Salt Lake City, UT, United States
Salt Lake City, UT, United States

Westminster College is a private liberal arts college located in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. The college comprises four schools: the School of Arts and science, the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business, the School of Education, and the School of Nursing and Health science. It is the only accredited liberal arts college in the state of Utah. Wikipedia.

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Shepherd T.D.,Westminster College, Utah | Shepherd T.D.,University of Utah | Koc M.A.,Westminster College, Utah | Molinero V.,University of Utah
Journal of Physical Chemistry C | Year: 2012

A premelted layer of water wets the surface of ice at temperatures below the melting temperature. Experiments suggest that this quasi-liquid layer may play an important role in the nucleation of clathrate hydrates from ice. Nevertheless, the structure of the quasi-liquid layer of ice in the presence of methane or other clathrate-forming gases has not yet been elucidated. In this work, we perform large-scale molecular dynamic simulations with a coarse-grained molecular model to investigate the properties of the quasi-liquid layer of ice in the presence of methane gas under pressure. We characterize the structure and thickness of the ice/methane and ice/vacuum interfaces, and the solubility of methane in the premelted layer as a function of temperature. We find that the width of the quasi-liquid layer fluctuates between 5 and 45 Å in the presence of a methane-like solute at temperatures within 1 K of the melting point. The width of the quasi-liquid layer of ice at temperatures lower than 270 K is less than the diameter of a water dodecahedron, the smallest cage that constitutes the clathrates. The simulations indicate that, when the premelting layer is wider than 10 Å, the structure of water and solubility of methane in the center of the quasi-liquid layer are the same as in bulk liquid water at the same temperature. These results are relevant for understanding the mechanism of formation of methane hydrate clathrates from ice. © 2012 American Chemical Society.


Stracey C.M.,University of Florida | Stracey C.M.,Westminster College, Utah | Robinson S.K.,University of Florida
Journal of Avian Biology | Year: 2012

The northern mockingbird Mimus polyglottos is a native species that is more abundant in urban than non-urban habitats (i.e. an urban-positive species). Abundance alone, however, is not an accurate index of habitat quality because urban habitats could represent ecological traps (attractive sink habitat) for urban-positive species. We compared mockingbird nesting productivity, apparent survival, and decision rules governing site fidelity in urban and rural habitats. If the higher abundance of mockingbirds in urban habitats is driven by higher quality urban habitat, then we predicted that productivity of urban mockingbirds would exceed the estimated source-sink threshold and productivity of non-urban mockingbirds. If, on the other hand, urban habitats act as ecological traps, productivity would be lower in urban habitats and would fall below the estimated source-sink threshold. Productivity of urban pairs exceeded that of non-urban pairs and more than offset estimated adult mortality, which makes urban habitat a likely source habitat. Apparent adult survival was higher in urban habitats than in non-urban habitats, although this could be driven by dispersal more than mortality. Decision rules also appeared to differ between urban and non-urban populations. Females in urban habitats with successful nests were more likely to return than those with unsuccessful nests, whereas return rates of females in nonurban habitats were unrelated to nesting success and may be more related to nesting habitat availability. We conclude that urban habitats do not act as ecological traps that lure mockingbirds into sink habitat and that increased breeding productivity contributes to their success in urban habitats. © 2012 The Authors. Journal of Avian Biology © 2012 Nordic Society Oikos.


Dunham S.J.B.,Westminster College, Utah | Hooker P.D.,Westminster College, Utah | Hyde R.M.,Westminster College, Utah
Forensic Science International | Year: 2012

In this work, methods for the rapid identification, extraction, and quantification of the synthetic cannabinoid, JWH-018, from commercially available "Spice" (a herbal marijuana alternative) are presented. JWH-018 was identified in three different products using time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometry coupled with a direct analysis in real time (DART) ionization source, a process that was completed in less then five minutes and required no sample preparation. Extraction of the JWH-018 from the spice samples using an automated accelerated solvent extraction (ASE) instrument provided clean extracts with few plant pigments. Subsequent quantification by isocratic HPLC produced the following results (mg JWH-018/g plant material): Weekend Warrior brand "Hash": 90 (±3%). mg/g, Weekend Warrior brand "Leaf": 29 (±6%). mg/g, TrainWreck Hayze brand: 28 (±4%). mg/g. Vegetative samples spiked with JWH-018 gave a recovery of 97% (±1%). © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.


