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CARA (Colby Academic Research Assistants)

2016-17 CARA Projects

American Studies: Digital Maine

Sponsor: Ben Lisle, Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies (

Digital Maine is a digital humanities project developed by the American Studies program. It is a forum for storytelling—stories by and about Mainers, stories told by things and places. It is also an archive. We find, digitize, create, and archive artifacts about Maine and produced by Mainers—things like photos, letters, maps, films, reports, and oral histories. We use these artifacts to build interpretive projects about Maine and its cultures, telling stories through video documentaries and short films, radio documentaries and podcasts, interactive maps, and multimedia interpretive narratives. A research assistant on this project will play an important role in building and shaping the future of this initiative. You will learn how to use different online exhibition tools—including mapping and timeline applications. Applicants should have an interest in social history, culture, and/or design, as well as a curiosity about how digital technologies can transform the scholarship we produce. No technical or coding experience is necessary, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

American Studies: Oral Histories of the Back-to-the-Land Movement in Maine

Sponsor: Margaret McFadden, Professor of American Studies (

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, hundreds of thousands of young Americans concerned about environmental and social issues left the cities and suburbs to move to rural areas. There, they established self-sufficient homesteads, in which they often built their own houses, raised and preserved their own organic food, and tried to live in ways that reflected their beliefs about what constituted a good and ethical life. Many of these new homesteaders came to Maine and helped to revitalize rural communities across the state. I am conducting oral history interviews with people who came back to the land in this era, in order to understand their complex motivations and experiences. A student working as my research assistant would be trained to conduct oral history interviews, and to edit, transcribe, and archive them on the developing “Digital Maine” website. Students would also collect, document, and digitize a variety of primary historical materials associated with this movement. Finally, students would assist with the record-keeping required to track interviews through the entire production process. An interest in Maine, in recent U.S. history, or in environmental and social issues are desirable.

Art: Graffiti on Frescoes / Word and Image Studies

Sponsor: Véronique Plesch, Professor of Art (

Why would an art historian study graffiti that deface Renaissance paintings? My current research deals with a fascinating and ignored practice: that of writing on frescoes. I have been focusing on a small northern Italian chapel that contains more than 150 graffiti scratched on its 15th-century frescoes and that record four centuries of important events in the life of the village. I seek a research assistant to assist me in this research and other scholarly activities. Other tasks will include helping me in preparing lectures and in my duties as president of the International Association of Word and Image Studies—for instance, the preparation of newsletters containing scholarly information on this field at the intersection of visual and verbal expressions (a field central to my research on graffiti on frescoes), as well as the preparation of the international conference to take place in the summer of 2017.

Art: Jews and Judaism in Art

Sponsor: Véronique Plesch, Professor of Art (

The preparation for a new lecture course (cross-listed in Art History and Jewish Studies) will involve researching textbooks and readings to be used in class as well as tracking the visual materials to be taught. The course will cover not only the way in which Jews have been represented by non-Jews but also Jewish art and art created by Jewish artists.

Biology: Hormones and Plant Gene Expression

Sponsor: Russell Johnson, Professor of Biology (

My students and I are investigating how plant gene expression is regulated by the hormones abscisic acid and gibberellin. Abscisic acid is important in protecting plants against environmental stress and it tends to restrict growth, while gibberellin promotes growth-related processes. An important part of how these hormones bring about their effects is that they can turn on and off particular genes that regulate growth and development. A number of genes are regulated in a competitive manner by these two hormones, as they are stimulated by gibberellin and inhibited by abscisic acid. The work in our laboratory is dedicated to obtaining a better understanding of the specific mechanisms by which hormone signals lead to the changes in expression of these genes.

Chemistry: Design of Molecular Architecture

Sponsor: Jeffrey Katz, Associate Professor of Chemistry (

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.

Chemistry: Anticancer Drugs and their Effects on Interesting Enzymes

Sponsor: Kevin Rice, Assistant Professor of Chemistry (

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.

Classics: Artworks Inspired by Greek and Roman Tragedy

Sponsor: Kerill O’Neill, Julian D. Taylor Associate Professor of Classics (

As part of a continuing research project to document and analyze artworks from the Renaissance to the modern day inspired by Greek and Roman tragedies, I am seeking a student motivated to learn more about classical tragedy, later dramatists’ reworking of those plays, and the paintings, sculptures, and other works of art that drew inspiration from those dark tales. Literary analysis will range from antiquity (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca) to more recent times (Racine, Corneille, Dryden, Ted Hughes). Artists will extend from Canova to Picasso, from Tiepolo to Rothko. Prior training in art history and/or classics is desirable, but more important is an appetite to hone writing skills, learn more about research methodology, and develop analytical skills in the visual arts and literature. The project goals include creating a website, contributing to a database, and the eventual production of a book manuscript (in a few years).

Classics: Veterans and the Arts and Humanities

Sponsor: Kerill O’Neill, Julian D. Taylor Associate Professor of Classics (

There are more than 2.5 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in America. Yet the traumas they have suffered, the sacrifices they and their families have made, and the challenges they face reentering their communities are often invisible to their fellow citizens. Nevertheless, across the country, there are numerous arts and humanities programs (e.g., in art, music, theater, writing, etc.) that seek to raise public awareness, engage veterans and their families, and forge new links between veterans and their communities. I am seeking a motivated student to research all these programs, to analyze awareness of veteran issues at Colby, and to study whether or to what extent Colby could play a role in addressing veteran-community bridge building. My research assistant would start by analyzing the effectiveness of programs that rely on Greek tragedy. Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were all veterans writing for an audience of veterans and citizen-soldiers. As a result, their plays, which have moved audiences for two and a half thousand years, resonate even now with modern soldiers. No previous experience is needed, only an interest in the topic, a willingness to work hard, and a desire to develop research skills.

Computer Science: Analyzing the Prevalence and Impacts of Concussions in High School Athletes

Sponsor: Bruce Maxwell, Professor of Computer Science (

How many high school athletes get concussions each year? How long does it take for them to recover? Are there medical conditions that co-occur with higher rates of concussion? Are there long-term neuro-cognitive impacts of one or more concussions? Do long-term symptoms get worse with more concussions? These are some of the questions we are trying to answer using a data set of neuro-cognitive test results on high school athletes collected by the Maine Concussion Management Initiative [MCMI]. Using a database of over 50,000 test results from more than 90 Maine High Schools, collected over six years, we are correlating test scores and medical history, including the athlete’s concussion history. We also have over 6000 post-injury test results with which we can look at rates of recovery and the intensity of post-concussion effects. The key tasks for this project are data management, synthesis, analysis, and visualization. We are using and writing code to undertake novel analyses and to provide data sets to our research partners. This is a rich data set with many unanswered questions left to explore.

East Asian Studies: Technical Analyses of Japanese Anime

Sponsor: Tamae Prindle, Oak Professor of East Asian Language and Literature (

I am hoping to enrich my analyses of Japanese anime by adding technical explanations of how the sound and special graphic effects were added to specific scenes of select anime in order to enhance the audience’s emotional involvement in some scenes. This addition of visual and acoustic analyses to my conceptual/philosophical/etc. analyses of select anime will help bring to the foreground the implicit messages the anime-makers have embedded in their art work. To this end, I need the help of a Presidential Scholar who is familiar with advanced computer technology. Someone skilled with advanced sound analyses would also be helpful.

East Asian Studies and History: Beauty and Cosmetics in East Asia and the World

Sponsor: Elizabeth LaCouture, Assistant Professor of History and East Asian Studies (

I am looking for a CARA scholar with foreign language ability and/or an eye for visual analysis to help me with my current research project on beauty and cosmetics.

My research examines the history of beauty and cosmetics in China and the Chinese-speaking world. This project explores how women fashioned their individual identities, examining both the technologies that made women understand skin under a new light, such as cameras and glass-plate mirrors, and those that enabled them to “create” a new skin, such as chemical formulas and portable, branded packaging.

The CARA scholar will critically read the secondary literature on beauty, race and gender, and conduct research in primary sources such as women’s magazines and advertisements (from the 19th century to the present). I am looking for a research assistant who can assist me in reviewing Chinese sources, or can help me expand my global perspective by conducting research in other language sources. I am especially interested in students who can read other Asian language sources (ie. Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Tamil or Hindi), Latin American sources (Spanish or Portuguese) or colonial sources (ie. Dutch or French). Students without foreign language ability who have strong skills in visual analysis will also be considered.

The CARA scholar will present their findings in a paper, poster or oral presentation, and will have the opportunity to continue the project as a research assistant or as an independent study in the following year.

