Whitman student/faculty  teams will be conducting research this spring on subjects as diverse as the writings of the eighteenth century author Daniel Defoe, the security forces of Costa Rica, and the perception of climate change, thanks to the college’s Abshire Research Scholar awards.

The Abshire awards have financed undergraduate research projects since the program was established in 1981 by Alfred D. Abshire ’45 in memory of his wife. The awards, given each semester, provide students with the opportunity to work in collaboration with their professors on professional research.

The 12 teams that have been awarded Abshires this spring are:

Sharon Alker, assistant professor of English, and Kim Trinh ’08 will continue work on the Daniel Defoe Society project, which involves the creation and development of a new international society and the maintenance of a scholarly website: www.defoesociety.org. Trinh will also help research a paper on Defoe and cyberspace that Alker will present at the March conference of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.”

Ian Hoyer ’10 and Julia Spencer ’10 will assist Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies Bob Carson to research his next book, tentatively titled “East of Yellowstone: The Geology of Clarks Fork Valley and the adjacent Absaroka Mountains, Beartooth Plateau and Bighorn Basin.”

“Bearing Arms without an Army: The Security Forces of Costa Rica” is a current research project of Associate Professor of History Julie Charlip. Jaspreet Gill ’11 will assist Charlip in her research on the role of domestic security forces in Costa Rican life.

Professor of Philosophy Tom Davis and Sarah Haas ’08 will delve into “A Graphic Interpretation of Conformist Subjectivation in Emerson, Nietzche, and Judith Butler.” In this project, Haas, a double major in philosophy and studio art, will work to merge the visual and intellectual aspects of Davis’ current research.

Junior biology major Nicole Goehring ‘09 will assist Heidi Dobson, professor of biology, in conducting research for a new, interdisciplinary course that looks at the history and the ethno biology of the ancient trading routes across Asia known as the Silk Roads.

The history portion of the interdisciplinary course on the Silk Roads will be taught by Brian Dott, associate professor of history, who will be working with Kate Rosenberg ’08. Rosenberg will assist Dott’s creation of the class as well as add to Dott’s ongoing research into the introduction of the chili pepper from Central America into China.

  Ian Jagel ’10 will assist Associate Professor of Theatre Tom Hines in his ongoing research for “The Ancient Theatre Archive” project. This online, encyclopedic survey of ancient Greek and Roman theaters, developed by Hines as an Internet resource for theater history and archival studies, receives more than 1,000 hits a day.

 “Climate Change and the Social Organization of Denial: A Comparative Study Between the U.S. and Norway” will be the subject of research by Kari Norgaard and Leora Stein ‘09. Norgaard, assistant professor of sociology and environmental studies, wrote her thesis on how people perceive climate change based on her research done in Norway. She and Stein will work to develop comparative U.S. material.

Assistant Professor of Physics Dayle Smith and Ben Miller ’09 will research “Current-Potential Characteristics of DNA,” in which they will explore the conductive properties of DNA, which will some day be crucial for designing novel nanoscale computing devices.

Tommaso Vannelli, visiting assistant professor of chemistry, and John Nelson ’09 will research the “Synthesis of a Small Library of Amino-acid Modified Dioxochlorins for Application in Photodynamic Therapy of Cancer.”

Prof. Vannelli and Simon Quay ’09 will study “Expression, Purification, and Characterization of the Large Subunit of an Arsenate Oxidase Homolog from Thermus thermophilus,” the results of which have the potential to make significant strides toward developing a portable arsenite enzyme-based water analysis system, which could protect people all around the world from arsenic poisoning.

The team of Zahi Zalloua, assistant professor of French, and Anne Conners ‘08 will address questions about magic realism through an examination of “Beloved,” Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel, “which displays ambivalence towards magic realism and its postcolonial mapping of otherness.” 



CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156

Email: parishlj@whitman.edu