean analysis. The problems to be studied branch into new areas but are continuations of rich theories with long and storied histories. In particular, the Galois action problem promises to provide new (dynamical) tools for attacking the study of absolute Galois groups, while the study of the associated entropy issues promise to provide new examples in the study of the ergodic theory of dynamical systems.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Chem Struct,Dynmcs&Mechansms A | Award Amount: 268.03K | Year: 2015

With this award, the Chemical Structure, Dynamics and Mechanisms (CSDM-A) Program of the Division of Chemistry is funding Professors Helen O. Leung and Mark D. Marshall of Amherst College and their undergraduate student researchers to investigate the fundamental nature of the forces between molecules. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop more fully the understanding of intermolecular interactions, how they are affected by, and in turn how they affect the first encounters between molecules. The undergraduate researchers working on this project receive significant research experiences in an active physical chemistry laboratory as part of a their liberal arts and sciences education and are given the opportunity to present their work at scientific conferences. This raises the scientific literacy and sharpens the thoughts of student participants, preparing them as future scientists.

Intermolecular interactions are investigated through the analysis of rotational spectra obtained using Fourier transform microwave (FTMW) techniques. The availability of two types of FTMW spectrometers (chirped pulse and Balle-Flygare) provides key research and pedagogic advantages as well as enhancing undergraduate participation in scientific research. The determination of the structures of a series of gas-phase dimeric complexes, in combination with ab initio quantum chemistry calculations, provides information regarding the nature of the forces responsible. Specifically, complexes formed between protic acids and haloethylenes reveal the effects of dispersion interactions on intermolecular association. The laser ablation technique is used to generate metal containing complexes in which electron transfer is expected to play a role, and effects of intermolecular interactions on the electron density of the hydroxyl (OH) radical are studied using complexes involving this open-shell species.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: AMO Experiment/Atomic, Molecul | Award Amount: 352.47K | Year: 2015

Elementary particles have an intrinsic property called spin--they act as if they were constantly spinning around like tops. Just as a tops precess in the presence of gravity, the spins of fundamental particles precess in a magnetic field. This precession is the basis of nuclear magnetic resonance which is the underlying physics used in the medical diagnostic known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Recently developed precision optical techniques have allowed the study of interactions with particle spins with unprecedented precision. The researchers will use these precision techniques as tools to investigate the fundamental forces and symmetries of nature. At the most basic level, our present understanding of nature is summarized in the Standard Model of particle physics. This model requires four fundamental forces (gravitational, electromagnetic, strong and weak) to describe all of reality as it is presently known. In one experiment, the investigators will look for a new long-range force between particle spins that cant be described by the Standard Model. To optimize their search, they will measure the interaction of their laboratory spins with the sum of all of the electron spins within the Earth. In their other experiment, the researchers hope eventually to see if the fundamental laws of nature might be asymmetric in time. This breaking of time symmetry can be studied by looking for the precession of a nuclear spin in an electric field. Here the experimental sensitivity can be increased by using a very cold beam of molecules. Additional time asymmetry (beyond that which has already been observed) is believed to be necessary to explain the existence of our universe. Without time-reversal violation, our universe would have produced equal amounts of matter and anti-matter. Their mutual annihilation would not have allowed for the formation of galaxies, stars, planets and life.

Recently, the researchers created the first map of the electron-spin density within the Earth. These geo-electrons constitute the largest polarized spin source known. Precision measurement of spin-precession frequencies in laboratories at the surface of the Earth as a function of their applied magnetic-field direction, allows one to look for long-range spin-spin interactions (LRSSI) between the geo-electrons and the laboratory spins. In the first proposed experiment, a refined spin-precession apparatus will be constructed which is both well calibrated and relatively immune to AC light effects. This should allow at least an order of magnitude improvement in the sensitivity of these measurements to LRSSI. If an effect is seen it would suggest the existence of a new force of nature. In current models this force might be associated with an ultra-light vector meson, a dark photon, the unparticle, or torsion gravity. In the second proposed experiment, critical parameters that determine the viability of an electric-dipole moment (edm) experiment in thallium fluoride (TlF) will be investigated using an ultraviolet laser and a cold molecular source. Specifically, the researchers hope to demonstrate the existence of a cycling transition in TlF and to measure the efficiency with which TlF can be ablated from a surface. If the results of these measurements are favorable, TlF will then be proposed as a candidate system for a cold-beam precision measurement of the edm of the thallium nucleus. The discovery of a permanent nuclear edm would imply a violation of time symmetry and could help explain the existence of our matter-dominated universe.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY | Award Amount: 298.23K | Year: 2014

