Grinnell faculty and staff members rack up national awards

August 17, 2022 — Grinnell College faculty and staff members have been selected this summer for several prestigious awards, fellowships, and scholarly prizes. The honors will help advance research projects and endeavors across disciplines and enhance scholarship, teaching, and learning at the College.

“It’s wonderful to see this external support and recognition for the amazing work that Grinnellians are doing,” says Susan Ferrari, assistant dean and director of the office of corporate, foundation, and government relations. “Though these awards are varied in nature and discipline, all of them speak to the ways that Grinnell faculty and staff bring a sense of creativity, dedication, and intellectual curiosity to their research, teaching, and other work on our campus. It's inspiring to work with such talented colleagues.”

Here’s a detailed look at the honors received:

Fernanda EliottFernanda Eliott

Eliott, an assistant professor of computer science, has been named a Scialog Fellow by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. The Scialog (short for science dialogue) program brings together interdisciplinary groups of about 50 early-career faculty members around topics of key scientific importance.

Eliott was selected for the “Molecular Basis of Cognition” group, which will bring together scientists from a wide range of fields to better understand the processes that underlie short- and long-term memory, thought, perception, and cognition. 

“I am eager to join the program, connect with participants, and explore questions that will help investigate the role of intuitive cognition in decision-making and translate that into computational approaches,” she says. 

Emily Guenther ’07Emily Guenther ’07

Guenther, director of Grinnell College’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program, was awarded a $60,000 grant from Bard College and the Open Society University Network. The program enrolls incarcerated students in a college curriculum that offers the equivalent of two years of collegiate coursework.

The grant funds supported the hiring of a postbaccalaureate fellow, Gabriel Ferguson ’22 who began work on Monday. He will provide academic support for the courses offered at the Newton Correctional Facility and the current pilot expansion at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. Grant dollars also were used for a General Physics course at Newton Correctional Facility – the first lab science course that the program offered. 

“I am thrilled to receive this grant, which will support our program at a critical stage in its development,” says Guenther. “This grant will facilitate exciting opportunities for liberal arts teaching and learning for everyone who participates.”

Joe Tuggle LacinaJoe Tuggle Lacina

Lacina, a technical assistant in studio art, is one of five recipients of this year’s Iowa Artist Fellowships. The award recognizes Lacina’s long commitment to developing and expanding art opportunities in rural Iowa, including his work with Grin City Collective and the Stew Makerspace. 

This award comes with a $10,000 stipend as well as a year-long program of professional development delivered by Strategic Planning Partners. Iowa Artist Fellows also receive publicity opportunities through the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

Lacina’s work ranges from sculpture to painting to larger installations. He is currently developing a new gallery and performance space, Cupola Gallery, located in the upper levels of a remodeled corn crib.

Shannon Hinsa-Leasure and Clark Lindgren

Shannon Hinsa-Leasure

Hinsa-Leasure, a biology professor, and Lindgren, the Patricia A. Johnson Professor of Neuroscience, have earned the 2022 prestigious Council on Undergraduate Research’s Biology Mentor Award. 

This national honor recognizes biologists who excel at mentoring undergraduate research students and creating an inclusive research environment. The CUR Biology Mentor Award, which has been presented since 2015, had never been awarded to two faculty members at the same institution until now. Hinsa-Leasure received the mid-career award while Lindgren was the advanced-career honoree. 

Their nomination packages included compelling letters from students and alumni who spoke to the impact of this guidance.

Clark Lindgren

“My colleagues and I have been working very hard to provide our students with research experiences both in the classroom and in our labs,” Lindgren says. “I am pleased we are getting recognition for this and am especially gratified to see how much this means to our students, several of whom took the time and effort write letters of support.”

In addition, Lindgren also recently received the Society for Neuroscience’s Award for Education in Neuroscience, which recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to neuroscience education and training. 

His nomination was supported by a group of more than 120 Grinnell neuroscience alumni, led by Megan Hagenauer ’03, an assistant research scientist in neuroinformatics at the University of Michigan.

