Poughkeepsie, NY, United States
Poughkeepsie, NY, United States

Vassar College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, in the United States. Founded as a women's college in 1861 by Matthew Vassar, the school became a coeducational institution in 1969. The College offers B.A. degrees in more than 50 majors and features a flexible curriculum designed to promote a breadth of studies.The Vassar campus comprises over 1,000 acres and more than 100 buildings, including two National Historic Landmarks and an additional National Historic Place. These buildings range in style from Collegiate Gothic to International, designed over the course of the college’s history by a range of prominent architects, including James Renwick Jr., Eero Saarinen, Marcel Breuer, and Cesar Pelli. Vassar's Thompson Memorial Library, designed by Francis R. Allen, is a Federal depository library. A designated arboretum, the campus features more than 200 species of trees, a native plant preserve, and a 400-acre ecological preserve. A new science building is under construction, with plans to be completed in 2015.Vassar was listed in the 2015 annual ranking of U.S. News & World Report as "most selective" and was rated the 11th best liberal arts college in the nation and 6th for "Best Value". For the class of 2018 , the institution had an acceptance rate of 22.8%. The total number of students attending the college is around 2,400.The College offers many extracurricular organizations including student theater, a cappella groups, club sports, volunteer and service groups, and a circus troupe. Vassar College's varsity sports teams, known as the Brewers, play as part of the NCAA Division III and in the Liberty League. Wikipedia.


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Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SOFTWARE & HARDWARE FOUNDATION | Award Amount: 41.90K | Year: 2014

Bayesian probability is an important theory of robust decision making. Domains as diverse as physical science, engineering, medicine, and law have applied Bayesian inference successfully. Nevertheless, Bayesian inference is fraught with problems during practical development and deployment. The standard techniques used to construct the implementations are semantically far from the whiteboard presentation (mathematical description), are untrustworthy, and expensive to apply. This research addresses this problem by providing an axiomatic foundation with a built-in approximation system that can verify implementations.

This research develops an automatic, trustworthy compiler from the whiteboard math used in the development of a theory to an efficient inference model implementation ready for evaluation. This environment provides compilation to a measure-theoretic model of the theory and to an efficient implementation that is provably connected to the measure-theoretic model. This compilation technique delays approximation as long as possible to achieve correctness and allow varied options for approximation, including the use of a novel algorithmic sampling technique, and performs high-powered optimization to compile them to parallelized implementations.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY | Award Amount: 75.90K | Year: 2015

Effective water governance structures are critical to preventing water stress, which can have profound implications for stable governance and public trust. This project explores how water management strategies and the public responses to those efforts are effectively undertaken in a large, water-scarce urban context. To understand the ways in which organizational and infrastructural decisions are made in such circumstances, the researcher asks the role that local cultural beliefs and practices have in shaping the development of new water technologies. Data from this research will improve scientific understanding in similar situations where water access is stressed because of the demands of a rapidly expanding urban population.

Dr. Martha Kaplan of Vassar College examines the impact of culture on infrastructural decisions and water management strategies by studying state policy and popular water use in a water-scarce context. The research takes place in Singapore, a Southeast Asian island city-state that is has no natural aquifers, and a growing urban population. Originally dependent on imported water from neighboring Malaysia and rain water, they have added NEWater (recycled sewer water) and desalinated water to the public water supply. Research will analyze (1) state water management, including media campaigns to make recycled NEWater acceptable, (2) popular responses to state initiatives and (3) everyday engagements with drinking water. Methods include participant observation, oral history, structured interviews, and drinking water censuses (an innovative, systematic method developed by the PI working with an undergraduate researcher in 2007). As a project funded under the Research in Undergraduate Institutions solicitation, up to four undergraduate students will participate in the research, receiving training in key anthropological research methods. This project is committed to the principle that a well-informed public can have a key role in determining policy. Scientific publication and popularly accessible information about the cultural diversity of drinking water systems and environmental perspectives can enable citizens in any society to make better choices in their everyday water practices, and better inform effective public policy efforts. In sum, this project aims to trains future anthropologists, and produce accessible studies of plural and different water cultures.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 332.72K | Year: 2014

This project provides a Science Research Network utilizing next-generation technologies to dramatically reduce and remove barriers to the free flow of scientific research data at Vassar College. The enhanced network better supports the transfer of large data sets with dramatically increased network capacity and reduced latency, positioning science researchers to utilize distributed data collection, remote sensor networks and pursue other network-enhanced research.

