Los Angeles, CA, United States

Occidental College

Los Angeles, CA, United States

Occidental College is a private, co-educational liberal arts college located in the historic Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1887 by clergy and members of the Presbyterian Church, Occidental College is called Oxy by some students and alumni.The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected Occidental as a "community engagement institution". Wikipedia.

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Shtulman A.,Occidental College | Valcarcel J.,Occidental College
Cognition | Year: 2012

When students learn scientific theories that conflict with their earlier, naïve theories, what happens to the earlier theories? Are they overwritten or merely suppressed? We investigated this question by devising and implementing a novel speeded-reasoning task. Adults with many years of science education verified two types of statements as quickly as possible: statements whose truth value was the same across both naïve and scientific theories of a particular phenomenon (e.g., "The moon revolves around the Earth") and statements involving the same conceptual relations but whose truth value differed across those theories (e.g., "The Earth revolves around the sun"). Participants verified the latter significantly more slowly and less accurately than the former across 10 domains of knowledge (astronomy, evolution, fractions, genetics, germs, matter, mechanics, physiology, thermodynamics, and waves), suggesting that naïve theories survive the acquisition of a mutually incompatible scientific theory, coexisting with that theory for many years to follow. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

Okumura C.Y.M.,Occidental College | Nizet V.,University of California at San Diego
Annual Review of Microbiology | Year: 2014

The development of a severe invasive bacterial infection in an otherwise healthy individual is one of the most striking and fascinating aspects of human medicine. A small cadre of gram-positive pathogens of the genera Streptococcus and Staphylococcus stand out for their unique invasive disease potential and sophisticated ability to counteract the multifaceted components of human innate defense. This review illustrates how these leading human disease agents evade host complement deposition and activation, impede phagocyte recruitment and activation, resist the microbicidal activities of host antimicrobial peptides and reactive oxygen species, escape neutrophil extracellular traps, and promote and accelerate phagocyte cell death through the action of pore-forming cytolysins. Understanding the molecular basis of bacterial innate immune resistance can open new avenues for therapeutic intervention geared to disabling specific virulence factors and resensitizing the pathogen to host innate immune clearance. Copyright © 2014 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH COLLECTION | Award Amount: 399.60K | Year: 2014

Natural history collections document Earths biodiversity and are the raw material for studies of how that biodiversity arose and how it is maintained on our planet. Specimens in natural history collections are of practical importance as well, providing data on human disease and informing forensic science. This award funds the rehousing of an unparalleled natural history collection in new specimen cases. Currently the collection, one of the largest documenting the birds of North America, is under threat of degradation due to antiquated cases that no longer protect against pests and adverse environmental factors. Additionally, this award supports the gathering and dissemination of open-access data on the location of bird specimens. Digital images of specimens from under-studied avian groups will be made available through a new web portal that will engage scientists and the public alike. The location of the worlds largest collection of Mexican birds, at a small liberal arts college in the United States, provides opportunities to train undergraduates, who are the next generation of museum scientists, in curation techniques as well as in the application of specimen data to address biological questions.

This project seeks to secure, georeference, and digitize the worlds largest Mexican bird collection (63,000 specimens), located at the Moore Laboratory of Zoology (MLZ) at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. Not only does the MLZ collection provide a window into Mexicos endemic bird diversity prior to a major period of development and deforestation, but also, for many widespread species that occur in the United States. The specimens housed at MLZ fill a large, critical gap linking bird populations of the entire North American continent. This project is urgent because new specimen cases are needed to replace antiquated cases that no longer prevent insect infestations and would not be able to protect against accidental flooding. In addition to new cases, the proposed activities include a major update to the taxonomy and organization of the collection, to facilitate the collections research potential. A major goal of this project is to georeference, digitize and image the collection and make these data accessible as online resources to inform research and education. The MLZs mission is to leverage our unique setting at a small liberal arts college toward: (i) Conducting cutting-edge research using natural history collections; (ii) promoting the use of natural history collections in undergraduate education and research; and (iii) promoting career development for underrepresented groups and women in museum science. More information is available at the following website: http://www.oxy.edu/moore-lab-zoology.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: CONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS | Award Amount: 270.00K | Year: 2014

