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The O'Shea Report: September 2002

At every monthly faculty meeting during the school year, Dean of Faculty Donal O'Shea presents brief overviews of recent publications and other achievements by the Mount Holyoke faculty. Here are excerpts from his report for September 2002.

Asoka Bandarage, associate professor of women's studies, received a Ford Fellowship for about $30,000 in the 2002-03 academic year for her project Broadening the Prospects for Peace in Sri Lanka. The fellowship will allow her to complete her book on conflict resolution in Sri Lanka. She will be based at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies.

Wei Chen, Mary E. Woolley Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has received National Institutes of Health AREA funding for her project "Improvement of the Biocompatibility of PET Implants." She will receive $136,440 over the three-year period June 2002 to May 2005. The grant is administered through the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and will allow Wei and her students to use their work in surface chemistry to design materials for organ and tissue replacement to which proteins do not adsorb and cells do not adhere. They are going to try to design new implants by a new strategy of chemically bonding some new classes of molecules to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) surfaces. This is the second AREA grant we have been awarded this year (Sarah Bacon, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, received the other) and brings to five the actual number of AREA grants currently active. A new record! Wei also received a $5,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research to support organization of a symposium on "Adsorption of Macromolecules at Solid/Liquid Interfaces" at the American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans, March 2003. The reason the Navy is supporting this is that antifouling hull coatings are of great importance to naval interests.

Professors of dance Jim Coleman and Terese Freedman were joint recipients of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Choreography Fellowship of $12,500 this year. These are hugely competitive–there were three awarded and 59 applicants. The fellowship recognizes exceptional work and supports further artistic development and continued creative work. Among Jim and Terese's ongoing projects is one with families in the region–they are currently making plans to take this project, a concert of works by regional artists involving parents performing with their children, on tour to Boston and New York City. They are also preparing a new piece of choreography, a duet, to be premiered later this fall.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $226,560 to Steven Dunn, associate professor of geology; Amy Frary, assistant professor of biological sciences; Craig Woodard, associate professor of biological sciences; Darby Dyar, associate professor of astronomy and geology; and Wei Chen, Mary E. Woolley Assistant Professor of Chemistry, under the Major Research Instrumentation Program: Instrument Development and Acquisition for "Acquisition of a Scanning Electron Microscope" for the period August 2002 to July 2004. This grant will allow the College to acquire a new environmental scanning electron microscope with a low-vacuum sample chamber and energy-dispersive spectrometer. This state-of-the-art machine will replace our existing scanning electron microscope (which is now 17 years old). Scanning electron microscopes allow high resolution studies of texture and composition of both organic and inorganic materials. The older machines required rather complicated preparation of specimens (that sometimes destroyed what you were trying to observe). The new machine will allow faculty and students to examine both hydrated and uncoated samples, something that the old one couldn’t do. A key factor in the receipt of the grant was the quality of the research that the faculty involved are currently doing and the ways in which they will be able to use the new machine. Specific studies planned include taxonomic investigations of marine invertebrates (Rotifera, Copepoda, and Cladocera), studies of latex-coated industrial materials, studies of graphite-calcite carbon isotopic exchange during metamorphism as a proxy of the temperature of formation of metamorphic assemblages, compositional mapping of Fe-rich mantle phases to better understand deep earth chemical dynamics and redox conditions, and taxonomic investigations of agriculturally engineered crops. It ought to be a very exciting next few years!

The National Science Foundation has also awarded $82,095 to Sue Ellen Gruber, Christianna Smith Professor of Biological Sciences; Craig Woodard, associate professor of biological sciences; Sarah Bacon, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences; Sharon Stranford, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences; and Susan Barry, associate professor of biological sciences, under the Major Research Instrumentation Program for "Acquisition of Instrumentation for High Resolution Light Microscopy and Image Processing" over the period July 2002 to June 2005. The grant will allow the College to acquire instrumentation for high resolution light microscopy and image processing (in particular, a research-quality fluorescence microscope coupled to a high resolution cooled CCD camera and computer hardware and software appropriate for image processing). Despite the advent of electron and atomic microscopes, light microscopy is still the core tool for a number of diverse biological questions. The new instrumentation will become part of an integrated microscopy facility that will complement the existing electron microscopes with up-to-date sophistication in the several modes of light microscopy. Projects under investigation by the five participating biology faculty members are wide ranging. One examines the immunological interactions between a mother and fetus that influence the success of pregnancy. A second explores the action of antimalarial drugs in microorganisms. A third, unique in North America, aims to document the biodiversity of neglected invertebrate groups. The remaining projects dissect the events giving rise to programmed cell death in plants, sort out the identity of cell surface features that may be responsible for AIDS-related immunodeficiency in mice, and examine the role of steroid hormones in the development of fruitflies. In all instances, the enhanced ability to obtain and process high quality microscope images will open up new avenues of experimentation for faculty and students.

Darren Hamilton, Mary E. Woolley Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has received a three-year (July 2002 to August 2005) award of $49,500 from the American Chemical Society's Petroleum Research Fund for his project "Exploration of a General Strategy for Assembly and Application of Responsive Organometallic Host Systems." The grant will allow Darren and his students to build on their previous work, which established a reliable, general way to construct a variety of complex organic molecules with prescribed geometry and a core including metallic atoms (designer molecules). Their ultimate aim had been to build molecules that will detect prescribed molecules and that could be fashioned into, for example, films around which sensing devices could be constructed. The grant will allow them to start to create these sensing molecules.

Gail Hornstein, professor of psychology and education, has received a School of Advanced Study Visiting Professorship for the 2002-03 academic year at the Institute for Historical Research of the University of London. The fellowship will allow her to continue her work on patient narratives of mental illness.

Research Corporation has awarded a Cottrell College Science Award of $46,000 to Janice Hudgings, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Physics, for her project "The Role of Spin Coupling and Dichroism in Semiconductor Laser Dynamics." The grant will allow Janice and her students to continue working toward a deeper understanding of the fundamental physics and perplexing nonlinear phenomena that govern the behavior of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers. In particular, it will allow them to get at a number of questions regarding physical response to optical feedback that have immediate applications to the development of such lasers for commercial use.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded professor of anthropology Andrew Lass $15,000 to support his continuing work with the Czech and Slovak Library Information Network and the Tallinn Conference for Union Catalogs. The Mellon Foundation also awarded the College $290,000 to conduct a three-year study of the impact of our new SAT-optional admission policy and $46,000 to support last April's "In Search of Wisdom" conference.

Associate professor of French Catherine LeGouis was one of seven individuals (out of 125) to receive an Individual Advanced Research Opportunity Grant given by the National Endowment for the Humanities and administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board. Her project "Reflections in a Broken Mirror: The Person and Persona of Nina Petrovskaya" will ultimately result in a literary biography of Nina Petrovskaya. The grant will allow Catherine to travel to Paris, Saint Petersburg, and Moscow to study Petrovskaya’s correspondence, gather other materials, and converse with specialists. Petrovskaya is best known as the model for Renata in Briusov's Ognennyi angel (1907) (and, hence, for Renata in Prokofiev’s opera The Fiery Angel) and for her tragic destiny as she tried to make her personality conform to Renata’s. Catherine argues that Petrovskaya has been underestimated as a creative figure in her own right. This grant is a partial counter example to the first principle of grant writing ("If you don’t ask, you don’t get."). To keep costs down, Catherine had asked for support for two months overseas. The granting agency asked her if she might be able to use four months.

Laurie Priest, senior lecturer in physical education and director of athletics, and the Physical Education department have received an award of $30,000 from the National Collegiate Athletic Association to support a graduate internship for women and ethnic minorities interested in athletic administration. Laurie was also one of two persons this year to receive an Honor Fellow Award from the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS). The citation lauds Laurie’s "extraordinary contributions to NAGWS and to all girls and women in sport." As if that were not enough, Laurie was selected as the Division III Administrator of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA). Laurie will receive the award this October in Saint Louis at the NACWAA annual meeting. This is a big deal.

Deborah Strahman, visiting instructor in computer science, has received a National Science Foundation subcontract award of $40,644 for a two-year period beginning in September 2002 through the University of Utah for the project "A Grid for Research and Education in Distributed Systems and Networks." Some years ago, researchers at the University of Utah constructed a controlled system designed to emulate the Internet. Others followed suit, and there are a number of such simulation systems running around the country. The main proposal seeks to link all these simulations into a single federated entity on which experiments on large-scale loosely coupled distributed systems could be safely run. One could, for instance, simulate Internet attacks and counter attacks. The grant will allow Mount Holyoke students involved in Research Experiences for Undergraduates to join students from other institutions at the University of Utah in using the original simulation system and federated system currently being built.

