Wellesley, MA, United States
Wellesley, MA, United States

Wellesley College is a private women's liberal-arts college in the town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, United States, west of Boston. Founded in 1870, Wellesley is a member of the original Seven Sisters Colleges and is consistently ranked among the top five liberal arts colleges in the United States. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 79.66K | Year: 2016

STEM education provides both technical training and the development of cognitive skills, such as designing experiments, testing hypotheses, and analyzing data. While traditional STEM training is essential for developing a highly skilled technical workforce, the cognitive skills developed through this training are beneficial in almost every type of career. To provide cognitive skills training to undergraduates in psychology, who typically do not receive this type of education, this project will develop a computer program, named TELLab, that allows psychology students to design experiments and gather data using the internet. Using this program, students will have the opportunity to experience first hand the challenges of doing science, learning skills and concepts, and most importantly, formulating and solving problems of personal interest to them.

To this end, the proposal has three broadly defined goals: (1) Up-scaling and maturation of TELLab, so that it can handle hundreds of thousands of users, in countless numbers of classrooms, with students at all levels - all at the same time, (2) evaluation of TELLlab-based pedagogy in diverse settings, including evaluating STEM competencies in non-STEM students, particularly those in undergraduate psychology classes, and (3) advancing the effort to create an open source community of faculty and students across the nation to develop and sustain collective expertise. Through a collaborative partnership across a variety of institutions, TELLab modules will be developed and deployed in a variety of psychology courses. These modules will allow students to design experiments and test hypotheses, providing immersion in the cognitive skills that are at the core of STEM education. Course instructors and participating students will be evaluated to identify and assess the factors that influence student experiences and learning.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Chem Struct,Dynmcs&Mechansms A | Award Amount: 290.00K | Year: 2015

With with award, the Chemical Structure, Dynamics, and Mechanisms (CSDM-A) Program of the Division of Chemistry is funding Professor Christopher Arumainayagam at Wellesley College to study chemical reactions that are driven by interactions with light and/or electrons. Dr. Arumainayagam has devised probes to study the composition of nanoscale thin films under ultrahigh vacuum conditions before and after irradiation by low-energy electrons or photons. These probes enable his team to observe and characterize the subtle but important chemical changes induced by irradiation. This important category of chemical reactions impacts low-temperature plasmas used in industrially important processes such as plasma etching; use of low-energy electrons instead of photons for highly selective bond dissociations; identification of tracer molecules associated with specific pathways for interstellar synthesis of complex organic molecules (COM); and the relative roles of electrons and photons in atmospheric processes. Involvement of women and minority undergraduate students in this research is planned to promote diversification of the STEM workforce.

The work specifically seeks to assess the differences and similarities between reactions initiated by low-energy (< 8 eV) electrons and photons. Target systems include condensed-phase ammonia, water and methanol, each of which is investigated using post-irradiation temperature programmed desorption, post-irradiation infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy, and isothermal electron/photon-stimulated desorption. Electrons/photons with sub-ionization energies are used to avoid production of low-energy secondary electrons, thereby ensuring that fundamental differences between electron and photon irradiation are probed. Among the objectives of the research are: (i) to measure the effective cross-section for electron/photon-induced reaction and desorption, and to identify all of the electron/photon-induced reaction products; (ii) to study the dependence of the reaction cross-sections and yields on electron/photon fluence, incident electron/photon energy, and film thickness; and (iii) to determine if the products identified by post-irradiation temperature-programmed desorption are nascent radiolysis products. The studies are designed to establish whether electron-induced condensed phase reactions generate unique molecular species; and whether electrons are more effective than photons for initiating specific condensed phase reactions.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: COMPUTING RES INFRASTRUCTURE | Award Amount: 479.63K | Year: 2015

This project aims to create an innovative interactive visualization facility at Wellesley College. The facility consists of combined large-scale horizontal and vertical interactive surfaces, which support touch, pen, and tangible interaction.

Plans for using the facility for research and teaching activities include Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research on novel interaction techniques for large-scale interactive surfaces, social media analytics, visual programming, learning analytics for intelligent learning interfaces, and visualization of biological, neuroscience, and chemistry information. In particular, the facility will enable research on: 1) novel interaction techniques for large-scale multi-surface environments; 2) new interactive visualizations for various domains including journalism, genomics, neuroscience, chemistry, and learning analytics; 3) understanding of how large-scale multi-surface environments impact collaborative learning of complex concepts; and 4) design guidelines and best-practices for large-scale multi-surface interactive visualizations for collaborative exploration.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 555.00K | Year: 2015

This award from the Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) as well as additional support from the Chemistry Research Instrumentation (CRIF) and the Chemical Synthesis (SYN) Programs funds the acquisition of a 500 MHz NMR spectrometer by Wellesley College. 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 or in the solid state. Access to state-of-the-art NMR spectrometers is essential to chemists who are carrying out modern research. This instrument is used in research on small organic molecules with potential anti-cancer and anti-tubercular properties, mutation of DNA oligonucleotides, and modified nanoparticles for imaging and medicinal usages. This spectrometer is also an integral component in training female undergraduate students. It is used by the students in courses and in their research projects.

