Decolonizing the Bancroft Library

Mark Johnson : Anthropology

Mentor: Jun Sunseri, Anthropology

Throughout the 1900s Berkeley Anthropologists documented the ethnographic information of many Native Californian tribes for fear that their lifeways and languages were soon to become extinct in the wake of the burgeoning United States. The Bancroft Library is now steward of these ethnographic collections. While the public institution is responsible to make the collections available to all without bias, one Native Californian community has protested that open access to these collections leaves their community vulnerable to multiple dangers such as misrepresentation in academic articles and potential looting of the sacred sites described therein. Mark’s research seeks to discover how public access to these ethnographic collections impacts the descendant communities and asks who has the right to access the ethnographic information of these Native Californian tribes? 

Care Not Cages: Reformist Mental Health Jail Expansion in California

Susan Kim : Geography, Global Poverty and Practice minor

Mentor: Victoria Robinson, Ethnic Studies and American Cultures

As the historic prison boom of the past thirty years comes to a halt in California, a nascent jailr boom has snuck onto the scene. Forty out of fifty-eight counties in California are in various stages of building or renovating jails, the most pronounced characteristic among these new jail projects being their emphasis on mental health treatment.  Susan will conduct secondary and archival research, interviews with various stakeholders, and observation of political events concerning jail expansion and mental health to investigate the political, economic, and social forces facilitating the newest expression of carceral expansion in California— the mental health jail. Her investigation comes during a unique window of opportunity to shift mental health and criminal justice policy due to declining incarceration and increased public enthusiasm for community-based alternatives to incarceration.   

Investigating Autism Spectrum Disorder Etiology Using CRISPR/Cas9 Genome Editing in Xenopus Tropicalis

Albert Kim : Microbial Biology

Mentor: Richard Harland, Molecular & Cell Biology

It is not yet known what causes autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on a molecular level, but recently, 65 ASD risk genes have been identified by a lab at UCSF. Albert is focusing on one of these genes, called Neurexin 1. He will be using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to knock out Nrxn1 in Xenopus tropicalis frogs and observing the phenotypic effects, such as increases and reductions in cell proliferation and differentiation as well as changes in regulation of other neural genes. Albert’s goal is to illuminate the roles of this gene in healthy neurodevelopment to gain insight into how a mutation can lead to ASD. This research project will develop the groundwork for investigating other autism genes, taking us closer to defining the molecular biological etiology of ASD. 

High Inequality, Low Creativity? Examining the Effects of Income Inequality on Regulatory Focus

Heather Kornblum : Psychology

Mentor: Serena Chen, Psychology

Income inequality is associated with deleterious economic, social, and health outcomes. These negative effects disproportionately affect the poor, but surface across all strata of society. Regulatory focus – being promotion or prevention focused – is the psychological mechanism that may account for these effects. Promotion focus involves living life through a lens of what one stands to gain, while prevention focus entails living life through a lens of what one stands to lose. Heather will examine income inequality’s effect on regulatory focus, shedding light on one psychological mechanism underlying the negative effects of inequality. Heather will conduct two studies; first examining the correlation between income inequality and regulatory focus on the macro level, and then, using an experimental design, examining the effect of income inequality on regulatory focus on the micro level.

The Permissibility of Using Coercion in Pediatric Healthcare

Diana Lutfi : Interdisciplinary Studies

Diana Lutfi Scholar in Action photo
Mentor: Jodi Halpern, Joint Medical Program, Public Health

Why is causing “harm” ethically justifiable? Diana has always been perplexed that a rational individual would compromise his/her bodily comfort in order to prolong life and create a culture where other people are forced to do the same for the sake of “health”. Although patient autonomy is legally protected in western healthcare institutions, individuals that are considered “minors” are not afforded these same autonomy rights. They are, instead, given rights of protection of best interest. This, however, can often create a dilemma when healthcare providers and legal guardians disagree about what constitutes the minor’s best interest. In her research, Diana will use qualitative analysis to examine this dilemma from the social, legal, and ethical standpoints of vaccine and chemotherapy refusals. 

