Immediate Impact

Assistant Professor of Russian Alyssa DeBlasio and Assitant Professor of English Claire Seiler recently were awarded prestigious grants, highlighting the achievements of Dickinson's early-career faculty members.

Assistant Professor of Russian Alyssa DeBlasio (left) and Assistant Professor of English Claire Seiler recently were awarded prestigious grants, highlighting the achievements of Dickinson's early-career faculty members. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Junior faculty members bring home prestigious grants

by Tony Moore

It’s always nice to hear about someone joining an organization and making his or her mark right away. Maybe it’s a baseball player hitting a home run in his first game. Maybe a first-term congresswoman helps pass a groundbreaking bill. 

Dickinson’s current roster of grant, fellowship and award recipients is impressive, and it's also notable for its new impact players—early-career faculty members who have hit the ground running.

“These grants underline the high quality of Dickinson’s junior faculty and more,” says Neil Weissman, provost and dean of the college. “They confirm the college’s competitiveness in the academic job market when it comes to recruiting. And they validate our claim that our faculty are excellent in both the classroom and research. We are a place where the ‘teacher-scholar’ model truly works.”

First up is Assistant Professor of English Claire Seiler, who recently was awarded two fellowships: a $40,000 postdoctoral fellowship in poetics at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University and an American Academy of Arts & Sciences fellowship through its Visiting Scholars Program. The latter award provides full-year sabbatical support via a grant amounting to half her salary, and Seiler will use the fellowship to finish her first book, Midcentury Suspension. The work offers a new literary history of the decade following World War II that goes beyond the dominant examinations of modernism and postmodernism. She’ll also begin work on a new book, which will examine the politics of generational thinking at specific moments in English-language poetics from 1914 through 2014.

“What links these two projects is their attention to the inconspicuous terms that govern literary and cultural criticism,” Seiler says. “ ‘Midcentury’ and ‘generation’ are terms that we often don’t think too hard about. They seem self-explanatory, but as students who have taken my Poetry of the Mad Men Era or Generational courses can tell you, such terms often end up doing our critical thinking for us.”

Alyssa DeBlasio, assistant professor of Russian, recently received three awards to advance her sabbatical efforts: from the American Philosophical Society ($6,000), the American Council of Learned Societies ($35,000) and the Humanities Center at the University of Pittsburgh ($50,000). Like Seiler, DeBlasio is finishing her fourth year at Dickinson and will use the grants to finish a book, hers on the transition of Russian philosophical thought from the immediate post-Soviet period (1990s) through the first decade of the Putin era (2000s). She too will start a new book, which explores the influence of Soviet philosophy on a new generation of Russian art-house filmmakers.

“Both of these projects bridge my three academic loves—Russia, philosophy and film,” she says. “And thanks to the grants I received, I'm now in the very lucky position of having the flexibility to travel to Moscow for archival research next year, if that's where my new project takes me.”

Rebecca Connor and a student perform research tasks

Finally, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Rebecca Connor (pictured above with student researcher Myungsun Shin '14) rounds out the group, receiving a Single-Investigator Cottrell College Science Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. The Cottrell is an early-career grant aimed at helping faculty members launch “active research programs targeting complex scientific problems.” The award encourages collaborative work with undergraduate researchers, and Connor, who is in her fourth year at Dickinson, will use the $35,000 grant toward a summer student-faculty research project called Investigation of the Effects of Parthenolide on the Heat Shock Response System.  

"This award will enable me to work with undergraduates in my research lab for the next two summers and will allow us to extend my research into different aspects of the toxicology of potential chemotherapeutic natural products," Connor says. "We will be studying how such natural products impact stress response systems in cancer cells."

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Published Apr. 23, 2014