A massive study by 270 researchers, including three Reed psychologists, underscores one of the key challenges facing scientists today: Just how far can you trust scientific research published in professional, peer-reviewed journals?
According to this project, you should take it with a chunk of salt.
The study, published today in Science, set out to examine a core principle of scientific research: the property of reproducibility. Two different researchers should be able to run the same experiment independently and get the same results, whether the field is astrophysics or cell biology. These results form the basis for theories about how the world works, be it the formation of stars or the causes of schizophrenia. Of course, different scientists may offer competing explanations for a particular result—but the result itself is supposed to be reliable.
The competition to join Reed College—often described as as one of the most intellectual colleges in the country—is getting stronger than ever.
Reed welcomed 426 new students to campus at its convocation ceremony on Wednesday, painstakingly selected from a record 5,392 applicants. The number of applicants is up 86 percent over two years, and 36 percent over last year. With the increase in applications, Reed’s acceptance rate fell from 39 percent last year to 35 percent, making it the most selective college in the Pacific Northwest.
The incoming class had an average combined total SAT score of 2070 and an average high school GPA of 3.95, with 88 percent ranked in the top 25 percent of their high school class. Twenty-two incoming students were either valedictorians or salutatorians.
Parasites are the Rodney Dangerfields of the animal kingdom—they don’t get no respect.
But it turns out that parasitic infection can actually spur evolution and may even be partly responsible for the origin of sexual reproduction, according to a study published in Science by a team of researchers including Shelly Skolfield ’14, Prof. Todd Schlenke [bio 2013–], and colleagues at North Carolina State University.
The researchers found that fruit flies that survived infection by parasites hatched significantly more diverse offspring, presumably to out-evolve the parasites that are trying to exploit them.
Prof. Alison Crocker [physics 2014–] came in 15th in the women’s sprint final at the 2015 World Orienteering Championships, the best individual result ever achieved by a US orienteer at the world level.
Prof. Crocker’s shining performance came despite an initial stumble, when she misread the map and found herself on the wrong side of a stone wall, losing roughly 20 seconds. “Not a perfect race, but I was feisty after an early mistake and that did the job!” she wrote on Facebook after the race.
Prof. Crocker came in 15th in the sprint, 45th in the long distance, and was one of three runners in the US women’s relay team, which came in 20th. The events were held July 31–August 7 in Inverness, Scotland.
Well known and well loved during his four years at the college, Mark Angeles was killed while riding his bicycle on May 27, 2015. In an effort to honor his legacy and to celebrate his life, Mark's family and friends have established the Mark Angeles ’15 Memorial Fellowship at Reed.
While excelling in academics, en route to earning a BA in chemistry, Mark created space in his busy schedule to be a dedicated volunteer both on campus and in the Portland community. He managed the Reed Bike Co-Op and shared his time and skills with the Community Cycling Center. He taught bike safety to children, was a mentor to underprivileged youth at Lane Middle School, served as an intern for SEEDS, helped run Paideia, sang with Reed’s a cappella group, the Herodotones, and was a house adviser.
The Angeles Fellowship will support a SEEDS student intern, whose work on campus continues Mark’s legacy of volunteerism and commitment to physical engagement as a component of service. Gifts can be made online or by mail. Please make checks payable to Reed College, and in both instances note that the gift is for the Mark Angeles Memorial Fellowship.
Prof. Crocker is scheduled to compete in the sprint, the relay, and the long distance courses at the event. She has taken part in international orienteering since 2010, and she attributes her success to the concept of consistency. “Doing both the armchair studying of maps and the hard track or terrain intervals to have the speed. Most of all, it's getting out orienteering as much as possible, to make your brain expend minimal effort while ﬁguring out orienteering puzzles.”
The sport of orienteering combines map reading, running, and not getting lost. Competitors have to find their way between a series of checkpoints, called controls, as quickly as possible and in the right order. Orienteers do not see the map of the course until the race starts, so there can be no advance planning of routes or control locations.
Reed biology research students took a field trip to the future this summer at the 2nd annual NeuroFutures conference sponsored by the Oregon Health & Science University Brain Institute in Portland last week.
Scientists at top institutions from around the nation presented their cutting-edge research on new technologies in brain imaging, brain mapping, and brain implants used to treat disease. One scientist presented her recent work on how to turn a gene that senses heat from a chili pepper into a remote-controlled brain “stimulation electrode.” She also talked about her work in engineering a device that could manipulate brain cells by shining a blue light down a microscopic tube implanted in a patient’s spine.
