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Antibiotic Resistance and Microbial Diversity

Shannon Hinsa-LeasureShannon Hinsa-Leasure, associate professor of biology, along with her students and collaborators, are researching ways to develop novel technology to study the diversity of antibiotic-resistance genes and how the genes can be transferred between bacteria.

The research is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant of $999,346 awarded to a team of researchers including Hinsa-Leasure, along with her collaborators at Iowa State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

In addition, Hinsa-Leasure has received a one-year $20,262 grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture to expand on the USDA grant by investigating bacterial community structure in soils fertilized with animal manure. Both grants will support undergraduate research at Grinnell College.

The grants will enable researchers to monitor hundreds of genes related to antibiotic resistance, the spread of resistance, and microbial diversity in environmental samples at one time, providing a more in-depth characterization of environments than current technologies. The technologies can be used for many types of environments including, hospitals, farms and water systems, and will allow researchers to study if and how antibiotic resistance genes move in particular environments.

“I am delighted that Shannon has received these grants that will create new opportunities for our students to conduct collaborative, cutting-edge research,” says Michael Latham, dean of Grinnell College. “This research reinforces Grinnell’s commitment to active scholarship and inquiry-led learning opportunities that reach beyond our campus.”

Adina Howe, assistant professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State, leads the three-year USDA grant. This grant will support technology development, field sampling, laboratory experiments and workshops to disseminate the open-access bioinformatics pipelines to the broader research community.

“I feel very fortunate to be collaborating with a tremendous team of scientists, who are all sharing their expertise to address an important environmental issue — how do we detect and monitor movement of antibiotic-resistance genes in the environment,” Hinsa-Leasure says.

Hinsa-Leasure, an environmental microbiologist, first began investigating antibiotic-resistance genes in the environment near Grinnell in 2014. This project was instigated by one of her former students, Evan Griffith ’15, who was interested and concerned about the local environment.

“Evan and I began this work with a directed reading course to learn what was happening in the field,” recalls Hinsa-Leasure. “That course led us to the USDA in Ames and the development of a partnership that continues to flourish today.”

“I am excited that this project is continuing and that I made a small contribution,” says Griffith, who received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Grinnell. He recently returned from Australia, where he worked as a research intern on a project between Arid Recovery and the University of New South Wales. He hopes to pursue a master’s degree in conservation medicine at Tufts University.

Griffith is one of eight Grinnell undergraduates who already have participated in the project he and Hinsa-Leasure initiated.

“I am thrilled,” Hinsa-Leasure says, “that through this funding additional Grinnell students will have access to cutting-edge technologies and bioinformatics, which will allow us to advance the field.”

Professor's Fellowships Lead to Taiwan

Craig Quintero, associate professor of theatre and dance, has been named the Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year. Quintero has also received a Fulbright Scholar Award and an Academic Enterprise Leave grant, funded by a grant made to the College by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to support his research and creative work in Taiwan during his sabbatical year.

As a Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholar, Quintero will direct his new production Rice Dreams at the Avignon Off Festival in France this summer as well as his multi-media performance Dreaming David Lynch at Taiwan’s National Experimental Theatre in November. During the fall he will also teach a class on site-specific art at Taipei’s National University of the Arts as a Fulbright Scholar. In the spring, Quintero will study filmmaking with Taiwanese director Hung Ya-yen and produce his first short film.

Quintero has spent more than ten years in Asia and has worked to forge cultural exchanges between Grinnell College and Taiwan.

As the artistic director of Riverbed Theatre, he has staged his image-based productions in Germany, Taiwan, France, Macau, Singapore, and Japan. Last year, Quintero collaborated with Professor John Rommereim, music, and six Grinnell students in staging an adaptation of Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold in Taipei. The production was nominated for Taiwan’s prestigious Taishin Arts Award.

The Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholarship was established in 2000 by the late Roberta Stanbery Furbush in appreciation for the influence of Grinnell College upon the lives of her and her husband, Frank. Both Frank and Roberta were highly active in the Des Moines community, and both enjoyed theatre, art, and music.