Non-Technical Abstract:

Ordinary phase transitions, such as the freezing or boiling of water, involve heat energy. This team will study quantum phase transitions that occur at absolute zero where there is no heat. Zero-point energy, associated with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, plays the role of heat in these transitions. A rising paradigm in physics, quantum phase transitions may be the origin of high-temperature superconductivity and have informed the theory of black holes. Quantum phase transitions can dramatically affect the behavior of matter at surprisingly high temperatures and lead to characteristic changes in volume as the temperature or magnetic field changes. A high-precision technique, developed with National Science Foundation support, will be used to search for these characteristic changes in volume in order to identify and better understand the underlying quantum phase transition. Novel states of matter that are expected to occur near quantum phase transitions will be sought out and studied as well. Undergraduate students participate in all aspects of this work, both on-campus and during trips to visit collaborators at research universities, national laboratories, and a company that manufactures automated temperature and magnetic field testing platforms for materials characterization. Students visiting these institutions are exposed to a big science environment complementing the small science environment at Occidental College, a national liberal arts college in metropolitan Los Angeles where most of the work will be carried out.

Technical Abstract:

Theh team seeks a better understanding of the nature of matter near quantum phase transitions, especially the delicate ordered phases that can appear nearby. Our primary focus is on Yb- and U-based heavy fermion compounds exhibiting magnetic-field induced quantum criticality and related phenomena such as magnetic order, novel superconductivity, and hidden order. Physical behavior near a quantum phase transition is dominated by quantum fluctuations associated with the zero-point energies of the adjacent states. Remarkably, these quantum fluctuations can affect physical behavior at temperatures well above absolute zero. Low temperature phase transitions and the quantum phase transitions associated with them are a major focus of condensed matter physics, a focus on which thermodynamic information is sparse. Such information is needed for a better understanding of quantum many-body problems. A rising paradigm in physics, quantum phase transitions are invoked in explanations of high temperature superconductivity and black holes. The primary experimental method is to measure thermal expansion and magnetostriction using capacitive dilatometers (all but one developed with National Science Foundation support). The team will search for characteristic changes in volume at low temperatures in order to identify and better understand the underlying quantum phase transition. This work is carried out in collaboration with scientists at research universities, national laboratories, and a company that manufactures automated temperature and magnetic field testing platforms for materials characterization. Undergraduate students visiting these institutions will be exposed to a big science environment complementing the small science environment at Occidental College, a national liberal arts college in metropolitan Los Angeles where most of the work will be carried out.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: GEOPHYSICS | Award Amount: 40.74K | Year: 2015

This project is a geologic investigation aimed at furthering our understanding of the Earths ancient magnetic field. The PI is working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Anchorage, Alaska to collect lava flow samples from Tanaga Island in the Aleutian Island chain. Magnetic experiments on these lavas will allow the team to recover the strength of the Earths ancient magnetic field in Alaska and use that information to evaluate the average behavior of the geomagnetic field over the last 500 thousand years. Paleomagnetic data (such as the paleointensity information collected as part of this project) play an important role in many geologic and geophysical applications, such as: performing plate tectonic reconstructions, determining the age of rock formations and timing of tectonic events, and developing models of the Earths interior. This project will present the first high-quality paleointensity study of Alaskan lava flows, and will allow researchers to better understand how the geomagnetic field behaves at high northern latitudes.