Vanessa Fong of Amherst College will explore how cultures are transformed through the migration experience. This is a unique, longitudinal project that explores how and why attitudes toward migration and return change over time.

This study will use longitudinal interviews, surveys, and participant observation to examine the motivations and experiences of young adults who returned to China after living in the USA, Japan, Europe, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and/or South Korea, to learn why they chose to return to China, what they experience after they returned to China, how they decide whether to stay in China or go abroad again, and how their experiences, achievements, perspectives, trajectories, and goals compare with those of their former high school and middle school classmates who have never left China even for a day. As Chinese incomes have risen and processes of globalization in China and worldwide have intensified, rapidly increasing numbers of Chinese citizens are emigrating, only to return to China after several years abroad. This study will be the first to examine the long-term trajectories of this kind of transnational migrant.

Findings from this project will increase understandings of how migration between China and other countries affect China and the world, and help citizens and policymakers in the USA and other receiving countries understand the kinds of conditions that can motivate transnational migrants to return to their home countries, and the kinds of long-term consequences that experiences of transnational migration can have for the migrants and the countries to which they return. These findings will also offer better understandings of the long-term costs and benefits of transnational migration, so that educators, businesses, organizations, and governments who work with them can better advise them about these issues.

Data from this project will serve as the basis for students senior honors theses, and as materials for courses taught by the researcher, thus strengthening Amherst College undergraduates research skills, international perspectives, and understandings of how qualitative and quantitative methods and analyses can be integrated.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PALEOCLIMATE PROGRAM | Award Amount: 162.81K | Year: 2015

This projects goal is to reconstruct low latitude precipitation variability, from interannual to orbital time scales, to better understand hydrological responses to meso and large-scale atmosphere and ocean dynamics, external forcing, and feedbacks in the Yucatan Peninsula (YP). The mechanisms proposed for driving suborbital scale climate regimes in the region include ENSO, tropical cyclogenesis and shifts in precipitation associated with movements of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), but available paleoclimate records are contradictory in terms of causal factors.

The project could potentially improve rainfall sensitivity estimates that would represent an empirical assessment independent of models. Current international climate model estimates of precipitation changes in the region by the end of this century vary over a significant range (-50% to +9% relative to today). The project would also support an underrepresented minority early-career scientist and provide an early experience in research to several undergraduate students. In addition, the research team will produce educational materials and exhibits for a general audience in Spanish and English language versions.

The research team will use speleothems from caves of the YP to reconstruct the character of hydrological variability in the region during the Holocene, the last glacial interval, marine isotope stage (MIS) 5, and MIS 7 to 9. In particular, the team will make quantitative reconstructions of precipitation changes based on delta-18Oxygen isotopes in stalagmites. In combination with available lacustrine records from the YP, local speleothem records may provide a unique opportunity to quantitatively reconstruct the precipitation to evaporation balance in the region.

Quantitative high-resolution Holocene and Late Pleistocene precipitation records will: 1) provide quantitative estimates of past rainfall variability; 2) test the relationship between rainfall variability and shifts in mean ITCZ; 3) investigate the role of ENSO, tropical sea surface temperatures and cyclones in driving climate regimes in the YP; and 4) provide estimates of the sensitivity of tropical hydrology.

