Gambier, OH, United States
Gambier, OH, United States

Kenyon College is a private liberal arts college in Gambier, Ohio, founded in 1824. It is the oldest private college in Ohio.The campus is noted for its Collegiate Gothic architecture and rural setting. Kenyon College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Newsweek selected Kenyon College as one of twenty-five "New Ivies" on the basis of admissions statistics as well as interviews with administrators, students, faculty and alumni. The acceptance rate for the Class of 2018 was 24.6%.Kenyon was established in parallel with the Bexley Hall seminary by Episcopalian Bishop Philander Chase. Though its theological program gradually waned in importance , the college continues to maintain an affiliation to the Episcopal Church. The college today prefers to emphasize its liberal arts tradition over its religious background. Wikipedia.

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Contrary to their cold-adapted image, Neanderthals inhabited Pleistocene Europe during a time of great climatic fluctuation with temperatures ranging from as warm as present-day during the last interglacial to as cold as those of the last glacial maximum. Cold-adapted Neanderthals are similarly most often associated with the exploitation of large mammals who are themselves cold-adapted (mammoth, bison, reindeer, etc.). Cold, high-latitude environments are typically seen as lacking in plants generally and in plant foods in particular. Plant foods are therefore usually ignored and Neanderthals are increasingly being viewed as top carnivores who derived the vast majority of their diet from meat. Support for this hypothesis comes largely from stable isotope analysis which tracks only the protein portion of the diet. Diets high in lean meat largely fulfill micronutrient needs but can pose a problem at the macronutrient level. Lean meat can compose no more than 35% of dietary energy before a protein ceiling is reached. Exceeding the protein ceiling can have detrimental physiological effects on the individual. Neanderthals would have needed energy from alternative sources, particularly when animals are fat-depleted and lean meat intake is high. Underground storage organs (USOs) of plants offer one such source, concentrating carbohydrates and energy. USOs could also provide an important seasonal energy source since they are at their maximum energy storage in late fall/winter. Although Paleolithic sites are increasingly yielding plant remains, their presence is rare and they are often given only passing mention in Neanderthal dietary reconstructions. The complexity and number of potential wild plant foods, however, defies easy discussion. Native European wild edible plants with starchy USOs would have been potentially available throughout the Neanderthal range, even during the coldest periods of the Late Pleistocene. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Cellular Dynamics and Function | Award Amount: 524.00K | Year: 2016

In all environments, bacteria experience change in pH. Low pH amplifies the bacterial uptake of organic acids found in food, such as the aspirin-related compounds benzoate and salicylate. Study of benzoate stress and adaptation yields insights about microbial interactions with salicylate-rich food plants such as fruits and berries. Plant salicylates are important defense molecules which stress the bacteria of plant-associated microbial communities. For this project, undergraduate researchers will investigate how the bacterium Escherichia coli K-12 responds to acid-enhanced uptake of benzoate or salicylate.

Preliminary results show that over generations of benzoate exposure, bacteria undergo surprising adaptations including the loss of drug resistance, more durable cell shape, and altered production of a variety of organic compounds. Benzoate-adapted clones show selection for mutations that enhance tolerance of organic acids at the cost of sensitivity to antimicrobials such as chloramphenicol. Undergraduate researchers will perform genetic analysis to test whether the fitness gains and chloramphenicol sensitivity are associated with loss of organic acid-induced gene networks, or whether the fitness changes derive from previously unknown mechanisms. A possible mechanism of fitness increase is the loss of energy-expensive gene expression, to overcome the low-energy stress caused by the benzoate depletion of protonmotive force. The role of low-energy stress will be tested by treatment with uncoupler molecules such as CCCP that deplete proton motive force; and by testing bacterial responses to high pH, a different condition that incurs low-energy stress. Another mechanism of benzoate-adapted clones may involve improvement of pH homeostasis. Undergraduates will measure bacterial cytoplasmic pH using ratiometric fluorescence microscopy, by a method used in the PIs lab and provided on request to other labs. Benzoate-adapted clones also show changes in cell morphology. Undergraduate researchers will test the role of mutant alleles in maintaining cell shape in acid or in base. Unusual cell shape phenotypes can yield clues as to mechanisms of cell division, a process important for human control of microbial communities.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Physiolg Mechansms&Biomechancs | Award Amount: 64.00K | Year: 2016

