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Public Policy / Richard Worthington
Taking Research into Communities
For Richard Worthington, professor of politics, the intellectual
disconnect between the academic world of the social sciences and the
real world of communities with problems to be solved has always seemed
"Just solving some practical problem can be a path to insight that's very
theoretical," he says. "It actually turns out that people in advocacy
groups have more knowledge of many important dimensions than the
That's why Worthington has become both an observer of and an advocate
for an academic movement that has been putting research opportunities
into the hands of communities since the 1970s.
Known as Community-Based Research (CBR), this movement had its roots in
the "science shop" system of the Netherlands in which universities
opened their labs and resources to an engaged public, eager to have
their unique social issues addressed by academics. The movement has
since spread across Europe and North America, turning a Dutch social
experiment into what Worthington calls a worldwide phenomenon with
students especially "active in criticizing the universities, putting
pressure on them to be more engaged not just with the big corporations
and the military, but also with community groups."
Pomona seniors in the Public Policy Analysis Program, for instance, are
required to serve 240 hours in a one-semester internship during which
they put theory into practice. Students have worked for health clinics,
district attorney's offices and nonprofit groups.
Worthington has served on the board of trustees of The LoKa Institute,
an international foundation focused on molding scientific research to
address the democratically decided concerns of the general public. With
the help of a number of such international organizations, as well as
many private colleges and universities sprinkled across the globe,
resources for CBR have grown rapidly over the past few decades.
Particularly interested in the social ramifications of CBR, Worthington
has begun a study of the growing movement in Central Europe, a region
where interest in CBR coincides with a political transition towards
democracy. Through his research, Worthington hopes to gain insight into
the impact that community involvement has had on the region's social
development since the end of the Cold War.
"A lot of the observation on this phenomenon of community-based research
has been done on the fly," Worthington says of his research in England
and the Netherlands. "I am trying to put it into a deeper intellectual
framework that understands what social changes are giving rise to this
and what social changes it is contributing to."
Physics / David Tanenbaum
One Atom Thick
Over the last 20 years, micro-mechanical devices have been creeping
towards what is theoretically the minimum size possible, a single layer
of atoms. Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy David Tanenbaum
and Ian W. Frank '08 are part of a research team that has, for the first
time ever, achieved this ultimate lower limit in thickness for a
nanomechanical device. Their work was described in the Jan. 26 Science
Magazine article "Electromechanical Resonators from Graphene Sheets."
In the study, the research group created mechanical resonators made from a
single atomic layer of carbon known as graphene and performed detailed
studies of its properties. Findings that graphene is an electrically
active material with a small mass and reasonable dynamic range indicate
that graphite resonators would make excellent mass and charge sensors.
"These unusual properties make it an ideal candidate for a new class of
ultra-thin sensors," says Tanenbaum.
As with electronics, smaller mechanical devices are faster, operating at
higher frequencies, than larger mechanical devices. "You can visualize a
typical device being like a string in a musical instrument, a diving
board, a tuning fork, or a membrane like on a drum or a tambourine. All
of these devices resonate at some set of established frequencies,"
explained Tanenbaum. "Faster, high-frequency devices can be used as
sensors in a variety of different systems. The most common one on the
market today would be the sensor in cars that determines if you have
been in a collision and starts the process of deploying an airbag."
The work was part of an ongoing collaboration between Tanenbaum and the
research groups at Cornell University, supported by the National Science
Foundation under grants to the Cornell Center for Materials Research,
the Cornell Center for Nanoscale Systems and the National
Nanofabrication Users Network.
Chemistry / David Oxtoby
Pomona President David W. Oxtoby has been awarded the
distinction of fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS). He was recognized by the AAAS chemistry section "for
career-long contributions to understanding dynamics of liquids and
gases, and for energetic leadership in strengthening undergraduate
Oxtoby became president of Pomona in 2003, following a long career as a
professor of chemistry and dean of physical sciences at the University
of Chicago. He was elected to the board of the American Association of
Colleges and Universities in 2006. A research chemist, he is the author
or co-author of more than 165 scientific articles and co-author of two
nationally popular textbooks in chemistry. The AAAS is the world's
largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal,