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College News

Fisher Faculty Findings – Part II


Each year, members of the Fisher faculty have special projects in mind. And each year, they are invited to apply for faculty development grants that could help them with their project or mission. Grant funds are intended to promote faculty development that results in scholarly research and dissemination of that research.

This year, a total of 15 faculty members received grant approval, and have been hard at work with their projects. This is the 2nd part of the series, “Fisher Faculty Findings,” which will highlight a group of faculty each month, touting their progress and, hopefully, their results. Stay tuned to hear more about all of the grantees!

Dr. Daniel Schwert, Assistant Professor, Chemistry
The main focus of Dr. Schwert’s research is the development of contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He is working with Dr. Nicholas Richardson, of Wagner College, to study ligands (organic molecules.) The contrast agents consist of one or more ligands that encase a paramagnetic metal center, and their purpose is to decrease the toxicity of the agent and to influence the biodistribution of the agent. The purpose of the metal center is to affect the chemical environment of hydrogen atoms attached to water molecules in the body. Changing the chemical environment leads to contrast on the image produced by the MRI by causing the water molecules to appear brighter or darker. The agents are targeted so that diseased or malfunctioning tissue can be located and potentially identified.

Dr. Bruce Blaine, Professor, Psychology and Dr. Guillermo Montes, Associate Professor, Executive Leadership
Dr. Blaine and Dr. Montes proposed a collaborative project, and are working on developing R, an open-source program for statistics, for use in undergraduate and graduate statistics classes. The project will have two parts: write R applications for basic data analytic tasks, and develop datasets that support a problem-based learning approach to statistics. Drs. Blaine and Montes are both experienced applied statisticians. The project is significant because academic statistics instruction is over reliant on expensive programs not used outside of academia. R is free, adaptable for many statistical applications, and widely used in business and industry. This project will increase students’ statistical computing literacy and marketability. They expect the project to be complete in May of 2011.

Dr. Kris Green, Associate Professor, and Dr. Bernard Ricca, Associate Professor, Mathematical and Computing Sciences
In mathematics, students are often given problems to solve under the assumption that solving the problem will help them learn. However, little research has been done on this sort of learning through problem solving as compared to learning how to solve problems. Drs. Green and Ricca have been working on a mathematical model and simulation of how students learn content in a subject area from solving problems in that area. The duo are particularly interested in the transition points in solving a problem, when a student shifts from one approach to using another approach. They are working to find out what triggers students to shift their approach to problem solving.

The grant has given them a chance to closely monitor students (through screen capture and interviews) while they solve a complex problem. The problem in this case is a puzzle-type video game with many possible solutions, immediate feedback to the player, and little prior knowledge required. They will be continuing to collect data and conduct their analysis through the 2010-2011 academic year and are always looking for students to participate (they are paid for their time.)

Kyle Reinson, Assistant Professor, Communication/Journalism
Assistant Professor Kyle Reinson is studying the papers of Sol M. Linowitz, former Xerox chairman who went on to negotiate the Panama Canal Treaties and Middle East Peace Talks for President Jimmy Carter, served LBJ as the Ambassador to the Organization of American States, and lived here in Rochester during the 1950s and 60s.

William Fay (whose family donated money for the Fay Building here at Fisher) gave Linowitz the idea of broadcasting a weekly television show nationally (right here from Rochester) called “The Court of Public Opinion.” The show aired for about eight years. Reinson is trying to understand why it was so sustainable (with TV being such a new medium then) so that he can apply his findings to how democratic and rationally-informed debates might find their way to the Web.

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