Still Marked? Criminal Record, Education, Race, and Employment in the Era of Mass Incarceration

Michael Cerda-Jara : Sociology

Mentor: David Harding, Sociology

Michael’s research investigates the role of higher education in employment prospects for people with criminal records. In 2018, Michael successfully executed an experimental audit study of job application callbacks for college-educated applicants with or without criminal records, which surprisingly, found no difference between the two. However, this still leaves unanswered whether the applicant’s race, or timing of the attainment of the college degree affect the number of callbacks. For Michael’s Haas Scholars project, continuing to focus on college-educated men, he will add these variables to his prior audit research design.  He will then carry out qualitative interviews to clarify the mechanisms that play a role in employment prospects, the experiences and stigmas job applicants with a criminal record encounter, and the strategies they employ to manage this in their employment search.

Not Just Words: Effects of Negative News Portrayals of Latinxs on Farmworker Stress

Sydney Garcia : Psychology, Gender & Women's Studies Minor

Mentor: Dacher Keltner, Psychology

Everyone experiences stress to varying degrees. Past scholarship has connected awareness of the news to stress while linking stress to adverse mental and physical health outcomes. Given that minority groups are significantly overrepresented in news relating to criminal activity, and news coverage under the Trump Administration has increased negative depictions of immigrants, Sydney will travel to California’s Central Valley to investigate the impacts of such coverage on Latinx farmworkers. She will use daily diary methodology to uncover the relationship between daily self-reported awareness of the news, stress levels, emotions, and social support. Results will contribute to the broader literature and public understanding of the effects of news media on stress and overall mental health.

World-Making Potentiality in the Spatialization of the Quotidian

Rafael Yamir Gómez-Carrasco : Cognitive Science, Ethnic Studies

Mentor: Raúl Coronado, Ethnic Studies

Rafael extends José Muñoz’s queer utopian hermeneutic by synthesizing it with Henri Lefebvre’s theories of the quotidian and spatialization. Muñoz’s method of analysis provides a framework for understanding minoritarian performance of futurity— practices and embodiments of a world that should be. However, his analysis only briefly engages with everyday space and does not fully investigate how it performs futurity. After developing a Lefebvrian tuned queer utopian hermeneutic through literary analysis, Rafael will study urban New York City to understand how the quotidian is transformed into space, and the potential for that space to practice and imagine processes of a future world. They will investigate the performativity of public space, both alone and through its interaction with the general public.

Food, Culture, and Peace in Israel

Voulette Hattar : Ethnic Studies, Public Policy Minor

Mentor: Keith Feldman, Ethnic Studies

 

Caged: The Rising Use of Prison and Jail for Women's Mental Health Care

Jamie Hein : Interdisciplinary Studies Field

Mentor: Victoria Robinson, Ethnic Studies and American Cultures

Between 1977 and 2016, the U.S. women’s imprisonment rate increased over 800%. In California, while the rate of men’s incarceration has decreased over the past decade, the number of prisoners who suffer from mental illness has risen significantly. It is imperative to explore these numbers as they pertain to women’s institutions, and to understand why racial and ethnic minority women with mental illness and substance abuse issues are more likely to be channeled into prison and jail than treatment programming. By carrying out archival research and interviews in Chowchilla, CA and the Bay Area, Jamie will examine the relationship between the dissolution of psychiatric institutions/asylums, the development of community mental health systems that were supposed to replace them, and increased women’s incarceration rates in California from the 1950s - present.

Effective Prison to School Pipeline

Angela Laureano : African American Studies, Public Policy Minor

Mentor: Amy Lerman, Public Policy

Angela’s research will analyze the institutional and personal barriers affecting formerly incarcerated people trying to pursue higher education. This study will highlight their personal narratives, as they attempt to overcome structural barriers. Previous qualitative research on formerly incarcerated people who  participate in prison college programs reveals that having access to education support is crucial for their involvement in higher education post-release. Scholars, however, call for more research looking at the effects of these academic programs in prison and their impact on participants once released. Through qualitative interviews with formerly incarcerated people, Angela’s study will address why some formerly incarcerated people do not pursue a higher education, and for those that do attend college, what resources impact their ability to graduate.

The Forgotten Afro-Mexicans: Independence and the Role of Women (1800-1830)

Lupita Lúa : History

Mentor: Margaret Chowning, History

In 2015, Afro-Mexicans were recognized as an ethnic group in the Mexican national census for the first time in history. However, their history continues to be suppressed by the state and few studies address the role that Afro-Mexican people, especially women,  played during Mexico’s struggle for independence. For her History senior thesis, Lupita will travel to Mexico to conduct archival research in order to understand to what extent African-descendant peoples were active participants in the independence movement, and in what ways Afro-Mexican women embraced or resisted the ideas that the independence movement promoted. The study of Mexico’s people of African ancestry is necessary because most Mexicans are unaware of the existence of Afro-descendant peoples in the country, which has invisibilized and marginalized their communities.

Financial Constraints on Student Learning: An Analysis of How Financial Stress Influences Perception and Cognitive Function in Children

Simone Matecna : Economics, Peace & Conflict Studies

Mentor: Frederico Finan, Economics

Policy makers and developmental psychologists know that addressing the effects of poverty in adults often comes too late to be effective. Imagine a 30-year-old man named Sal who does not know whether or not he will be able to pay his rent or buy food for his family at the end of the month. It is not hard to understand why this uncertainty might cause Sal psychological stress on an ongoing basis. In fact, the ways in which financial stress impact mental health in adults have been well documented and studied.  However, what is less understood is how Sal's financial stress affects his four-year-old daughter's ability to pay attention. Simone will survey families and students in East Bay public schools and use quantitative methods to understand the relationship between a primary caregiver’s current financial situation and their child’s ability to focus. This research will become Simone’s Economics senior thesis.

Non-Comedy and Non-Romance: Rape in the Citizen Marriage

Mackhai Nguyen : Latin, Comparative Literature, English

Mentor: Kathleen McCarthy, Classics

Mackhai Nguyen's project focuses on Roman comic plays and Greek romance novels, two genres that share the narrative ending of the citizen marriage. Citizen marriage endings in these genres are at times generated by rape and similar forced sexual encounters. This common structure allows Roman comedies and Greek romances to be analyzed in relation to this plot element. Mackhai argues that certain stories, which he will analyze for his project, attempt to distance themselves from the way in which rape is generated by and generates this trope. He will examine how these stories differentiate themselves by criticizing, downplaying, and marginalizing the role of rape in the pervasive citizen marriage in Roman comedies and Greek romances. Rather than reflecting the cultural mores of the time period, these stories can be read as arguing against the problematic conceptions of rape and marriage in the ancient world.

Further Computations on Maeda’s Conjecture

Xiaoyu Niu : Mathematics

Mentor: Sug Woo Shin, Mathematics

Yoshitaka Maeda made the conjecture in 1997: Let m be an integer greater than 1 and let F be the characteristic polynomial of the Hecke operator T_m acting on the space S_k of cusp forms of weight k and level one, then the polynomial F is irreducible over the field of rational numbers; the Galois group of the splitting field of F is the full symmetric group ₢_d, where d is the dimension of S_k. Most recent computations via Sage have verified the conjecture for k ≤ 14000. Xiaoyu’s project will focus on computing via Sage for k > 14000 and/or considering bigger n than what’s currently available.  She hopes to either provide more evidence or to find results that disprove the conjecture. She may make theoretical attempts at the conjecture.

Contribution of Vasointestinal Peptide Interneurons to Visual Size and Contrast Perception

Daniel Quintana : Molecular & Cell Biology, Toxicology Minor

Mentor: Hillel Adesnik, Molecular & Cellular Biology

In mammals, detecting weak stimuli is crucial for animal survival. One way they could detect weak stimuli is spatial integration, pooling together weak signals over an area of visual space to strengthen the signal. In the cortex, vasointestinal peptide (VIP) cells are a group of interneurons that have a central role in pyramidal cell tuning and response modulation of other interneurons. However, the mechanisms behind how signals from different inhibitory interneurons affect the codification of sensory stimuli into percepts remains unclear. He will optogenetically activate and inhibit VIP interneurons in visual cortex in mice. The outcomes of this project might enhance our comprehension of neuronal circuits involved in sensory perception and provide new approaches to understand mental diseases that are associated with structural and functional changes in the cortex.

 

Neoliberal Transformation and Transnational Migration in the Northern Triangle

Hannah Raslan : Global Studies

Mentor: Rosemary Joyce, Anthropology

In 2018, thousands of Central American migrants, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, fled their home countries to seek a better life in Mexico or the US. This exodus of migrants has been met both at the US/Mexico and the Mexico/Guatemala border with hostility, violence and discrimination. Hannah Maria’s research will examine the motives of this migration, specifically focusing on the link between neoliberal economic reforms in Central America and economic migration. She will travel throughout Mexico to conduct interviews with migrants in all phases of their journeys. She will document the challenges these migrants face in her documentary short, which she hopes will raise awareness about the cruel conditions these migrants are faced with in Mexico and at the US border.

Neurodiversity and Identity Formation in Virtual Autistic Spaces

Alexandra Saba : Interdisciplinary Studies Field

Mentor: Rakesh Bhandari, Interdisciplinary Studies

The neurodiversity movement has gained much traction with the proliferation of the internet. It is based on the premise that neurological differences such as autism are normal variations of functioning and the human genome. Alexandra Saba will explore the impact of the neurodiversity movement on the formation of identity within autistic individuals through interviews of users of online neurodiversity forums and groups, as well as analysis of current research on neurodiversity. She will consider the following questions: Can autism be seen as a form of identity rather than a disorder? How does the autistic community use the neurodiversity movement as a way to make sense of their own identity? Her thesis will contribute to a better understanding of neurodiversity’s impact on identity formation and sense of self among autistic individuals.

The Effects of Masculinity in Professional Ballet

Sabrina Sellers : Sociology

Mentor: Jill Bakehorn, Sociology

Ballet has largely been recognized not only as a women-dominated profession but one that is coded as feminine in which both men and women navigate. Men in ballet, however, occupy a unique position, one studied by researchers eager to understand how men negotiate and perform their masculinity. These men perform a unique juggling act, going the extra mile to assert their masculinity due to the overwhelmingly feminine ways ballet is perceived by society. Despite this being the case, little work has been done on how the construction of masculinity in ballet affects gender dynamics between men and women in a field dictated by bodies, athleticism, and the ascription of femininity. Using in-depth interviews, Sabrina will explore how masculinity performed by professional, men ballet dancers affects interpersonal and professional peer relationships.

How English Literature Filtered through the Empire of Japan Influenced the Formation of Modern Korean Literature in the 1930s

Youn-Ju Suh : Comparative Literature, English

Mentor: David Marno, English

In contrast to to nineteenth-century British India, which adopted English studies from the UK, and nineteenth-century Japan, which westernized itself with British and American assistance, Modern Korean authors in the 1930s learned English literature through a third, non-Anglophone country, Japan. This unusual case raises a question not only about the relationship between the adoption of English literature through Japan and the formation of Modern Korean literature but also about the relationship between empire and language of empire. Through the comparison between literary features of the selected Modern Korean literary works and English literary works and research on the institutionalization of English literature in these two Asian countries, Youn-Ju will produce a meaningful comparative study of Modern Korean literature and the influence of English literature.

Quipu: Debt, Archive, and Amnesia

Bryan Truitt : Art, Cognitive Science

Mentor: Jill Miller, Art Practice

The Incan quipu was a record-keeping and computing system based on knotted rope, encoding debt, land ownership, genealogy, and other information, but its precise meaning has been lost through colonialism. The arbitration of archival inclusion is an exercise of power, and scholarship, as practiced in the western academy, is a negotiation with or an interpretation of the archive. Yet inclusion is not enough: the organization and decontextualization of indigenous archival objects reflects the fragmentation of indigenous ways of knowing under colonialism.  Using artistic production as a framework for critical inquiry, Bryan will travel to Peru to visit archival collections and 3D scan quipus, repatriating the files to supporting institutions, and responding with a series of sculptures which draw from their material and knotting techniques, as well as ideas of indebtedness, memory, and cultural loss.

Highly-Biomimetic Mechanical Hand for Robotics and Prostheses: Utilizing Artificial Muscles with Precise Controls Integration

Jehan Yang : Bioengineering, Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences minor

Mentor: Grace Gu, Mechanical Engineering

Utilizing 27 degrees of freedom, the human hand is a complex manipulator capable of tasks ranging from fingerstyle guitar to precise surgery. To replicate the human hand would produce a highly versatile tool in robotics and prostheses. Robots in the future might perform surgery while arm amputees could perform as well as anyone in sports and arts. Current hand replications have limitations of high expense and weight, with trade-offs in precision. For his project, Jehan aims to create an inexpensive and light manipulator, with improvements for precise control. He will achieve this by incorporating additive manufacturing and artificial muscles, along with experimentation of control algorithms and machine learning. Through engineering analyses and iteration, Jehan hopes to contribute an important tool for robotics research and custom prosthetic design.

Enhancing the Resolution of RNA-Sequencing to Investigate the Propagation of Parkinson’s Disease

Xinyi Zhang : Bioengineering, Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences

Mentor: Aaron Streets, Bioengineering

Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder, which currently has no effective treatment. The development of treatments can benefit from better understandings of how the neurodegeneration propagates in the brain. The most crucial contributor to the propagation is believed to be the transmission between neurons of the pathological protein, α-synuclein. To study the unresolved transmission mechanism, Xinyi proposes an RNA-Seq study on neuronal models to measure the transient responses of cells exposed to α-syn over time. RNA-Sequencing is a powerful tool for unbiased investigation of the highly coordinated responses across the whole genome. The massive RNA-Seq data, however, is often confounded by high noise level and experimental artifacts. Thus, Xinyi will develop a data analysis pipeline that improves the accuracy of signal detection and the resolution in time of RNA-Seq.

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