Economics: Global Health Economics

Sponsor: Dan LaFave, Assistant Professor of Economics (

Research in the economics of global health brings students to the intersection of economics, public health, and medicine. My work focuses on issues related to young children and early-life human capital development in China, Indonesia, and Ethiopia, and works with both publicly available surveys and personally collected datasets. Some current projects examine the role of infrastructure – roads, electricity, etc. – in impacting health as well as how health traits and habits are passed down between generations. I’m looking for a student interested not only in global health but also in computer programming to assist in data acquisition, formatting, and cleaning. Qualified candidates should have strong quantitative and analytical skills, attention to detail and time-management, and some prior programming experience. The selected student can expect to gain an understanding of how health is central to the process of economic development and how international researchers approach frontline issues.

Economics: Dynamic Simulation Models of Economic and Environmental Systems

Sponsor: Sahan Dissanayake, Assistant Professor of Economics (

Dynamic simulation models of economic and environmental systems help us better understand how the natural systems interact with the “human system.” These models can be used in the classroom to enhance learning and in the real world to guide policymaking. In the past, my students have created stylized models of various natural-human systems including models on fisheries management, deforestation, pothole repair, upstream externalities in hydropower generation, and managing Asian Carp in the Great Lakes. Some of the work has been presented at conferences and research seminars and former students have won awards for their models at conferences and competitions. I am looking for two students for this project. You will spend the first few months learning to build dynamic simulation models using the STELLA software and work together on the model. You will spend the rest of the year working on individual models in areas that you are interested in. The end goal is to use the models to answer policy-relevant questions.

Economics: Statistical Abstract of the Greater Waterville Area

Sponsor: Michael Donihue, Professor of Economics (

The Statistical Abstract for the Greater Waterville Area first appeared in 2004 as a civic engagement project in conjunction with my Jan Plan course. The Abstract was originally created as a resource for community service providers seeking socio-economic data relevant to their client populations as an aid in the preparation of grant applications necessary for their work in the communities surrounding Waterville, Maine. Over the years, however, the Abstract has proven to be a popular resource for municipal officials, economic developers, local area business owners, and public school administrators. This project involves the production of the 2017 edition of the Abstract incorporating demographic information from the 2010 US Census and analysis using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) methods. This project requires a basic interest in socio-economic data and economic behavior, an attention to detail, and a keen sense of intellectual curiosity. As part of this project you will learn methods of data collection and validation, presentation of complicated economic relationships using GIS techniques in the production and analysis of maps, and some basic web authoring skills. The Abstract regularly features analytical research projects relevant to Maine. This year I’m working on a number of economic impact studies, including a study of migrant workers, an economic analysis of Maine’s lobster industry, and the value of Colby’s art museum. These and similar projects will be a regular feature of the Abstract in the future.

Economics: Sustainable Development: Identifying case studies and examples

Sponsor: Sahan Dissanayake, Professor of Economics (

Climate change and the unsustainable use of resources to meet the needs of a growing population are putting unprecedented pressure on the world’s environment and ecosystems. At the same time it is vital that every person in every country has an opportunity to participate in the development process; to have access to food, water, shelter, education, health services, security and most importantly a high standard of living. The UN recently launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, and created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be met by 2030. I am looking for a student to identify case studies and examples that highlight sustainable development from around the world. You will start by learning about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and then writing briefs on case studies and examples that you identify. Some of the briefs will be incorporated into an environmental economics textbook and you have the option of being more involved in the textbook based on your interest.

Education: Proficiency Based Education in Maine and within a National Policy Context

Sponsor: Karen Kusiak, Assistant Professor of Education (

I am interested in working with a member of the class of 2020 on a CARA Research Project. I will be working on a project related to the experiences of Maine teachers with Proficiency Based Education. For this project, a student researcher will read background information about PBE, compare PBE to other educational reform initiatives both historic and contemporary, review and code interview data, possibly conduct interviews with local teachers, and assist with a final presentation of the research project. I anticipate that the CARA researcher will also be part of a team of student researchers who are upper class students studying in the Education Program.

Education: Global Citizenship with Elite Educational Contexts

Sponsor: Adam Howard, Associate Professor of Education (

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.

