2011-2012 PDGR Abstracts


On February 24, 2011, a committee of retirees appointed by Vice President Tim Mulcahy met with Associate Vice President Frances Lawrenz to review all 19 applications for the third cycle of Professional Development Grants for Retirees. The committee recommended nine applications for funding and in early March Vice President Mulcahy announced the awards. Of the winning proposals, one came from the Morris Campus and the others from the following Twin Cities campus colleges: CSE (IT); CLA; Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and the University Libraries. A significant feature added to the Grants program for this year is a link to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Two of this year's PDGrants winners included such an indication and are now in conversation with the UROP office concerning such arrangements. Consult the UROP office.


Ferolyn Angell, Lecturer in Dance—Humanities Division; University of Minnesota, Morris, “Translate Mother’s Journals as Historical References for a Theatrical Work”

This project is to translate journals written by my mother, Dorothea Cecelie Oppenheimer Angell, from 1932-1946 during the time of the Nazi takeover in Germany and the subsequent years as a refugee in Sweden prior to her eventual immigration to the United States. Although raised as a devout Lutheran and a student at the Lutheran Seminary in Berlin, my mother was forced to flee Germany, as were five of her seven siblings, because of her Jewish ancestry. The translations capture a unique historical perspective that will be the foundation for a theatrical/dance work involving spoken word, dance and visual images that explores the middle class environment of Germany at the time of Hitler’s rise to power, the emotional impact of Hitler’s influence on the German people, the loss of youthful innocence, the psychological impact of personal loss, and the destruction of deep religious faith.

Subir Banerjee, Professor Emeritus—Department of Geology and Geophysics, Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences; College of Science and Engineering; Twin Cities Campus, “Reconstructing the History of Chinese Climate Change in the Last 10,000 Years”

Correlation of modern rainfall and temperature with magnetic susceptibility of surface soil in China has yielded Transfer Functions that have been used by environmental magnetists to reconstruct past rainfall at these sites from buried soils (paleosols). Disagreement among the rainfall values thus determined has led to a confusion on the validity of this approach. The magnetic enhancement caused by rainfall (and possibly temperature as well) leads to formation of highly magnetic (‘superparamagnetic’) nanoparticles of magnetite from paramagnetic and antiferromagnetic silicates with very small amounts of iron. However, this is only a hypothesis. It requires confirmation in the laboratory by chemical alteration of the putative parent materials transported by winter storms and westerlies to the deposition areas in central China. Variation of pH,moisture content, and temperature will be used to determine the most important climate variable(s) that controls the formation of nanoparticles of magnetite. Such direct alteration of source dust has never been attempted.

Patrick Brezonik, Professor Emeritus—Department of Civil Engineering; College of Science and Engineering; Twin Cities Campus, “Controls on Mercury Bioavailability and Cycling in the Environment by Natural Organic Matter (NOM) and Aquatic Humic Substances (AHS)”

The chemical binding of methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury in the environment, with natural organic matter will be determined. A wide range of concentrations and ratios of methylmercury concentrations to binding-site concentrations on the organic substances will be studied, and sources of the organic matter will emphasize aquatic humic substances, which occur widely in wetlands, lakes and rivers. The results will be analyzed and interpreted relative to the impacts of methylmercury bioavailability to aquatic organisms. To better understand the nature of the interactions between methylmercury and natural organic matter, the chemical nature of the complicated molecular structures of the natural organic matter used in the binding studies will be studied using the most sophisticated mass spectrometric techniques and instrumentation currently available. The work represents a continuation of research on the environmental fate and behavior of mercury conducted by the principal investigator for more than twenty years.

Morton Harris, Professor Emeritus—School of Mathematics; Twin Cities Campus, “Classical Clifford Theory and the Glauberman-Isaacs Correspondences in Finite Group Character Theory”

My application is for travel funds to discuss my current work on the application of classic Clifford Theory to the Glauberman-Isaacs Correspondences with a renowned expert in this area of mathematics, Professor Gabriel Navarro of the University of Valencia, Spain.

