Middlebury, VT, United States
Middlebury, VT, United States

Middlebury College is a private liberal arts college located in Middlebury, Vermont, in the United States. Founded in 1800, it is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the United States. Drawing 2,500 undergraduates from all 50 states and over 70 countries, Middlebury offers 44 majors in the arts, humanities, literature, foreign languages, social science, and natural science. Middlebury follows a 4–1–4 academic calendar, with two four-course semesters and a one-course January term.Middlebury is the first American institution of higher education to have granted a bachelor's degree to an African-American, graduating Alexander Twilight in the class of 1823. Middlebury was also one of the first formerly all-male liberal arts colleges in New England to become a coeducational institution, following the trustees' decision in 1883 to accept women. Middlebury has an acceptance rate of 17.3% and was listed as the seventh-best liberal arts college in the U.S. in the 2015 U.S. News & World Report rankings.In addition to its core undergraduate program, the College organizes undergraduate and graduate programs in modern languages, English literature, and writing. The Middlebury Language Schools offer instruction in 11 languages. The Bread Loaf School of English is a summer graduate program in English literature, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference is one of the oldest writers' conferences in the country. The College also operates 38 C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad in 17 countries across 5 continents. The Monterey Institute of International Studies is a graduate school of Middlebury College. The Institute enrolls graduate students in the fields of international environmental policy, international relations, international business, language teaching, and language translation and interpretation.Middlebury's 31 varsity teams are known as the Middlebury Panthers and compete in the Division III NESCAC conference. Wikipedia.

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Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Environmental Chemical Science | Award Amount: 210.00K | Year: 2015

With this award, the Environmental Chemical Sciences Program of the Division of Chemistry is funding Professor Molly Constanza-Robinson of Middlebury College to clarify the chemistry of organoclays and apply this understanding to the design and characterization of novel, nontoxic organoclays for effective contaminant remediation. Potentially harmful chemicals, including pesticides and pharmaceuticals, are routinely detected in treated wastewater, receiving streams, groundwater, and drinking water wells. Using modified clay mineral (organoclays) as an adsorbent represents a promising approach for removing harmful contaminants from environmental waters, but fundamental questions remain. This research team uses spectroscopic techniques to study the details of the organoclay interlayer chemical environment to understand how the molecular-level properties of the clay influence its sorption efficiency. In addition to developing fundamental knowledge and the societal benefit of promoting human and environmental health, this project supports the training and mentoring of a diverse group of undergraduates in interdisciplinary environmental chemical research and additional students through an associated course-based laboratory project.

Montmorillonite clay modified with long-chain alkyl-ammonium cationic surfactants has been extensively studied and demonstrates the ability to effectively sorb petroleum hydrocarbons, phenols, nitro- and chloro-substituted aromatics, and other organic pollutants from water. Although much is known about contaminant uptake into the interlayer of organoclays, unanswered questions hinder optimization of the organoclays for use in contaminant remediation. Moreover, the potential toxicity of conventional surfactants used in organoclays has not been addressed. Using multiple spectroscopic techniques, sorption isotherms, and additional characterization tools, this project investigates factors that govern the organoclay interlayer chemical environment, including its size, crystallinity, and hydration, and how these properties influence the sorption efficiency of the organoclays. This insight is then applied to the design and characterization of novel, effective, and non-toxic organoclays.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Chem Struct,Dynmcs&Mechansms B | Award Amount: 180.00K | Year: 2016

The Chemical Structure, Dynamics and Mechanism Program of the NSF Chemistry Division supports the research of Professor AnGayle Vasiliou in the Department of Chemistry at Middlebury College. Professor Vasiliou and her students are working to understand the decomposition of carbon compounds containing sulfur when heated. Sulfur-containing contaminants are often present in fuel sources such as coal, petroleum and biomass. It is important to remove the sulfur from potential fuel sources to reduce the formation of corrosive acid rain. Dr. Vasiliou investigate the use of heat to break the chemical bonds of larger molecules into smaller more volatile species and removal of sulfur. The high-temperature chemistry of sulfur compounds in petroleum and biofuels is poorly understood. This knowledge gap hinders progress in the development of refinery clean-up processes. This project studies the high-temperature reactions of eight important sulfur-containing molecules. The research is conducted at a predominantly undergraduate institution, Middlebury College, with only undergraduate students as collaborators. This type of research experience encourages undergraduates to pursue careers in science.

This study focuses on the unimolecular decomposition of eight petroleum and biomass relevant molecules: dimethyl sulfide, diethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, ethanethiol, tert-butylthiol, methylthiophene, 3-ethylthiophene and cysteine. This research is the first to establish direct evidence for radical intermediates formed during thermal decomposition. The reaction studies are conducted using a hyperthermal nozzle configured to facilitate matrix isolation infrared absorption and vacuum ultraviolet photoionization mass spectroscopies. These techniques allow for thermal tuneablity (298-1700 K) and sensitive detection of intermediate species such as radicals. In addition to experimental studies, the thermal decomposition mechanisms of the eight sulfur species are investigated theoretically using density function and ab initio quantum chemical techniques. As the project has both experimental and computational aspects it exposes the undergraduate students to physical chemistry.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 91.31K | Year: 2015

This project will contribute to the development and creation of engaged learning environments in which students will solve geography problems by using a geographic information system (GIS), a computer software system used to capture, store, manipulate and analyze location-based information. The project will also provide instructors with design-it-yourself guidance for developing online instructional materials that engage students in learning before they enter the classroom. The project will test evidence-based principles of multimedia learning theory and will extend this theory by testing the applications of these principles to a lesson that aims to improve spatial thinking skills, the ability to visualize objects in three dimensions and to draw conclusions about those objects with limited information. By focusing on instructional methods that can be implemented prior to student interaction with a GIS, this project will contribute to the development and creation of engaged learning environments in geography education. Using evidence-based design principles for lessons on solving problems with a GIS can help retain early-stage students in introductory STEM courses. The resulting improvements in instructional design of college STEM courses will have a particularly positive impact on students who need support in developing spatial thinking skills in introductory courses.

A series of randomized controlled experiments will be employed to examine how specific instructional features in the way the lessons are presented affect learning outcomes, such as, whether the learner reads or listens to verbal explanations, whether the presentation is continuous or self-paced, whether words and pictures appear drawn by hand or by computer, and whether pictures appear before or coincide with a verbal explanation. The project will also test for spatial ability and examine how individual differences in a learners spatial abilities affect the impact of these instructional features. A series of experiments will test hypotheses from multimedia learning theory and measure learning outcomes through transfer and retention tests. A preliminary intervention study to investigate whether incorporating well-designed online lessons in an introductory GIS class improves student engagement and learning outcomes will also be conducted. The final products will be (i) a set of evidence-based principles regarding how to design online GIS lessons, and (ii) a model application in a blended learning classroom. This project will also provide empirical evidence evaluating the generalizability of multimedia learning theory to the understudied domain of college education in spatial thinking with computer software systems. The project will systematically investigate how evidence-based methods of presenting words and pictures interact with spatial abilities to affect learning outcomes.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 119.19K | Year: 2016

This award will permit the acquisition of a 213 nm laser, which will be coupled to an existing inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICPMS) to enable laser ablation mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS) at Middlebury College. LA-ICPMS is a rapidly growing field which has been transformative because it allows rapid analysis of very small regions (~10 microns) on materials such as minerals, shells, and artifacts. At Middlebury College, the LA-ICPMS will be housed in the Geology Department and will be used primarily to undertake uranium (U) - lead (Pb) dating and trace element analyses of minerals, which are the primary recorder of past tectonics. We also anticipate usage by biologists and by archaeologists who are interested in understanding the source materials and trade patterns of ancient tools. The proposal was widely supported by faculty at nearby colleges and will be primarily dedicated to undergraduate research, providing hands-on research experience for students regardless of the scope or budget of their project. Users will include a diversity of students, including many underrepresented groups and first time college students.