#BlackGirlsMatterToo: Understanding and Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline Among Black Girls

Shelby Mack : Legal Studies, Education minor

Mentor: Nikki Jones, African American Studies

Black girls are disproportionately impacted by school discipline policies and practices that render them vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and dehumanization. It has been shown in multiple studies that Black girls who are suspended or expelled are more likely to become incarcerated later. Shelby Mack’s research seeks to identify factors such as school discipline, criminalization and gender violence in order to understand how enrichment programs can disrupt the school to prison pipeline epidemic among Black girls in Oakland, CA. Her research will employ in-depth interviewing, purposive sampling and non-participant observation of Black girls who are a part of the African American Girls and Young Women Achievement Program (AAGYWA), and Black girls who are not a part of the program at West Oakland Middle School.

Projecting the Self: An Exploration of the Stakes of Metafiction in Ben Lerner’s 10:04 Within Realist Contemporary Literature

Sergio Mendez : English, Creative Writing minor

Mentor: Lyn Hejinian, English

Metafiction, or fiction that is aware of its own artificiality, is often dismissed as gimmicky postmodern narrative pyrotechnics—a narratological gamble for any writer wishing to be taken seriously. Ben Lerner’s latest acclaimed novel, 10:04, asks its readers to reconsider the value of metafiction as it follows a protagonist named Ben who tries to expand a successful short story into a novel. Sergio will be using literary theory and critical analysis in order to uncover what Lerner’s use of metafiction says about contemporary literature, but also how this style of narrative creates an emotional connection with readers. Sergio will also be writing his first novel: a metafictional account of Sergio, a Cal undergraduate who faces the difficulties and anxieties of being a “DACAmented” student during a xenophobic presidential administration.

Understanding Land and Value: the Cost and Benefits of the Oxford Tract in an Ecological Economics Framework

Allegra Saggese : Environmental Economics and Policy and Rhetoric

Mentor: Alastair Iles, Environmental Science, Policy & Management

Land serves as the primary source of energy in the world. UC Berkeley’s Oxford Tract is currently under consideration for development from a student garden and research facility to a student housing project. Allegra will create and subsequently critique a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed project versus its current use, bringing forward underlying assumptions which justify costs and benefits that both connect and avoid the relationships land use has to greater ecological systems and constraints. Comparing traditional techniques for economic and financial modeling deployed in land development with ecologically nested models of the economy, Allegra will drive towards defining value and its determination in the case of land use. She hopes to identify tensions between current economic methodology and ecological conceptions of value. 

Perceived Fairness of Death-Eligible Court Rulings in Triadic Racial Conditions

Brandon Shalchi : Interdisciplinary Studies

Mentor: Coye Cheshire, School of Information

Empirically, when there is a black defendant and white victim, U.S. judges and jurors believe the defendant to be guiltier than he/she actually is. Brandon is exploring how we can manipulate the race of the defendant and victim in death-eligible cases to hinder the onset of racially charged, implicit biases within court rulings. The methodologies used are online surveys via Amazon Mechanical Turk and semi-structured interviews. This is a first step in a larger virtual reality research agenda: how virtual reality could manipulate avatars—in terms of race—of the defendant and victim to counteract racially implicit biases. This research could contribute to more just rulings by identifying which racial manipulation is perceived to be the fairest. 

Motor Control in a Changing Environment

Alissa Stover : Psychology

Mentor: Richard Ivry, Psychology

Elucidating how organisms are able to flexibly move about in dynamically changing environments is a fundamental problem in psychology and neuroscience. Imagine a ballerina practicing in front of warped mirrors: her brain must continually recalibrate the motor commands sent to move the body based on sensory feedback. In this context, there is a mismatch between the distorted visual feedback from the mirror and her internal sense of body position (proprioception). Alissa will conduct a series of experiments that examine how sensorimotor recalibration occurs when there is a mismatch between proprioception and vision. This information should contribute to our understanding of how the brain controls movement, allowing us to produce skilled actions, as well as provide insights that can be used for the rehabilitation of movement disorders. 

