Faculty Research Grant Winners 2016-2017

Thirteen faculty members have won Saint Mary’s 2016-2017 Faculty Research Grants, only the second year that ranked faculty have had the chance to apply for a fully funded grant up to $9,000 given annually to support new or accelerated scholarship. Faculty research “is a vital part of being a university,” said Provost Bethami Dobkin, whose office makes the awards based on recommendations from a faculty review group. “And we have a very active, intellectually engaged faculty who will make the most of whatever we have to offer.” Supported by existing endowment funds, the internal research grants typically pay for what Dobkin called “the time and tools” necessary to carry out a research project, chief among them a reduced teaching load.

David Chambers
Assistant Professor, Biology

“Tread That Water Line: Understanding Potential Dynamics Between Amphibian Phenotype Plasticity and Disease Susceptibility”

Amphibian populations are disappearing at alarming rates around the world. Because they are crucial to the long-term sustainability of ecosystems, understanding the dynamics behind amphibian declines is critical. Chambers will work with undergraduates to examine amphibian phenotypic plasticity, a physiological tool that enables larval amphibians (mostly frogs and toads) to radically accelerate development towards metamorphosis. They will also look at the consequences of subsequent disease susceptibility.

Chi-An Emhoff
Assistant Professor, Kinesiology

“Effect of peppermint oil supplementation on ventilation, metabolic health, and exercise performance”

Peppermint oil (mentha piperita) has been shown to have cooling effects in animals and humans, as well as beneficial influences on pulmonary function tests possibly due to bronchodilatory mechanisms. In a recent experiment in SMC’s Human Performance Lab, undergraduate student David Salas and Emhoff found that one milliliter of peppermint oil raised the ventilatory threshold in endurance-trained and moderately active men. With students, Emhoff will investigate whether peppermint oil supplementation contributes to improved endurance performance in both men and women.

Peter Freund
Professor, Art and Art History


Freund will produce an exhibition catalog that bridges his recent solo exhibition of IRAN|USA at the Sazmanab Center for Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran, August 2015, and his presentation of the program at the SMC Museum of Art, February-April 2017. The catalog will include visual extracts from the installations, photo-documentation of the Iran exhibition as well as interviews, essays, and an extended transcription of the Skype dialogue between the artist and the Sazmanab audience.

Dana Herrera
Associate Professor, Anthropology

“#OFW: Technology, Identity, and the Filipino Diaspora”

Herrera’s research uses insights from anthropological and economic theory to analyze how overseas Filipino workers challenge dominant discourses about their everyday lives through the use of new technologies. The Philippine government offers specific narratives of these overseas workers as modern day national heroes who embody the ideal citizen. This project will focus on the words and photos of overseas Filipino workers and explores how the emergence of Instagram and Bitcoin technologies interplay with these government discourses.

Rebecca Jabbour
Associate Professor, Biology

“Geographic Variation in Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) Skeletons and Its Relationship to Ecology and Evolutionary History”

Studies of geographic variation among gorillas from different regions of Africa in DNA, skulls, and teeth have led to suggestions of new species and subspecies, but differences in the limb bone skeletons have received less attention. Because variation in limb bones could reflect behavioral differences such as frequencies of tree-climbing or quadrupedal walking, limb bones could be informative regarding variation in ecology and evolutionary adaptations. This project will focus on variation among populations of eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), a subspecies that actually occupies a patchwork of highland and lowland habitats.

Emily Klein
Associate Professor, English

“Performing the Family Dream House: Space, Ritual, and Images of Home & Performance in a Militarized Culture”

Klein’s grant will allow her to work on two scholarly anthologies during the summer and fall of 2016. The first project, Performing the Family Dream House: Space, Ritual, and Images of Home, is part of a collaborative endeavor with theatre scholars Jennifer-Scott Mobley (East Carolina University) and Jill Stevenson (Marymount Manhattan College). The editors of the second project, Performance in a Militarized Culture, have invited her to contribute a chapter, tentatively titled “The Kids Are Not Alright: Adaptation and apathy in militarized post-political dystopias.”

Mark Lingwood
Assistant Professor, Chemistry

“Construction of a dynamic nuclear polarization instrument for characterizing & improving immobilized radicals”

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a method for medical imaging, can suffer from low sensitivity and lack of inherent contrast between the object of interest and the background signal. Lingwood has used a technique called dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) to increase the amount of signal and contrast. This method provides unique image contrast without the use of external contrast agents. He plans to construct a small DNP system that can fully characterize immobilized radicals and aid in the design of improved species. This work will aid DNP research and further demonstrate the information available from DNP-MRI and ultra-low field MRI, potentially leading to MRI with increased clinical utility and reduced cost.

Rebecca Proehl
Professor, Educational Leadership
Co-Researchers, Rebecca Anguiano, Desiree Braganza, and Suzy Thomas

“DeMarillac Academy: Educating Children of Promise”

Last year, a team of KSOE faculty researchers conducted a study at De Marillac Academy, a Lasallian middle school in San Francisco, to identify graduates’ non-cognitive skills and attributes, enabling them to succeed in high school and beyond at a greater rate than their public school peers. This grant allows them to continue their research, leading to a book publication and other possible avenues for publication.

María Luisa Ruiz
Associate Professor, Spanish

“Hits & Misses: Gender, Beauty Queens & Violence in Narratives of Narcotrafico”

Much has been written on the Mexican drug trade. Less consideration has been given to the ways in which the drug trade and “narcoviolence” have influenced and shaped, over the past decade, popular culture in Mexico and more recently, in the U.S. Even less attention has been paid to representation of women in those narratives. Ruiz’s project focuses on Spanish language news stories, films, crónicas and novels published in the last 15 years that narrate and represent Mexican women in the world of the Mexican drug trade.

Michael Viola
Assistant Professor, Justice, Community and Leadership

“Filipino/a Critical Theory: Filipino/a American Oral Histories and the Farm Workers Movement in California”

Commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) 1965 Grape Strike in California, Viola’s research project analyzes Filipino/a American labor activism. The project analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of a farm workers movement from the standpoint of Filipino immigrants, and the implications for contemporary social justice movements.

Go here for complete versions of the research grant descriptions.

To learn more about research, scholarship, and creative activities at Saint Mary’s, attend the Scholars’ Reception on Feb. 19, 5-7 p.m., in Hagerty Lounge, De La Salle Hall