A collection of contemplative practices for higher education physics curricula

Since the summer of 2013, the objective of our research program has been aligned with that of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, namely, “the transformation of higher education through the recovery and development of the contemplative dimensions of teaching, learning, and knowing.” Toward this objective, our research program has been devoted to the development of a Continue Reading

A potpourri of statistical projects

I have a range of statistical projects that a student could work on; the choice of project for the summer will depend on how the projects proceed during the academic year as well as the student’s background. Two of the projects are motivated by work in cancer clinical trials – one examines Continue Reading

Acoustic Scattering Surfaces: Experimental Acoustics, Computational Physics, Robotics, and More!

This URSI project will have a variety of opportunities for four students to do work related to acoustics, computational physics, 3-D printing, robotics, and more. Acoustics is the study of the generation, transmission, and reception of waves propagated in a medium caused by the vibration of an object. When sound strikes a surface, it can Continue Reading

Adversary Search in a Role-Playing Game

Designers of role-playing games face a dilemma: The game can guide the player through a sequence of quests, challenges or levels resulting in a coherent story line, but leaving the player little freedom of action. Alternatively, the game can allow the player to act freely in a wide open world, but resulting in no coherent Continue Reading

Characterizations of enzymes involved in headgroup acylated glycerophospholipids in Escherichia coli

The biosynthesis of lipid, even low abundance lipids such as headgroup-acylated glycerophospholipids (GPLs), impacts essential cell functions such as cell division and the maintenance of cell membrane integrity. We are interested in understanding how headgroup-acylated GPLs are synthesized by studying the substrate specificity and enzymatic mechanism of two enzymes that impact headgroup-acylated GPLs in Continue Reading

Conservation of a local population of the threatened Blanding’s turtle, Emydoidea blandingii: protection from nest depredation, habitat use, and nest predator behavior

A small population of the threatened Blanding’s turtles inhabits a complex of natural and constructed wetlands in Lagrangeville, NY about 12 minutes from Vassar. During the early afternoon, we will live-trap turtles and attach radio transmitters to facilitate locating them during the nesting season by radio-tracking, and we will survey the wetlands for depredated and Continue Reading

Crowdsourcing Linguistic Annotations

In the field of natural language processing (NLP), methods rely on language models built by analyzing large quantities of language data annotated for linguistic properties such as part of speech, syntactic structure, and various types of semantic information. Software hase been developed to automatically produce these annotations, but the accuracy of the results can be Continue Reading

Data Management for Campus Sustainability

Coordinating and data from diverse sources is a challenge in assessing greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation, and other sustainability questions. This student will help us explore ways to receive, organize, distribute, and analyze data on campus. Data visualization (graphing), data management, and probably data distribution on a Google Site are all likely aspects of this Continue Reading

Diffraction image reconstruction using autocorrelation algorithms

Direct correlations between diffraction patterns and living physical systems will be studied further qualitatively and quantitatively. Phase information is not directly accessible through the intensity distribution in a diffraction pattern since the intensity is proportional to the square of the absolute value of the electric field. It is therefore only possible to retrieve Continue Reading

Documenting the Cultural Impacts of Urban Water System Creation and Maintenance

City residents expect fresh water to flow from taps but few understand where that water comes from. Founded on an island surrounded by salt water, New York City engineered an expansive water system out of already inhabited landscapes, some as far as 125-miles from City Hall. Transforming cultural landscapes into “natural” ones altered the trajectories Continue Reading

Ecological Restoration and Management

This summer we will be restoring a section of the Edith Roberts Ecological Laboratory (the boardwalk area by Skinner) by removing invasive species and replanting native species at the site. There will also be the opportunity to design a reintroduction plan for a rare native understory plant and/or create a plan for restoring native Continue Reading

Electrochemistry of Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes

We are growing and functionalizing carbon nanotubes and studying their electrochemical behaivior. The project this summer will be to try a variety of possible functionalizing reagents and investigate the electrochimical properties of any successful reactions. The nanotubes are functioanlized by electrochemical cycling and then analyzed in the same solution by cyclic voltammetry. Continue Reading

