2018-19 CARA Projects | Admissions and Financial Aid | Colby College
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Admissions and Financial Aid

2018-19 CARA Projects

Art: Graffiti on Renaissance Paintings

Sponsor: Véronique Plesch, Professor of Art (veronique.plesch@colby.edu)

Why would someone deface Renaissance paintings with graffiti? My current research deals with a fascinating and ignored practice: that of writing on frescoes. During my sabbatical in 2017-18, I will be focusing on this research and write a book that features a small northern Italian chapel that contains more than 150 graffiti scratched on its 15th-century frescoes that record four centuries of important events in the life of the village. The CARA research assistant will track and organize materials (both visual and scholarly) and help with historical contextual research and with editorial matters.

Astronomy: Studying Black Holes with the Hubble Space Telescope

Sponsor: Dale Kocevski, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy (dale.kocevski@colby.edu)

My research focuses on studying how supermassive black holes regulate the growth and evolution of galaxies across cosmic time. Supermassive black holes live at the center of all massive galaxies and it is thought that the immense energy they output can adversely affect a galaxy’s ability to form new stars. To test this theory, my students and I make use of NASA imaging from the Hubble Space Telescope to 1) identify galaxies with growing black holes at their centers, and 2) study the structure and star formation activity of these galaxies to determine what impact these active black holes have on their surrounding environment. Student researchers are involved in all stages of this work and will have the opportunity to publish their findings. This project is available only to aspiring physics and astronomy majors.

Biology: Neurodegenerative Disease: Inducing Dementia in Fruit Flies

Sponsor: Tariq Ahmad, Assistant Professor of Biology (syed.ahmad@colby.edu)

Neurodegenerative diseases are one of the biggest challenges facing the biomedical community. Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are associated with progressive decline in the cognitive functions due to age-dependent loss of central nervous system neurons. Early diagnosis and intervention are particularly challenging. The development of early interventions has been inhibited by the lack of genetic markers. One genetic marker associated with the hereditary form of FTD is a mutation in a gene involved in the endosomal-lysosomal pathway that delivers cell surface proteins for degradation. However, it remains unclear how these mutant proteins lead to neurodegeneration. My lab utilizes fruit fly Drosophila, a well-established model system for studying human neurodegenerative diseases to understand such problems. In Drosophila we have the ability to ask what happens when we ectopically express human mutant protein associated with the disease. Our goal is to determine the effects of expressing human mutant protein associated with FTD in the Drosophila brain on circadian rhythm – the ability of an organism to maintain a daily rhythm of physiological processes. We use a combination of histological, biochemical, and behavioral techniques in our projects. Student researchers are involved in all stages of the project, including experiment design, data acquisition and analysis, and manuscript preparation. Students are encouraged to suggest and design their own projects.

Biology: Understanding Complex Interactions Among Frogs, their Microbiome, and a Pathogenic Fungus

Sponsor: Catherine Bevier, Professor of Biology (catherine.bevier@colby.edu)

My lab group studies the complex interactions among a pathogenic fungus that infects frogs through their skin, protective antifungal products of bacteria that compose a frog’s skin microbiome, and the antimicrobial components of frog skin secretion products. Some populations of frogs have exhibited great sensitivity and are vulnerable to morbid infection by the fungus while other frogs are resistant carriers of this pathogen. We are focusing on the Green Frog, Lithobates clamitans, as a model of these resistant species and in a broader survey of indicators of amphibian health. By studying various intrinsic and extrinsic characters, we hope to better understand variation in susceptibility among frog species. My research assistant would have the opportunity to explore these questions using biochemical analyses and tools in microbiology.

Chemistry: Atmospheric Chemistry of Air Pollution and Climate Change

Sponsor: Greg Drozd, Assistant Professor of Chemistry (greg.drozd@colby.edu)

The earth’s rapidly changing atmosphere has huge impacts on our personal health and the health of the planet. While it’s easy to determine that the soot coming from the tailpipe of a big truck, a campfire, or a coal power plant is bad for our health, many of the processes leading to the smog we see in big cities like Los Angeles are not so easily understood. The biggest environmental problem of our era, climate change, is also driven by the emissions from our dominant energy source: burning fossil fuel. After being emitted from their sources, gases and particles undergo a myriad of complex chemical reactions that transform them into harmful air pollution. In my laboratory, we use a range of methods to understand the chemistry of air pollution. We analyze the evaporation of crude oil to understand the impacts of events like oil spills on air pollution; we use quantum mechanics and chemical kinetics to understand the effects of ozone chemistry on the climate; and we observe the chemistry of atmospheric particles using a microscope with laser light. These projects combine to help us make our atmosphere healthier by understanding the sources of our emissions and how they evolve in the atmosphere.

Chemistry: Design of Molecular Architecture

Sponsor: Jeff Katz, Professor of Chemistry (jeffrey.katz@colby.edu)

My students and I conduct research in synthetic organic chemistry—we like to build molecules that no one has ever made before. Our targets are usually large ring compounds with unusual three-dimensional structures, and we try to construct them by “clever” use of known chemical processes. Once we have created our target molecules, we study their properties and investigate applications for their use such as molecular detection (sensing) and ion conduction for fuel cells. More information about my research, our group members, our publications, and funding is available here.  This project is available only to aspiring chemistry majors.

Chemistry: Anticancer Drugs and Their Effects on Interesting Enzymes

Sponsor: Kevin Rice, Associate Professor of Chemistry (kevin.rice@colby.edu)

In my laboratory in the Chemistry Department, we are interested in how certain anticancer drugs result in tumor cell death.  In particular, we are asking whether these molecules affect particular enzymes that facilitate the biochemistry necessary for cells to persist and grow.  The lead compound in our study is a clinical candidate that is indicated for patients with leukemia or brain cancer.  Our work is in the realm of the “pre-clinical”, which means that we deal with cultured cancer cells and purified cellular components.  Potential projects range from cell biology to synthetic chemistry, with plenty of biochemistry in between.  It is our hope that this work will contribute to the clinical profile of these, and similar, chemotherapeutic drugs.

Chemistry: Reaction Mechanisms in Organic Chemistry

Sponsor: Dasan M. Thamattoor, Professor of Chemistry (dasan.thamattoor@colby.edu)

Research projects in my laboratory are developed with the undergraduate student in mind. They are carefully designed to address important questions in contemporary organic chemistry, have a high “education content,” and are compatible with the experience-level of the students. Current work is focusing on carbene chemistry, nonplanar hydrocarbons, and strained cyclic allenes. Student researchers are involved in all aspects of the research. Specifically, they will design and set up experiments; synthesize, purify, and analyze compounds; use research grade instruments and other experimental equipment to obtain data; become proficient in modern computational methods; retrieve information from the chemical literature; interpret results; work collaboratively with other scientists; write reports; give oral presentations; and publish their work in peer-reviewed journals. An especially important aspect of the lab’s educational goals is to help students realize their maximum potential in a friendly, supportive, and nurturing environment. For more information, please visit my page.

Education: Global Citizenship with Elite Educational Contexts

Sponsor: Adam Howard, Professor of Education (adam.howard@colby.edu)

This research project is a multinational, multi-sited global ethnography exploring adolescents’ understandings of self, others, and the world around them with a particular focus on their understandings of what it means to be a global citizen. In this project, we are particularly interested in exploring how these adolescents’ educational experiences influence their self-understandings. The participants attend elite secondary schools in six different countries: Jordan, Denmark, Ghana, Brazil, Taiwan, and Australia. In this project, students and I are constructing case studies of the schools, and interviewing students, teachers, alumni, and administrators. We are also conducting site visits to learn more about the contexts in which the schools are located.

Education: Transforming Rural Educational Experience (TREE)

Sponsor: Lyn Mikel Brown, Professor of Education (lyn.brown@colby.edu)

The goal of TREE is to work with schools and communities in Washington County, Maine to develop a strengths –based, poverty-, trauma-, and equity-informed model that will fortify rural school environments and redress inequity and injustice vis-à-vis access to resources and opportunities for some of the country’s poorest schools and most vulnerable students. Washington County is located along the Canadian border in Downeast Maine, home to two of Maine’s five Native American communities, and recently identified as one of the poorest counties east of the Mississippi. TREE is a project of the Cobscook Community Learning Center in Trescott, Maine. It is inspired and informed by best practices in theory, research, and practice from around the country, and also deeply place-based, rooted in the history, culture, landscape, and natural and social ecologies of Washington County. A five-year pilot phase is currently underway, and we are seeking two research assistants to work with us on various aspects of the project, including designing evaluation protocols, conducting focus groups with students, parents, and teachers, analyzing interview data, conducting literature reviews, and presenting the results of our research. Some travel to Washington County over the course of the academic year is possible.

