Whittier College News Release
Office of Public Relations
June 2, 2003
Whittier College Awarded $305,000 in New Grants
Whittier College has received three grants totaling $305,000. Glenn Piner, associate professor of physics, will receive $100,000 from the National Science Foundation and $40,000 from Research Corporation to fund research on quasars, the luminous areas surrounding very massive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the college $165,000 to restructure three study programs to create the new major International and Cross-Cultural Studies.
According to Piner, quasars are among the most energetic single objects in the universe. “The matter and energy released by quasars can be in unusual forms compared to matter and energy on Earth,” Piner said. “Because these objects are so energetic, they are of fundamental interest to physicists studying the behavior of matter under extreme conditions.”
Piner’s study centers on analysis of the copious amounts of radio waves emitted by quasars, using a nationwide network of radio telescopes known as the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to receive the radio waves emitted by quasars. The data is recorded on computer tape by VLBA technicians and then sent to Whittier for analysis on physics department computers. The goal is to use the radio telescope data to infer the physical conditions in quasars close to the central black hole, Piner said.
The grants are funding two sets of observations: a large survey of several hundred quasars being analyzed in collaboration with the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., and a series of intensive observations of a few of the most energetic quasars, which are being analyzed in collaboration with the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences in Tokyo. The grants will pay 10 undergraduate students employed as summer research assistants on both projects over the next five years, in addition to purchasing the fast computers and associated equipment required for the data analysis.
The International and Cross-Cultural Studies major will evolve from the revision and restructuring of International Studies, Comparative Cultures and the Area Studies programs, according to Joyce Kaufman, professor of political science and director of the Whittier Scholars Program. The grant was awarded under the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program (Title VI) of the U.S. Department of Education.
The new, interdisciplinary major will provide a more substantive and coherent educational experience for Whittier students and give greater support to faculty involved in the program, Kaufman said. “With this funding, we propose to build on the facets of existing majors that we have identified as successful,” she said, “and to augment them with new components to ensure that educational and intellectual coherence and rigor are built into the ICS major. Once implemented, this major will become a model for interdisciplinary study on the Whittier College campus and, we believe, for other colleges as well.”
Along with funding a new position in Chinese in the Department of Modern Languages, the grant will aid in the creation of a common core of courses that will
introduce students to the issues, paradigms and approaches to the course of study,
including a capstone seminar and a study abroad component.
“The result will be a major that will improve undergraduate instruction in the areas of international and cross-cultural studies as well as foreign language,” Kaufman said.
Located 18 miles east of Los Angeles, Whittier College is an independent, four-year college offering traditional liberal arts majors and strong pre-professional programs taught in the context of the liberal arts. Whittier Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools, is located on a separate campus in Costa Mesa.
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