English/Creative Writing: A Place Worth Fighting For: Sixteen People Who Make Waterville Great

Sponsor: Adrian Blevins, Associate Professor of English (

Through this project a CARA student will work with Professor Blevins in collaboration with Waterville Creates!, the Maine Film Center, and the Mid-Maine Technical Center on a series of essays about notable people and institutions that animate Waterville’s arts and culture community. Professor Blevins will work with the student on the basics of storytelling, research, and writing, and will introduce him / her to Waterville Creates! to discuss potential interview candidates, develop profiles, and structure and organize the range and scope of the work. At that point, the student will collaborate with Waterville Creates!, Maine Film Center, and the Mid-Maine Technical Center’s video production program to work with area high school students on gathering additional video and still photography content to accompany each profile. Profiles may be published online and/or screened at the MFC, at Colby, and possibly as part of Maine International Film Festival’s short film series. This program is proposed as a one-year trial with the possibility of continuing study if the effort is successful.

English: History and Literature of the Microscope

Sponsor: Aaron Hanlon, Assistant Professor of English (

Microscopes have been around in some form since the 1500’s, though they began to revolutionize both science and science writing during the 17th and 18th century European Enlightenment. As a literature scholar I’m fascinated by microscopes because of their impact not only on questions of what we can know about the natural world (and how), but also on how people wrote during the Enlightenment. If you’re interested in the connection between the microscope and Enlightenment literature, science writing, and epistemology (the study of knowledge and how we know what we know), my project on the microscope might interest you. I’m working on two books, one, on the history of the microscope, is pitched for a general audience and will be proposed for the Object Lessons Series through The Atlantic and Bloomsbury Press. The other, titled “Epistemological Rhetoric in England, 1600-1800,” is a scholarly book project on how science writing and novels, poems, and plays all contributed mutually to Enlightenment concepts of knowledge and data that we still use today. The CARA fellow working on this project will be involved in research (including archival research and exploration of original materials from 1600-1800), publicity, and some writing related to these book projects. My hope, as well, is to co-author a popular-press article with the CARA fellow on the importance of the history of the microscope and the literature of the Enlightenment for so many of the scientific and political challenges we face today.

Environmental Studies: Biodiversity and Food Security in East Africa

Sponsor: Travis Reynolds, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies (

Food security in Sub-Saharan Africa is a function of many factors ranging from climate stability, to water access, to soil quality, to farm management practices for coping with pests, disease, and other crop stressors. This project will build upon partnerships with Bioversity International, Addis Ababa University, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to explore the determinants of farm and household food security in rural Ethiopian church communities. Methods will include Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analyses of forest cover and food production trends, statistical analyses of original survey data on food, farming, and forestry decisions in Ethiopian households, and interviews via telephone and Skype with research collaborators in Ethiopia. Depending on student interests additional projects may include laboratory-based food crop and insect analyses in collaboration with other Colby researchers.

Environmental Studies: The Economics of Sustainable Fisheries

Sponsor: Loren McCLenachan, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies (

The growing demand for seafood and exploitation of a few species for commercial harvest has led to stock collapses in many fisheries throughout the world. The issues in unsustainable fisheries are magnified by by-catch and fish waste (7,300,000 tons of fish discarded annually), and large carbon footprints in globalized fisheries (U.S. seafood travels an average distance of 8800 km). Over the last three years we have been working with multiple students to understand the economic aspects of sustainable fisheries. In particular students studied increasing consumer demand for underutilized seafood and preferences for socially sustainable seafood labels. The students involved in the prior research have published results in leading academic journals. We are looking for a student to continue this work in the economics of sustainable fisheries, in particular to look at the economics of by-catch and ways to reduce the carbon footprint of fisheries.

Environmental Studies: Marine Conservation in Maine and Beyond

Sponsor: Loren McClenachan, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies (

From overfishing to climate change, the effects of humans on ocean ecosystems has been substantial. This CARA project contributes to ongoing research on climate, fisheries, and other issues affecting the oceans in Maine and beyond.

Environmental Studies: Human-Wildlife Conflict and Wildlife Conservation

Sponsor: Philip Nyhus, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies (

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 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 two or more students interested in continuing research related to human-wildlife conflict and conservation. My research students have been collaborating on research examining the effectiveness of zoning as a large carnivore conflict mitigation tool, a global review of compensation as a tool for human-wildlife conflict (we presented preliminary results in summer 2015 at an international conservation conference in France), and a global review of human-wildlife conflict. I am also beginning new research on large mammal conservation in Asia, including using remote sensing to document forest change, and developing a new book series on biodiversity conservation that would benefit from student research assistance.