Thomas Wartenberg, professor of philosophy, received an $800 Service Learning Course Development Grant from the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Teaching to support his course Philosophy for Children.

Virginia Bastable, director of SummerMath for Teachers; Jill Lester, assistant director of SummerMath for Teachers; Susan Jo Russell, Deborah Schifter, and Traci Higgins have released the fifth book, Statistics: Working with Data, in their series Developing Mathematical Ideas. As with the other members of the series, the "book" actually consists of two volumes, a facilitator’s guide and a casebook, and a video. The casebook presents 28 cases in which students from grades K-5 develop their ideas about collecting, representing, and analyzing data. You see how students gradually develop a sense of a data set as a whole that can be summarized and described. The facilitator’s guide gives suggestions about how a teacher might elicit and develop students’ ideas and further pursue some of the issues raised in the cases. Although these materials are aimed at primary school teachers, both parents and teachers will find them fascinating. They provide a real window into how children think and grapple with ideas. What’s even better is that the ideas themselves are fascinating; if the word "data" terrorizes you, then these books provide a very gentle introduction to how one thinks about data.

Judaism in Practice: From the Middle Ages through the Early Modern Period, an anthology edited by Lawrence Fine, Irene Kaplan Leiwant Professor of Jewish Studies, was published last fall by Princeton University Press. It focuses on the wide range of Jewish religious practice and religious experience (as opposed to Jewish political, social, or economic history) in the years between 600 ce and 1800 ce Larry contributes the introductory essay, four others in different sections of the book, and numerous translations. The essays are arranged under seven headers: Rituals of Daily and Festival Practice; Rituals of the Life Cycle; Torah, Learning, and Ethics; Religious Sectarianism and Communities on the Margin; Art and Aesthetics; Magic and Mysticism; and Remarkable Lives. Professor of history Jonathan Lipman contributed an article entitled "Living Judaism in Confucian Culture: Being Jewish and Being Chinese" to the fourth section. The essays are varied and wildly interesting.

The legendary guitarist, Andrés Segovia, left a number of recordings that he had transcribed from piano or harpsichord. However, he never published most of his transcriptions. With the authorization of Segovia’s wife and other close collaborators, music instructor Phillip de Fremery undertook the task of transcribing the notes that Segovia actually played and the strings on which they were played. The result of this dazzling musicianship is the recent book Andrés Segovia: Transcriptiones (Berben, Ancona, Italy, 2002).

Eugenia Herbert, professor emeritus of history, has written a lovely book entitled Twilight on the Zambezi: Late Colonialism in Central Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). She studies colonial administration and life in the Upper Zambezi Valley with particular emphasis on the year 1959. She points out that at that time there was no inkling of the headlong rush to independence that would take place a mere year later, and colonial rule (and its woolly mission of preparing the subject races for self-government in the distant future) seemed assured for the immediate future. She tells the story beginning at a local, almost personal, level in one of the colonial stations, and fanning out to a regional view from the native authority, to pre-national disputes between settlers and African nationalists in Northern Rhodesia, to the imperial view from London. Because of the different vantage points, one gets different stories–the Rashomon approach she calls it. The result is utterly absorbing: a composite snapshot of a moment in time when the future seems relatively certain and the reader knows otherwise.

Karen Remmler, associate professor of German studies and codirector of the Weissman Center for Leadership, and Leslie Morris (of the University of Minnesota) have edited the recent book Contemporary Jewish Writing in Germany; An Anthology (University of Nebraska Press, 2002). They focus on four current authors: Katja Behrens, Maxim Biller, Esther Dischereit, and Barbara Honigmann, translating several substantial pieces of each into English and contributing a long introductory essay. The pieces they have chosen are striking and leave one wanting to read more. One also marvels at the issues of translation with which Karen and her collaborator must have had to deal.

Assistant professor of Spanish Nieves Romero-Diaz’s book manuscript Nueva nobleza, nueva nvela: Reescribiendo la cultura urbana del Barroco (New Nobility, New Novel: Rewriting the Urban Culture of the Baroque) has been accepted by Juan de la Cuesta Press. On a totally different topic you can check out Nieves’s most recent article "`Na nacido una estrella’: Leyendo a Zayas para la television" in Laberinto: An Electronic Journal of Early Modern Hispanic Literatures and Cultures. If, like me, you have a hard time reading Spanish, you can still enjoy the embedded video clips.

