Research

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The list below gives examples of Fellowships in the area of research.

Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies: The Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, founded in 2003, is an undergraduate program dedicated to furthering academic research on Memphis and the Mid-South region.

St. Jude Summer Plus: Rhodes and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital work together to offer qualified students an intensive research experience that pairs Rhodes students with St. Jude scientists and places students into the hospital’s professional laboratories for period of one summer, one academic year, and a possible second summer. Through this experience, students become fully engaged citizens in the scientific community of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a world-class clinical and research facility for pediatric patients.

Cognitive Aging: As our population is beginning to see an increasing number of adults living and thriving into old age, scientists are seeking to understand what cognitive processes are vulnerable to aging and to discover ways in which we can help older adults maintain active minds. Research conducted in the Cognition & Aging Lab investigates specific factors that contribute to declines so that people can better understand what constitutes “typical” age-related changes in cognition. This fellowship will train undergraduate researchers in all aspects of the experimental study of age-related cognitive changes. Fellows will (1) engage in literature reviews and discussion of theoretical approaches to explaining age-related changes in cognition, (2) develop research questions, hypotheses, and experimental methodology, (3) design materials to be used in experiments, (4) test older adults from the Memphis community, (5) code and analyze data, and (6) disseminate research findings via conference posters and manuscripts to be submitted for publication. Because of this comprehensive approach to collaborative research, the fellow will also see how individual experiments are part of a larger program of research. Fellowship recipients will therefore learn how broader psychological and gerontological questions are answered through specific experiments, and how research progresses from one experiment to the next.

Gamma-Extensions of Orbifold Invariants for Low-dimensional Orbifolds: “Orbifolds” are geometric objects that are smooth “almost everywhere,” yet have “singular points” where their smooth structures break down.  Recently, a new method of extending to orbifolds the language used to describe smooth objects has been introduced, motivating many new questions and problems about the extent to which this language describes orbifolds.  In particular, many of these problems are best understood by considering low-dimensional examples of orbifolds. The student will learn the required background information on orbifolds and topological invariants through independent study and meetings with the supervisor.  The student will compute examples of these invariants for a particular class of orbifolds (e.g. closed 3-dimensional orbifolds), and will use these examples to develop general results and counterexamples regarding the nature of these invariants. These investigations will involve applications of finite groups, and in particular group actions on vector spaces.  Most of the work will involve groups presented as finite collections of 2x2 or 3x3 matrices.  Hence, previous experience with group theory is desirable though not required.  In the summer of 2010, the primary question will involve the relationship between Gamma-extensions of the Euler-Satake characteristic and orbifold covering spaces, in particular the oriented double-cover of a non-orientable orbifold.

Archaeology/Analysts: The Rhodes Archaeological Field School at the Ames Plantation is an annual research opportunity that trains students in field work and artifact analysis. This fellowship is intended to provide four students with leadership roles in the research and teaching process. These students will be trained in specific areas of archaeological research and will teach other students the necessary skills of archaeological excavations and analysis. The four students will also collaborate with the participating faculty and professional archaeologists in the production of published material on the excavations. There are four specific areas in which these fellows will take leadership and research roles: ceramic analysis, GIS analysis, glass and metal specialist, and soil and botanical analysis. In the past 3 seasons there have been students who have excelled in these four areas of research. With this fellowship opportunity, the Archaeology Program will be able to standardize these research positions and reach out to specific students who are interested in these areas of study. The staff for the excavations includes specialists in these areas who will provide hands-on training prior to and during the 3 week excavation. The four fellows will be selected based on their prior experience in specific classes at Rhodes (i.e., Chemistry of Archaeology or Material Culture Studies) as well as their prior experience at a field school – these prerequisites are an unfunded initial phase of this broader Fellowship engagement.

Researching the Kress Collection at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art: Between 1929 and 1961 Samuel H. Kress distributed his art collection of over 3,000 works to museums and educational institutions across the United States.  Kress had made a fortune through his discount stores and amassed the largest collection of old master paintings, particularly Italian art, ever assembled in this country.  The bulk of the collection now forms the heart of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  The remaining works serve as forty-one regional collections in cities as far flung as Seattle, Miami, Phoenix, and Memphis.  Kress’s first store opened in Memphis and thus the city received special favor when his collection was dispersed.  Twenty-eight Italian paintings and two sculptures are now in the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.  While this collection is acknowledged as among the finest of its kind, the works have received only sporadic scholarly attention.  The devoted staff at the Museum does as much as possible to keep their files current, but it is a never-ending task, made more difficult by limited personnel and resources.  A Rhodes Fellow can make a meaningful difference by pursuing directed research on the collection with the ultimate goal of making original contributions to the scholarly discussion of these works of art.  Research activities will begin by selecting individual works of art at the Brooks Museum and studying the current curatorial file.  The student will compile a working bibliography of known sources, followed by database and library research to acquire additional bibliography to bring the file up to date.  The student will then summarize the scholarly issues that have been generally explored regarding the work (for example, attribution, iconography, interpretation, provenance, context, etc.).  Finally, working closely with Professor Victor Coonin, the student will investigate promising new areas of research to make an original contribution to the scholarly discussion and general understanding of the art.  New bibliography and other pertinent material will be kept on permanent file at the Museum.  In cases of significant new analysis and/or discovery, the intent is to disseminate these findings through conference presentation and publication.  Students will work under the immediate direction of Victor Coonin, a specialist in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art.  Students will also have special access to the curatorial files of the Brooks Museum and will consult with its staff and other scholars when appropriate. 

Modular Neutron Array (MoNA): Construction, Testing, Installation, and Commissioning: The student will work with me to construct, test, install, and commission a set of 16 scintillator detectors that will become a part of the Modular Neutron Array (MoNA), installed at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University. This work will be carried out in collaboration with 12 other colleges and universities. Our summer research will begin with assembly of the detectors. Concurrently, the student will learn the fundamentals of nuclear physics through guided readings, one-on-one physics discussions, and simple problems in which the student will apply basic principles from Fundamentals of Physics (PHYS 111-112) to the atomic nucleus. We will work to build a knowledge base so that the student will be able to troubleshoot problems with our apparatus and contextualize this work in the larger field of physics. Once construction is complete, we will test and characterize the detectors. Our testing parameters will be compared to those obtained by our MoNA collaborators. Using the detectors, we will measure the cosmic muon flux here at Rhodes College. In early July, we will use MoNA in an experiment at the NSCL. Installation and commissioning of the additional detectors will take place early in the Summer 2011.

Summer Research in Experimental Nuclear Physics: The student will learn the fundamentals of nuclear physics through guided readings, one-on-one physics discussions, and simple problems in which the student will apply basic principles from Fundamentals of Physics (PHYS 111-112) to the nucleus. We will build a knowledge base so that the student will be able to contextualize this work in the larger field of physics. The data are collected at an accelerator facility and brought back to Rhodes College for analysis. The bulk of the student’s work will be data analysis of a subset of the data brought back from the experiment. In addition to data analysis, the student will take measurements of radioactive elements in our environment using detectors in my lab at Rhodes College.

Text, Performance, and Traditional Remedies: The following fellowship has been developed collaboratively by Lori Garner (assistant professor, English) and Kayla Miller (rising senior, English): Through focused comparative and interdisciplinary research, this fellowship explores the complex relationships between text and performance in selected traditional remedies from early medieval England and the modern-day Southern United States. Research will focus specifically on remedies related to animals and agricultural practice, with the goal of better understanding the role written instructions play in the enactment of healing rituals and practices. To these ends, the first three weeks of the fellowship will provide theoretical grounding in performance theory, orality and literacy studies, and ethnographic methods. Weeks four through six will involve close reading and analysis of one or more Anglo-Saxon charm and remedy collections, including limited work with manuscript facsimiles. Weeks seven through nine will focus on modern day traditional remedies employed in the mid-South region. Beginning with contacts established during previous work with Heifer International and the Rhodes Institute, Kayla will conduct interviews, with special attention given to textual and oral transmission of traditional knowledge. While synthesis of ideas will be ongoing throughout the duration of the fellowship, the final week will be devoted exclusively to seeking connections that enhance our mutual understanding of both textualized and living traditions.

Virtual Environment Research: The purpose of this fellowship is to provide an opportunity for students to connect their computer science coursework to creative research. Fellows will learn to build 3-D models and incorporate them into an interactive virtual environment (VE) that a human can explore.  To accomplish this, fellows will rely on their acquired computer science reasoning and programming skills.   VE research is interdisciplinary, involving psychological experimentation to test the VE’s effectiveness.  Thus, fellows will learn the basics of experimental design and analysis.  Fellows will be required to read VE research articles daily and spend a significant portion of time reflecting about what it means to make a scholarly contribution and investigating open research problems.  By the end of the fellowship, students have done an extensive literature search, created a research agenda, designed a VE and an experiment to test the effectiveness of their environment, and discussed/analyzed the results of their research in a paper.  The student will seek guidance and collaboration from the fellowship advisor and other students and faculty in both computer science and psychology.   The student and advisor will make several trips to Vanderbilt University to use their state-of-the-art VE lab and collaborate with their students and faculty.   

Integrative research training in biological sub-disciplines: An integrative approach is often required in order to effectively address complex problems in biology. We propose a collaborative multi-disciplinary research training fellowship in biology during which fellows will be engaged in research that provides hands-on experience with several biological sub-disciplines: field ecology, molecular biology, microbiology, parasitology, and GIS (Geographic Information Science). Students participating in the fellowship will be cross-trained to conduct research in two or more of these areas by Rhodes faculty that currently conduct research or teach courses in each of the areas: Dr. Luque de Johnson (molecular biology, microbiology, parasitology), Dr. Sarah Boyle (GIS, ecology), and Dr. Jon Davis (ecology, parasitology). Fellows will integrate factual knowledge and fundamental principles learned in these courses with experiences outside the conventional classroom by collecting data from the field throughout Shelby County and at Ames Plantation. Fellows will analyze and critically evaluate these data at Rhodes and will eventually have the opportunity to present their research to the Rhodes community at URCAS and beyond at national and international conferences.

Department of History Summer Research: This fellowship proposal is student initiated.  Andrew Howie, who has assisted in the Department of History for the past two years as a work-study student, aspires eventually to pursue graduate study and a career in academia.  His specific interests lie in the area of medieval studies, particularly the relationship between near eastern languages and western languages and culture during the Middle Ages.  Andrew expressed an interest in working with faculty members in the Department of History this summer, so as to gain experience as a historical researcher.  I saw this as an opportunity to assist an aspiring scholar in the early stages of his professional development. His work during summer 2010 will cover five main areas:

  • Comparative research on divination practices of various peoples, focusing on ancient near eastern and medieval Europe, with Prof. Susan Satterfield
  • Historiographical research with Prof. Jeffrey Jackson for an article he is writing on natural disasters
  • Copyright permissions work for Profs. Jackson and Robert Saxe on a reader they are putting together on trans-Atlantic counterculture, as well as similar work with Prof. Dee Garceau on her documentary film
  • Census research with Prof. Charles McKinney on civil rights history
  • Research with Prof. Huebner on the political and military history of the American Civil War.

Andrew’s work with Prof. Satterfield fits nicely with his own research interests and would perhaps spark research of his own.  At the same time, these other research opportunities will help him to become familiar with the tools and techniques of scholarly research (compiling bibliographies, examining demographic information), as well as certain other skill sets that he may need in the future (preparing copyrights).  By the end of the fellowship, Andrew will have a deeper sense of his own academic vocation and interests, as well as improved skills as a historical researcher.

