Lancaster, PA, United States

Franklin And Marshall College
Lancaster, PA, United States

Franklin & Marshall College is a four-year private co-educational residential national liberal arts college in the Northwest Corridor neighborhood of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States. It employs 175 full-time faculty members and has a student body of approximately 2,324 full-time students Wikipedia.

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Anderson M.L.,Franklin And Marshall College | Anderson M.L.,University of Maryland University College
Behavioral and Brain Sciences | Year: 2010

Abstract An emerging class of theories concerning the functional structure of the brain takes the reuse of neural circuitry for various cognitive purposes to be a central organizational principle. According to these theories, it is quite common for neural circuits established for one purpose to be exapted (exploited, recycled, redeployed) during evolution or normal development, and be put to different uses, often without losing their original functions. Neural reuse theories thus differ from the usual understanding of the role of neural plasticity (which is, after all, a kind of reuse) in brain organization along the following lines: According to neural reuse, circuits can continue to acquire new uses after an initial or original function is established; the acquisition of new uses need not involve unusual circumstances such as injury or loss of established function; and the acquisition of a new use need not involve (much) local change to circuit structure (e.g., it might involve only the establishment of functional connections to new neural partners). Thus, neural reuse theories offer a distinct perspective on several topics of general interest, such as: the evolution and development of the brain, including (for instance) the evolutionary-developmental pathway supporting primate tool use and human language; the degree of modularity in brain organization; the degree of localization of cognitive function; and the cortical parcellation problem and the prospects (and proper methods to employ) for function to structure mapping. The idea also has some practical implications in the areas of rehabilitative medicine and machine interface design. © 2010 Cambridge University Press.

Lommen A.N.,Franklin And Marshall College
Reports on Progress in Physics | Year: 2015

We describe the history, methods, tools, and challenges of using pulsars to detect gravitational waves. Pulsars act as celestial clocks detecting gravitational perturbations in space-time at wavelengths of light-years. The field is poised to make its first detection of nanohertz gravitational waves in the next 10 years. Controversies remain over how far we can reduce the noise in the pulsars, how many pulsars should be in the array, what kind of source we will detect first, and how we can best accommodate our large bandwidth systems. We conclude by considering the important question of how to plan for a post-detection era, beyond the first detection of gravitational waves. © 2015 IOP Publishing Ltd.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Integrative Ecologi Physiology | Award Amount: 404.23K | Year: 2016

Epiphytes, plants that live on other plants, reach their peak of diversity and abundance in Tropical Montane Cloud Forests (TMCF). In this ecosystem, epiphytes play important ecosystem roles because they intercept and hold on to nutrients and water from rain and mist and provide food and resources for many birds, animals and insects. Because these plants do not have access to soils and water from the ground, they are particularly vulnerable to changes in climate, including increases in cloud height and drought. This research will determine the degree to which epiphyte communities are vulnerable to decreases in precipitation or cloud cover, and increased forest fragmentation. This project will also develop a training program in canopy ecology for ecotourism operators in Monteverde, Costa Rica. This region hosts over 100,000 people per year for canopy adventure sports but few tourists or guides get information on the importance of the TMCF in general and the epiphyte community specifically. The team will also provide training and presentations to local research and educational institutions in the Monteverde region including the Monteverde Reserve, the Monteverde Institute and local high schools.

Despite evidence that the canopy community as a whole is important to ecosystem processes, there is little information regarding the ability of this community to withstand projected changes in climate and/or increases in exposure due to deforestation. In the TMCF, there is great variation in growth forms in the canopy that may differ in their vulnerability to decreases in precipitation or increases in cloud base heights. Although efforts have been made to understand individual species responses to drought stress, little is known about variability in drought-stress responses and the ability of plants to cope with projected future drought conditions. By working in this hyper-diverse, but relatively understudied system, this research will increase the understanding of a fundamental topic in plant ecophysiology: the diverse ways plants respond to drought. Variability in microclimate across the six sites provides a unique opportunity to identify suites of drought-stress responses across functional groups and determine whether these traits vary, or respond plastically, to changes in the environment. Functional morphological traits, water relations, water use, and vulnerability to drought will be measured across the gradient to document variation in ecophysiological strategies in plants that are exposed to different microclimates. Photosynthetic strategies will also be evaluated along the gradient using stable isotopes. Canopy communities in open pasture trees will also be studied because these exposed communities tend to experience greater water stress within a given precipitation regime and may provide insights on how canopy communities are likely to be affected by increases in drought stress or forest fragmentation. To assess the role of suites of functional traits on drought resistance, a subset of common species from three of the sites (wettest, intermediate, driest) from both forests and pastures will be subjected to a manipulative drought experiment.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: AMO Experiment/Atomic, Molecul | Award Amount: 131.11K | Year: 2017

