Geneva, NY, United States

Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, NY, United States

Hobart and William Smith Colleges are located on 195 acres in New York state's Finger Lakes region in Geneva, New York, United States. They trace their origins to Geneva Academy established in 1797. The combined corporation of the two colleges, Hobart College and William Smith College , are also known as The Colleges of the Seneca. Both are liberal arts colleges offering the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, bachelor of science and master of arts in teaching. Wikipedia.

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News Article | May 17, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--FirstClose, a provider of end-to-end technology solutions for refinance and home equity lenders nationwide, today announced the addition of Jorge Ponce as director of business development. With over 15 years of experience in bank operations, mortgage and risk-based consumer lending, Jorge is responsible for driving adoption, client communication and product development. Jorge is well-versed in the FirstClose system and was instrumental in helping to build the first version of the FirstClose Report, a comprehensive refinance and home equity loan solution with capabilities to deliver title, flood, valuation and other important data elements in one report. Having previously worked as a home equity product manager for N.Y.-based Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Jorge has valuable insight into the needs of FirstClose’s target clients. “With his experience and background in the credit union space, Jorge will deliver exceptional results to our financial institution partners,” said Tedd Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of FirstClose. Jorge graduated with a degree in computer science and psychology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2002. Headquartered in Austin, Texas FirstClose provides end-to-end technology solutions to refinance and home equity lenders nationwide, as well as a vendor management system that eliminates duplicate data entry. The company’s flagship product, the FirstClose Report, is the first, comprehensive refinance and home equity loan solution with capabilities to deliver title, flood, valuation and other important data elements in one report. For more information, visit

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PHYLOGENETIC SYSTEMATICS | Award Amount: 339.10K | Year: 2015

Milkweeds (Asclepias) are common and ecologically important perennial plants of North American grassland and forest ecosystems. They are the only host plants of the monarch butterfly, a species of significant conservation concern. Because milkweed species diversified over a short evolutionary time span, reconstructing their evolutionary relationships is exceedingly difficult and requires examination of a large amount of data on genetic variation and powerful computational techniques. This research will contribute to the development of new methods for more accurately determining evolutionary relationships when many species have been formed in rapid succession. The results will have implications for better understanding the coevolution between milkweeds and monarch butterflies and the evolution of plant defense, as well as provide a robust evolutionary context for understanding the results of other scientific studies using milkweeds as study organisms; e.g., research on plant reproduction and genome evolution. The project will train postdoctoral fellows and graduate student in the latest phylogenetic and bioinformatics methods thereby training the next generation of phylogenetic biologists.

This research will demonstrate the feasibility of solving difficult phylogenetic problems at the species level in plants by employing improvements in next-generation sequencing techniques. The work combines methods for targeted sequencing of hundreds of specific regions of the nuclear genome applied to unusually large within-species sampling. The project applies nuclear gene probes developed directly from Asclepias genome and transcriptome sequences to effectively target 768 genes and substantial amounts of their non-coding flanking regions. Phylogenetically useful off-target sequences, (e.g., complete chloroplast genomes) are also obtained. By sampling 20 individuals per species, the approach will distinguish common causes of gene tree discordance: incomplete lineage sorting and introgression. An analytic workflow will be applied that incorporates simulation of incomplete lineage sorting and a combination of species tree inference methods that are effective even when introgression has occurred. Because current species tree approaches are constrained by a computational tradeoff between the number of loci and number of alleles that can simultaneously analyzed, the project will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of alternative methods. The large sample of loci will also validate the recognition of species not currently accepted in Asclepias. Undergraduate and graduate student training in genomics, bioinformatics, and phylogenetics will target participants from underrepresented groups. Project outcomes will reach the broader scientific community and the general public through workshops held at scientific meetings, K-12 education modules focused on milkweed ecology and evolution, and demonstration exhibits at a public botanic garden.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 355.00K | Year: 2010

This award supports research to overcome noise sources that are expected to limit the sensitivity of Advanced LIGO. The high-index of refraction coating material to be used initially in Advanced LIGO is the main source of thermal noise. Past research to determined the source of excess loss in a low-index coating material allowed demonstration of how it may be reduced or eliminated. These studies of low-index material provided important indicators to guide the search for the necessary high-index coating but with low mechanical loss. LIGO scientists have studied and reduced the multitude of sources of noise that directly couple into the interferometer, thereby exposing indirect, bilinear noise processes, such as up-conversion of noise produced outside LIGOs band of sensitive frequencies into that band. Bicoherence provides a measure of such bilinear coupling while being insensitive to Gaussian noise. Development of a data monitor for bicoherence will continue under this award. Once identified, this noise can be monitored and if possible, eliminated. The bicoherence calculation engine could be adapted eventually to search for gravitational waves, since inspiral and burst signals both have nonzero bicoherence.