This research explores the mechanisms that mosquitoes use to regulate their salt and water balance under the challenging conditions they face during their lifecycles. Most mosquito larvae live in freshwater and must absorb salt to counteract the tendency for salt to diffuse out of their bodies. In contrast, adult female mosquitoes must expel large amounts of salt after they engorge on a salty blood meal. The specific focus of this project is on three mosquito proteins that help carry salts such as sodium, potassium, and chloride into or out of the body. One of these proteins is closely related to proteins in humans and other vertebrate animals that are important to salt and water balance. Thus, studying the mosquito version of this protein may uncover fundamental properties of salt-transporting proteins that are shared between vertebrates and insects. The other two proteins are only found in mosquitoes and other insects, and have not been characterized in any animal. Gaining a better understanding of these novel insect proteins may be especially useful in developing strategies to control mosquitoes and other insect pests, since it may be possible to target them without affecting vertebrate proteins. This research project will develop new tools for researchers to assess where these proteins are located in the mosquito body, what salts they carry, and what chemicals can interfere with their function. Additionally, three undergraduate students and one graduate student will receive closely mentored research experiences.

Mosquitoes must secrete and absorb ions differently depending on their life stage, sex, and environment. Three proteins from the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti have sequence similarity to vertebrate Na+-dependent cation-chloride cotransporters (CCCs), which participate in both ion absorption and secretion. This work will produce critical reagents and refine procedures that are necessary to begin linking the molecular properties of the mosquito CCCs to their transport functions and whole-animal physiological roles. The first objective is to develop isoform-specific antibodies that recognize and differentiate among each of the three mosquito CCCs. The selectivity of the antibodies will be evaluated by comparing their reactivity among different mosquito tissues and developmental stages, mosquitoes in which expression of a specific CCC has been silenced by RNA interference, and in Xenopus oocytes injected with cRNAs encoding a particular CCC. The second objective is to confirm functional heterologous expression of each mosquito CCC in Xenopus oocytes. Functional expression of the CCCs will be evaluated using standard radioisotope uptake assays and newly developed non-radioactive methods. Findings from the proposed work may also be useful in identifying novel molecular targets to aid in the development of new insecticides for the control of insect disease vectors and agricultural pests. Three undergraduate students and one graduate student will receive mentored research training and the principal investigators will initiate community outreach programs.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 999.20K | Year: 2016

Kenyon College will award scholarships to low income, academically talented students, supporting them with high-impact practices (HIPs) to increase their persistence and graduation. Scholars will be engaged over four years, exposing them to HIPs early in their undergraduate careers, since the majority of students nationwide who leave STEM fields do so during their first two years. Activities begin with a summer learning community, and continue with structured and unstructured service learning projects, faculty-student mentoring, and internships and research opportunities.

Four annual cohorts of 12 low-income, high-achieving students with interests across the STEM disciplines will receive scholarships. The project will test and evaluate the impact of STEM-focused HIPs beneficial to first-year students, aiming to increase persistence of these STEM students, especially those from groups with traditionally lower STEM degree completion rates. The research component of the project will also identify HIPs most likely to result in students pursuing STEM careers. An external expert will provide formative and summative evaluation of program impact, as well as future sustainability. Kenyon will contribute findings of best practices to the field, and will make special effort to share research emerging from its testing of HIPs and other programs in the liberal arts, for which there is little STEM-specific data.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS | Award Amount: 175.00K | Year: 2016

Nontechnical Abstract:
There has been a considerable interest in a novel material called Topological Insulators (TIs) where seemingly two distinct properties of materials, namely conducting and insulating phases, are interwoven into a single material. While these materials provide a platform to address a myriad of theoretical problems in physics, because of their unique properties TIs can be exploited to produce interesting devices as well. The main focus of the project is to investigate the unique properties of TIs, paying close attention to uncovering the interplay between their surface and bulk states. Specifically, one of the main objectives is to establish a fundamental understanding of how to separate the contributions from surface and bulk states to the overall conductivity of the material. Additionally, magnetically doped TI samples are analyzed to interrogate the interplay between magnetism and various properties TIs. This project primarily uses an optical investigation technique known as spectroscopic ellipsometry to determine the contributions from the surface and the bulk states of TI samples. Additionally, temperature dependent experiments are conducted in order to uncover the intricate details that govern the physics of TIs. The work is performed exclusively by undergraduate students in a liberal arts setting. These students receive training in materials characterization, optics, and cryogenics, preparing them for graduate studies or careers in science and technology. To further educational goals, this project incorporates several high-impact experimental activities into existing courses in the physics curriculum. Furthermore, several outreach activities for high school students are conducted in order to foster a wider interest in the sciences.

