Dolan named fellow of the Explorers Club, joining Buzz Aldrin and Jacques Cousteau
Assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences Carrie Dolan’s research requires her to work with one foot in the world of big data and the other foot, well, just about anywhere in the world.
“I study where big pots of money go in developing countries and try to figure out how that funding translates into health outcomes — like a decrease in under-5 mortality or access to health care,” she said. “Then I make recommendations to places like the Gates Foundation and World Bank for how they can get more bang for their buck by making a funding decision more efficient, effective or equitable.”
And so Dolan follows the funding. The ground-truthing aspect of her work takes her from Williamsburg-James City County schools to sub-Saharan Africa. She has logged enough time investigating health care issues in the world’s remote locations from Jamaica to Kenya to be named a fellow of the Explorers Club.
It's an elite group. The Explorers Club was founded in 1904 to promote “the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences,” according to the club’s website.
As a fellow, Dolan enters the top tier of Explorers Club membership. Fellows, the application for membership reads: must demonstrate significant contributions to geographical exploration.
Dolan began her scientific explorations as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica, working with the Ministry of Health. She went on to conduct similar studies of STD/HIV-prevention effectiveness, in Virginia, and also in other countries, under the aegis of the monitoring and evaluation arm of USAID.
Dolan has done work in countries across Africa, including Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana.
$300K grant supports novel approach to engage diverse students in engineering
Meredith Kier, associate professor of science education, has secured a grant worth $300,000 from the National Science Foundation for an exploratory research study that will examine how a partnership between engineering undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds and middle-school STEM teachers can engage and inspire students in engineering.
In Virginia and across the nation, school divisions are incorporating a more interdisciplinary approach to STEM education that prioritizes engineering experiences that allow students to solve authentic, real-world problems. But teachers in science and math often do not have the skills and experience to design and implement these learning experiences.
“It’s especially challenging in high-needs schools that serve minority students, as these are often under-resourced and have infrastructural barriers,” said Kier. “I wanted to explore the potential of a new collaborative framework that would not only help teachers gain these skills, but also incorporate underrepresented undergraduate students in engineering.”
For the project, Kier will match eight underrepresented students from engineering programs at local universities with STEM teacher leaders at all eight middle schools within Newport News Public Schools.
Study considers sensory impacts of global climate change
Studies of how global climate change is impacting marine organisms have long focused on physiological effects — for example an oyster’s decreased ability to build or maintain a strong shell in an ocean that is becoming more acidic due to excess levels of carbon dioxide.
More recently, researchers have begun to investigate how different facets of global change can disrupt animal behavior.
Now, a study led by Emily Rivest of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science synthesizes the results of these pioneering behavioral studies — revealing both broad patterns and intriguing outliers — and provides a conceptual framework to help guide future research in this emerging field.
“Climate change will significantly impact marine organisms by altering sensory pathways,” said Rivest, an assistant professor at VIMS. “This will have consequences for ecological and evolutionary interactions, including mating, predation and habitat selection.”
Pseudophosphatase research looked like a dead end, but it didn’t stop the Hinton lab
Shantá D. Hinton calls herself a daredevil, but she’s careful to add that it doesn’t mean that she’s reckless.
She is a thorough and careful researcher, leading a lab of William and Mary undergraduates probing the mysteries of a class of proteins. Hinton’s group is one of the few laboratories in the United States studying pseudophosphatases, proteins whose very name makes many researchers shy away.
“The word was going around,” Hinton explained. “Anything with ‘pseudo’ in it is going to be a grant-killer.”
The specter of a grant-killer floating over pseudophosphatase research left the field wide open; Hinton was daring enough to concentrate on pseudophosphatases, focusing on a particular molecule called MK-STYX. Her disregard of the word that was going around paid off recently in the form of a $900,000 National Science Foundation grant. She was also awarded a Reves Faculty Fellowship this year.
Hinton is an associate professor in William and Mary’s Department of Biology. The removal/addition of phosphates changes the function of the protein — it’s just one part of the protein mix and synthesis that is the busy life of a cell.
Items used are from William and Mary news releases.
SaraRose Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org, 757-243-3685, @SaraRoseMartin.