Acquiring a laser will allow numerous projects to be undertaken in more efficient and effective ways. For example, laser ablation radically expands the number of possible ICPMS applications, including the ability to analyze materials in-situ with high spatial resolution, which is essential for many applications. It also reduces sample preparation time and complexity relative to solution chemistry, facilitating a wider user base for the existing ICPMS. One internal project will use the provenance of detrital minerals in offshore sediment cores to test predictions of dynamic uplift in the eastern U.S. Another will use detrital zircons in Paleozoic meta-sedimentary rocks to test longstanding models of Appalachian tectonics. A third internal project will use the laser to better understand the origin of U and Th in bedrock aquifers with unsafe alpha activity. External users have also put forward a range of project ideas. Many users are interested in U-Pb geochronology to date igneous rocks, establish the timing of regional metamorphic events, and reconstruct cratonic evolution using detrital zircons. Other users are interested in measuring trace elements to establish the provenance of archaeological artifacts, understand petrogenesis of young magmatic centers, and undertake trace element thermo-barometry.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: TECTONICS | Award Amount: 135.71K | Year: 2016

The eastern North American continental margin was established during the Jurassic Period (about 145 to 200 million years ago) during the opening of the Atlantic Ocean and is thought to have remained tectonically stable since that time. However, recent evidence suggests tectonically driven uplift and erosion events occurred between 100 and 130 and between 15 and 2 million years ago, long after the rift episode. Similar events have been recognized on the margins of other continents bordering the Atlantic. The objective of this project is to determine the timing and spatial distribution of these events in eastern North America with the goal of establishing the relationship with events on other continents and, ultimately, provide constraints on possible tectonic mechanisms to explain synchronous events. The project will advance desired societal outcomes by the development of a grade 9-12 earth science module in collaboration with local schools with class visits and visits to Middlebury and intensive involvement of undergraduate students in research.

This project aims to understand rejuvenation of the Eastern North American margin, which remains virtually unknown compared to relatively well-documented rejuvenation events on the coasts of Africa, South America, Europe, and the north Atlantic. Preliminary data (increased sediment flux to the Baltimore Canyon Trough; thermochronology in the White Mountains, New Hampshire) suggest that at least three rejuvenation events occurred along the Eastern North American margin: Early Cretaceous (130-110 Ma), Late Cretaceous (85-65 Ma), and the Mio-Pliocene (15-0 Ma). Results from other Atlantic margins highlight two periods, the Late Cretaceous and Mio-Pliocene, in which rejuvenation may have occurred synchronously across multiple circum-Atlantic margins. This coincident timing raises the question of whether a common forcing mechanism can rejuvenate multiple passive margins at the same time? Two end-member hypotheses include: (1) lateral stresses transmitted long distances through the lithosphere, or (2) dynamic mantle stresses beneath passive margins (e.g. dynamic topography). On the large scale, a complete picture of which margins were synchronously rejuvenated and how they are geometrically related may be used to infer Atlantic-scale forcing mechanisms. On the local scale, delineating the spatiotemporal pattern of rejuvenation of the Eastern North American margin may reveal stress orientations or local fault mechanics, thus constraining the underlying forcing mechanism. This project uses both of these approaches to clarify the pattern of post-rift exhumation in the central Eastern North American margin (New England, New York, and New Jersey). The research team will determine time-resolved exhumation histories by using apatite and zircon U-Th/He and apatite fission track thermochronology in bedrock drill cores and sediment provenance using trace element composition of heavy minerals and U-Pb dating of zircon and rutile and provenance of sediments in offshore drill cores from the Baltimore Canyon Trough. These two approaches are complementary; thermochronology provides the timing and magnitude of exhumation at a point, whereas detrital provenance integrates a broad range of possible source regions and can detect exhumation events too small to reset thermochronometers.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: GEOMORPHOLOGY & LAND USE DYNAM | Award Amount: 202.95K | Year: 2015

A non-technical description of the project, which explains the projects significance and importance

Atmospheric dust is generated in lowlands through a variety of natural and human-induced processes. Once delivered to high mountain environments, wind-borne dust is responsible for a multitude of effects including altering the pH and chemistry of surface water, contributing to soil formation, and decreasing the reflective properties of snow. In the Rocky Mountains, recent study of lake sediment records suggests that rates of dust deposition have increased in the past few centuries, linking human land use in lowland basins with dust deposition in the mountains. This project will analyze the amount and distribution of dust accumulating in the Uinta Mountains to determine the regional and inter-annual variability in dust deposition rates and properties. Cores from alpine lakes will also be investigated to ascertain the changes in wind-borne deposits over the last several thousand years as continental glaciers receded and human habitation increased. Given the growing evidence that dust deposition plays an important role in the ecology of alpine systems, this project will provide useful information for management of mountain ecosystems and the surrounding basins. This project will be conducted at a primarily undergraduate institution and will train the next generation of research scientists.

