Science research roundup: March 2021

This month, Arts & Sciences researchers received awards from the National Science Foundation, the Africa Initiative, and NASA.

Steven Frankel, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, received a $436,286 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for his project “Universal Circles Between Dynamics and Geometry.” Frankel studies the relationships between the shape of a space, its symmetries and the kinds of dynamical systems it supports. His previous research showed that certain kinds of flows must always have orbits that close up on themselves to form loops. Read more from The Source.

David Fike, professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of Environmental Studies, won a $98,406 EAGER Grant from the National Science Foundation for a project in geobiology and low-temperature geochemistry titled “Microscale d34S Analyses in Pyrites to Distinguish Environmental and Biological Drivers of Isotopic Variability.”

Keith Hengen, assistant professor of biology, won a 2020 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. The $70,000 award supports Hengen’s research titled “Homeostatic Regulation of Activity in Circuits Underlying Anxiety and Major Depression,” which aims to increase understanding of those psychiatric disorders.

NASA has selected scientists at Washington University to build a rover-mounted drill sensor to quantify the 3D distribution of water at the Moon’s south pole. A laser probe located at the bottom of the drill, capable of analyzing regolith, would quantify the amount of water and other chemicals present beneath the surface. Alian Wang, research professor of Earth and planetary sciences, will lead the research team and reconnaissance instrument development under NASA’s first-ever Lunar Surface Technology Research (LuSTR) solicitation. Read more from The Source.

Michael Nowak, research professor in the Department of Physics, won a $55,200 grant from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in support of a project titled “Bridging the Gap Between Phenomenological and Physical Spectroscopy Models.”

A team based in the Department of Biology recently won a $50,000 Driving Change Learning Grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The grant supports participation in HHMI’s Driving Change Learning Community with the goals of fostering a community whose members will share a commitment to driving institutional culture change with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion; sharing ideas and progress in a supportive and inclusive space; and encouraging personal and institutional learning through peer-to-peer conversations. Tracey Hermanstyne, formerly a postdoctoral fellow in Erik Herzog’s lab, and Diana Jose-EdwardsWUSTL ENDURE Program co-director and coordinator of STEM Diversity Initiatives, are co-directors for the project. The leadership team also includes Harvery Fields, Jr., associate dean for student success; Joseph Jez, Spencer T. Olin Professor in biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor; and Jennifer Smith, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and professor of Earth and planetary sciences.

A team including Krista Milich, assistant professor of biological anthropology, recently won funding from the Africa Initiative for a new research project in Uganda. Milich and Penina Acayo Laker, assistant professor at the Sam Fox School, are collaborating with colleagues at Makerere University in Uganda to launch a community-based design research project in partnership with people who live near Kibale National Park. Their goal is to craft messages and symbols that will reinforce positive and safe human-wildlife interactions. Read more from The Source.

Did we miss something? Contact Shawn Ballardcommunications specialist in Arts & Sciences.