Son J.-H.,University of Utah | Latimer C.,Westminster College, Utah | Keefe K.A.,University of Utah
Neuropsychopharmacology | Year: 2011

Methamphetamine (METH) induces neurotoxic changes, including partial striatal dopamine depletions, which are thought to contribute to cognitive dysfunction in rodents and humans. The dorsal striatum is implicated in action-outcome (A-O) and stimulus-response (S-R) associations underlying instrumental learning. Thus, the present study examined the long-term consequences of METH-induced neurotoxicity on A-O and S-R associations underlying appetitive instrumental behavior. Rats were pretreated with saline or a neurotoxic regimen of METH (4 × 7.5-10 mg/kg). Rats trained on random ratio (RR) or random interval (RI) schedules of reinforcement were then subjected to outcome devaluation or contingency degradation, followed by an extinction test. All rats then were killed, and brains removed for determination of striatal dopamine loss. The results show that: (1) METH pretreatment induced a partial 45-50% decrease in striatal dopamine tissue content in dorsomedial and dorsolateral striatum; (2) METH-induced neurotoxicity did not alter acquisition of instrumental behavior on either RR or RI schedules; (3) outcome devaluation and contingency degradation similarly decreased responding in saline- and METH-pretreated rats trained on the RR schedule, suggesting intact A-O associations guiding behavior; (4) outcome devaluation after training on the RI schedule decreased extinction responding only in METH-pretreated rats, suggesting impaired S-R associations. Overall, these data suggest that METH-induced neurotoxicity, possibly due to impairment of the function of dorsolateral striatal circuitry, may decrease cognitive flexibility by impairing the ability to automatize behavioral patterns. © 2011 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. All rights reserved.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 605.91K | Year: 2016

Westminster College of Salt Lake City will implement a scholarship and support program for students majoring in Computer Science, Physics, and Mathematics (CSPM). The program will support 18 students for a period of 4 years. Applicant recruiting will be broad, but seek to encourage first-generation college students, female students, and students from racial and ethnic backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented minorities in CSPM majors. The proportion of these students in CSPM is less than that at Westminster College as a whole. One substantial barrier to increasing these numbers is the financial burden of attending college and often a students financial need is beyond their financial aid package offer. This scholarship program will ease that burden and increase the graduation rate in these majors that are vital for our nations economic competitiveness.

This project will fund a total of 18 students with two six-student cohorts beginning in their first year, as well as two cohorts of three students each beginning in their sophomore year. Scholars will be selected from the applicants to Westminster College who have indicated an interest in one of the CSPM fields, have financial need, have an ACT score of at least 24, and a high school GPA of at least 3.5. Applicants for awards as sophomores should have at least a 3.0 GPA in their first semester of college. The main support and cohort-building structure consists of a culturally sensitive seminar course taken by students during their first two semesters at Westminster College. The seminar class will be based on best practices for educating first generation, female, and other underrepresented students to be culturally sensitive. The seminar will increase cohesion among cohorts, provide ample opportunities for advising and mentoring, and demonstrate socially relevant applications of CSPM disciplines. It will address college resources, study skills, opportunities such as student research and internships, as well as career and graduate school information and support. Starting in the second year, there will be monthly meetings to support these students through active advising, mentoring, and professional opportunities. All Westminster S-STEM Scholars will be matched with faculty, peer, and alumni mentors who will be invited to the monthly luncheons. Their academic progress will be closely monitored using detailed midterm reports already in place at Westminster. Any potential issues will be addressed with multi-faceted support, including one-on-one private tutoring at no cost to the student. With its 9:1 student to faculty ratio, faculty focused on teaching, an extensive support network for struggling students, research and other opportunities for strong students, Westminster College is well-positioned to provide support to S-STEM scholars. Westminster has had demonstrated success in serving female students, with graduating percentages meeting the national average for computer science and exceeding for physics and mathematics and the student population has been increasing in diversity for the last ten years, The cultural seminar will serve as a model course for other disciplines at Westminster and for other colleges. The lessons learned in this seminar will continue to serve CSPM students beyond the life of this project. The project will also be able to explore the impact of increased monitoring and mentoring of students, and if successful these interventions can be implemented for all STEM students. Project personnel will share the seminar design and results from the project as a whole at national and regional conferences.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SPECIAL PROJECTS - CISE | Award Amount: 821.95K | Year: 2013