Donald Clay Johnson, Curator Emeritus—Ames Library of South Asia; Twin Cities Campus, “Queen Alexandria, Lady Curzon, and Indian Textiles”

British society in colonial India rigidly followed London fashion and steadfastly avoided using Indian fabrics in its clothing. The sole exception at the highest social and political level to this attitude was Mary Curzon, the American wife of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India 1898-1905, who deliberately sought out and used distinctive Indian textiles in her outfits. This attracted the attention of Queen Alexandra who was so impressed that she asked Lady Curzon to make a coronation gown for her and some other dresses using Indian fabrics. This project seeks to investigate this notable exception to sartorial tradition using four British research institutions: 1) the India Collection of the British Library, (2) the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, (3) the Royal Dress Collection housed in Kensington Palace, and (4) the museum and archives at Kedleston Hall, the family home of the Curzon family.

Calvin Kendall, Professor Emeritus—Department of English; College of Liberal Arts; Twin Cities Campus, “Translation with Introduction, Commentary and Notes of Isidore of Seville’s De Natura Rerum (On the Nature of Things) and pseudo-Isidore’s Liber De Ordine Creaturarum (The Book of the Order of Creation)”

I am applying for a grant to hire a Spanish-speaking graduate research assistant (a) to make an exhaustive search of the periodical literature in Spanish on these two works, and to prepare a comprehensive bibliography with a precis of the argument of each item. The RA would be expected to extend his/her research and bibliography preparation, as time permitted, to articles and books in Spanish (b) on Isodore of Seville in general, and (c) on the culture and history of Visigothic Spain, especially in the era of King Sisebut (612-621), to whom Isidore dedicated his treatise. The project, to be completed by spring semester 2012, would facilitate research and provide the core bibliography for the book.

Herbert Pick, Professor Emeritus—Institute of Child Development; College of Liberal Arts; Twin Cities Campus, “Investigation Concerning the Perceptual Guidance of Action”

Suppose while standing in one location you are asked to simply turn around continuously at a comfortable speed. What information determines your comfortable stepping rate? Besides biomechanical (and efferent) information, you would be getting visual and vestibular information about your rate of turning. Do these sources have any effect your stepping speed? One way to determine this is for you to be stepping on a turntable. Suppose the turntable is turning in the same direction you are stepping. Its movement would add to your stepping speed. If what is perceived as comfortable depends on visual and vestibular information, you should slow your stepping rate. With manipulations such as this, the relative contribution of visual, biomechanical, vestibular and even auditory information will be investigated.

Nora Plesofsky, Research Associate Emerita—Department of Plant Biology; College of Biological Sciences; Twin Cities Campus, “Sources of Stress-Induced Cell Death in Neurospora crassa”

The combined effects of moderately high temperature and an inhibitory glucose analog, 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG), are lethal to wildtype Neurosporo crassa cells. We have found that lipid synthesis and, particularly, ceramide synthesis are required for cell death. Furthermore, mutant strains that lack specific stress-induced proteins, Hsp30 and Os-2, are resistant to this death. We propose to investigate the plasma membrane ATPase,Pmal, which is a dominant protein in the lipid raft domains of the plasma membrane, as well as the inositol phosphorylceramide species that are essential components of these lipid rafts. These experiments will compare wildtype and mutant cells, under both normal conditions and dual stress. A major focus is on Pmal, which exports protons from the cell and is essential for regulating intracellular cytosolic pH in response to heart shock and to glucose. Protein localization and quantification will be supplemented with ATPase activity measurements and intracellular cytosolic pH measurements. These experiments should reveal new aspects of fungal response to stress, as well as the physiological impact of 2-DG.

Michael Stoughton, Associate Professor Emeritus—Department of Art History; college of Liberal Arts; Twin Cities Campus, “The Pious Works of the Jesuits and St. Ignatius Received into Paradise: A Painting by Giovanni Battista Caracciolo in the Museo Correale Di Terranova in Sorrento”

As an expert on the paintings of the Neapolitan artist Giovanni Battista Caracciolo (1578-1635), I have been asked by the Association of Friends of the Correale di Terranova Museum (Sorrento, Italy) to deliver a lecture, in Italian, on a picture by Caracciolo in that museum, an excellent private institution with no state support. This will be an inaugural address, in September 2011, of a series devoted to masterpieces in the collection. The intention of the series is to inform the audience about specific works as well as to draw attention to the importance of the holdings of the museum, to encourage support during a period of diminishing endowments. The papers will be published as a catalogue of the museum, the first ever. I am applying for funds to pay for the translation of the talk into Italian, for photographs of the painting, for round-trip airfare, and for per-diem support while there.