Science research roundup: Spring 2020

After weeks away from their laboratories during the COVID-19 shutdown, researchers across Arts & Sciences are returning to campus. This edition of the research roundup reflects our scientists' ongoing commitment to their work, even in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Kenneth Olsen, professor in the Department of Biology, was awarded $2,560,467 by the National Science Foundation to support research titled “Characterizing the Genomic Basis of Weedy Rice Competitiveness.”

Michael Gross, professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences and of immunology and internal medicine in the School of Medicine, received a $2,348,879 grant from the National Institutes of Health to support a biomedical mass spectrometry resource and ongoing biomedical projects. Gross also received this year’s John B. Fenn Award for a Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry. The award from the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) honors Gross’s innovations in mass spectrometry-based footprinting for structural proteomics. Read more.

Jeffrey Zacks, associate chair and professor of psychological and brain sciences, was awarded $1,968,541 by the National Institutes of Health in support of a multi-year project titled “Improving Everyday Memory in Healthy Aging and Early Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Arpita Bose, assistant professor of biology, received a $1,029,281 grant from the National Science Foundation to better understand the molecular underpinnings of the process by which photoautotrophic microbes convert electricity and carbon dioxide to sustainable biofuels. The research aims to address fundamental gaps in knowledge surrounding extracellular electron uptake (EEU), or what Bose called “a paradigm shift in microbial biogeochemistry.” The project will use synthetic biology, metabolic engineering and material science to improve sustainable production of bioplastics and biofuels using phototrophic-EEU.

Sophia Hayes, professor of chemistry, has been named a 5 Sigma Physicist by the American Physical Society (APS) for her outstanding science advocacy. Hayes’ high-impact advocacy included testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Capitol Hill last December, where she urged Congress to protect U.S. helium supplies. Read more.

Todd Braver, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, was awarded $432,938 by the National Institutes of Health to support a project titled “Healthy Aging and the Cost of Cognitive Effort.”

Alian Wang, research professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, received a $429,245 award from the Jet Propulsion Lab for adapting the compact integrated Raman spectrometer (CIRS) for lunar exploration.

Xiang Tang, professor of mathematics and statistics, and Yanli Song, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, were awarded grants totaling $406,210 by the National Science Foundation to support collaborative research titled “The Hypoelliptic Laplacian, Noncommutative Geometry, and Applications to Representations and Singular Spaces.” 

Michael Krawczynski, assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences, received a $234,692 grant from NASA for a project titled “Investigating Mechanisms for Producing Metallic Fe Enrichments and Magnetic Anomalies within Planetary Crustal Materials.” Krawczynski also won $136,725 from the National Science Foundation for collaborative research on the Earth’s deep interior titled “Experimental Partitioning of Highly Siderophile Elements at Ultratrace Level for Understanding the Conditions of Core Formation.”

Jessika Baral, Jacob Blum, Brandon Campbell, and Michael Moore, all juniors in Arts & Sciences, have received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a prestigious award that honors students who conduct research in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Read more.

Martha Precup, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, received a $199,901 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project on “Applications of Lie Theory: Combinatorial Algebraic Geometry and Symmetric Functions.” 

Claire Masteller, assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences, won a $164,897 early-concept grant for exploratory research (EAGER) from the National Science Foundation to support collaborative research titled “Invisible Floods on the Mississippi River Floodplain: Unravelling the Causes of Urban Flooding in a Community-Centered Approach to Geomorphology.” Read more about Masteller and her work.

Brian Rauch, research assistant professor in the Department of Physics, received a $120,000 grant from NASA for a project titled “Particle Astrophysics with the Payload for Ultrahigh Energy Observations (PUEO): A Next Generation Long-duration Balloon-borne Instrument for the Cosmic High Energy Frontier.”

Erin Bondy, a graduate student in Ryan Bogdan’s BRAIN lab in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, received a $117,470 grant from the National Institutes of Health to support research on inflammation and reward-related behavioral and neural phenotypes. Bondy will investigate behavioral mechanisms that may underlie a link between inflammation and anhedonia, the loss of or inability to feel pleasure.

Aliakbar Daemi, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, was awarded $111,395 by the National Science Foundation to support collaborative research in gauge theory.

Mark Palmquist, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry working with Jonathan Barnes, won a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship to support his work on microparticle technology. The fellowship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), encourages advanced training in science and engineering disciplines of military importance. Read more.

Michael Wysession, professor of Earth and planetary sciences, was recently appointed editor in chief for Perspectives of Earth and Space Scientists, a new peer-reviewed journal from the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The journal is unique in that its primary goal is to collect and share the stories of the people of AGU. Read more.

Zoe Hawks, a graduate student and University Fellow working with Desiree White, professor of psychological and brain sciences, was awarded a $68,532 grant from the National Institutes of Health in support of a multi-year project titled “Cerebellar Connectivity and Error-Based Learning in Infants at Risk for Autism.”

Michael Nowak, research professor of physics, received two grants from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory: $30,167 for work on understanding wind accretion in high-mass X-ray binaries and $23,726 for a collaborative project titled “Event Horizon Dynamics: Joint Chandra/EHT Imaging of Sgr A* and M87.”

Jonathan Losos, William H. Danforth Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Biology, received a $28,990 grant from the National Geographic Society for mapping biodiversity in Jamaican Anolis lizards.

Zhengwei Zhang, a graduate student studying archaeology with Xinyi Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, received $28,316 from the National Science Foundation in support of doctoral dissertation research on “Subsistence Adaptation in a High-Altitude Environment.”

Abigail Delawder, a graduate student in Jonathan Barnes' lab in the Department of Chemistry, was selected to receive a $15,000 Scholar Award from the Philanthropic Education Organization (PEO) Sisterhood. Delawder is one of 100 doctoral students in the United States and Canada selected to receive the award this year. Read more.

Elizabeth Mueller, a graduate student in biology, was selected as a Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Fellow. The Olin Fellowship, established by the Medical Scientist Training Program in 1987, recognizes superior accomplishments in biomedical research by doctoral students. Mueller is doing her thesis work with Petra Levin, professor of biology, on the role of signal transduction systems in bacterial cell cycle progression.

Erin Gemmell, a graduate student working with Timothy Wencewicz, associate professor of chemistry, was awarded a National Science Foundation industry internship at NewLeaf Symbiotics, an agricultural biotech company in St. Louis, Missouri. Read more.