Westminster College of Salt Lake City, in partnership with Brigham Young University, proposes to create a new one-semester course modeled on the LAUSD Exploring Computer Science curriculum. The vast majority of Utah high school students do not have the opportunity to learn about computing beyond a required computer literacy course. This project seeks to provide all students in Utah public schools with an alternative to this existing computer literacy course. The Utah Exploring Computer Science Initiative will adapt the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum into a half-year course that meets the computer literacy high school graduation requirement for the state of Utah. Over three years, the project will prepare and support 100 teachers with summer professional development workshops, monthly meetings held during the academic year, a mentoring program, and a supportive online community. The proposed project will better prepare students with more advanced 21st century computing skills and will increase student, parent and counselor awareness of computing. It is anticipated that the ECS course will improve student perception of computing as a discipline, leading to increased student interest in additional CS courses, which will in turn drive demand for more rigorous course offerings, such as AP CS A or the proposed, new AP Computer Principles course. The project goal is to have the majority of Utah students taking the ECS course to fulfill their computer literacy high school graduation requirement within 5 years.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: GEOBIOLOGY & LOW TEMP GEOCHEM | Award Amount: 99.89K | Year: 2016

The Great Salt Lake in Utah is a major stop over for millions of migratory birds each year. These birds feed on brine shrimp and brine flies that live in the Lake, putting them at risk of mercury toxicity due to the very high concentrations of methylmercury in the Great Salt Lake. Methylmercury is one form of the toxic heavy metal mercury, and it is the only form that is readily accumulated to increasing concentrations moving up the food chain. It is currently unknown why the Great Salt Lake has some of the highest methylmercury concentrations ever measured in a natural water body. The goal of this research is to determine the primary locations of methylmercury production in the Great Salt Lake. Such information could help scientists and government regulators to develop ways to decrease mercury exposure to humans and animals at the Great Salt Lake. This research will support multiple students from backgrounds underrepresented in the geosciences, in particular multiple women. This project will also support the development of new science curriculum by teachers at both the high school and university levels.

The hypersaline Great Salt Lake (GSL) is a major stop over for millions of migratory birds each year. It is also home to some of the highest concentrations of methylmercury (MeHg) ever reported for a natural water body. The highest concentrations of MeHg are found in the South Arms anoxic deep brine layer, which is created by the flow of denser, more saline water from the North Arm into the South Arm. While the high levels of MeHg throughout this ecosystem have been well documented, the primary source of MeHg and the underlying reasons for the exceptionally elevated concentrations of MeHg here are not known. The closure of two culverts in the causeway separating the North Arm and South Arm of the GSL has resulted in the recent disappearance of the deep brine layer, while the completion of a new bridge on the causeway in the second half of 2016 is expected to lead in the redevelopment of the deep brine layer in the South Arm. This unique and transient event provides the conditions for an unintended regional-scale natural experiment and opportunity to track the possible sources of MeHg (either the anoxic deep brine layer or sediment underlying this layer). The investigators will use a multifaceted approach to test these hypotheses, including the measurement of MeHg concentrations, Hg methylation and demethylation rates, and naturally occurring stable Hg isotope ratios in water and sediment collected before, during, and after the reestablishment of the deep brine layer.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 245.31K | Year: 2014

This award funds the acquisition of geochemical instrumentation that will be used by faculty members across four departments (chemistry, biology, geology, environmental science) at Westminster College to substantially expand undergraduate opportunities to conduct novel research on topics that are currently beyond in-house instrumental capabilities. This research will be highly interdisciplinary, collaborative, integrate research with education, and involve the biogeochemical cycling of elements in natural systems, including the Great Salt Lake. The researchers will develop new curriculum and lab activities around the new instrument in multiple courses that will provide students with hands-on experience in the use of modern instruments and mass spectrometry. These unique labs will use real world applications to infuse education with the excitement of discovery and move students beyond simply following a list of protocols to measure metal concentrations, and will focus on interdisciplinary approaches and the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills. The instrumentation will improve the researchers ability to use project-based learning for training in courses across multiple disciplines, create new opportunities for research collaborations and cooperation on interdisciplinary research with partners at other educational, public, and private institutions in the region that lack this instrumentation, provide one of the cornerstones and core facilities of a new geology department at Westminster, and support and expand outreach that promotes science and environmental education of K-12 students and actively links researchers with public outreach. Some of these effective and proven activities at Westminster are coordinated through the Great Salt Lake Institute, which facilitates collaborations between undergraduate researchers and faculty at Westminster with several K-12 schools and their teachers and students to conduct research projects that involve the Great Salt Lake. With these outreach activities, this instrumentation will support ongoing efforts to improve student retention in STEM disciplines, especially women and students from diverse backgrounds. Among others, the McNair Scholars program, a federally funded effort to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups who go on to graduate school and will increasingly recruit and target students in STEM disciplines. The new instrument will enrich their classroom experience by introducing more inquiry-based labs and incorporating research as a learning tool early in the curriculum. The instrumentation will also expand undergraduate research opportunities for these students outside the classroom to further integrate research into their education and training.
Specifically, this award funds the acquisition of a quadrupole inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) for simultaneously measuring concentrations of a wide range of trace metals and other elements at the parts per billion and parts per trillion levels typically required for environmental research. A hydride generator sample introduction system that couples directly to the ICP-MS will allow for the analysis of the elements Selenium, Arsenic, Tin, and Mercury in high salinity matrices, such as in the Great Salt Lake, which is the focus of research by multiple faculty and their students at Westminster.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 1.98M | Year: 2017