Other talks dealt with the massive effort to map the circuitry of the brain, and how the development of new automation techniques has drastically improved the rate of progress on this complex project. The presentations riveted the Reed students who attended, took notes, and asked questions.
Professors at Reed won a total of $2,251,849 in research grants in fiscal year 2014-15, the highest figure in at least a decade (and possibly longer).
The eleven professors are pursuing a remarkable range of projects from the venom of parasitic wasps, to the compounds of bismuth, to the Moroccan diaspora.
Prof. Suzy Renn [biology 2006-] won a $618,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate a striking example of maternal behavior—voluntary starvation among African cichlid fish. Her research could shed light on the evolution of maternal instincts and deepen our understanding of metabolic and feeding disorders.
Prof. Kristen Anderson [psychology 2007-] won a $73,000 grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to fund two years of a study entitled, “Facilitating Adolescent Self-Change for Alcohol Problems.”
The objective of Prof. Anderson’s research is to enhance understanding of the role gender plays in outcomes from an adolescent alcohol prevention program.
In adults, gender differences in substance use patterns and consequences have led researchers to explore whether gender-specific treatments for women are preferable. Research indicates that women-specific groups lead to greater treatment satisfaction.
Prof. Todd Schlenke [biology 2013-] has won a $373,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, division of the National Institutes of Health, to study one of nature's most unforgiving arms races-- the struggle between fruit flies and venomous parasitic wasps.
Prof. Schlenke's project is titled “A Model System for Host-Pathogen Interactions: Drosophila and Its Parasitic Wasps” and will explore how parasites suppress host immune responses, using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and its natural parasitic wasps as a model host-parasite pair. The work will identify and characterize the venom (virulence) proteins that wasps use to suppress conserved aspects of host innate immunity. By characterizing venom repertoires across a phylogeny of wasps, patterns of parasite virulence strategy evolution will be uncovered.
Drosophila melanogaster is a model system for the molecular genetics of innate immunity, but little is known about the life history and virulence strategies of its natural parasites. Parasitic wasps can infect fruit-fly larvae at frequencies greater than 50% in natural populations, and are highly amenable to laboratory and field study.
Prof. Angelica Osorno [math 2013-] has won a Collaboration Grant for Mathematicians in the amount of $35,000 from the Simons Foundation to study infinite loop spaces.
An infinite loop space is a topological space that has a multiplication that is associative, commutative, and unital up to all higher homotopies. Infinite loop spaces are closely related to generalized cohomology theories, and are thus of great importance in algebraic topology.
Prof. Osorno is the principal coordinator on the project, “Categorical inputs for infinite loop machine spaces,” which centers on two aspects of infinite loop space theory: infinite loop space machines for 2-categories and equivariant infinite loop space machines.
Prof. Paul Silverstein [anthropology 2000-] has won a Fulbright fellowship to investigate historical genealogy, lived experience, and political engagements of Belgian citizens of Moroccan Berber heritage.
His teaching and research fellowship will take him to Belgium to the Interculturalism, Migration and Minorities Research Centre of the Anthropology Department of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven from September 2015 to June 2016 on a project entitled, "Moroccan Miners, Berber Activists, and the Future of Belgian Cosmopolitanism."
Since the 1980s, Western European media and governmental reports have consistently represented ethno-racial and religious diversity as an existential challenge to national coherence. The prevailing narrative is that when immigrant groups are integrated into social and cultural norms they will assimilate the identifications and loyalties of the state. When groups resist assimilation it creates anxieties. Since September 11th, these anxieties have centered largely on those Muslim citizens of North Africa, South Asian, and Turkish descent.
Prof. Rebecca LaLonde ’01 [chemistry 2013-] has won a $40,000 grant from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement to investigate the element bismuth.
One of the most urgent challenges facing organic chemists today is the need to synthesize enantioenriched bioactive molecules to treat diseases such as malaria, HIV, and cancer. Unfortunately, these chemical reactions typically require the use of rare, expensive, and potentially toxic heavy metals as catalysts.
But one heavy metal is cheap, readily available, recyclable, and non-toxic—yes, we’re talking about bismuth, the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol.
