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Baker Fund awards more than $41,000 to four faculty projects

Awards support ongoing faculty research and creative activity


Ohio University has announced the recipients of the 2011 Baker Fund Awards.

The 2011 funding cycle yielded awards for projects ranging from the production of a ten-minute video, titled "Dinner Music," to research on the role that zinc plays in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In total, the Office of the Vice President for Research approved the funding of four ongoing faculty research projects totaling $41,512.

This year’s recipients are Geoffrey Buckley, associate professor, geography; Robert Colvin, professor, biological sciences; Melissa Haviland, associate professor, art; and Daniel Hembree, assistant professor, geology.

Buckley earned a Baker Award to complete a study that examines the rise and fall of asphalt as a popular paving material for playgrounds and schoolyards. Specifically, Buckley is seeking to determine how communities in Baltimore were able to reverse the trend of using of asphalt as a recreational surface.

"I became interested in this topic when I learned that the city of Baltimore started replacing ‘green’ spaces like ball fields with asphalt-covered recreational spaces largely to save money on maintenance," said Buckley.  "This started in the 1940s. By the 1960s, a lot of residents were unhappy with this trend, but it was not until 2004 that the first old asphalt playground was torn up and replaced with grass and trees."

Buckley will travel to Baltimore to interview community leaders and government personnel to determine how neighborhoods are chosen for conversion and from where the money is coming.

"About 30 acres of asphalt have already been removed in Baltimore and there is a long list of neighborhoods interested in converting their recreational spaces. Where are they getting the money?" Buckley asked.

Colvin also earned a Baker Award to complete ongoing research on the way that zinc behaves in the nervous system. According to Colvin, increased zinc levels in the brain can trigger a mechanism that causes neuron death during a stroke.

The Baker Award will allow Colvin to conduct several critical experiments over the next year.

"Using a method available at Argonne National Lab called synchrotron x-ray fluorescence, individual cultured neurons can be imaged and the intracellular location of various metals visualized," Colvin explained.  "To my knowledge these are the only experiments addressing these questions using this method."

For Haviland the Baker Award supported the production of a ten-minute video and sound composition, titled "Dinner Music." The video, which focuses on the sights, sounds, and cultural implications of a full set of china breaking, will be exhibited at national and international galleries and festivals.

"'Dinner Music' is the final video in my collaborative series with David Colagiovanni," said Haviland. "We shot the video on a horse farm owned by Suzin and Owen Daly in Youngsville, NC, and it will premiere on the Daly farm in the fall of 2012."

Hembree is using his Baker Award to complete the first investigation of a modern Nautilus deposit from a cave environment and to continue the study of shallow water deposits of cephalopods in the South Pacific. Hembree’s research project will investigate what happens to externally-shelled cephalopods after their death in an attempt to better understand existing fossil cephalopod collections from around the world and their environmental significance.

"Fossils often preserve features that indicate the type of environment in which they were deposited," explained Hembree. "While we cannot directly see these ancient environments, we can collect indirect evidence of their existence."

The Baker Fund Awards support the research, scholarship and creative activity of regular tenured and tenure-track faculty members, as well as administrative staff.  Since 2001, the Baker Fund has awarded more than $688,000 to 73 proposals.

The Baker Funds Awards Committee invites proposals for projects that are "near completion and can hopefully be brought to full completion with the assistance of an award." The maximum award is $12,000, and the funds are made available by The Ohio University Foundation through the John C. Baker Fund.

Endowed  in 1961 by a gift of more than $612,000 from 1926 College of Arts and Sciences graduate Edwin L. Kennedy  and his wife, Ruth, a 1930 graduate of the College of Education, The John C. Baker Fund was established to support faculty improvement and research efforts.

"The Baker Awards have been instrumental in helping faculty complete research, scholarship and creative projects," said Joe Shields, interim vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College "This often can help them leverage external funding to expand their work and make further contributions to the field."