Dean of the Faculty

Senior Sabbatical Fellowship Awards 2007/2008

The H. Axel Schupf ’57 Fund for Intellectual Life supports the Senior Sabbatical Fellowship Program, which increases tenured faculty members’ salaries for one semester of leave from 80 to 100 percent. The fellowships are competitive, and they are awarded by the Dean of the Faculty and the Committee of Six once their recommendations are approved by the President and the Trustees. The following are summaries of the 2007-2008 Fellowship recipients’ research projects.

David Cox, William J. Walker Professor of Mathematics
Research Project: Toric Varieties Book Project

In the fall of 2007, the focus of Professor Cox’s sabbatical will be work on a book on toric varieties that he is writing with John Little of the College of the Holy Cross and Hal Schenck of Texas A&M University.  Toric varieties are an increasingly important part of algebraic geometry, which is the field of mathematics that links algebra and geometry.  In recent years, algebraic geometry has become rather abstract, with a steep learning curve.  Toric varieties, on the other hand, can be described by simple equations and relate nicely to convex polytopes (these include squares, hexagons, cubes, octahedra, and their higher dimensional analogs). The idea of the project is to write a modern introduction to toric varieties that is more accessible than the standard texts.  Thus, rather than assume that the reader already knows algebraic geometry, the writers will introduce the needed algebraic geometry as they develop the theory of toric varieties.  There will be numerous examples and illustrations, along with an extensive bibliography.  In the fall of 2007, Professor Cox will lecture on preliminary chapters of the book in Spain and Austria, and he will also travel to Texas A&M to visit a class on toric varieties that Hal Schenck will teach out of these chapters. 

Peter Crowley, Professor of Geology
Research Project: Crystal Flow Mechanisms in Rocks

On a large scale, the Earth deforms by motions at and near plate boundaries. In the uppermost few kilometers of the crust, plate motion occurs by the movement of a fault, generating earthquakes. At greater depths, plate motion is accommodated by plastic flowage of rocks –flowage that occurs without disrupting the crystal lattices of individual minerals grains. Intracrystalline flow is accomodated by the motion of dislocations (linear crystal defects) along well-defined slip systems. When a rock flows, it does so by activation of slip systems in those grains that are oriented to slip most easily. Slip reorients both slip planes and the mineral grains. Continued slip produces a non-random or preferred orientation to the crystal lattices (LPO) of minerals within a deformed rock. The nature of the LPO is determined by both the slip system that was activated and the nature of the deformation. LPOs can be observed today in rocks that were deformed deep within the Earth many millions of years ago. They are most easily “imaged” by determining the orientation of individual mineral grains by electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD). Although EBSD patterns were first imaged early in the twentieth century, recent advances in EBSD technology have allowed LPO’s to be “quickly” and “easily” determined. Using the Department of Geology’s recently upgraded SEM/EBSD, Professor Crowley will conduct the following three EBSD projects during 2007/08.

Calcite LPO: As an outgrowth of field-based projects in the Wallowa Mountains, calcite LPOs will be collected from marbles deformed adjacent to map-scale faults in order to determine the slip direction and the slip system that accommodated the movement along each fault.

Aragonite LPO: Marbles on the Greek Island of Syros appear to have deformed deep enough in the Earth that the mineral aragonite was stable. Subsequent to deformation, the aragonite in those marbles inverted to become the mineral calcite. Calcite LPOs will be collected to see if they were produced by: aragonite slip systems, calcite slip systems, or the process of inversion from aragonite to calcite.

Quartz and feldspar LPOs: Like a chain, a rock is only as strong as its weakest link. Under any set of conditions, the weakest mineral in a polymineralogic rock tends to accommodate the most deformation. For common quartz-feldspar rocks at modest depths within the Earth that mineral is quartz. However, when the quartz content falls below a critical threshold (~20%??), feldspar may become the mineral that accommodates deformation, increasing the strength of the rocks. Regions of heterogeneous deformation in quartz-feldspar rocks may be the result of strength variations caused by variations in quartz content. Quartz and feldspar LPOs will be collected from heterogeneously deformed quartz-feldspar rocks from the Middle Allochthon of Sweden to assess the importance of quartz content on the LPO.

