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Investigator Spotlights

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Dartmouth researchers were awarded $8.7 million during December, including $5.5 million in new and competing awards. Here, VOX spotlights some of the investigators and their work.

Mary Albert, visiting professor of engineering sciences

albertNational Science Foundation 
Collaborative Project: Ice Drilling Program Office

What: The Ice Drilling Program Office (IDPO), an activity of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs, will be based at Thayer School of Engineering, with Albert as director.

Why: Ice samples extracted from polar ice are natural archives of recent and past climate change and provide crucial data for scientists who study the earth's climate and atmosphere. "With climate change upon us now," says Albert, "it is more important than ever to help the NSF with productive international planning and coordination of ice coring endeavors and to oversee technology development needed to advance the frontiers of science."

Joint effort: Dartmouth, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Ice Drilling Design and Operations Group, and the University of New Hampshire are collaborating on the IDPO.

Laura Flashman, associate professor of psychiatry

flashmanUniversity of Iowa
Neurobiological Predictors of Huntington’s Disease (PREDICT-HD)

What: This study looks to develop ways for Huntington's Disease researchers to correlate diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data gathered from magnetic resonance scanners at multiple sites. It also sets out to establish DTI protocols that will eventually be used to identify brain changes that take place over time in pre-Huntington's Disease.

Moving forward: "The project builds on previous and current work of Dartmouth's Brain Imaging Laboratory," says Flashman. "It involves us in state-of-the-art development of neuroimaging methodologies that can be used across different scanners."

Teamwork: Jane Paulsen of the University of Iowa is the grant's principal investigator. "My collaborators within the Brain Imaging Laboratory at Dartmouth include professors Thomas McAllister, Heather Wishart, Robert Roth, and Art Maerlender. We also work with many other investigators in psychiatry, neurology, neurosurgery, molecular pathology, and bioinformatics," she says.

Alan Gustman, the Loren M. Berry Professor of Economics

gustmanUniversity of Michigan
How Do Pension Changes Affect Retirement Preparedness?

What: "This project is analyzing how changes in Social Security and in pensions-including the increasing use of defined contribution plans instead of the defined benefit type-have affected the retirement preparedness of households who are nearing retirement age, especially in view of the recent financial downturn," says Gustman.

Going further: The project builds on decades of work by Gustman and his colleagues on the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a survey funded by the National Institute on Aging and based at the University of Michigan. "It is the most important source of data on retirement in the United States," he says.

Collaborators: In particular, Gustman cites Nahid Tabatabai of Dartmouth and Thomas Steinmeier of Texas Tech University.

Todd Heatherton, professor of psychological and brain sciences and the Champion International Professor in Honor of Andrew C. Sigler

heathertonNational Institute of Mental Health
Functional Anatomic Studies of Interpersonal Rejection

What: "This research uses functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to examine the brain mechanisms involved in responding to interpersonal distress, such as when people feel socially isolated or rejected," says Heatherton, the grant's principal investigator. "We also plan to study individual differences in how people respond to interpersonal distress and how it affects cognition, emotion, and behavior."

Teamwork: "Collaborators on this project include psychological and brain sciences Professors Bill Kelley, Paul Whalen, and Catherine Norris, as well as postdoctoral fellow Katherine Demos and graduate students Dylan Wagner and Andrew Addessi. This line of research originated with an undergraduate honors thesis conducted in my lab. Since then, many Dartmouth undergraduate and graduate students have conducted research on this topic with me."

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 1/30/09