Oberlin, OH, United States
Oberlin, OH, United States

Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, noteworthy for having been the first American institution of higher learning to regularly admit female and black students in addition to white males. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, part of the college, is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the country." Oberlin is noted for its political and social significance, often serving as "the prototype for progress even in the face of strong resistance."Oberlin is a member of the Great Lakes Colleges Association and the Five Colleges of Ohio consortium. Wikipedia.

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In this paper 2011 energy consumption, green house gas (GHG) emission, and ENERGY STAR Energy Performance Rating (EPR) data for 953 office buildings in New York City are examined. The data were made public as a result of New York City's local law 84. Twenty-one of these office buildings were identified as LEED-certified, providing the opportunity for direct comparison of energy performance data for LEED and non-LEED buildings of the same type, time frame, and geographical and climate region. With regard to energy consumption and GHG emission the LEED-certified buildings, collectively, showed no savings as compared with non-LEED buildings. The subset of the LEED buildings certified at the Gold level outperformed other NYC office buildings by 20%. In contrast LEED Silver and Certified office buildings underperformed other NYC office buildings. The average EPR for the LEED buildings was 78, 10 pts higher than that for all NYC office buildings, raising questions about the validity and interpretation of these EPR's. This work suggests that LEED building certification is not moving NYC toward its goal of climate neutrality. The results also suggest the need to re-examine some aspects of ENERGY STAR's benchmarking tool. © 2013 John H. Scofield. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Laskowski M.,Oberlin College
Journal of Experimental Botany | Year: 2013

The locations in which lateral roots arise are determined by local peaks of auxin response driven by whole-plant physiology. The architecture of a plant root system adapts it to the conditions in which it grows: large shoot systems demand large root systems, and growth in soils that have low or patchy nutrient distributions is often best managed by non-uniform patterns of root branching. It is not surprising then that the regulation of lateral root spacing is responsive to a wide array of stimuli. Molecular genetic studies have outlined a mechanism by which multiple modules of auxin response in specific cell types drive lateral root initiation. These peaks of auxin responsiveness are functionally controlled by the growth of the plant and the changing environmental conditions it experiences. Thus, the process of lateral root initiation, which depends on strong local auxin response, is globally mediated. © 2013 © The Author [2013]. Published by Oxford University Press [on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology]. All rights reserved.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS | Award Amount: 225.00K | Year: 2016

Non-technical Abstract
Magnetic nanoparticles are tiny magnets which are being used for targeted drug delivery, biomedical imaging, data storage, environmental remediation, and many other technologies. These applications all depend critically on the specific manner in which the magnetic particles align and interact with each other. However, it has been difficult to determine these arrangements with standard experimental equipment, and it was even more difficult to optimize particles for applications. This project addresses this significant problem by helping to develop and promote the use of advanced neutron scattering techniques at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Center for Neutron Research. The research capitalizes on recent upgrades in the capabilities of American neutron scattering facilities to probe several key features of magnetic nanoparticle arrangements. Another important aspect of this work is the extensive training of undergraduate students at Oberlin College, a four-year liberal arts institution with a long history of fostering diversity and integrating teaching and research. This project is closely tied to the Principal Investigators teaching assignments as well as her mentoring and outreach activities.

Technical Abstract
The specific experiments are focused on quantifying the nature of the magnetic spin arrangements and excitations in ferrite nanoparticle assemblies. The goals of the research are 1) to determine magnetic morphologies as a function of changes in chemical composition, particle diameter, and surface solubility and 2) to determine magnetic energy parameters that characterize spin excitations. The magnetic nanoparticles are being synthesized using solution chemistry and ligand exchange techniques. X-ray scattering, transmission electron microscopy, magnetometry, and magnetic fluid flow fractionation approaches are being used to optimize the samples. The PI and her students have been performing unusual polarization-analyzed small angle neutron scattering and inelastic neutron scattering experiments at the NIST Center for Neutron Research. The work involves collaborating with scientists at a variety of institutions representing academia (Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University), industry (Cambrian Technologies), and government (NIST).

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 486.26K | Year: 2014

Non-Technical Abstract:
An award is made to Oberlin College to support acquisition of a high-performance computational (HPC) cluster. As part of its educational mission, Oberlin College emphasizes undergraduate research and hence endeavors to provide the facilities and institutional support to sustain meaningful, student-centered faculty research. Numerous science faculty have externally funded research programs, an increasing number of which depend on high-performance computing. The cluster will be used by more than a dozen Oberlin faculty in departments throughout the natural and social sciences to support a diverse array of research, ranging from modeling black hole collisions to analyzing the effects of organic molecules on air quality, and from determining the protein characteristics of the earliest life on Earth to reconstructing the evolution of flowering plants using massive amounts of DNA sequence data. The award will also have a dramatic impact on student research and training. More than 100 Oberlin undergraduates per year will perform analyses on the computing cluster through mentored research and class-associated projects in at least eight courses, in the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics, and Psychology.

