Faculty Research Grants
This program supports faculty/student collaborative research at Hope in the nine HHMI 2012 departments. All funded projects must support the overall goals of the Hope HHMI 2012 program, which is to help develop future STEM research leaders. Preference will be given to projects that include explicit connections to the HHMI 2012 program components (course-based research experience program, the bridge program and the CSI program), though research with undergraduate collaborators is the minimum qualifying criterion.
This program has $30,000/year for each of the four years of the HHMI 2012 grant period. At least two awards will be made each year. Applications are due November 1 in November 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Check out the program guidelines and application requirements webpage for more details
Dr. Andrew Gall: "Neural mechanisms underlying circadian rhythmicity and masking in a diurnal species, Arvicanthis niloticus" Proposal.
The circadian system regulates daily rhythms of physiology and behavior and thus, it affects many aspects of daily life. Although there has been tremendous progress elucidating the mechanisms responsible for the workings of the circadian system in nocturnal species, little is known about the mechanisms that support a diurnal profile of activity in species like our own. We have new data suggesting that retinorecipient brain areas such as the intergeniculate leaflet (IGL) and olivary pretectal nucleus (OPT) are critical for the display of normal patterns of daily activity in diurnal grass rats (Arvicanthis niloticus). Specifically, grass rats with IGL and OPT lesions behave in ways similar to nocturnal animals. Importantly, both the IGL and OPT connect with each other in nocturnal species, and there is evidence that these two brain regions also connect with the superior colliculus (SC), which is also retinorecipient. We propose to use diurnal grass rats to test the hypothesis that brain circuitry including the IGL, OPT, and SC is critical for the expression of diurnal behavior and physiology. In order to achieve this goal, we will perform lesions of the SC and conduct tracing experiments to examine the neural circuitry involved in diurnal behavioral patterns and acute responses to light. This is the first attempt to identify the role of the SC in diurnal behavior. In addition, this research has implications for understanding Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and Parkinson’s Disease (PD), neurological disorders in which diurnal behavior is severely disrupted. Undergraduates will be involved in every step of the scientific process, including designing experiments, data collection, performing surgeries, analyzing data, writing manuscripts, and presenting at conferences.
Dr. Peter Gonthier, with Dr. Alice Harding, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: "Assessing a Realistic Theoretical High-energy Radiation Model in Pulsar Magnetospheres." Proposal.
We propose to assess a recently theoretically developed realistic high-energy radiation description of the pulsar magnetosphere with improved population syntheses of radio and ã-ray pulsars, in which predicted and measured distributions of various measured pulsar characteristics are compared. Since its launch in 2008, Fermi has discovered over 160 ã-ray normal and millisecond pulsars providing a significant sample for model testing. We will extend the current computer code to implement Markov Chain Monte Carlo techniques and maximum likelihood methods to explore the model parameter space and obtain confidence regions in the model parameter space, constraining high energy emission regions in the magnetosphere, leading to an enhanced understanding of how pulsar ã-ray beams evolve with age and how pulsars spin down. Understanding the acceleration/emission geometry operating in radiation mechanisms and population characteristics are core objectives for pulsar science. Key goals that underline the intellectual merit of this proposed effort include how the geometries of the ã-ray radiation are defined and evolve with the age of the pulsar. Fermi observations suggest that pulsar ã rays emerge from high altitude regions in the magnetosphere. The high-energy radiation model to be implemented can account for the trends in the phase separation of the ã-ray peaks as well as the phase lag of the ã-ray peaks with the radio peak. We propose to investigate this theoretical model further with a set of thirteen distributions of measured characteristics of pulsars. The project will train undergraduates at Hope College in the research process, via pursuits at the edges of scientific knowledge. Students from Hope College will spend a month at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where they will interact with NASA scientists at the forefront of research. The experience instills in the students confidence in their quest and encourages them to train and discipline themselves in the pursuit of new science.
Dr. Gerald D. Griffin, with Dr. Kenneth Brown and Dr. Amanda Eckermann: "Testing a Viral-induced increase in Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) peptide" Proposal.
Over 60% of Americans are infected with Herpes Simplex Virus Type I (HSV-1). There is no cure for HSV-1, and common treatment regiments can produce antiviral resistance. This is concerning since HSV-1 continues to be a leading infectious cause of corneal blindness and brain inflammation. One method to prevent these viral-induced pathologies is maintain viral latency, a state in which the virus is not replicating genes known to acutely harm the host. The present proposal works towards this goal by testing interactions of HSV-1 and the precursor neuropeptide pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC). Preliminary data demonstrate that a latent infection of HSV-1 induces a long-lasting increase in POMC transcript levels. POMC and its derived peptides have been shown to reduce host immune response. However, it is unknown if POMC protein levels are also increased. To address this knowledge gap, the current proposal tests the overall hypothesis that HSV-1 increases POMC protein expression. Detecting an increase in POMC peptide levels would indicate that HSV-1 is able to augment both neuronal genes and proteins. Additionally, this result would support the notion that the virus increases POMC and related peptides to suppress the immune response in an effort to maintain viral latency. This work is a critical step to test if POMC is a feasible therapeutic target for HSV-1 and its associated neurological disorders.
Dr. Justin Shorb: "Establishing Validity of a Novel Eye-Tracking Data Analysis
Technique to Chemistry Education Research and Application to Online Chemistry Laboratory Prelab Materials." Proposal.
The advent of digital multimedia resources in education has required careful thought as to the best methods for organizing and creating them so as best to help students learn complex concepts. This issue is highlighted within the field of Chemistry Education due to the need to relay concepts that cannot be visualized without some level of abstraction and representation. Recent work in understanding student engagement with digital tools has led to the use of eye-tracking technology to monitor student gaze patterns. Until recently, it has been impossible to correlate gaze patterns across more than two areas of interest (a paragraph, an equation, and a picture would be three areas of interest). Our group’s novel transition-frequency principle component analysis method allows for more complex coupled gaze patterns to be quantified. In order for this method to be proven useful, it is essential that it be validated against a literature precedent. This project proposes to use eye-tracking and our novel analysis method to confirm the pivotal study by Kozma and Russell in 1997 which proved a measurable difference between experts and novices in their representational literacy of chemistry concepts. After validating the new analysis method against the literature precedent, we will then use this method to study the efficacy of a website designed to increase representational competency in general chemistry laboratories. By providing a study that validates the method and a short follow-up study we will be able to demonstrate reproducibility and potential application for the novel eye-tracking data analysis method for broader use.