Reed Announces President’s Summer Fellows for 2014

Eight students will travel the world to pursue projects of their own design.

June 1, 2014

What if you could devote a whole summer to a project you had designed—a project that combines intellectual pursuit, imagination, adventure, personal transformation, and service to the greater good?

The President’s Summer Fellowship offers students a chance to do just that. Inaugurated by President John R. Kroger, with generous support from trustee Dan Greenberg ’62 and his wife, Susan Steinhauser, the fellowship attracted scores of creative proposals this year. From a competitive field, the fellowship committee has selected eight outstanding projects for the summer of 2014.

Harvesting Energy from Fluids

Nicholas Irvin ’15, physics

As we search for alternatives to fossil fuels, wind and water roar around us with untapped energy. Unfortunately, scientists do not understand fluids as well as they understand solids or gases; thus, we cannot fully harness the energy of fluids until we better understand their flow. I will investigate this problem at the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, using the laboratory’s cutting-edge facilities to examine the fluid dynamics of waves and wind; I will then use this research to brainstorm innovative designs to generate energy. Afterwards, I will put together a short curriculum that teaches Portland students about the possibilities of clean energy, shows them how researchers use the scientific method, and gets them excited about what they can do with their education.

Robert Swinhoe: Consul and Naturalist

John Young ’15, history

Scientific knowledge is never produced in a vacuum. The history of science is replete with examples of how the particular conditions (social, political, economic, etc.) of a particular place and time make possible and constrain both the kind of scientific knowledge and the way in which that knowledge is produced. While riffling through the voluminous work of the influential 19th-century naturalist Robert Swinhoe, one might never suspect that Swinhoe was also a member of the British diplomatic corps in China and Taiwan. So to better understand the scientific work of Swinhoe the celebrated ornithologist, I want to better understand Swinhoe the consul, the historical actor shaped by British imperialism. To do that, I need to retrieve Swinhoe’s consular records from the London National Archives. Then I will pore over the documents, analyzing them closely and adding my findings to a study of Swinhoe’s natural history that I began last summer. 

Bluegrass and Community in Modern Appalachia

Katie Halloran ’15, biology

Bluegrass is a complex art form, both musically and socially. Because bluegrass draws from so many different influences, it transcends social boundaries like age and class and brings together people from radically different backgrounds. I’ll spend the summer in Asheville, North Carolina, learning about bluegrass music and the community that forms around it. I’ll play with as many people as possible, making connections and trying to figure out how and why playing music creates a community. Through this work, I hope to improve as a mandolin player, gain the skills necessary to support a bluegrass jam at Reed, and ultimately learn more about building community in general.

Migrant Memories: Stories of the Eritrean Exodus

Winta Yohannes ’15, psychology

Every month, thousands of refugees flee Eritrea to escape severe political and civil oppression, which includes extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, and indefinite detention. Many of them head north to Libya, where Italy’s seemingly accessible coast entices them across the Mediterranean Sea. Yet last year, Italian fishermen, afraid of being prosecuted for aiding illegal immigrants, watched as over 300 Eritreans drowned less than a kilometer away from shore after their boat caught fire and capsized. This summer, I will make a film about this tragedy and the plight of the Eritrean refugees in general. I will interview Eritrean refugees in Uganda, Italy, and the United States. Being an Eritrean immigrant myself, I will explore the diaspora within my own family and demonstrate how film can be a medium for promoting social justice. I have created a partnership with the Center for Intercultural Organizing, which will help me produce my film and share it with the Portland community.

Campus within Walls Photojournalism Project

Maddy Wagar ’16, psychology

I believe that every person has a story—and also has a right to tell that story and be heard. Prisoners in our society tend to be dehumanized and cast aside, effectively silenced as a result of being judged based upon their criminal history. Through a photojournalism project, I intend to create the space for prisoners to share their stories, and be recognized for their full and complex humanity. I will focus on a population of prisoners working toward self- and life-improvement at the Campus within Walls college program located at the Lunenburg Correctional Center in Virginia. The Campus within Walls program serves around 90 inmates on track for release, and provides an accredited four-year college degree to dedicated students. I hope my project will empower these individuals and illuminate the benefits of a rehabilitative approach in our prison system. 

Badminton Odyssey

Chris Stasse ’16, history

The sport of badminton, while given little attention in the U.S., is one of the most popular sports in China; indeed, the Chinese dominate international badminton competition. But like any sport, badminton in China does not merely showcase a drama of physical achievement; rather, it carries huge cultural and political import. The idea behind this project is to explore firsthand the pedagogical approach the Chinese government has taken to training its top players and how badminton has become a cornerstone of Chinese national pride. I will travel to China, visit badminton clubs and training centers, interview rising players, and play and train with the people I meet there. As a lifelong lover of the sport, I am eager to hone my racquet skills in addition to broadening my understanding of Chinese language and culture. I hope to return with insights and experience to expand the Reed Badminton Club and continue coaching at the Portland Badminton Club.

The Pots and Potters of Old Thimi

Briana Foley ’15, religion

Ceramic pots occupy a central position in the rituals and traditions of the indigenous Newa culture in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. Unfortunately, traditional earthenware is being increasingly displaced by mass-produced plastic. I’m going to spend the summer in Old Thimi, a small community in Kathmandu, to live among the traditional potters and farmers known as Prajapati. I’ll interview the potters, document their techniques, catalogue and photograph their traditional pots, and learn how to throw them myself.

Green Molecules and Green Chemistry Labs

Johnny Mendoza ’15, biochemistry

Classroom chemistry is notoriously wasteful. At Reed, for example, students in Chem 201 conduct a synthesis that requires 900 pounds of reagents to produce 1 pound of the end product, acetylferrocene—and this ratio is typical of many syntheses requiring high-purity products. This summer I’ll work in the classroom/lab of Reed alumna Julia Robinson-Surry ’06, at Bard High School Early College Queens in New York City, where we’ll construct environmentally conscious organic chemistry experiments for her early-college students. If all goes well, we’ll submit our findings to the Journal of Chemical Education. I will also learn about and synthesize analogues of a group of oxidation catalysts known as Fe-TAMLs, which have enormous potential for neutralizing toxic pollutants. The goal of this project is to get me thinking like a green chemist, while giving other aspiring chemists the opportunity to do the same.

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