Education: The Development of Healthy Masculinities

Sponsor: Mark Tappan, Professor of Education (mark.tappan@colby.edu)

This project explores ways in which young people who identify as men develop “healthy” or “resistant” forms and expressions of masculinity.  Healthy/resistant masculinity rejects conventional, hegemonic, hyper-masculine stereotypes and messages about what it means or takes to be a “real man,” in favor of ways of being in the world that reflect a much broader range of thoughts, feelings, and actions. We have been interviewing both cisgender and transgender men who exhibit characteristics of healthy/resistant masculinity. The CARA will assist in all aspects of this project, including data collection, data analysis, and preparation of presentations and reports. This project is ideal for a student with research and writing interests and expertise in the social sciences— particularly education, human development, psychology, sociology, and/or anthropology.

English: Science Fiction, Literary and Political Culture in Colonial India (position filled) 

Sponsor: Mary Ellis Gibson, Arthur Jeremiah Roberts Professor of Literature (mary.ellis.gibson@colby.edu)

My current work focuses on English language literary culture in colonial India, from the late eighteenth century to the beginnings of the modern nationalist movement. I’m interested in globalization, in the ways literary texts and genres migrate from country to country and are reinvented as they go, and in the ways people imagine the world through processes of cross-cultural exchange. In 2018-19, I will be completing an edited collection of futurist fictions written both by Indians and British subjects in colonial India. These are amazing stories—ranging from a futurist construction of the Panama Canal, complete with a tsunami, to air conditioned trains and steam balloons, to a feminist utopia where men keep house and women are scientists. This year a CARA student has assisted in transcribing and editing texts. Next year the book will be in production, and if you work on this project you’ll learn all aspects of book production from copy editing to proofreading to permissions to indexing. If you’re in interested publishing, in science fiction, or in how a book gets from manuscript to print, this project is for you. In the spring semester of 2019, I anticipate beginning a new editorial project, on comparative colonial poetics, which will be a wide ranging collection of essays on the invention of English language poetry across the world of global Englishes. In the spring you’ll work with me on researching and writing the book prospectus. So, between fall and spring you’ll gain a good sense of the whole process—you’ll learn first hand how books come to be.

Environmental Studies: Human-Water Interaction

Sponsor: Denise Bruesewitz, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies (denise.bruesewitz@colby.edu)

My students and I are exploring the ways that human activities impact freshwater ecosystems. We primarily focus on biogeochemistry, understanding nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon cycling in freshwater systems. Our projects range from studying the nitrogen fixing capability of cyanobacteria Gloeotrichia in local Maine lakes to estimating nitrogen transformation rates in salt marsh restoration in New York City. We are also launching a pilot project to quantify and characterize micro plastics in several Maine rivers. Opportunities exist for a student with a strong background in both chemistry and biology and with interest in exploring both field and laboratory work as well as data processing involved in aquatic ecology research. The specific project available for study will be determined in discussion with the student. Students with a 4 or 5 on AP Chemistry or Biology are best prepared for this work, and the project is available to aspiring Environmental Science majors, particularly those interested in Environmental Chemistry.

Environmental Studies: Conservation in Maine

Sponsor: Philip Nyhus, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies (philip.nyhus@colby.edu)

My students have been involved in a variety of research projects related to land and water conservation in Maine. In recent years we have worked with the Maine Lakes Society on their innovative LakeSmart program and I am collaborating with a variety of state and regional organizations related to large landscape conservation. This year I am looking for additional students interested in helping with this research. Current students are developing a database to support regional lake conservation. I am exploring new research projects in Maine and New England focused on land conservation that would benefit from student research assistants.

