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Stars of Scholarship

Smith College faculty members are recipients of prestigious fellowships and grants in ever-increasing numbers. From July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004, Smith faculty received more than $3 million in awards. Just this past fall, the National Science Foundation awarded large grants to two Smith science professors to fund ongoing research.

Of those, a five-year $1.2 million collaborative NSF grant will give Laura A. Katz, associate professor of biological sciences, support for her project researching the evolutionary history of the microbial cells. Most of her research will take place in her laboratory in Burton Hall and will involve numerous undergraduate students.

In addition, Stylianos P. Scordilis, professor of biological sciences and of biochemistry, won a $471,813 NSF grant to study proteomics instrumentation. Like Katz, he will lead a Smith research team, which will include numerous undergraduates.

Another recent science grant went to Borjana Mikic, associate professor of engineering: a five-year $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study "GDF modulation of tendon maintenance and repair."

But science isn't the only field bringing distinction to Smith professors. In the humanities, Scott Bradbury, professor of classical languages and literatures, won a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to support a current book project, "The Social World of Libanius."

According to Alan Bloomgarden, director of faculty grants and government relations, in the past six years Smith humanities and social science professors have received numerous distinguished NEH fellowships to support scholarly projects. They include a book on 17th-century British women writers by Sharon Seelig, professor of English language and literature, and an anthology of essays in the philosophy of chemistry, co-edited by Nalini Bhushan, associate professor of philosophy.

While noting that the NSF and NEH may be sources of some of the largest grants, Bloomgarden stresses that other awards -- such as the American Council of Learned Societies and Guggenheim fellowships -- can be just as prestigious, regardless of the size of the prize money.

Recently Katherine Schneider, lecturer in art, received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship to support "artistic research and creation: painting." An ACLS award each went to Justin Cammy, assistant professor of Jewish studies, and Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor of History and professor of American studies. Cammy is using the fellowship to support a book project titled "Yung-Vilne: Yiddish Literature, Jewish Culture and National Identity in the Lost ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania'," and Horowitz, her project titled "New York and the Birth of Popular Culture."

Overall, the numbers of individual faculty grants and fellowships conferred to Smith faculty are up, says Bloomgarden, who gives individual assistance to professors during the grant application process. Several trends are at work, including a noteworthy increase in professors who are actively seeking grants. "As Smith seeks to compete with its peers, the departments have ratcheted up the expectations about scholarship," he notes. "It reflects a trend of rising expectations in higher education as well."

"It's a measure of institutional prestige," he adds, "that Smith is achieving such a high level of recognition from circles of peer review." -- JME

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