Environmental Studies: Food and Forests in Rural Ethiopia

Sponsor: Travis W. Reynolds, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies (

Forests provide an array of ecosystem services important for food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Forests contribute to local climate stability, support increased stream flows in periods of drought, harbor beneficial insects such as pollinators, and provide direct sources of food, firewood, and income for rural communities. But pro-forest policies can threaten local food security—forest conservation efforts may displace farmers from potential farmland, and efforts to promote tree planting may displace much-needed food crops in favor of higher-price tree crops. Forests themselves may also harbor crop pests, such as rodents or harmful insects, and in extreme cases forests may provide shelter for wild animals or bandits that threaten farmers’ livelihoods and even their lives. This project will build on partnerships with Addis Ababa University and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to explore the positive and negative impacts of national forests and community-managed forests on household food security in rural Ethiopia. Methods will include geographic information systems (GIS) analyses of forest cover and food production trends, statistical analyses of original survey data on food, farming, and forestry decisions in Ethiopian households, and interviews via telephone and Skype with research collaborators in Ethiopia. Depending on student interests, additional projects may include laboratory-based food crop and insect analyses in collaboration with other Colby researchers.

German: Cat Maps – A Digital Humanities Project

Sponsor: Arne Koch, Associate Professor of German (

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 a preferred student qualification. Ideally, research assistants would also learn how to read old German blackletter typeface (Fraktur).

Government: Are Americans Sorting into Ideological Tribes?

Sponsor: Daniel M. Shea, Director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement and Professor of Government (

Bill Bishop, in The Big Short (2008), seemed to discover that since the 1970s Americans have been forming tight-knit political communities. In 1976, for example, 20 percent of counties in the United States produced presidential landslides (where the difference between candidates was more than 20 percent). By 2008 that figure had jumped to nearly 60 percent. In other words, Bishop argues that Americans are starting to pick and choose where to live and who to socialize with based on political ideology. Republicans are moving to conservative communities and Democrats are seeking-out liberal cities and towns. While not rejecting the possibility that many factors may be operating to make Americans more culturally and politically inbred, others scholars have challenged the “sorting hypothesis.” For example, hasn’t the very definition of “neighborhoods” changed? While citizens continue to connect in deep, meaningful ways, is it usually through social media – and not necessarily at the corner coffee shop or bowling league? Professor Shea has written several publications on this controversial topic, and he is looking for a student-scholar to help add new data and analysis to this important debate. This research will likely culminate in articles and book chapters.

Government: International Criminal Justice and Conflict Resolution

Sponsor: Kenneth A. Rodman, William R. Cotter Distinguished Teaching Professor of Government (

The growth of international criminal law—culminating in the creation of the first International Criminal Court—has been supported by human rights advocates as an important step in ending the most serious war crimes and human rights abuses through the globalization of law. Conflict resolution, on the other hand, often involves engaging—and implicitly legitimizing—leaders complicit in criminal violence in order to persuade them that it is in their interest to end a civil war through a political settlement. This project examines how mediators and prosecutors have navigated this tension between law and diplomacy in conflicts in Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. My published articles on this topic include this one I coauthored with a student.

Government: State Capacity & Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Sponsor: Laura Seay, Assistant Professor of Government (

As the Congolese state recovers from two decades of conflict, donors have poured billions of dollars into rebuilding state capacity, especially in the security sector. This project aims to determine whether donor-funded efforts to strengthen policing, intelligence, and military services have affected human rights in a positive or negative way in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The research assistant involved in this project will continue to build an in-progress dataset of attacks on Congolese journalists, civil society actors, and human rights activists that will be used to test whether stronger state capacity in the security arena leads to more or less repression of civilians. This project will be of particular interest to students interested in international affairs, human rights, and/or African studies. French language skills and coding experience are helpful, but not a requirement for this position.

Government: Advocacy Movements & U.S. Policy in Africa

Sponsor: Laura Seay, Assistant Professor of Government (

Since the end of the Cold War, social movements like Save Darfur, #Kony2012, and the effort to end the conflict minerals trade in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have galvanized American grassroots advocates to push the U.S. government to take action to fight conflicts in Africa. Advocates are typically successful at these efforts, but the effect of the policies they support as they are implemented on the ground is often unclear. This book-length project will examine the above-named cases with an eye to evaluating both the processes by which each movement affected policy outcomes and the effect of those policies in six African states. Research assistant work on this project will consist of literature reviews, case study writing, and examining archival materials, as well as analyzing survey data and transcribing interviews. It will be of interest to students interested in African affairs, U.S. foreign policy, and/or advocacy and activism for social change. French or Kiswahili language skills are helpful but not required for this position.