The proposal is aimed at enhancing research and education at all levels, especially in areas such as: (a) measuring equilibrium constants for base pair opening in DNA duplexes containing an abasic site lesion; (b) characterizing functionalization and magnetic properties of multipurpose nanoparticles; (c) determining the structure of novel coumarin derivatives with anti-tumor properties; (d) characterizing diverse pyrazolines as potential antitubercular agents; (e) synthesizing photoreactive small molecules to aid in the understanding of a GCPR transmembrane protein structure; and (f) using NOE methods to characterize the regiochemistry of N-substituted pyrazoles.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MACROSYSTEM BIOLOGY | Award Amount: 133.53K | Year: 2017

Abstract: MSB-ECA: A generalized framework for modeling the impacts of forest insects and pathogens in the Earth System

Forest insects and pathogens are global agents of ecosystem disturbance. In the United States, tree stress and mortality from insects and pathogens creates billions of dollars in costs for U.S. municipalities and individual property owners. The interactions between insects and pathogens and other disturbances, such as climate change, are highly uncertain, but in many cases climate change is expected to increase insect and pathogen activity. This project will develop a framework to simulate and forecast the impacts of forest insects and pathogens through a generalized method that accurately captures the large diversity of their impacts. This framework will be used to simulate the potential impacts of insect and pathogen outbreaks in forests across the continental U.S. and to investigate the specific impacts of two invasive insects ? gypsy moth and hemlock woolly adelgid ? in the eastern U.S. A key benefit of this research is that it will improve the ability to simulate future impacts of insects and pathogens on forests in combination with other disturbances like drought, heat waves, and extreme rainfall events. This research will also increase the diversity of the U.S. STEM workforce by training undergraduate women in cutting-edge quantitative methods.

Future feedbacks between forest insects and pathogens, forests, and climate change are not well understood at regional to continental spatial scales, due in part to the absence of the processes controlled by insects and pathogens within Earth System models. This research proposes a generalized framework in which impacts of insects and pathogens on plant physiology are scaled up to ecosystem-level processes that can be integrated into Earth System models. With this framework, this research tests three hypotheses regarding the response of forests to insects and pathogens: 1) at low intensities, insects and pathogens increase tree diversity, increase forest carbon storage, and increase water cycling, but at high intensities insects and pathogens create large-scale mortality; 2) the ability of insects and pathogens to impact a wide range of host species will be less likely to shift forest tree species composition but more likely to impact carbon and water cycling; 3) insects and pathogens that create a continuous stress, rather than periodic irruptions, are more likely to initiate impacts that are amplified by climate change. These hypotheses will be tested with theoretical modeling experiments across the continuous U.S. and with a second set of modeling experiments focused on two invasive insects in the eastern U.S.: 1) periodic irruption of the generalist, defoliating gypsy moth, and 2) slow and continuous stress from the species-specific, phloem-feeding hemlock woolly adelgid. Rather than modeling insects and pathogens as direct agents of mortality, this framework will more accurately simulate changes in individual host tree physiology and resulting changes in ecosystem processes. To facilitate the incorporation of this framework into other Earth System models, this research will develop two open-source training modules. The proposed research will also help to develop a diverse and competitive STEM workforce by training undergraduate women in research that uses advanced computational methods and develops skills in scientific communication.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CHEMICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 149.96K | Year: 2016

An exact description of gas exchange between the atmosphere and the ocean is not fully developed, yet it is a critical process for understanding climate change and ecosystem dynamics. This is particularly problematic when evaluating the important role of bubbles in air-sea gas exchange, especially in remote ocean locations where high winds and waves make direct measurements extremely difficult. This project seeks to provide needed fundamental, high wind/wave gas-exchange measurements by using a large, state-of-the-art, wind-wave tank. Here the PIs can apply their novel measurements of noble gases (neon, argon, krypton, and xenon) to calculate overall gas fluxes under precisely controlled conditions. This tank setting allows a systematic approach to define the physical and chemical parameters (temperature, salinity, pH, wind speed, turbulence, bubble size distribution, etc.) required to construct more accurate models without the great uncertainties inherent in making similar measurements from a ship in storm conditions. A significant outcome of this study, beyond improved understanding of air-sea gas exchange, could be greatly improved estimates of the critical ecological balance between photosynthesis and respiration. Current methods use carbon dioxide and oxygen dissolved in seawater as an indication of biological activity, but cannot distinguish between biological processes and atmospheric exchange, and estimates are especially inaccurate under high wind and wave conditions with strong bubble injection. This study will improve our ability to separate biological and physical processes in evaluation of dissolved gasses in seawater.

