Bryn Mawr, PA, United States
Bryn Mawr, PA, United States

Bryn Mawr College is a women's liberal arts college in Bryn Mawr, a community in Lower Merion Township, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, four miles west of Philadelphia. The phrase bryn mawr means "big hill" in Welsh.Bryn Mawr is one of the Seven Sister colleges, and is part of the Tri-College Consortium along with two other colleges founded by Quakers—Swarthmore College and Haverford College. The school has an enrollment of about 1300 undergraduate students and 450 graduate students. Wikipedia.

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The modern-day topography of western South America results from the convergence and collision of two tectonic plates wherein the Nazca Plate is being shoved at a shallow angle beneath the South American plate in a process called subduction. This project will address the effects of flat-slab subduction in producing the continental deformation that has resulted in the dramatic uplift of the Andes along the western margin of South America. The PIs seek to provide better understanding of the geologic and geodynamic processes that have resulted in the growth of the Argentine Andes, and their results will have important implications for the understanding of ancient mountain building processes, such as the tectonic processes that formed the Rocky Mountains of the western United States during the Sevier and Laramide orogenies. The project involves a significant scientific collaboration with Argentinian geoscientists from the Argentina National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) and their students, who will be involved in all facets of the project. The project will contribute to the training of undergraduate students through involvement of students in high-impact research projects and participation in cross-cultural international experiences; it will also contribute to the broadening of participation of underrepresented groups in STEM. Results of the research will be incorporated into research curricula and will be widely disseminated through presentations at meetings and publications. The project also has the potential to improve understanding of seismic risks in the study region that has experienced multiple devastating historic earthquakes.

First-order questions persist regarding fundamental controls of continental deformation along convergent plate margins, including causes and interactions of thin-skin upper crustal to thick-skin lower crustal deformation, influences of pre-existing crustal weaknesses, and relations to subduction dynamics. This project will integrate a variety of structural and rock magnetic techniques in order to better understand the spatial and temporal changes in deformation that have resulted from flat slab subduction of the Naza plate and its interaction with the overriding South American plate. The project will involve the measurement and analysis of faults, folds, and fracture systems; measurements of the anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility to characterize deformation fabrics; will utilize paleomagnetic analysis to understand how crustal blocks have rotated due to deformation; and will use construction of geological cross-sections utilizing geophysical data. The work will focus on five transects that span the effects of normal to flat-slab subduction, and which cross the thick-skin Sierras Pampeanas, thin-skin Precordillera, and mixed mode Principal Cordillera belts of northwest Argentina. The project will: quantify both vertical-axis rotations and spatial-temporal changes in stress/strain fields across a complex mountain system (thick-skin foreland, thin-skin fold-thrust belt, mixed mode belt); provide a new model for the 3-dimensional kinematic evolution of the region; test geodynamic models that predict different along-strike variations in structural style, stress patterns, rotations, and intraplate shortening rates related to a transition from normal to flat-slab subduction; evaluate effects of crustal rheology, basement weaknesses, and basin inversion on patterns of structural trend, stress refraction, and deformation partitioning; and statistically compare stress/strain directions estimated from fault data, magnetic fabric analysis, earthquake focal mechanisms, and available global positioning satellite data.

Funds to support the international activities associated with this project are being provided by the NSF Office of International Science and Engineering.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 149.43K | Year: 2014