This project upgrades the current network core to a fully meshed 10Gbps backbone to facilitate high-capacity science research data transmission across the Vassar network. A dedicated science research network, a Science DMZ, is designed and implemented to enable the unfettered flow of science data across and between researchers, data collection, analysis and storage resources. Researchers are provided direct access from the Science DMZ to Research and Education (R&E) Networks including the New York State Education & Research Network and Internet2, with access to distributed computing resources including the New York State High Performance Computing Consortium (HPC2), as well as the commodity Internet in support of scientific research. Additionally fiber connections to the local Point of Presence (POP) are reconfigured to enable dramatically greater network throughput.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: LINGUISTICS | Award Amount: 994.06K | Year: 2012

The need for robust language processing capabilities across academic disciplines, education, and industry is without question of vital importance to national security, infrastructure development, and the competitiveness of American business. However, at this time a robust, interoperable software infrastructure to support natural language processing (NLP) research and development does not exist. To fill this gap, this project establishes an large international collaborative effort involving key international players to develop an open, web-based infrastructure through which massive and distributed language resources can be easily accessed, in whole or in part, and within which tailored language services can be efficiently composed, disseminated and consumed by researchers, developers, and students.

The goal of this project is to build a comprehensive network of web services and resources within the NLP community. This requires four specific activities: (1) Design, develop and promote a service-oriented architecture for NLP development that defines atomic and composite web services, along with support for service discovery, testing and reuse; (2) Construct a Language Application Grid (LAPPS Grid) based on Service Grid Software developed in Japan; (3) Provide an open advancement (OA) framework for component- and application-based evaluation that enables rapid identification of frequent error categories within modules, thus contributing to more effective investment of resources; (4) Actively promote adoption, use, and community involvement with the LAPPS Grid.

By providing access to cloud-based services and support for locally-run services, the LAPPS Grid will lead to the development of a massive global network of language data and processing capabilities that can be used by scientists and engineers from diverse disciplines, providing components that require no expertise in language processing to use. Research in sociology, psychology, economics, education, linguistics, digital media, and the humanities will be impacted by the ability to easily manipulate and process diverse language data sources in multiple languages.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Cyber Secur - Cyberinfrastruc | Award Amount: 300.00K | Year: 2014

This project enhances research collaboration at Vassar College through the implementation of an Identity and Access Management (IAM) system. The IAM supports access to and security of distributed scientific research efforts and other applications with broader impacts. Vassar researchers are actively engaged in collaborative intra- and extramural multidisciplinary research, and these projects regularly collect and exchange data with research collaborators and teams at other institutions in Virtual Organizations (VOs). Vassar College researchers were previously challenged to create and manage the identities, groups and permissions crucial to these VOs, and the largely manual nature of the processes required to create and administer a research project was becoming an impediment to the actual research itself.


The IAM 1) provides an automated system that provides centralized management of science research VOs in support of distributed science research; 2) enhances inter-institutional research collaboration allowing researchers to use their campus login to access resources at partner institutions; 3) positions researchers to leverage external resources for greater science research collaboration such as Internet2 and other Research and Education (R&E) Networks and 4) enables wider use of existing directory services by an array of science research tools.


This INSPIRE award is partially funded by the Evolutionary Processes program in the Division of Environmental Biology in the Directorate for Biological Sciences, the Behavioral Systems program in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems in the Directorate for Biological Sciences, and the Information Integration and Informatics program in the Division of Information & Intelligent Systems in the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering.

For millennia, humans have bred organisms to produce better food, clothes, and companionship. Recently, scientists have learned how to breed robots, evolving simulated creatures in virtual worlds, or physical robots in the real world. By combining the evolutionary process with robotic engineering, more complex and novel designs should be possible compared to traditional methods. In spite of the promise, so far evolved robots only do simple things like walk, navigate, or pick up objects. What limits progress is a lack of understanding of evolvability, the capacity of organisms (or robots) to change and become more complex. Understanding evolvability is the main goal of this project: researchers will borrow ideas from modern genetics so their robots mutate and develop in ways that are similar to how biological creatures do. In theory, this could produce simple robots that evolve into ever more complex, capable and useful robots.