Expanding the Use of Digital Technology

Grinnell College and the University of Iowa have received a $1.6 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop humanities-centered collaborations that expand the use of digital technology among faculty and students.

The new partnership is distinctive because it is the first time the Mellon Foundation has supported a collaborative digital project between a private liberal arts college and a public research university — institutions with different missions and strengths.

The project, titled “Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry,” will support increased integration of digital resources into the undergraduate curriculum at Grinnell and the UI over four years. The grant will support creative collaboration between Grinnell and the UI involving faculty, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduate students, library faculty and staff, and IT staff.

“The faculties of Grinnell College and the University of Iowa have different institutional environments but a shared commitment to scholarship, teaching, and public engagement,” said Erik Simpson, professor of English and principal investigator for the grant at Grinnell.

“This grant will enable us to build on the digital projects already underway at both schools to establish new communities of thought and practice. Teams involving faculty, staff, students, and community partners will be able to use digital tools to produce new forms of analysis, creativity, and critique that are fundamental to our disciplines.”

Through this initiative, faculty members in the humanities will build their digital skills, develop innovative new courses, and collaborate with students on ambitious digital projects and research programs. The project also will provide support for UI graduate student instructional technology assistants who will help faculty incorporate digital technology into their courses, and the creation of postdoctoral positions at UI to train future faculty for careers in the digital liberal arts and public humanities.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for faculty to bring new, innovative approaches into their teaching and scholarship. The benefits for students will be transformative as well,” said Michael Latham, vice president of academic affairs and dean of Grinnell College. “As they use new technological resources to study the humanities, they will also develop greater digital literacy, gain valuable skills in collaborative writing and research, and create knowledge for broader, public audiences. Those experiences will serve them well throughout their professional lives.”

Grinnell students already are developing digital literacy through research projects such as “Mapping the Global Renaissance.” Directed by Assistant Professor of English James Lee, this project applies “big data” techniques (natural language processing algorithms, data mining, topic modeling, and mapping) to examine 50,000 early modern texts. By using these techniques to analyze early modern England's early representations of different people and their geographical contexts around the world, students acquire a better understanding of how race and racial differences were understood at that time.

UI students also are gaining digital literacy through the university's Public Humanities in a Digital World initiative, the Digital Studio for Public Arts and Humanities and the new graduate Digital Humanities Certificate. Roy J. Carver Professor Ed Folsom is co-founder of one of the nation's earliest and most successful digital projects, The Walt Whitman Archive; students, scholars, and high school teachers from Iowa and around the world have contributed to the project. Assistant Professor Blaine Greteman welcomes his students into the study of the Renaissance and book history through his digital project Shakeosphere: Mapping Early Modern Social Networks. He and Professor Lee are already planning ways to collaborate across the two campuses.

Teresa Mangum, director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and professor of gender, women and sexuality studies, and co-principal investigator Jim Elmborg, associate professor in the School of Library and Information Science anticipate that faculty and students alike will be inspired by working with art, languages, history, literature, philosophy, and world religions in the “hands on” ways digital work encourages: “Jim and I have already benefited from conversations with our colleagues at Grinnell,” Mangum said. “Among the innumerable advantages of this partnership, we look forward to mining the rich potential of shared, project-based learning. We picture professors and students working side-by-side in linked classrooms that connect Grinnell and Iowa, as they archive and visualize their research projects, sharing their discoveries and insights with diverse virtual audiences across the world.”

Major activities to be funded by the grant, which begins this month, include:

  • Faculty development initiatives, such as summer institutes, collaborative projects between Grinnell and UI faculty and training in digital liberal arts techniques.
  • Undergraduate curricular development initiatives, such as new digital liberal arts courses or course modules, developing courses that bridge the two institutions and supporting student-faculty collaborations.
  • Engagement with the broader digital liberal arts community, including a conference to be held at the UI in 2018, support for conference travel to share exemplary digital projects and learn from the work of others, and a web presence for the project that features an online inventory of digital projects.
  • Support for library and instructional technology faculty and staff members who help make digital projects possible, including professional development funds as well as funding for software, digitization, and other research expenses.  

