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Teaching and Learning

Prisca Kim Awarded Dennis Perri Junior Award

Former Grinnell students Philip Guarco ’82 and Kathryn Jackson ’83 generously established an endowment that permits the Spanish department to recognize the achievement of a Spanish major through a yearly monetary award. The department selects a junior Spanish major taking into account the following criteria:

  • At least a 3.25 GPA in the Spanish major
  • Successful completion of at least three semesters of Spanish beyond Spanish 217
  • Conscientious and dedicated junior in all of his or her Spanish courses
  • Evidence of a commitment to intellectual life of the Spanish department in and outside of class (including attendance to speakers' presentations, Spanish table, Spanish House activities, participation in newsletter, and Spanish Laboratory)

Past Recipients:

  • Nora Shields (2006-2007)
  • Chao Wei Hung (2007-2008)
  • Frida Rodriguez (2008-2009)
  • Vicky Diedrichs (2009-2010)
  • Katherine Chung (2010-2011)
  • Debbie Cifuentes Ramírez (2011-2012)
  • Anam Aslam (2012-2013)
  • Nick Hunter (2013-2014)

Increasing the Quality of Our Food Supply

Man holding small boy standing next to cowsDan Kittredge, an organic farmer and executive director of the Bionutrient Food Association, advocates improving the nutritional quality of our food supply by improving the health of our soils. He will bring his message to Grinnell College on Wednesday, Nov. 18, when he presents "Bionutrient Food: Increasing the Quality of Our Food Supply."

The speech, which is free and open to the public, will start at 7:30 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101. The Center for Prairie Studies is sponsoring the event.

Kittredge contends that little attention has been paid to the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables over the last half century because plant breeders and farmers have focused on ways to increase yields and improve the size, productivity, growth rate, transportability and pest resistance of various crops.

A number of scientific studies have found a decline in the nutritional value of some of our foods. For example, a study by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, found “reliable declines” from 1950 to 1999 in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, riboflavin and Vitamin C in 43 different fruits and vegetables.  Similar findings are reported in studies by the Kushi Institute and in Great Britain.

Various explanations have been put forward to explain these declines, from natural cycles to improved testing procedures, new transportation and storage methods, and food irradiation.  Kittredge, however, believes the explanation is to be found in a decline in the health of our soils. 

Kittredge has been an organic farmer since childhood, when his parents purchased an organic farm in Barre, Massachusetts. He grew up on that land and in his adult years managed it. In 2008 he launched the Real Food Campaign, the forerunner to the Bionutrient Food Association, to empower and educate farmers toward the production of quality food for the improvement of human health. 

Kittredge’s experience managing organic farms and developing sustainable agriculture techniques has connected him to farmers in Central America, Russia, and India in addition to the United States. "For me," Kittredge said, "it’s about looking at food and plants in a new way — providing the ideal environment for a plant’s genetic potential to manifest itself.”

Kittredge said he started the Bionutrient Food Association because he wanted to be a better farmer.  “The crops I grew regularly succumbed to pests and diseases," he added. "A crop that gets the nutritional compounds it needs can flourish and resist pests and diseases. A crop that doesn't will get sick. If nutrients are not in the plant — because they aren't in the soil to begin with or because the plant cannot access them due to agricultural practices-- then we humans aren't getting them either.”  

There are 65 different elements in the human body that are necessary for our bodies to function, Kittredge points out.  Humans evolved to get these elements from our food, and our food only gets them from the soil. Yet most soil tests only report out about three of these elements — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

The Bionutrient Food Association is helping farmers address the full spectrum of elements and build a biological system in the soil, so they can grow healthier crops for healthier food.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Danforth Chemistry Seminar

Dale BogerDr. Dale L. Boger, Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute will present a free, public talk, “Discovery of a New Therapeutic Target in an Academic Setting” at noon Thursday, Nov. 12, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

In this general talk, he will discuss how a new therapeutic target for the treatment of pain was discovered in an academic setting by curiosity-driven research.

Professor Boger is internationally recognized for his work in organic synthesis, heterocyclic chemistry, natural products total synthesis and biological evaluation, synthetic methodology development, and medicinal chemistry, and has made seminal contributions to improving the glycopeptide antibiotics and the understanding of DNA-drug interactions of naturally occurring antitumor-antibiotics. 

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center Rooms 101 is looped to supports telecoils. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.


Writers@Grinnell: Richard Russo

Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Richard Russo, the upcoming author in Writers@Grinnell, will be on campus for two events on Thursday, November 12:

  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101Richard Russo
  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 209

Russo received the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 2002 for his novel "Empire Falls," which was later made into an HBO mini-series starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Russo co-authored the script for the miniseries and was nominated for the 2005 Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries.