Advanced LIGO, which is scheduled to be fully operational by 2015, has been designed with a sensitivity to allow it to make regular observations of gravitational waves. Improvement in Advanced LIGO sensitivity through improved optical coatings and amelioration of up-conversion noise will allow achievement of the greatest discovery potential. The PI plans to involve several undergraduates in his research. This matches well with Hobart and William Smith 9HWS0 Colleges ongoing effort to expand their science program. The opportunity to work in research programs like LIGO at HWS is helping to increase the number of physics majors and to change their attitude about a career in physics.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 175.00K | Year: 2013

This research program explores two of the primary noise sources in Advanced LIGO and other gravitational wave interferometers: upconversion noise and coating thermal noise. Coating thermal noise can be reduced by understanding and minimizing the mechanical loss in the mirror materials. Traditional high reflectivity coatings are multilayers of dielectric material, usually amorphous metal-oxides, with alternating high and low index. The materials that comprise the high-index layers are the primary source of mechanical loss; the low-index material is fused silica, which has an anomalously low loss among amorphous dielectric materials. In this research program, the PI seeks to develop a stabilized, high index material with a coefficient of thermal expansion matched to the low index material, so that the loss of the composite coating can be reduced through high temperature annealing. In addition, crystalline coatings, such as Aluminum Gallium Arsenide (AlGaAs), have been shown to have a mechanical loss about a factor 10 lower than most amorphous dielectric coatings. The AlGaAs coating could be developed as mirror materials for the 1.5 micron lasers planned for third generation detectors. However, current samples have been limited to the centimeter scale. This research program will explore the source of mechanical loss in these crystalline coatings including any issues related to the scaling and application of the coatings for large optics. Finally, upconversion noise is the coupling of low frequency noise, primarily seismic noise, into the detection band of the interferometer. Upconversion noise can be difficult to characterize because the noise peak is located at the sum or difference of the frequencies of the coupled mechanisms. This research program will develop a data analysis tool that will use bicoherence, the higher order form of coherence, to determine the sources of the upconverted noise.

Coating thermal noise is the leading noise source in the central frequency band of Advanced LIGO and is a primary limit to overall detector sensitivity. Reducing coating thermal noise leads to a direct increase in the detector sensitivity and a cubed increase in its expected event rate. Thus even a small reduction in the noise is important. A significant improvement in coating noise will hasten the day when LIGO will make a direct detection of gravitational waves and launch the era of gravitational wave astronomy. Beyond the study of gravitational waves, coating thermal noise has now become an important noise source in other areas of physics, including precision optics and in precision experiments that utilize microresonators. Finally, with the lower noise floor of Advanced LIGO, upconversion is expected to be a much more prominent noise source than in Initial LIGO. The commissioning teams will welcome a tool that can identify these noise peaks with their source. And since upconversion is a common noise problem within the precision physics community, the development of an effective tool could be useful well beyond the gravitational wave community.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 180.00K | Year: 2011

In this project a team of two biologists and two organic chemists is integrating the laboratories for two of their courses, Cell Biology and Organic Chemistry II. Students working in interdisciplinary teams plan and execute the synthesis of a compound related to a known inhibitor of the enzyme histone deacetylase. This enzyme tends to be expressed more actively in cancer cells than in their normal counterparts, so discovery of potent inhibitors might lead to new chemotherapeutic drugs. Once the student team has synthesized and characterized the potential inhibitor, they will test it for inhibition of growth of cultured animal cells, an indicator of cell toxicity. Students from several teams will benefit from learning of the results of other teams in the class, and interesting findings will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at conferences. The model of integrating courses in different departments through project laboratories is one that will interest faculty and students at other institutions.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 210.00K | Year: 2014