Role of Motor Inhibition in Forced Reaction Time Tasks

Jeremy Teman : Applied Mathematics

Mentor: Richard Ivry, Psychology

Activities like driving demand the ability to respond quickly and accurately to changes in one’s environment. A fundamental scientific question concerns what neural processes determine response time (RT). A widely held assumption is that RT represents the aggregate time required to generate an accurate movement. However, recent research suggests that humans can be forced to accurately produce movements more rapidly than their fastest voluntary RTs. Inhibition of the motor system is known to be involved in motor planning processes during the performance of voluntary RT tasks, which raises the question: is motor inhibition absent during non-voluntary RT tasks? Jeremy aims to answer this question using non-invasive brain stimulation while participants perform RT tasks to record brain activity related to the presence, or absence, of motor inhibition.

Ancient Graffiti and Emulation of Moche Religious Wall Paintings

Gabriella Wellons : History of Art

Mentor: Lisa Trever, History of Art

In the Moche culture of ancient Peru (ca. 250–850 CE), graffiti markings have been discovered on the mural walls of the Huaca de la Luna archaeological site, a former Moche religious center in the Moche Valley of Peru. On spontaneous occasions of ancient graffiti, incised figural forms often emulate pre-existing imageries on painted murals and sculpted reliefs. Gabriella is using reconstructive software for rendering high fidelity photographs of individual graffito into 3D photogrammetric models. This procedure is advantageous for graffiti incisions, which are difficult to visualize in their standard 2D representations. This research project extends beyond canonical studies of Moche visual culture in acknowledging the agency of the graffiti-makers, as well as the constraints under which these individuals created pictographic images.

Beyond the Weird: A Cultural Analysis of the album Sailing the Seas of Cheese by Primus

Matthew Willett : American studies

Mentor: Scott Saul, English

American popular music went through a bohemian renaissance in the early 1990s. Major record labels were signing musicians who played unconventional music, and there was an American audience hungry for these new sounds. Matt will be analyzing the 1991 album Sailing the Seas of Cheese by the Bay Area band Primus in order to understand how the Bay Area art and counterculture communities influenced this acceptance of the “weird” during this time period. This album was a unique and innovative piece of art that merged groove and in your face satire. It had a genre and lyrical weirdness that represented a uniquely regional sensibility. Matt’s work intends to fill out a history of Bay Area bohemian culture, providing an evolution of these movements that continued beyond the stereotypical 1960s. 

Perceiving is Believing: Impact of Partner Perceptions of Emotion Regulation in Romantic Relationships

Grace Allison Scholar in Action photo

Grace Allison : Psychology major, Public Policy minor

Mentor: Iris Mauss, Psychology

Emotion regulation is the process by which individuals manage their emotions. A robust set of findings suggests that certain emotion regulation strategies promote well-being whereas others undermine well-being. This project will utilize romantic relationships as the social context in which to examine the effects of various emotion regulation strategies. Work related to this topic has either not considered partner perceptions or has relied on experimental paradigms that have low ecological validity. To address these limitations, Grace Allison will utilize surveys and observed relationship-specific conversations between couples to assess partner perceptions of emotion regulation and relationship quality. Enhanced understanding of adaptive and maladaptive strategies between romantic partners could have implications for life and relationship satisfaction, as well as therapy interventions. She will also compare effects across Western and Eastern cultural contexts.

Gendering Migration: Haitian Experiences from Brazil to Mexico

Celene Bolaños Scholar in Action photo

Celene Bolaños : Development Studies and Latin American Literatures majors, Food Systems minor

Mentor: Claudia Carr, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

The recent economic recession and political turmoil in Brazil has driven over half of Brazil’s Haitian migrant population northbound towards the United States. This wave of over 50,000 Haitians has been met by tightening immigration policies from both the United States and Mexico, making the journey more difficult and dangerous and transforming Mexico into a country of destination. This flow of Haitian refugees is overwhelmingly male, despite the fact that women account for nearly half of the global migrant and refugee population. I hypothesize that gender and race are fundamental in understanding migration, as they determine different opportunities, risks and vulnerabilities faced in transit and upon arrival. This research seeks to understand how gender, race and class intersect and shape every stage of the migration process.

