Nineteen grants in 2009 from two UW Tacoma endowments will help faculty, staff and students by supporting scholarship, research and campus improvements.
Founders Endowment and Chancellor's grants fund wide range of projects
Catching spammers, studying geoduck larvae and taking a fresh look at the Hilltop community are among the projects — including two led by students — selected to receive special funding at the University of Washington Tacoma.
Two endowment funds lend support to more than a dozen projects supporting scholarship, research and campus improvements. The Chancellor's Fund for Research and Scholarship and Founders Endowment annually award grants to UW Tacoma faculty, staff and students with promising ideas.
Eight projects will receive Chancellor's Fund awards, and 11 will receive Founders Endowment grants. The amounts of the 19 grants range from $1,195 to $19,185.
The Chancellor's Fund grants, first awarded in 2006, provide support for research and scholarship projects by students, faculty and staff. Preference is given to junior faculty, and faculty applicants are encouraged to include students in their proposals.
The Founders Endowment, established in 1992 by community and business leaders, provides support for academic purposes, including facility improvement projects that benefit UW Tacoma but are not funded by the state or the university.
A committee comprising faculty and staff members and a student chose the projects from a field of 39 submitted for consideration. The projects represent a wide range of scholarship, research and academic fields.
Here's a summary of the grants awarded:
Chancellor's Fund for Research and Scholarship grants
The ancient process of forming coal Sian Davies Vollum, associate professor of geology
Davies Vollum has been invited by colleagues at the University of Derby, England, to take part in a study of the geology of a newly opened pit mine in the East Midlands coal field. The mine is part of a large field of carboniferous rocks dating back 300 million years. In her proposal, Davies Vollum wrote that the site offers a rare opportunity to study new exposures of ancient coal beds. She plans to study how the coal beds were formed and preserved in lakes, deltas and swamps. "Studying the geology of coal beds and their associated deposits is integral to understanding the carbon cycle, particularly how ancient environments trapped and preserved large amounts of carbon to form coal," she wrote.
Services for homeless people Michelle Garner, assistant professor of social welfare
A study recently completed (and thoroughly published in the media) by a team of UW researchers, including Garner, found that providing public housing for chronically homeless people with alcohol addictions costs taxpayers 53 percent less than the cost of emergency room visits, detoxification programs and criminal justice systems use when they stay on the streets. Garner's project builds on data collected during that study. The grant provides funds to have audio recordings of interviews transcribed so that Garner can study aspects of intervention services that facilitate or thwart use among this population.
Planning and governance in Eastern Europe and South Africa Yonn Dierwechter, associate professor of urban studies
Dierwechter is working on the second phase of a three-part, seven-year research project focusing on new trends in planning and governance in global city-regions in the United States and overseas. He wants to determine whether "post-authoritarian" societies, such as those in Eastern Europe and South Africa, share similar features, challenges, problems and constraints that Western democratic societies do not evince with respect to city-regional governance.
New ways to study geoduck larvae Bonnie Becker, assistant professor of marine ecology
In spite of more than a century of study, how marine invertebrate larvae are dispersed is still poorly understood because the larvae are microscopic and very difficult to sample. Working in collaboration with other scientists, Becker's grant will allow her to develop and apply a novel molecular tool to identify and sort out geoduck larvae from bulk plankton samples. "Describing larval dispersal of marine invertebrates is crucial to answering fundamental questions in ecology, evolution, fisheries and conservation," she wrote.
Fighting image-based spam with honeypots Yan Bai, assistant professor, Institute of Technology; and Chiraag Aval, incoming graduate information management student
This project investigates an alternative approach to defending against image-based spam, which hides unwanted messages and commands in images sent through email. The researchers will use a "honeypot," to lure spammers onto websites where they can capture information from the spammers and study how malicious software infects computers and sends out image spam, consequently infecting more computers by turning them into "zombies" or "bots."
Security control for e-healthcare systems Yan Bai, assistant professor, Institute of Technology; Sam Chung, associate professor of computer science; and Apaporn Boonyarattaphan, graduate computing and software systems student
In places where health centers and hospitals are hundreds of miles from patients' homes, low-cost "e-health" services, such as "tele-monitoring," "tele-diagnosis" and "e-prescriptions," are vital to the population's well-being. Healthcare service providers are entrusted with the responsibility of managing information about patient medical records with a high level of confidentiality, making authentication and access control to patient information essential to these systems. The researchers will analyze the security requirements of e-health systems and develop ways to control access to these web-based services.
