Curses, Invocations? An Investigation into the Medical Ethnobotany of the Kosovo Roma

In remote Kosovo camps and villages, Roma are isolated from government-run medicine, relying on their own traditions for common sickness. Conversations with Kosovo Roma and field experts indicate some Roma are practicing traditional medicine undocumented in scientific literature. Sina will travel to Kosovo, distributing questionnaires and engaging in interviews with Roma folk to understand which plants are used in healing, and how they are used. There is little academic literature on Roma – mostly on history and music – and less in scientific journals. Sina’s hope is that this project will bring to the surface centuries of old medical modality and will also widen the scope of research done on Roma, in part by creating links of trust between Roma and science. With permission, a paper will be submitted for publication.

...Read More about Sina Akhavan
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Handedness and Happiness: The Interaction Between Hand Dominance and Emotion Processing

There is a wealth of literature documenting the asymmetric role of the two cerebral hemispheres in different aspects of cognition. Although this has been most exhaustively studied with respect to language and spatial cognition, robust laterality effects are also present in emotion. Experiments performed on right-handed subjects associate the left hemisphere with approach-based behavior and positive emotional states and the right hemisphere with withdrawal and negative emotions. Right-handers, along similar lines, are quicker to respond to stimuli of positive valence when they are presented on the right side of space and to negative stimuli when on the left. Left-handers, however, show the opposite pattern. Geoff will compare the neurophysiology of affective processing in right- and left-handers in order to determine whether or not this behavioral result is neurologically substantiated.

...Read More about Geoffrey Brookshire
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Reading Colonial Overtones in British Orientalist Art of Cairo via Arabic Text and Islamic Design

While Orientalism in French art has been extensively studied, its relevance to British art has received less attention. Jaimee seeks to fill this void by analyzing British paintings of Egypt during the colonial age. Her study involves face-to-face visits to the actual Cairene monuments and to their illustrated counterparts in English institutions. It will investigate the inclusion of Arabic script and details of Islamic art within select paintings as to determine cultural sensitivity or ignorance given the political climate. She anticipates that as time and cultural contacts progress, the art signals a shift in social relations that hybridizes East and West, with increased attention to understanding the Other. The result will combine Orientalism, Islamic art and architecture, and the Arabic language by evaluating their confluence within British Orientalist paintings.

...Read More about Jaimee Comstock-Skipp
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Engineering Escherichia coli for Production of Alternative Fuels

A renewable energy source is becoming a necessity as fossil fuel reserves dwindle. Using microbial fermentation processes, it is possible to harvest plant biomass and convert it into second-generation fuels. Current industrial focus has been placed on ethanol production. However, this compound is not ideally suited for a liquid fuel replacement. A biochemical pathway has been expressed in Escherichia coli that produces 1-butanol, a much more suitable fuel source in terms of both transportation ease and energy density. Experiments have shown that the pathway is active, but there is a bottleneck in the last enzymatic step. Kyle’s project centers on elucidating the molecular aspects of this bottleneck in biochemical detail and resolving it to increase 1-butanol production.

...Read More about Kyle Dunbar
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Painting the Present as History: Gustave Courbet's Burial at Ornans and the Revolution of 1848

Sonia Fleury’s project will primarily address notions of history and its construction in art and contemporary cultural media–newspapers, magazines, and political/popular prints–during the 1848 revolution in France. Receiving special attention will be the artwork of the 19th century realist painter Gustave Courbet, whose Burial at Ornans challenged traditional notions of history painting in its depiction of provincial bourgeois at a funeral. Does Courbet’s assertion that history painting is by its very nature contemporary parallel broader shifts in conceptions of history during this radical revolutionary moment, whereby history was seen as residing in the present? Sonia will travel to France to visit archives in Paris; to the Muse de lImage in Epinal; and to Montpellier, where the largest retrospective exhibit of Courbet’s work in thirty years is currently displayed.

...Read More about Sonia Fleury
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Characterization of DNA Damage Repair in Myogenic Precursors

Muscle stem cells, or satellite cells, are located in muscle fibers and are responsible for muscle repair in mammals throughout adult life. As individuals age, the capability of satellite cells to repair muscle dramatically declines. The loss of such capabilities can be related to the host environment, in that extracellular niches provided by old hosts hamper their ability to regenerate muscle, regardless of the origin of the cells themselves. Say Tar hypothesizes that this can, at least in part, be linked to their reduced ability to repair DNA in an unfavorable extracellular environment generated by the host. He will try to draw this potential link by characterizing DNA damage repair ability in muscle stem cells, subjecting them to various culture environments, derived from differently aged animals and different stress conditions

...Read More about Say Tar Goh
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Youth Reintegration in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone

Throughout the Sierra Leone conflict, many girls and young women are abducted and sexually abused. The result of the abuse and suffering is often pregnancy. Especially after the end of civil war in 2002, young mothers who return to their communities confront social stigmatization. This has had marginalizing effects for both mothers and their children. Eva Holt-Rusmore’s research will address the effects of community stigmatization on the children of young mothers. Ethnographic observation of these children’s lives through participation in a Freetown school, as well as informal interviews with individuals and their mothers will provide insight into the construction of post-conflict community and peace reconciliation. Additionally, various development workers and field experts will be consulted in order to bridge information gaps between policy, academia and the reality of childhood in Sierra Leone.

