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Salsa dancing and Seyfert Galaxies

The list of the 22 projects funded by College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Development Grants this spring reads like a library shelf out of order.

Application of Data Visualization Techniques for Studying Seyfert Galaxies.

An Iconic Taxonomy of Vegetables and Fruits.

Early Life Experience and the Adult Response to Traumatic Stress.

It’s quite the potpourri. But such is the beauty of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“What’s interesting is that it’s such a diverse group,” says Joe Lenz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “These grants have been awarded to scientific research as well as music and art projects.”

Twice a year, the College awards a set number of development grants to members of its diverse faculty. The grants fund research, scholarly work and myriad creative endeavors and come in several different forms. Major research grants fund new, more costly projects in their earliest stages. Collaborative, development and research support grants are also awarded on a case-by-case basis.

Annually, Lenz estimates the College funds roughly 50 grants worth up to a total of $80,000. The grants fund research-related expenses, such as travel, books, supplies, permissions and research assistants. Professors frequently involve students and former students to serve as research assistants or to collaborate on projects.

Mary McCarthy, assistant professor of politics, received a development grant for her research on the U.S.-Japan relationship since WWII.

“The funding from the College of Arts and Sciences will allow me to travel to Washington, D.C. to interview politicians, government officials, activists and lobbyists,” McCarthy says. “All of these steps are going to be key to my research.”

For Tim Urness, assistant professor of computer science, and Charles Nelson, associate professor of physics and astronomy, their grant allows them to further develop software that helps scientists visualize complex astronomical data in Seyfert Galaxies. This grant will help fund a trip to the Space Telescope Scientific Institute in Baltimore after the end of the spring semester.

“Because of teaching obligations, a lion’s share of our work is done during the summer,” says Urness. “This grant will help us stay afloat and give us an opportunity to collaborate with other scientists.”

Urness and Nelson have been researching Seyfert Galaxies for several years. They have also received grants from the Fund for Astrophysical Research, Inc., and NASA.

Urness, Nelson and McCarthy — as well as the rest of the faculty that received Arts and Sciences Development Grants — represent an academically active faculty that Lenz says is vitally important for the College.

“Professors that are active professionally are essential to providing the distinctive learning environment we have,” says Lenz. “In 2010, we had 120 full-time faculty that produced 270 books, articles, essays, stories and presentations. We’re definitely getting a lot of bang for our buck.”