Earth's magnetic field studied in iron oxide Peter Selkin, assistant professor of environmental geophysics
Most of our understanding of Earth's earliest magnetic field comes from the examination of microscopic magnetic iron oxide particles enclosed in crystals of the common mineral plagioclase. How these particles form is not well understood. Using a new technique, Selkin will try to determine the temperature, rate and relative age at which iron oxide particles formed in a set of 2.7-billion-year-old plagioclase-bearing rocks. Max Mousseau, a junior environmental sciences student, will travel with Selkin to the University of Minnesota campus this summer to work with faculty and student peers. Mousseau will gain experience in using state-of-the-art electron microscope and rock magnetic tools, as well as mineralogical sample preparation techniques and modeling software. The student researcher will analyze the results in a capstone paper, which may be presented at the 2009 regional meeting of the Geological Society of America.
Community Cartographies of the Hilltop Matthew Kelley, assistant professor of urban studies
Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood has a rich history that ranges from its leading role in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s to its struggles with gang violence during the 1990s. Hilltop is currently a neighborhood both seeking and resisting transition. Property values have risen in recent years, and longtime neighborhood activists are seeking to maintain a sense of community that has been diluted by a new generation of residents. Drawing on geo-tagged digital photographs, sketch maps, GPS-enabled audio recordings and semi-structured interview data, Kelley will compile, analyze and visualize community perceptions of Hilltop. Using a combination of GIS (geographic information system) and Google Earth, he plans to produce 2-D and 3-D cartographic representations of the neighborhood.
Founders Endowment grants
Transform classroom into collaborative learning space Naarah McDonald, administrative coordinator; and Bombie Salvador, assistant professor of business management
As learning styles, classroom instruction techniques and technology evolve, providing a learning space that can adapt to the multiple needs of faculty and students is imperative. This project will transform a computer lab in the Walsh Gardner building into a new collaborative classroom, adding instructional equipment and upgrades to provide pod-seating using modular furniture with wireless network access and flat panel monitors for up to 40 students. Instructors will be free to move around the classroom with wireless access to the projector and strategically placed wall switches that allow access to additional available media, such as DVDs.
Upgrading classrooms into "smart rooms" Joe Kapler, computer maintenance technician III
Teachers using four rooms designed for presentations currently have to muddle through several pages of instructions and up to six remote controls to use the equipment. Kapler's project will transform these into "smart classrooms" with user-friendly control panels, equipment racks located at the instructors' desks and wall speakers. The remote controls will be replaced by a single panel with the same features as the remotes, plus microphone inputs and a laptop input section. These systems will allow teachers to gain real-time remote classroom assistance from media technicians, and allow Information Technology to maintain and schedule the rooms via the network. The Information Technology department will contribute design, installation and programming, saving the university $5,000 to $9,000 per classroom.
Politics, philosophy and economics seminar series Turan Kayaoglu, assistant professor of political science
An opportunity to discuss and hear debates on current issues of international affairs, human rights, ethics and political economy will be presented to the UW Tacoma community and to the larger Tacoma community through this grant. A monthly seminar, developed by the newly formed academic concentration Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE), will provide presentations by local, regional and national scholars. The seminars are intended to foster interactions between students, staff and faculty, and to allow students to interact with scholars from outside UW Tacoma. The seminars will expose students and faculty to a variety of professionals who might serve as role models in intellectual life and public engagement.
Reference services upgrade Suzanne Klinger, head of reference services
The reference services desk in the UW Tacoma Library is not currently accessible to wheelchairs, and the workspace does not meet the needs of students or of staff providing instruction in the use of library resources. The layout of the desk requires that students stand up while staff members assist them, and has no computer access for students. Reference desk staff must use aging and uncomfortable furniture that is not adjustable to fit individual users. Klinger's project will replace the existing workspace with accessible, ADA-compliant components better suited to providing instruction in an accessible, ergonomic space. The updated reference services desk will be completed by spring quarter 2010.
Measurement of PFCAs in surface water in Puget Sound Shristi Prakash, senior, environmental science
Perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) are synthetic chemicals applied to carpet, paper and textile industries to render products water and oil repellent. They are bio-accumulative, persistent and a potential carcinogen. Studies done on rats, mice and monkeys have shown to cause adverse effects on reproduction and development, as well as immune system failure. PFCAs have been detected in plants and animals, sediment and water, as well as human serum. Prakash plans to measure the concentration of PFCAs in surface water samples collected from various locations in the Puget Sound. In her application for this grant, she wrote that taking research courses has been very important to her learning. "This research really has shown me how reactions in the environment are all interconnected. Although these processes are described in textbooks, the hands-on experience I've gotten from doing research is giving me the opportunity to discover this for myself." She plans to submit her findings to a peer reviewed scientific journal for publishing.
