Four faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were recently awarded Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) awards from the National Science Foundation. These highly-competitive awards recognize junior faculty who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Matthew Badger was awarded a five-year, $410,000 grant for his project, “Analysis and Geometry of Measures.”
Badger’s research addresses problems related to measures, which are abstract tools used across all fields of modern mathematics to understand the concept of size. For example, measures can describe the length, area, or volume of mathematical sets drawn in two or three-dimensional Euclidean spaces. With his new project, Badger will build on his recent discoveries in geometric measures theory, the results of which may significantly increase scholars’ understanding of these essential tools.
Badger’s award will also support training and professional development activities for young scholars who work in geometric measure theory and related areas at UConn and other academic institutions. Among these initiatives is a pair of linked conferences for postdoctoral researchers and graduate students that will take place in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2019, respectively.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Alfredo Angeles-Boza has been awarded $664,576 over five years for his project, “Heavy Atom Isotope Effects in Carbon Dioxide Fixation Catalysis: Fundamental Understanding and Catalyst Discovery.”
Angeles-Boza’s project will address two of society’s most pressing problems: global warming and diminishing stockpile of fossil fuels. He will specifically examine the efficiency of catalysts used to speed up the conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) into molecules that are useful for fuel preparation and processing. By studying how these substances work in atomic detail, scientists will be able to design catalysts that produce only desirable compounds and convert CO2 fast enough so that the process can be performed at an industrial scale.
In addition, Angeles-Boza’s award will support outreach efforts aimed at increasing the number of minority students who graduate with a chemistry major. A primary component will be a new tutoring and mentoring program that will include seminars from research scholars with Hispanic backgrounds.
Will Ouimet, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Center for Integrative Geosciences, has received a five-year, $475,000 NSF CAREER grant for his project, “Linking Land-use Dynamics with Anthropocene Sedimentation.”
Ouimet’s project will examine the links between upstream land-use practices and downstream sedimentation across southern New England. Agriculture, deforestation, and other human activities significantly impact landscapes in the region, resulting in soil erosion; sediment accumulation in rivers and dams; and disruption of wetland, lake, and floodplain ecosystems.
Using high-resolution topographic data, field studies, and sediment analysis, Ouimet’s research is expected to enhance basic scientific understanding of historic land-use practices in the region, the effects of these practices on soils and erosion, the comparison of long-term landscape change with recent human-induced change, and markers of the human activity in the geologic record. The project will also integrate research with new opportunities for outreach, education, and conservation regarding historic cultural features within area forests, as well as education and training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students focused on understanding the physical and environmental consequences of land-use practices and implications of continued development.
Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences Ian Stevenson was awarded $452,340 over five years for his project, “Statistical Tools for Tracking Synaptic Plasticity in Neural Spike Data.”
Stevenson will use this award to develop and validate new statistical tools that model how synapses between neurons in the brain change over time. Synaptic plasticity – the strengthening or weakening of synapses – underlies learning, memory, and recovery from injury. Although plasticity has been demonstrated in controlled experiments with a few neurons, it has so far been difficult to measure in natural settings where many neurons interact. These new tools will make measurements of plasticity more accurate and help characterize how large networks of neurons process information.
The education component of this project includes developing new training programs that allow students to gain expertise in both neurophysiology and data analysis. Stevenson also hopes to improve training in systems neuroscience broadly by creating open-source software, online tutorials, and course material for experimentalists learning neural data analysis.
By: Bri Diaz, UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences