Columbia, CA, United States
Columbia, CA, United States

Claremont McKenna College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college and a member of the Claremont Colleges located in Claremont, California, United States.Founded as a men's college in 1946, CMC became co-educational in 1976. Its 69-acre campus is located 35 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles. The college focuses primarily on undergraduate education, but in 2007 it established the Robert Day School of Economics and Finance, which offers a masters program in finance. As of 2013, there are 1,254 undergraduate students and 20 graduate students.Claremont McKenna is ranked tied for eighth out of all liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report. The Princeton Review rated Claremont McKenna 2nd in the nation for happiest students; The Daily Beast placed Claremont McKenna as one of the top 25 most rigorous colleges in the nation; and College Factual has Claremont McKenna as the 14th most selective college in the nation . Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 142.54K | Year: 2015

This project is investigating the potential for agricultural emissions of nitrogen and sulfur gases from sources such as dairy farms, piggeries, and other animal production sources to lead to the formation of very small particles in the atmosphere. Previous studies have shown that gas phase compounds related to waste management practices from animal agriculture could influence the formation of atmospheric particles. This project includes laboratory, field and modeling studies to investigate the environmental fate of nitrogen and sulfur compounds from these sources.

An environmental chamber will be used to quantify secondary aerosol formation potentials at different relative humidities and temperatures for select amines (diethylamine (DEA), trimethylamine (TMA), butylamine (BA), a diamine, or NH3) oxidized in the presence of an organosulfur compound (methanethiol, dimethylsulfide (DMS), or dimethyldisulfide (DMDS)) or hydrogen sulfide. The investigators will perform field sampling of particulate matter and precursors at agricultural operations in Kentucky at the USDA-Agricultural Research Station (ARS) laboratory to determine the impact of elevated amine and sulfur concentrations on atmospheric chemistry.

Kinetic modeling calculations will help clarify the sequence of chemical reactions responsible for the data seen in laboratory experiments. This will, in turn, help explain emission rates observed in field observations. The investigators expect to elucidate the atmospheric oxidation routes for reduced sulfur compounds and amines. Empirical estimates of the aerosol formation potential of key agricultural emissions will be developed for use in predicting local and regional air quality impacts and emissions inventories of the reduced nitrogen and sulfur species will be developed as an additional input to air quality models.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 121.34K | Year: 2014

A Monte Carlo algorithm is a computational method that makes random decisions as it runs. Monte Carlo algorithms (dating back to the Manhattan Project) have been an invaluable tool in physics, computer science, statistics, and many other fields, and have become an indispensable part of the modern computing toolkit. Monte Carlo methods enable approximations of integrals that would otherwise remain out of reach. This project will develop and analyze new types of Monte Carlo algorithms, with the ultimate goal of better approximation for high-dimensional integrals and sums. These methods will assist in finding statistical objects such as the maximum likelihood estimator and exact p values, in performing model section using Bayesian statistics, and in building approximation algorithms for provably hard problems that arise in computer science. Many existing Monte Carlo algorithms deliver point estimates, but fail to give provably good error bounds on these estimates. Recent work of the principal investigator shows that in some instances, it is possible to build algorithms where the error only depends on the algorithm, and not on the particular problem under consideration. For example, a new method called the Paired Product Estimator gives a fast method for estimating integrals in high dimension where the error of the estimate is precisely bounded. These bounds are independent of the distribution being sampled from. The project purpose is to further develop and analyze these algorithms to improve both their theoretical and practical efficiency. These will be foundational methods, and should find use as a general tool for researchers in many different fields.

This project will develop several new methodologies in Monte Carlo simulation. The first algorithm is for estimating the mean of a Bernoulli random variable. This is an essential step in Monte Carlo algorithms for estimating exact p values in statistics and for estimating integrals using acceptance rejection. By employing a method of Huber, it is possible to create an estimate such that the relative error in the estimate is independent of the value of the mean. Computer experiments indicate the method is fast; in this part of the project, Huber will try to show that this method is provably close to the optimal in the number of samples needed to obtain such an estimate. A new protocol for sampling from Markov random fields such as the Ising model will also be developed, partially recursive acceptance rejection. By creating a tree of possible labels for a graph and then carefully pruning this (exponentially large) tree, it is possible to sample from the Ising model (at temperatures above the critical temperature) using only a polynomial (even linear) number of steps. Such models can usually be written as Gibbs distributions, and often finding the normalizing constant (called the partition function) for these distributions is computationally very difficult. One part of the project will be refining an idea called the Paired Product Estimator, that approximates the partition function in a provably fast way: now the goal is to make the method practically efficient as well.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 506.13K | Year: 2014