Technical Abstract:
The award will fund the acquisition of a greatly improved high-performance computational (HPC) cluster that will fill a pressing need for computational support of research, research training, and teaching at Oberlin College. To facilitate the diverse computational needs of Oberlin science faculty, a cluster that maximizes parallelization while also offering multiple nodes with relatively large amounts of RAM for protein folding analyses, de novo assembly of next-generation sequencing data, and large-scale phylogenetic analyses will be installed. The cluster will include at least 38 Intel Xeon E5 compute nodes with a total of 544 cores, with RAM varying across these nodes from 32 GB/node to 512 GB/node. The cluster will also include at least two Nvidia Tesla K20 GPUs and at least two Intel Xeon Phi 5110P coprocessors to dramatically increase processing speeds for jobs that are embarrassingly parallel, and will have at least 244 TB of long-term storage space. The HPC cluster will thus have sufficient computational power and long-term archival storage to advance the increasingly large genomics, chemistry, and physics data sets that several Oberlin faculty now use in their research, and will have the flexibility to be utilized by the increasing number of Oberlin faculty who incorporate HPC work in their research, including in astrophysics, genomics, phylogenetics, proteomics, metabolomics, biophysics, atmospheric chemistry, behavioral psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and computer science.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: POLITICAL SCIENCE | Award Amount: 76.36K | Year: 2016

General Summary

Electoral campaigns are a defining feature of democratic polities. Yet studying electoral campaigns and their effects has been difficult. With the support of prior National Science Foundation grants, the investigators have developed a theory of campaign communication and tested expectations using data from congressional campaign and members official websites. The investigators extend their data collection to include the 2016 campaign and the 2015 and 2017 legislative sessions. A key component of the project is that it brings together campaign and legislative data. The PIs construct a publicly available dataset that includes coding of approximately 3,000 House and Senate campaign websites and roughly 300 official congressional websites, over sixteen points in time. These data include extensive information on candidates backgrounds, districts, and campaigns, as well as data on television advertisements and media coverage. Extending the data is critical for further understanding how the publics growing technological sophistication affects what candidates and representatives present online. This project also provides opportunities to study campaigns and their effects on legislation and representation.

Technical Summary

Electoral campaigns are a defining feature of democratic polities. Yet studying electoral campaigns and their effects has been difficult. In recent work, the investigators have developed a theory of campaign communication and tested expectations using data from congressional campaign websites and members official websites. The investigators have amassed a data set consisting of more than 2,500 website codings, from 2002 through 2014. These data have been used in scholarly projects by the PIs and many other political science investigators. The PIs will extend their data collection to include the 2016 campaign and the 2015 and 2017 legislative sessions. They will code sites over the course of the campaign, archive sites, implement surveys of campaign and official website designers, and code official member websites approximately one year after the campaigns. A major broader impact of the project is that the team of coders include only undergraduate students. These students gain valuable experience with empirical social science research. In the end, the investigators will construct a publicly available data set that includes coding of more than 3,000 web sites over multiple years. This project provides opportunities to study campaigns and their effects on legislation and representation.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 177.99K | Year: 2016

Biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) are non-methane hydrocarbons globally emitted by plants in large quantities (~1150 teragrams of carbon per year: c.f. ~ 140 teragrams of anthropogenic carbon per year) and which are important precursors for photo-chemical smog formation, along with production of secondary organic aerosols.

The work seeks in continuance of the Principal Investigators interest in the potential involvement of isoprenoid epoxide intermediates in the oxidation of biogenic volatile organic compounds (e.g. a-pinene, b-pinene, limonene, 2-me-3-buten-2-ol, 3-Z-Hexenal) along with assessment of their subsequent gas phase and particle phase reactivity. Not all of these compounds are readily available, and thus some may need to be synthesized. The central mechanistic activity is then to study the epoxide formation, and their NOx and pressure dependence yields via reactions of BVOCs with OH, O3 and NO3, the common atmospheric oxidants.

The previous RUI grant, and the PIs other support, has made possible the extensive participation of undergraduate students in aspects of atmospheric chemistry research. Over the past 17 years of NSF support through the PIs CAREER and RUI programs, some 46 undergraduate students have been involved in ongoing projects. During this same period, 33 of these students were coauthors on 30 of the 36 papers published by the Oberlin College PI.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 318.00K | Year: 2015

With this award, the Chemical Structure, Dynamics, and Mechanisms (CSDM-A) Program of the Division of Chemistry is funding Professor Manish Mehta at Oberlin College to study the formation of co-crystals - molecular crystals that involve two or more species which retain their molecular identity in the solid state. These structures are of great interest, as they provide a new way to control bulk properties of substances. For example, properties of pharmaceutical substances such as solubility and bioavailability may be altered by co-crystallizing the agent with an excipient. Co-crystals are often made using mechanochemistry (e.g., grinding the co-forming solids together), while others form spontaneously by simply mixing powders. Dr. Mehta seeks to enhance the understanding of these mechanisms using a combination of solid-state magnetic resonance, X-ray and neutron diffraction, and computational methods. The insight gleaned from these studies should help to inform the design and synthesis of co-crystalline materials with desired properties in the future. Participating undergraduate students receive hands-on experience in experimental design and execution and in drafting manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Experiences such as these help to prepare interested undergraduates for graduate study in the STEM disciplines.

