Rock Island, IL, United States
Rock Island, IL, United States

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: AMO Experiment/Atomic, Molecul | Award Amount: 129.40K | Year: 2014

Non-technical description:
Traditional chemical synthesis methods resemble cooking in the sense that the ingredients, mixing methods, temperature, and pressure all may be varied to produce a desired result. Despite control over all of these macroscopic variables there are some chemical processes that remain elusive. Since the invention of the laser in the 1960s, the field of coherent control has sought to use the laser to manipulate chemical dynamics by applying energy of suitable color and duration directly to individual molecules. In this sense, the laser can be thought of as a new type of reagent that drives a chemical reaction. While easily stated, this task has proved challenging. Molecules are complicated and dynamic, making it difficult to determine the correct laser characteristics to drive a particular process. A proven method for approaching this problem is to use experimental feedback to guide an adaptive search of the possible laser pulses. In a physics version of natural selection, laser pulses that provide a better outcome are given an increased chance to survive and have their characteristics contribute to the tailored pulse that ultimately produces the desired outcome. Such a method, however, is only as good as the feedback that drives it. The goal of these studies is to develop enhanced image-based feedback techniques that enable this adaptive approach to coherent control of chemical dynamics.

Technical description:
The PI has recently developed the ability to use three-dimensional momentum imaging of the laser-molecule reaction products to define the control objective described in the non-technical description above. Using three-dimensional imaging to target a specific final state has led to better understanding of the mechanisms that undergird the laser-based control, especially in situations in which obtaining precise optical spectroscopic feedback is impractical. Increased mechanistic understanding can subsequently lead to better search parameterization, enhancing the adaptive control process. Current efforts are focused on applying image-based adaptive control to study and influence photoisomerization processes in small molecules such as ethylene. By studying photoionization, it is possible to probe how electronic excitation is rapidly converted to nuclear motion, an essential step in many ultrafast chemical processes. Ethylene is particularly interesting as a benchmark molecule for examining the role of conical intersections in these electronic to nuclear energy conversions. These studies will be advanced by using two-pulse experiments, which allow the separation of the ionization step from the subsequent evolution of the molecular ion, which the group hopes to control. Strong-field tunneling ionization of polyatomic molecules often involves multiple molecular orbitals, and studies of these relationships help link the image-based feedback to more specific target states, again with the objective of refining adaptive control methods. A goal of this project will be extending this work to explore the control of laser driven electron rescattering via feedback derived from angle resolved photoelectron distributions. Electron rescattering is an essential part of many ultrasfast laser-based processes, such as high-harmonic generation and the production of attosecond pulses, and therefore control of this sort has a number of potential applications. Finally, as an undergraduate institution, this project helps identify and develop talented students by immersing them in forefront research.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ROBERT NOYCE SCHOLARSHIP PGM | Award Amount: 299.83K | Year: 2014

With funding from the National Science Foundations Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, this project will address the established and growing national need to improve quantity and increase quality of the high school teaching workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will work closely with partner institutions to build an infrastructure to: (i) recruit and educate students to become highly qualified STEM high school teachers, especially for high-needs schools and (ii) provide several levels of support for future and current STEM teachers. A particular focus will be to educate and support Native American students to become STEM teachers. The Project Team from Augustana College will work closely with personnel from partner institutions, which include tribal colleges Sisseton Wahpeton College and Sinte Gleska University as well as Iowa Lakes Community College to reach out to high-needs high schools in the Sioux Falls Public Schools and surrounding rural and remote districts to provide special opportunities for students from all of these institutions to become STEM teachers and then to place these teachers in high-needs areas. The process will include building capacity to provide educational, mentoring, and financial support for future STEM teachers and networking opportunities for current and future teachers.

The investigators will take a comprehensive approach to restructure the STEM secondary education program at Augustana College to implement initiatives that feature two main components: (1) the recruitment and support of a diverse pool of talented high school and community college students with an interest in becoming high school science and mathematics teachers and (2) the development and inclusion of an innovative interdisciplinary STEM major that will allow any graduate to teach more competently across the STEM disciplines. The support component will include longitudinal mentorship and financial support throughout college training and into the professional classroom, and will also include the creation of STEM Teachers Network to serve as a mentorship and professional development entity for both current and future teachers. The interdisciplinary program will include significant coursework spanning the STEM fields of biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics as well as a STEM disciplinary emphasis area in one of these fields. A critical aspect of student academic training in this program will be the inclusion of cultural competence for teachers to enhance a teachers ability to navigate a diverse cultural landscape with empathy and introspection, and to evaluate and interpret cultural encounters with students, to lead to a better understanding of both verbal and non-verbal communication in a learning context. As part of this Robert Noyce Capacity Building project, the Project Team will begin the process of addressing data needs and conducting research on how cultural competency training for pre-service STEM teachers influence teaching and learning outcomes in the high school classroom, especially for rural areas and areas with diverse populations.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 36.00K | Year: 2013