With this New award, the Chemical Synthesis Program supports Professor Erin T. Pelkey of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in a study of the synthesis of cyclic molecules with nitrogen in their rings. Since these structures are ubiquitous in compounds of biomedical significance, the development of new selective and efficient methods for their synthesis is an important goal. These methods will expand the repertory of tools available to synthetic chemists seeking to develop new routesto wide range of biologically important natural products, drugs, and related compounds of medicinal interest. The research will involve extensive collaboration with undergraduate research students, including those from historically under-represented groups, and will provide these young scientists with valuable training in organic synthetic techniques.

The project will investigate convergent routes to 3,4-diarylpyrrolinones from tetramic acid precursors. In particular, the project will investigate the convergent stepwise attachment of aromatic and heteroaromatic groups to C-3 and C-4 positions of tetramic acid by a variety of cross-coupling reactions. Subsequent intramolecular aryl-aryl couplings leading to dibenzo[e,g]isoindol-1-ones will be studied. These investigations, which will take advantage of the ready availability of tetramic acids, will focus on maximizing convergent synthetic methodology.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: STELLAR ASTRONOMY & ASTROPHYSC | Award Amount: 128.75K | Year: 2013

This collaborative project combines observational and theoretical efforts with a goal of improving knowledge of magnetic fields on low mass stars. They will use high precision lightcurves of M-dwarfs from the Kepler satellite to probe starspots on late type stars to determine how stellar mass and rotation affect local magnetic fields. They will use data already acquired from Kepler, and new photometry with moderate sized (1-m aperture) robotic telescopes and new spectra with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. Starspots are short-lived areas on the surfaces of stars that are caused by magnetic activity. The researchers will also investigate the effect of magnetic fields on fundamental stellar properties, such as temperature, luminosity and radius as a function of M-dwarf mass. They will also determine the relative importance of magnetic fields on observatory activity, such as flares and hydrogen-alpha emission.

Broader impacts include providing research opportunities to undergraduate students in STEM majors, with an effort to broaden participation by students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups. They will also engage a group of amateur astronomers to obtain time series photometry of bright eclipsing binary stars.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: PHYSICAL & DYNAMIC METEOROLOGY | Award Amount: 422.74K | Year: 2013

This grant is part of a larger effort centered on the Ontario Winter (OW) Lake-effect Systems (LeS) field project, to be conducted December 2013-January 2014. OWLeS will focus on two complementary lines of research, each tracing to a preferred wind regime, characteristic cross-lake fetch and corresponding distinct mesoscale mode of winter storm organization. Activities led by this sub-group will focus on short-fetch events in which prevailing low-level winds are oriented at large angles relative to Lake Ontarios long axis. These investigators will seek to advance process-oriented understanding of atmospheric boundary-layer circulations over adjacent complex land cover, factors controlling the location and downwind persistence/spatial extent of lake-effect circulations and associated bands of heavy snowfall, as well as those precipitation events associated with smaller bodies of water as are found in the Finger Lakes region. Observational assets to be deployed during OWLeS will include the University of Wyoming King Air instrumented aircraft, the CSWR Doppler on Wheels mobile radars, multiple mobile rawinsounding systems, the Millersville University Profiling System, the UAH Mobile Integrated Profiling System, and a variety of other surface measurement systems. The intellectual merit of this sub-groups activities is centered upon determination of (1) how upwind land-surface and atmospheric factors determine the three-dimensional structure of the short-fetch convective LeS PBL that develop over a relatively-warm, open water surface; (2) how organized, initially convective cloud and precipitation structures under short-fetch conditions persist far downstream over land, long after leaving the buoyancy source (i.e., the ice-free waters of Lake Ontario); and (3) factors controlling the development of, and interactions between, complex atmospheric stratifications embodying a internal planetary boundary layer and residual layers resulting from airmass advection over multiple mesoscale bodies of water and intervening land.

