Faculty-Student Research Awarded Over $800,000 in Grant Funding

Faculty-Student Research Awarded Over $800,000 in Grant Funding

Biology student Giulia Crosio '20 studies the genetics of worms using a microscope.

College of Arts and Sciences' research efforts in biochemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics earn national recognition

Not all undergraduate institutions can offer this type of research to their students, and the skill sets they gain will be very valuable for any science/technology related job they have in the future.

— Angela Biselli, PhD, professor of physics

From a groundbreaking study on nutrition and disease prevention to important new discoveries in physics and mathematics, several of the innovative faculty-student research projects being conducted in Fairfield University’s College of Arts and Sciences have been awarded more than $800,000 in funding from national granting organizations during the 2018-19 school year.

Mathematics Professor Mark Demers, PhD, was awarded a $245,423 grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Mathematical Sciences to support a three-year undergraduate research study in the area of dynamical systems. For eight weeks over the next three summers, two mathematics majors will participate in the study alongside Dr. Demers, as they seek to understand the chaotic properties of dynamical systems, a branch of mathematics that studies models of physical processes like planetary motion, weather systems, and stock market fluctuations. The award marks the fourth consecutive NSF grant Dr. Demers has secured for his research in ergodic theory, a notable achievement as only 27 percent of proposals submitted to the organization receive funding each year.

In addition to Dr. Demers, the NSF also awarded the College of Arts and Sciences with more than $450,000 in grant funding to support faculty-student research initiatives in the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, and physics.

Physics professor Angela Biselli, PhD, received a $148,413 grant to support a three-year research study on the fundamental structure of protons and neutrons, which will be conducted in collaboration with the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia. Throughout the study, Dr. Biselli will travel to Virginia, where she and her fellow researchers will take shifts running experiments and analyzing findings that could impact scientists’ fundamental knowledge of the composition of matter. Fairfield physics students will participate in weekly virtual meetings with the research collaborators at the lab, as well as travel to the facility during the summer, affording them the unique opportunity to gain knowledge in nuclear and particle physics and obtain practical experience in data analysis.

“I am happy I can share this opportunity to conduct research in a nuclear physics lab with our students,” Dr. Biselli said. “Not all undergraduate institutions can offer this type of research to their students, and the skill sets they gain will be very valuable for any science/technology related job they have in the future." 

Another substantial NSF award was also granted to associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry John Miecznikowski, PhD, with the support of his colleagues Matthew Kubasik, PhD; Jillian Smith-Carpenter, PhD; Aaron Van Dyke, PhD; and Lawrence K. Steffen, PhD. The $306,950 Major Research Instrumentation grant is being used to acquire a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer, one of the most powerful tools available to chemists carrying out frontier research. The acquisition of the advanced research tool will help students gain confidence using the same scientific instruments utilized by chemists working in government laboratories, pharmaceutical and chemical companies, and top graduate schools around the world.

In addition to Dr. Miecznikowski, another faculty member receiving national recognition for her advances in research is assistant biology professor Catherine J. Andersen, PhD, who was awarded a $149,419 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture in support of a new study in nutritional science. The two-year project, which includes co-project director Aaron Van Dyke, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, will investigate the effects of dietary intake on markers of cholesterol, metabolism, inflammation, and immune function. Fairfield’s researchers hope to determine if the bioactive components in egg yolks can alter the composition and function of HDL (the “good” cholesterol). If so, their findings could have important implications for the role of nutrition in health and human disease.

“This grant serves as evidence that our work [at Fairfield] is competitive in the national arena, allowing us to continue developing our research programs in exciting new areas,” Dr. Anderson said.

The College of Arts and Sciences has long been the epicenter of groundbreaking research, scholarship, and creative work at Fairfield University. From fascinating discoveries in physics and biochemistry to the digital humanities and psychology, over 300 research projects are conducted annually, more than half of which are presented at national scholarly meetings or published in professional journals and academic publications. For more information, visit fairfield.edu/casresearch.

Tags:  College of Arts & Sciences


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