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Faculty Research Grants

PROGRAM GOALS

This program supports faculty/student collaborative research at Hope in the nine HHMI 2012 departments.  All funded projects must support the overall goals of the Hope HHMI 2012 program, which is to help develop future STEM research leaders. Preference will be given to projects that include explicit connections to the HHMI 2012 program components (course-based research experience program, the bridge program and the CSI program), though research with undergraduate collaborators is the minimum qualifying criterion.

Funding details

This program has $30,000/year for each of the four years of the HHMI 2012 grant period. At least two awards will be made each year. Applications are due November 1 in November 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Check out the program guidelines and application requirements webpage for more details

Current Recipients

2014 Awards

Dr. Joseph Stukey and Dr. Virginia McDonough: "Discovery and Functional Investigation of Cytotoxic Phage Genes, a Faculty-Student Collaborative Project"

Abstract:
A bacteriophage, or phage, is a virus that infects and reproduces in bacteria. During productive, lytic infections – those that result in assembly and release of new infectious phage particles – host cell metabolic processes are inhibited, modified or redirected for phage reproduction. How different phages accomplish this task is an emerging subject of keen interest. Known examples point to physical interactions between phage and host cell gene products (proteins). This study proposes to identify such genes/proteins in the unexplored phage-host system, the mycobacteriophage-mycobacterial cell, and investigate how they work. We will first identify relevant phage genes based on their predicted cytotoxicity to the common mycobacterial host cell, M. smegmatis. We will use a combination of approaches to identify and confirm the host cell proteins targeted by the cytotoxic phage proteins and investigate the impact on relevant cellular metabolisms. Mutagenesis of the phage and relevant host genes will be performed to determine their precise role in the phage infection process. Undergraduate students will collaborate in the entire project from developing the experimental strategies, performing experiments, problem solving, analyzing results, and finally preparing and presenting their research to the scientific community. The project is expected to be full time in the summer and then part-time during the academic year.

Dr. Emilie Dykstra Goris: "Oxytocin Receptor Gene as a Candidate Gene Apathy Among Persons with Alzheimer Disease"

Abstract:
Apathy, defined as a disorder of motivation with deficits in behavioral, emotional, and cognitive domains, is a prevalent behavioral symptom among persons with Alzheimer Disease (AD). Apathy occurs across the disease trajectory and is associated with serious complications, including physical deconditioning, uncooperativeness with care, and social isolation. Despite the high prevalence and negative sequela associated with apathy, little is known about characteristics of persons with AD, including biologic factors, that contribute to the presence and/or severity of apathy. Variations in the Oxytocin Receptor gene (OXTR) are hypothesized to be candidate modifiers of apathy in persons with AD. A DNA variant within OXTR (rs53576) significantly predicted 19.4% of the variance in apathy severity as measured by the Apathy subscale of the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI-Apathy) (F=3.379, p=.027), while controlling for cognitive status and number of Apolipoprotein E (APOE) e4 alleles in a sample of 66 individuals with AD. The AA genotype was associated with more severe apathy. A novel collaboration between the Nursing and Biology Departments at Hope College will be established to further explore the extent to which DNA variations in OXTR are associated with apathy in persons with AD as measured by the NPI-Apathy, while cross-training 2-3 nursing and/or biology students in nursing research and molecular genetic techniques. The extent to which variations within OXTR are associated with apathy in persons with AD will be further examined by identifying additional tagging SNPs in and around OXTR with subsequent genotyping. Additionally, this work will aid in the establishment of an infrastructure for ongoing work in the nursing faculty wet lab by establishing protocols and laboratory manuals that will be utilized as part of a larger future project.

Dr. Matthew Smith: "Thermally Reversible Polymers for Patterning Self-Oscillating Gels", full proposalsm adobe icon

Abstract:
Self-oscillating hydrogels, have gained increasing attention for their unique biomimetic qualities, namely the direct conversion of chemical energy to mechanical work. These gels display swell-deswell (mechanical) oscillations driven by the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction, which is catalyzed by metal ions such as ruthenium. The intrinsic oscillations that characterize these materials are made possible by direct incorporation of the metal catalyst into the polymer network, causing the BZ reaction to occur only within the gel. The ability to precisely pattern arrays of reactive BZ patches suggests a promising avenue for arranging reactive patches much like modular building blocks to form composite actuators with the ability to perform complex functions. Key challenges to producing functional devices are developing effective BZ gel materials with robust patterning processes. Herein we propose developing a printable self-oscillating gel based on thermally reversible synthetic polymers.
Patternable, self-oscillating hydrogels such as those proposed here hold potential for advancing the state of the art in smart materials for biomimetic soft robotics, signal amplification in chemomechanical sensors, and chemical encryption.

Dr. Edward Hansen: "International Research Experience for Hope Students: Geologic Mapping in Holland Province, Sweden"

Abstract:
This proposal will fund an authentic international research experience for 3 Hope College students who will spend 4 weeks in Sweden doing geological mapping and sampling with Ed Hansen and a team of geologists from Lund University. The project is focused on the Stensjö association, a group of unusual rocks of uncertain origin in Halland Province, Sweden. The Stensjö association is part of the Eastern Segment at the margin of the Grenville-Sveconorwegian Orogen. The Grenville-Sveconorwegian Orogen marks a series of continental collisions roughly a billion years ago that resulted in the assembly of the former supercontinent Rodinia. Understanding the nature of the eastern boundary is important in deciphering the events that led to this collision. There are two competing hypotheses for the formation of the Stensjö association. In one hypothesis the association represents a belt of sedimentary and volcanic rocks that formed either at a continental margin or in a rift basin within a continent. In the other hypothesis the association formed through reactions of igneous rocks and hot aqueous (hydrothermal) solutions circulating through the continental crust. In the field students will collect samples and make observations designed to discriminate between these two hypotheses. Two of the students will follow up with laboratory work at Hope College. The geographic extent of the Stensjö association is not yet known, and the students’ mapping will also test the hypothesis that the association extends from Stensjö, where it has already been mapped, to Obbhult, 38 km to the north.

Brian Yurk and Greg Murray: "Modeling Rainforest Pioneer Populations in Treefall Gaps of the Monteverde, Costa Rica Cloud Forest", full proposalsm adobe icon

Abstract:
Tropical rainforests are biologically diverse and ecologically complex terrestrial ecosystems. Understanding the factors that drive the ecological dynamics is a difficult problem but an important one to address if we are to understand how these ecosystems will likely respond to climate change and land-use changes. Rainforest pioneer plants are specialists that colonize trefall gaps that arise primarily through windthrow. These gaps are rare and heal quickly, presenting conditions suitable for pioneer plant growth and maturation for only very short periods of time. It is our goal to develop stochastic mathematical models of landscape-scale pioneer plant population dynamics. These models will be parameterized using data on rainforest canopy gaps collected over the last 30 years and demography data collected over the last 13 years in the Monteverde, Costa Rica Cloud Forest. We will also continue to add to this data set, which is possibly unique in its extent. Using these mathematical models we will determine the vital rates (reproduction and growth) that the plant populations are particularly sensitive to, and we will simulate possible future environmental scenarios (e.g., increased storm frequency).

 

 

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