Faculty active in summer research

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Many Northwestern professors are taking advantage of the summer months to work on research projects. Eleven faculty members are conducting research with the aid of NWC funds.

Dr. Joonna Trapp, English, is using the college’s $10,000 Competitive Summer Research Grant as she travels to state historical societies and university archives in Arkansas, Georgia and Louisiana to study the 19th century lyceum movement, a self-education movement that featured public lectures, concerts and entertainment. Her research seeks to examine the role of popular oratory in the South before the Civil War and its impact on the region’s ideas and culture.

Seven professors are using Northwestern mini-grants of up to $2,250 for summer research:

• Karen Acker, art, is creating a series of large-scale sculptures inspired by the planting and harvesting cycle of crops in northwest Iowa. She is employing a slip-casting technique using porcelain and welded steel.

• Dr. Randy Jensen, philosophy, is examining significant recent work on the ethics of homosexuality and drafting a paper critiquing various Christian perspectives on this controversial issue.

• Dr. Michael Kensak, English, is continuing his interdisciplinary study of medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Kensak is exploring how scientific and legal notions of “matter” inform Chaucer’s understanding of poetic “matter.”

• Dr. Mike Kugler, history, is studying the similarities and differences in anti-Enlightenment claims by Christian scholars, members of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, and contemporary postmodern critics.

Dr. Jim Mead, religion, is continuing to do research and writing for his forthcoming textbook, Biblical Theology: Issues, Methods, and Themes.

• Kim Van Es, English, is collecting and writing stories set in Newkirk, Iowa, in the 1950s and 1960s.

• Dr. Marc Wooldridge, music, is working on the first of three 10-minute films featuring original music accompanied by images of nature. “South Dakota Rhythm,” written for marimba, vibraphone and clarinet, will feature aerial photography of South Dakota landscapes filmed by South Dakota Public Television.

Three professors in the biology department are using grants of up to $5,000 for collaborative research with students:

• Dr. Laurie Furlong is comparing mainland and island insect drift patterns on California’s Santa Cruz Island with Lisa Walters, a biology-ecological science major from Wagner, S.D.

Dr. Abe Scheaffer is conducting an experiment with Trans Ova Genetics in Sioux Center to study the various aspects of a lactating dairy cow’s metabolism that likely contribute to a pregnancy rate. He is being assisted by Laura Rensink, a biology-health professions major from Sioux Center, Iowa, and Jason Helmus, a biology-health professions and chemistry major from Rock Valley, Iowa.

Dr. Todd Tracy is working with Shawn McGhee, a political science major from Anthon, Iowa, who serves as president of Northwestern’s Terra Nova ecology club. Together they are studying the difference in dialects between house finches found in the Midwest and those in northern Colorado. They also are researching how the song repertoires of male house finches change as the birds age.

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