2012-2013 PDGR Abstracts


On February 27, 2012, a committee of retirees appointed by Vice President Tim Mulcahy met with Associate Vice President Frances Lawrenz to review all 20 applications for the fourth cycle of Professional Development Grants for Retirees. The committee recommended eight applications for funding and in early March Vice President Mulcahy announced the awards. Of the winning proposals, one came from the Duluth Campus, CLA; while the others from the following Twin Cities campus colleges: CSE (IT); CCE; CLA; Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and the Medical School. A significant feature added to the Grants program last year was a link to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). One of this year's PDGrants winners included such an indication and is now in conversation with the UROP office concerning such arrangements. Consult the  UROP office.


Fred M.B. Amram, Emeritus Professor of Communication and Creativity – CCE Degree and Credit Programs; CCE; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: “An Examination of British Patents Granted to Women, 1617 – 1816”

In early modern Britain, society legally inhibited and socially discouraged women from owning property or engaging in inventive activity. Nevertheless, some women did one or both. These women were able to transcend the legal and social constraints imposed on their gender to achieve the intellectual and social power inherent in inventing. This study will look at the historical experience of women with the British patent system between 1617 and 1816. By reviewing more than 4,000 British patents, I will examine the history of British patenting, how female patents reflect the changes in the British patent system, the relationship between property ownership and marital status, and the effect of gender on the types of inventions patented. Additionally, I will examine how the timing of inventions and historical developments shed light on connection between inventions, women’s occupations and the appropriateness of inventions to socially accepted female roles.

Edward M. Griffin, Emeritus Professor of English – Department of English; CLA; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: “Final Preparation and Publication of Manuscript Letters Written by Members of a Boston Loyalist Family”

Having located, acquired, microfilmed, transcribed, and organized nearly 1,500 unpublished manuscript letters written by members of a Boston family whose members remained loyal to England during and after the American Revolution, I now enter the final Stage: selecting, editing, annotating, and introducing a collection of these letters for publication. The letters have remained virtually unknown to historians as well as to the general public. Every word in the edited letters must accurately reproduce the text as found in the manuscripts. In the hundreds of pages of word-processed typescript I have produced, errors inevitably creep in, and the likelihood is greater when one transcribes from microfilm – as was necessary in this case. To insure the accuracy of my transcriptions, I must travel to the several archives in New England and Nova Scotia where the manuscripts themselves are housed and there carefully check each of the 1500 transcribed documents against the originals.

Richard Hoffman, Emeritus Associate Professor – Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Sciences; Medical School; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: “Neuropsychological Consequences of Chronic Khat Use”

Our international khat research group (based at the University of Minnesota Medical School) has multiple papers published, in press, or in review related to the effects of the psychostimulant khat on neurobehavioral functions and the cardiovascular and adrenocortical effects of khat use. To date there have been very few well-controlled, laboratory studies investigating the effect of khat use on neuropsychological functioning, despite the need for such studies. Our group has completed data collection for comprehensive study of the neuropsychological effects of chronic khat use in Yemen. This is the largest such study of its kind with 175 enrolled subjects and examines the effect of chronic khat use on multiple neuropsychological measures of attention, verbal learning, auditory recall, visuo-spatial construction, motor speed and dexterity, visual search, and mental flexibility. I am requesting funding to aid in the preparation of two manuscripts for publication and the presentation of the results of this study at the Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society.

Peter A. Jordan, Emeritus Associate Professor – Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology; CFANS; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: “Continued Studies of the Impact of Moose Feeding on Forage Plants on Isle Royale and New Studies of the Impact on Seedling Survival by Invasive Earthworms”

For 45 years I have conducted ecological studies at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. One phase has been a long-term, detailed monitoring of the feeding habits of moose and the consequent effects of these animals upon on the island’s forests. They have had a major impact on the composition and structure of various forest communities—far greater than by moose on the adjacent mainland where the species is much less abundant. 

Annual trends in moose numbers and amounts of growth they remove from shrubs and saplings in winter have been monitored by my team using data collected each spring at a set of island-wide, fixed plots that have been used for decades. The data collecting, assisted by undergraduate students, involves extensive canoeing and hiking—both by trail and cross-country. Density and winter distribution of moose, as well as snowshoe hares, are interpreted from the quantity of fecal pellets found on the plots, and foraging is quantified from evidence of bites by moose and hares on each of the woody species they use. During recent years the plant-animal interaction there has been altered by a surprising drop in moose numbers, leading to a striking decrease in their impacts on forests, particularly on tree saplings.