The researchers will leverage an active collaboration with the Rio Secreto Reserve, a commercial enterprise that leads ~50,000 tourists through a large, partially submerged cave system on the east coast of the YP for education and outreach aims. The cave system of Rio Secreto represents an ideal cave system for reconstructing precipitation changes from stalagmites in the region extending approximately 300,000 years before the present.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Division Co-Funding: CAREER | Award Amount: 288.10K | Year: 2014

This award supports research at the intersection of number theory, combinatorics, and Lie theory. In particular, the P.I. seeks to determine more precise relationships and interplay between weak Maass forms and their generalizations, (non-holomorphic) Jacobi forms, and combinatorial q-hypergeometric series. The major project objectives include a study of quantum modular forms, vertex operator algebra trace functions and graded dimensions, and the automorphic properties of combinatorial q-series. The P.I. will additionally integrate a number of educational and outreach programs at all levels into the award objectives. Namely, the P.I. has begun a collaboration with the New Haven Public Schools, and will continue to develop a mathematics enrichment program for elementary and middle school students. The P.I. will also act as faculty advisor to the Yale University-New Haven chapter of MATHCOUNTS Outreach, an undergraduate arm of the national organization which promotes mathematics in New Haven Public Schools. The P.I. also seeks to enhance research and educational opportunities for graduate students, undergraduate students, and postdoctoral fellows, including women and girls in mathematics at all levels, through research collaboration, mentoring, and outreach programs.

Number theory is one of the oldest branches of mathematics, and continues to be a field of extensive and active research today. Modular forms have played many fundamental roles; they are central to the proof of Fermats Last Theorem, the Langlands program, the Riemann hypothesis, and the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture, for example, and yield applications in combinatorics, cryptography, mathematical physics, and many other areas. The P.I. will study natural relatives of modular forms, namely weak Maass forms and their generalizations. While recent developments have been made, a comprehensive theory is lacking. The proposed research seeks to contribute to the understanding of the roles of these functions not only within number theory and modular forms, but also combinatorics and Lie theory.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: BIOMATERIALS PROGRAM | Award Amount: 100.00K | Year: 2017

Non-Technical
DNA is a well-known biomolecule with a double helix structure. Recently, DNA has been folded into a wide variety of 2D and 3D shapes beyond the double helix, producing interesting materials for engineering or pharmaceutical purposes. However, once assembled, the folded DNA shapes are fixed. This CAREER award investigates how to fold DNA on the fly, creating materials that could change properties on cue. For example, folding DNA on the fly would allow for materials to be folded up for transport through the body and later unfolded for activation at a particular time or place, improving drug delivery and biotechnology.

The broader goals of the proposal are to train a diverse set of students for careers in science. To do this, the proposal first calls for developing interdisciplinary, plug and play classroom laboratories. These labs can be plugged into different courses across many departments and played on a single day. Interdisciplinary training in this way has been shown to increase on-the-job, problem-solving abilities. Second, the proposal calls for increasing diversity by partnering with the Association of Women in Science (AWIS) to create media and mentoring networks that recruit, retain, and train students for science careers. Increasing diversity in science is needed to meet the demands for a technologically savvy workforce.

Technical
DNA is an important biomaterial that easily self-assembles into a wide variety of 2D and 3D supramolecular structures. However, once assembled, these structures are often static. Engineering DNA assemblies to respond to proteins would allow for dynamic changes in regulatory behavior, structure, or mechanical properties. This CAREER award proposes a novel biomimetic approach to create reconfigurable DNA assemblies using the remodeling proteins in the cell that typically fold, shape, and loop the DNA. Specifically, experiments will-for the first time- directly measure the pathway and underlying energetics of single DNA molecules as they assemble in vitro in the presence of a remodeling protein, protamine. Understanding this complex reconfiguration will be an important pioneering step in producing DNA-based nanomaterials with exquisite regulatory, structural, or mechanical control.
The broader impact of the proposal is to increase the interdisciplinary training and diversity of undergraduate students entering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). To increase interdisciplinary training, research laboratory training modules will be developed into plug and play soft matter teaching laboratories that can be plugged into a broad range of courses in multiple departments and played on a single day. In addition, the proposal calls for partnering with the Advanced Laboratory Physics Association to train instructors on how to implement the laboratories. Interdisciplinary training has been shown to increase creativity and the ability to take risks, important for on-the-job, complex problem solving. To increase diversity, the proposal calls for partnering with the Association of Women in Science (AWIS) to create recruitment media with diverse scientists, a local peer mentoring network to retain students, and a series of career brochures to prepare students for STEM careers. Increasing diversity in STEM is a priority for the NSF as the US population becomes more diverse and the demands for a technologically savvy workforce are increased.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 399.90K | Year: 2014