The representation and reconstruction of complex three-dimensional objects is critical in a wide range of applications in computing today. Polygonal meshes have become the industry standard for the representation of surfaces with highly complex geometry and arbitrary genus in computer graphics and geometry processing applications. While triangle meshes are the most popular type of mesh representation for surfaces, quadrilateral meshes are better suited than triangle meshes in several applications such as character animation, texture mapping, spline-based surface modeling, mesh compression, and some specific finite element analysis applications. Provably good algorithms for generating triangle meshes from surfaces given by parametric or implicit functions or as point point clouds are widely available. However, algorithms to generate quadrilateral meshes with provable quality guarantees for such surfaces are not as prevalent, in part because the problem of generating a quadrilateral mesh from a given surface is intrinsically harder than its triangular counterpart. The goal of this project is to develop algorithms for quadrilateral meshes for various surface representations with provable guarantees on element quality as measured by commonly used metrics such as angle bounds or aspect ratio, and mesh quality as measured by mesh size or anisotropy. Direct and indirect methods (which generate a quad mesh from a triangle mesh), as well as parameterization guided methods will be utilized. Techniques from computational geometry and graph theory will play a central role in the design and development of algorithms.

The automated generation of provably good quadrilateral meshes for surfaces is a fundamental problem that is of interest both in theory, as it raises several geometric, combinatorial, and graph-theoretic questions, as well as practice, where the computational pipeline from designing a model for the surface to the end stage of simulation or animation is frequently dominated by the meshing process. A formal understanding of these questions is critical not only for the theoretical underpinnings of automated mesh generation, but also for the sound practice of utilizing the meshes in a wide range of applications.

As a collaborative effort between PIs at three undergraduate institutions, involvement of undergraduate students in research projects is an integral part of this project. An important and particular goal for this project is the creation of a larger peer group for female and minority undergraduate Computer Science majors by providing opportunities for collaboration and joint research projects between students across all three institutions. Through early and active involvement of undergraduates in the project, the PIs also seek to create a pipeline of female and minority students bound for graduate school in Computer Science.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ROBERT NOYCE SCHOLARSHIP PGM | Award Amount: 300.00K | Year: 2014

Teaching in a high-need school is challenging work and, without appropriate supports, new teachers are at risk of low job satisfaction, burn out and leaving teaching altogether. To address these needs, the Philadelphia Regional Noyce Partnership (PRNP) consisting of Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, Drexel University, La Salle University, the University of Pennsylvania, Saint Josephs University and Temple University, together with the Philadelphia Education Fund and its Philadelphia Teacher Residency Program will develop a new teacher support program that will provide flexible, individualized supportive services to new first and second year Noyce teachers so as to increase their persistence and professional growth as STEM professionals in the Philadelphia region. The Philadelphia Regional Noyce Partnership will develop a model of early career teacher support using regional resources that will retain and sustain new STEM teachers. These new Noyce teachers will have increased opportunities to participate in mentoring, professional development, communities of practice and social networks with regional STEM professionals in real and virtual environments. The new teacher support model will include the following components: (1) Individualized Support Plan (ISP); (2) Mentoring (Mentor Training Model Development, Mentor Training and Mentoring Support); (3) Professional Development; (4) Outreach and Networking; and (5) Website Based Resources and Communication.

The proposed activities will contribute to the subfield within STEM education focused on preparing,retaining, and supporting the development of high quality teachers in high needs settings. Specifically, through developing and testing an approach that supports both new teachers emotional well-being and their instructional outlook and skills, the project will increase understanding of the challenges confronted by novice teachers in a large urban school district and ways that those challenges can be managed and met. By the end of the two-year project, there will be a refined regional model of new STEM teacher support that can be scaled to provide support for large numbers of new teachers. In addition to providing support for new STEM teachers working in high-needs schools in Philadelphia, to increase their capacities as teachers and the likelihood that they will stay in teaching, the project will prepare experienced STEM teachers to serve as mentors of new teachers, enhancing the self-sustaining capacity of the network of teachers in Philadelphia. The project will strengthen a growing partnership across seven teacher education institutions in Philadelphia, facilitating regional cooperation efforts devoted to teacher development and support. Finally, through collaborative efforts, the partnership will offer a rich menu of supports for all new STEM teachers in the region, exceeding the capacity of any single institution to support its graduates.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: AMO Experiment/Atomic, Molecul | Award Amount: 156.09K | Year: 2016