Understanding how complexity evolves is central to the study of life, and may enable even non-specialists to automatically and continuously produce diverse kinds of machines. By linking complexity, genetics, and evolution, this project seeks to discover new principles that can be applied in science and industry. To help convert scientific principles into innovation drivers, online software will be created to show how to evolve virtual or physical robots; this will help students learn about engineering, biology, and how to apply both to technology. Finally, evolutionary robotics can be used to solve complex problems in robotic control that defy logical programming solutions, so this research can help companies that manufacture robots.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 2.14M | Year: 2015

There is a well-documented national need for K-12 teachers with substantial content knowledge in the several STEM disciplines. In this regard, undergraduate STEM majors from liberal arts institutions are an under-tapped pool of potential STEM teachers. The Summer STEM Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates (TEU) program will provide undergraduate STEM majors from liberal arts colleges and universities with an immersive summer experience in secondary mathematics or science education. The TEU program will encourage these students to explore careers in K-12 STEM education via a high quality discipline specific pedagogy course integrated with a teaching practicum with a focus on urban education. Owing to the small size of many liberal arts institutions, a key challenge they face is how to provide their undergraduate STEM students with high quality courses and experiences that are focused on mathematics or science pedagogy. The TEU program is designed to fill this need. The mathematics TEU model has been piloted during the summers of 2013-2015 at Brown University as part of the Brown Summer High School program. Through this TEU project, the mathematics pilot will be joined by the science TEU. The project, led by faculty from Barnard College, Brown University, Bryn Mawr College, Trinity College and Vassar College will contribute to the intent of the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education-EHR effort in adding to the understanding associated with engaging STEM majors from liberal arts institutions in the K-12 enterprise.

Over five summers, a total of 120 undergraduates (24 per year) will be recruited from a national network of sixty-one liberal arts institutions to take part in the 6-7 week TEU program. Each summer twelve undergraduate students will participate in the mathematics TEU program to be held at Brown University and twelve will participate in the science TEU program to be held at Trinity College. The teaching practicum, designed and taught by the TEU participants working under the supervision of master teacher mentors, will provide a summer enrichment course to approximately 1250 local high-need urban secondary students drawn from the Providence area and from the Hartford Middle Magnet Trinity College Academy. The TEU provides participants with the option to receive credit for the 60 hour pedagogy course. TEU participants will undertake a STEM leadership project at their home institution during the following academic year. TEU project investigators will engage in design and development research to explore the extent to which the TEU model, consisting of an immersive summer experience and teacher leadership project, affects the participants preparation for teaching. Specific beneficial learner outcomes to be examined include: preservice teacher pedagogical knowledge, efficacy, effectiveness, and leadership. The research will employ a multiple-case study approach and a mixed-effects model to analyze the cumulative data. The data will include pre- and post-tests of participant knowledge of core course content, observational data, surveys and self-assessments collected from all participants, as well as semi-structured interviews and collection of artifacts of teaching from a smaller subset of TEU participants. What will be learned through the TEU model, and attendant educational research, will provide evidence for wide adoption and will contribute to the broader impacts of this project.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Molecular Biophysics | Award Amount: 535.33K | Year: 2015

This project presents an integrated research and education program to engage undergraduate students in original research on the structure, function and biosynthesis of a class of understudied lipids called headgroup-acylated glycerophospholipids (GPLs) in the bacterium Escherichia coli. Lipids are a key part of living cells and together with other macromolecules such as proteins, they form the membrane that surrounds all cells. Lipids support essential cell functions such as cell division and maintaining the membrane that surrounds and delimits the cell. The two main research objectives are: to understand the functional properties of two proteins that affect headgroup-acylated GPL levels in the cell as well as how levels of headgroup-acylated GPL are regulated in the bacterium; and the impact of changing levels of these lipids on how much the membrane can bend. This work will lay a basis for understanding the function of these minor, yet important, lipids and help, in future work, to explain the complexity of lipids in all cells. A third objective of this project is directly to engage underrepresented students in original research. An innovative program called Diving into Research brings six admitted Vassar College students to campus before the beginning of their freshman year to participate for 4 to 5 weeks in Vassars 10-week Undergraduate Research Summer Institute. By establishing strong connections with peer and faculty research mentors early on, students from underrepresented groups, including low socioeconomic and first-generation college goers, are placed on a path to success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)careers.