Broader impacts of OWLeS will include improved physical understanding and model-based representations of conditions that impact populations and associated major transportation corridors along the shores of the Great Lakes region, as well as extensive opportunities for enhanced classroom and hands-on field project based educational opportunities for a large number of students who will be actively engaged in field campaign planning, instrument preparation, data collection and analysis. Outreach efforts will extend to K-12 students and college students enrolled at nearby institutes of higher learning.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: LIGO RESEARCH SUPPORT | Award Amount: 80.00K | Year: 2016

The detection of gravitational waves on 14 September 2015 was an historic milestone in physics and astronomy. The detection was an important validation for General Relativity in both its confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves and in the accuracy of the predicted waveforms. The event was also a breakthrough in astronomy with the first direct detection of a black hole binary system. The era of gravitational wave astronomy has begun and with it comes increased expectations for more observations at greater sensitivity. The main obstacle to improved sensitivity is thermal noise in LIGOs mirror coatings. LIGO senses gravitational waves using an interferometer, an L-shaped detector with 4 km long arms. Identical light waves are sent from the vertex down orthogonal arms to a mirror. When the reflected beams recombine at the vertex the difference in phase corresponds to the arm length difference that can arise, in part, from gravitational waves. Thus the detection of gravitational waves depends on the precision detection of the surface of the end mirrors. LIGO operates at room temperature or 300 above absolute zero. Therefore the mirrors are relatively hot. That thermal energy is expressed as vibrations at the mirrors resonant frequencies. Those frequencies are much higher than the frequencies at which LIGO is designed to detect gravitational waves. If the mirrors were composed of ideal elastic materials, these vibrations would be ignored and of no concern. Indeed the special glass used for the mirror substrates is a nearly ideal elastic material. However the highly reflective mirror coating applied to the substrate has enough internal friction that it shifts some of the mirrors vibrational energy down to gravitational wave frequencies. That motion masks the gravitational wave signal and is termed mirror coating thermal noise. The goal of this research project is to produce a mirror coating with suffi ciently reduced thermal noise in order to enable a significant increase in LIGOs sensitivity.

This award supports research to reduce coating thermal noise by lowering the dissipation, or mechanical loss, in the coating materials. This dissipation occurs when an oscillation in strain causes a state transition, such as a bond angle rotation, that emits a photon or phonon at de-excitation. This two state model is known as an asymmetric double-well potential. The dissipation is reduced by increasing the energy asymmetry in the states and thus lowering the transition probability. Annealing lowers dissipation by allowing the material to relax into its lowest energy state. It also reduces density fluctuations thereby raising the transition energy. But annealing is limited by low crystallization temperatures. Amorphous coatings are mixtures of high-index metal-oxide dielectrics in which the crystallization temperature is shifted above the effective annealing temperature. Recent advanced in work on amorphous silicon coatings show that the benefits of annealing can be obtained by depositing the coating on a heated substrate. Because the coating surface molecules are less constrained, the substrate temperatures are much less than the bulk annealing temperatures. The group will test this process in amorphous metal-oxide coatings and will investigate whether ion-assisted beam deposition might provide suffi cient energy to the surface layer to effectively anneal the coating without any heating process. Finally, the group will continue work with Stanfords researchers on conductive coatings to combat charging noise.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: CROSS-EF ACTIVITIES | Award Amount: 119.30K | Year: 2016

A modernization of the mathematical and statistical tools used to uncover the evolutionary history of life on earth is required to keep pace with the rapid expansion in the availability of genetic data. Moreover, different segments of genetic information can tell conflicting evolutionary histories about a collection of organisms. This project develops mathematical tools for reconstructing the evolutionary history of large collections of organisms, and for constructing a single tree that encapsulates the conflicting stories told by different pieces of the genome. Ten undergraduate students, many recruited from groups underrepresented in STEM fields at this primarily undergraduate institution, will be trained in techniques at the intersection of mathematics, statistics, and biology that are required for the algorithmic developments.

Most methods of super-tree or species tree reconstruction rely on accurately reconstructed gene trees. In practice, however, most inferred gene trees used in these reconstructions do contain errors. By identifying and explicitly accounting for gene tree estimation error, this project will improve algorithms for super-tree and species tree reconstruction. Alternative approaches for which species trees are reconstructed without dependence on the prior estimation of gene trees will also be developed.

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