Engaging more undergraduates in research experiences is a priority for improving science education and course-based research experiences are a promising approach to reaching larger numbers of students. The Ciliate Genomics Consortium (CGC) is a student-centered, nation-wide collaborative learning community that uses scalable functional genomics research for integration into courses in a variety of biology sub-disciplines. The CGC employs an integrative teaching and research model that combines both inquiry-driven class laboratory activities and collaborative consortium pedagogies to advance faculty research. Previously, the CGC developed modular course-based research curricula that, when adopted by the research community using the ciliate Tetrahymena, effectively engaged greater numbers of students in authentic research while advancing faculty research. This work expands the consortium by creating new or improving tested curricula to promote their broad adoption, creating more opportunities for teaching/research integration. If successful, this project provide evidence that students in classroom settings can contribute substantially to faculty and community research priorities with a variety of model organisms.

To achieve project goals, the CGC will: 1) develop curricula adaptable to faculty research interests, integrate consortium activities with research community resources, and assess student learning gains; and 2) disseminate the CGC model through training workshops and assess the impact on faculty teaching and student learning. Curricula are disseminated through annual workshops and test whether research communities can foster learning communities that promote faculty adoption of classroom-based research as a high impact teaching practice. In this model, members of a research community form a professional learning community to enhance and apply best STEM teaching practices. To learn more about the effectiveness of this approach for both students and educators, the project will assess the pedagogy and report any conceptual gains this research-based curriculum offers over other instructional models, and present limitations and challenges observed. Several validated instruments will be used to measure confidence and learning gains with newly developed assessments to evaluate predicted cognitive gains. Cohorts of students at each institution are identified, not engaged in the CGC curriculum, to control for instructor and institutional factors.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 279.84K | Year: 2014

This Major Research Instrumentation award provides for the acquisition of geochemical instrumentation which will serve faculty and undergraduate student needs within the Claremont University Consortium (CUC), providing rapid and cost-efficient instrumentation to analyze chemical composition in a wide range of rock, soil, sediment, seawater, and biological materials. This instrumentation will substantially accelerate activities within the research programs of faculty as well as foster interdisciplinary collaboration. The ICP-OES will expand the analytical facilities of the Environmental Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Geology programs and will strengthen collaborative teaching and research among the students and faculty in diverse disciplines from separate institutions. Acquisition of the instrumentation will directly serve a diverse group of undergraduate STEM and non-science majors through integrated lab work in courses and individual student research training. In-house instrumentation will greatly enhance students? ability to directly and clearly connect first-hand scientific training and research to real-world concerns with scientific, environmental, and/or social benefits. The instrument will be housed at the W.M. Keck Science Department of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges, and faculty at each of the five Claremont Colleges (including Harvey Mudd and Pomona) will use the complete analytical system to train an economically and socially diverse group of STEM and non-science undergraduates on analytical instrumentation, data acquisition, processing, and interpretation. Training in geochemical analysis will help foster success for graduates who go on to work in industry or conduct graduate research.

Specifically, this award funds the acquisition of an Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) instrument, coupled to a laser ablation (LA) inlet system and microwave digester. The LA-ICP-OES and microwave digester will allow researchers to generate paleo-reconstructions of seawater temperature and elemental cycling from the skeletons of long-lived organisms to understand variability within our climate and ocean systems, trace the progression of ancient mining and human movements with trace element time series derived from speleothems and fossil teeth, constrain the compositional suitability of barite in soils for Ar/Ar geochronology to help generate a new partial chronology for Pliocene-Holocene climate records in the desert Southwest, analyze feldspar and hornblende to unravel crystal growth stages and mineral responses to changing magmatic and metamorphic conditions and in analyses to understand cycling of nutrients during the Cambrian explosion. Additional users will also incorporate analyses by ICP-OES into their research and teaching programs. Academically, the instrumentation will be used to measure soil chemical compositions in the core course required of all non-science environmental analysis majors and minors at Claremont, and in an upper division soil science course. Senior thesis students and upper level science students at all five CUC colleges will use the instrumentation to measure heavy metals in a variety of materials to determine product origins and interpret potential consumer health impacts. Similarly, the instrumentation will support a pilot group-thesis project to measure suspended sediments in rivers in Costa Rica. Thus, this ICP-OES will provide hands-on undergraduate training through both structured laboratory activities and original student-faculty research.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 369.46K | Year: 2014

