2021-2022 Senior Sabbatical Fellowships Awards

                                      SENIOR SABBATICAL FELLOWSHIP AWARDS

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 provost and 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 2021–2022 fellowship recipients’ research projects.

Ron Bashford, Associate Professor of Theater and Dance
Research Project: Three Projects in Development: My Evil Twin, A New Musical; The Onion, A New Opera; and A New Devised Play (Untitled)

 Professor Bashford will collaborate on three projects in various stages of development. His projects take one to four years to complete, and each will come to fruition at different times. In 2021–2022, Professor Bashford hopes to conclude work on My Evil Twin, a new musical, co-created with Professors Eric Sawyer and Harley Erdman, and substantially complete (except for final revisions and production) as of January 2020. He will also begin work with Professor Sawyer on a new opera, titled The Onion, completing dramaturgical and writing work over the course of the year. Finally, Professor Bashford will work on a new rehearsal devised play with two performers, Carine Montbertrand and Eliot Shrimpton. Both are classical trained actors and expert clown performers with experience in devised work.

Anthony Bishop, Professor of Chemistry
Research Project: Targeting Non-Conserved Cysteines in the Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase SHP2

 The protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs), which dephosphorylate specific phosphotyrosine residues in protein substrates, constitute a large family of signaling enzymes, whose activity is ubiquitously misregulated in human diseases. During his leave, Professor Bishop will focus on efforts toward the discovery of selective allosteric modulators of Src-Homology-2-domain-containing PTP 2 (SHP2), which represents a striking example of the connection between aberrant PTP activity and pathogenesis. One group of experiments will enable the identification of drug-like compounds that can target a non-conserved cysteine residue in SHP2’s allosteric site, potentially providing highly selective SHP2 inhibitors that can serve as leads in SHP2-directed anti-cancer therapeutics. Other small-molecule-discovery efforts will target a SHP2 cysteine mutant that is a causative agent of LEOPARD syndrome, a human developmental disorder. Collectively, the experiments will develop small molecules that can be used to delineate the precise functions of SHP2 in signaling and disease, in addition to providing direct leads for PTP-directed pharmaceutical development.

Javier Corrales, Dwight W. Morrow 1895 Professor of Political Science
Research Project: Beyond Divide and Conquer: Containing Polarization’s Threat to Democracy

Professor Corrales’s project seeks to understand how democratic backsliding and political polarization are connected. He will study how polarization is utilized by populist presidents to undermine democracy, and what if anything the opposition can do to survive in polarized environments. His key variable of interest is asymmetrical party system fragmentation. Case studies will draw from Latin America and the United States.

Suzanne Dougan, Stanley King 1903 Professor of Dramatic Arts (Theater and Dance) and Director of Theatrical Productions
Research Project: Realign/Restore/Renew

David Hall, Paula R. and David J. Avenius 1941 Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Research Project: Topological Excitations in Gaseous Spinor Superfluids

Modern physics is often an exploration of extreme environments. At the lowest end of the energy scale, collisions (at temperatures only tens of billionths of a degree above absolute zero) contribute to the phenomenon of superfluidity, in which a fluid (such as a very dilute gas) flows without any viscosity. Remarkably, the superfluid gas hosts analogues of particles that can exist in the cosmos. Creating such particle-like analogues permits scientists to study some of the properties of anticipated universal particles that would otherwise be completely inaccessible, as their creation would exceed the capabilities of even the most powerful particle accelerators. During his sabbatical, Professor Hall will conduct research devoted to the creation and study of several of these particle-like structures, including monopoles and more exotic structures known as "knots" and "skyrmions." As simulations, they promise additional insight into the fundamental physical processes of our universe; but they are also of interest in their own right as examples of new and, in many cases, completely unexplored physics.