Also, this project will provide 15 female undergraduate students at Wellesley College with an exciting, on-site research experience using a state-of-the-art tank facility at the University of Miami, and results will be incorporated into general and advanced chemistry classes. The production of student-created, short format videos, and other public outreach activities will also be supported to disseminate information on the importance of marine gas exchange.

The study of gas exchange processes between the ocean and the atmosphere has been hindered by the lack of data required to define quantitative relationships that account for bubble processes under a variety of wind, wave, and temperature conditions. Current gas exchange models tend to be highly unreliable in their parameterization of bubble processes. In large part, this is due to the difficulty of making traditional measurements at sea in remote locations within well-defined conditions, especially with high winds and waves. By using the large SUSTAIN wind-wave tank (23 m x 6 m x 2 m), the researchers in this project plan to greatly advance our understanding of the effect of wind, wave, and temperature variability on gas transfer. The use of a recently developed, field-portable equilibrator mass spectrometer that allows nearly continuous measurements of noble gas ratios (Ne, Ar, Kr, and Xe) will result in these SUSTAIN tank experiments providing precisely characterized gas flux data under varying wind speeds from 10 to 40 m/s. In addition, an underwater shadowgraph system will image bubbles, allowing the researchers to quantify bubble size distributions, a key factor missing from bubble models. Current models use a greatly simplified, two size-class representation of bubbles; an approach that this research will re-evaluate in hopes of creating better parameterizations of the role of bubble size on gas flux, and consequently improved air-sea gas exchange models for oceanic and climatic applications.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Cyber-Human Systems (CHS) | Award Amount: 156.60K | Year: 2016

Recent research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) generated a broad range of interaction styles that move beyond the desktop into new physical and social contexts. These emerging interaction styles, that are often referred to as Reality-based Interfaces (RBIs), leverage users developmental abilities such as naive physics, spatial, social and motor skills, and offer concrete ways to think about abstract phenomena. Building on this work and motivated by the need of our nation to further engage children in STEM, this research investigates how to design age-appropriate reality-based interfaces that engage young children in scientific investigations, bio-design, and engineering. The project entails the development of novel human-computer interfaces that encourage children to explore and design within the domain of biological engineering, while facilitating learning of abstract concepts in a concrete way. This approach intends to promote a re-examination of the early childhood STEM curriculum to include emerging and interdisciplinary topics.

The project scope includes the design, implementation, and evaluation of RBIs for young children that support collaborative exploration of biological engineering. The research questions investigated focus on how reality-based interaction techniques can be applied to make the invisible tangible. Specifically, how to design novel interaction techniques that bridge the time and size scales of biology? How to design and implement interfaces that supports collaboration within both pairs and larger groups by integrating computational devices of different scales? How to support seamless transition between macroscopic and microscopic levels of information and across multiple devices? And finally, can RBIs allow young children to grasp abstract concepts that were previously considered too complex for their age and developmental stage? The outcomes of this project contribute to four areas of research: 1) tangible and embodied interaction, 2) computer supported collaborative learning, 3) interaction design for children, and 4) early childhood education in STEM.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 266.20K | Year: 2015

An award is made to Wellesley College for the acquisition of an atomic force microscope integrated with a fluorescence microscope to enhance the educational and research experience of undergraduate microbiologists, biochemists, cell biologists, analytical chemists, and materials scientists. Wellesley College is an undergraduate college for women whose mission is to provide an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. As a liberal arts college, Wellesley focuses on educating a culturally diverse group of young women to be articulate, critical, and well-rounded thinkers and citizens. Roughly a third of students major in a scientific discipline, where they are involved in a rich, inquiry-based laboratory curriculum and independent research with faculty. Encouraged by their laboratory experience, many of them go on to careers in STEM fields. In the most recent NSF survey, Wellesley ranked first among all liberal arts colleges in generating female Ph.D.s in math and science between 2008 and 2012 (199 Ph.D.s). In addition to supporting undergraduate education through research, this instrument will encourage collaboration between biological and physical scientists and between the Wellesley and Olin College communities, as they combine their disciplinary experience to investigate new questions or to take a new look at stubborn old questions.