Prof. Suzy Renn [bio] has won a $618,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate a striking example of maternal behavior—voluntary starvation among African cichlid fish.
This species of fish exhibits a bizarre form of child-care known as mouth-brooding, in which females raise their eggs in their mouths for two weeks until the embryos are big enough to swim. During this time, the mothers undergo voluntary starvation rather than open their mouths and allow their fry to come to harm.
Prof. Renn will examine the neural circuitry involved in regulating this behavior, which could shed light on the evolution of maternal instincts and deepen our understanding of metabolic and feeding disorders.
Prof. Marc Schneiberg [sociology 2000-] has won a $170,824 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate how community banks and credit unions helped Americans weather the Great Recession.
As American banking abandoned traditional roots and practices, it shed regulatory oversight and concentrated assets in a handful of giant or global banking corporations. These changes prompted not only a growing disconnect between banks and local economies, but an extraordinary run-up and debt within the financial system, setting the stage for a crisis.
Community banks and credit unions, on the other hand, sustained close ties to their communities rather than just pursuing shareholder value. Using new data on the American economy from 1994 to 2013, Prof. Schneiberg will analyze the effects of community banks and credit unions on communities and local economies and their capacity to sustain employment, vibrant business sectors, new business formation, and recovery.
Prof. Alan Shane Dillingham [history 2014-] has won a $6,000 summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue an historical study of incorporating native peoples into the national political and economic structures of Latin America.
Prof. Dillingham’s book project, “Speaking of Difference: The Politics of Indigenous Education and Development in Southern Mexico,” examines the relationship between indigenous peoples and modernization in the state of Oaxaca.
Last year, 43 male students from a rural teachers’ college in southern Mexico went missing after commandeering buses and traveling to Iguala, Guerrero, to hold a protest at a conference. Details of what happened to them are unclear, but an official investigation concluded the students were intercepted by local police, handed over to a local crime syndicate, and presumably killed.
Prof. Jay Mellies [biology 1999-] has won a two-year grant for $362,769 from the National Institutes of Health for a project entitled “Pch Super Family Regulators of Gram-Negative Pathogens”
Prof. Mellies will investigate a key regulatory protein that enables the pathogen E. coli to cause disease in children. The protein, called Pch, controls niche adaptation—how the bacterium can outcompete other members of the microbial community in the small intestine and manipulate the host immune system to its own advantage.
Pch proteins are found in several medically important bacteria, including Salmonella, Shigella and Klebsiella, and thus a greater understanding of the Pch family of proteins could lead to novel therapies. Prof. Mellies aims to understand how Pch proteins function on a molecular level.
Prof. Noelwah Netusil [economics 1990–] has won a $99,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate how the restoration of Johnson Creek has affected local property values.
The grant will provide $99,256 to Reed for a two-year research project supported by a postbac fellow. For this appointment, Prof. Netusil chose Maya Jarrad ’14, an environmental studies-economics graduate, who will update and verify projects in the Johnson Creek Watershed residing in the conservation registry database. Maya utilized this database for her senior thesis, “Valuation of Urban Stream Restoration in the Johnson Creek Watershed: A Repeat Sale Hedonic Hybrid Analysis,” written with Prof. Netusil.
We made it!
Thanks to a last-minute surge of support, Reed alumni, parents, and friends shattered the record in giving to the Annual Fund this fiscal year, which ended on midnight June 30.
UPDATED July 16, 2015: According to the latest unofficial returns, contributions to the Annual Fund amounted to an astonishing $4,442,186.22—the biggest in Reed’s history—blowing past last year's total of $4,084,000.
History/literature major Sasha Peters ’15 won a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to explore abandoned sites and cities in the Soviet sphere through the medium of radio.
Sasha's project is titled Radio in the Ruins and will take her to Latvia, Czech Republic, Poland, Norway, Bulgaria, and Germany. "The Soviet Union and its influence produced an impressive array of buildings, monuments, and sites that embodied communist ideology," her proposal states. "After the Soviet Union’s fall, many of these places became inessential or unsupportable and were abandoned. Some of those places, decaying as they are, remain today. For my Watson year, I will travel to ruins in the Soviet sphere and make radio pieces about each of them. I aim to encapsulate the rich histories and eerie beauty of these ruins with sound."
Her friend Rennie Meyers ’15 also won a Watson Fellowship.