Heidi Gilpin, Associate Professor of German
Research Project: Architectures of Disappearance and The Senses in Motion

Professor Gilpin’s Senior Sabbatical Fellowship will support the continuing research and writing of her book, Architectures of Disappearance: Movement in Performance, New Media, and Architecture, which is under contract with the MIT Press. This book draws on material and approaches from philosophy, cultural theory, and European movement performance to explore contexts in which movement is difficult to enact. Her research on the body in performance suggests that people generally feel comfortable representing dynamism, but they feel very uncomfortable enacting dynamism, or generating movement. Her research on recent forms of digital technology and architectural design, which employ tools of animation, motion capture, isomorphic and parametric strategies, as well as notions of emergence and indetermination, force, and dynamics, suggests that they too do not, in the end, enact dynamism. If anything, they seem to enact the disappearance of movement in the final work. Professor Gilpin addresses the work of a number of German, European, and North American choreographers, architects, and new media artists and proposes a model for the development of a discourse to address the genre of movement performance and its multidisciplinary function in architecture and new media. The Senior Sabbatical Fellowship will also support the research and editing of the book The Senses in Motion, a collection of essays and materials by architects, philosophers, performers, and visual and sound artists, also under contract with the MIT Press.                          

Helen Leung, Professor of Chemistry
Research Project: Intermolecular Interactions between Nonchemically Bonded Molecular Complexes

During her leave, Professor Leung will study the nature of intermolecular interactions between nonchemically bonded molecular complexes.  Although intermolecular forces are much weaker than chemical forces, the large number of them present in a chemical or biological system makes them very important.  These forces, which include electrostatic forces and quantum mechanical dispersion forces, are subtle and are usually masked by the larger effects of the chemical bond.  Thus, to study them effectively, they must be isolated.  This can be done readily by molecular beam methods, which generate molecular complexes that owe their very existence to van der Waals forces.  The rotational spectra of these complexes are then collected with Fourier transform microwave techniques, and the analyses of the spectra yield the structures of the complexes and other molecular parameters (such as nuclear quadrupole, spin-spin, and spin-rotational coupling constants), all of which contain detailed information about the operative intermolecular forces.

The complexes of interest are formed by a substituted ethylene molecule and an acid.  With three distinctly different functionalities, ethylene substituted with fluorine and/or chlorine atoms proves particularly interesting.  Both the p bond and fluorine/chlorine atoms are electron rich, whereas the hydrogen atoms are electropositive.  The H atoms in these substituted ethylene molecules should be even more positive than those in unsubstituted ethylene because of the electron withdrawing atoms.  By increasing the number of fluorine/chlorine substituents in ethylene, the double bond becomes less electron rich and the H atoms more electropositive.  In effect, the properties of the functional groups are being fine-tuned. It can then be observed how these groups compete or cooperate with each other in intermolecular interactions.  The partners that Professor Leung has choosen to examine for these fluoroethylenes are hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen chloride, and acetylene, in which there are both an acidic hydrogen atom and an electron rich (nucleophilic) portion.  Because these acids are of different strengths, they should behave differently in intermolecular interactions.  This work will allow Professor Leung to understand the effects of subtler changes along the lines used in organic chemistry to explain how electron-donating or electron-withdrawing groups will affect the outcome, even the very site, of reaction.

James Maraniss, Professor of Spanish
Research Project: English Translation of Don Quixote

Professor Maraniss will use his fellowship to continue work on his translation into English of  Don Quixote, which Professor Maraniss describes as “the Western World’s most inventive, profound, and entertaining treatment of the interdependence of life and literature, set on the plane on which inner experience meets external reality.” What will make this translation different from others now in print (which are all good, Professor Maraniss notes), will be its language, its voice (in tone and rhythm closer to that of Cervantes), and also its illustrations, which are to be done by an excellent artist (Barry Moser), whose work alone will, like Daumier’s, illuminate the text.  Professor Maraniss’s translation will be sustained by a professional experience of this literature, gained through his thirty-five-year career as a professor of Spanish Golden Age literature, as well as considerable experience as a translator, which includes a libretto to a Pulitzer Prize-winning opera based on Calderón de la Barca’s play La vida es sueño (1635).
Mark Marshall, Professor of Chemistry
Research Project: Preparation of Research Results for Publication, Upgrading Fourier Transform Microwave (FTMW) Spectrometers, Construction of a New-Generation, “Chirped-Pulse” FTMW Instrument
Professor Marshall will use his sabbatical to prepare recent results for publication, to upgrade the two Fourier transform microwave (FTMW) spectrometers at Amherst College, and to construct a new-generation, “chirped-pulse” FTMW instrument.  His work uses the detailed molecular information that comes from high resolution spectroscopy to address questions concerning intermolecular forces, and he currently pursuing three lines of inquiry with the common theme of changes in electron density.  The first investigates electron rearrangement in reactant complexes of the hydroxyl (OH) radical, a species important in both combustion and atmospheric processes.  The second addresses possible electron transfer in complexes with the magnesium (Mg) atom, which has implications for both metal–surface interactions and for properties of nanoclusters.  The third seeks to understand the effects of electron density on the geometries of complexes containing haloethylenes.  These efforts share the common experimental technique of FTMW spectroscopy, and a significant portion of the leave with be devoted to improving instrumentation.

The older of the two FTMW spectrometers will be equipped with a new microwave receiver that will allow for the incorporation of phase control and modulation, resulting in improved sensitivity and reduced noise.  The uninterrupted period of work offered by the sabbatical leave will provide Professor Marshall the opportunity to assemble, test, and perform the hardware modifications necessary to complete the upgrade.  He will also install the microwave hardware required to extend the upper frequency limit of the spectrometers from 22 to 40 GHz.  The newer of the two FTMW instruments already uses the modern receiver circuit, but is being adapted to incorporate a laser ablation molecular beam source for the generation of magnesium containing complexes.  In this source, the output of a laser, typically the fundamental or overtone of a Nd:YAG (yttrium aluminum garnet) laser, is focused onto a refractory material.  Species formed in the resulting plasma are entrained in a gas stream and delivered to the resonance region of the FTMW spectrometer.  The sabbatical provides Professor Marshall the opportunity to install the new source and characterize its performance.

In a third instrumentation project, Professor Marshall will begin construction of a “chirped pulse” Fourier transform microwave (CP-FTMW) spectrometer.  This exciting, new design uses specialized digitizers now available that operate at 40 gigasamples per second and that can be used with signal frequencies up to 11 GHz.  These new devices make possible a FTMW spectrometer that in principle could obtain a complete 11 GHz microwave spectrum in 1 μs.  One of these instruments has been constructed at the University of Virginia, and a second, competing design has been developed at the University of Hannover, Germany.  Professor Marshall will evaluate the differences between the Virginia and Hannover designs and to begin to assemble one of these exciting new instruments at Amherst College.

Additionally, the sabbatical leave will allow Professor Marshall to sum up the progress made in the laboratory over the past few years in manuscript form and to prepare the ground for the next several years.  These efforts and the improved instrumentation will ensure the continuation of a high-quality, vigorous and original research program in physical chemistry at Amherst College.

Andrew Parker, Professor of English
Research Project: The Theorist’s Mother and Re-Marx: Life, in Writing