This collaboration among Seattle Pacific University, Augustana College, the University of Arizona, and Hiram College will formally evaluate the impact of authentic project-based research in core sciences curricula. In a previous CCLI project, the PI team constructed the Genomics Education National Initiative (GENI portal), a web-based project delivery system that provides remote access to authentic research. GENI supports classroom implementation of this research by providing protocols, training materials, expert advice, a networking community, and physical resources. The PI team is using this resource to integrate authentic project-based research into the curricula of five participating institutions (those listed above and the University of Wisconsin Madison). The PI team is also inviting current and future users of the program to participate in this assessment. The project is focusing on the evaluation of student learning, engagement, scientific literacy, problem-solving, and retention in the sciences and will study factors that influence faculty integration of authentic research into courses. In addition, they are evaluating the utility of the GENI portal curricula delivery system.

The Intellectual Merit of the proposed project lies in the systematic implementation and assessment of authentic project-based research in science curricula. These results will add to the limited research base on the effectiveness of integrating authentic research in major and non-major components of core science curricula across multiple disciplines and institutions. Through the use of mixed research methods, including controlled studies and qualitative approaches, data are being collected regarding the impact of authentic project-based research on student learning, attitudes, science career involvement and retention, problem solving, and collaboration. A focus on process and context variables is providing critical information regarding integration of authentic research into core science curricula including benefits and challenges for faculty and students, the role of an electronic delivery and project management system, and their use in multiple settings and across disciplines.

The Broader Impacts of this proposal reside in the comprehensive application of project-based research as the foundation of institutional change in undergraduate education. The combination of the resources provided by the GENI portal and the community it supports, complemented by in-depth assessment across multiple educational levels will facilitate integration of research at institutions that were unable to offer a high-quality research experience to their students and will allow the integration of research across curricula, making it an outstanding tool for reaching underserved populations and non-majors. It also provides a way for instructional faculty to re-integrate with mainstream research communities and for full-time researchers to disseminate their science to students of all levels at any institution or location. The data produced will help faculty and administrators integrate undergraduate research at their institutions.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 600.00K | Year: 2011

Augustana College offers scholarships to students of color or community college transfer students who are majoring in biology or biochemistry. Funding for 20 scholars is targeted to increase the number of underrepresented minority majors at the college to at least 8 per year and the number of community college transfer students to 10, at least 85% of whom will graduate. All of the scholars participate in a project to annotate the genome of the bacterium Meiothermus ruber, authentic research on a project initiated by the PI and funded through the Department of Energy. They are also supported by enhanced tutoring, advising, and other measures to ease the transition to Augustana, along with a summer bridging program, a first-year learning community, and interaction with students at other institutions. In this way a series of high-impact teaching practices used throughout the biology curriculum fosters intellectual development of the students, while promoting communication between students and faculty in Biology and Chemistry Departments.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ANTARCTIC EARTH SCIENCES | Award Amount: 190.37K | Year: 2013

Intellectual Merit:
This proposal requests support for research on Early Jurassic vertebrate fauna of the Beardmore Glacier region of Antarctica. The project will support preparation and systematic and paleobiological research on four Antarctic dinosaurs, including two new species, collected in the Central Transantarctic Mountains. With the new material Cryolophosaurus will become one of the most complete Early Jurassic theropods known, and thus has the potential to become a keystone taxon for resolving the debated early evolutionary history of theropod dinosaurs, the group that gave rise to birds. Two new dinosaur specimens include a nearly complete articulated skeleton of a juvenile sauropodomorph, and the articulated hip region of another small individual. Both appear to be new taxa. The dinosaurs from the Hanson Formation represent some of the highest paleolatitude vertebrates known from the Jurassic. The PIs will generate CT datasets for Cryolophosaurus and the more complete new sauropodomorph species to mine for phylogenetic trait information, and to investigate their comparative neuroanatomy and feeding behavior. Histological datasets will be generated from multiple skeletal elements for all four Mt. Kirkpatrick taxa to understand patterns of growth in different clades of polar dinosaurs and compare them to relatives from lower paleolatitudes. This paleohistological study of a relatively diverse sample of sauropodomorph taxa from Antarctica may contribute to determining whether and how these dinosaurs responded to contemporary climatic extremes.