This research-grade integrated AFM-fluorescence microscope will enable students and faculty to sensitively measure very small and dynamic processes in several research areas. The Núñez lab (Chemistry), Klepac-Ceraj lab (Biological Sciences), and Huang lab (Olin College of Engineering) will explore the structure and dynamics of bacterial communities from diverse systems including predatory soil bacteria, oral biofilms, and green photosynthetic freshwater bacteria. Students in the Darling lab (Biological Sciences) will examine protein-protein interactions between cardiac cells. Young investigators in the Flynn lab (Chemistry) will determine the temporal dynamics of metal nanoparticle films at the nanometer scale. The Goss lab (Biological Sciences) will study exocytosis by the fission yeast S. pombe. Furthermore, undergraduate biology, chemistry, physics, and neuroscience students will use this instrument to discover the utility and limitations of fluorescence and scanning probe microscopies in their coursework, and they will measure nanoscale features and physical properties of polymers, optical components, and alloys in Olin Colleges materials science program.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Molecular Biophysics | Award Amount: 247.63K | Year: 2016

In recent years, sophisticated computer modeling has enabled scientists to understand and address challenging problems in materials science, engineering, environmental science, and other fields. In order for a computational model to be effective, it must be accurate and efficient. In this project, the research team will evaluate, improve upon, and apply computational models used to study molecular interactions in biological environments. Specifically, they will focus on computational models used to study how interactions between biological molecules are affected by the physical nature of other molecules in their immediate environment. It has been shown that cells are highly crowded environments, and the nature of this crowding can significantly affect how crucial molecules interact with each other. A robust way to model such environments will allow for better predictions of cellular processes, which can have important impacts on societys collective understanding of biological systems and its ability to develop solutions when things go wrong in such systems. This research will be conducted at Wellesley College, an all-female undergraduate institution, catalyzing womens contribution to computational science, a discipline in which women have long been very underrepresented. The research team will also conduct outreach activities at a local diverse high school, introducing youth to the field of computational modeling of biological systems. The activities developed as part of this collaborative, outreach effort will be made available online to help excite students across the country about using computers and physical science to address real-world issues in biology.

In more technical terms, the goal of the project is to study how macromolecular crowding within the cell affects electrostatic interactions and molecular recognition between biomolecules via a controlled set of computational models that are informed through experimental data. Through computation, the team will first study systems in which the interacting biomolecules and macromolecular crowders are virtual, whose physical properties can be exhaustively and systematically sampled, in order to understand how molecular and crowding agent properties such as shape, size, and charge distribution can affect interaction energies. They will use multiple computational models, including ones that treat the solvent implicitly and explicitly, in order to assess the extent to which the method used to model the system affects the predictions made. The team will also simulate experimentally realizable biological systems, including DNA-protein and protein-protein complexes within crowded environments. Through a tight cycle of comparing simulation predictions with experimental outcomes, they will assess and improve computational models of crowded biological environments. Finally, the team will assess whether macromolecular crowding can affect the outcome of a molecular design application. Through computationally designing molecules meant to bind with specificity to a partner in either a crowded or uncrowded environment and experimentally testing those designs, they will determine whether accounting for macromolecular crowding in the design process is necessary for ensuring the desired binding properties of the designed molecule. As a whole, this project will increase our understanding of how biological environments can crucially affect biomolecular recognition.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SCIENCE OF SCIENCE POLICY | Award Amount: 402.74K | Year: 2015

High-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs contribute to U.S. economy by starting companies that create jobs and promote innovation. Much of our current understanding of the contribution of highly skilled entrepreneurs is based on popular accounts as available data sources do not allow for the identification of entrepreneurial firms in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. To provide empirical evidence this project will create new databases and new methods that will define high-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs in a systematic and rigorous manner. The project will then examine the choices faced by immigrants when deciding to start a new firm versus the decision to be employed by a larger corporation. Beyond the decision to start a firm the project will examine potential constraints that limit the growth and expansion of firms started by high-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs when compared to similar firms. The project contributes an understanding of the contribution of new firms started by highly skilled immigrants to the pace and direction of U.S. innovation and employment growth and makes suggestions to address policies that constrain the growth of these firms.

The project creates a longitudinal data platform to answer specific questions both at the person- and firm-level using micro-data on individuals and firms, including the Longitudinal Employer ? Household Dynamics (LEHD), Longitudinal Business Database (LBD), the Decennial Censuses and the American Community Surveys (ACS). The work covers a long time horizon (1991-2011), containing the most recent recession and initial recovery period. The specific research questions the project addresses include, the trends in the number, size, location and type of firms founded by immigrants; the number and quality of jobs created by those firms; the pathways leading immigrants into entrepreneurship; and, innovation patterns in the new start-ups. The LEHD based measures of immigrant entrepreneurs constructed under this project provide the basis for future research on this topic.

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