A technical description of the project

This project will use an extensive set of existing lake-sediment cores and soils data, along with new collections of dust and soil, to test three complementary hypotheses: 1) Dust flux and geochemical properties are primarily controlled by aridity within regional source areas in the western United States; 2) Post-glacial sedimentary records from high-elevation lakes in the Uintas will record synchronous changes in physical properties that reflect variations in the regional dust system driven by paleoclimate variability; 3) Long-term (~106 - 107yrs) weathering on the unglaciated Uinta summit upland has resulted in the formation of pedogenic clays from elemental building blocks delivered by atmospheric dust. Six undergraduate students will receive training in research techniques and each will complete independent research along with the opportunity to present at professional meetings.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Elem. Particle Physics/Theory | Award Amount: 120.00K | Year: 2015

This award funds the research activities of Professor Noah Graham at Middlebury College.

Microelectromechanical devices --- tiny machines that can be embedded within an integrated circuit chip --- can trigger car airbags in a collision, detect the movement of a video-game controller or the orientation of a smartphone, sense low air pressure in a car tire, and provide the feedback necessary to stabilize car suspensions and flying drones. As these devices shrink toward sizes of a micron or smaller, a special quantum-mechanical force called the Casimir force will begin to play an important role in their design and function. In contrast to the more familiar electric attraction and repulsion between opposite and like charges, the Casimir force arises from quantum-mechanical fluctuations inherent in Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle. While the physical mechanism underlying the Casimir force has been well understood for many years, until recently precise calculations were only possible for the most elementary examples. New techniques, in which the Casimir force is expressed in terms of information about the reflection of light from each individual object on which the force is acting, have greatly expanded the range of potential applications. The research supported by this grant will formulate and implement numerical calculations of this scattering data, making it possible to calculate Casimir forces in a broad range of systems relevant to experimental physics and nanotechnology. These general-purpose computational tools will also be applicable to other problems in science and engineering. Research in this area thus advances the national interest by promoting the progress of science with many potential technological implications. And because this approach is centered around fundamental concepts in quantum mechanics and electromagnetism, it will be possible for undergraduate students to make meaningful contributions to this research at the same time as they build scientific and computational skills that will serve them well in graduate or professional work, both within physics and across a wide range of fields in science and engineering.

The technical approach to this problem will be based on the variable phase method, which this research program is applying for the first time to electromagnetic scattering. High-performance parallel computation will make it possible to go beyond objects with a high degree of symmetry to calculate full T-matrices in multichannel scattering, for materials with position- and frequency-dependent dielectric response. These tools will then be applied to calculations of Casimir forces in cases of current experimental interest, such as dielectric gratings with deep corrugations, for which existing techniques based on the Rayleigh expansion are insufficient.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ANTARCTIC INTEGRATED SYS SCI | Award Amount: 263.35K | Year: 2015

Recent discoveries of widespread liquid water and microbial ecosystems below the Antarctic ice sheets have generated considerable interest in studying Antarctic subglacial environments. Understanding subglacial hydrology, the persistence of life in extended isolation and the evolution and stability of subglacial habitats requires an integrated, interdisciplinary approach. The collaborative project, Minimally Invasive Direct Glacial Exploration (MIDGE) of the Biogeochemistry, Hydrology and Glaciology of Blood Falls, McMurdo Dry Valleys will integrate geophysical measurements, molecular microbial ecology and geochemical analyses to explore a unique Antarctic subglacial system known as Blood Falls. Blood Falls is a hypersaline, subglacial brine that supports an active microbial community. The subglacial brine is released from a crevasse at the surface of the Taylor Glacier providing an accessible portal into an Antarctic subglacial ecosystem. Recent geochemical and molecular analyses support a marine source for the salts and microorganisms in Blood Falls. The last time marine waters inundated this part of the McMurdo Dry Valleys was during the Late Tertiary, which suggests the brine is ancient. Still, no direct samples have been collected from the subglacial source to Blood Falls and little is known about the origin of this brine or the amount of time it has been sealed below Taylor Glacier. Radar profiles collected near Blood Falls delineate a possible fault in the subglacial substrate that may help explain the localized and episodic nature of brine release. However it remains unclear what triggers the episodic release of brine exclusively at the Blood Falls crevasse or the extent to which the brine is altered as it makes its way to the surface.

