About Magnus the Good Collaborative Fellowships

The “Magnus the Good” endowed fund, established by friends of the former Paracollege, supports a series of awards to encourage student-faculty collaborations in academic research, or in exploration of innovative applications of learning.

Established in 2003, the fund honors several important values of the college, including (1) that faculty and students learn well when they collaborate in one-on-one partnerships for research and/or reflection, and (2) that students learn well through having opportunities to apply and extend classroom learning.

Thus, the fund supports projects that provide opportunities for collaborative work between students and faculty, and that situate the proposed project in the context of the student’s interests and work, and also in the context of the faculty member’s interests and work.

Project awards have been made for the 2020-2021 academic year. Each year, a Call for Proposals is sent out to students and faculty in November, with a request for notification of intent to apply by the end the semester. Deadline for applications is in mid-February. For additional information, see also Advice for Applicants.

The 2020-2021 Magnus the Good Collaborative Fellowships

Ruby Erickson '21, Rehanna Kheshgi (Music)
Material, Intangible, and Embodied Histories: Building a Foundation for Collaborative Research with the Somali Museum of Minnesota

This project will focus on developing research priorities related to the history and contemporary practice of Somali music and dance in collaboration with the Somali Museum of Minnesota. While many research studies focus on Somali residents of Minnesota and their interactions with longer-term residents, none examine the role of the performing arts in their lives, even though there is ample anecdotal evidence of the importance of music and dance among Somali communities. This project aims to assist curators at the Somali Museum in introducing more performing arts content into their exhibit space. It will contribute to the recording and documentation of oral histories from Somali performers in the Twin Cities in collaboration with Museum staff, expanding the online collection of the Minnesota Historical Society and making these histories available to the public. This project will also support the Museum’s outreach activities related to the Somali Museum Dance Troupe and other performance-oriented events such as the annual Museum Anniversary Celebration. Additionally, this research provides opportunities for interdisciplinary inquiry by bringing together methods and expertise from a variety of fields including Ethnomusicology, Dance, Theater, History, Museum Studies, African Studies, Anthropology, and Political Science. Finally, this project aims to build bridges between the college and other organizations in the Twin Cities, Northfield, and Faribault, in order to advance discussions about immigration through the performing arts in our local communities from a variety of perspectives. This project contributes to the development of applied ethnomusicology through its methodology; adds to scholarly knowledge on Somali music and dance, especially in a diasporic context; and offers a pedagogical model for other ethnomusicologists and performance-focused researchers to follow.

Anne Berry, Bridget Draxler (Writing, CAAS), Victoria Gutierrez Pereira '21, Manuela Novoa Villada '21
Balancing “Correctness” with “Voice” for Linguistically Diverse Writers: Training Modules for Inclusive Writing Support

Our writing, even when the content is not personal in nature, is always a deep expression of who we are, where we come from, and what we value. As a result, talking with students about sentence-level concerns is a high-stakes endeavor. On the one hand, we risk committing microaggressions by “correcting” non-standard language use, and on the other, we risk reinforcing hierarchies of power if we don’t provide access to information about dominant language conventions. This project will rely on the scholarship of writing center studies, composition pedagogy, and inclusive teaching, along with institutional data and our individual experiences as students, tutors, staff, and faculty of writing to design three hour-long training modules on inclusive sentence-level writing support.

Mobin Hedayati '21, Ka Wong (Asian Studies)
From Camp to Campus: Asian Refugee Background Students and Higher Education in Minnesota

This collaborative and interdisciplinary project aims to produce online pedagogical tools for educators whose work intersects with refugee learners’ lives and schooling. Foreign-born residents from Asia have been Minnesota’s largest immigrant group since 1990, of which the refugee population is a significant part. What do refugees and children of refugees need in order to succeed in U.S. schools? What are the hurdles on their paths to higher education? What can be done to help refugee students overcome these impediments? These critical questions inform and inspire this ethnographic project. The outcome will take the form of a web-based pedagogical handbook to support teachers and others who are interested in refugee education. The task entails field work and interviews (with students, educators, and scholars), cultural and educational studies analysis, as well as digital presentation and publication, in the hope of offering meaningful stories and practical assistances for pedagogues to identify the needs of and obstacles to education for refugee background students, and the interventions for success.