Technical Abstract:
Because of strong spin-orbit coupling and time reversal invariant symmetry, a new class of materials, called topological insulators (TIs), are embedded with unique characteristics; it has an energy gap in the bulk but has metallic surface states that are robust against disorder-scattering. Although there has been a concerted effort made towards understanding the physics of TIs in the past few years, there are several key aspects that are still unknown; a) the interplay between the bulk and the surface states in dictating the conductivity of TIs, b) the impact of impurity bands on TIs, c) interplay between topologically protected states and magnetism, and d) the significance of electron-phonon coupling on topologically protected surface states. Insights gained about any of these aspects will enable a deeper understanding of the fundamental physics of TIs, which is the ultimate goal of the project. Spectroscopic ellipsometry is used to determine the complex conductivity in a wide spectra range (i.e., between 30 meV to 6.2 eV), which enables one to decipher the contributions from free carriers and band electrons to conductivity. Temperature dependent measurements are conducted to probe the electron-phonon coupling in TIs, which plays a vital role in influencing the surface states. Since TIs are plagued by defects, which unfortunately mask the exciting and intriguing surface phenomena, the details of defect-states are obtained by evaluating the higher-order transitions (i.e., critical points). The magnetically-doped TIs are probed to determine the origin of their magnetism and to study the breaking of time-reversal symmetry. Finally, the spin texture of TIs are probed via their circular dichroism, obtained by Mueller-Matrix based spectroscopic ellipsometry. This project incorporates several activities to enhance educational goals in the sciences. As the work is performed exclusively by undergraduate students in a liberal arts setting, they receive training in materials characterization, optics, and cryogenics, preparing them for graduate studies or careers in STEM-based fields. In addition, this project injects several high-impact experimental activities into existing courses in the physics curriculum. Also, several outreach activities for high school students are conducted in order to foster a wider interest in the sciences.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ANALYSIS PROGRAM | Award Amount: 47.84K | Year: 2015

This award will provide support for sixteen U.S. mathematicians to participate in the Research Term on Analysis and Geometry in Metric Spaces from April through June, 2015 at the Instituto de Ciencias Matemáticas (ICMAT) in Madrid, Spain. Metric spaces are useful models anytime one wants to consider sets of objects with a natural notion of distance -- for example, images, DNA sequences, and data in general can be modeled with metric spaces. Developing calculus in metric spaces is useful in part because it allows one to formulate and solve optimization problems in these settings. This research term will, in particular, integrate metric space theory with a wide variety of applications including image processing, reconstruction theory, control theory, and robotics.

More specifically, program brings together three areas of metric space research: first-order analysis (including theories of Sobolev spaces, solutions to the p-Laplace equation, and functions of bounded variation on metric measure spaces), geometric measure theory and variational problems (particularly in the sub-Riemannian setting), and versions of weak curvature (for example, the the setting of Alexandrov spaces). It is expected to facilitate crossflow of ideas and techniques between these areas and establish international collaborations between researchers. The schedule includes four, week-long minicourses for non-specialists and young researchers during the month of May taught by leading experts in metric space analysis and geometry, followed by a workshop in June that brings together topics from the minicourses. Priority for travel support from this award will be given to graduate students, early-career mathematicians, and mathematicians from under-represented groups.

Research Term web site: http://www.icmat.es/RT/AGMS2015/


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: LIGO RESEARCH SUPPORT | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2016

