Drew Cressman and Karen Rader Awarded National Science Foundation Grants

Two Sarah Lawrence College faculty members, Drew Cressman and Karen Rader, have been awarded prestigious National Science Foundation Grants. Cressman's grant will be used to study a cellular protein crucial in the regulation of the human immune response. Rader's award will fund research exploring the historical relationship between academic and public understandings of science. Both awards will strengthen the study of science at the College.

Cressman's award of $271,391 will commence in October 2002 and continue for 36 months. Awarded a Research at Undergraduate Institutions Grant, Cressman will investigate the critical role Class II Transactivator (CIITA) protein plays in the immune response in normal individuals. Babies lacking the cellular protein suffer from bare lymphocyte syndrome and cannot survive without a bone marrow transplant. Using sophisticated molecular biology techniques, Cressman's project will examine how the protein is regulated in cells. In a larger context, Cressman's work will facilitate a deeper understanding of the immune response, contributing to work on HIV and other immune system diseases.

The award will help Cressman equip and develop a molecular biology laboratory at Sarah Lawrence College, strengthening the study of science by making hands-on biological research a central part of the science curriculum. Individual students and teams will work on particular aspects of the project through undergraduate courses and summer internships. Cressman says the Sarah Lawrence College conference system, in which students meet individually with faculty members is ideally suited to supporting undergraduate biology research.

The recipient of an Irvington Institute fellowship for biomedical research, Cressman has long been engaged in studying the molecular basis of gene regulation and expression. He has already completed work on CIITA.

Awarded a $307,000 five-year Career Award, Karen Rader's research project is aimed at understanding both how the public perception of science shapes the practice of scientific research, and how cutting-edge scientific research is communicated to the public. Career grants, which are highly competitive, are awarded to new faculty members who are most likely to become academic leaders in the future. Rader holds the Marilyn Simpson Chair for Science and Society at Sarah Lawrence.

Rader's project will study how life science displays in museums have changed from dioramas to interactive exhibitions, as a means of illuminating developments in biology. This will provide an historical perspective on science museums and curatorial practices, an important means by which the public is exposed to the life sciences. Rader says her work seeks to cultivate meaningful exchanges between scientists and the general public through public talks and the publication of her research findings.

Rader's award will facilitate the development of two new courses for students, which will help them to engage with the biological sciences by studying them in historical perspective. As part of the research project, students will have the opportunity to conduct fieldwork at local science museums. The grant will also fund a lecture series entitled “The Meaning of Public Science,” open to the public, which will bring notable local and national scholars, artists and scientists to the Sarah Lawrence College campus in 2003-2004 and 2006-2007.

A recipient of an NSF grant for an earlier work, Rader's first book, Making Mice: Standardizing Animals for American Biomedical Research, 1900-1965, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. Rader is also the recipient of a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship.