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Enhancing the academic careers of women in science, technology, engineering, & mathematics

2004 ADVANCE Incentive Award Winners

Spring 2004

Faye Boudreaux-Bartels, College of Engineering
Joan Peckham, College of Arts & Sciences
Cathy Roheim, College of Environment & Life Sciences
Karen Wishner, Graduate School of Oceanography

The Evaluation Committee received 17 excellent proposals for ADVANCE Incentive Awards, of which 8 were awarded funding on March 23. The names and project titles appear below. Abstracts and/or full proposals will follow shortly. Congratulations to all.

And The Winners Are....

Tracey (Morin) Dalton
Assistant Professor
Marine Affairs

Multidisciplinary Evaluation of Marine Protected Area Performance


Marine protected areas (MPAs) have been promoted around the world as a tool for comprehensively managing human activities in particular areas of the ocean. MPAs consist of a portion of the ocean, including both water column and sediment, where some legal or regulatory mechanism limits or restricts human activities to protect the natural resources within. MPAs provide an alternative to traditional resource management measures designed to address individual activities and/or particular components of marine ecosystems. Due to their spatial nature, MPAs can be used to simultaneously address multiple activities, stakeholders, and governing institutions that influence resources within the designated site. They can also limit disturbance to organisms and natural cycles within entire ecosystems. Because traditional marine management measures have not been successful in preventing fish stock declines, habitat degradation, and other negative impacts to marine resources, MPAs have been receiving increased attention from practitioners and researchers around the world as a viable management tool.

With the growing popularity of MPAs as a marine resource management tool, it is critical to understand the factors that influence their performance. This study extends current research on marine protected areas by investigating multiple factors that influence the performance of MPAs. Such factors include biodiversity preservation within the MPA, increased fish yields beyond MPA boundaries, enhanced community involvement in resource management, improved knowledge about resources, strengthened local economies, and others. Evaluating a multitude of factors allows for a more realistic measure of an MPA's overall performance than would be obtained by evaluating individual natural science or social science factors.

A team of researchers and practitioners with expertise in natural and social sciences has been assembled to conduct this research at approximately forty MPA sites. Through interviews, document analysis, personal observations, and field experiments, this team will collect data at each of the sites on the multidisciplinary factors influencing MPA performance. Results of this study will lend insight into the relationships among a wide range of environmental, demographic, socioeconomic, cultural, and political factors related to MPA performance. This project is unique because it looks at comparable data across a large number of sites. Few MPA studies have examined multiple factors simultaneously and even fewer studies have examined them at a large number of sites.

Final Report

Nancy Eaton
Associate Professor

Edge Coverings for Complete Bipartite Graphs


This is the second stage of a three stage project addressing different types of set representations of graphs. Eaton is working with researchers, Zoltan FÄuredi and Alexandr V. Kostochka of the Department of Mathematics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Jozef Skokan, Instituto de Matematica e Estatstica, Universidade de S~ao Paulo, formerly a VIGRE Research Assistant Professor at UIUC. The completion of this stage requires more results as well as some pansion and ¯nalization of a paper entitled, Set Representations of Km;n. Stage I has been completed and has resulted in a paper, entitled Tree Representations of Kn;n, that has been submitted to the European Journal of Combinatorics. In 1999, H. Mulder posed a question, about representing the complete balanced bipartite graph with a tree of maximum degree 3. This paper answers the so-called Mulder question, which has been of great interest to researchers since it was posed.

Stage III will address several speci¯c related open questions. Basic De¯nitions. A combinatorial graph or simply graph is a system G = (V;E) of two sets with the following properties. The ¯rst, V , is called the vertex set and the second, E, containing pairs of vertices is called the edge set. A graph G is called bipartite if its vertices can be divided into two disjoint sets, A and B, so that no edges are among pairs of vertices both of which are either either A or in B. Km;n is a special kind of graph called complete bipartite. It's a bipartite graph on vertices V = A[B with jAj = m, jBj = n, such that each vertex in A is joined to every vertex in B by an edge. A tree is another special kind of graph that is connected and has no cycles.

