Peter White Scholar Awards

2011

Name:  James McCommons
Rank:  Associate Professor
Department:  English
Project Title: Biography of George Shiras III: World’s First Wildlife Photographer
Abstract:

To research and write a narrative, non-fiction historical biography of George Shiras III, the world’s first wildlife photographer, the father of the Migratory Bird Act and a seminal figure in the conservation movement of the early 20th century. The book will weave a study of Shiras’ accomplishments into the greater story of the progressive era. Using research at the University of the Pittsburgh and, the National Geographic Society and through observation and description of locales in the Upper Peninsula where Shiras did his work, the book will be a combination of historical narrative that includes elements of nature writing—a recognizable and distinct tradition in English prose for nearly two centuries. Shiras was a figure of national stature that was well known and respected by scientists, politicians, and naturalists, but he also adopted Marquette as his hometown and did most of his pioneering photography work at Whitefish Lake in the central Upper Peninsula. Copies of newly-discovered papers of George Shiras III, housed at the University of Pittsburgh, will be donated to the Peter White Public Library, the Marquette County Historical Museum and the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center.

2010

Name:  John Smolens
Rank: Professor
Department: English
Project Title: The Schoolmaster’s Daughter, A Novel
Project Abstract:

This application for the Peter White Scholar Award is respectfully submitted with the hope that I might receive assistance while I complete my latest historical novel, THE SCHOOLMASTER’S DAUGHTER, which is based on the activities of the family of John Lovell, schoolmaster of the Latin School in Boston, during the first year of the American Revolution. This project will require considerable time and resources to conduct research, which would, at times, necessitate travel to relevant locations in Greater Boston, and to complete the manuscript. With the release time from teaching that would be provided by the Peter White Scholar Award, I expect to complete the novel by June 2011.

My contract for my last novel, THE ANARCHIST, published by Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, contains a “first right of refusal” clause. This spring I will be submitting early chapters of THE SCHOOLMASTER’S DAUGHTER to my editor Shaye Areheart, who has published my last four novels. Should we not agree to terms on THE SCHOOLMASTERS’S DAUGHTER, the manuscript will be submitted to other publishers by Noah Lukeman, President, Lukeman Literary Management, Ltd, New York.

I have published six novels and one collection of short stories. It is my hope that with the publication of THE SCHOOLMASTER’S DAUGHTER I will make a significant contribution to the scholarly and creative tradition at Northern Michigan University.

2009

Name: Neil Cumberlidge
Rank: Professor
Department: Biology
Project Title: The Freshwater Crabs of Eastern Africa: production of a major taxonomic revision using advances in biodiversity informatics.
Award:
Project Abstract: This project is the culmination of a 20-year research program on the taxonomy and systematics of African freshwater crabs undertaken by the applicant. Previous work (funded by internal and external grants) has led to the description of seven new genera and 30 new species of freshwater crabs, and more than 80 journal publications, several book chapters, and a book-length monograph. The project focuses on the poorly known freshwater crab faunas of six countries in the East African region that includes two biodiversity hotspots. Specialized taxonomic databasing software will be used to integrate new research and new species descriptions with existing publications to produce a single volume, The Freshwater Crabs of Easter Africa. In addition, much-needed resources, including first-time national species lists, identification keys, and digital images of type specimens, will be made freely available on a biodiversity informatics websites. The monograph will stimulate interest from a broad range of scientific disciplines, and raise the profile of freshwater crabs as a taxonomic group. The award will also be used to attend a conference to develop new skills in biodiversity informatics, to support work in museums in the USA and Europe, and to upgrade laboratory equipment. The grant will facilitate the involvement of students in research, and will be used to upgrade NMU courses. The mongraph will be submitted for publication and its findings presented at scientific meetings. External funding will be sought from the National Science Foundation for a scaled up continent-wide project using this work as a preliminary study.

 

2008

Name: Stephen Burn
Rank: Associate Professor
Department: English
Project Title: Neurofiction: Contemporary American Fiction and the Brain
Award:
Project Abstract: Over the last forty years, neuroscientific research has challenged and reformulated our understanding of human identity. The literary novel has historically provided a venue for testing theories of the self, so I am writing a book-length study (approximately 90, 000 words long) that examines the way that the American novel has responded to the neuroscientific revolution, as novelists have simultaneously critiqued and been influenced by the neuronal map of the self. Novelists discussed in detail include Don DeLillo, John Barth, Lynne Tillman, Jonathan Franzen, Marisha Pessl, David Foster Wallace, and Richard Powers.
My study, provisionally entitled Neurofiction: Contemporary American Fiction and the Brain, would be the first book to explore how American writers have interacted with neuroscience. This exploration would intervene in a number of important specialist and interdisciplinary debates (such as literary discussions of the representation of character, and larger disputes about the relationship of literature to the sciences), and would also involve defining a new subgenre of contemporary fiction—which I call neurofiction—and which I would differentiate from the Freudian psychodrama.
I am confident that I will be able to secure a contract for this project. I have already written three books (two of which were supported by NMU’s Faculty Grant program), and an early chapter of Neurofiction has been accepted for publication in a leading journal. Oxford University Press have expressed an interest in publish this volume, but to write the manuscript in a timely fashion, I require some release time.