The first direct detection of gravitational waves by Advanced LIGO in September 2015 has officially launched the era of gravitational-wave astronomy, bringing a plethora of new astrophysics to our doorstep. This grant supports the work of members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration at Kenyon College. Kenyon LIGO group members have lead roles in the calibration of the Advanced LIGO (aLIGO) interferometers and the search for gravitational wave signals from large black holes. The calibration of the aLIGO detectors is the first fundamental step after data has been collected by the detector. Only after the data is calibrated can searches for gravitational wave signals begin. LIGO scientists search for a range of sources, but the most promising source is the coalescence of two compact, astrophysical objects, such as black holes and neutron stars. Historically, LIGO has performed careful searches for black hole systems with masses that range up to 100 times the mass of the Sun. Members of the Kenyon LIGO group are part of the effort to expand this search to black holes of even higher masses. These large black holes may hold key answers as to how the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies were formed. Additionally, the Kenyon LIGO group is exploring and improving aLIGOs ability to extract information about the matter that composes neutron stars in preparation for the first gravitational wave detection from a coalescing neutron star system. While electromagnetic signals from binary neutron star systems can provide insight into the surface of neutron stars, the detection of gravitational waves from a binary neutron star system could dig deeper and reveal secrets of the illusive neutron star matter itself. Finally, this project also supports the expansion of an existing NSF-funded outreach program at Kenyon College that targets engaging middle-school-aged audiences with exciting, hands-on science workshops. Separate workshops are held for middle school boys (LADS: Learning and Doing Science) and middle school girls (GSS: Girls Science Saturdays) several Saturdays throughout the school year.

This award supports three main efforts in the field of gravitational-wave physics. The first is related to ongoing work in the calibration of the aLIGO detectors. Specifically, Kenyon LIGO group members will not only maintain existing low-latency calibration software, which is a large task as the calibration procedure is constantly changing with upgrades to the interferometers, but they will also work towards reducing the latency of the current calibration software from around a few tens of seconds down to a few seconds. The lowest possible latency calibration is crucial for electromagnetic follow-up of gravitational wave signal candidates. The main methods that will be employed to reduce the latency of the calibration software are to reduce the complexity of the procedure, shift as much of the calibration procedure as possible into the real-time instrument computers, and improve the computational efficiency of all existing calibration software. The award also supports the development and execution of a modeled, matched-filter search for intermediate mass black hole binary (IMBHB) systems. The goal of the search is to make the first confident detection of black holes in the intermediate mass range or to provide upper limits on the existence of IMBHB systems. Existing search software is being optimized to fit the needs of a higher mass, and therefore shorter waveform, matched filter search, and the search is being developed to run in a low-latency mode during future observing runs. Finally, this grant supports the development of tools to extract information about the neutron star equation of state from a binary neutron star gravitational wave detection. Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) gravitational wave parameter estimation software is being modified to more optimally explore the neutron star equation of state parameter space, and software to allow for the use of different models of the neutron star equation of state is being developed. The first few gravitational wave detections from binary neutron star systems will be able to provide a wealth of new knowledge about neutron star matter.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: POP & COMMUNITY ECOL PROG | Award Amount: 279.33K | Year: 2016

The study of the long-term evolution of plant species diversity is important to understanding current losses or maintenance of diversity as habitats shift and become fragmented. This project will examine how diversity has evolved in the western hemisphere using a database of over 100,000 plant species. Using new approaches in informatics applied to genetic, geographical and environmental data, the project will investigate the possible causes of shifts in species diversity at extensive geographic scales by considering evolutionary diversification, dispersal, adaptation, and coexistence. Additionally, the project will determine if hard limits on species diversity exist and the extent to which these are determined by environmental history. This is a Big Data project that will simultaneously develop tools in informatics and train students on the use of these statistical tools. The tools will be made widely available, and training will build on the collaboration among those at a liberal arts college, a comprehensive masters institution, and a research university.

This research project will contribute to a predictive science of biodiversity based on underlying ecological and evolutionary processes. The Botanical Information and Ecology Network will be leveraged to test explanations for assembly of diverse biomes over evolutionary time by taking advantage of recent advances in biodiversity informatics, phylogenetic analysis, and the modeling of multivariate niche hypervolumes. How the evolutionary contingencies of adaptation, diversification, and dispersal interact with possible ecological limits on the niche space of different environments will be investigated. The taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversity of whole biomes and clades will be quantified in order to model niche evolution and biome shifts at extensive geographic and temporal scales. Whether evolutionary biome shifts are systematically associated with changes in functional traits or niche hypervolumes will be examined. Whether or not the functional niche space of biomes becomes saturated over evolutionary time, and if saturation reflects ecological limits on diversification through physiology, will be tested. The research will contribute novel answers to some of the most persistent questions in ecology, evolution, and biogeography, as well as innovative new tools in ecoinformatics.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: EVOLUTION OF DEVELOP MECHANISM | Award Amount: 175.50K | Year: 2017