Effective analysis of ancient geomagnetic field structures requires the collection of global paleomagnetic data that are geographically and temporally distributed. Most published paleomagnetic data are from mid-latitudes, with relatively few studies targeting localities at equatorial and high latitudes (> 50°). A search of the online MagIC paleomagnetic database (http://earthreg.org/MAGIC) shows that only four studies are from Alaska, and none of them present any paleointensity data. This project will be the first high-quality paleointensity study in the region. The PI and students will sample volcanic material from 35 Pleistocene-age lava flows from Tanaga Island. All lava flows have been dated using 40Ar/39Ar geochronology methods by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey. Paleointensity experiments will be conducted on all lavas, and the results will be compared to other high latitude data sets in northern and southern hemispheres. Evaluation of our intensity results will allow for new insights into the long-term regional behavior of the geomagnetic field in Alaska and the variability of the global field over time.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Particle Astrophysics/Undergro | Award Amount: 59.00K | Year: 2015

In this era of precision cosmology, measurements suggest that ordinary matter represents only a fraction of the total matter density in the Universe. The rest, whose presence we only infer gravitationally, is unknown in its nature, and is termed dark matter. Particle physics suggests that dark matter comprises relic Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) left over from the Big Bang. Experimental efforts to directly detect WIMPs are extremely challenging due to small interaction probabilities and large backgrounds. The motion of the Earth through the galaxy produces a head-wind of WIMPs. The angular distribution of recoils from WIMP interactions has a ~100% asymmetry, and is modulated at the sidereal rate on account of the Earths rotation. No known background can mimic this signal.

The practical implications of the technology being developed for such searches have promising applications to low background alpha and neutron measurements. This work also includes the training of a diverse set of undergraduates and graduate students in increasingly rare small-scale experiments, giving them exposure to a wide range of research experience.

The Directional Recoil Identification From Tracks (DRIFT) experiment leads the field of directional dark matter detection. The intellectual merit of this award resides in DRIFTs sensitivity to this modulated signature, which provides a unique window into one of the most important questions in science today. NSF-funded DRIFT-IId work over the last several years has led to enormous experimental progress. The collaboration is in the final stages of commissioning a new DRIFT-IIe detector. The operation of both detectors will test the viability of long-duration background-free exposures. This award will provide funding to continue the operations of DRIFT-II.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 126.57K | Year: 2015

Scientists are increasingly using neural recording techniques to study how and when perceptual, cognitive, and emotional processes unfold in the brain over time. Electroencephalography (EEG) is a non-invasive technique for measuring electrical activity of the brain, with extraordinary temporal precision. With the support from the Major Research Instrumentation Program, the investigators will purchase a state-of-the-art high-density, mobile EEG system for shared use by the faculty and students at Occidental College. The mobility of the EEG system provides an exciting opportunity to investigate perception and cognition both within a laboratory and in naturalistic settings outside of the laboratory. The acquisition of this system will also allow the investigators to foster unique research opportunities for a diverse group of students at the undergraduate level. Faculty and students will be involved in a dynamic, interdisciplinary research program, with investigations of topics such as multisensory perception, time perception, art perception, attention, emotional processing, language processing, and music cognition. The system will also serve as a key instrument for establishing undergraduate training in the cognitive neurosciences at Occidental College and will be integrated into coursework. Participating students will develop a broad range of skills relevant for both graduate study and participation in the STEM workforce, including strong data analytic and computational skills. As the student population at Occidental College is very diverse, the investigators aim to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in the sciences.

The investigators involved will launch several research programs in a broad range of areas within the cognitive sciences, with the goal of expanding opportunities for student research and for multi-disciplinary collaboration across the College. Research project 1 aims to understand how sound can be used to synchronize neural activity across a pair of individuals and whether and how neural synchronization causally influences behavioral coordination. Research project 2 will investigate art perception to understand a) how internal states such as current mood may systematically drive attention toward specific features of an artwork, b) what type of neural response is associated with profound aesthetic experiences from viewing art compared to viewing non-art, and c) the extent to which the neural response associated with aesthetic experience is similar across art modality (e.g. visual art, music, literature). Research project 3 will explore mechanisms underlying temporal perception and how information is transferred across sensory modalities, to address fundamental questions about the multisensory organization of the brain, and will help provide a better understanding of how the brain represents time. Research project 4 will compare the time course of language processing and syllabic stress encoding in English and Spanish speakers to examine processing differences between heritage speakers and monolingual speakers of Spanish. Research project 5 aims to understand the role of consciousness in emotional processing by simultaneously measuring skin conductance response, cortical event-related potentials, and conscious expectancy of an unconditioned stimulus in a backward masking paradigm.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 606.19K | Year: 2015

