2015-2016 PDGR Abstracts


In February 2015, a committee of retirees appointed by Associate Vice President Frances Lawrenz met to review the 23 applications for Professional Development Grants for Retirees. The committee recommended 13 applications for funding. Vice President for Research, Brian Herman, announced the awards. Of the awards, one recipient was from the Duluth Campus, Geological Sciences.  The Twin Cities Campus recipients represented the fields of Sociology, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Art, Education, Humanities, Interior Design, Apparel Design, Textiles, English, and History. 

Ronald E. Anderson, Emeritus Professor of Sociology; College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Completing a Book on the Topic of Suffering Relief. In 2013, I received a PDGR grant to help complete a book, Human Suffering & the Quality of Life, which was published by Springer.  In 2014, I obtained another grant to help finish a contributed book, World Suffering & the Quality of Life, which will be published February 1, 2015.  I now seek funds to help cover the costs of copy editing a third book, Ending Suffering Together.  This grant would make it possible to continue my work on suffering and reach a larger audience on the topics of personal and policy options for relieving personal and world suffering.  The new book will discuss theories about relieving each type of suffering and make suggestions for ending preventable suffering at the individual, community and global levels. 

Subir K. Banerjee, Emeritus Professor of Geology and Geophysics; Department of Earth Sciences, College of Science & Engineering, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Past Monsoon Intensity over China from Magnetism of Top Soil Nanoparticles of Iron Oxides.  In 2011, I was awarded a PDGR to test quantitatively the mechanism responsible for the enhancement of top soil magnetism in China in response to mean annual rainfall (MAR).  A regression analysis was found to be linearly correlated with current MAR in the ancient dust deposits (Loess) of north-central China. I designed a laboratory test of the correlation based on a model of nanoparticle of magnetite formation from weakly magnetic iron silicates in Loess. Preliminary research aided by a UROP grant has shown that such nanoparticles (20-50 nanometer) are produced as expected but additional less magnetic hematite nanoparticles may be produced when MAR exceeds a critical value, and the magnetite correlation breaks down due to a saturation effect. Based on theoretical modeling, I now propose to alter pure silicates and vary temperature and humidity in the laboratory to explain the field observations and determine if magnetite and hematite together can yield past rainfall values during heavy monsoons.

Richard Beach, Emeritus Professor of English Education; Department of Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities 
English Teachers Perceptions of Enhancements to Websites Related to Teaching Literature, Composition & Digital/Media Literacy. The purpose of this project is to improve the usability, relevancy, and currency of, and willingness to contribute content to four relatively widely used resource sites for secondary English teachers related to teaching literature, composition, and digital/media literacy. Based on web expert and teacher reviews of four current wiki sites, these sites will be revised to address the web design and teacher perceived limitations of these sites.

Patrick L. Brezonik, Emeritus Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering; College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Use of Optical Remote Sensing to Estimate Total Dissolved Organic Matter (DOM) in Lakes: Effects of Iron & Spatial Variability in Chemical Characteristics of DOM. Dissolved natural organic matter (DOM), and especially its colored fraction, has major effects on surface water ecology and water treatability for human use.  The effects of dissolved iron concentrations on the intensity of color associated with DOM in surface waters (lakes, streams, wetlands) will be determined by field and laboratory measurements. The optical and chemical characteristics of DOM from a variety of surface waters will be characterized with the goal of developing simple parameters to explain variations in the ratio of measured color to measured DOM concentrations (expressed as dissolved organic carbon, DOC in mg/L). Both results will be used to develop more reliable methods to predict DOC concentrations by optical remote sensing, which has the potential to provide spatially comprehensive data but measures only the colored component of DOM. Simple tools also will be developed to allow measurements of lake water color by volunteers in Minnesota’s Citizen Monitoring Program.

Terence G. Collins, Emeritus Professor and Interim Dean; College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
How Can We Possible Read the Poems of Phillis Wheatley?  Phillis Wheatley was an 18th Century American poet.  Her condition as a slave makes the fact of her work remarkable.  Wheatley and her work have been appropriated by myriad readers: Jefferson (to argue the racial inferiority of Africans), abolitionists (to demonstrate the full humanity of African slaves), African American cultural nationalists (to illustrate how European American poetics can be re-purposed), and children’s book authors (who present her as an inspiring role model). As a graduate student, I published what is now seen as a seminal article on Wheatley’s poetry.  All but one critical piece in the “Criticism and Scholarship” section of Phillis Wheatley: The Complete Writings (Penguin, 2001, 2011) post-date my essay.  In the proposed work, I will use the resources of the Schomberg Collection, NYPL, to review the literature on Wheatley (literary criticism, polemics, children’s books, and curriculum) and try to make sense of it in an article, answering the question: how can we possible read Phillis Wheatley.

Steven M. Colman, Emeritus Professor of Geological Sciences & Director; Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota – Duluth
Glacial and Post-Glacial Sediments Below Central lake Superior. Surprisingly, little is known about what lies below the floor of Lake Superior, the world’s largest lake.  Over the last 10 years, I have received external funding from a variety of sources to conduct seismic-reflection surveys, with a variety of sound sources and resolutions, in Lake Superior. A major data set from the central part of the lake remains largely unexamined. This proposal is for support of process, interpret, and publish these data. A presentation at an international scientific meeting, American Geophysical Union, and two peer-reviewed journal papers are planned. The proposed project would be a significant capstone on a decade-long research effort in Lake Superior and the results would have scientific significance for topics ranging from local glacial history to past global climate changes.