Seasonal information, including temperature and daylength, is used by many plant and animal species to coordinate their reproduction with the environment, so that their offspring are produced at an appropriate time of year. Many flowering plants sense and respond to seasonal cues using a very similar genetic process, suggesting that this process evolved before these species separated from one another. The goal of this project is to better understand the evolution of seasonal regulation by studying how it works in a very distantly related plant, the moss Physcomitrella patens. The results of this research may be pivotal in developing new agricultural crop varieties, especially as seasonal conditions change globally. Undergraduate research students will gain valuable expertise in research through involvement in all aspects of the project. The project will also provide a postdoctoral scientist with training and mentorship in both teaching and research.

This project uses the moss Physcomitrella patens to probe the evolutionary origin of seasonal regulation in land plants, in order to determine if seasonal regulation evolved prior to the divergence of land plants, or if it arose separately in distinct land plant lineages. A third model would involve conserved upstream pathway components coupled to a novel downstream regulatory module that induces gametangial differentiation in response to proper seasonal cues. In order to distinguish between these alternatives, the project will identify genes involved in seasonal regulation of reproduction in Physcomitrella, utilizing natural variants that differ in their responses to seasonal cues. A combination of whole-genome re-sequencing and RNAseq transcript profiling will be used to identify genes that may be involved in reproductive timing in response to environmental cues. Candidate gene transcript level will be assessed in a wider range of conditions and accessions using quantitative RT-PCR and targeted gene knockouts will be used to assess the functional involvement of candidate genes in seasonal regulation of sexual reproduction. The project will provide significant research training undergraduate student researchers and professional development including presentation at national and international conferences, and will provide an outstanding training opportunity for a postdoctoral scientist interested in undergraduate education.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: RSCH EXPER FOR UNDERGRAD SITES | Award Amount: 70.93K | Year: 2016

This REU Site award to the College of Wooster (Wooster, OH), Ohio Wesleyan University (Delaware, OH), Kenyon College (Gambier, OH) and Earlham College (Richmond, IN) will support 16 students for 9 weeks during the summers of 2016-2018. This project is supported by the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) and the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences(SBE). The research theme in the broad area of neuroscience include projects such as genetic model systems, neuromodulation, cellular responses to neurotrauma, rodent behavioral assessment, and cognitive and stress neuroscience. Participating labs are located in Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology departments. The diverse student research projects span the biological and social sciences, including gene expression studies during nervous system development in Drosophila, regulation of sodium channel expression in lamprey neurons, the effect of nitric oxide synthase on olfactory neurons in the fleshfly, computational modeling of the microglia-astrocyte-neuron system, and studies of action video games (AVGs) on executive functioning and perceptual ability. All of these projects contribute to important basic and applied research with the AVG project providing a thorough scientific investigation of effects and potential transfer of acquired skills to other contexts using a combined behavioral and psychophysiological approach. Students will participate in a full-time, mentored, team-based research project. A 3-day opening workshop will introduce students to the research theme, development of research plans, and data management. In addition, students will be trained on the responsible conduct of research. Participants will gather weekly either virtually or at one of the participating institutions for research updates, demonstrations, and professional development in writing CVs, attending and presenting at scientific meetings, local outreach, career planning, and applying to graduate programs. Students will present their findings at a research symposium at the conclusion of the program. Housing, a stipend, and meal and travel allowances will be provided. Students will be selected based on their interest in research, academic record, and other factors.

It is anticipated that a total of 48 students, primarily from schools with limited research opportunities, will be trained over a period of 3 years. Students, especially those from groups that are typically underrepresented in science, are encouraged to apply. Students will learn how research is conducted, data analyzed, and results presented to both scientific and public audiences.

A common web-based assessment tool used by all REU programs funded by the Division of Biological Infrastructure (Directorate for Biological Sciences) will be used to determine the effectiveness of the program. Students will be tracked after the program in order to determine their career paths. Students will be asked to respond to an automatic email sent via the NSF reporting system. More information about the program is available at http://amyjostavnezer.voices.wooster.edu/nsf-reu/, or by contacting the PI (Dr. Amy Jo Stavnezer at ajstavnezer@wooster.edu) or the co-PI (Dr. Jennifer Yates at jryates@owu.edu).

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