Environmental Studies: Human-Wildlife Conflict and Wildlife Conservation

Sponsor: Philip Nyhus, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies (philip.nyhus@colby.edu)

My students have been involved in a variety of research projects related to wildlife conservation. In recent years we have mapped habitat and developed conservation plans for potential reintroduction of the critically endangered South China tiger (published with student co-authors in the journal of Biological Conservation) and documented the extent of human deaths and injuries by large cats in captivity, among other projects. This year I am looking for additional students interested in continuing research related to human-wildlife conflict and conservation. My research students have been collaborating on research examining patterns of human-wildlife conflict, a global review of compensation as a tool for human-wildlife conflict, and issues related to conflict with captive animals. I am also beginning new research projects related to large mammal conservation in Asia and developing a new book series on biodiversity conservation that would benefit from student research assistance.

Geology: Shake, Rattle, and Roll:  Studying Fracturing in the Evolution of a Brittle-Ductile Fault Zone

Sponsor: Bill Sullivan, Associate Professor of Geology (walter.sullivan@colby.edu)

The motion of tectonic plates is accommodated by complex fault systems at plate boundaries. In the uppermost 10–15 km of Earth’s crust, deformation is accommodated by brittle rupture along cm- to m-wide faults. This commonly results in earthquakes as elastic strain energy is dissipated. In the lower crust, rocks deform by continuous ductile flow, and deformation is distributed over 10’s of km. The transition between brittle and ductile deformation, or the brittle-ductile transition, is theoretically the strongest part of Earth’s crust. This project will help understand the processes operating in brittle-ductile fault zones by documenting the roll earth-quake-generated, dynamic fracturing played in a deformation-mechanism shift from dominantly brittle to dominantly ductile deformation in a large fault zone in eastern Maine. The CARA student will participate by identifying and tracing fractures visible in scanning-electron-microscope (SEM) images and then using the MATLAB tool FracPaQ to quantify fracture density and alignment in progressively deformed samples. The student will be expected to take GE 141 in the fall of their first year.

German: Cat Maps – A Digital Humanities Project

Sponsor: Arne Koch, Dean of Global Engagement, Associate Professor of German (arne.koch@colby.edu)

How is it possible that even though humans seem to have figured out the entirety of the animal world that cats continue to elude us? Why do humans find felines so intriguing and provocative? As a digital companion to a book-length study, tentatively titled “Furry Friends and Feline Demons”, this CARA project helps address these and related questions through the creation of an interactive digital map documenting the representation of cats in German-speaking countries. As part of a larger project on animal-human relations (emphasis cats) in German-speaking cultures in the 19th and 20th centuries, this project will be the foundation of what I envision to become the interactive index of primary and theoretical sources for my ongoing book project. The research assistants will contribute to the project on several levels which will prepare them for their own future research: reading and discussion of existing scholarship on the topic; database and library research, locating and recording of sources; evaluation of existing interactive humanities mapping projects; creation of an interactive map of German-speaking countries beyond the standard Google-map fare; collection, creation and adding of map content; presentation of preliminary research findings. Some reading knowledge of German would be a preferred student qualification. Ideally, research assistants would also learn how to read old German blackletter typeface (Fraktur).

German: Create Dangerously:  Edwidge Danticat’s Perspective on Trauma, Loss, and Memory

Sponsor: Alicia Ellis, Assistant Professor of German (alicia.ellis@colby.edu)

Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer of fiction and nonfiction. In her work Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (2010), she reflects on the role of the artist, particularly those who come from regions of conflict. While the center of the project is Danticat’s essays in Create Dangerously, I look to her fiction to work through the author’s self-proclaimed obligation to the excavation of stories of trauma and loss and the experience, the memory and the recall of terror. The final goal is a book-length manuscript. Student research assistants will help me in the research process for the introduction and book proposal including collecting the research and compiling the bibliography. Students will conduct academic research, use bibliographic management tools such as Zotero, write brief summaries of texts with citations and learn how to revise and edit writing. This project is best suited for students interested in the Humanities and/or with a concentration in diasporic literature, trauma studies and African-American/Caribbean literature.