John Gates
Environmental & Natural Resource Economics

Perspectives for Women in Natural Resource Economics


This proposal will promote the careers of women faculty in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics by offering a special seminar series featuring as speakers, nationally and regionally eminent women faculty. The Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (ENRE) at URI has been a leader regionally and nationally in applying new economic paradigms to natural resource and environmental issues. ENRE prides itself on its receptiveness to diversity. The first female Natural Resource Economist (at the doctoral level) in the world was Nancy Bockstael, an ENRE graduate and now Professor at the University of Maryland.

By 2001, the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics had granted over 200 MS and 100 PhD degrees. Our graduates include alumni who have been active in academic, public and private sectors worldwide, making it a culturally diverse program with global reach. There are currently 29 resident graduate students of whom 10 are female[1]. The gender composition of our student body has remained fairly constant over the past three decades. Perhaps due to our historical interest in fisheries, we have been more attractive to males than females. However, of greater concern is our desire to encourage more interest among female students in an academic career. We believe this can be helped by more exposure to female role models from academia. This may be of value also to our male graduate students whose exposure is almost exclusively to males in the ENRE research and teaching enterprise. ENRE has long offered a seminar series, often with support from the Honors and Visiting Scholars Program of URI, to invite an eminent speaker and offer an honorarium. In recent years the Visiting Scholar Program has had little funding so we have relied entirely on volunteer speakers. These have included faculty of both genders, but they have tended to be younger persons whose needs for recognition are high and whose opportunity costs are, perhaps, lower than those of more senior faculty. ENRE has a large graduate student population for its size, with approximately 97 percent out of state students. These students can be expected to go on to careers in academia, government and the private sector. Their motivation and ability to aim for academic careers would be enhanced by exposure to the thinking of more senior female faculty role models. Our seminar series is open to all and an attempt will be made to attract students from other programs on campus.

Final Report

Roberta King
Assistant Professor
Biomedical Sciences

Endocrine Effects of 17-Beta-Estradiol Modulation in a Marine Organism


The objective of the work supported is to prepare an NSF grant proposal for a January 2005 submission with the proposed title, "Endocrine effects of 17-beta-estradiol modulation in a marine organism." Dr. King has established a research program in inhibition of sulfotransferase enzymes, and she is now seeking to expand that program into the physiological endocrine action of modulation of the estrogen sulfotransferase. At the molecular level, Dr. King is currently screening potential endocrine disruptors for their ability to inhibit estrogen sulfotransferase in vitro using purified preparations of enzyme. At the cellular level, Dr. King has experiments planned to measure the effect of these inhibitors on intracellular 17-beta-estradiol (E2) levels and subsequent cell proliferation. The next step is a whole organism model in order to determine physiological endocrine effects. Dr. King prefers a marine model in order to take advantage of the strength of the University in marine research and the sources of funding in this area. She has chosen the zebrafish (Danio rerio) because the wealth of knowledge of this organism and because a homologue of estrogen sulfotransferase is known to be expressed and active in this organism.

Estrogen sulfotransferase converts E2, a potent estrogen, into an inactive form. It has recently been determined that this enzyme, in concert with steroid sulfatase, controls the intracellular bioavailability of E2. Thus, modulation of the estrogen sulfotransferase through inhibition or changes in expression level would alter the amount of intracellular E2 available for the estrogenic response. Lower estrogen sulfotransferase level or activity would increase the intracellular E2 available for estrogenic action. Higher estrogen sulfotransferase level or activity would have the opposite effect and mimic antiestrogens.

Indeed, several environmental endocrine disruptors (metabolites of certain polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs) have been shown to be potent inhibitors of estrogen sulfotransferase. However, the physiological effect of these inhibitors is not known. The proposed project is designed to elucidate the physiological effects of estrogen sulfotransferase inhibitors using the model organism.

