In the world of the mind, Professor of Biology Joan Slonczewski has traveled hither and yon in her many science fiction novels.
This fall, Slonczewski will be voyaging to the end of the Earth — literally.
With help from the Robert A. Oden Jr. Professorship, Slonczewski will be heading to Antarctica in November to research how algae and protists (a diverse group of one-celled organisms) impact and are impacted by climate change.
“So what the support will do is, it will enable me to sequence the DNA of the microbes that we find,” Slonczewski said, “so my spring microbiology class students will be able to study the chromosomes of these Antarctic microbes that I bring back.”
Founded in 2000, the Oden professorship — held by one professor for five years — recognizes faculty whose work is a potential game-changer in its field. The professorship provides funds equally between research and course development, for which Slonczewski will enlist students to explore classes for health careers.
Slonczewski will travel to Antarctica with a small team of scientists, including her host researcher, Rachael Morgan-Kiss, an associate professor at the Miami University Department of Microbiology.
“She wrote a grant for another expedition, which, if funded, would enable a Kenyon student to go the following year,” Slonczewski said. “I’m hoping that this travel to Antarctica will end up generating opportunities for Kenyon students to also experience Antarctica.”
And it’s not an easy experience to have. “It’s actually quite challenging to get to go to Antarctica, because the continent is subject to international regulation,” said Slonczewski, who had to seek approval from the National Science Foundation. Slonczewski will also have to undergo training for a week in New Zealand before she lands on Antarctica — a place she describes as “perhaps the nearest thing to another planet that we would find on Earth.”
By Henri Gendreau ’16