Government/Economics: Colby and Waterville: The Impact of a Liberal Arts College on a Small Maine City

Sponsors: Professor L. Sandy Maisel, Government (; Professor Michael R. Donihue, Economics (

In the last year, Colby has begun an important new initiative aimed at improving the quality of downtown life in Waterville. This initiative has involved meetings with Waterville city leaders (in various realms) and working with them to plan downtown (and hopefully further dispersed improvements). Colby has purchased buildings and land, worked with stakeholders to come to agreement on the uses to which these spaces should be put, recruited employers and developers to work in Waterville, and planned for the future construction of an apartment complex/student housing in town.

Our project intends to explore the impact of this commitment by the College to our hometown. This study will involve examining the social, political, and economic impacts of Colby’s initiative—involving our students in understanding a variety of approaches to measure the effect of what Colby is doing on the economic health of the community, on the quality of life in the community, on town-gown relations, and on student life at Colby.

History: Colby Students in World War I

Sponsor: Raffael Scheck, Professor of History (

The flagpole in the center of the campus lawn contains a list of names of Colby students killed in World War I. Who were these students? Where did they go? How were they killed? What can we learn about Colby students who fought in World War I? This project involves reading of letters and other materials in Colby’s special collections – and working toward an exhibit by the end of the academic year – to coincide with the centennial of the American entry into the war.

Mathematics: Knots, Graphs, and Bridge Surfaces

Sponsor: Scott Taylor, Associate Professor of Mathematics (

Physical knots (in rope, DNA, computer cords, etc.) are modeled by mathematical knots: curves in 3-space that close to form a loop. One way of studying a knot is to put it into a particular simple form called “bridge position”. In this project, we will investigate how properties of knots in bridge position can be adapted to study knotted graphs in bridge position.

The Mental Health and Well-Being of Iraqi and Syrian Refugees in Countries of First Asylum

Sponsor: Nadia El-Shaarawi, Assistant Professor of Global Studies (

With global attention now focused on the “refugee/migrant crisis” in Europe, less attention is paid to the millions of refugees who live in exile in countries in the Middle East, often in conditions that contribute to refugees’ desires to seek asylum in Europe or the United States, through legal or clandestine forms of mobility. Many refugees live “in transit” for years in conditions of urban exile in the Middle East – living in cities where they are unable to settle permanently and yearn for life elsewhere. I am interested in understanding how these processes affect refugees’ mental health and well-being. For this project, I am looking for a student with interest in some combination of global health, anthropology, and refugee studies to help with various parts of the project including research, analysis, and dissemination.

Physics: Laser Excitation in Potassium

Sponsor: Charles Conover, William A. Rogers Professor of Physics (

In my laboratory we measure the behavior of systems that are quantum mechanical – they exhibit quantized behavior and can exist in superpositions of more than one quantized state. The model system we use is the potassium atom since it has a relatively simple set of electron orbits. To study the quantum mechanics of potassium we use lasers with very well controlled colors to prepare atoms in specific quantum states.   This project will revolve around constructing a near-infrared laser that will be used to excite specific states in potassium. Students working in my laboratory get experience with machining, electronics, and optics.

Physics: Rydberg Atom Excitation Using Diode Lasers

Sponsor: Duncan Tate, Physics and Astronomy (

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.

Psychology: Perception and Action

Sponsor: Martha Arterberry, Professor of Psychology (

I am a developmental psychologist, and I study perceptual and cognitive development. My current project looks at the intersection between perception and action. In other words, how well can children guide their actions using the knowledge they have of objects? Very young infants have quite a bit of knowledge about the world, but slightly older children make mistakes in action tasks that rely on this knowledge. The project involves testing toddlers on various tasks involving some type of action (such as finding a hidden toy). Student researchers are involved in all stages of the project, including family recruitment, testing children, coding behavior, data entry, and analyses.

Science, Technology, and Society: Women in Meteorology in the 20th Century

Sponsor: Jim Fleming, Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (

This project examines the little known and crucial contributions of women scientists in the field of meteorology in the period 1920-2000. It will be based on new archival sources and new interpretations of what is known, and what needs to be known, about the contributions of women scientists in the middle of the twentieth century. We will use the archival records of Anne Louise Beck (1896-1981), Joanne Simpson (1923-2010), and others yet to be identified.

