A Research Sampler
Since 2006, the College of Liberal Arts has averaged about $5 million in research awards in each year. Despite the economic downturn, this amount has held steady. This past year, in FY 2010, the College brought in about $6 million. These faculty research projects will engage many graduate and undergraduate students.
This year’s awards are off to a great start. A sampling is listed below.
The Dynamics of Environmental Change
As forest ecosystems decline across the U.S. understanding how these changes affect livelihoods in historically resource-dependent communities, the environment, and human safety is of great concern. With a $400,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant from the Disaster Resilience for Rural Communities Program (DRRC), Assistant Professor Hartter along with Russ Congalton, professor of remote sensing and geographic information systems; Mark Ducey, professor of forest biometrics and management; and Larry Hamilton, professor of sociology, will study forests within the Wallowa-Whitman Ecosystem in Oregon. The well being of these forests and the communities near them are threatened by the risk of catastrophic insect and wildfire outbreaks. Rural communities must face and adapt to these risks as well as declining timber production, changing management on public lands, and restructuring their economies. By understanding these social and ecological dynamics, Hartter’s findings can improve the ability of community leaders and policy makers to make new investments in their communities and support initiatives that contribute to adaptation strategies.
Visual Processing—How We Sort It
Ignoring distracting information is critical for successful completion of everyday tasks, from operating heavy machinery to walking or driving. Assistant Professor Leber will use his nearly $300,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to research how the human eye achieves a balance between the voluntary and involuntary components of attention. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Leber will be able to track changes in neural activity and discover which brain regions determine voluntary or involuntary attention. Leber states that this work will contribute to a greater understanding of how the brain overcomes visual distraction to allow healthy visual processing. The work will contribute to efforts to better understand clinical disorders that have an attention-related component such as Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and schizophrenia.
Attention that Doesn’t Stop
Associate Professor McGaughy was awarded a two-year grant of $399,000 from National Institute of Health (NIH) to study the ability of normal adolescents to learn to focus their attention on one task and then shift their attention to another task. McGaughy and her research team will use a rodent model to investigate the parts of the brain that control an adolescent’s ability to stop engaging in activities that no longer yield positive consequences. McGaughy expects this research to lead to insights about how to treat conditions such as poor impulse control and an inability to redirect attention—symptoms characteristic of attention deficit disorder (ADHD).
To Pledge Allegiance
In the mid-nineteenth century, the U.S., England, and several other countries explicitly recognized an individual’s right to give up his citizenship and pledge allegiance to a new sovereign. While scholars tend to focus on the states’ use of immigration and citizenship laws to govern entrance to their country, Associate Professor Salyer’s study will focus on the “rules of exit.” Salyer argues that the laws that regulate expatriation or the right to leave a country and to renounce one’s native allegiance were just as important as immigration laws in deploying state strategies for managing populations, forging national identities, and building modern nation states. With $105,000 of combined funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), Salyer will continue her historical investigations at archives in Ireland and England. Her research not only will bring to light how the expatriation crisis of the nineteenth century came to inform the idea of modern citizenship, it will deepen our understanding of current debates of immigration and citizenship.
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