The significance of the proposed project is that it will establish the value of Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) as an approach to teaching computer science. The POGIL approach has been shown in other STEM disciplines to increase student learning and retention, particularly for students from underrepresented populations, including females and minorities. There has not yet been a concerted effort to teach computer science using the POGIL approach. The creation of a computer science POGIL community, which is a fundamental aspect of this proposal, is a necessary step to providing an evaluation of the effectiveness of POGIL in computer science education. Broader and more effective use of strategies such as POGIL will improve the quality, quantity, and diversity of students who complete STEM programs.

The main goal of this project is to study factors that most influence faculty to adopt POGIL in introductory computer science courses and how the degree of POGIL implementation impacts student learning and engagement. A secondary goal is to make it significantly easier for computer science faculty to adopt POGIL, by disseminating high quality instructional resources and enhancing current professional development practices. The project theory of action is that enhanced instructor support will improve faculty adoption of and persistence with POGIL, which in turn will improve student outcomes. To assess the impact of these and other factors, the project will collect and analyze multi-institutional data including surveys, interviews, and student learning outcomes.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: PETROLOGY AND GEOCHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 107.64K | Year: 2015

Yellowstone National Park and vicinity is home to three volcanic super-eruptions within the last two million years. Between super-eruptions, smaller effusions of compositionally similar lavas have erupted onto the surface, however the relationship between the timing of magma production for precursory and super-eruptions is unknown. This project seeks to test the contrasting hypotheses that Yellowstone super-eruptions are the culmination of gradual accumulation of magma that is periodically tapped by precursory eruptions, or alternatively, super-eruptions are the result of independent episodes of rapid magma production without connection to the smaller pre-cursor eruptions. This research bears on our understanding of how quickly large super-eruption volumes of magma may be generated and reside under active volcanic calderas, with implications for the assessment of eruption recurrence and volcanic hazards.

To assess the potential connections between super-eruptions and smaller lava effusions, the morphological, chemical, thermometric, isotopic, and age characteristics for small volume rhyolitic lavas that erupted between the 2.1 and 1.3 million year old super-eruptions will be used to establish the timescales and processes by which magmas are generated and evolve. These processes include partial melting of earlier-formed volcanic products and associated crystal recycling, magma crystallization and differentiation, as well as mixing and hybridization with mantle-derived basalts; the relative importance of each process is best explored through the crystal cargos of each eruption. Specifically, the minerals zircon and sanidine will be extracted from the lavas and analyzed by various state-of-the-art methods to assess the contribution of small volume magma batches to the super-eruption. Dating the intermittent eruptions will provide a framework for the recurrence interval of Yellowstone volcanism and bear upon the question of lifespans of eruptable magmas. This award will allow three undergraduate students from Westminster College (Utah) to participate in field and lab based research over three years, and promote knowledge and technology transfer between this undergraduate-only liberal arts college and the Isotope Geochronology Laboratory at Boise State University (Idaho). The collaborative model will allow students to interact with graduate students and laboratory technicians at Boise State University, and conduct hands-on research with instrumentation not available at Westminster College. Students will participate in data processing, interpretation, and presentation at local and national conferences; results from this study will be included in undergraduate courses at Westminster College, and displayed as interpretive materials on public lands near the eruption sites.

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