January 2005

Teaching Science at Liberal Arts Institutions

Pioneering in the Field of Psycho-Oncology

Investigating Infections from Multiple Perspectives

Increasing Knowledge About Disease Processes

Research at the Nexus of Clinical and Developmental Psychology

Opening Up the Box

S&T Briefs

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Please send us your comments on this issue, ideas for future issues, and news about your professional interests and accomplishments.

Al Dorof, Editor

© 2005

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Bryn Mawr College
A newsletter on research, teaching, management, policy making and leadership in Science and Technology

S&T Briefs

Curved Orogens

Arlo B. Weil
Arlo B. Weil

Assistant Professor of Geology Arlo B. Weil was awarded a three-year, $136,466 grant from the National Science Foundation to support his research on a three-dimensional kinematic history of the Wyoming Salient, a curved section of the Rocky Mountains between Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Salt Lake City, Utah. The goal of the project is to shed light on the geologic processes that produce mountain-belt curvatures over a range of scales. Most mountain belts show varying degrees of curvatures over a range of scales, which record complex three-dimensional histories of deformation. However, despite the ubiquity of curved mountain belts, their deformation histories and the processes that drive orogenic curvature have not been adequately quantified from geologic evidence.

In the April 2002 issue of S&T, Weil noted, "What interests me is the vast scale of the questions one asks in geology: how does a mountain belt form? To me, that is an awesome question, and the fact that I can contribute to answering this question is exciting."

Graphite Ribbons

Frank B. Mallory  
Frank B. Mallory

W. Alton Jones Professor of Chemistry Frank B. Mallory and his research group received an $80,000 grant from the Petroleum Research Fund, which is administered by the American Chemical Society, to continue their quest to create ever-longer molecules of a type of compound he has dubbed "phenacenes," a family of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The molecular structure of phenacenes has features similar to those found in graphite, in which there are large sheets of hexagonal rings of carbon atoms. The structure of phenacenes is long and flat, so they may be regarded as graphite ribbons rather than sheets. Because graphite conducts electricity, phenacenes may have the potential to be developed as "molecular wires" in the emerging field of nanotechnology.

Mallory’s research group has succeeded in synthesizing a derivative of a phenacene with 11 rings, the current world’s record. The new grant will support development of improved methods of iterative synthesis that will lead to much longer phenacenes. "It’s the Everest effect," Mallory explains. "Nobody has ever been able to make a molecule of this sort this long, and I think I know how to make them because of a chemical reaction I discovered. We’d like to get to 35 rings. I want to see if it can be done."

Do Specialists Matter?

Neal M. Williams
Neal M. Williams

Assistant Professor of Biology Neal M. Williams is interested in bees because they are an unusual pollinator group — many species are "specialist" pollinators that are very selective in the plants they visit while others are generalized, visiting a wide variety of plants. Historically, it was assumed that specialist pollinators would focus only on plants with elaborate flowers that were difficult for other pollinators to tap. However, Williams and his collaborators have discovered that specialist bees most often go to plants with simple flowers that are also visited by many generalized pollinators. This finding raises interesting questions that Williams will explore with the support of a three-year, $45,156 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The Williams research group will address two questions: Are specialist bee species truly important to their host plants? And, if so, does their importance change in concert with the blooming periods of different groups of flowering plants and generalist pollinators? The answers are central to understanding the structure of pollinator-plant interactions and how they vary in the face of changing environments.

For more information on Williams and his research interests, see his profile in the October 2003 issue of S&T.

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