Faculty awarded grants to support interdisciplinary teaching and research

Six faculty received grants through the College’s current award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which supports faculty in the humanities and humanistic social sciences who seek to learn new skills to enhance their teaching and research.

Professor David Cook-Martin was awarded an Academic Enterprise Leave to study social networking analysis. He will incorporate this methodological approach into his research project on global networks of highly skilled workers; he also plans to teach it to students in his methods course.

Professor Stephen Andrews was awarded release time to take Professor Bill Ferguson’s Foundations of Policy Analysis course. He plans to eventually team-teach courses in the Policy Studies Concentration, adding a humanist’s perspective to its curriculum.

Professor Yvette Aparicio received funding to take a course on literary translation at the University of Iowa; this course will help her begin a new project of creating a critical bilingual anthology of contemporary Central American poetry. She also plans to develop one or more courses on translation.

Professor Edward Cohn received funding to take a Lithuanian language course at Vilnius University. This course will help him pursue his research program and develop courses for the Russian, Central and Eastern European Studies and history curricula.

Professor Susan Ireland was awarded a course release to take Professor Caleb Elfenbein’s Gender and Islam course. She plans to use this experience to develop her short course on Middle Eastern and North African film into a regular interdisciplinary class.

Professor Deborah Michaels was awarded a course release to take Professor Astrid Henry’s Introduction to Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies course. She intends to use this course to inform the content of her education courses; it will also prove useful to her as she begins a new research project on teaching LGBTQ civil rights issues in US history classes at the secondary school level.

The next call for proposals for faculty awards through the Mellon grant has just been released; proposals for Academic Enterprise leaves will be due August 15, and proposals for Bridging Projects will be due September 1. Please contact the Grants Office if you would like to learn more about these opportunities.

Perfecting Peer Mentoring

 

 

Peer mentoring has been part of Grinnell classrooms for decades. Now, a $250,000 grant from Arthur Vining Davis Foundations will help the College deepen and expand its programs over the next four years. The funds, says grant writer Susan Ferrari, will go toward evaluating and growing existing programs, refining mentor selection and training, providing faculty workshops, and disseminating information to other colleges and universities.

The grant adds to mentoring programs that, over time, have expanded throughout the Grinnell curriculum. Many departments employ peer mentors for a variety of courses. The libraries and writing lab both have mentoring programs, and the Alternative Language Study Option (ALSO) not only employs peer tutors, but also helped add Japanese and Arabic to the curriculum, Ferrari notes.

“When the students report on their learning gains from a research experience, students who work with peer mentors report higher levels of gains in areas such as tolerance for obstacles, readiness for more research, and self-confidence than other students do,” said David Lopatto, Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Professor of Natural Science and Mathematics, professor of psychology, and interim vice-president for academic affairs and dean of the College. “Students who were the peer mentors scored even higher, thus supporting the adage that teaching is the best way to learn. Peer mentors report greater gains in leadership skills and sense of accomplishment in their peer mentor role than when they first became undergraduate researchers.” The grant helped the Writing Lab place 18 mentors this year, up from the previous high of 12.

Heather Lobban-Viravong, associate professor of English and associate dean, is the grant’s administrator. Grinnell has received seven awards and $950,000 in funds from the Foundations, beginning with a grant in 1974 for a minicomputer system.

Corporate, Foundation, and Government Relations

The Office of Corporate, Foundation, and Government Relations works with faculty and administrators to pursue external funding for research and campus-wide initiatives. We identify funding sources, assist in proposal development and submission, and help steward and administer funded grants. To seek support for your scholarship, please contact us early in your planning. We look forward to talking with you about your research and funding needs.