Undergraduate research at Spirit Lake, Mount St. Helens Jim Gawel, associate professor of environmental chemistry and engineering
Spirit Lake, a high alpine lake at the base of Mount St. Helens, was changed dramatically after the large volcanic eruption in May 1980. The lake was raised by roughly 60 meters, and the blast created a shallower basin with a larger surface area, which has allowed for higher biological productivity in the near shore area. The unique location, coupled with working collaboratively with other researchers at Mount St. Helens, makes an ideal learning environment for undergraduates unavailable anywhere else in the United States. Three UW Tacoma students and two Bellarmine High School honor students will measure the flux of incoming surface and groundwater, aquatic plants and insects, amphibians and fish, as well as losses to sediments and basin outflow. Student research at Spirit Lake may be used to devise strategies for addressing the impact of urban life on the water quality of other lakes such as Wapato, American, Spanaway and Steilacoom lakes. Individual students will be responsible for their own project designs, logistics and the dissemination of their results, and actively engaged in the interconnections in the larger research question they are a part of. Students will co-author research publications stemming from their work and typically present their research at regional or national conferences.
New technology for hands-on instruction in introductory physics Linda Dawson, senior lecturer in physical science and statistics
Physics is a required domain of knowledge for several degree programs and a fundamental part of a well-rounded education. In physics, students develop essential problem-solving skills that are used in all of the scientific disciplines. Physics students participate in research projects on and near the UW Tacoma campus, for example, conducting magnetic surveys of sites to locate buried metallic objects, such as abandoned oil tanks. Equipment purchased with this grant is necessary to sustain UW Tacoma's physics course sequence, which is required for degrees in environmental science, computer and software systems, computer engineering and systems, and for students planning to enter medical-related fields.
Industry fellows Josh Tenenberg, professor of computer science
Students often don't see the connection between what they study in the classroom and how it applies in practice. Technological change occurs at a fast pace, and it's difficult for teachers to acquire up-to-date practical experience. Practicing computing professionals, on the other hand, have up-to-date technical knowledge, but time commitments and lack of teaching skills hinder their ability to be effective as teachers. This project combines the expertise of university teachers with that of professional practitioners by pairing them as co-teachers to create the best of both worlds in the classroom. Last year, students in a similarly organized course overwhelmingly reported co-teaching had a positive impact in motivating them to do coursework and participate in class sessions. They said they were more engaged in course activities and it helped in learning course material. The grant will fund repeating this co-teaching model during the 2009-10 academic year and its evaluation by the state Office of Educational Assessment.
Addition of videoconferencing capability Jim Coolsen, special assistant to the chancellor
Currently, UW Tacoma has only one classroom equipped for videoconferencing. Increasing demand for that room, which seats 40, both for videoconferences and for conventional classroom space, emphasizes the need for an additional videoconference room, especially one for smaller groups. This project funds equipping a conference room in the Cherry Parkes building with videoconferencing capability.
Web-based faculty assessment toolkit Beckie Ethridge, director, Teaching and Learning Center; Riki Thompson, assistant professor of English, Interdisciplinary Arts and Science (IAS); Trista Huckleberry, assistant professor of educational psychology, IAS; Linda Dawson, senior lecturer in physical science and statistics, IAS; Lia Wetzstein, instructional supervisor IAS; Julie Buffington, program administrator, IAS; and Jennifer Quinn, professor of mathematics, IAS
Effective assessment of teaching and learning is key to faculty, student and program success. This project will put teaching and learning assessment materials gathered during a previous grant, along with those currently being developed by the IAS Teaching Assessment Task Force, and place them on the Teaching and Learning Center website for all UWT faculty to use. The web-based assessment toolkit for UW Tacoma faculty will include:
quick and convenient classroom assessment tools
alternative assessments to the standard UW bubblesheet
help in developing faculty portfolios
links to UW and other higher education websites with resources on assessment
Farming sustainable coffee in Costa Rica Rebecca Singer, senior, environmental science
Finding a balance between high-quality coffee yield and maintaining environmental integrity is at the heart of Singer's project. Using 10 Costa Rican coffee farms to test her hypothesis, she hopes to show that reducing the use of fertilizer and using alternative farming methods will increase yields and help to ensure continued coffee productivity and quality for Costa Rica's largest export crop. As an undergraduate student, the project provides Singer with the unique experience of designing her own research project, taking on the responsibility of performing independent field work and working with scientists and researchers, including experts in soil management and tropical agriculture. "My research will add an important piece to the collaborative UW Tacoma/Earthwatch sustainable coffee project, hopefully resulting in a publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal," Singer wrote. She plans to use this experience in applying to graduate schools.
In a story about increasing exposure to wildfire smoke in our region, Associate Professor Robin Evans-Agnew talks about the resulting increased prevalence of asthma and its inequitable burden on society.