Can Kangaroo Rats Reason? An Inquiry into the Ecology of Logical Inference

Through a series of carefully designed experiments with Kangaroo Rats (Dipotomys mirriami), Melissa’s Cognitive Science Senior Honors Thesis will test her hypothesis that these rodents’ capacity to perform “transitive inference” tasks constitutes true reasoning and relies on the same neural structures as less abstract forms of reasoning. A long history of philosophical thought views human reason as unique in and apart from nature. In contrast, evolutionary theory suggests that our reasoning abilities are based on the requirements of the natural environment in which they evolved and, furthermore, that there should be a continuity between our capacities and those of other animals. By increasing our understanding of the neural basis of logic in Kangaroo Rats, Melissa’s project will contribute to illuminating our broader understanding of the nature of cognition.

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Genetic Analysis of PEST Sequences in the L. monocytogenes Protein Listeriolysin O

Simmie’s research project is situated at the intersection of cell biology, immunology and molecular biology in the important field of bacterial pathogenesis. Understanding the interaction of intracellular pathogens with mammalian systems is critical for preventing and treating a number of diseases that pose a major challenge to the biomedical community. Specifically, Simmie will focus on the way in which a protein produced by a particular intracellular pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, is degraded in the cytosol of the host cell. By illuminating the complexity of the host-parasite interaction in this instance, Simmie’s research will also help us gain a better understanding of the nature and function of healthy cells.

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Sciences

Role of Sgk in Apoptotic Signaling

Brian will investigate apoptosis, an active choice made by an individual cell to embark on a pathway that ultimately results in its demise. It is generally accepted that apoptosis plays an important role in eliminating damaged cells and maintaining a stable cellular environment; however, relatively little is known about the regulator and effector molecules that may be involved in initiating and relaying apoptotic signals. By increasing our understanding of the regulatory role of the serum and glucocorticoid regulated kinase (sgk) protein in apoptotic signaling, Brian’s project will have implications for the medical treatment of diseased cells, including the development of new drugs for treating cancer, viruses and strokes.

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Sciences

Elucidating the Major Environmental Factors for the Enhancement of Selenium Volatilization from the Soil-Salicornia System

Through a series of experiments conducted at a UC Berkeley laboratory greenhouse and at the Agroforestry site in Five Points, California, Anita will investigate the physical, chemical and biological factors that produce high rates of selenium volatilization from the soil-Salicornia system. An essential trace element that becomes toxic at high concentrations, selenium is currently a big concern in the San Joaquin Valley. The volatilization of selenium is a promising new technique for land reclamation. Whereas traditional phytoextraction methods sequester selenium in plant tissues, volatilization can potentially remove a significant amount of selenium from a contaminated system by harmlessly releasing it into the atmosphere. Anita’s Environmental Science Senior Research Project will determine the major sites of volatilization, the role of microbes, and the optimal soil and environmental conditions necessary to enhance rates of volatilization from Salicornia, thus increasing the efficiency of this environmentally promising technology.

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Sciences

Heavy Fermion Refrigerator

Elizabeth plans to design, construct and test a prototype of a low temperature refrigerator, in order to demonstrate an efficient and simple method for cooling to temperatures below 1 Kelvin. Currently, dilution refrigerators are used to achieve such low temperatures, a technology that is complicated, expensive and experimentally demanding. By pioneering the use of a refrigerator that uses a flowing electrical current through superconductor junctions, Elizabeth’s prototype will improve on the cooling power of some preliminary electronic refrigerators by more than four orders of magnitude and create a technology that has the potential to become commercially viable and scientifically important in fields such as physics, material sciences and astronomy.

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Sciences

Earth-based Detection of CMBR Polarization: Data Analysis and Control Software Development

Ki Won’s project involves an investigation of cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR). CMBR travels to us over cosmic distances, beginning its journey a short time after the Big Bang, the birth of the Universe. In essence, it is a snapshot of the aftermath of creation. Specifically, Ki Won will study the polarization characteristics of CMBR, using a polarization-capable radio telescope being built at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Ki Won will develop a detailed plan for the use of the telescope to detect CMBR polarization, write software to automate the telescope and data acquisition, and perform analyses on the resulting observations for clues to this elusive signal. In this way, Ki Won hopes to make a contribution to the larger field of Cosmology and to increase our understanding philosophically and scientifically of our place in the Universe.

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