The Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute announces the award of grants supporting interdisciplinary approaches in innovative research. The grants bring together Colgate faculty and other researchers with complementary expertise to open new areas of study and to tackle existing problems in creative new ways. This year, the awards go to two research teams:
Rebecca Metzler and Kiko Galvez (Physics & Astronomy) received a two-year award for their project “Probing Biomineral Formation through Novel Laser Imaging Polarimetry,” which will combine the physical optics involved in diagnosing complex light forms with the biophysical research of the biomineral surfaces made by various mollusk species. The colorful inner surfaces of mollusk shells are an example of the extraordinary biominerals that are produced by living organisms. These shells have a complex surface structure composed of micro-crystals intertwined with and cemented by bio-organic compounds. In an innovative combination of different approaches, Metzler, Galvez, and their students will study the polarization of the iridescent light reflected by the shells to obtain information about the composition and structures that give them their remarkable physical properties. Rebecca and Kiko are each bringing very different approaches and perspectives to this very creative collaboration, and together they will develop exciting new ways of visualizing and understanding complex biological materials,” said Picker ISI Director, Damhnait McHugh.
Catherine Cardelús (Biology), Eliza Kent (Religion), Peter Klepeis and Peter Scull (Geography), along with Margaret Lowman (NC Museum of Natural Sciences & NC State University) and Alemayehu Wassie Eshete (Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia) have been awarded support for one year for their project “Does religious management mitigate the socio-ecological drivers of forest change in sacred groves of northern Ethiopia?” Some forests in northern Ethiopia are maintained as sacred sites around Christian Orthodox Tewahido Churches. Some of these church groves date from the 4th century AD; however, many are diminishing in size and diversity because of pressures from farming and gathering of firewood. In a rare collaboration across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, the funded research team and their students will collaborate closely with Ethiopian colleagues and local communities to assess whether and how cultural and religious stewardship of the sacred forests reduces negative impacts on these compromised ecosystems. “This team represents an exciting collaboration across many disciplines. The depth of understanding to be gained by their collaborative approach is immense and coupled with close connections with the people most invested in the sacred forests, this work can have a powerful impact on the fate of these unique habitats,” said Dr. Damhnait McHugh, Director of the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute.
The mission of the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute at Colgate University is to foster the creation of new knowledge that is obtainable only through the development of sustained interdisciplinary research. The Institute supports internal and external collaborations among faculty who bring expertise from different disciplines to bear on current and emerging scientific problems that remain intractable to the methods used within a single discipline. The Institute also encourages interdisciplinary approaches to learning through innovative curricular and research opportunities for students that may arise from the pursuit of interdisciplinary research projects.