The Effect of CD44 and Src Kinases on the Aggressive Motility Present in Glioblastoma

Caleb Choy Scholar in Action photo

Caleb Choy : Molecular & Cell Biology - Neurobiology major

Mentor: Sanjay Kumar, Bioengineering

Glioblastoma is the most common, malignant primary brain tumor with a median survival time of fifteen months. Single tumor cells escape surgical resection and become resistant to radiation and chemotherapy by spreading into microenvironments that support viability. Caleb is focusing on two specific proteins: CD44 (a cell-surface glycoprotein that directly links with the cell cytoskeleton) and Src kinase (involved in the upregulation of signaling pathways)—both of which promote the tumor’s invasion. CD44 interacts with Src activity to control actin proteins that form microfilaments fundamental to cell shape, division, and motility. Caleb is determining whether CD44-mediated invasion (through direct linkage to the cytoskeleton) or Src kinase signaling is more fundamental to glioblastoma, an essential question toward deriving future therapies. Ex vivo experimentation will uncover the importance of this CD44-Src complex.

Labor Organization within the Stripping Industry

Raven Deverux Scholar in Action photo

Raven Deverux : Sociology major, Public Policy minor

Mentor: Mary Kelsey, Sociology

Research suggests collective bargaining improves the unionized worker's wages and working conditions, in addition to those of non-union status in the same field. Despite the organizing successes of San Francisco's Lusty Lady, neither working conditions nor take home earnings for Bay Area strippers improved overall. How do these particular workers secure a better working environment and basic labor rights? This ethnographic study will utilize mixed-methods to analyze possibilities for collective action within this industry. Utilizing a comparative analysis of two cases labor organization, Raven will travel to New York to study current organization efforts and conduct an historical analysis of the successes of efforts at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco. This research intends to provide insight into the possibilities for collective organization within the ever-growing body of contract workers.

Phase Coexistence in Multiferroic BiFeO3

Dan Ferenc Segedin Scholar in Action photo

Dan Ferenc Segedin : Physics major

Mentor: Ramamoorthy Ramesh

In many materials, the application of an electric field leads to a separation of positive and negative charges, inducing a “polarization” in the material. In ferroelectrics, such a polarization exists in the material without the application of an external field. Analogously, the alignment of electron spins in ferromagnetic materials results in a magnetic polarization in the absence of an external magnetic field. Bismuth ferrite (BiFeO3) is a rare material in which both of these states exist at room temperature and are coupled: applying an external electric field can switch the magnetization and vice-versa. Using pulsed laser deposition, Dan will synthesize ultrathin films of BiFeO3 and aims to demonstrate reversible switching between the material’s structural ground states; functionality that has the potential to be used in next-generation low-power memory storage devices.

Exploring Opiate Abuse in Rural Communities

Rebecca Forbes Scholar in Action photo

Rebecca Forbes : American Studies major

Mentor: Nathan Sayre, Geography

Rebecca grew up in a small town and watched the rural drug scourge destroy the young lives in her community. Now, she is using her Berkeley education to understand this phenomenon. This summer she will be traveling to rural Tuolumne County, California to do ethnographic fieldwork exploring how community attachment impacts rural youth opioid abuse. To explore this, she will be conducting a series of in-depth interviews; she will be interviewing recovering opioid addicts and public service officials. Her goal is to gain a deep understanding about why the young use drugs—particularly opioids—at such pervasive rates in small towns. She hopes to use this information for theory development and to continue building on this project in graduate school. She is committed to advocating for rural communities.