The goals of this project are twofold: first, to understand and control the movement of energy among strongly connected groups of atoms, and second, to improve an experimental technique for measuring the energy distribution among these atoms. These general goals are present in many areas of science (for example, in the study of the transport of energy in metals) but they are often difficult to realize for the simple reason that solids are densely packed with atoms and typically opaque. This work will be done in an ultracold gas of atoms that are cooled so that they move slowly like the atoms in a solid, but are at low density. Collections of these atoms are transparent and can be probed and controlled with lasers. If the outer electrons in these atoms are excited to high energy levels, then the atoms can exchange energy in ways that are similar to other quantum systems. Using a combination of simulation and experimental imaging techniques, the transport of energy will be measured. In this way, the project aims to create and study atomic systems that will yield insight into both fundamental quantum mechanics and the behavior of materials. The second goal of this project concerns a widely used experimental technique in which the energy level of an electron is measured by using a rapidly increasing electric field to rip off, or ionize, the outermost electron from the atom. The stripped electron is accelerated to a detector and the resulting signal is characteristic of the electrons original energy level. However, the ionization process is complex and nearby energy levels produce signals which are indistinguishable. This project will precisely shape the electric field pulse so that the signals from closely spaced energy levels can be distinguished, making new experiments possible in many areas of atomic physics.

In this project, the valence electron of ultracold rubidium atoms in a magneto-optical trap is excited to a weakly bound state of high principle quantum number, or Rydberg state. Both the spatial distribution of the atoms and the internal states to which they are excited are precisely controlled. The atoms in such a sample exchange energy through a dipole-dipole interaction. Building upon earlier work implementing state selective field ionization with two parallel cylinders of atoms excited to two different Rydberg states, other geometries and state distributions will be explored. As the electrons amplitude traverses the many avoided crossings on the way to ionization it splits due to Landau-Zener transitions and spreads throughout many Stark levels, complicating the identification of the original electronic energy level. Previous attempts at manipulating the electrons path to ionization have focused on coarsely determining the slope of the electric field ramp. Since there are hundreds of avoided crossings on the way to ionization, a genetic algorithm will be used to design the electric field ramp. In addition, recent simulations have revealed the possibility of observing the anisotropic nature of the dipole-dipole interaction as well as Anderson localization.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: EVOLUTION OF DEVELOP MECHANISM | Award Amount: 311.32K | Year: 2016

Evolution allows organisms to adapt to their environments over many generations via genetic mutation and natural selection. In addition, some organisms can adapt to changes in their environments within just one generation without any change in their genes. Such developmental plasticity occurs when the environment influences how organisms develop, and allows organisms to adapt to environmental challenges more rapidly than is possible through evolutionary change. Plasticity itself has evolved through the longer process of mutation and selection, but little is known about this evolution. This project focuses on aphids, small insects that reproduce clonally and give live birth during the summer months. The summer form, however, cannot survive a cold winter. In the fall, when mother aphids sense that days are getting shorter, they chemically signal their embryonic offspring to develop into a form that can lay eggs that can survive the cold temperatures of winter and hatch in the spring. The participants in this project will investigate the molecular changes that occur in developing aphid embryos when they switch from the summer to the fall form. Participants will also investigate aphids from regions with mild winters that no longer produce the fall form and do not lay eggs, to try to understand how the response to shorter days has been lost over the course of recent evolution. The work will take place primarily at Bryn Mawr College, a womens undergraduate institution, and thus also aims to engage young women in the design and execution of hypothesis-driven experimentation and data analysis within the discipline of evolutionary developmental biology.