German: The Reception of Goethe’s Scientific Writings

Sponsor: Rory Bradley, Visiting Assistant Professor of German (rory.bradley@colby.edu)

Though best known for his contributions to world literature, such as Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther, the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a polymath whose work was not limited to theater, poetry and prose fiction. Throughout his long lifetime, Goethe was also active as a statesman, painter, philosopher, travel writer and  — most importantly to this project — natural scientist. His scientific writings included a study of The Metamorphosis of Plants and also a Color Theory that challenges the Newtonian paradigm. Goethe’s method, sometimes referred to as Goethean science, has received a mixed reception in the past two centuries, but its influence on many scientists, painters, authors and philosophers is undeniable. In recent ecological thinking and eco-criticism, we are seeing a revived interest in Goethe’s hybrid practice of poetry and science. The reception of Goethe’s scientific writing is an immense body of literature and scholarship, and the last good annotated bibliography of it was written over 30 years ago. As part of a book project on the legacy of Goethe’s thought and German Romanticism in contemporary ecological thinking, I am seeking CARA scholars who will work with me on updating and enriching this annotated bibliography and thereby learn skills that will prepare them for their own research: reading and assessing existing scholarship; conducting database and library research; locating sources and identifying connections between thinkers along lines of influence; presenting research findings in an article or conference presentation. If the opportunity arises in the course of research, we may co-author a paper or conference presentation on the topic of Goethe’s writings and their resonance in current eco-criticism and ecological thought. The ability to read German is beneficial, but it is not required, as Goethe’s works are readily available in translation and much of the recent reception has been written in English.

Government: The Politics of Child Welfare in Latin America

Sponsor: Lyndsay Mayka, Assistant Professor of Government (lindsay.mayka@colby.edu)

I am looking for one or more CARA scholars to work with me in developing my second book, which examines how Latin American governments have protected (or failed to protect) the rights of children and adolescents. All Latin American countries have embraced the language of children’s rights since the ratification of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, yet in practice, state institutions for child welfare vary dramatically. Paradoxically, countries that established early child welfare systems by the mid-20th Century, such as Argentina, have made less progress in adopting rights-based systems than latecomers, such as Bolivia. This book will examine the long-term policy legacies of prior child welfare systems on contemporary struggles to advance children’s rights. I also explore how policy entrepreneurs can mobilize coalitions of business actors, NGOs, grassroots movements, and bureaucrats to promote rights-based reforms for child protection, even in hostile political environments. The CARA scholars will build newspaper archives and will collect policy documents from five Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. Proficiency in Spanish or Portuguese is required.

Italian: Mapping Water Digitally

Sponsor: Serena Ferrando, Assistant Professor of Italian (serena.ferrando@colby.edu)

The Navigli Project is a digital Humanities project that explores and maps the cultural history
of water in Milan, Italy (Milan is Italy’s self-described “city of water”). Students will help with
the development of searchable and annotated thick maps of Milan. Primary sources include
photographs, maps, poems, short stories, essays, graphic novels, comics, manifestos, music, city
plans, and historical accounts. Secondary sources comprise scholarly works, online archives as
well as other digital humanities projects. The Navigli Project is intended to be an interactive
resource for students, researchers, and the general public interested in discovering and learning
about Milan’s lost canals and current plans to bring them back. The digital exhibit can be
explored by clicking the points on the screen, scrolling along different narratives, following
various “itineraries,” or opening each of the listed records. Collaborators include the City of Milan,
Urban Genoma, and Riaprire i Navigli. Students who enjoy working with digital media
and engaging in creative design are well suited for the project. Knowledge of Italian is not

Music: Technology Meets Music: Developing Gestural Controllers for Interactive Multimedia

Sponsor: Jonathan Hallstrom, Associate Professor of Music (jonathan.hallstrom@colby.edu)

Modern-day interactive multimedia, often referred to as “intermedia”, involves collaborative efforts between individuals in a variety of disciplines, including music, dance and theatre. The end results of these collaborations are artworks that allow participants (which can include both performers and audience members) to be involved in the “hands-on” manipulation of digital sound and image in real time. The CARA student who participates in this project will assist me in developing technology for new interactive works, primarily those that take advantage of custom wireless “gestural controllers” based on the Arduino microprocessor platform and the Max/MSP music programming environment.  Students with interests in engineering or computer programming and their applications to music are especially encouraged to apply.