...Read More about Evarosa Holt-Rusmore
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Steric Constraints on Anthrax Toxin Translocation

Although protein translocations across cellular membranes are vitally significant, the biophysical mechanisms underlying such processes remain obscure. Nevertheless, methods exist for studying translocation processes. In particular, anthrax toxins movement across cellular membranes provides a model for studying general translocation mechanisms. Allen’s specific interest lies in elucidating the steric effects that particularly bulky, hydrophobic amino acid side-chains have on anthrax toxins translocation. By investigating translocation rates of anthrax toxin, Allen hopes to provide a deeper understanding of the toxins mechanism for cell entry. In addition, this study may provide implications for our overall understanding of the mechanisms that hinder protein translocation across membranes, perhaps leading to insight into the synthesis of effective counter-toxin drugs.

...Read More about Allen Kwong
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Development of Time-Resolving Magnetometers with Single-Spin Sensitivity

The field of quantum mechanics has produced many technological breakthroughs including the MRI scanner and Scanning Tunneling Microscope. However, probing the dynamics of particles such as electrons, which are best described by quantum mechanics, on a reasonable time scale has been a long term challenge. James Lee’s project aims to manipulate and measure the spin of electrons on a microsecond timescale. This will be accomplished through the Single Bohr Magneton Detector (SBD) project, under development in the Quantum Nano Lab at UC Berkeley. The SBD is a superconducting device that aims to efficiently couple to the magnetic field from a single spin. The ability to quickly measure small numbers of spins will enhance physicists understanding of quantum systems, and perhaps be a foundation for the building of novel quantum systems.

...Read More about James Jung Lee
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Development of a Memory Selection Device for Engineering Bacteria

In order for synthetic biology to overcome the limitations of using only naturally-derived biological activities, tools for developing and identifying engineered genetic components with desired biochemical, enzymatic, or regulatory properties are greatly needed. Samantha is building a genetic threshold-gated memory selection circuit incorporating positive/negative selections and an irreversible Cre recombinase excision circuit in the E.coli genome. With this device, bacteria will exist in one of two mutually exclusive antibiotic-resistant states depending on whether or not they exhibit a desired activity, and Cre recombinase expression will serve as the switch between the positive and negative states. Linking desired activities to Cre expression will allow for efficient selection of new promoters and proteins, making this genetic selection device a valuable foundational technology with a wide variety of applications in genetic engineering.

...Read More about Samantha Liang
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Object Recognition by Contour Extraction

Current Bio: Since graduation, Joseph completed his PhD at MIT and postdoc at Stanford. He started a tenure-track faculty career at the University of Southern California, and is leading the Cognitive Learning for Vision and Robotics (CLVR) lab. He works on teaching robots to learn and solve complex physical tasks, such as furniture assembly. Haas Scholars Project: Object recognition is a major unsolved problem in Computer Vision. The main goal is for computers to detect and to recognize objects in the given images and videos. In this project, contours will be used as a new descriptor. “Contours” are defined as sets of segments that can provide more information than just a single segment or a random set of segments. In the past, not much work has been done using contours, because extracting contours from images was a difficult task. However, with a much improved contour extraction method developed in the […]

...Read More about Joseph J. Lim
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Development of New Genetic Techniques for Studying Photosynthesis in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

In his project, Jason intends to examine the possibility of site-targeting or HR in the PSY gene of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii a unicellular alga and a model organism for studying photosynthesis. He will generate mutant populations through transformations with a plasmid containing a defective copy of the PSY gene and will then screen for successful gene-disruption by selecting for a white phenotype and antibiotic resistance. Further experiments will examine the locus of recombination, enabling design of new plasmids to target mutagenesis of other genes for an efficient and cost-effective method of identifying new genes involved in photosynthesis. Successful targeting of the PSY gene as a test case can lead to development of a new screening strategy for Chlamydomonas a major advance that creates new possibilities for genetics research on photosynthesis.

...Read More about Mingen (Jason) Liu
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Using Markov Chain Monte Carlo with People to Classify Facial Affect

Cognitive science aims to understand how people represent the structure of the world around them. Faces are thought to be windows to some of these representations, namely emotions, which are related to facial expressions biologically and culturally. Labeling expressions is a seemingly effortless task for people, but explaining the subtleties is much more complicated. Jay’s study will help develop a method to systematically explore the scope of different categories of affect, and to explore the correlation between subtle facial movements and the perception of emotion. With sophisticated facial animation software and an algorithm from statistical physics, he hopes to learn to categorize different facial affects through a subject-driven variation of the Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm. The results of this study will be compared to other contemporary visual categorization techniques.

...Read More about Jay Martin
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Families and Frontier Boys: An Archaeology of Consumerism and Identity Construction in a mid-20th Century California Community

Through archaeological analysis of a dump in Northern California used by the wealthy, Anglo-American ranch family of Joe Coney and related households in the 1940s-60s, Jessica will investigate how patterns of consumerism, as shown by artifacts, negotiate with class, gender, and race, along with regional consumer styles. She plans to spend her summer researching curated documentary records, archival data, and museum collections, as well as working with a site informant who lived on the ranch and is now, interestingly, an archaeologist. Jessica believes that through an analysis of the Coney’s material culture, she may connect their lives to period popular culture that affected the construction of household identity and further understand the relationship between national marketing strategies and regional consumer behavior.

...Read More about Jessica Merizan
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8-Bit Teardrops: A History of Melodrama in Video Games

Often understood as a film genre, melodrama is more accurately understood as a particular mode of expression which is actually highly prevalent in most forms of Western mass media. In his paper, Kyle will be addressing melodrama’s existence in video games. Focusing on narrative, design, and gameplay, Kyle will be taking an historical approach at analyzing how melodrama’s varying forms of integration in video games have changed over time and why this is important to how games are played. Through reading video game literature, interviewing game theorists and developers, and playing an exorbitant amount of games, Kyle hopes to unite film genre and video game studies and explore how a misunderstood mode of expression and an overlooked medium transform one another.

...Read More about Kyle Rentschler

Rejection Sensitivity and Gratitude

Research on rejection sensitivity, the anxious expectation of and hostility to perceived rejection, has focused on mapping its possible causes and negative consequences. Positive emotion research, though, has revealed gratitude’s tendency to foster positive affect and pro-social behavior. Nicholas plans to examine the efficacy of gratitude in reducing negative aspects of rejection sensitivity while increasing positive emotions and behaviors within close relationships. In study 1, high rejection sensitive people will daily express gratitude in writing for the behavior of loved ones for two weeks. In study 2, high rejection sensitive people will be tested to see if gratitude reduces rejection-primed anxiety.

...Read More about A. Nicholas Santascoy
Social Science

The Scarves of Choice: Headscarf Discrimination and Economic Development in Turkey

Legislation banning the Islamic headscarf in Turkish universities has caused a political and social uproar over the last two decades, but the effect of the spillover of politics into women’s private lives has often been overlooked. Mehmet will research the extent of the discrimination against women who wear the Islamic headscarf in the Turkish labor-market and, if it exists, the effect of this discrimination on the career choices of female university graduates. Mehmet will examine the class and religious inequality that discrimination may be creating, how the headscarf affects the Turkish economy, and the effects of this legislation on educational outcomes. For this project, Mehmet will survey university students in Istanbul, and will use created identities to experimentally apply for jobs to test for discrimination.

...Read More about Mehmet Seflek
Social Science

The MeKong River (Song Me Kong)

The most valuable possession is a person’s life. This is a statement in Dang Thy Trms memoir, Last Night I Dreamed of Peace. Seryna Hanh Thai will be creating a documentary on the Vietnam War and her direct relation to it. Having two brothers who fought on different sides of the conflict gives Seryna a unique and untold perspective of a national conflict that shaped the history of her family and her native country. However, instead of creating a standard documentary-style approach, the lasting impression of works by Rea Tajiri, Dorothea Lange, and Chris Marker have convinced Seryna to tackle her subject with an avant-garde visual style. Interviews with immediate family members, the narrative of Dang’s diary and historical images will be woven together to better understand the inevitable trauma of warfare.

...Read More about Seryna Thai

Beyond Holding Up the Sky: Beijing Women in the Era of the Olympic Games

Based on Lijia’s travels in China in summer 2008, she composed a collection of three chapters of prose poems intercut with verse as cultural narratives of gender, reanimated as myths of Chinese history and femininity situated onto an invented milieu, the neither/nor setting of contemporary China hosting a global event. The first chapter, (public airing), seeks deconstructed understandings of this setting beyond the partial, i.e. incomplete, privileged, and relentlessly deferred by emerging phenomena. The second chapter responds to a French feminist discourse on criture fminine, particularly a fascination with how the gendered body affliates itself with particular forms of writing. The third chapter will serve as a glossary for touring the other chapters. This collection hopes to incorporate the reader into a transnational project of creating a feminine text, in which textual gaps mediate a readerly reworking of the text, sutured to the reader through endlessly permutating subject positions attending […]

...Read More about Lijia Xie

Moral Responsibility and Determinism

On one hand, determinism claims the necessity of physical laws, together with the state of the universe at any moment, entails that what happens next must happen. On the other hand, when a person acts wrongly and gets blamed for his action, we seem to presuppose that he could have acted differently. Does determinism, or the objective view of science in general, threaten the notion of moral responsibility? Is our practice of holding people responsible ultimately unjustifiable? Incompatibilists say yes; compatibilists say no. In the summer of 2008, Tony will dive right into the gripping debate between these two camps of thought, in the hope of offering some fresh insights on this age-old philosophical inquiry..

...Read More about Pei (Tony) Zhao