With this award from the Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) and support from the Chemistry Research Instrumentation Program (CRIF), Professor Elizabeth Young from Amherst College and colleagues Alexi Arango (Mount Holyoke), Michael Barnes (University of Massachussetts-Amherst) and Sankaran Thayumanavan (University of Massachussetts-Amherst) will acquire a transient absorption spectrometer with a femtosecond Ti:sapphire amplifier system for a five-college consortium (Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Hampshire Colleges and University of Massachusetts-Amherst). In general, tunable Ti:sapphire lasers that emit red and near-infrared light are used to irradiate a substance to investigate how they respond to short energy pulses. This provides information on the molecular structure and interactions between atoms. The ultrafast (femtosecond) methods allow study of important biological mechanisms such as the charge transfer dynamics in photosynthesis reaction centers that have important implications in how plants utilize solar energy to produce food.

This award will enhance research and education at all levels, especially in areas such as (a) investigation of charge separation (CS) and recombination (CR) dynamics in organic photovoltaic materials; (b) studys of covalently-linked donor-acceptor (D-A) molecules based on BODIPY photooxidant and CS and CR in thin-film bilayer photovoltaic assemblies; and (c) studies of exciton dynamics in crystalline and semicrystalline polymer aggregates.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: AMO Experiment/Atomic, Molecul | Award Amount: 475.00K | Year: 2015

Modern physics is often an exploration of the extreme environments. For example, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN is a particle accelerator that studies what happens when protons collide at extremely high energy, briefly generating conditions that mimic those of the early universe. At the other end of the energy scale, extremely low-energy collisions (at temperatures only tens of billionths of a degree above absolute zero) contribute to the phenomenon of superfluidity, in which a fluid (such as a very dilute gas) flows without any viscosity. Remarkably, the superfluid gas is itself a pristine universe, hosting its own particles that can be analogues of those existing (or expected to exist) in the cosmos. One example is a particle known as a magnetic monopole, which has not yet been observed but has recently been simulated in a superfluid. Creating such particle-like analogues permits scientists to study some of the properties of anticipated particles in the universe that would otherwise be completely inaccessible, as their creation would exceed the capabilities of even the most powerful particle accelerators. The research in this project is devoted to creation and study of several particle-like structures, including direct analogues of monopoles and more exotic structures known as knots and merons. As simulations, they promise additional insight into the fundamental physical processes of our universe; but they are also of interest in their own right as examples of new and, in many cases, completely unexplored physics. The research program also provides training opportunities for highly motivated undergraduates, a postdoctoral researcher, and a secondary school teacher, with whom we will engage and motivate the next generation of scientists and citizens.


Topological structures are central to diverse branches of physics at many different energy and length scales, including cosmology, particle physics, and condensed-matter physics. Superfluids, such as Bose-Einstein condensates, provide new and exciting opportunities to examine these structures in highly-controlled environments. Notably, the complexity of the order parameter describing the superfluid determines what kind of topological excitations it can support. Here, researchers will examine experimentally several aspects of these topological excitations, including quantized vortex dynamics in scalar condensates (total spin F=0) at nonzero temperature, creation of vortex molecules (or meron pairs) in pseudospinor condensates (effective spin F=1/2), and linked field configurations in quantum fields (or knots) in spinor condensates (spin F=1). The excitations will be imprinted by exposing the condensate to time-dependent magnetic and optical fields, and will subsequently be analyzed through examination of atomic density profiles using established imaging techniques. Subsequent studies will study their dynamics and interactions, developing new imaging techniques as required.

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