Evolutionary Developmental Robotics

Evolutionary robotics seeks to find principles that explain how autonomous agents respond to natural selection and, in some cases, become more complex over generational time. One controversial idea is that among the characteristics that may evolve in populations of intelligent agents is evolvability itself, where evolvability refers to the rate at which a population Continue Reading

Evolutionary Developmental Robotics

Evolutionary robotics seeks to find principles that explain how autonomous agents respond to natural selection and, in some cases, become more complex over generational time. One controversial idea is that among the characteristics that may evolve in populations of intelligent agents is evolvability itself, where evolvability refers to the rate at which a population Continue Reading

Evolutionary Developmental Robotics

Evolutionary robotics seeks to find principles that explain how autonomous agents respond to natural selection and, in some cases, become more complex over generational time. One controversial idea is that among the characteristics that may evolve in populations of intelligent agents is evolvability itself, where evolvability refers to the rate at which a population can Continue Reading

Exploring protein-protein interactions using atomic force microscopy

Tau is a microtubule associated protein that plays important roles in the structure and organization of microtubules in the central nervous system, and misfunctional tau has been observed as part of the pathology of many common neurodegenerative disorders. Research this summer will focus on the measurement of tau-tau interactions with atomic force microscopy (AFM). Continue Reading

Localization of NPC2 protein in symbiotic anemones

Many corals and sea anemones form symbiotic relationships with photosynthetic dinoflagellates. When living in symbiosis, the partners engage in reciprocal nutrient exchange that supports growth of both partners. The biomolecular mechanisms by which the host takes up the symbionts into their cells, and the cellular processes that control transfer of nutrients are still Continue Reading

Map and Guide to the Vassar College Arboretum

Matthew Vassar intended our campus to be an arboretum, a place where trees are grown to be enjoyed and studied. Today, the Vassar Arboretum comprises over 200 horticulturally significant native and non-native species. Going forward, we want to enhance the role of the living tree collection in our efforts toward sustainability and sound Continue Reading

Modelling the Social Cost of Carbon

Evaluating the social cost of carbon has emerged as a priority in academic and policy circles. One approach to this is the internal carbon tax, which accounts for travel, consumption, energy use, and other factors. The student will research relevant literature, help analyze data needs, meet with data users, and help develop a model for Continue Reading

Shotgun proteomics of proteolytic enzymes from Tetrahymena

Tetrahymena, a fresh water ciliate has over 400 putative protease genes, but it is not fully known which are functional or the conditions in which they are expressed. We will utilize affinity chromatography to isolate proteases from cytoplasmic and membrane associated fractions, derived from cells grown under different conditions, and then perform peptide sequence analysis Continue Reading

Songbird bioacoustics and the effects of deer browsing

Deer browsing has been shown to dramatically affect habitat structure of forests across North America and Europe. Alterations in habitat structure can have serious consequences for songbird biodiversity. The majority of the work on deer browsing and songbirds has focused on community and landscape level interactions. However, deer browsing may also affect songbirds at a Continue Reading

Studies in Titanium Mediated Asymmetric Lewis Acid Catalysis

The goal of this project is to investigate new compounds that will advance the state-of-the-art in the field of asymmetric catalysis. Specifically, the research will focus on compounds of titanium with chiral ligands that will be investigated as asymmetric Lewis Acid catalysts for imine (C=N) alkylation to produce chiral hydrocarbon substituent on amines, and other Continue Reading

The Role of Animals in stabilizing/destabilizing Ecosystem Processes

Ecosystems, both functionally and structurally, are continually changing in response to variations in both biotic and abiotic conditions. A notable variation occurring across North America is the increasing population density of many native wildlife species. In the NE USA, white-tailed deer have become a target species for both forest managers and animal rights activists. But Continue Reading

Web-service Platform for Composition and Execution of NLP Application Pipelines

The Language Application (LAPPS) Grid project is establishing a framework that enables language service discovery, composition, and reuse and promotes sustainability, manageability, usability, and interoperability of natural language Processing (NLP) components. It is based on the service-oriented architecture (SOA), a more recent, web-oriented version of the “pipeline” architecture that has long been used in NLP Continue Reading