In this work, the PI and his undergraduate research team apply the tools of NMR crystallography to study the synthon structure of co-crystals and their formation using real time in situ solid-state NMR (ssNMR). They (1) investigate the kinetics of co-crystal formation; (2) create a detailed picture of the synthon structure (complementing single-crystal NMR data with neutron diffraction and ab initio calculations); and (3) examine single-crystal reaction dynamics using microscopy and single-crystal X-ray diffraction (scXRD). The NMR-based strategy provides kinetic data, including detection of any transient intermediates (liquid or solid) that might arise in the course of the solid-state reaction. A second goal is to investigate the hydrogen bond synthon structure in model co-crystal systems using neutron diffraction and single-crystal NMR (including assessment of proton shift tensors and their orientation in the crystal frame). Broadly construed, these studies are expected to help bridge the NMR crystallography and crystal engineering communities.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 332.11K | Year: 2016


This Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program award supports acquisition of a scanning electron microscope equipped with an energy dispersive spectrometer to allow microscale textural and compositional imaging of solid earth, biological, and synthetic materials. The instrument will support faculty research and undergraduate research training at Oberlin College. This support is congruent with NSFs mission of promoting the progress of science and advancing the national health, prosperity and welfare given the importance of training the next generation scientific workforce in modern techniques of microanalysis and research methods. Faculty research using the instrument will also be of societal interest including studies of antibiotic resistant bacteria and studies of fault rocks with implications for improving understanding of the physics of earthquake rupture.

Specific research that will be facilitated by the acquisition includes investigations of antibiotic resistant bacterial biofilms, the structures of hybrid inorganic-organic network compounds, characterization of elemental zoning in garnet porphyroblasts in high and ultra-high pressure metamorphic rocks to elucidate metamorphic history, the paleoecology of marine mollusks, and study of mineral fabrics in carbonate fault rocks and deformed quartzites to understand deformation processes in fault zones.


Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DECISION RISK & MANAGEMENT SCI | Award Amount: 329.32K | Year: 2015

The greatest challenges humans currently face - climate change, poverty, epidemics, financial meltdowns - are the result of humans acting within enormously complex systems without the ability to fully understanding how these systems work. Many have argued that people will make better decisions under these circumstances if they can engage in systems thinking. Systems thinking is a way of conceptualizing reality and making decisions that emphasizes enhanced understanding of relationships and interdependencies. This research identifies simple and scalable methods of increasing systems thinking and enhancing everyday decision making that do not require extensive training or cognitive resources. In particular, this research examines whether metaphors and conceptual models that encourage people to think about the broader system can shift the way people think about a problem, and improve their ability to identify effective solutions. For example, do diagrams and maps that help people to situate themselves and visualize their relationships to ecological, social or economic systems help them make choices that benefit the community around them? Do some metaphors (describing a national park as the backbone of the park system, as opposed to a pearl) help people see the relationships between that park and the larger ecological system? The most important facet of this research from a practical point of view is the possibility that relatively simple metaphors and conceptual models have the potential to improve decision making among large groups of people every day.

In eight studies, this research project identifies metaphors and conceptual models that promote systems thinking, and test the contention that systems thinking improves decision making. Two experiments identify systemic metaphors and test their psychological effects, as well as their effects on risk assessment and decision making. Two experiments test whether valuing the system in question is a prerequisite for systems thinking to result in better decision making. Four field studies will test the impact of systemic metaphors on conservation behavior (electricity use) and political action (involvement in social media-based campaigns orchestrated by the non-profit communications firm Resource Media). These studies are important because none of the existing work on systems thinking is grounded in psychological processes, nor has it fully evaluated the effects of systems thinking on decision making and behavior. The research program proposed here will use psychological theory, empirical measurement, and experimental techniques to address these large gaps in knowledge.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 40.07K | Year: 2015

This collaborative project involving four institutions (University of California-San Diego, Oberlin College, University of California-Berkeley, and Swarthmore College) will develop a Concept Inventory (CI) for the second introductory programming course (CS2) in computer science. CIs are validated assessments of course content knowledge, and can be used to compare teaching approaches, identify student misconceptions, and quantify learning gains. In physics, the Force Concept Inventory was responsible for a widespread shift in the ways that physics students are taught. The development of a CI for CS2 will have a similar impact on the way computer science will be taught across the country.

This project will follow the CI development process established by Adams and Wieman, which has been used to develop CIs for many other sciences. The process includes: consulting with a diverse expert panel to establish common CS2 content and identify core course concepts; interviewing students to identify common misconceptions; consulting with experts to create questions; administering draft, open-ended questions to students; statistically verifying the assessment; and releasing the CI to the community. The project will also design a software system for creating and deploying CIs, and will make this software publicly available. The project team will hold training sessions on (1) using the CI to improve CS education, and (2) using the software to engage in further CI research. Evaluation of the work will be overseen by an external evaluator who will validate the CI via student and faculty interviews.

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