Centre College faculty receive grants to continue research

Posted by Centre News in Anthro/Soc, Biology, Economics, History, News, Research 03 Aug 2016

Crounse HallFour Centre College professors recently received grant money and awards that will enable them to continue and expand on important research, including studies that involve student collaboration.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Robyn Cutright received a $19,995 grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation in support of her excavation of ancient Peruvian ruins.

excavation in Peru

Centre students collaborate with Associate Professor of Anthropology Robyn Cutright on an excavation site in Peru researching ancient ruins.

“This grant provides essential support for my research,” Cutright says. “International archaeological research is expensive, and the grant is supporting a team that consists of myself, two Peruvian archaeologists, two Centre students, three fieldworkers and a lab manager, as well as providing transportation and room and board for the team in rural Peru.”

For Cutright, the residual benefits of the grant are also highly important.

“The grant is providing income to residents of a town of 800 people in rural Peru, allowing my students to be part of international, collaborative field research, and supporting our investigations into life at the community of Ventanillas 800 years ago,” she says. “This project simply wouldn’t be possible without support from Wenner-Gren.”

Spending time in and learning about the country of Peru is also something Cutright appreciates about her archaeological work.

“I learn so much every season about Peru’s past but also about the present,” she says. “I love spending my days outside on the side of a mountain or in the shadow of a pyramid in rural Peru, finding artifacts that have been abandoned for eight centuries.”

Assistant Professor of History Sara Egge was granted $5,000 from the Kentucky Oral History Commission (KOHC) to continue research she and her students are conducting with veterans of World War II.

“The grant from the KOHC provided the necessary monetary support to travel across Kentucky to these veterans, most of whom could not leave their homes,” Egge explains. “Projects of this magnitude require extensive supplies and equipment, not to mention personnel. All of these items cost money. Grants like these are a major support for faculty and student collaborative research.”

Egge, who, with her students, has interviewed over 50 WWII veterans so far, appreciates the opportunities grants such as this one afford to everyone involved.

“Undergraduate research is something that Centre does well, and grants like this one ensure that students and faculty have the resources they need to conduct this collaborative research,” she says.

Patten Mahler, assistant professor of economics, recently received a $5,000 Early Career Research Award from the Upjohn Institute. The grant will be used to purchase equipment that will allow Mahler to continue and expand her research on such topics as education pensions and retirement.

“I was delighted to receive the grant,” Mahler says. “The Early Career Research Award was a perfect fit, in terms of my research interests, and provided just enough funds to get my project off the ground.”

One piece of equipment the grant will fund the purchase of is a server that will store protected data for Mahler to analyze.

“The presence of a secure server at Centre opens up the possibility of gaining access to all sorts of interesting data,” Mahler explains. “For example, I will be able to use individualized data on public K-12 schools to continue my research on teacher retirement systems.

“Moving forward, this server could be used for other projects, including student research, that were once prohibitive due to data security or volume,” Mahler adds.

Jessica Wooten, assistant professor of biology, recently received three grants—two from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and one from the National Science Foundation (NSF) EPSCoR program. The grant money totals over $60,000.

“For one of our grants, there was only an 8.3 percent fund-rate, meaning that of 60 grants, only five were funded,” Wooten says. “Being awarded this grant validated years of hard work and dedication.”

These grants allow Wooten and her collaborators, including Centre students, to study genetics in salamanders.

“The best part of any research project is working with other researchers, including undergraduate students,” Wooten says. “For me, the absolute best part of working directly with undergraduate researchers is the development of the personal relationships.”

Wooten also enjoys seeing how students flourish and grow when involved in research projects.

“Working on research with students provides them with a snapshot of what life is like as a scientist, along with the opportunity to gain hands-on experiences in the trenches of research,” she says. “The young researchers leave a research experience stronger scientists with skills that can’t be learned from a textbook, and, for me, that is a wonderful attribute of hands-on research experiences.”

by Elizabeth Trollinger
August 3, 2016

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