This CAREER grant uses a combination of laboratory studies, computer modeling, and field experiments to test the relative influence of temperature stress and energy limitation on the upper vertical limit of an intertidal barnacle (Balanus glandula). Understanding the mechanisms by which temperature limits an organisms success is critical to generating accurate predictions of the effect of climate change on biological systems. Past work in this field has emphasized the direct physiological stress of extreme temperatures, but it is unclear if such extreme conditions limit species in the wild. Alternately, animals may simply lack enough energy to defend against thermal extremes that they could otherwise tolerate. This work has three main objectives: 1) to extend an existing modeling approach in physiology (Dynamic Energy Budget) for use with intertidal species, which alternate daily between marine and terrestrial conditions, 2) to use the model, in conjunction with field experiments, to test the hypothesis that energy limitation, rather than direct thermal stress, limits the success of B. glandula in the wild; and, 3) to use field and laboratory measurements to explore how thermal tolerance and success differ between barnacle populations from California and Washington. Altogether, these projects will improve our understanding of the thermal physiology of B. glandula, specifically, and of the role of energy limitation in thermal stress, more generally.

The integrated education plan of this CAREER grant contains three specific objectives: 1) to use research opportunities to attract and retain students in biology majors, 2) to improve the retention and performance of women and minority undergraduates in an introductory biology course, and 3) to improve the understanding of science by the general college population. The grant activities will include: generating new research opportunities for undergraduate and high school students, the piloting of a research experience program for sophomore-level students, the establishment of a peer-study program for students in an introductory biology course, and the development of a new course for non-science majors that emphasizes scientific literacy. The educational effectiveness of these programs will be rigorously tested and the results will inform the future teaching activities of the PI, her department, and the greater academic science community. The broader impacts of this CAREER grant will be 1) broadening the participation of women and under-represented minorities in science, 2) improving biology education and the educational skills of the PI, 3) increasing public scientific literacy, and 4) informing our understanding of the biological consequences of global climate change, a critical societal need.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Genetic Mechanisms | Award Amount: 339.47K | Year: 2015

This project seeks to understand how selfish genetic elements can alter patterns of genetic inheritance at the molecular level. In the jewel wasp, Nasonia vitripennis, a special so-called B chromosome can induce elimination of all the genes inherited from the paternal parent, producing progeny that contain genes just from the mothers genome, along with the B chromosome itself. How this happens is not clear, but this research should provide important clues that might shed light on how selfish DNA elements promote their own propagation in this and other systems. The project will provide training opportunities for undergraduate students and a postdoctoral researcher. Data generated by the project will be used for original research in a new module to be incorporated by the PI into his developmental biology course; the new course will provide the students with experience in both bioinformatics and fluorescence microscopy approaches. The course module will also be incorporated into the biology curricula of two-year colleges in the Los Angeles area. A scientific outcome of the collective efforts of students in these courses will be to establish a new gene expression resource for the research community. Educational outcomes of engaging students in research are expected to include: increased student interest and conceptual understanding of scientific inquiry; higher rates of retention as biology majors; higher academic performance of two-year college students in subsequent upper-level biology courses; and enhanced rates of transfer of students from two- to four-year institutions.

Normally, all parts of the eukaryotic genome function in unison to insure normal organismal function. However, in some cases, individual chromosome regions and even whole chromosomes can alter normal reproductive processes in order to become transmitted at abnormally high levels to new progeny at the expense of the genome as a whole. Currently little is known about how this condition, known as intragenomic conflict, occurs at the molecular level. This project will employ modern molecular and cytological methods to investigate how a supernumerary (extra) B chromosome completely destroys the paternal genome in the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis, thereby achieving near-perfect B chromosome transmission. Preliminary data suggest that genome elimination is targeted through a mechanism involving differences in the configuration of chromatin associated with the paternal vs. maternal genomes. Experimental approaches will test this hypothesis as follows: (1) define how the B chromosome and the paternal genome differ in their chromatin states when the paternal genome undergoes elimination; (2) determine whether and how the B chromosome initially alters the chromatin state of the paternal genome; and (3) explore the role of novel B chromosome-expressed non-coding RNAs as potential effectors of paternal genome elimination. This research will provide insights into unknown aspects of chromatin dynamics, address whether genome elimination by the selfish B element is mechanistically distinct from genome elimination events in other organisms, and help to discern how intragenomic conflict can arise from a functionally unified genome.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 233.53K | Year: 2014

