Lexomics Research Group receives third grant for summer research

The Lexomics Research Group at Wheaton has received its third grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This year’s grant totals $60,000 and will allow the group to continue using computational techniques to detect discrepancies in digitized literary texts.

The group’s webpage describes ‘lexomics’ as the computer-assisted detection of words in genomes. Their tools will segment texts, count the number of times each word appears, and build diagrams to show relationships between segments. This software will detect similarities and differences in digitized writing to help identify authorship and to better understand the works as a whole.

The group itself is comprised of enthusiastic faculty and students. “[We are] a collaboration of professors and students from computer science and English who are building a web-based app to help ease the entry to computational text analysis,” said Professor of Computer Science, Mark LeBlanc. “[We are also] exploring a wide range of questions on texts from multiple genres and time periods.”

This grant money was awarded to the Lexomics Research Group after the previous year’s had been exhausted. The National Endowment for the Humanities approves only 11% of projects and the Wheaton group was relieved to hear that their grant application was one of them.

“As a prior grant finished a year ago, we knew we had more ideas that were worth funding, so we applied again,” LeBlanc said. “This is our third NEH grant. We hope we were chosen because our peer reviewers see potential in us.” This summer, the group will focus on researching ways to aid other academics to use their software and findings constructively.

“On this particular grant, the money funds the three faculty members on the project in the summer,” LeBlanc said, “ [it also is] funding for dissemination of and workshops for scholars who want to use our web-based tool, Lexos, in their research and/or teaching.”

LeBlanc also explained that merit scholarships would help students collaborate on the research this summer. “With Wheaton summer research funding and Wheaton merit scholarships, four students will work in the software group as well as a rich group of language scholars,” LeBlanc said.

Overall, the Lexomics Research Group is continuing to grow as both a valuable and unique contribution to literary analysis as well as a more functional group. “In a way, we are like a small start-up company,” LeBlanc said. “We have a core of smart people, high energy, a good lab and [other] collaboration spaces, and coffee. It is going to be a wonderful summer.”