The aphid reproductive polyphenism is poised to become an important example of genetic accommodation in natural populations, one for which a good deal is known about the developmental and endocrine basis of the plasticity. Such progress, however, will require an accurate understanding of the fundamentals of the system. Although several lines of evidence suggest that juvenile hormone is involved in the photoperiod response, the precise role this hormone plays in mediating the effect is not clear. A combined approach of hormone manipulation, measurements of juvenile hormone titer, and gene expression during early specification and subsequent differentiation into the summer and fall forms will discriminate among competing hypotheses for the role that juvenile hormone plays in the process. If successful, the experiments could demonstrate an embryonic role for juvenile hormone in the specification of reproductive fate and identify other early markers of this differentiation, providing candidates and opening new doors toward understanding the switch and how it evolves to accommodate novel environments.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 135.00K | Year: 2015

This project features two lines of research at the interface of mathematical analysis, the study of continuous change, and number theory, the study of properties of integers borne out of the notion of divisibility. The finer distribution of prime numbers, such as whether they end in certain blocks of digits more often than others, is captured by highly structured oscillating sequences known as Dirichlet characters, which give rise to the associated L-functions. This project will prove analytic results about certain special values of L-functions and sums of the values of Dirichlet characters, and it will specifically investigate the impact of the underlying modulus being composed of many smaller factors on these results and on the tools available to prove them. As a prototype of the other class of objects to be studied, signals and motions (such as light waves or vibrations of a string) are often much better understood when viewed as combinations, or superpositions, of simple periodic motions. The wave-like functions that analogously serve as building blocks of analysis on other spaces are known as eigenfunctions and are central in disciplines ranging from spectral geometry to quantum mechanics. This project will investigate the behavior of rapidly oscillating eigenfunctions on spaces with a rich set of symmetries that are arithmetic in nature, in particular how pronounced are their extreme values.

This research project centers around two principal themes, that of extremal behavior of high-energy eigenfunctions on arithmetic manifolds and that of the depth and smooth aspects in analytic number theory. On certain arithmetic manifolds with a specific geometric and functorial structure, the joint eigenfunctions (Hecke--Maass eigenforms) exhibit power growth, which is neither generically expected nor predicted by physical models. The PI will seek out extremal growth and investigate in detail the sup-norm and restriction norm problems on several specific classes of arithmetic manifolds to inform general conjectures and understanding of the phenomenon of concentration of mass on arithmetic manifolds, the precise structure that drives it, and its place within the framework of the correspondence principle of quantum mechanics. In number-theoretic problems involving characters and automorphic forms of large level, the depth and smooth aspects, which are concerned with highly powerful or factorable conductors, play a very distinctive role. The structural impact of the powerful or factorable structure on nonvanishing, subconvexity, and moments of L-functions, as well as exponential sums involving p-adically analytic fluctuations will be studied using non-archimedean analysis, analytic number theory, and spectral theory.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MACROSYSTEM BIOLOGY | Award Amount: 124.58K | Year: 2016

Understanding variation in the internal and external drivers of community composition across taxa and systems informs both ecological theory and conservation, particularly regarding the resilience and composition of ecological communities in the face of rapid global change. The proposed research will use National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) data to determine how assembly processes internal to the community (e.g., biotic interactions, microenvironmental heterogeneity) and large-scale assembly processes external to the community (e.g., climate, land use) combine to affect intraspecific trait variation and community structure at a continental scale. Whether internal or external processes filter how communities respond to their environment will advance the ability to forecast effects of climate change on communities. The proposed work will also contribute to the public through a general science festival; to broad undergraduate education through modules contributed to the Ecological Society of America; and to specific education through the involvement of undergraduates and a postdoc in the research.

The proposed research will address the importance of intraspecific variation of functional morphological traits of plants, ground beetles, and small mammals. Bayesian regression analyses and Bayesian structural equation modeling will be used to uncover the relative importance of intraspecific trait variation in structuring continental-scale biodiversity patterns. Data will be derived from NEON specimens, phylogenies for these taxonomic groups, and NEON environmental and climatic data. The analyses will separate the direct and indirect effect of species richness, phylogenetic relationships, and abiotic variables on the relative influences of internal and external filters that structure communities. Species and environmental data from NEON will provide an unprecedented opportunity to use standardized data to examine continental-scale intraspecific variation on multiple traits across several taxonomic groups. The analyses will contribute new public data for other scientists, and outreach will be developed through existing platforms for science dissemination.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 199.91K | Year: 2014