The MIDGE project aims to determine the mechanism of brine release at Blood Falls, evaluate changes in the geochemistry and the microbial community within the englacial conduit and assess if Blood Falls waters have a distinct impact on the thermal and stress state of Taylor Glacier, one of the most studied polar glaciers in Antarctica. The geophysical study of the glaciological structure and mechanism of brine release will use GPR, GPS, and a small passive seismic network. Together with international collaborators, the Ice Mole team from FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences, Germany (funded by the German Aerospace Center, DLR), MIDGE will develop and deploy innovative, minimally invasive technologies for clean access and brine sample retrieval from deep within the Blood Falls drainage system. These technologies will allow for the collection of samples of the brine away from the surface (up to tens of meters) for geochemical analyses and microbial structure-function experiments. There is concern over the contamination of pristine subglacial environments from chemical and biological materials inherent in the drilling process; and MIDGE will provide data on the efficacy of thermoelectric probes for clean access and retrieval of representative subglacial samples. Antarctic subglacial environments provide an excellent opportunity for researching survivability and adaptability of microbial life and are potential terrestrial analogues for life habitats on icy planetary bodies. The MIDGE project offers a portable, versatile, clean alternative to hot water and mechanical drilling and will enable the exploration of subglacial hydrology and ecosystem function while making significant progress towards developing technologies for minimally invasive and clean sampling of icy systems.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: European Open Research Area | Award Amount: 297.53K | Year: 2014

The concept of gentrification -- where middle or high income residents displace poorer residents within a particular region -- is relatively well studied in cities and urban settings. It is commonly used to describe economic, demographic, and cultural change in such environments. Gentrification in rural areas and areas with lower population densities is much less well studied. As Americas rural landscape undergoes significant social and economic transformations, it will become increasingly important to understand the factors underlying these changes. In this project, scholars from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France will investigate whether rural changes in these three countries can be explained by the concept of rural gentrification. The three countries to be studied in this project are of particular interest because there are some important differences from one country to the next that will allow the researchers to test different hypotheses concerning social and economic change in rural settings. In terms of intellectual merit, this project will add to the theoretical understanding of gentrification as it plays out in different spatial contexts and situate interpretations of rural gentrification from different national contexts within the literatures on asset-based theorizations of social stratification, urban gentrification, and social capital in rural development. In terms of broader impacts, this project will produce key understandings that will be beneficial to rural development professionals and rural residents. Given the aging population in many advanced economies and the relationship between aging and migration to rural areas, forces of rural gentrification are likely to accelerate in the coming years. Therefore, knowledge of the extent of and processes behind rural gentrification across national contexts will be critical for future planning.

The researchers will employ a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to better understand whether rural gentrification is capable of explaining the form and dynamics of rural change across the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The work will consist of (1) content and discourse analyses to understand how the concept of gentrification is used in the literatures in the three countries, (2) interviews with residents to develop a conceptualization of social assets employed within processes of rural gentrification, and (3) mappings and analyses of the geographies of rural gentrification in the three countries.


Patent
Middlebury College | Date: 2015-09-25

A system and a method for controlling operation of a power plant system. The system has at least a gasifier, a boiler, an induced draft fan, and a baghouse. A controller in communication with the system is configured to implement a first stage and/or a second stage sequences after detecting loss of flame in the boiler using a temperature measurement device. The method includes automatically bypassing the baghouse and controlled (e.g., decreasing) the speed of the induced draft fan in the system to relight the boiler. The input feed to the gasifier can be limited and devices operated for a predetermined amount of time before reigniting the boiler.

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