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Science Professors, Alumnus Earn Top Foundation Grants

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Science Foundation this spring endorsed the work of three Hamilton researchers.

Professor of Geology Eugene Domack and Henry Drewal '64 received Guggenheim fellowships designed to provide scholars "with blocks of time in which they can work with as much creative freedom as possible."

Drewal, the Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is pursuing his project, The Senses in Understandings of African Art. An art historian specializing in

the arts of the Yoruba-speaking peoples of West Africa and the African Diaspora, Drewal spent six years of study in Africa, including apprenticeships with Yoruba sculptors. In 2003, he was awarded a Senior Research Fulbright to the Republic of Benin and, most recently, has focused on the visual history and culture of the African water spirit, Nami Wata, and books on Ijebu-Yoruba and Afro-Brazilian art history.

Domack will spend six months continuing to investigate the dramatic climate change that took place 600 to 750 million years ago in his project, Testing the "Snowball Earth" Hypothesis by Comparison to Antarctica Marine Deposystems. Over the last 15 years, Domack has led more than 50 undergraduates to Antarctica as part of his National Science Foundation-sponsored research. He has also conducted research on older glacial strata in Australia and has done field work on Precambrian glacial rocks in Canada and the western U.S.

Domack is the second Hamilton faculty member to receive a Guggenheim fellowship. Jay Reise, assistant professor of music, received one in 1979-80 and spent the year composing "Symphony No. 2," which was premiered by the Syracuse Symphony during its 1980-81 season. Reise is currently the Robert Weiss Professor of Music Composition at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ann Silversmith, professor of physics, received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to purchase equipment for her project, Thermal and Optical Studies of Sol-gel Materials Containing Rare Earth Ions.

"Sol-gel synthesis provides a low temperature means for preparing optically transparent amorphous materials. The method is safer, more energy efficient and more cost effective than a more traditional approach to making glasses -- thermally quenching molten material," explained Silversmith, who applied for the grant with Daniel Boye, professor of physics at Davidson College. Karen Brewer, associate professor of chemistry, also participates in the project, which began in the late 1990s.

"Karen focuses on synthesizing the optical materials -- glasses containing small amounts of rare earth impurity ions. The rare earths give the glasses their optical properties," Silversmith said. "My students and I study the materials using laser spectroscopy."

The NSF funding will be used to purchase a thermal analyzer (to analyze physical and chemical changes while the glasses form) and a cryostat (to control sample temperature during experiments) to be housed at Davidson. A CCD detector in Silversmith's lab will allow measurement of fluorescence spectra from the sol-gel materials ... More than a dozen students have assisted Silversmith in this project, including Andrew Magyar '03, whose senior project research was published in the Journal of Luminescence.

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