An award is made to the W. M. Keck Science Department (Keck Science) of Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College, and Scripps College to acquire a Leica TCS SPE scanning confocal microscope. Keck Science serves students from three distinct, highly selective liberal arts colleges. A primary departmental goal is to offer a modern education in the sciences through hands-on, investigative, and hypothesis-driven learning. The new confocal capabilities will allow Keck Science faculty to modernize three existing advanced biology courses through specific learning outcomes involving fluorescence analysis of whole tissues, while incorporating current, investigative research projects. This confocal microscope will enhance the research program of numerous Keck Science faculty and their undergraduate students who are investigating a wide range of important topics across the sciences. In addition, it will facilitate exciting science outreach activities with the Scripps College Academy, an academic program developed to serve the needs of female students in Southern California from high schools in underserved areas.

The Leica TCS SPE confocal microscope will substantially enhance the Keck Science research program by elevating current limits of conventional microscopic analysis to achieve high-resolution, fluorescence imaging of thick, intact tissues in 3-D, as well as real-time imaging of cellular processes in live tissues. The new confocal capabilities will dramatically improve ongoing research projects of undergraduate research students and their faculty mentors in Keck Science and nearby institutions in the fields of cell biology, genetics, neurobiology and evolution. These projects include fluorescence analyses of chromatin dynamics; effects of selfish genetic elements in insect tissues; investigations of neuronal structure and function in the avian model system, the zebra finch; and phylogenetically guided analyses of the fine structure and function of the teleost retina.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: COMPUTATIONAL MATHEMATICS | Award Amount: 413.53K | Year: 2014

A signal is any data set that one would like to acquire, for example, an image, a large block of data, or an audio clip. One can imagine asking how quickly one would need to sample an audio clip so that from those samples alone, the audio clip could be accurately recovered. Would you need to sample every nanosecond, every millisecond, or every second? Compressive Signal Processing (CSP) shows that the important information in many signals can be obtained and recovered from far fewer samples than traditionally thought. The applications of CSP are widespread and include imaging (medical, hyperspectral, microscopy, biological), analog-to-information conversion, radar, large scale information synthesis, geophysical data analysis, computational biology, and many more. Although these applications are astounding, there has been a disconnect between the theoretical work in CSP and the use of CSP in practical settings. The goals of this project will bridge this gap by providing methods and analysis for CSP that apply to real-world signals and settings. Such work will lead to decreased scan time in MRI, reduced cost and energy consumption in computing infrastructures, improved detection of diseased crops from hyperspectral images, increased accuracy in radar, and improved compression and analysis in many other large-data applications. In addition, this project will involve students at all levels and introduce them to rigorous scientific research. The PI actively recruits members from under-represented populations, and will continue to promote diversity through her own research and outreach programs.

Early CSP models restrict the class of signals to those compressible in a very specific sense (sparse with respect to an orthonormal or incoherent basis). One goal of this project is to relax this restriction to allow for signals actually encountered in practice, such as those sparse in redundant, coherent, and highly overcomplete dictionaries. We will utilize both greedy approaches and optimization-based methods, tailored to specific dictionaries of interest, as well as more general methods for arbitrary bases. In addition, this project will develop adaptive CSP sampling schemes, where measurements of the signal are designed on the fly, as they are being taken. Traditional measurement schemes ignore this information, while adaptive schemes have the potential to significantly reduce reconstruction error, number of measurements, and computation time. We will identify optimal measurement strategies for constrained and unconstrained settings, and analyze how much one can actually gain from adaptivity from an information theoretic point of view. The project will also involve work in one-bit CSP, a new and exciting branch of CSP which handles extreme (and often more realistic) quantization. We will draw on sub-linear methods, where large errors appear naturally, and also use optimization based techniques along with adaptive quantization thresholds to reduce the recovery error below the best possible for non-adaptive quantization. In studying these topics, the research will bridge a large gap in the theory of CSP and provide a unified framework for both practitioners and researchers.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MARINE GEOLOGY AND GEOPHYSICS | Award Amount: 241.21K | Year: 2015