Professor Parker will use his leave to complete his book titled The Theorist’s Mother, in which he will explore the curious ubiquity of reflections on maternity in critical theory from Marx to Derrida.  He will also work on another book, Re-Marx: Life, in Writing, which focuses on a crucial moment in the emergence of the modern distinction between the realms of politics and culture.  Re-Marx explores the implications of a critical rupture in Marx’s life and work—not the distinction championed by Althusser between Marx’s early “humanist” writings and the “scientific” texts of his maturity, but a much earlier if largely unappreciated break separating all of these canonical writings from the literary juvenilia that preceded it. Professor Parker will argue that Marx’s canonical writings retain the trace of the various literary modes he practiced in his youth and then sought to consign to the past.  In a chapter on Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley and its privileged place in Marx’s own reading as well as in Georg Lukács’s The Historical Novel, he will suggest that aporetic tensions in the relation of fathers and sons remain constitutive for Marxist criticism.  Another chapter reads the anti-theatricality and homophobia of Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire against the evidence both of the Marx family’s private theatricals and Marx’s unheralded essay “English” (in which, drawing on Goethe and Shakespeare for his models, he transformed into dramatic form a story that he took from a newspaper).  Finally, a chapter on poetry reads Marx’s own juvenile lyrics with works by Heine, and argues that poetry and the Jew come to name for Marxist tradition an ambivalent relation to a past that cannot be sublated.  In different ways, each of these chapters explores conflicts between Marx’s production-driven conception of the political and other conceptions rooted in gender, ethnicity, and sexuality—conceptions that grant a constitutive role to the epiphenomena that Marx sought to put in their place.  Professor Parker will argue throughout that these representations cannot remain so constrained but continue to exert their pressure on the text of Marx’s life and work, as well as on ours.

David Sofield, Samuel Williston Professor of English  
Research Project: Works of Poetry

Professor Sofield will use his leave to focus on several poems that he is writing.  The subject, or more accurately the point of departure, of the first in view is the great painting by Giovanni Bellini, The Feast of the Gods, a work that a few years after completion was altered by the young Titian.  It depicts what its title announces: the Olympians at the end of a long day of eating and drinking.  At the moment they are, every one, in no condition to meddle in human affairs.  As Ovid tells the story that Bellini—or his patron, the Duke of Ferrara—chose to depict, an ass is about to bray, interrupting a lascivious act on which Priapus is obviously intent.  Professor Sofield imagines imagining the thoughts and feelings, such as they may be, of the various gods assembled.  Stated another way, the subject of this poem, which will necessarily be of a certain length, has to be a rumination on, not just these feasting gods, but the apparent human need to conceive of supernatural beings.  That at the painted moment the beings at hand are in every sense a rum lot only adds to the interest.
Kevin Sweeney, Professor of American Studies and History
Research Project: The Possession and Use of Firearms in America, 1620-1820
Professor Sweeney will be using his fellowship to spend the 2007-2008 academic year researching the possession and use of firearms in America between 1620 and 1820. Specifically, he will be visiting public and private archives along the East Coast to uncover patterns of gun ownership by quantifying references to firearms found in documentary sources, such as probated estate inventories, militia muster rolls, and government censuses. The resulting data base will be analyzed to establish relationships between changing patterns of gun ownership and economic, social, political and military changes in early America. This analysis will help shape broader conclusions about the development, equity, and efficiency of military institutions and about patterns of personal, political and military violence that involved firearms. These conclusions will be incorporated into a series of articles and a book-length manuscript describing and discussing how well-armed were males during the period from 1620 to 1820, how and when they used firearms, and how “well regulated” were the militias in which they served.

Beth Yarbrough, Willard Long Thorp Professor of Economics
Research Project: Measuring the Resource Curse: The Political Economy of Resource Wealth and Its Effects on Economic and Political Performance

The resource curse refers to the empirically observed pattern that countries richly endowed with natural resources, especially petroleum, have exhibited poorer long-run performance on a wide range of economic and political measures than have less well-endowed countries, ceteris paribus.  Many plausible theoretical explanations—ranging from the economic to the political—have been offered for these observations.  Scholars have yet to reach consensus on the competing stories’ relative merit and importance; and, recently, work questioning more fundamentally the existence of a resource curse has begun to appear.  The goals of this project are to improve existing theoretical analyses and empirical estimates of the existence, magnitude, and statistical significance of the resource curse by: (1) using more theoretically and empirically appropriate measures of resource wealth; (2) addressing how the timing of a country’s resource windfall relative to its institutional development may affect economic and political outcomes; and (3) acknowledging that the ownership structure of the resource sector may exert an important influence both over the existence or magnitude of resource-curse effects and over the specific causal channels through which those effects, if any, occur.