Megan Clement

The mirror literally and symbolically reflects opposites. In medieval times, it seems that the mirror symbolized a gateway to the divine; now the mirror is more often associated with the monstrous. Spending the summer studying Dante’s Divine Comedy, I will begin my research into how the evolution of the meaning of the mirror perhaps parallels the move from a societal focus on religion to a focus on individual actions and psyches. I aim to prove or disprove the assertion that the perceived split between the body and soul mirrors the one between the self and the other, and what light this connection can shed on defining what would constitute a modern American secular religion.

Mark Phuong

Species Distribution Models (SDMs) provide one of the only methods for projecting the future distribution of species and are increasingly used to prioritize conservation efforts. SDMs correlate species’ occurrence points with climatic variables (e.g., temperature and precipitation) to produce a distributional map of the climatic limits of a species. Genetic studies of geographic variation within species, or phylogeography, often uncover cryptic lineages that have remained evolutionarily isolated for thousands to millions of years. My research assesses how identifying cryptic diversity within species affects the predictions of SDMs. Faced with climate change, accurately identifying critical regions for management remains a key issue in effectively conserving Earth’s biodiversity. See Mark’s interview on the Understanding Evolution web site, a project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology.

Justine Parkin

I am researching Gandhi’s nonviolent movement in India, particularly the importance that Gandhi subscribed to language and his belief that language too can be violent. If language does not merely describe the world as it is but is an active part of creating that very world and thus the possibilities for action, then how we choose and use our words is not trivial in the least but significantly influences the success of any political action. Moreover, as an extension upon language in general, I am exploring the narrative function in Gandhi’s movement. If we think of narratives as open-ended, on-going and composed of multiple voices and perspectives, then political action composed in a kind of ‘narrative imagination’ allows for an on-going process, a process that responds to movements of an individual situation and is not forever determined by a sound-bite slogan that slowly fades in meaning. Through a thorough analysis […]

Alex Yang Lu

My research this summer focuses on battling Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), the most common and malignant type of brain tumor. Despite invasive surgical resection and pharmaceutical therapy, patients with GBM have a mean survival time of 12-15 months following diagnosis, making GBM among the most aggressive of human cancers. Tumors growth is dependent upon vascularization through the formation of new capillaries from pre-existing blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. Numerous cytokines and growth factors have been shown to regulate angiogenesis while modulating cell invasion, growth and differentiation; however, these mechanisms remain poorly defined. GBM cells have the ability to become endothelial cells (ECs) that contribute to abnormal tumor vasculature. I will examine specific molecular targets to investigate the following: are GBM-derived ECs more resistant to apoptosis than host-derived ECs? Does this result in increased aggressiveness of tumors that have the potential to generate GBM-derived ECs?

Hasan Dani

The immune system monitors the inner workings of all cells of the body in its search for abnormal cells, whether they be infected or otherwise transformed. Every cell displays its intracellular peptides on its surface, and specialized cells of the immune system called T cells examine these peptides. The repertoire of peptides presented on the surface is a representation of the state of the cell; an abnormal peptide repertoire indicates an abnormal cell. An important part of the processing pathway that peptides undergo before being presented is ERAAP, an enzyme that trims peptides. The immune system can detect inhibition of ERAAP, and my project explores the mechanism of this immune response. I will study this with regards to one specific gene that is in the altered peptide repertoire of ERAAP-inhibited cells. By understanding this gene and its presentation on the surface, I hope to elucidate the mechanism of immune response.

Christopher Andersen

Diarrhea and respiratory infection are the two leading causes of death among children in India. Hand hygiene is arguably among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent these diseases. In particular, alcohol-based hand sanitizer solutions are shown to be as or more efficacious as handwashing in preventing diarrheal and respiratory disease. Yet at present, information about hand sanitizer within the cultural and socio-economic contexts of developing nations is scarce. In response to this gap in knowledge, I will implement a study using qualitative focus groups and quantitative questionnaires to collect data on the cultural and socio-economic factors that may influence the use of hand sanitizer in South Indian slum communities. This project should provide important information that can be integrated into culturally-sensitive hand hygiene health projects.

Alina Boltunova

Emmetropization is a normal developmental process in which the eyes growth is regulated to achieve a match between eye length and its refractive power. It results in the reduction of refractive errors present at birth and has been observed in all animal species, including humans, studied thus far. The guinea pig is increasingly used to model myopia (near-sightedness), but there appear to be differences between guinea pig strains in their susceptibility to myopia-inducing stimuli. To understand the origin of these differences, I plan to compare the emmetropization of different strains of guinea pigs by tracking changes in their ocular dimensions and refractive error during the course of their development.

Melissa Barker

Single-mother students on welfare are a small, unique demographic in institutions of higher education. My preliminary research shows, more often then not, that social service caseworkers use discretion to impede, rather than support single-mother students in pursuit of higher education. In my Interdisciplinary Studies Field Major (ISF) thesis project, I will conduct a qualitative study of the academic trajectory of single mothers (SMs) on welfare who pursue higher education by transferring from community colleges to universities in California and Hawaii. My research question is: How are single-mothers supported or discouraged throughout their experiences as students and welfare recipients? By critically assessing the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 as the legal framing of the contemporary welfare to workfare ideology, I will investigate how implementations of this statutory law create bureaucratic controlling processes and moralist state gatekeepers, as well as facilitates the need for advocacy organizations to enable success for SM students. […]

Kyle Barbour

Sevoflurane, a popular pediatric and veterinary general anesthetic, is known to cause deficits in learning and memory when administered to neonatal rodents. Since sevoflurane can trigger epileptiform activity when administered during development, and since neonatal epileptic seizures cause the formation of aberrant neural networks, it is possible that sevoflurane administered during development does the same. If present, this may contribute to the observed neurocognitive deficits. We will explore this possibility by retrovirally labeling the hippocampal mossy fiber pathway and medial prefrontal cortex in neonatal rats, then comparing the connections of these structures in rats given sevoflurane anesthesia to controls under a microscope. As sevoflurane may affect neuroblasts differently than more mature neurons, we will label these cell populations separately. With time, the results of this project may be relevant to the use of sevoflurane in animal anesthesia and possibly even to clinical pediatric anesthesia, as well as in guiding future […]

Roi Bachmutsky

I am interested in developing a deeper understanding of the current system of thought and discourse surrounding Israel among the new generation of American Jewish young adults, seen as the stakeholders for the future of American Jewry. This new generation’s commitment to Judaism and Israel are bitterly debated in public articles and community events; unfortunately, none of this debate has been grounded in rigorous ethnographic study.I am taking the first step in this direction by using anthropological public observation, survey, and open-ended interview methodologies to study Jewish university students and leaders of organizations working with these students through case studies of the UC Berkeley Jewish Community and a Taglit-Birthright Trip to Israel, as well as a case study of Israeli Jewish young adults intended to enlighten points of comparison and contrast. I seek to understand students’ socialization into the American Jewish Community, their understanding of their own identity as it […]