Faculty Projects


Professor Nicholas Buccola
Love Letters from James Baldwin

The idea of love was at the center of James Baldwin’s philosophy. But Baldwin’s invocation of love in his essays, fiction, and activism was complex and unconventional. In my book-in-progress, tentatively called Love Letters from James Baldwin, I am exploring the idea of love in Baldwin’s life and thought by way of a series of “meditations” – reflections ranging from a paragraph to a few pages in length. Each meditation is inspired by something Baldwin said, wrote, or did over the course of his life. I weave these meditations on Baldwin with reflections on my own family’s complicated racial history. This engagement is inspired by Baldwin’s insight that we cannot love ourselves or others unless we are willing to come to terms with our history (both individually and collectively). My hope is that the book will deepen our understanding of Baldwin’s philosophy of love and help us achieve greater wisdom about how we ought to express love in the world.

Working collaboratively with me, the student RAs will read and discuss primary and secondary sources, read parts of my manuscript in progress in order to provide substantive feedback, and help with “research mystery solving.” Along the way with this project, there will be research questions I will need answered in order to complete particular meditations. I am hoping my student collaborators can assist me in solving those mysteries.

Professor Michael Fortner

This project studies the origins and consequences of the “war on drugs” in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, it examines how local and state governments responded to the so-called “crack” epidemic and how their reactions impacted Black communities in cities throughout the United States. Students will gather and analyze archival material, academic studies, government documents, oral histories, and media accounts. Experience with quantitative research methods is preferred but not required. Students from any major or program of study at CMC are welcome to apply.

Professor Andrew Sinclair
American Political Reform

Many Americans are dissatisfied with the state of American politics today and reform advocates have proposed a variety of solutions. Can changing the rules change the outcomes? This project involves collaborating on collecting election returns and related political information, analyzing survey data, and investigating political institutions. Students interested should be comfortable with quantitative work, have some background using Stata and other stats programs, and have an active interest in politics.


Professor Heather Ferguson
Mobility, Displacement, and Modernity

How do travel and other forms of mobility shape self-definitions and regional stereotypes? What can studying the history of travel and population movements tell us about the shift from late antique and medieval imaginations to early modern formations, modern imperialisms and colonial worlds and finally to the more contemporary processes of state-making, decolonization and globalization? How are notions of the stranger and the foreigner re-defined across landscapes and chronoscapes? What role does the traversing of space play in the definition of self and collectivity? This class is designed to help students explore and formulate answers to these questions by looking at how the region, which we commonly refer to as the “Middle East” and the “Islamic World,” came to be constructed historically through circuits of travel, cross-cultural encounter, and by various forms of demographic mobilization. We will challenge the notion that pre-modern travel and exploration was exclusively Euro-Christian, and thus provide a new context in which to debate questions of modernity and contemporary political dynamics. We will further investigate tensions inherent in the history of mobility itself: between mobility in the form of travel as pleasure, leisure, and a means for spiritual fulfillment vs. mobility as a mode of conquest, a strategy for economic and political survival, and an experience of alienation; and between voluntary travel and mobility vs. the trauma and dispossession provoked through forced migration, ethnic cleansing, labor and human trafficking. Our overarching goal will be to analyze how travel and other forms of mobility function simultaneously as a means of identification with another culture, as a re-affirmation of cultural difference, and as a tool in imperial and state policies of inclusion and exclusion. Students with an interest in Middle Eastern history, the history of cross-cultural encounters, theoretical approaches to questions of the other, gender and colonialism, Orientalism, and new ways of worldmaking in the global era will all find compelling frameworks for research and discussion.

Mathematical Sciences

Professor Mark Huber

A graph (also known as a network) is a collection of nodes, some of which can be connected by edges. Suppose the nodes are each assigned a color from a fixed set. The coloring is *proper* if no two nodes connected by an edge are given the same color. Let Delta be the largest number of nodes any particular node is connected to. If the number of colors is greater than Delta, then you are guaranteed that a coloring exists. The question I'm interested in is: given a graph, is it possible to choose uniformly at random from the set of proper colorings of the graph? A fast algorithm for doing so would enable the approximation of the number of colorings of the graph, which is a number-P complete problem. (These number-P complete problems are harder than NP complete problems for comparison.) The goal will be to develop an algorithm that provably runs in linear time when the number of colors is at least a constant times Delta.