Brokered Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Migrants in Japan, a new book by assistant professor of anthropology Joshua Roth, has just appeared with Cornell University Press. More next time.

Marion Katz of the religion department, whom we lost this summer to New York University, has had two books appear. Body of Text: The Emergence of the Sunni Law of Ritual Purity, which appears in the SUNY Series in Medieval Middle East History (SUNY Press), recounts and reconstructs the debates among Muslim scholars concerning ritual purity in Islamic law and practice. Ritual purity is everywhere in the daily life of ordinary believers, yet is not well understood. Marion looks at how the law was shaped by competing theories, practices, and politics. The other is an edited volume, The Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence: Meccan Fiqh Before the Classical Schools, in the Islamic History and Civilization series (Brill Publishers). She is both a coeditor (with Harald Motzki) and a translator.

Associate professor of art Anthony Lee has been awarded the hyper-prestigious Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The 14th Annual Eldredge Prize was awarded for his book Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Francisco, an "outstanding study of the visual, social and political culture of San Francisco's Chinatown from 1850 to 1950 . . . Anthony Lee's beautifully written book and thoughtful approach adds to the story of the United States, a nation that has defined itself through immigration over the past three centuries." The prize recognizes originality, significance, and depth of research, as well as excellence of writing. Further information about the Eldredge Prize and a complete list of past winners is available on the museum's Web site. Tony will give the annual Eldredge Prize lecture, titled "Orientals and Orientalists in the American Scene," in the Grand Salon at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, located at Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. in Washington, D.C., on October 16 at 4 pm.

Assistant professor of English Amy Martin received her doctorate (from Columbia University) with distinction.

The Henry Luce Foundation has approved the appointment of Jillian McLeod as Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Mathematics. The Clare Boothe Luce Program is currently supporting eight women science faculty at Mount Holyoke, a new record.

The winter/spring 2002 issue of the Transactions of the C.S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy is an extraordinary Festschrift dedicated to Richard Robin, professor emeritus of philosophy. What is most interesting about the essays is not the work of Peirce, Rorty, Santayana, Dewey, C.I. Lewis, and others that they discuss, but the extent to which they show how Dick influenced his own discipline, and the high regard in which he is held by other philosophers. Here are three fragments from three different essays: "My purpose here is to revisit issues that Richard Robin discussed in his groundbreaking essay …"; "…here he was, the famous Richard Robin, the author of the "Robin" catalog …"; "And we have Robin to thank for leading us to see this, as well as for so much else." Another philosopher remarks on the pleasure of honoring an individual who never sought any honors, another on Dick’s influence on German philosophers, and so on. Best of all, is the short biography of Dick with which the volume begins. The volume is a moving testament to Dick’s extraordinary achievement and his deep modesty.

Symphony No. 1 by professor of music Allen Bonde was recorded and performed (in Allen’s presence) by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra of Olomouc, Czech Republic at the Seventh International Festival of New Music. It will be released on CD by Vienna Modern Masters in early 2003.