 

2007

Name: Robert Whalen
Rank: Associate Professor
Year: 2007
Department: English
Project Title: The Digital Temple
Award:
Project Abstract: The Digital Temple is a scholarly edition of seventeenth-century poet George Herbert’s English verse. Under contract with university of Virginia Press, the final product will provide scholars and students unprecedented access to the work of a major literary figure. It will also be a substantial contribution to the emerging field of humanities computing and one of its major sub-disciplines, digital editing. Transcription and encoding of three artifacts essential to the study of Herbert’s work (two manuscripts and a copy of the 1633 edition) are nearing completion. The Peter White Award sought here would allow me (a) to acquire digital images of one of these artifacts—MS. Jones 28.169, a.k.a. the Williams manuscript, the only one containing Herbert’s own hand; (b) to write the critical apparatus; and (c) to construct a user interface to navigate these materials. The total amount requested ($14,841) would fund travel to London to oversee digital-image capture($1600); purchase of the digital images (9,541); and release time of four credits during the winter semester, 2008 ($3,700). Scheduled for completion and submittal to the press by June 30, 2008, the finished edition would include all 176 of the English poems in the Williams MS. as well as their subsequent “versions” in a later manuscript and the 1633 edition. Moreover, because the resulting product will be digital in form, it will be extensible and thus allow the editor eventually to include links to digital images of the other two artifacts as well. A National Endowment for the Humanities grant application, currently pending, would fund this expansion.

 

 2006

Name: J. Marek Haltof
Rank: Associate Professor
Department: English
Project Title: The Holocaust in Polish Film: Uncovering the Path
Award: $15,000
Project Abstract: My intention is to fill a gap in film scholarship by producing a book provisionally title The Holocaust in Polish Film: Uncovering the Past. Given the fact that Poland was the site of a great number of German death camps, it is surprising that not a single book addresses the issue of the representation of the Holocaust in Polish cinema.
            My study, a significant expansion of my previous research, moves beyond the traditional boundaries of Film Studies and involves meticulous historical, political and cultural research. The Holcaust in Polish Film focuses not only on films themselves, but also on the issue of Poland’s national identity and the role of Polish people during World War II as victims, passive observers and, in infrequent cases, accomplices of the Nazi atrocities. This work offers more than just a study of Polish cinema and politics, since several discussed films, such as The Last Stage(1948)-arguably the “mother of all Holocaust films”- served as models for Schindler’s List and other Holocaust classics.
I am confident that I will be able to secure a publishing contract at a later date, given my previous extensive research and published works. To accomplish my goals, I have to do proper archival research at several institutions in Poland (such as the State Archive of Modern Files in Warsaw) and the United States (such as the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York).

 

2005

Name: Neil Russel
Rank:
Year: 2005
Department: Physics
Project Title:
Award:
Project Abstract:

 

Name: Osvaldo J. Lopez
Rank: Assistant Professor
Year: 2005
Department: Biology
Project Title: Towards a vaccine against the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Virus (PRRSV): Using vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and lactic-elevating dehydrogenase virus (LDV) as models in mice.
Award: $15,000
Project Abstract: The proposed project is a continuation of a long-term research program that began in Argentina in 1990 with the applicant’s doctoral dissertation studies on the immune system’s protective response to infection by the Foot-and-Mouth disease virus (FMDV). FMDV is a serious infection of domestic animals that provokes a rapid, strong and protective immune response in the host. The applicant discovered that infection and vaccination with inactivated virus induce different immunological responses. Recently, the applicant has demonstrated the cellular and molecular basis for this response against infection with FMDV. To date, this research program in the immune response against viruses has produced 16 publications in refereed journals, and has expanded to include an interest in the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Virus (PRRSV) that causes extensive abortions in pigs. Another exciting discovery was the main mechanism of escape of PRRSV from the immune system. The Peter White award will be used to apply the above approach to basic research aimed at eventually developing an efficient vaccine against PRRSV by using the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and lactic-elevating dehydrogenase virus (LDV) as the counterparts of FMDV and PRRSV respectively in mice. The strong and weak immune responses induced by VSV and LDV will be compared, and the results will help to develop the next generation of vaccines. The findings will be submitted for publication in scientific journals, and will be used to help to seek external funding at the national and international levels.  The experience acquired in this research will be transferred to undergraduate and graduate students through updated lectures and laboratory activities, and through directed studies research projects and MS thesis research projects.

 

2004

Name: Suzanne Williams
Rank: Associate Professor
Year: 2004
Department: Chemistry
Project Title: Using biocalorimetry to investigate proteins that are markers for the onset or progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Award: $15,000
Project Abstract: Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease that currently affects at least four million Americans. There is no cure or effective prevention and it is estimated that by the year 2050 the number of persons afflicted will rise to fourteen million. This project will examine the interactions of three proteins that are thought to be responsible for the onset and/or progression of the disease.  These proteins are the β-amyloid peptide, α2-macroglobulin, and the α2 macroglobulin receptor. The β-amyloid peptide is an abnormal cleavage product of the β-amyloid precursor protein. Accumulation of this peptide leads to the build-up of senile plaques in the brain, one of the hallmarks of degenerative brain disorders. α2-macroglobulin binds to the peptide and both proteins are cleared through the α2-macroglobulin receptor and subsequently degraded by the cell. Quantitative information about this binding, including binding strength, number of bind sites/molecule, and conformational changes induced upon binding have not been reported. Furthermore, the specific regions of the receptor involved in binding α2- macroglobulin and the β-amyloid peptide have not been identified. This project will use biocalorimetry to obtain precise quantitative data about the interactions between these molecules. These data are necessary to accurately describe the molecular interactions that are responsible for the receptor-mediated clearance of the β-amyloid peptide. The data may also be useful in future drug designs in which a drug that will enhance the binding between α2- macroglobulin and the β-amyloid peptide is developed. Such a drug would aggressively clear excess peptide from the brain and reduce senile plaque formation.