Nonlinear optics provides a unique means for creating accessible and cost-effective laser sources, through a process called frequency conversion. The natural response of some transparent materials, in fact, is to convert intense laser light from one color, or frequency, to another, enabling applications ranging from green laser pointers to laser-ignited fusion. Efficient conversion of laser light from one frequency to another requires careful and sometimes complex engineering of the material component in this light-material interaction. These techniques have been very successful for a large range of applications, but are limited by what materials can be engineered for this purpose. Instead of engineering materials in the light-material interaction, the research supported by this CAREER award explores how we can engineer the light. While the main application of this research is the development of new light sources, engineering of light fields could also reveal fundamental physics of the light conversion process, as well as provide an extremely precise tool for performing measurements of the materials themselves. This research will be integrated with education at a research-intensive liberal arts college through mentoring of undergraduates in experimental optical science, as well as the development of curricula for improved scientific literacy through an interdisciplinary first-year seminar course, and providing students early engagement with applications of optics in research through an intermediate-level Optics course.

The main challenge for the efficiency of nonlinear frequency conversion processes such as second harmonic generation is the chromatic dispersion of the nonlinear optical material. Recently, a novel method for correcting the dispersion effects has been developed, in which sequences of counterpropagating pulses are used to interfere periodically with the harmonic generation process, achieving an all-optical version of quasi-phase matching. While experimental demonstrations of this technique have been shown only for high-order harmonic generation, the technique should be applicable to a much wider range of nonlinear processes. In this project, direct experimental testing of current theoretical models will be performed for second harmonic generation, providing a better understanding of the physics involved in the interference. Building on this knowledge and in concert with development of numerical models, the efficiency of phase matching will be optimized using shaping of the ultrafast counterpropagating pulses. The results from these studies are applicable not only to low-order nonlinear optical processes, but also high harmonics, the major source for attosecond science. Additionally, the use of ultrafast counterpropagating pulses will be investigated as a high-resolution, in-situ probe of the dispersion properties of complex nonlinear materials, which may be used in the characterization of periodically-poled media or imaging of biological materials.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ROBUST INTELLIGENCE | Award Amount: 89.89K | Year: 2016

As humans and other animals navigate the world they demonstrate remarkable flexibility in encountering unfamiliar systems, spaces and phenomena, learning to make predictions about how they will behave, and making good decisions based on those predictions. Crucial to this ability is the fact that one does not need to make perfectly accurate or fully detailed predictions to make good decisions. Though, due to our natural limitations, our predictions about the future are necessarily flawed, they are nevertheless sufficiently useful to make reasonable decisions. For artificial agents, in contrast, imperfect predictions often lead to catastrophic failures in decision making. Many existing approaches fundamentally assume that the agent will eventually learn to make perfect predictions and make perfect decisions, which is unreasonable in sufficiently rich, complex environments. This work considers the problem of developing artificial agents that are more aware of and more robust to their own limitations. Agents that can more robustly and flexibly learn from experience in truly complex environments have the potential to impact nearly any application in which decisions are made over time, for instance autonomous robots/vehicles, personal assistants, and medical/legal decision support. Furthermore, as the project will be undertaken at an undergraduate-only liberal arts college, undergraduate researchers will play an integral role in the work. The PI will also build on the strength of the liberal arts setting to enhance instruction of key discipline-specific research and writing skills throughout the Computer Science curriculum. Explicit development of these skills will not only improve students preparation for a wide variety of career paths (including basic research) but is also aligned with best practices for broadening participation in the discipline.

This project studies model-based reinforcement learning (MBRL) under the assumption that the agent has fundamental limitations that prevent it from learning a perfect model or from producing optimal plans. The central hypothesis is that in this context the MBRL problem cannot be decomposed into separate model-learning and planning problems, each treating the other as an idealized black box. Rather the optimization process for each component must be aware of its role in the overall architecture and of the limitations of its partner. One key aim of the work is to derive novel measures of model quality that are more tightly related to the true objective of control performance than standard measures of one-step prediction accuracy adapted from supervised learning settings. Another is to investigate how model learning objectives/algorithms can be adapted to account for the limitations of the specific planner that will use the model. Further, control algorithms will be investigated that can make effective use of models of non-homogeneous quality by mediating between model-based and model-free knowledge. The ultimate goal is to integrate these principles into novel MBRL agents that are significantly more robust to limitations in the model class and/or planner and are able to succeed in environments that are too complex and high-dimensional to be modeled or solved exactly.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 403.19K | Year: 2016

An award is made to Franklin & Marshall College for a laser scanning confocal microscope that will enable the study of cells, tissues, and other materials at high resolution that cannot be achieved with traditional light microscopy, and thus allow investigation of new questions in both research and teaching. A diverse group of faculty and students from multiple departments at F&M (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy, and Psychology), from other institutions of higher education including Millersville University and Elizabethtown College, and from the School District of Lancaster will use the laser-based microscope system for state-of-the-art image capture and analysis. In addition to student-faculty collaborative research projects, the confocal microscope will enable cutting-edge research experiences for a large and diverse group of about 170 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) undergraduates and 55 urban high school students annually. Students will view and measure stained or living cells in courses from high school biology to advanced neurobiology and will investigate the immune system, cancer, and development. The microscope will contribute significantly to the education of first-generation college students (about 15% of F&Ms student population) and underrepresented groups. The confocal microscope will provide research opportunities for undergraduates that integrate technology common at research universities with direct faculty mentoring that is the hallmark of a liberal arts education at F&M. The confocal will also enhance local research infrastructure and increase the participation of women and underrepresented groups in science. The high quality, state-of-the-art instrument will enhance F&Ms ability to offer up-to-date training to students and provide outreach to train the next generation of scientists.

The confocal microscope will enhance the scientific findings of many faculty who study a diverse range of topics in terrestrial and aquatic microbes, plants and animals, from fundamental mechanisms of cellular processes to biomechanics, development and cognition, and will help offer high-quality research opportunities to undergraduates. Projects that will use the range of capabilities of the confocal microscope include: gene expression involved in the formation of plant seeds; modification of hippocampal dendrites as a function of space use; novel cellular mechanisms of mammalian brain development; computer simulations of brain cell function in different regions of cortex; characterization of NLR proteins involved in inflammation; distribution of proteins critical for heart and skeletal development; signaling regulation of tumor suppressor proteins; and the morphology of obliquely striated muscle cells. Research at nearby Millersville University and Elizabethtown College focused on evolving spatial patterns of microbes diversity over time, migration of cells during turtle shell formation, and cellular stress responses of aquatic Hydra species will be enhanced with access to the microscope allowing diverse scientific discoveries.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PROJECTS | Award Amount: 79.00K | Year: 2016

Newer faculty often find the process of writing their first grant proposals to be quite challenging. Professors Katherine Plass of Franklin and Marshall College and Thomas Miller of the California Institute of Technology are organizing a workshop that seeks to provide new faculty with insight about proposal writing and reviewing processes, and position newer faculty to write more competitive proposals to federal funding agencies. Participants have the opportunity to network with successful grant recipients and program officers. They engage in mock panels, speed coaching sessions, and other activities designed to provide them with a better understanding of how to put together a research plan that is ambitious yet realistic. Broader impacts are also discussed in terms are educational activities, outreach and applications to societal problems.

The workshop, supported by the Division of Chemistry, is entitled, Chemistry Early Career Investigator Workshop, will be held on March 20-21, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. This workshop brings together 100 junior faculty from a broad range of institutions and demographics to discuss steps in strategically crafting research ideas, planning educational and outreach activities, and assessing and evaluating project aims. Potential participants can access more information as it becomes available at: In addition an email address is also available:

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 350.00K | Year: 2015

Science education at Franklin & Marshall College prioritizes student-faculty research led by highly accomplished scholar-teachers. In embracing that role within the context of projects that increasingly involve large amounts of shared data, present local network infrastructure limitations emerge when such transfers compete with other campus network traffic and pass through campus firewalls. This project creates a local area network optimized for high-performance scientific applications, a Science DMZ, which will be architected with particular attention paid to identifying and sharing replicable techniques, while ensuring institutional information security requirements are not compromised. The addition of a local data transfer node, combined with increased local network capacity, improves Franklin & Marshalls ability to exchange data with researchers at universities worldwide.

This project expands end-to-end performance monitoring, improves inter-institutional data exchange capabilities, and strengthens current and future research support for faculty via collaboration with a Pennsylvania-wide education and research computing network (KINBER). The network infrastructure improvements also enable new experimentation with off-site high performance computing solutions that cannot presently be evaluated due to infrastructure constraints. This project prepares undergraduate students for postgraduate work and study in data-intensive fields. Franklin & Marshall plans to share the results of the project with similar-sized institutions seeking to support their faculty and undergraduate researchers.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: GEOMORPHOLOGY & LAND USE DYNAM | Award Amount: 137.88K | Year: 2015