Russo also co-authored the screen adaption of his acclaimed novel, "Nobody's Fool," starring Paul Newman, with Academy Award-winning screenplay writer Robert Benton. Russo has written several other acclaimed books and screenplays, including "Mohawk," "Straight Man" and his memoir, "Elsewhere."

Russo has received many honors and fellowships throughout his career, including the 1990 Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts and 2002 Ambassador Book Award for Fiction. A gifted teacher, Russo is retired from Colby College and the Warren Wilson Master of Fine Arts Program for Writers. He lives with his wife in coastal Maine.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Uninsured? Fewer Services, Less Readmission, More Death.

Amanda Cook '03Alumni Scholar Amanda (Andy) Cook ’03 returns to Grinnell to present "Uninsured?  Fewer Services, Less Readmission, More Death.  A Study of Maryland's Hospitals" at noon Tuesday, Nov. 10, in ARH 120.  Cook's visit is sponsored by the Department of Economics

Cook is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Purdue University.  She received her master's in economics in 2011 from Vanderbilt University, and her bachelor's in mathematics from Grinnell.  Cook’s research interests include health economics, industrial organization, and applied microeconomics.  

Scholars’ Convo: Bob Haveman

Bob HavemanRobert "Bob" Haveman — professor emeritus of public affairs and economics and faculty affiliate, Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison — will present the Scholars' Convocation at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

In his free, publilc talk, he will discuss “The US Labor Market is a Mess: How did it get that way; is there a way out?”

Haveman, an award-winning teacher, has published widely in public finance, the economics of environmental and natural resources policy, benefit-cost analysis, and the economics of poverty and social policy. His publications include Succeeding Generations: On the Effects of Investments in Children (with Barbara Wolfe), and Human Capital in the United States from 1975 to 2000: Patterns of Growth and Utilization (with Andrew Bershadker and Jonathan A. Schwabish).

He has served as senior economist, Subcommittee on Economy in Government, Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress.

His projects include estimating the adequacy of savings of older workers at and during retirement, assessing the impact of health shocks on the assets of retirees, evaluating the impacts of the Section 8 housing voucher program, and analyzing the methods for assessing the employment effects of public policy measures.

His work has appeared in the American Economic Review, Review of Economics and Statistics, Quarterly Journal of Economics, and Journal of the American Statistical Association.

He received his doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University.

Inaugural Meeting of the Pre-Physical Therapy Society

Are you interested in learning more about a healthy, active lifestyle and about rehabilitation?

Two free public talks on the research and practice of movement science, with a specific focus on physical therapy, are part of the Inaugural Meeting of the Pre-Physical Therapy Society.

Dr. Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw

Dr. Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw will present "Physical Therapy: Bringing the Science of Healing and the Art of Caring Together.”

Dr. Kinsella-Shaw is associate professor in the kinesiology department and director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at the University of Connecticut. 

Justin Munato

Justin Munafo will present "Research Experiences in Human Movement Science: Older Adults on Cruises" at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3 in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Justin Munafo is a doctoral student in the kinesiology department at University of Minnesota.

The presentations are appropriate both for those interested in the group and pre-physical therapy as well as anyone in the general public interested in how their body moves and how physical therapy helps.

Damian Kelty-Stephen, assistant professor of psychology and adviser of the Pre-Physical Therapy Society will provide information about the group to those who are interested.

The event is being sponsored by All-Campus Events, Wellness, Students on Health-Oriented Tracks, and Pioneer Diversity Council, among others. 

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Visual Contrast Sensitivity as a Biomarker of Neuro-Developmental Age and Connectivity

Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw will present “Visual Contrast Sensitivity as a Biomarker of Neuro-Developmental Age and Connectivity,” 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, in Robert N. Noyce '49 Science Center, Room 2022.

In this free public event, he will discuss his dynamical-systems theoretic research on the perception-action linkages that support motor coordination across the lifespan and that help to inform and target clinical interventions in movement.

Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw is associate professor of the Department of Kinesiology and director of the Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy at the University of Connecticut. His visit is sponsored by the biology department.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Old Maps, New Technology

Old maps are rich sources of historical information, but manually cataloging the information on them is time-consuming and costly.

Jerod Weinman, associate professor of computer science, and his co-researchers have plans to make them “searchable the way scanned books have become accessible to web search.”

With a National Science Foundation grant, he and Erik Learned-Miller, University of Massachusetts Amherst, have set themselves and their students a lofty goal — helping others search and analyze historical maps by automatically recognizing place names and other text, and aligning them with modern geography.

The National Science Foundation awarded the computer science professors nearly half a million dollars in a three-year grant for their project, Adaptive Integration of Textual and Geospatial Information for Mining Massive Map Collections.

Grinnell’s share will support up to 14 student researchers who’ll work with Weinman on the project.