Allen Hart,  Manwell Family Professor of Life Sciences (Psychology)
Research Project: Restorative Practices on Campus and in the Community

Amelie Hastie, Elizabeth W. Bruss Reader and Professor of English in Film and Media Studies
Research Project: Feminist Interventions in Film Studies: British Film Institute Film Classic Volume on Klute; Women Directors Edited Volume

This project includes two separate volumes: one, a single-authored study of the 1971 film Klute, and the other, a co-edited volume of fifty essays on international films directed by women from 1930 to the present. Together, these volumes represent a continued intervention in film canons through the consideration of women's multiple forms of authorship in film production and film history.

Robert Hayashi, Associate Professor of American Studies
Research Project: Clever Headers: Chinese Soccer During the Era of Exclusion

Aneeka HendersonAssociate Professor of American Studies
Research Project:  Off the Record

During her sabbatical, Professor Henderson will work on her second book project, titled “Off the Record,” which explores the relationship between visual culture and print culture. She will critically examine album cover art, titles, liner notes, and typography from the 1990s and 2000s.

Jerome Himmelstein, Winthrop H. Smith 1916 and Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Sociology
Research Project:  Methodologies in Conversation with Each Other in the Study of the American Right

Professor Himmelstein will examine in depth how quantitative and qualitative studies can be used together to create a better understanding of the contemporary American Right.

Nicholas Horton, Beitzel Professor in Technology and Society (Statistics and Data Science)
Research Project:  How Learners Make Sense of Text as Data

Text provides an important example of unstructured data that have traditionally been absent from the statistics curriculum in schools and early post-secondary education, despite the importance that the written word has in all aspects of education. Text analytics is a relatively new field that has the potential to extract meaning from new data sources. It may also help to better engage statistics and data science education with other subjects in primary and secondary education. As part of Professor Horton’s research, he will conduct and analyze a set of interviews of novice students working through a computing task where they are exploring text as data.

Jun IshiiAssociate Professor of Economics
Research Project:  Asymmetric Strategic information and College Applications

 In the interdisciplinary academic literature on game theory and strategic behavior, it is understood that, when confronted with an expansive strategy space (one that makes it infeasible for players to become quickly familiar with all possible strategies), players will resort to heuristics.  One such heuristic is to observe and selectively adopt the strategies chosen by players in earlier game play. The parallel to college admissions is of potential applicants observing and selectively adopting the application decisions of earlier applicants within their community. A community might be largely unfamiliar with liberal arts colleges.  But should some member of the community end up applying to and attending a liberal arts college, that member might serve as a successful mutation (in the evolutionary sense) that leads to greater awareness of liberal arts college within the community.  The project would explore the extent to which such a heuristic/learning model can explain application data for Amherst College in recent decades.  The exploration would serve as a contribution to the academic literature studying modern selective college admissions, as well as the larger literature on asymmetric strategic information.

Michael Kunichika, Associate Professor of Russian
Research Project:  Socialist Prehistories

 During his sabbatical year, Professor Kunichika will continue to research and write his next book project, titled “Archaeology in the Twilight of Utopia: Late Soviet Culture and the Rediscovery of the Archaic.” The project considers the appeal, both in the Soviet Union and in Europe, of the archaic, especially of prehistory, from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. Among the many pasts recuperated in the aftermath of Stalinism, the prehistoric was the oldest. It becomes the subject of a range of works, media, and critical theories, from novels and films to Soviet art-historical and semiotic accounts of prehistory. The research will take him from archives in America, Europe, and Russia. He also expects to finalize for publication his book titled “Specters of Empire: Early Soviet Cinema and the Representation of Race,” which considers how race and ethnicity emerged as a crucial area for all aspects of early Soviet culture and cinema, prompting cultural thinkers and filmmakers to come up with representational forms proper to the values of socialist revolution. 