Broader impacts:
The PIs have established a successful undergraduate training program as part of previous research. Summer interns from Augustana are trained at the Field Museum in specimen preparation, curation, molding/casting, and histological sampling. They also participate in existing Field Museum REU programs, including a course on phylogenetic systematics. Four undergraduate internships and student research projects will be supported through this proposal. The PIs will develop a traveling exhibit on Antarctic Mesozoic paleontology that they estimate will be seen by 2.5 million people over the five-year tour.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Particle Astrophysics/Undergro | Award Amount: 57.00K | Year: 2014

The existence of dark matter is inferred from gravitational effects, but its nature remains a deep mystery. One possibility, motivated by considerations in elementary particle physics, is that dark matter consists of the hypothesized Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). It should be possible to detect WIMPs directly, as the orbital motion of the WIMPs composing the dark matter halo pervading the galaxy should result in WIMP-nucleus collisions of sufficient energy to be observable in the laboratory. This collaboration utilizes funds to commission and operate DarkSide-50, a WIMP search using a Liquid Argon Time Projection Chamber (LAr-TPC) with an active mass of 50 kg. DarkSide-50 will use argon extracted from underground sources (Underground Argon, UAr), which this group has shown to have an Ar-39 content lower, by at least a factor of 150, than atmospheric argon. Ar-39 is one of the main sources of background in the experiment.

A significant by-product of this groups research has been developing techniques that could find application in areas ranging from national security to medical imaging. This arises from the extraction of rare noble gases (Argon and Helium) from underground sources, and possible applications include the detection of underground nuclear tests and in Environmental Science where Argon is used as a detection media in ultra-low level proportional counter measurements for an environmental radio tracer for hydrologic transport.

Liquid argon is an attractive medium for WIMP detection due to its efficient conversion of energy from WIMP-induced nuclear recoils into both ionization and scintillation. The argon scintillation time profile (pulse shape) depends on the type of ionizing particle, providing particle discrimination that can be used to suppress background. Pulse shape discrimination in argon provides one of the most powerful background rejections among all dark matter technologies; when combined with the measurement of ionization, the background rejection is further enhanced.

The proposed activity will advance the development of astroparticle physics and its scientific and educational mission by: (1) offering a continuing excellent opportunity for the training of students, who will contribute to the success of a cutting-edge project; (2) developing techniques that could find application in several areas of benefit to society; and (3) supporting a new education and outreach program, designed to succeed the highly successful Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso-South Dakota-Princeton summer school.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 146.39K | Year: 2013

Penny Edgell
Douglas Hartmann
University of Minnesota

Paul Croll
Augustana College

Eric Tranby
University of Delaware

What unites us as Americans? What divides us? What are core Americans values and ideals today? Who belongs and who does not? The nature and meaning of unity, social solidarity, and collective identity in the United States have been a source of question and contention since the nation?s founding. And the challenges have become increasing prolific and complicated in an era of ongoing immigration, increasing diversity, persistent inequality, and ubiquitous multiculturalism. The investigators will study the dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion in contemporary American society. More specifically, they will study the contours of the American identity and the ways in which it is constituted in or crosscut by other salient boundaries. The research focuses on race and religion as aspects of social location and identification which may shape how Americans make sense of their own lives, understand who is like them and who is different, and think about the broader society and the public good.

The research questions will be answered through a web-based survey of 3,000 Americans. The study extends the work of a previous research project, the American Mosaic Project, by replicating specific items from that study in order to establish trend data for its more innovative and influential findings; this includes items on cultural membership, anti-Semitism, conceptions of diversity, white identity, and views of religious minorities. In addition, the project will include new survey questions to extend research in four interconnected substantive areas: (1) Americans? understandings of social solidarity and collective identity; (2) Americans? explanations for inequality, equal opportunity, and colorblindness; (3) white privilege and white racial identity; and (4) religious exclusion. The project builds on previous work by developing a full set of indicators that allow the investigators to focus on interconnections across our four core areas, providing an opportunity to test and build theory about the relationship between cultural boundaries, inequality, and collective identity.

Broader Impact

In this era of divisive politics, culture wars, pundits, and talking points, this project will provide rigorous empirical data with which to make sense of how people understand American society, its goals and challenges. Results from the project will be disseminated through both academic and media outlets, providing opportunities to discuss the American mosaic in both classrooms and public forums. Additionally, this project will provide research opportunities and training for graduate students and undergraduate students at several colleges and universities across the country and will specifically seek to include students who are members of underrepresented groups. This national survey will provide important data that will be of interest to faculty, students, researchers, and the general public.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: NUCLEAR STRUCTURE & REACTIONS | Award Amount: 149.31K | Year: 2013

This award makes possible the creation of a new scientic program and laboratory at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, devoted to the study of the strong nuclear force, the force responsible for the binding of protons and neutrons in a nucleus. The central question that will be studied in this award is an understanding of the kinematics of low-energy gluons, the particles that mediate the strong force, in the nucleus. This will be studied with the construction of a new detector component to be added to the PHENIX experiment that will measure small angle production of neutral pions and direct photons in p+A collisions. The rate of production is directly related to the kinematics of the gluon in the nucleus A. In parallel, the group will be performing data analysis to become familiar with the existing detector and learn how to best combine the current detector and the new extension.