Throughout this project, undergraduate students will be involved in original research on the structure, function and biosynthesis of a class of understudied lipids called headgroup-acylated glycerophospholipids (GPLs) in the bacterium Escherichia coli. The biosynthesis of lipids, including low abundance lipids such as headgroup-acylated GPLs, affects essential cell functions such as cell division and maintaining cell membrane integrity. Determining the substrate specificity and enzymatic mechanism of two enzymes, PldB and At1g78690, known to impact headgroup-acylated GPL levels in E. coli, and the careful structural determination of these enzymes in vitro products, will provide valuable insights into the basis of each enzymes unique catalytic mechanisms. Students involved in this project will prepare lipid substrates and protein extracts, perform in vitro enzyme assays, purify enzymes and construct the necessary E. coli strains. In addition, they will employ modern techniques of nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry to characterize lipid structure. Understanding the impact of altering headgroup-acylated GPL levels in vivo will yield insights into how headgroup-acylated GPLs affect cell division and the maintenance of membrane integrity. Experiments designed to understand how cells regulate headgroup-acylated GPL levels and how those lipids impact membrane curvature will expose undergraduate researchers to techniques in genetics and cell biology, including mutagenesis and confocal microscopy. This work will yield insight into the biosynthesis and function of this under-investigated class of lipids related to their emerging roles in important cellular processes. This research project, which will influence the field of lipid biochemistry by helping to explain the complexity of lipids in all cells, will positively affect participating undergraduates at Vassar College by expanding their opportunity to engage in substantial research in lipid biochemistry. Every aspect of this research will directly involve undergraduate student researchers. They will present their work at scientific conferences as poster and oral presentations and publish in peer-reviewed journals, setting these students on a path to successful careers in STEM-related fields.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 289.00K | Year: 2015

With this award from the Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) and support from the Chemistry Research Instrumentation Program (CRIF), Vassar College will acquire a 400 MHz NMR spectrometer. The instrument will allow research in different areas including the synthesis of materials of potential commercial interest such as of carbon nanotubes, fullerenes and small molecules which are potential precursors to pharmaceuticals. Areas of biochemical interest such as the biosynthesis of lipids will be investigated. In general, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is one of the most powerful tools available to chemists for the elucidation of the structure of molecules. It is used to identify unknown substances, to characterize specific arrangements of atoms within molecules, and to study the dynamics of interactions between molecules in solution. Access to state-of-the-art NMR spectrometers is essential to chemists who are carrying out frontier research. This instrument will be an integral part of teaching as well as research performed by students at Vassar College, Marist College, SUNY New Platz and other undergraduate institutions in the area.

The proposal is aimed at enhancing research especially in areas such as (a) characterizing glycerophospholipid structures; (b) investigating titanium-mediated asymmetric imine alkylation; (c) charactering pyrrolidine substituted fullerenes; (d) developing biodegradable polyanhydride materials; and (e) studying C-Shaped diastereomers containing cofacial thiophene-substituted quinoxaline rings.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ECOSYSTEM STUDIES | Award Amount: 24.22K | Year: 2015

The breakdown of shed plant parts (liter) by microbes, called decomposition, is a fundamental ecological process integral to the flow of energy and cycling of nutrients in all ecosystems. Many earlier studies have described how the initial chemical makeup of litter relates to its decomposition rate. But much less is known about the later stages of decay, which are important for long-term stability of soils and ecosystems. If initial chemistry is not in fact related to long-term decomposition, as is usually assumed, then our understanding is much more limited than thought. This project takes advantage of a large set of archived litter samples collected from a wide range of ecosystems over many years. The investigators will combine existing data on litter chemistry with new analyses of these archived samples to explore more general patterns of litter chemistry throughout the entire decomposition process. This project will integrate research and education with undergraduates at the West Campus of Arizona State University that serves a very diverse community with a high percentage of first-generation college students. In addition, a decomposition module will be developed for K-12 teachers to use in Arizona middle and high school science classes. The investigators will take advantage of the multiple institutions involved to coordinate undergraduate student teaching and involvement in research, while centralized training at the University of New Hampshire will enable graduate students to learn new techniques in close collaboration. Finally, in addition to publishing results in peer-reviewed journals, a special session is proposed for a national meeting to engage a larger group of scientists in discussions of this important topic.

This project will determine whether diverse plant litter types maintain their initial chemical differences throughout decay, remaining chemically unique as often assumed, or if decomposing litter follows different chemical trajectories to either converge or diverge over the course of decomposition. Further, this study will determine how these patterns relate to decay rate and identify the local environmental drivers, including climate and decomposer communities, that may influence the patterns and temporal variability in litter chemistry during decomposition. The results of this project will help determine whether the suite of litter chemical characteristics known to influence decomposition follow consistent patterns throughout decay across a range of terrestrial ecosystems that includes forests, deserts and agricultural fields. It will help settle the issue of whether or not initial litter chemistry is the main determinant of decay rates. The project will also document and explain differences resulting from the many analytical methods currently used that should be taken into account in future studies. By leveraging existing data and a large set of archived litter samples, the new resources needed to achieve these objectives are greatly reduced.

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