The impacts of recent and future human-caused increases in atmospheric CO2 on the acidity (pH) of shallow cold-water marine environments (a process known as ocean acidification), and on the organisms that inhabit them, are poorly understood. This is due, in part, to the difficulty in reconstructing past changes in ocean chemistry in these remote environments. This research seeks to develop and apply a technique to reconstruct past seawater pH from boron isotope signatures in long-lived crustose coralline alga that are widespread throughout shallow, cold-water marine environments. In addition, the research will evaluate the impact of changing seawater pH on the growth rate of these ecologically important organisms, which are thought to be particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because of the high magnesium content of their skeleton. Overall, this project will advance understanding of ocean acidification in shallow, cold-water environments, and provide key information to evaluate the impact that changes in ocean pH have had on organisms inhabiting these environments. The outcomes of this work will provide important information to policy makers and legislators seeking to mitigate the negative effects of rising atmospheric CO2 on these fragile, high-latitude marine ecosystems.

Funding supports a graduate student, numerous undergraduate researchers, and a new collaboration between two early career faculty members. Outreach includes mentoring high school students from groups underrepresented in the sciences through the Scripps College Academy and production of an educational film on the biological impacts of ocean acidification. The research team will strengthen international ties through collaboration with Canadian and UK scientists, while helping maintain US-based scientists at the forefront of this important sub-field of ocean acidification research.

The work plan includes three main parts: (1) developing the first laboratory-derived and field-verified calibration of the delta11B-proxy of paleoseawater pH for coralline algae, (2) generating the first high-resolution, multi-centennial dataset of high-latitude seawater pH before (ca. 1365 to 1760 AD; i.e., baseline) and after (ca. 1760 AD to present; i.e., anthropogenic signal) the Industrial Revolution, and (3) evaluating the impact of anthropogenic ocean acidification on the linear extension, density, and ultrastructure of skeletons produced by an ecologically important, habitat-forming coralline red alga. The associated objectives are: (1) to provide a new tool for reconstructing paleo-seawater pH, (2) to generate historical records of ocean acidification that would elucidate the rate and magnitude of high-latitude ocean acidification that could be used to verify predictive models, and (3) to establish empirical relationships between ocean acidification and coralline algal calcification that would inform predictions of future impacts of ocean acidification on high-latitude marine calcifiers.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 226.82K | Year: 2016

The main goal of this cognitive neuroscience project is to develop, implement, and disseminate best practices in cognitive electrophysiology education for undergraduates with the aim of increasing the quality and number of education and training opportunities for undergraduates, and increasing research outcomes that involve undergraduate co-authors. The three specific goals are: (1) Develop open-access curricula for cognitive electrophysiology that employ evidence-based practices. (2) Create an open-access database of results from 6 classic event-related potential (ERP) experiments that have been optimized in terms of best practices in experimental design and produce highly reliable results. These data will form the basis of class activities, lab training, and independent research and will include a variety of individual difference measures that can also be used for student-generated hypothesis testing. (3) Engage in ongoing improvement of the learning materials through active engagement with a 9-member faculty learning community of users and students active in this field. This nascent community will be expanded by hosting a series of yearly meetings at a major conference that will be open to all interested faculty and students and by including undergraduate research assistants in the curriculum design and research activities.

This project would address the need for curricular materials in a burgeoning field of research that combines a number of STEM disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and electrical engineering) in a focus on cognitive neuroscience. One cognitive neuroscience measurement technique that is particularly conducive to undergraduate learning is cognitive electrophysiology (electroencephalography/ event-related potentials; EEG/ERP). EEG/ERP studies examine changes in scalp-recorded brain electrical activity corresponding to cognitive processing in real time. EEG refers to the dynamic, ongoing electrical activity recorded during cognitive processing. ERP refers to the most commonly used method of electrophysiological research, relying on signal averaging to extract the activity reliably linked with specific sensory stimuli and/or motor responses (the electrical potentials that are related to specific events). Cognitive electrophysiology is well suited for undergraduate research because the equipment and supplies are relatively inexpensive and the opportunities for learning are high.

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