Drawing Information From Old Maps

“Libraries and archives are digitizing historical maps for widespread online access. Without technology for searching them, large map collections relevant to a given problem or question may remain obscure even in online archives,” Weinman and Learned-Miller say. “If all of the text in a map can be read automatically by computer, a wealth of information becomes quickly available — location names, geographic features, and often statistics.”

The group is developing techniques that will — working back and forth between old maps and a world atlas — make text and geographical information available to researchers.

This information can help in a variety of ways. For example, scientists and policymakers can establish changes in land usage, waterways, or borders over time.

“Right now we’re targeting pre-digital era 19th century maps because they represent geography with reasonable accuracy while still being typeset by hand or handwritten,” Weinman says.

Why at Grinnell?

The hands-on research experience, say the professors, will “train a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students in constructing, learning, and making predictions with adaptive models.”

Many of the Grinnell students working on the project will be doing so through Mentored Advanced Projects (MAP). Weinman’s approach to mentored projects emphasizes “not only scientific methodology, but also the philosophy of computing as a science.”

He and fellow researchers — including David Lopatto, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment, and David Jensen, director of Knowledge Discovery Laboratory at University of Massachusetts Amherst —  have shown that computer science students report more benefits from their research experiences using this method than they would with methods that are more traditional.

The researchers will share their findings through journals and conferences in the computer vision, artificial intelligence, and GIS communities.

Big Island Summer

Rebecca Rasmussen ’16 and Edward Hsieh ’16 helped find what turned out to be the largest super colony of ants ever recorded in North America. By large, we mean all the way from Iowa to the Appalachian Mountains.

Students sitting on ground with research tools around them.Those Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs) in summer 2014 earned them both an invitation from Grinnell biology professor Jackie Brown to do a second MAP last summer. This one meant spending two months on Big Island, Hawaii.

Both students agreed enthusiastically. By mid-May, Rasmussen and Hsieh were planning preliminary field studies to help Brown and Idelle Cooper ’01 of James Madison University find out why some female damselflies are red and some are green.

Ecological or sexual selection

“I was looking at a behavioral biology aspect because we wanted to see if the females were evolving this color dimorphism because of sexual selection,” Rasmussen says. For two months, she and other researchers stalked damselflies at various sites near Na’alehu, the southernmost town in the United States.

“Our main hypothesis was ecological selection, so I was testing the alternative,” Rasmussen says. Her findings indicated that sexual selection was minimal. “What we saw goes along with what Professor Brown and Professor Cooper have been positing, which is promising for their research,” she says.

Hsieh tested for chemical properties related to the color morphs. “In the ant project I looked at their particular hydrocarbons, and in this one I looked at antioxidant chemicals to see what potentially helped protect damselflies against UV radiation depending on the elevation.”

Finding the unexpected

Damselfly sitting on a notes that track flies sex and behavior for June 18, 2015, 10:12 a.m.Hsieh’s early findings contradicted expectations that red pigment signals protection from UV stress. He found that the redder the damselfly, the lower its antioxidant capability. “We have a couple of theories as to why that might be so,” Hsieh says. “It’s still pretty open ended and we’re actually continuing to work on it right now.”

Brown, who along with Cooper received National Science Foundation funding for the damselfly project, says, “Working with Edward and Rebecca on two different projects has highlighted for me both their talents and the value of our research-based curriculum in preparing students for meaningful participation in research.

“Each has built on their particular experience with the ant project, but in a completely new setting,” Brown says. “We’ll be working hard together during their senior year to submit these results for publication.” 

Serious contributions

Rasmussen says the collaborative research processes have made her feel “more prepared for going to graduate school in biology, if that’s the route I decide to take. Going through the planning stage, executing it, and then summarizing it is, I think, applicable to any career field.”

Rasmussen says it is satisfying as an undergraduate to do research that adds knowledge to a field. “It is pretty exciting to find things that could seriously contribute or that turn out to be an unusual finding that is worth reporting,” she says.

“I was originally interested in doing biological field research,” Hsieh says of his MAP experience, “and these opportunities gave me a lot of experience in what I would expect to do if I were to continue in that vein. It’s very likely that I’ll continue on to graduate school, possibly in entomological research.”

Coolest experience

Damselfly research is highly weather dependent, so on a few rainy days the research team found diversions that included Hawaii’s vast mix of Asian cuisine, volcanoes, and black sand beaches.

“One morning it was pretty rainy so we went to a beautiful beach for snorkeling,” Hsieh says. “We swam with sea turtles, and then farther out we found a giant pod of 30-plus dolphins.

“We were swimming with dolphins,” Hsieh says. “It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. And it was on my 21st birthday. It was awesome.”

Rebecca Rasmussen ’16 is a biology major from Des Moines, Iowa. Edward Hsieh ’16 is a biology major from Champaign, Ill.