Funds Support Faculty Research

Endowed funds established during The Campaign for Harvey Mudd College support faculty engagement and development as well as teaching and service. Examples of projects eligible for grants are curriculum revision, expansion or development (including “core labs” and “sidecar” courses) and faculty leadership of student experiential learning programs (research, projects, community outreach, etc.). Here are two funds and the work they supported this summer.

Brian Butler ’89 Faculty Enhancement Fund

Andy Bernoff (mathematics)– “Agent-Based Models of Locust Hopper Bands.” Locust swarms pose a major threat to agriculture, notably in northern Africa, the Middle East and Australia. In the early stages of aggregation, locusts form hopper bands, coordinated groups that march in columnar structures that are often kilometers long and may contain millions of individuals. With collaborators, Bernoff built two agent-based models (ABMs) of locust hopper bands. ABMs provide an immediate connection to observable biology, allowing comparison with data to infer the mechanisms behind individual behavior. “The long-term motivation here is the hope that the modeling may help us understand which biological pathways, if interrupted, may prevent locusts from creating destructive aggregation.”

TJ Tsai (engineering)– “Resources for Learning Deep Learning.” Tsai is systematically studying the most popular deep learning courses, identifying their shortcomings and then developing a set of resources for students and faculty at The Claremont Colleges to learn deep learning.

Adam Johnson (chemistry)– “Synthesis of New Ligands and Hydroamination Catalysts with Inexpensive, Earth-abundant Transition Metals.” The hydroamination reaction is a chemical reaction that takes readily available molecules and transforms them into significantly more complex and valuable products known as pyrrolidines. These products are valuable synthetic targets for pharmaceutical and fine chemical applications. The major goal of this work is to develop an inexpensive and readily prepared catalyst that carries out the reaction.

Susan Martonosi (mathematics)– “Modeling and Gaming the Propagation of Fake News in Social Media.” The mechanisms by which fake and/or biased news articles are propagated are an active area of research, particularly as social media outlets such as Facebook are increasingly being asked to play an active role in fake news detection and deterrence. This work will provide insights into the optimal characteristics of biased and/or “fake” news, which can then be used within a game theoretic framework to develop defensive strategies. (More on page 19.)

Weiqing Gu (mathematics)– “Applying Big Data Analytics for UAV Anomaly Detection.” Gu is applying big data analysis and manifold modeling to develop new technological capabilities to detect anomalies for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The project integrates machine learning, geometry and big data analytics.

Mo Omar (mathematics)– “Internet Connectivity: A New Research Direction.” Omar is studying applications of graph theory to understand the internet and its connectivity. He is collaborating with Anthony Bonato at Ryerson University, the leading expert in this field.

Ken Stevens ’61 and Claire Stevens POM ’61 Summer Research Fund

David Seitz (HSA)– “The Most Famous Refugee in Britain? Geographies of Race and Migration in Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear.” Seitz seeks to develop a more precise understanding of the histories and geographies of race and migration that motivated Paddington Bear children’s book author Michael Bond to make his titular character a refugee. The Paddington series, which has sold 35 million copies in 30 languages, has become central to contemporary public debates on immigration and multiculturalism.

Marianne de Laet (HSA)– “Community Involvement in Innovative Wastewater Sanitation Technology.” An innovative, circular, zero-waste housing project, Ecovillage Boekel in South-East Netherlands, is experimenting with the prototype of an algae-based waste water processor that intends to turn all sewage produced in the village into reusable drinking-quality water. As one of two anthropologists involved with the project, de Laet is studying user-technology relationships.