Elemental and stable isotopic analyses of geological and biological materials are fundamental tools in the study of recent and ancient climate and environmental change. Through this MRI award, Bryn Mawr College will acquire instrumentation that will allow researchers and educators to provide undergraduate women with rigorous and socially relevant independent research experiences in climate and environmental change studies. The instrumentation will also be used to advance faculty research by providing Bryn Mawr College faculty and thesis students the ability to generate high-resolution carbon isotopic data. The acquisition of the proposed instrumentation will allow for higher resolution, less expensive, and timelier analysis of carbon isotopic data for active research programs such as: investigating changes in ancient ocean conditions and their relationships to mass extinctions and the implications of nitrogen pollution and elevated greenhouse gas concentrations on invasive species and ecosystem services in tidal wetlands. This will ultimately help train a more scientifically literate work force and will provide aspiring women scientists with analytical skills that are very much in-demand. The instrumentation will directly improve the research opportunities for undergraduate women at Bryn Mawr College by providing in-house analytical capabilities. The instrumentation will also be an integral component in summer and semester programming for the two Bryn Mawr College STEM Posses, each of which is a diverse group of ten aspiring scientists recruited from urban public schools in Boston. Bryn Mawr Colleges programming for the current STEM Posse has allowed faculty to identify and remedy weaknesses in approaches to diversifying STEM majors. Thus, the instrumentation will ultimately serve to help increase diversity within STEM graduates.

Specifically, this award funds Bryn Mawr Colleges acquisition of a Picarro Dual Carbon Isotope Analyzer for analysis of the carbon isotopic composition of carbon dioxide and methane, coupled with a Costech Elemental Combustion System. The Picarro Dual Carbon Isotope Analyzer utilizes cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) in order to measure stable isotopes of carbon. Picarro CRDS devices are less expensive and are easier to use and maintain than the isotope ratio mass spectrometers (IRMS) operated by larger research institutions. This advance in technology allows for stable isotopic analysis to be used for teaching and research in a liberal arts college setting. Because of increased demand among liberal arts college students for applications of science to societal issues, there is a critical need to provide those students with practical experiences performing analyses that are used to study climate and environmental change. The proposed instrumentation will also be used to develop laboratory exercises for introductory, major, and advanced level courses in the Geology and Biology programs. These laboratory exercises will be posted on a website entitled Stable Isotope Science for Undergraduates from which other educators can access teaching plans, visuals and class analysis results. This website will be maintained and updated beyond the life of the proposed project.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Genetic Mechanisms | Award Amount: 319.52K | Year: 2015

Most genes in mammals are expressed from copies inherited from both the mother and the father, but a small number of genes are only expressed from one of these two copies; these are called imprinted genes. This project aims to investigate the mechanisms that ultimately allow one copy of these imprinted genes to be expressed while the other copy remains silent, or non-functional. Understanding the regulation of these genes is important because normal patterns of mammalian growth and development are perturbed if the expression of imprinted genes is dysregulated, as when both or neither copy is expressed. These studies will be conducted at Bryn Mawr College, a womens undergraduate institution, and will provide a diverse cohort of undergraduate students with an enhanced educational environment by affording them the opportunity to use current methodologies to advance scientific exploration, ultimately preparing these undergraduate women to be the next generation of research scientists.