The United States faces a national need for a significant increase of the number of American scientists in the workforce. This NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) project at Occidental College will address this need and contribute to the national effort to produce more STEM graduates by providing financial, academic, and personal support to academically-talented and financially needy students majoring in the STEM fields of Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Cognitive Science, Geology, Mathematics and Physics. The COSMOS project (Creating Opportunities in Science and Mathematics for Occidental Students) will support three annual cohorts of eight sophomore students who are academically talented but in financial need with scholarship awards of up to $8,000 each per year. The primary focal points of COSMOS are recruitment, retention and leadership development of students who major and graduate in the aforementioned STEM disciplines. The COSMOS program will increase opportunities for these students to enter the STEM workforce as leaders by enhancing the academic, advising and research infrastructures to mentor students at the institution from their first year as undergraduates through graduation. COSMOS leverages federal funds to support students and broaden participation in high-impact practices at Occidental such as summer undergraduate research opportunities, a first-year seminar course in STEM content, supplemental instruction, community outreach and active mentoring by specially selected and trained faculty and student peers.

The COSMOS initiatives will work in concert with existing and strengthened support services at Occidental. The investigators will research and assess the effectiveness of the various components of the project, considered individually and working in combination with each other. Their findings will add to the overall knowledge base of STEM education and will help create a national model leading to productive student intervention strategies, which can be shared with and replicated at other institutions. The investigations will provide new insights related to understanding and improving successes of underrepresented and/or low income students, thereby broadening participation by expanding diversity in STEM fields, especially at liberal arts colleges. COSMOS has a robust evaluation plan with formative and summative components, organized around a clear logic model and implemented by an independent evaluator. There are multiple articulated metrics, outcomes and quantifiable data that will be used to measure overall success of COSMOS in increasing the number and diversity of academically talented and financially disadvantage majors and graduates in STEM fields at Occidental College.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: TECTONICS | Award Amount: 185.49K | Year: 2014

This project will evaluate processes responsible for the non-steady-state growth of continental crust in Cordilleran-type magmatic arcs. These batholiths develop as a result of subduction of oceanic lithosphere at convergent margins, but the processes that control the tempo of magma production are unclear; even in arcs where subduction is continuous, magmatism is strongly episodic (e.g. Sierra Nevada batholith, Peninsular Ranges batholith, Central Andes). Short periods (10-15 million years) of intense magmatism or flare-ups may generate as much as 90% of total batholithic volumes, with little magmatism occurring during intervening lulls. Geochemical and isotopic signatures indicate that magmas produced during flare-ups incorporate more upper plate material than magmas formed during lulls. This pattern raises the question of whether continental growth by magmatic addition is controlled primarily by the behavior of the subducting oceanic plate or by the tectonics of the continental lithosphere at the plate margin. We are investigating this question through an integrated geologic, geochronological and geochemical study of the southern Coast Mountains Batholith in British Columbia. This project directly addresses a basic question in earth science: how do continents grow? In addition to the research goals of this project, this endeavor is enhancing the scientific education and training of students at four academic institutions recognized for the diversity of their student populations. Engagement of students in fieldwork, laboratory analysis, data interpretation and presentation of results are providing them with insights into all aspects of the science process and career options, and increase retention in STEM fields. Samples and datasets generated as a result of this project are being used to design problem sets and interpretive exercises for classes taught by the investigators. Data generated during this the course of this project is being added to NSF-funded databases, such as NAVDAT, for access by the larger community.

Occidental College | Date: 2016-05-31

Described herein are methods, compositions and kits utilizing heterogeneous metal catalysts for the preparation of cycloaddition compounds, such as triazoles and biomolecules.

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