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NMSU professors presented with Manasse awards to fund individual projects

Six professors from New Mexico State University's College of Arts and Sciences will have the opportunity to fund projects in their areas of interest, thanks to funding from the S.P. Manasse and Margaret Manasse Endowed Fund.

The recipients of this year's Manasse Endowed Fund Award are John B. Wright from the Department of Geography; Harriet Linkin from the Department of English; Jerry Ann Alt from the Department of Music; Peter Houde from the Department of Biology; James Ni from the Department of Physics; and Laura A. Thompson from the Department of Psychology.

"The Manasse awards were given to six eminent scholars who are actively engaged in scholarship, exhibit outstanding teaching and research and have excelled and shown leadership in their discipline," Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Kenneth Van Winkle said.

For professor John B. Wright, the award will make it possible to complete his book "Last Map of the West," which looks at the five major cultural groups of the Western landscape, how they view land and how they think it should be used. Through his research and personal experience, Wright will present a balanced view of Native Americans, Hispanics, Mormons, ranchers and environmentalists' issues on land conservation.

"Each group's issues are different and they each have views on freedoms, preservation and conservation. I hope I can do justice in honoring each story and point of view," Wright said. "This award really allows me to focus on this book. Given the caliber of nominees, I was pleasantly surprised and humbled to learn I had received this award."

The award given to professor Laura A. Thompson also will contribute to a book, along with a monograph, both based on research she has conducted over the last three years.

This summer, Thompson is devoting her time to writing a 250-page research monograph that examines how babies respond to stress systems and how they affect their ability to learn and remember. This examines mother-infant interactions and how that aspect affects learning patterns over time by measuring the coritsol activity during experimental sessions.

While she works on the monograph and collects additional research articles, Thompson is hoping to begin writing a book next summer that would put together the research in a much broader scope.

"I was thrilled and honored to receive this award," Thompson said. "It really gives me time to allow my mind to gather and organize what is necessary for this project. I hope that my writing will make a contribution to other researchers and students."

Professor Houde is the Principal Investigator of NMSU's core Genome Sequencing Laboratory. The funding he is receiving will be used to complete the genome sequencing of the South American hoatzin, a bird unique for its clawed wings and ruminant digestive system.

Houde is using the Manasse award to leverage additional funds from the Beijing Genome Institute, Duke University and the Smithsonian Institution to collaboratively complete this project.

"The Manasse award will fill a gap in the discretionary funds the laboratory lacks to explore new technologies, as the project will be completed using alternative technologies that NMSU currently does not have," Houde said. "This will test the efficacy and complementarity of new infrastructure that NMSU may want to acquire. I'm overwhelmed to receive the Manasse award because of the unique opportunity we have at this particular moment in time, to complete right here at NMSU, one of the only bird genome projects ever undertaken."

Professor Jerry Alt will use the funds from her award to pay faculty expenses for an NMSU Institute in Rome this summer. A choir group will attend this institute and be in residency at St. Paul's Inside the Walls, the first Protestant cathedral built inside the Roman walls. The two-week residency will culminate in two performances of the Bach B-Minor Mass.

"I was delighted to hear that I had won the award because I had been working on the project for more than a year and needed additional funding to move forward," Alt said. "I found out I had received the award just a few minutes before our last concert of the season and I literally jumped for joy!"

Mary Tighe is recognized as one of the most prominent women poets who wrote during the Romantic era of British literary history. Surprisingly however, her published work is very limited. Professor Harriet Linkin has been writing about her work for 15 years. While conducting research on a novel by Tighe at the National Library of Ireland, Linkin discovered two handwritten, illustrated manuscripts that Tighe completed in 1805 that include 64 poems that never were published. Funds from the Manasse award will allow Linkin to create a hypertext edition to share with the world.

"When the librarians brought these manuscripts out of the archives my eyes nearly popped out of my head; it's a stunning find," Linkin said. "I was thrilled to get this award, not so much for myself as for Mary Tighe, the writer whose work I will be bringing to the public through the award. The timing couldn't be more appropriate-this year is the bicentennial anniversary of the posthumous publication of her poetry collection, 'Psyche with Other Poems.'"

For a research team consisting of members from the University of Missouri at Columbia; Stanford University; Cornell University; Cambridge University; GFZ Potsdam, Germany; Beijing University and NMSU, phone calls and conference calls are insufficient for the research they have been conducting over the last three years, which is why professor James Ni will be using funding from his Manasse award to extend their study of the Tibetan plateau and travel between him and his collaborators.

"The northeastern boundary of the Tibetan Plateau is a new focus of contemporary debate concerning continental plateau formation as an intercontinental response to collision forces from the northward advancing Indian continent," Ni said. "Recent geological studies and limited geophysical measurements in this region have been cited to argue that uplift is due to internal imbricate 'stacking' of Asian crust while Asian continental lithosphere is being detached and 'subducted' into the underlying mantle."

The group is aiming to test key elements in the hypothesis to explain this with an integrated, focused program of geophysical surveys across three key segments of the northeastern plateau boundary zone.

"The main geophysical study will consist of imaging 3-D velocity structures of the northeastern Tibetan Plateau," Ni said. "Over the last three years we have collected extensive new seismic data in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau under a funding from the Continental Dynamic Program, National Science Foundation."