Science, Technology, and Society: Chaos and the “Noisy” Climate

Sponsor: Jim Fleming, Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (

“Chaos” means something very precise: the behavior and final state of a dynamical system described by a set of nonlinear equations is very sensitive to its initial state. In computer weather modeling this means there is no way to make accurate long-term predictions. This project examines how scientists learned about chaos theory, how they use it in their work, and how they train their students. It involves a multimedia attempt to make weather and climate signals both visible and audible using computers.

Sociology: How Understandings of Global Health Disparities Shape HPV Vaccine Research and Development

Sponsor: Natalie Aviles, Post Doctoral Fellow in Sociology (

This project examines how researchers’ understandings of global cervical cancer disparities shape human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine research and development projects. I will interview basic scientists and clinical researchers in academic institutions in the US and India, at the US National Cancer Institute, and at biotechnology firms in both countries. I am looking for a research assistant who will help me recruit study participants and analyze the resulting data. No prior experience is needed, though applicants should display interest in and desire to learn about social science research on science, medicine, and public health.

Sociology: Poor People’s Movements in Argentina

Sponsor: Marcos Perez, Post Doctoral Fellow in Sociology (

Social movements in Latin America have a long tradition of promoting democracy and demanding the expansion of civic, political and economic rights. For this project, we will research one such social movement: the Unemployed Workers Movement in Argentina, also known as the piqueteros. We will use online sources to develop an archive of the case, which can be used as a tool to study popular politics in the region. Reading knowledge of Spanish is required for work on this project. The project is an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with research on movements.

Sociology: Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Labor Market

Sponsor: Nicole Denier, Post Doctoral Fellow in Sociology (

Over the past few decades the visibility of the gay and lesbian population has increased considerably. At the same time, attitudes towards sexual minorities have become more favorable, accompanied by an expansion of civil rights for non-heterosexuals. In this context of heightened visibility, how do gay men and lesbian women fare in the labor market?  This project will engage the above question to better understand how sexual orientation shapes work life, including the type of jobs people do and how much they are paid.  The CARA fellow may aid in conducting literature searches, analyzing survey data, transcribing interviews, and carrying out an audit study. Students interested in gender and sexuality, and/or labor market policy would be well suited to the project.

Spanish: Water and Spirituality in Caribbean and Latina Literature

Sponsor: Rebeca L. Hey-Colón, Assistant Professor of Spanish (

When people migrate, cultures, languages, ideas, and beliefs migrate with them. This research project seeks to understand how the migrations that created the Caribbean and Latin@ world are reflected in the ways in which contemporary Caribbean and Latina authors imbue their uses of water with spirituality. Specifically, we will research the presence and influence of Yemoja/Yemayá, an African water goddess, on the writings of Gloria Anzaldúa, Mayra Santos-Febres, Angie Cruz, and Nelly Rosario. In order to do this, we will compile several of the foundational myths, stories, and writings surrounding Yemoja/Yemayá. We will close-read and historicize these materials together in order to understand how this feminine deity herself underwent instances of colonization and migration. We will then work to identify how these processes can be connected to the contemporary writings of these female authors and their overarching literary projects. This CARA Research project is directly related to my book project, Sea-ing Words: Women Writing Water in Caribbean and Latino/a Literature, which explores how, through their scripting of the maritime, contemporary women writers from the Caribbean and its diaspora create new forms of engagement with the concept of the nation, questioning the solidity of physical borders. Through the contributions resulting from this CARA research project, the student involved will become a pivotal intellectual partner in the development of this book manuscript.

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

Sponsor: Paul Berkner, College Medical Director (

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.

Theater and Dance: Live Performance and Digital Media

Sponsor: Jim Thurston, Adjunct Associate Professor of Theater and Dance (

The digital age continues to revolutionize technology used in rendering more abstract scenographic visions for live performance. This intense technological change in turn radically reshapes performance possibility and, ultimately, the aesthetic used in creating theater and dance. This aesthetic change is at the core of the research. How is the collaborative relationship changing between designers, directors, choreographers, performers and technical production staff? How is process, including scenographic process, altering the way these artists conceive of new work? What scenographic potential is now in the hands of the performer? The research assistant will use computers and computation as essential tools and processes while investigating interactive performance in the laboratory and on Department of Theater and Dance main-stage productions.