This program in strong nuclear physics will be the first of its kind in South Dakota. It provides those in the state and the region access to studying this physics where they have little opportunity. The award will fund research for undergraduates studying both physics and pre-engineering. The educational benefit for the students is broad. Both data analysis and detector development will be conducted, skills which are of general use to any physics or engineering field. Their research experience will teach or reinforce skills learned in computer science, mathematics, and in physics. For beginning undergraduates, research in this area will introduce them early to more advanced concepts giving them additional exposure aiding the learning process. Those interested in engineering will benefit from the detector testing and development that will be done on site. Further, since science is not done alone, students will travel to other institutions and to Brookhaven National Laboratory to help install and maintain the detector. This will provide them with opportunities to meet scientists from around the world and put them in contact with potential graduate schools.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: NUCLEAR STRUCTURE & REACTIONS | Award Amount: 123.84K | Year: 2014

This award supports research at Augustana College (a small, undergraduate-only, liberal arts institution) to understand the structure of radioactive nuclei that have many excess neutrons. The National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University (MSU) produces radioactive beams with these excess neutrons. The beams are incident upon a target and the products of the nuclear reactions are measured in a variety of subatomic particle detectors. An important part of the project is the involvement of undergraduate students in these experiments and in development of the necessary detector instrumentation. Undergraduate research experience is important for many future technical careers as well as for graduate school. The funds for this award support the work of the undergraduates and the principle investigator to design and run experiments at NSCL, to analyze data, and to give talks and write papers on the results.

Experiments on exotic nuclear systems are necessary to place constraints on modern theoretical models. The nuclei studied as part of this project are neutron-unbound, which means that a neutron is emitted from a nucleus shortly after formation. Since the nuclei are so unstable, the radioactive nuclear ion beam at NSCL is utilized for these experiments. The charged particle left over after neutron emission is bent by the Sweeper Magnet into a suite of charged particle detectors. The emitted neutron is detected by the MoNA-LISA (Modular Neutron Array and the Large-area multi-Institutional Scintillator Array). The research in this proposal involves data analysis of neutron-unbound nuclear systems and on-going equipment development. New data on the 24O(d,p) reaction will be taken to study negative parity states in 25O. The Augustana-MSU hodoscope, assembled, tested and installed by the Augustana nuclear group, is a key device for this experiment. In addition, the PI will work on the design, construction, and use of a new segmented target system for future experiments.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 61.61K | Year: 2012

The existence of dark matter is known from gravitational effects, but its nature remains a deep mystery. One possibility motivated by other considerations in elementary particle physics is that dark matter consists of undiscovered elementary particles; Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) are one possibility. Evidence for WIMPs that could constitute dark matter may come from experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN or from sensitive astronomical instruments that detect radiation produced by WIMP-WIMP annihilations in galaxy halos. The orbital motion of the WIMPs composing the dark matter halo pervading the galaxy should result in WIMP-nuclear collisions of sufficient energy to be observable by sensitive laboratory apparatus.

This award will provide funding for research and development steps to support DarkSide-G2, a second-generation (G2) direct WIMP search using a liquid argon Time Projection Chamber (TPC) with an active mass of 3.3 tons. Liquid argon is a promising medium for WIMP detection due to its efficient conversion of energy from WIMP-induced nuclear recoils into both ionization and scintillation. The argon scintillation time profile (pulse shape) depends on the type of ionizing particle, providing particle discrimination that can be used to suppress background. This is one of the most powerful background rejection factors among all dark matter detectors, and when combined with the measurement of ionization, background rejection is even further enhanced. The performance of a ton-scale or larger liquid argon TPC would be limited by the high rate of 39-Ar beta decays if atmospheric argon was used. DarkSide-G2 will use argon collected from underground sources which has been shown to have 39-Ar content lower than atmospheric argon by at least a factor of 150. These funds will allow the groups to carry out the detailed mechanical design work necessary to ensure the functionality of the detector, develop necessary high voltage and data acquisition elements, and develop and identify the extremely radiopure detector components and techniques necessary to maximize the sensitivity of the experiment.

Broader impacts: This activity will advance the development of astroparticle physics and its scientific and educational mission in a variety of ways: (1) it will offer a continuing opportunity for the training of students, who will have a chance to contribute a cutting-edge project in fundamental science and advanced engineering; (2) it will benefit society by developing techniques that could find application in areas ranging from national security to medical imaging; and (3) it will support continued development of successful E&O programs such as the LNGS-South Dakota-Princeton summer school for high school students.

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