Mark Levandoski Mark Levandoski

Levandoski, a chemistry professor, was awarded a National Science Foundation Re-Entry to Active Research program grant of $123,674 to help him reengage in his academic research after a four-year period serving as one of the College’s associate deans and interim registrar.

The grant will help support Levandoski’s travel to the lab of Stockholm University professor Erik Lindahl, a Swedish neuroscience collaborator. Grinnell students also will benefit from being able to work with Levandoski in his campus research lab, and from his introduction of cutting-edge techniques like computational modeling into his biophysical chemistry course.

Levandoski’s research expertise focuses on the molecular pharmacology of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, which play a key role in nicotine addiction as well as neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and attention disorders.

“I am thrilled by this opportunity to launch a new direction in my research program, to involve students directly in addressing important scientific research questions, and to foster international collaboration,” Levandoski said.

Chemistry Faculty

Andy Mobley, chemistry professor; Erick Leggans ’05, associate professor; Leslie Lyons, Luther and Jenny Erickson Professor of Chemistry; Molly MacInnes, assistant professor; and Steve Sieck, associate professor.
Andy Mobley, Erick Leggans ’05, Leslie Lyons, Molly MacInnes, and Steve Sieck.

Andy Mobley, chemistry professor; Erick Leggans ’05, associate professor; Leslie Lyons, Luther and Jenny Erickson Professor of Chemistry; Molly MacInnes, assistant professor; and Steve Sieck, associate professor, were awarded a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Grant of $399,990 to partially underwrite the cost of a new 400MHz NMR spectrometer.

Mobley also received a $200,000 grant by the Roy J. Carver Trust to use toward the spectrometer, allowing the College to replace a heavily used instrument that has reached the end of its lifespan. A spectrometer is an instrument used for measuring wavelengths of light spectra. Purchasing a new one will support improved pedagogy and faculty-student research in the chemistry and biological chemistry disciplines. 

As part of the Carver grant, Mobley will collaborate with Vanessa Preast, associate director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, to assess how students’ competency with using the instrument evolves as they make their way through the curriculum. 

Eric Ohrn ‘07Eric Ohrn ’07

Ohrn, an associate professor of economics, received a $15,000 grant from the International Tax Policy Forum, along with his project partners Daniel G. Garrett (Penn) and Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato (Duke). 

Their project examines the impact of several international tax provisions on employment and total earnings of U.S.-based workers, allowing them to empirically investigate whether these tax provisions negatively impact labor demand and earnings in the U.S. by decreasing the costs of foreign production as is often feared. The goal of this research is to better inform the design of optimal international tax systems. 


Fredo Rivera ’06Fredo Rivera ’06

Rivera, an assistant professor of art history, received a WaveMaker incubator grant of $6,000 from Locust Projects, Miami’s longest running nonprofit alternative art space. 

Rivera and collaborator Julian Montalvo’s project, “island bound: an exercise in decolonizing drag,” entails a collaborative performance involving sculptural installation that explores decoloniality and queer resistance in the context of Puerto Rico. The project draws upon a wide range of sources, including historical archives, cartography, the built environment, soundscapes, and contemporary visual cultures of the “postcolonial colony.”

Jani SpringerJani Springer

Springer, assistant athletic director for diversity, equity, inclusion, and student success, received a grant from the NCAA’s Ethnic Minorities and Women’s Internship Grant program. This grant is designed to provide financial assistance to schools and conferences that are committed to enhancing ethnic minority and gender representation in entry-level administrative positions in intercollegiate athletics.

At Grinnell, the grant allowed the athletics department to hire an assistant fitness and wellness coordinator. Brooke Brown will focus on developing wellness programming, assist with strength/conditioning/fitness programing for student-athletes, and collaborate on the management of the fitness center.

This program is designed to create entry-level positions that help people from groups underrepresented in athletics administration to develop as future leaders in the field. Brown will receive mentoring and training from Grinnell colleagues and through external networks.

— by Jeremy Shapiro

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