Physics: Rydberg Atom Excitation Using Diode Lasers

Sponsor: Duncan Tate, Professor of Physics (duncan.tate@colby.edu)

Highly excited states of atoms, where the valence electron is very weakly bound to the nucleus, have very unusual properties. In particular, these states, known as “Rydberg atoms”, can exert significant forces on each other if the sample is dense enough. My research at Colby involves laser-cooled atoms in a magneto-optical trap (MOT), and I am interested in using diode lasers to optically excite these slow-moving atoms to Rydberg states using a three-step process. In this project, the CARA student will work closely with me on building the lasers used in this research, and implementing techniques to frequency stabilize them. The project will involve construction of lasers and optical systems, some electronics fabrication, and (possibly) closely supervised work in the physics machine shop. This project is best suited to students with a strong interest in majoring in physics.

Psychology: Children’s Cognition

Sponsor: Martha Arterberry, Professor of Psychology (martha.arterberry@colby.edu)

What do children know and how do they come to know it? My students and I are studying 2- to 5-year-old children’s thinking, particularly their memory and how they put what they know into action in problem-solving contexts. One line of research is how skilled children are at recalling events, which has implications for eyewitness testimony. Another line of research investigates how children use their knowledge (or not) to guide their actions. Student researchers help in all aspects of this work from recruiting families to come to campus or working in local day care centers or preschools, testing children, coding behavior, analyzing data, and preparing the findings for presentations and publications. Work hours are flexible to accommodate families’ schedules and may include some weekends.

Psychology: Genetic and Neural Basis of Psychological Disorders, Particularly Depression and Schizophrenia

Sponsor: Melissa Glenn, Associate Professor of Psychology (meliss.glenn@colby.edu)

The main focus of our work in the behavioral neuroscience lab is on the genetic and neural basis of psychological disorders, particularly depression and schizophrenia. These psychopathologies share stress as a common and significant contributor. We are investigating the ways in which dietary factors may render individuals more or less vulnerable to stress, doing so with a variety of rat models. Little is known about the ways in which levels of specific nutrients available during developmental sensitive periods, when the brain is very plastic, may modulate adult responses to stress and thereby alter the onset or course of psychopathology. Recent work from our lab suggests that the essential nutrient choline may play such a role. We are particularly excited to be exploring the potential for developmental availability of choline to epigenetically regulate gene transcription in ways that persist over the lifespan, and perhaps over generations, and to be using innovative genetic rat knockout models to do so.


Psychology: The Psychology of Free Will Beliefs on Self and Social Perception

Sponsor: Elizabeth Seto, Assistant Professor of Psychology (elizabeth.seto@colby.edu)

“Do we have free will?” This is a question that has been debated upon for centuries. Advocates contend that individuals are freely able to act according to their own values and volition whereas opponents suggest that the origins of our behaviors are a product of many external pressures. As a social psychologist, I am not interested in whether free will actually exists. Rather, I am concerned with the consequences belief in free will has on our understanding of the self and other social beings. My research team and I are currently conducting experimental research in which we manipulate belief in free will and examine the psychological outcomes of this induction. Student researchers are involved in all aspects of the research process including research design, data collection, and data analysis.

Russian: Nabokov and the International Movie Industry

Sponsor: Luke Parker, Assistant Professor of Russian (luke.parker@colby.edu)

Born in Russia in 1899, Vladimir Nabokov grew up with the twentieth century, and came of age with the cinema. In exile in Berlin following the Russian Revolution, Nabokov wrote screenplays and acted as an extra in German films. Even after he became a novelist, his fiction returned constantly to the cinema, which represented European and American modernity to his Russian audience. As a well-financed foreign market, the American and German movie industries provided ways for Nabokov to make a name and gain entry to new languages. In my book project on the role of the 1920s and ‘30s international movie industry for Russian exiles like Nabokov, I look at how cinema worked as both a symbol and a market for modernist-era literature. While I provide close readings of Nabokov’s Russian fiction and Russian émigré writing about the cinema, my research assistant would be exploring the world of movies itself. A CARA fellow will help answer questions like, What was the international movie industry of the 1920s and ‘30s? How were Russian émigré actors and directors involved? How were Russians represented? And how did writers negotiate contracts and get paid? Much of the work is in English; a knowledge of German is a plus; Russian a double plus.