Non-technical description of the projects broader significance and importance

Recent research in geomorphology, the study of Earths surface and the processes that shape it, has found that human modification of land in the northeastern U.S. over the past few centuries has resulted in large volumes of sediment being eroded from hillsides and deposited in valleys along rivers and streams. Prior research has suggested that this sediment transfer is the most important modification of Earths landscape in tens of thousands of years. This project will evaluate the significance of these deposits on a regional scale by carefully measuring them in representative field locations and then using newly available high-resolution topographic data to extrapolate the findings to whole watersheds and regions. Knowledge of how human activities have contributed to landscape change is a prerequisite for informed land-management and restoration decisions. To ensure broad communication of project findings, the researchers will interact with policy makers, planners, government agencies, and non-profit organizations interested in stream and wetland conservation. This project also will include strong opportunities for student research, since the collaborating institutions are heavily invested in undergraduate education as a priority.

Technical description of the project

Recent global sedimentation studies demonstrate that rates of erosion due to human activities exceed the amount of sediment delivered to the oceans by rivers. At the same time, field-based studies at the channel to watershed scale have found large quantities of sediment stored in valley bottoms during the past few centuries. This project will bridge the gap between global and watershed-based approaches by quantifying the amount of Anthropocene (recent, human related) sediment stored in valley bottoms of the northeastern United States, and then comparing this amount to published volumes and timescales of (1) erosion from the landscape, and (2) deposition in reservoirs, lakes, and estuaries along the Atlantic margin. The research will use high-resolution topographic data to map the extent and thickness of this fill over large spatial areas (1,000-10,000 square km), and will test these methods using fieldwork (mapping, coring, geophysical data collection, sediment sampling and dating) in key watersheds. A central goal is to evaluate the extent to which sediment storage in the unglaciated mid-Atlantic region applies in the glaciated, less-studied New England region, where upland soils are thin, sediment sources are generally localized to glacial deposits, and large natural lakes and wetlands provide terrestrial accommodation space. The results of the project will help resolve the discrepancy between erosion and deposition rates at small spatial (watershed) and temporal (decadal to centennial) scales versus the rates that occur globally and over geological time.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Physiolg Mechansms&Biomechancs | Award Amount: 273.04K | Year: 2016

Squids and cuttlefishes are impressive swimmers, having the ability to hover, change direction rapidly, and even swim forward and backward with ease. The key to their locomotive prowess is coordination among their pulsed jet, flapping fins, and flexible arms, but little is presently known about how these units work together throughout these animals lives as they encounter different physical environments, change developmentally, and experience dissimilar ecosystems. This project focuses on understanding how the jet, fins, and arms operate in concert to produce the necessary forces for exceptional turning, both in terms of muscle capabilities and hydrodynamics, in squid and cuttlefish of different developmental stages (hatchlings to adults). This work will involve cutting edge 3D flow visualization approaches, high-speed video analysis, and advanced mathematical tools that highlight the essential components of high-performance turns. This project promises to (1) advance our understanding of how highly maneuverable marine animals navigate through their complex habitats and (2) reveal key performance characteristics, structures, and behaviors that can be integrated potentially into the design of mechanical bio-inspired systems, such as autonomous underwater vehicles, to improve their turning/docking capabilities. This project incorporates a number of outreach projects, including demonstrations in local schools, participation in robotics competitions, development of web-based tutorials and summer camps, and presentations at aquariums and museums.

Maneuvering in the aquatic environment is a significant component of routine swimming, with proficient maneuvering being essential for predator avoidance, prey capture, and navigation. Despite its importance, understanding of the biomechanics of maneuvering behaviors is limited. An investigation of maneuvering performance in three morphologically distinct species of cephalopods is proposed here. The investigation explores three broad questions: (1) how are the fins, arms, and funnel-jet complex used in concert to maximize turning performance in adult cephalopods; (2) do the relative importance of turning rate and turning radius change over ontogeny and are fewer turning modes observed in young cephalopods; and (3) do fin, arm, and funnel musculoskeletal mechanics change over ontogeny and are such changes associated with differences in maneuvering? These questions will be addressed by collecting measurements of 3D high-speed kinematics and 2D/3D hydrodynamics of wake flows; performing mathematical analyses to quantitatively identify and categorize turning patterns; and measuring both the dynamic passive and active length-force relationship and maximum shortening velocity of muscle fibers that drive the movements used during turning and jet vectoring. The proposed work will: (1) provide data on how an ecologically important marine animal coordinates its novel dual-mode system (jet and fins) and arms to achieve high turning performance, (2) highlight the essential kinematic and hydrodynamic elements of turns, (3) offer insights into how maneuvering capabilities change over a broad ontogenetic range, and (4) provide novel data on the muscle properties of muscular hydrostatic organs and their role in turning.

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