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Pomona College Professors Awarded More Than $1 Million in Research and Lab Development Grants

Over the summer, six Pomona College professors received more than $1.16 million in research related grants from the National Science Foundation.

Andre Cavalcanti, assistant professor of biology, was awarded $211,397, over three years for the project “Detection and Analysis of Fused Genes in Eukaryotic Genomes.” Fusion genes are important markers of evolution and can also be used to aid in identifying protein function and protein interactions. This project, which is new for Cavalcanti’s lab, will search for and analyze fused genes in eukaryotic genomes.

Erica Flapan, the Lingurn H. Burkhead Professor of Mathematics, was awarded a three-year grant of $182,226 for research titled “Topological symmetries and the intrinsic properties of graphs embedded in 3-space.” Determining the symmetries of a molecule is important in determining the structure of the molecule. For larger, flexible molecules the symmetries cannot always be found by inspection. This project will use topology, the field of mathematics which studies flexible shapes, to analyze the symmetries of such complex molecules.

Karl Johnson, assistant professor of biology, will receive $519,925, over four years, from the NSF Division of Integrative Organismal Systems – Neural Systems Cluste, for the project “Investigating the mechanisms of Syndecan function during nervous system development.” The Johnson laboratory examines the molecular mechanisms of how simple central nervous systems are built, using Drosophila as a model organism.

In addition, Jade Star Lackey (Geology), Robert Gaines (Geology), and Charles Taylor (Chemistry) received $200,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement Program to develop an X-ray fluorescence laboratory. When completed, the lab will enable faculty and student researchers in Geology and Chemistry to address problems ranging from magma generation below volcanic systems to interpreting ancient climates to environmental contamination.

Professor Lackey also received $50,000 from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund for his study “Sandstone Silicification in a Caldera Lake: Implications for Cementation at High Geothermal Gradient.”

Pomona College, founded in 1887, is one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the nation. It is known for its small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.