Institutional Research Analyst: The Institutional Research Analyst fellowship will be substantially similar to the Information Services student associate positions in institutional research.  The fellow will work alongside the Director of Information Services and the Information Services student associates in researching questions of institutional importance to Rhodes.  Examples include factors relating to student retention and graduation, effectiveness and consequences of policies such as financial aid award criteria or social regulations, impact of communication processes on student success, etc.  Opportunities to exercise in practice analytical and communicative skills learned in the classroom will include responding to requests for data from internal and external constituents, creating and managing surveys, and otherwise assisting in the execution of the institutional research function at Rhodes.  The fellow will have access to large data sets for research purposes and is expected to acquire and utilize a number of research techniques from various social science disciplines. The minimum duration for this fellowship is one semester.  The maximum duration is three years (from beginning of sophomore year to graduation).  In years when only one institutional research student associate is returning, new institutional research fellow(s) will begin in the Spring semester.  In years when two or more IR student associates are returning, new IR fellows may begin in the Fall semester.

Advanced Inquiries in Development: The goal of this Fellowship would be to provide interested students from Mechanisms of Development an opportunity to continue study in Development by actively participating in research.  Fellows will engage in cutting edge developmental biology research for 10 hours per week during the academic year.  Initial training will involve instruction in fluorescent microscopy and digital image analysis, plant husbandry and basic protocols for DNA isolation and manipulation.  From there, fellows will use these skills to work on a independent project asking basic questions about the development of the Arabidopsis seed.  Our group primarily focuses on the distinct influences of maternal and paternal genes and how these are coordinated in the embryo to build a new organism.  We employ molecular techniques, looking at gene expression and DNA modification, but most work involves transgenic plant lines where we can view developmental processes in living seeds at early stages of development. The precise details of the projects will change depending on the Fellow’s interest and current lab goals, and Fellow’s will be encouraged to design and implement experiments in line with their project goals. 

Research in Computational Modeling of Drug-Protein Interactions: Towards the Design of Novel Drugs: The student will engage in research in electronic structure calculations and rational drug design using explicit knowledge of the drug-target active site. Using state of the art modeling and quantum mechanics programs, the student will oversee the entire process of novel drug design from finding crystal structure information on the drug-target, docking drug or other small molecules in the active site, evaluating the strength of affinity of the drug/small molecule for the target, and refining the molecular structure for improved fit and affinity. The project will include writing a comprehensive report on the research and presenting their work in a public forum such as a regional, local, or national conference. In the course of the above work the student will learn techniques in spreadsheet usage, the linux operating system, cluster computing, simple shell scripting, quantum chemistry, and protein structure.

Brain Imaging and Cancer Research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: This fellowship will permit Amber Owens to continue a project at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on the characterization and localization of Medulloblastoma tumors the most common form of brain cancer in children. Four genetic subtypes of this tumor have been identified and two have been shown to differ in their specific location in the brainstem. Amber is trying to determine if the third subtype can also be regionally localized and distinguished from the other strains. She will be working with a team of radiologists, geneticists and pediatric oncologists using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of medulloblastoma tumors in children. This is an extraordinary opportunity to be engaged in translational research that is at the intersection of two cutting edge technologies – genomics and MRI imaging. Amber will be involved in all phases of this work from scanning patients to quantitative analysis of brain images. She will be asked to keep a reflective journal that addressed each of the learning outcomes and to present her research at the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium. 

Measuring the Distribution of Heavy Metals in Memphis Soils: I am proposing a fellowship program that will create a long-term research project with an overarching goal of establishing the distribution of heavy metals, including lead, in soils throughout the greater Memphis area. Lead poisoning is a major health problem in the US, especially in urban environments. According to the Official Website of Shelby County, 5% of children under the age of five living in the county have elevated levels of lead in their blood; those living in poverty are 13 times more likely to be lead poisoned than the national norm. The fellowship program proposed here will be initiated this summer with the first goal of establishing reliable analytical protocols for the analysis of a variety of heavy (or toxic) metals in soils (lead, arsenic, cadmium, etc.). These methods will be applied to soil samples collected in the area, with the results plotted using GIS. This will provide a map showing the distribution throughout the county. The instrument used (Atomic Absorption Spectrograph) is available in the Rhodes Chemistry Department. Determining the source of lead (auto exhaust, lead based paints, etc.) will also be explored. I envision that this program will ultimately be funded in large part via external grants.