Professor Reginald Anderson
For which smooth projective toric threefolds does a cellular resolution of the diagonal yield a strong, full exceptional collection of line bundles?

Mirror Symmetry first gained traction in the mathematical community in the early 1990's when physicists obtained curve-counting formulas enumerating the number of degree d rational curves inside of a certain Calabi-Yau space called a "quintic threefold." To do this, physicists studied symplectic geometry on a very different space, called the "mirror pair" to the quintic threefold, rather than algebraic geometry on the space that they started with. A basic tenet of mirror symmetry is that studying algebraic geometry on one space is equivalent to studying symplectic geometry on its mirror partner. We will focus on giving presentations of algebraic invariants on smooth projective toric varieties by studying a combinatorial object associated with a toric variety, called the toric fan. These presentations allow us to better understand the algebraic geometry underlying the space given by a smooth projective toric variety. Students should be familiar with linear algebra, and abstract algebra is a preferred, but not required pre-requisite.


Professor Amy Kind

I invite applications from students with a background in philosophy (minimally two college-level courses) who are interested in working on projects related to imagination. One specific project for which I need research done relates to the role of imagination in personal transformation. A second specific project for which I need research done relates to the limits of imagination and, in particular, whether we can imagine impossible scenarios. Students interested in working on one of these projects are strongly encouraged to come talk with me to learn more about them prior to submitting an application. I am also open to student-designed projects on other topics in philosophy of imagination. Student researchers will meet with me on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and produce weekly pieces of written work (either their own, or annotated bibliographies of research they have completed).

Professor Adrienne Martin

I invite applications from students with a background in philosophy (minimally two college-level courses) who are interested in working on a project examining the nature of obligations, rights, duties, and responsibilities, especially 1) in the context of personal relationships and/or 2) in connection with social roles. The focus on this project is not primarily the content of such normative relations (Do children have filial duties? Do friends have duties of loyalty? Etc.), but rather the nature and sources of them (Are duties between associates just special cases of duties of fidelity or gratitude? Do friends and family members have rights to each other’s trust, loyalty, emotional intimacy, etc?) Student researchers will meet with me on a weekly basis, and produce weekly pieces of written work (either their own, or annotated bibliographies of research they have completed).

Psychological Sciences

Professor Sharda Umanath

The Umanath Memory and Aging Laboratory will be working on a few different projects this summer, all related to the nature of knowledge and its influence on remembering. Two of the projects will be focusing on understanding retrieval failures – when we try to remember something and we can’t bring it to mind – and investigating how we can characterize different types of such failures. This could involve working with older adult community members, recruitment of participants, and data collection as well as working on analyzing data and writing up results for eventual publication. Another project will be focusing on collective memory or the way big groups of people, like nations, remember their shared historical past. This will primarily involve working with Qualtrics to program surveys, data cleaning and coding of qualitative responses, and data analysis. Both projects will involve reading the relevant literature with opportunities to work on scientific writing for these projects and others as well. Preference will be given to students who have research experience, have taken Cognitive Psychology and/or Research Methods, and are interested in working with older adults.

Professor Alison Harris and Professor Cathy Reed

Two positions are available for a joint research opportunity in the Decision Neuroscience Lab (PI: Alison Harris) and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab (PI: Cathy Reed). The projects investigate the neural bases of perception and decision-making. Current projects include an electroencephalography (EEG) study that examines differences in the perception of body movements between neurotypical participants and participants diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Students will contribute to the ongoing analysis of existing behavioral and EEG data as well as new participant recruitment and data collection. You should be detail-oriented, autonomous, able to work together as part of a team, and comfortable with computers. Experience with Matlab and/or EEG data analysis preferred but not required.

Professor Stacey Doan

Directed by Dr. Stacey Doan, the Applied Mind and Health Laboratory, the research arm of the Berger Institute, is seeking research assistants to work on multiple research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Ho Family Foundation. Research projects in our lab take an interdisciplinary approach to examining how biological, psychological, and social factors interact to predict health and well-being. Some topics we hope to pursue this summer include the role of relationships and belonging on health, sleep in college students, racial-ethnic discrimination, and neighborhood effects. Research assistants are encouraged to take a team-based approach to develop and pursue their own research questions with our data. Research assistants will be trained in all aspects of social-behavioral research methodology, including hypothesis generation, data collection, data analysis, and manuscript preparation. The position is a particularly good fit for those interested in graduate school in psychology, neuroscience, or medicine.