Many papers appeared during the summer. I mention a few that I managed to read and delude myself into thinking I understood. My favorite is "Galileo’s Discovery of Scaling Laws," a paper in the American Journal of Physics by Mark Peterson, professor of physics and mathematics. A large part of Galileo’s last book concerns what we would now call "dimensional analysis"–the analysis of how different quantities scale up or down, such as the observation that surface area doesn’t increase as fast as volume (so that killer giant tomatoes would suffocate) or length as fast as surface area (so doubling the diameter of a deep dish pizza quadruples the calories). Mark traces back a key passage on scaling invariance in Galileo’s last book to some very early lectures that Galileo had given on the shape, location, and size of Dante’s Inferno. In particular, he shows how Galileo’s insight into scaling came when he belatedly realized that an argument he had advanced regarding the shape of the Inferno was utterly wrong, essentially for scaling reasons. Roberto Marquez, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, has an extraordinarily broad-ranging (both in time and space) paper entitled "Raza, Racismo, e Historia: 'Are All My Bones From There?' " in Latino(a) Research Review. Beginning with a lovely quotation from Nicolas Guillen, Roberto reflects on how race, racism, and history have shaped, and continue to shape, Afro-Latino identity and perspective in the Americas. A recent book entitled Donne and the Resources of Kind (A.D. Cousin and D. Grace, editors, London: Associated University Presses, 2002) features essays by Eugene Hill, professor of English, and Frank Brownlow, Gwen and Allen Smith Professor of English. Gene explores subversion and counsel in one of Donne’s sermons, and Frank examines transgression and convention in some of Donne’s religious sonnets. Gene also has a very amusing, and very learned, chapter entitled "Revenge Tragedy" in A.F. Kinney’s A Companion to Renaissance Drama in which he argues that the best examples of the revenge genre have a complex Janus-like quality that far transcends mere "blood-and-guts-mongering." Associate professor of geology Lauret Savoy has a beautiful meditation entitled "Hardness" on hardness, race, time, and landscape in the spring issue of Orion: "As a child I believed earth and sunlight made my rust-tan body . . ." In the March New England Quarterly, assistant professor of English Lois Brown details Susan Paul’s pioneering efforts in the Northern antislavery struggle in Boston in the 1830s. Her essay examines how Paul’s use of a juvenile choir deflected attention away from her and to the children in her charge. The result was that African American voices were heard in the antislavery struggle, which prevented the struggle from becoming an abstract political battle, the terms of which would be articulated only by white reformers. Lilian Hsu, Elizabeth Page Greenawalt Professor of Biochemistry, has an amazing paper in the July issue of Nature Structural Biology that describes the (very different) geometry and topology of two forms of RNA polymerase and explains how the differing geometry results in significantly different transcription properties of the two forms. One sees from the article the mechanism by which the enzyme moves along the DNA (or, rather, how the DNA moves through the enzyme). Sarah Bacon, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, has an article with two colleagues in the journal Biology of Reproduction discussing some issues in the immune response (or lack of it) of a pregnant mother horse to the embryo she carries. It turns out that the degree of contact between maternal uterine tissue and fetal tissue is very different in horses than in humans or rats. In fact, placentation is so different that it suggests that there must be some strong, but different-than-human, mechanisms to make sure that the equine fetus is not rejected by the mother horse. In a paper that appeared in a Festschrift in honor of John Onians, John Varriano, Idella Plimpton Kendall Professor of Art, discusses the engendering and eroticization of classical columns and pilasters beginning in the sixth century bce and continuing through to eighteenth-century France. "The essential femininity of its [the lowly pilaster’s] demure personality had always been there, but it remained unrecognized until there came an age . . ." A paper by Angelo Mazzocco, professor of Spanish and Italian, "The Italian Connection in Juan de Valdes’s Dialogo de la Lengua," was selected as one of the best articles to appear in the last 20 years in the Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science and was reprinted in the 100th volume.

Our chemistry department was out in force at the summer meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston. Wei Chen, Mary E. Woolley Assistant Professor of Chemistry, and her students presented two posters, and Wei gave a talk. Her student, Mamle Quarmyne '03, won the award for producing one of the six best posters in the Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry. This is the first time that an undergraduate researcher has ever won such an award. The title of the poster was "Adsorption of Poly(vinyl alcohol) to Surface Modify Polymers." In addition, Darren Hamilton, Mary E. Woolley Assistant Professor of Chemistry, and his students also presented a poster and Sean Decatur, associate professor of chemistry, and his students presented three. The fourth edition of Biochemistry (Thomson-Brooks/Cole) by Mary K. Campbell, Class of 1929 Virginia Apgar Professor of Chemistry, and Shawn Farrell also debuted at the meeting.

Sheila Browne, professor of chemistry, and Curtis Smith, professor emeritus of biological sciences, served as panelists on the selection committee for the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships for Minorities Program. Will Millard, associate professor of psychology and education, served as a panelist on the selection committee for the Ford Foundation Postdoctoral and Dissertation Fellowships for Minorities Program, and Craig Woodard, associate professor of biological sciences, served as a panelist for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship program. A number of others served as reviewers for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. This is important work, and we should all be grateful to those associated with it.

Rachel Fink, associate professor of biological sciences, had yet another letter published in the New York Times (this one on Pavarotti).

Darlington’s Fall by Brad Leithauser, Emily Dickinson Senior Lecturer in the Humanities, received a glorious review in the Washington Post on June 11.

--The May 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The April 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The March 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The February 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The December 2001 O'Shea Report more>
--The November 2001 O'Shea Report more>

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