To support my work since retirement, I had partial funding for a while, but have had none during the past four years. Recently I was most fortunate to partner with a highly appropriate faculty colleague, Lee Frelich, who will assume leadership of the project and no doubt find new funding fairly soon. At the same time, I plan to continue the data collecting along with analyses and work on publications as long as practical.

Philip O. Larsen, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology - Department of Plant Pathology; CFANS; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and

Fred Bergsrud, Emeritus Professor of Bioproducts and Biosystems – Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; CFANS; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: “Support for Air Travel to Provide Volunteer Support for the Institute of Agriculture at Tumaini University, Iringa, Tanzania”

Funds are requested to support the round trip air travel of the applicants from Minneapolis to Tanzania to supervise and participate in the work of the Institute of Agriculture [] at Tumai University in Iringa, Tanzania. From mid October to mid November, 2012, Professor Larsen will be providing supervision to Institute of Agriculture staff for delivery of maize seed and fertilizer at 44 cropping demonstrations sites throughout the Iringa Region of Tanzania. Instruction on fertilizer application, planting and weed management will also be given to farmers at each site. Professor Bergsrud will travel to Tanzania for the month of March, 2013 to provide instruction on planting beans and yield measurement on the plots. The applicants participate as volunteers and need to pay for their own airfare, food, and other personal expenses. Ground travel in Tanzania and housing are provided by the Institute of Agriculture at Tumaini University.

Carol Miller, Emeritus Associate Professor of American Indian Studies – American Studies Program and Department of American Indian Studies; CLA; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: “Shape Shifter and Trickster Were Going Along (On the Radio): A critical Analysis of Thomas King’s CBC-Sponsored Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour”

This proposal seeks support for a critical analysis focusing exclusively on Native author Thomas King’s Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour, which ran on Canadian Broadcasting Company radio for four-plus seasons (1997-2000, 2006). UMRA funding will be used to support travel to Guelph and Toronto, Ontario, to give me access to primary archival materials (King’s set of print transcripts and the CBS Archive’s audio tapes) and to do interviews with King as writer/performer and with the CBC producer. Focus of the research and subsequent publication will be on 1) how and why King came to write, and CBC came to underwrite, the program; 2) its process of writing and production; 3) what can be known about Native and non-Native audience response, based on correspondence to both King and the CBC; and 4) how each of these “participants” would now evaluate the experience and its outcomes.

Roger H. Stuewer, Emeritus Professor of History of Science and Technology – School of Physics and Astronomy; CSE; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: “Support for Travel to Attend International Conference to Present Invited Lecture on 'The Seventh Solvay Conference: Nuclear Physics, Society, Politics, and Influence,' and to Attend Meetings of the American Association of Physics Teachers”

I request financial support to supplement the travel expenses that will be paid by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) to attend its 2012 Summer and 2013 Winter Meetings, and to supplement the travel expenses that will be paid by the organizers of a conference in Berlin, Germany, in September 2012, where I will deliver an invited lecture on my research.

Eileen M. Zeitz, Emeritus Professor of Spanish – Department of Foreign Languages and Literature; CLA; University of Minnesota – Duluth: “Contemporary Cuban Fiction: The Prose Fiction of Jorge Angel Hernández Pérez”

In this project I will analyze selected short stories and novels of Jorge Angel Hernández Pérez, a Cuban writer of prose fiction, poetry, essays, and children’s literature, and an active collaborator in national literary journals. Despite having won various literary prizes, he is relatively unknown to literary critics of contemporary Cuban literature, who often focus their attention on the canon, or Cuban exiles in the U.S., or particular groupings (women writers; detective fiction). My study will analyze themes and techniques used by Hernández Pérez in selected works and assess to what extent his writing changes or stays the same across genres; it also will explore to what extent his fiction reflects both Cuban culture and contemporary Hispanic American literary styles. This study will explore the work of an interesting and talented writer and fill a laguna which currently exists in scholarship focused on contemporary Cuban fiction.