 William Loinaz, Professor of Physics
Research Project:  Physics Beyond the Standard Model: Higgsplosions

During his leave, Professor Loinaz will study how some types of elementary quantum particles behave when they collide at ultra-high energies. It is usually the case that a collision will produce a small number of high-energy products, but it has been speculated that some types of particles might explode into a large number of lower-energy particles in a mechanism called a "higgsplosion."  The calculation to decisively determine whether higgsplosions really occur requires a class of techniques known as lattice field theory, and a definitive result either way would elucidate fundamental aspects of the dynamics of quantum field theories.

Edward MelilloProfessor of History and Environmental Studies
Research Project:  The White Whale: Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, and the Discovery of the Great American Novel.

Today, Herman Melville’s epic tale, Moby-Dick, is widely regarded as the great American novel. Things were not always so. The novel sold a paltry 3,715 copies during Melville’s life, and Moby-Dick had fallen out of print by the time its author died in 1891. The White Whale takes readers on a pair of improbable journeys. It follows the grueling trip that Melville’s novel took across America’s literary landscapes, and it charts the tempestuous oceanic voyages its Yankee author took into the faraway Pacific. This story of how a pair of castaways—Moby-Dick and Melville—were redeemed and elevated to iconic status.

Ingrid Nelson, Associate Professor of English
Research Project:  Premodern Media and the Canterbury Tales

In her new book, Professor Nelson will argue that a media theory emerged in later medieval Europe that understood bodies, texts, and the nonhuman world as media for the communication of meaning. Rejecting the common claim of media historians that no media exists in Europe before print and joining recent efforts to decouple “media” from machine technologies, this book demonstrates how shifts in scientific knowledge, political structures, and devotional practices during the twelfth through fifteenth centuries rely on the language and concept of media and mediation. It further shows that Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem The Canterbury Tales develops this media concept by taking networks of agents as both subjects and producers of literature. Expanding narrower “teller-tale” interpretations of how mediation works in the poem, this book argues that Chaucer’s work explores the connectivities of the medieval world across multiple domains of knowledge and practice.

Jonathan Obert, Associate Professor of Political Science
Research Project:  Arming the Body Politic: The Economic Origins of American Gun Rights

Professor Obert will be working on his second book project, titled “Arming the Body Politic: The Economic Origins of Gun Rights in America.” In this work, he will make the claim that gun rights in the United States evolved out of the specific conditions of the firearms economy of the nineteenth century, in which private gun-makers began to sell their wares largely to private rather than government buyers. Articulating gun rights was a way of branding these products, making them desirable symbols of American civic membership. During his leave, Professor Obert will be collecting and organizing data for this book, as well as drafting several chapters.

Patricia O’Hara, Amanda and Lisa Cross Professor of Chemistry
Research Project:  Molecular Gastronomy as a Portal to Teaching Science

 During her sabbatical, Professor O’Hara will work toward completion of a book that will explore how basic principles of chemistry can be used to understand broader ideas of food science, and in particular, molecular gastronomy. Professor O’Hara’s interest in food science began as a serendipitous special topics course in 2013 with two undergraduates who were passionate about the culinary arts. Now, almost a decade later, this seed has matured into a full-credit course with lab: CHEM 100, Molecular Gastronomy: From Taste Buds to Test Tubes. Since that first offering in 2013, Professor O’Hara has taught the class four times. She uses fundamental ideas from chemistry, biology, and physics to explore food and cooking in a way that excites and interests even those whose interests lie outside of the sciences. From her background research for the course, she has a body of work ready for assembly into a new book with a working title of “The Chemical Story of Food: Informing, Transforming, And Reforming the Way We Eat.” This book will highlight particular chemical concepts and then illustrate them with examples from the kitchen. In this way, her goal is to contextualize science as a process embedded in everyday life.