Imprinted genes are only expressed from one of the two parentally inherited alleles. Monoallelic expression of imprinted genes is associated with differential DNA methylation on the maternal and paternal alleles that are passed to offspring at fertilization. What remains unknown is how further refinement of chromatin structure is achieved during post-fertilization development in order to maintain imprinted expression and establish tissue-specific imprinting. Post-fertilization acquisition of DNA methylation at additional sites within imprinted loci has been proposed to serve this purpose, but DNA methylation at such secondary differentially methylated regions is highly variable. This research will test the hypotheses that the observed variability is due to increased levels of hemi-methylation and/or increased levels of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine. In addition, this work will identify cis-regulatory elements responsible for tissue-specific imprinting using chromosome conformation capture to understand how these elements work in concert with epigenetic factors to achieve monoallelic vs. biallelic expression. Overall, this research will lend insight into the mechanisms governing the establishment and maintenance of chromatin structure critical for imprinted gene expression.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ECOSYSTEM STUDIES | Award Amount: 174.33K | Year: 2014

Overview: Salt marshes provide a broad suite of critical ecosystem services but also face multiple anthropogenic threats including nutrient enrichment and accelerated sea-level rise. Complex interactions between primary production, decomposition, sedimentation, and sea level rise determine the tipping point relative to the rate of sea-level rise beyond which the marsh converted to open water. Nitrate - the dominant form of coastal N-enrichment - acts as both a powerful electron acceptor stimulating microbial decomposition and as a fertilizer stimulating plant growth with the potential to transform saltmarshes through interactive feedbacks in key plant and microbial processes, potentially lowering the tipping point relative to sea-level rise. It is urgent that we understand the impacts of coastal enrichment on saltmarshes in part because of their globally rapid loss, and in part because salt marshes have become the focus of large-scale restoration strategies costing millions to billions of dollars to serve as storm buffers for coastal cities and as blue carbon pools to mitigate climate change. The TIDE saltmarsh experiment is a unique ecosystem-scale test of how nutrient enrichment affects ecosystem structure, function, and long-term sustainability. Contrary to well-accepted saltmarsh models, TIDE has shown that nutrients can drive saltmarsh loss; however, important questions about causality, and whether geomorphic and ecosystem function will continue to change or reach a new landscape equilibrium with nutrient loading, remain unanswered. Given the ongoing changes observed the project to date the PI will continue the experiment for a total of 13 years to address: (1) long-term landscape evolution (autocatalytic or self-limiting?), (2) plant mechanisms (Is environmental filtering selecting for plants with lower belowground biomass that are less flood tolerant?); (3) microbial mechanisms (Does NO3- remove resource limitation on the microbes and disproportionately stimulate creek bank denitrifiers/decomposers?); and (4) the consequences for ecosystem function (With loss of creek edge marsh, do saltmarshes retain less N?). The investigators will use a combination of whole-ecosystem experimental manipulations, genetic approaches, common garden experiments, and enriched 15N-NO3 - additions and delta 15N values in ecosystem components to understand mechanisms underlying ecosystem geomorphic and N cycle changes. This project incorporates new researchers to address questions of geomorphologic change, plant and microbial genetics, gene expression, whole-system ecosystem nutrient cycling, and denitrification.

Intellectual Merit: This interdisciplinary project involving ecosystem, plant, microbial, biogeochemical, and geological researchers will test fundamental questions about controls on ecosystem structure and function and the long-term sustainability of nutrient enriched wetlands. Many detritus-based wetland ecosystems worldwide (boreal, tundra, salt- and fresh-water wetlands) are unexpectedly crossing tipping points suggesting there is a need to re-assess our theories and understanding on the nature and pace of their response to perturbation. Developing a predictive understanding of the controls on tipping points in natural ecosystems, and how these tipping points are altered by human activities, represents a major challenge in ecosystem science.

Broader Impacts: The broader social impacts of this project lie in addressing a globally important issue, coastal eutrophication. The educational impacts include enhancing high school to graduate student interdisciplinary training through a structured rotation among disciplines and hands-on field research. New partnerships with minority serving institutions and a RUI womens college will engage urban, underprivileged and minority students. A whole-ecosystem experiment is supported as a living lab for education and research infrastructure for the scientific community. The MBLs Science Journalism Program and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge will be used to showcase the results to the public. Management outreach through workshops co-hosted with EPA and the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve will engage local, state and federal managers.

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