Science, Technology, and Society: Breaking the Glass Ceiling by Breaking Through the Clouds

Sponsor: James Fleming, Charles A. Dana Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (james.fleming@colby.edu)

My research involves the history of climate and environmental science using primary source materials. I am currently writing a book (under contract) titled “Breaking Through the Clouds: Joanne Simpson and the Tropical Atmosphere.” Joanne was the first female meteorologist to earn a Ph.D. in the United States. This work covers her struggles and accomplishments from teaching aviation cadets in World War II to the 21st century, when she worked at NASA, in charge of her own satellite to observe the tropics. Students will learn about book publishing and work on a companion website to be linked to the MIT Press.

Sociology: Church and State in Local Politics

Sponsor: Damon Mayrl, Assistant Professor of Sociology (damon.mayrl@colby.edu)

Recent Supreme Court decisions have altered the terrain of permissible church-state relations in the United States. Various financial and symbolic entanglements between religion and government, previously forbidden under a regime of “strict separation,” are today increasingly permitted. To what extent have these changes in church-state jurisprudence resulted in changes in practice? This project engages this question by asking how local government officials think and make decisions about religion and public life. The CARA fellow may aid in this research by conducting literature searches, observing local government meetings, transcribing interviews, and engaging in archival research. Students interested in religion, politics, law, and public policy would be well suited for the project.

Sociology: Immigration, Ethnic Diversity, and Civic Life across Contemporary Advanced Democracies

Sponsor: Christel Kesler, Assistant Professor of Sociology (christel.kesler@colby.edu)

More than at any other time in recent memory, immigration is front page news across advanced democracies. Some countries struggle to respond to massive waves of new migrants fleeing ongoing war and poverty and drawn by the promise of political stability and economic security. Other countries continue to wrestle with longer-term issues of integration and multiculturalism policies. Existing literature in the social sciences suggests that immigration-generated diversity may result not only in anti-immigrant sentiment, but also in a more general turn away from civic and public life, and an erosion of the social solidarity necessary to sustain generous welfare states. But we also have reasons to believe that this is not a universal response, that these processes may be strongly conditioned by a country’s existing social institutions and social policies. This ongoing project focuses on documenting and explaining variation in public responses to contemporary immigration-generated diversity across Western European and North American countries, particularly the effects of growing diversity on civic engagement and support for the welfare state. The CARA fellow will assist with reviewing the scholarly literature, analyzing existing survey data, compiling a database of relevant social policies, and further data collection. A student with a broad interest in the social sciences and particular interests in immigration, ethnic diversity, or cross-nationally comparative policy research would be ideal for the position.

Sociology: Religion and Deindustrialization

Sponsor: Damon Mayrl, Assistant Professor of Sociology (damon.mayrl@colby.edu)

Churches played an important role in facilitating industrial development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today, many parts of the United States, including Maine, are experiencing deindustrialization—a decline of the manufacturing and extractive bases that previously sustained vibrant local economies. How have Maine’s churches responded to this transformation? How have they helped local communities and politicians negotiate, challenge, or respond to the decline of manufacturing jobs?  How have they acted as resources for the communities left behind by factory closures? The CARA fellow may aid in this research by conducting literature searches, undertaking historical research, and composing a database of mill and factory closures. Students interested in religion, economics, and American studies would be well suited for the project, which will also allow the fellow to become better acquainted with the history and politics of Maine.

Sports Medicine: The Diagnosis and Epidemiology of Sports-Related Concussions

Sponsor: Paul Berkner, College Medical Director (paul.berkner@colby.edu)

I am looking for a student interested in the diagnosis and epidemiology of sports-related concussions. We have two ongoing projects related to concussions that students can get involved in: The first involves reviewing and editing baseline and post-concussion demographics on high school students in Maine. This project will involve working with the Computer Science Department at Colby as well as interfacing with local high schools regarding data management and collection. The second project involves novel approaches to balance testing, both for healthy individuals and for concussed athletes. Both of these projects offer direct involvement in clinical research and possibly the opportunity to submit work for publication.