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Mathematics is Focus of Two Grants CAMPUS CURRENT


Physics Imagine a spring that relaxes or tightens its hold depending on how far it is stretched. Such an adaptive device might be possible according to breakthrough biophysics research conducted by Assistant Professor of Physics Sharon Gerbode during her postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Gerbode and collaborators Joshua

student’s experience debugging a computer program he had written. Lewis conducted her research in 2009 while pursuing graduate studies at UC Berkeley.

Puzey, Andrew McCormick and L. Mahadevan studied how the cucumber tendril coils into its char- acteristic corkscrew shape as it hoists the climbing plant toward sunlight. Tey not only discovered the internal mechanism that drives tendril coiling but also an interesting twist: tendrils that were compliant when pulled slightly but much stiffer if pulled farther. Teir findings are detailed in “How the cucumber ten- dril coils and overwinds,” a paper co-authored by Gerbode and published in the Aug. 31, 2012, issue of Science. In July, Gerbode received a Cottrell College Science Award

Sharon Gerbode

from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement in support of materials science research. Te two-year, $35,000 grant will fund efforts to create more efficient solar cells.

Computer Science Department Chair Ran Libeskind- Hadas received the 2012 Distin- guished Alumni Educator Award from the University of Illinois at Ur- bana-Champaign. Te award honors computer science alumni who have made outstanding contributions to computer science education and ex- cel at motivating computer science students. He also was featured in the Aug. 2, 2012, article, “Math and Sci- ence Fields Battle Persistent Gender Gap,” in which he shared the importance of allowing students to choose how they want to apply the skills they are acquiring. Assistant Professor of Computer Science Colleen Lewis

Ran Libeskind-Hadas

received the Chair’s Award at the International Computing Education Research Conference (ICER) in October. Te award recognizes the best research paper presented at the conference. Her paper, “Tracking Program State: A Key Challenge in Learn- ing to Program,” includes the case study of a middle-school

Chemistry In an effort to open the dialogue between science and faith, Associate Professor of Chemistry David Vosburg has published an online study guide for the documentary film “From the Dust: Conversations in Creation.” Vosburg’s guide presents a six- week study for group discussion of mankind’s origin in light of theology, biological evolution, and humanity’s search for its

continued on Page 10 FALL/WINTER 2012 Har vey Mudd College 9

Mathematics Professor of Mathematics Alfonso Castro was awarded a Simons Foundation Collaboration Grant for Mathematicians to sup- port research involving equations fundamental to every area of science. Te five-year, $35,000 grant will fund expenses for Castro’s project, “Solvability of semilinear equations with discrete spectrum.” “Understanding the temperature distribution in a star, for

example, requires balancing heat diffusion, generation and radiation. In recent years, I have fully classified the radial solu- tions to this problem,” Castro said. Mississippi State University and the University of Alabama dedicated their ninth Differential Equations and Computational Simulations Conference to Castro in celebration of his outstanding contributions to differ- ential equations research.

Biology Elizabeth Glater, assistant professor of biology, has been awarded a Na- tional Science Foundation grant to support undergraduate neuroscience research. Te $49,952 grant will fund a yearlong project that will examine the mechanisms by which genes influ- ence behavior. “In humans, differenc- es in genes can cause or modify sus- ceptibility to neurological disorders. However, many common inherited diseases have an unknown and likely complex genetic basis,” said Glater. “Tis research will provide insight into how genes evolve and the biological mechanisms by which the nervous system produces behavior.”

Elizabeth Glater Faculty News

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