The Experiences of Transfronterizo Students in the Tijuana/San Diego Region

Lissa Garcia Scholar in Action photo

Lissa Garcia : Ethnic Studies major, Education minor

Mentor: Christina Mora, Sociology

Lissa grew up in Chula Vista, California, where many are transfronterizos, students and workers who live in Mexico but commute to the U.S almost daily. Nancy Wonders advances the theory of border performativity where she argues borders are not only geographically constituted, but also socially constructed via the “performance of various state actors in an elaborate dance with ordinary people who seek freedom of movement and identification.” Thus, border performativity points to different technologies of control such as the social construction of the ‘illegal’ and the ‘securitisation of migration’. Lissa’s research seeks to understand how transfronterizo students engage in border performativity. She will center how transfronterizos give meaning to their every day realities through in-depth interviews that focus on the interpretations and experiences of these students as border commuters.

West Berkeley Shellmound, A New Perspective

Ariadna González Aguilera Scholar in Action photo

Ariadna González Aguilera : Anthropology major

Mentor: Kent Lightfoot, Anthropology

Ariadna’s research project will focus on the West Berkeley Shellmound, an ancient village site that was once situated on the San Francisco Bay shoreline in Berkeley, California. Her thesis is directed toward understanding how Native American societies interacted with their environment during the last 5000 years. Research will be conducted on animal remains from the shellmound, using curated materials excavated in the early and mid-twentieth century, to understand ancient fisheries and fishing practices. Archaeological analyses of fisheries can contribute to historical baseline data relevant for conservation biology, restoration ecology, and fisheries management. As historical survey of fishes occurred after impacts to the bay, archaeological data will provide a source of historical information to understand the structure, range, and relative abundance of ancient fishes that can inform contemporary fisheries management.

Cultural Memory through Cold War Relics in the Bay Area

Sebastian Herics Scholar in Action photo

Sebastian Herics : American Studies major

Mentor: Margaretta Lovell, History of Art

Elven anti-air Nike Missile Sites ringed San Francisco in a line of atomic protection, poised for launch at Soviet bombers that never came from 1950 to 1974. Only Nike Missile site SF-88 has been preserved in a coat of fresh paint that crowds of the curious have toured since 1974 in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Sebastian Herics will be tracing the cultural memory of the Cold War by comparing Nike missile sites, both preserved and left to ruin, through the eyes of the military, the city of San Francisco, and various social movements in the Bay—What does it mean to have Cold War memories both preserved and left to crumble? He will be flying to Washington D.C. for various military archives.

Solution Processable Point-of-care Optoelectronic Device for Procalcitonin Sensing

Jasmine Jan Scholar in Action photo

Jasmine Jan : Bioengineering major, Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences minor

Mentor: Ana Arias, Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences

One focus of point-of-care devices is to improve accessibility of essential diagnostic tools by utilizing miniaturized, accurate and low-cost optical systems. Printed organic optoelectronics are one such technology that have the potential to improve the optical sensing schemes of these systems. Because organic optoelectronics are processed in solution, they can be easily scaled for large-area manufacturing and roll-to-roll processing, leading to low-production costs. Jasmine aims to design a point-of-care device utilizing printed optoelectronics for fluorescent biomarker sensing and demonstrate the efficacy of this system on procalcitonin, which has been shown to be a useful biomarker for managing antibacterial treatment. Her goal is to demonstrate the use of printed optoelectronics for point-of-care applications as a cheap alternative to current optical sensing systems

Investigating Magnetic Order in Metal Selenophosphates FePSe3 and NiPSe3

Caolan John Scholar in Action photo

Caolan John : Physics major

Mentor: James Analytis, Physics

Since last decade’s discovery of graphene, scientists have searched for its magnetic cousin: a magnetic material that can be cleaved down to a single monolayer thickness. One relatively little-studied family of suitable materials is the transition metal selenophosphates, a class of layered, van der Waals-bonded semiconductor materials. Caolan aims to synthesize single crystals of two members of this family, FePSe3 and NiPSe3, in order to perform magnetization measurements in an effort to understand the role of selenium in determining the direction of magnetic ordering. These materials are exciting candidates for both fundamental research in understanding low-dimensional magnetism and magnetoelectronic device applications such as high density ultrafast magnetic storage.