Carolyn Palmquist, Associate Professor of Psychology
Research Project: The Role of “Hot” and “Cool” Pathways in Children’s Selective Trust Decisions

 During her leave, Professor Palmquist will examine how differences in children’s social and emotional processing affect their trust decisions. Although a few studies have explored how different attachment styles (Corriveau et al., 2009) and temperaments (Canfield, Saudino, & Ganea, 2015) affect children’s selective trust, this is a surprisingly under-explored area of research. As a first step, Professor Palmquist and her thesis student Andrew Floersheimer ’20 asked whether children who interpret social information more negatively (known as having a hostile attribution bias) would be more skeptical of individuals who have been inaccurate in the past (Palmquist & Floersheimer, in prep). She found that children with greater hostile attribution biases were more likely to interpret a previously inaccurate informant’s behavior as “tricky.” However, they were no more likely to avoid that informant (in favor of an unfamiliar informant) when tasked with learning new information. On the other hand, children with better theory of mind ability are more likely to avoid a previously inaccurate informant in learning situations (opting for the unfamiliar informant instead), but they were no more likely to evaluate the inaccurate informant as “tricky” than they were to evaluate her as having made a “mistake.” Professor Palmquist argues that these results suggest two different pathways by which children develop trust: one driven by social/emotional responses (hostile attribution bias) and one driven by cognitive responses (theory of mind). Drawing on research from executive functioning (Zelazo & Müller, 2002), Professor Palmquist views the pathway governed by hostile attribution bias as a “hot” pathway that may affect children’s rapid, holistic interpretations of others, and the pathway governed by theory of mind as a “cool” pathway that may affect how children evaluate others’ knowledge states. These data are exciting as they are the first to suggest different factors (both social/emotional and cognitive) that act in tandem to affect children’s trust in others.  To explore the relative weight of each of these pathways in children’s selective trust decisions in different contexts, Professor Palmquist will conduct a follow-up study with 180 three-, four-, and five-year-olds.  This study will investigate whether the speed with which children make their selective trust decisions (rapid vs. deliberate) affects whether they are more likely to rely on the “hot” or “cool” pathway. Data collection will run from the summer of 2021 to the spring of 2022.  Coding, data analysis, and drafting a manuscript will take place during the summer of 2022. 

Jason Robinson, Associate Professor of Music
Research Project:  Four Directions (Compositions for Saxophone Quartet)

Four Directions is a composition project for jazz saxophone quartet with sixteen individual pieces organized into four sections, with each section representing one of the four cardinal directions (west, north, east, south). Inspired by Native American traditions, the project is a new compositional direction for Professor Robinson, who is a saxophonist and flutist himself. The project will eventually culminate in a published recording. During his leave, he will embark on two performance tours and various regional performances that were postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Adam Sitze, John E. Kirkpatrick 1951 Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought
Research Project:  Misology: A Study in the Hatred of Thought

Vanessa Walker, Gordon Levin Associate Professor of History (Diplomatic History)
Research Project: Turn Your Eyes Homeward President Carter: Human Rights and Domestic Liberal Reform

In her work, titled “Turn Your Eyes Homeward President Carter: Human Rights and Domestic Liberal Reform,” Professor Walker will explore the often-overlooked effort by liberal groups in the United States to leverage human rights foreign policy to advance a domestic reform agenda focused on social and economic rights and to reimagine New Deal liberalism. In December 1977, for example, the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) launched a campaign urging President Carter to extend his human rights agenda to domestic issues, such as mass incarceration, income inequality, indigenous rights, structural racism, and the welfare state. Arguing that U.S. foreign aid to repressive regimes could be better spent on social welfare projects at home, their efforts provide a crucial bridge between U.S. policies abroad and the erosion of domestic democratic values and liberal institutions. These efforts gave a more robust voice to economic and social rights as essentially connected to political right, empire, and torture than is usually acknowledged in the literature. This article will be the first step in a larger project that seeks to understand why human rights emerged within the United States in conjunction with the last gasps of the liberal state. It will explore human rights activism as a critical component by left-liberal groups’ efforts to reimagine the value and legitimacy of the liberal state in the face of new conservative and neoliberal forces in the United States.