WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Intense summer research schedules are customary for Whitman faculty members who consistently juggle the demands of teaching, research and family responsibilities. Perry Research Awards, given to faculty-student teams each summer, provide students irreplaceable learning experiences where they learn firsthand the methods and challenges of sustained scholarly work. In turn, professors are rewarded with valuable, inquisitive student research collaborators.

Closely aligned to professors’ established research, these summer projects often result in joint publications and presentations at scholarly meetings as well as topics for senior theses. “The College is fortunate to have the resources to support these—and many other—transformative intellectual and creative experiences for students,” said Lori Bettison-Varga, provost and dean of the faculty. “The collaborative faculty/student research supported by the Perry Awards represents the synergy of teaching and research for which Whitman is known.”

This summer 18 Perry research teams representing humanities, social sciences and the sciences, are exploring topics as diverse as “Scottish Romanticism and the Working-Class Author” and “Biophysical Studies and Crystallization of Myelin Basic Protein Chimeras.”

A sampling of current projects includes:

Michelle Janning, associate professor of sociology, is working with Caity Collins ’08 on the project “My Room at Mom’s House vs. My Room at Dad’s House.” This project continues Janning’s interest in family roles and relationship dynamics. Some of her past research projects include two supported by previous Perry awards: “Comparing Married Co-workers across Occupational Lines” (2001); and “A Room of her own? Women’s Incorporation of Media-Filtered Residential Design Aesthetics” (2004).

Janning and Collins are using interviews and content analysis of photographs of bedrooms and other home spaces of adolescents. “Our goal is to combine the body of knowledge on the social significance of material culture for adolescents in home spaces and the existing knowledge about divorce effects on children,” said Janning in the Perry application. “Consider it a sort of ’residential geography of divorce’ for children.”

Sharon Alker, assistant professor of English, and Beth Frieden ’08 traveled to Edinburgh for two weeks to do research on an essay collection that Alker is co-editing, “Scottish Romanticism and the Working-Class Author: Critical Essays on James Hogg.” Hogg, also known as the Ettrick Shepherd, is a Romantic poet, novelist and song writer. Alker will use the Edinburgh research to inform her work on the collection, which will include co-writing the introduction and an essay on one of Hogg’s short stories, “The Pongos,” a tale of Scottish immigrants, empire and orangutans.

Jessica Bruhn ’09 and physics professor Doug Juers are conducting “Biophysical Studies and Crystallization of Myelin Basic Protein Chimeras” in which they study protein structures believed to be related to the progression of multiple sclerosis. Using crystallography, they will try to determine the three-dimensional structure of myelin basic protein (MBP). The progression of multiple sclerosis is thought to include an autoimmune attack against myelin proteins, including MBP. Knowing the structure of MBP would improve the understanding of the development and possible cause of multiple sclerosis. Juers is a biophysicist with expertise in protein crystallography; Bruhn is a biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology (BBMB) major who spent last summer in research at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Other Perry projects:

  • Allison Calhoun, assistant professor of chemistry, and Kathryn Corwith, “Isothermal Thermogravimetric Analysis to Study Oxidation Kinetics of Polyolefins”
  • Heidi Dobson, associate professor of biology, and Geoffrey Liu ’08 and Becky Como ’08, “Floral Traits as Modulators of Flower-Bee Interactions”
  • Frank Dunnivant, associate professor of chemistry, and Jake Ginsbach ’09, “Development of Laboratory Exercises and an Internet Textbook on Mass Spectroscopy”
  • Keith Farrington, professor of sociology, and Hannah Sherrard ’08, “From Prison Town to Wine Connoisseur’s Destination: The Manifest and Latent Social Consequences of Economic Development and Diversification in Pacific Northwest Host Community”
  • Jack Iverson, assistant professor of foreign language and literatures—French, and Rosie Brownlow ’09, “Calumny in the Barber of Seville”
  • Kari Norgaard, assistant professor of sociology and environmental studies, and Aaron David ’08 and Emily Davis ’08, “Traditional Cultural Knowledge and Distribution of Freshwater Mussels in the Klamath River”
  • Gary Rollefson, associate professor of anthropology, and Wesley Matlock ’08, “Archaeological Research—Amman, Jordan”
  • James Russo, associate professor of chemistry, and Ellen McCleery ’08 and Rhea Edelman ’08, “Assessment and Evaluations of the Walla Walla Public School Policy and Procedure on Nutrition and Fitness”
  • David Schmitz, Robert Allen Skotheim Chair of History, and Anne Conners ’08, “Research—Construction of American Nationalism through a Social History of Foreign Policy”
  • Lynn Sharp, associate professor of history, and Herman Patrick ’08, “Save the Nation, Make a Farm Girl French”
  • Nicole Simeck, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures—French, and Andrew Hill ’09, “The Burden of Humor in French Caribbean Literature”
  • Brooke Vick, assistant professor of psychology, and Rachel Hahn ’08 and Emily Shubin ’08, “Understanding the Consequences of Stigma Rejection: Testing the Double –Deviance Hypothesis”
  • Melissa Wilcox, assistant professor of religion, and Erin Flaucher '09, "Religion and Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S. and Canada"
  • Walter Wyman, professor of religion, and Carly Lane Rue '07, “Essay on Schleiermacher’s relation to Augustine for the volumes to be published by Oxford University Press titles After Augustine, edited by Arnold Visser”
  • Paul Yancey, Carl S. Peterson Endowed Chair of Sciences, and Joanne Ishikawa ’08 and Marina Heppenstall ’08, “Sulfur-based osmolytes in animals from gas seeps and whale bones,” and “Coral osmolytes: characterization and correlation with habitat.”


CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156 E-mail: parishlj@whitman.edu