Valerie Maier-Speredelozzi
Assistant Professor
Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering

Uncertainty in Analytic Hierarchy Process Decisions for Manufacturing Systems


The analytic hierarchy process (AHP) has been used to select manufacturing system configurations that can produce the best overall performance while considering multiple criteria such as productivity, quality, convertibility for alternate uses, and cost. The next step in this research is to consider the case when a manufacturer has only a general idea of how a proposed system will perform once it is built, with some degree of uncertainty. For example, suppose a manufacturer is planning to install a new production line and must decide between competing design alternatives. A quote from a particular vendor may promise a system that can produce 100 parts per hour and which can be converted to produce a different part type in only 15 minutes. Based on experience, however, the manufacturer knows that such systems tend to produce anywhere from 80 to 95 parts per hour, but never 100. Quotes from competing vendors exhibit similar degrees of uncertainty. In addition, other sources and types of variability in AHP input values will also be investigated. Through this research, the science of decision theory will be advanced, and practical methods to help manufacturers select preferred system configurations will be developed.

Final Report

Alison Roberts
Associate Professor
Biological Sciences

Software purchase to increase productivity with current seed funding


The objective of this project is to increase my productivity with current "seed" funding to allow me to demonstrate the feasibility of a new research approach. My research focuses on how plants produce the specialized cells that make up wood and various plant fibers. These cells, which transport water and mineral nutrients in the plant vascular system, have cell walls consisting primarily of cellulose microfibrils. Cell wall structure affects not only the physiology and stress tolerance of plants, but also the physical and chemical properties of raw materials obtained from plant vascular tissues, including wood, paper, and other plant fibers. The Cellulose Synthase (CesA) family of genes encodes the enzymes that polymerize glucose into the microfibrils of cellulose that compose plant cell walls. These enzymes aggregate with other proteins to form 'terminal complexes', which determine the structure of the cellulose microfibrils produced. I am currently funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop an approach for examining the genetic basis of terminal complex structure, and thus microfibril size and crystallinity. This project has three objectives: 1) cloning, sequencing, and characterization of the CesA genes from algal species having diverse types of terminal complexes in order to identify domains that may be involved in terminal complex structure and assembly, 2) characterization of CesA genes in plants with various extents of vascular development in an effort to elucidate the unique aspects of vascular cell wall deposition and 3) direct testing of the functions of CesA domains in Physcomitrella patens, a moss that is uniquely suited for targeted transformation and analysis of terminal complex structure by freeze-fracture electron microscopy. The funds requested from ADVANCE will be used to purchase software for assembly and simultaneous editing of multiple overlapping DNA sequences, greatly streamlining data processing and reducing errors that can occur when sequences are assembled manually. The funding of this proposal would 1) enable me to accomplish routine tasks more quickly so I can devote more time to developing methods for targeted transformation of Physcomitrella, the most challenging and critical objective of my USDA funded project, and 2) allow my undergraduate and graduate students (currently 3 of 5 are women) to learn sequence analysis methods that are used in many university and industry labs

Li Wu
Assistant Professor

Domain Decomposition ELLAM Method for Advection-Diffusion Equations


The study of domain decomposition ELLAM method is for solving the well applied advection-diffusion equations in mathematical modeling. Based on the PI's experience from ELLAM methods, her research will focus on combining the domain decomposition method with the ELLAM method to solve the advection-diffusion equations. These kinds of equations are very attractive and challenging, especially when they reach the unsteady state. The joint method will be more efficient and promising.

Mirang Yoon
Assistant Professor

Synchrotron X-ray Diffraction Study of Faceted Semiconductor Surfaces


This is a research and training project in the field of experimental condensed matter physics, with an ultimate scientific goal of understanding the role of strain in the stability of technologically-relevant semiconductor surfaces. A thin layer of germanium deposited on silicon (001) surface is known to produce a cluster of nanoscale pyramids bounded by {105} surfaces. Yet, Si(105) and Ge(105) are not stable surfaces on their own. A solution to this puzzle may come from understanding the effect of strain on germanium overlayer atop silicon substrate. An x-ray diffraction experiment will be conducted at the National Synchrotron Light Source to quantify the dependence of the stability of Si(105) on strain, by applying a controlled amount of compressive strain via mechanical means to clean vicinal Si(105) surfaces. Changes in morphology will be measured, with particular attention paid to the presence of (105) facets. A subsequent set of experiments will explore similar effects of strain, applied by means of intermixing a controlled amount of germanium on vicinal Si(001).

Final Report