Lisa Bowers (Biology), Erin NewRingeisin '22
SCAVENGERS! How a pond organism scavenges for heavy metal ions (And how we might use it to clean up metal contamination

Caulobacter crescentus (Fig. 1) is a free-living species of bacteria that lives in low-nutrient aquatic environments such as lakes and ponds. It’s an efficient scavenger with highly-tuned mechanisms to take up scarce nutrients from its environment. How does Caulobacter do this?

These bacteria have an unusually large set of proteins on their cell surface that use energy to transport specific nutrients into the cell. So far, only 5 of the 65 transporters in Caulobacter have been studied. What are the other 60 transporters doing?

Members of the Bowers Lab have been working to identify which transporters take up essential metals. The 7 heavy metals essential for life are iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdate, nickel, and zinc. Although essential, these same metals can also be toxic when their levels are too high. Knowing how bacteria scavenge for these metals may one day lead to new bioremediation strategies that use biological organisms to clean up environments contaminated with these metals.

We have preliminary evidence that some of these receptors are regulated by cobalt, molybdate, or nickel. These metals are necessary for life in small amounts so in a metal-free environment, cells make more copies of these transporters by “turning on” these genes. When there is plenty of cobalt, molybdate, or nickel in the environment, cells shut off these transporter genes. The Bowers Lab has expertise in accurately measuring gene expression and we have seen how individual metal concentrations affect the expression of these genes. However, this is only the first step!

In order to definitively say what these transporters are doing, we will need to genetically delete the genes for these transporters and then test the cell’s ability to take up the metals without the transporters. Once we determine what these transporters are transporting, we will then construct strains that are “super transporters” of these metals. These strains will make many more of the transporters and could be useful for removing these metals from the environment.

Synneva Bratland '22, Kari Lie Dorer (Norwegian), Patricia (Tyga) Kinsumbya '23, Kristian Noll '21
Linguistic Termbase from Translation Extraction

One exciting new development in the intersection of language and technology is the use of Translation Extraction Tools (TET), which is a type of Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tool for terminology management. This is the process of collecting, defining, translating, and storing terms. These tools aide in managing terminology properly in the translation process in order to improve the quality and efficiency of a translation. While human translators are essential, many companies today require their translators to use some kind of CAT tool, and TETs are quickly becoming one of the most important. Through use of these tools, one is able to reduce duplicate work, the amount of time spent, and errors and inconsistencies, etc. The opportunity to explore these tools in a mentored environment allows students to explore the field of translation while also utilizing their Norwegian language knowledge in a meaningful way.
We intend to use three weeks during summer 2020 to first experiment with several TETs and then to generate a working project termbase for a translation from Norwegian to English of a book entitled Fru Muus’ klage (Mrs. Muus’ Grievance). This will involve experimenting with several platforms, with both single word and multiple word entries. Kari has received permission to translate the book and to use students as a part of the translation process. Once we have generated the terms to be used, the students’ role will be to further narrow the term definition, context and usage. This will also involve some research with legal and religious documents that were written during the legal proceedings that are described in the book. Finally, we will use the termbase to translate a draft of a small portion of the book so the students will be able to see how the termbase is utilized and the value it has. The termbase will then be utilized as a reference for the translation of the book which will begin in earnest in fall 2020.
Alden Adolph (Physics), Kavya Devgun '21, Elvis Haisa '21
Determining Controls on Snow Albedo Evolution in Minnesota

Snow plays a crucial role in the climate system because its high reflectivity influences global temperatures. This property is called albedo, the fraction of sunlight reflected off of a surface. There are many factors that influence snow albedo, and subsequently, snow temperature and the rate of snow melt. These factors include snow grain size, the concentration of impurities in a snow sample, the density of the snow, and the depth of a snow pack. Because of the role of snow albedo in regulating temperature, we seek to understand the dominant controls on albedo and the evolution of snow over time. In this project, we will finalize the development of instrumentation, data collection, and analysis techniques to measure impurity content in snow and snow optical grain size. Combining these methods with existing procedures to monitor snow albedo and other snow properties, we will conduct field measurements in the St. Olaf Natural Lands in the Winter of 2021. We will characterize the snowpack evolution in the days after snowfall events and during the transition to spring. Our results will improve our understanding of how physical characteristics, such as grain size and impurity content, impact the albedo of the snow in Minnesota and beyond. Conclusions from this work will support scientists’ efforts to refine the representation of snow in regional and global climate modeling to form a more accurate picture of our changing climate.