 Joanne B. Eicher, Regent Professor Emeritus of Design, Housing & Apparel; College of Design, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Documentation of Eicher Textile Collection for Online Portfolio. I propose creating an online portfolio of images and description of my Nigerian textile collection of approximately 500 textiles acquired from 1963-2011, which began with living in Nigeria (1963-1966). I base this project on extensive research and collecting that included numerous field trips in Nigeria and India, the latter linked to Nigeria through exporting Indian madras to the Kalahari people of the Nigeria delta, on which they created a distinctive design, culturally authenticating it for special occasion wear. Mounting an online image bank to illustrate the depth and breadth of handcrafted Nigerian textiles will supplement my 1976 book, Nigerian Handcrafted Textiles (University of Ife Press). The online access will expand knowledge of the amazing array of indigenously crafted fabrics in Nigeria and allow a wide audience of readers in a technologically savvy world to understand the wealth of creativity in textile design arising from the African continent.

 Denise A. Guerin, Professor Emeritus of Design, Housing & Apparel; College of Design, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Development of Research Summaries: Transforming Research Findings into Evidence-Based Design Criteria for InformeDesign. This is a request for funding to write and post 55 research summaries (RS) for a searchable database of 2,400 RSs that focus on design and human behavior research. A RS is a 2-3 page written transformation of a refereed journal article; it summarizes the research findings but, more importantly, transforms the findings into evidence-based design criteria.  These RSs are accessible and free to designers and the public globally.  This access is the basis for the paradigm shift to an evidence-based design process. InformeDesign was launched in 2003, but due to limited funding, it has been idle for three years. We have used personal funds and Cornerstone Partner funds to prepare to re-launch the site, and are now ready for new RAs to be added to increase visibility and viability for future funding.

 Donald Clay Johnson, Retired Curator of Ames Library of South Asia; University Library, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Local Versus Global Perspectives of Indian Textiles. The proposed project will complete research for a paper to be presented at the Textile Society of America conference in 2016 whose theme will be local versus global. The conference presentations will survey issues related to textiles from the contrasting global and local perspectives as they affect attitudes, taste, and fashion. This component of the research analyzes the differences of British (global) and Indian (local) taste, perception, and approaches towards Indian textiles during the time India was part of the British Empire. The study is of the holdings and resources of four levels/types of museums/repositories in Great Britain and compares them with earlier similar research undertaken in India. Although the British presence in India extended over four centuries, the two cultures never evolved a common perception of textiles since social interactions between the two communities were minimal.

 Kathleen O’Brien, retired Vice President of University Services; University of Minnesota- Twin Cities
Women in Minnesota Local Government, 1970 to 2000.  The last decades of the 20th Century experienced a dramatic increase in the number of women serving as elected and appointed officials in local government. To date limited scholarly effort of women’s entry into local government has been studied. As many of these women are advancing in age, it is a critical time to capture the historical record of their personal experiences & impact on Minnesota’s politics and government. This project will document women’s participation in local government from 1970 to 2000 by researching the related academic literature, newspapers, manuscript and organizational records, and interviewing women and men throughout Minnesota, across political and personal backgrounds. It will enrich the scholarly record for historians and social scientists and encourage women to share their life experiences and personal papers with archival institutions. This study of women in Minnesota local politics and government will provide a prototype of this change that occurred across the nation.

Hans-Olaf Pfannkuch, Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences; Department of Earth Sciences, Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Anatomy of Fraud in the Comstock Lode, U.S. and German Mining Laws, and the Role of Immigrant Miners from Saxony in the 1870’s.  The second half of the 19th Century saw an enormous interest in the mineral wealth and natural resources of the western U.S.  The history of the Comstock Lode, Nevada provides insight into mine management practices, highly entrepreneurial, but often riddled by manipulation and fraud. Miners imported from the ore mining districts of Saxony provide the nexus between the U.S. mineral industry at the time and comparison of administrative statues between the two countries will establish if the more hierarchic, military structure in Germany provided better protection against fraud. It will also trace the introduction and quantify the presence of miners from Saxony in the Comstock Lode. This relationship has hitherto not been documented. The Bochum Museum of Mines and the Institute for History of Science and Technology, Freiberg, have shown great interest in this question.

Wayne E. Potratz, Professor Emeritus of Art; Department of Art, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Clay Molding Workshop Participation and Further Creative Research in Japan. Participation in a Japanese workshop on the subject of the use of recyclable molds for metal casting of sculpture and further research on forging and working “tama-hagane” (high-carbon steel made directly from iron ore) for sculpture. I have been invited to lecture on and demonstrate African, Indian, and Meso-American molding methods for casting sculpture as part of the workshop at Yamanashi Gakuin University. Also, I will work with Taro Asano at his studio in Hashima to further my understanding of traditional Japanese forging techniques and study at art museums and galleries. As a result of this contact with Japanese artists, I expect to further refine and expand my work as a sculptor.

 Peter J. Reed, Professor Emeritus of English; Department of English, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
The Graphic Art of Kurt Vonnegut. The noted novelist Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) also devoted himself to drawing and painting. From 1993, he began collaboration with Joe Petro III, a noted artist from Lexington, Kentucky, in the reproduction of his art.  Vonnegut would draw on sheets of acetate and Petro, working with him, would silk screen the drawings onto paper. These later artworks have special interest in that many relate directly to his writing.  Petro and I plan a book containing a large selection of Vonnegut’s latter artwork, an introduction by Reed and Petro, and a commentary on the works by Reed.