A High-Throughput Microfluidic Device for Single Cell Isolation and Analysis

Andre Lai Scholar in Action photo

Andre Lai : Bioengineering major, Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences minor

Mentor: Aaron Streets, Bioengineering

Characterizing the relationship between every cell type is necessary for understanding the human body and advancing human medicine. One major technological hurdle involves the ability to isolate, manipulate, and analyze individual cells in a high-throughput fashion. Existing methods are plagued by low cell capture efficiency and limited user control. For his project, Andre aims to design, fabricate, and test a novel microfluidic device that will address these limitations. He will achieve this by incorporating a multiplex design with layered architecture and integrated elastomeric valves to enable complete isolation, imaging, and processing of single cells from any given sample. This technology will be critical for studies of rare or precious tissue samples and will contribute vitally to the larger biomedical research effort to catalog and study every cell in the human body.

A Social History of Jordanian Communities During World War I

Mathew Madain Scholar in Action photo

Mathew Madain : History, Global Studies, and Near Eastern Studies majors

Mentor: Maria Mavroudi, History and Classics

The centennial anniversary of World War I has generated much scholarship on large-scale atrocities against religious minority communities of the Ottoman Empire. However, historiography on the period has neglected to discuss smaller-scale religious violence that also occurred in Ottoman provinces, most notably against the Christian communities of Transjordan (1914-1916). Mathew will travel to modern-day Jordan to conduct archival research and to gather oral histories, in order to produce a narrative of the traumatic events experienced by the Christian communities of Ottoman Transjordan during the Great War. This project will further explore Christian-Muslim intercommunal relations during the Great War Period to evaluate whether community bonds prevented larger-scale atrocities. This project provides a case study that explores the adverse effects of war on the security of religious minorities in the Middle East.

Berta Vive: A Look at the Engagement of California Hondureñas in the Politics of Slain Environmental Activist Berta Caceres

Lulu Matute Scholar in Action photo

Lulu Matute : American Studies major

Mentor: Victoria Robinson, Comparative Ethnic Studies

Hundreds of environmental activists have been killed for defending land and natural resources in Honduras. Although Berta Cáceres was one of many slain activists, she is the most renowned globally. This is largely due to her transnational coalition-building efforts and Goldman Environmental Prize recognition. Berta was an outspoken Indigenous Lenca leader and a feminist who advocated for indigenous land tenure. She spoke out against government corruption, the 2009 military coup d'état, and U.S. interests in the country. Lulu will conduct ethnographic interviews with Honduran women living in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, California to explore transnational feminist engagement in the politics of Berta Cáceres. Her work aims to elevate a California-based movement against the ongoing repression of land defenders, as well as the privatization and militarization of post-2009-coup Honduras.

Blossoming in Knowledge Through Understanding Suppressed Roots

Andrea Ramirez : Sociology major, Chicana/o Studies minor

Mentor: David Harding, Sociology

Previous scholarship on the topic of ethnic studies programs implementation in K-12 institutions has shown that there’s been educational benefits for students who participate in the courses.In San Francisco, the implementation of ethnic studies courses in the high schools resulted in documented grade improvement, and higher education retention rates. For my research project, I will focus on George Washington High in San Francisco to better understand the processes that allowed for students to obtain higher grades, and how the curriculum influences the students’ relationship to academics. By 2019, all CA public high schools will be required to offer ethnic studies courses.My research project will lead to a greater understanding of the possible impacts of this new legislation on youth in public high schools in California.

Searching For Higher Mass Axions Using a Seven-rod Microwave Cavity

Nicholas Rapidis Scholar in Action photo

Nicholas Rapidis : Physics major

Mentor: Karl van Bibber, Nuclear Engineering

While the Standard Model of Particle Physics has been a nearly perfect model for explaining particle interactions, it has two major flaws: its inability to fix the Strong CP Problem and its failure to explain the existence of Dark Matter. To address these issues simultaneously, a new particle, the axion, has been theorized and experimental efforts to detect it are currently under way. Nicholas will devise an experimental setup that will search for axions at higher masses than those accessed by previous experiments. These particular masses have been of interest since several theoretical results have advocated for axions in this mass range. A discovery of the axion would profoundly change the field of fundamental physics, providing scientists with new methods to search for physics beyond the Standard Model.

Latinas in Watsonville, Mass Incarceration, and the Effectiveness of Prison Writing Projects

Nancy Guadalupe Rubio Scholar in Action photo

Nancy Guadalupe Rubio : Chicana/o Studies major

Mentor: Victoria Robinson, Comparative Ethnic Studies

Nancy’s project will address the silences of rural Latina narratives about intrapersonal and structural violence. She will explore what happens when writing coalitions are built between incarcerated women and rural Latinas who are system impacted and at risk of incarceration. Over the summer, Nancy will interview prison writing project activists and formerly incarcerated people to learn about the effects of these projects. She will analyze writings by incarcerated women, emphasizing themes related to autonomy, resilience, and self-narration. In the fall, she will facilitate writing workshops with system impacted Latinas at Renaissance High School in Watsonville, California. By doing so, she seeks to understand the specific narratives that incarcerated and system impacted Latinas have in rural communities and how community based efforts can further meet their needs. 

Identification of Neural Circuits Coordinating Sleep and Cardiovascular Regulation

Mohammad Saffari Doost Scholar in Action photo

Mohammad Saffari Doost : Integrative Biology major

Mentor: Yang Dan, Molecular & Cell Biology

Sleep is essential for human health. In particular, insufficient or low-quality sleep causes higher risks for cardiovascular diseases. Mammals exhibit distinct rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep, and non-REM sleep is associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure. However, how neural circuits coordinate sleep and heart functions remains unclear. The nucleus ambiguus (Amb), located deep in the medulla, contains cardioinhibitory cholinergic neurons. Activating Amb neurons decreases the heart rate. Mohammad will identify the sleep neurons that activate Amb cholinergic neurons using virus-mediated retrograde tracing. He will also test whether optogenetically activating these sleep neurons can decrease the heart rate. This study will uncover the neural mechanism coordinating sleep and heart functions and potentially lead to therapeutics for sleep and cardiovascular disorders.

Silent No More: Giving Voice to the Women of Etruria

Micaela Shonafelt Scholar in Action photo

Micaela Shonafelt : Classical Civilizations major

Mentor: Lisa Pieraccini, History of Art

The unique visibility of Etruscan women has garnered great interest among scholars of Etruscology. That said, the status of these women in the 4th -1st century BCE, a period that witnessed the waning of Etruscan identity in the shadow of the emerging Roman Empire, has not yet been a major focus of study. Working to enhance our conception of the changing roles of women in Southern Etruria as they became assimilated into the patriarchal gender hierarchy of the Roman Republic, Micaela will be traveling to Rome to closely analyze the archaeological evidence from this transitional period, housed primarily in the Villa Guilia Museum. Her work will shed further light on these women in hopes of reaching a more complete understanding of the ancient foundations of our present conceptions of gender.

Fighting to Not Be Forgotten: 25 Years of Femicides in Ciudad Juárez

Raúl Varela Scholar in Action photo

Raúl Varela : Anthropology major

Mentor: Raymond Telles, Ethnic Studies

In 1993 a wave of disappearances and murders of women living in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México made news around the world. Twenty-five years later, thousands of these cases of innocent victims have not been resolved. Raúl proposes to create an ethnographic documentary film as part of his Anthropology honors thesis and explore why it’s important for the mothers of the disappeared women to keep the memory and identity of their daughters alive. He will film in Ciudad Juárez in-depth interviews with activists, scholars, journalists, and most importantly, with the mothers of the victims. Raúl’s film will expose through video, photography, and animation, the palpable pain of tragic loss, and the memory and beauty of these young women banished from a place where all hope is lost.