Contextualizing Haath Mein Sehat's Habit-Formation Intervention within a Neoliberal Environment

This summer, I will be in Mumbai, India, researching the effects of behavior change approaches to public health issues. As a member of Haath Mein Sehat (HMS), a water and sanitation-based student organization, I will be an active participant in the creation of an intervention intended to increase rates of handwashing amongst children in slum communities. My research will focus on assessing the consequences of HMS focus on behavior change, and how this approach is perceived by the communities in which HMS works. Through this analysis, I intend to address the following broader question: What it useful and promising about behavior change-based approaches to public health, and what is limiting and problematic about them?

...Read More about Miriam Alvarado
Humanities and Social Science

Beyond Nietzsche and Heidegger's Responses to Nihilism

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that his was a nihilistic age, one in which the question why, in relation to issues of morality, ethics, and meaning, finds no answer. Using Nietzsche as well as Martin Heideggers writings as points of departure, I will consider the following questions, among others: In what sense might our age be understood as nihilistic? How did this come to be? What can or should be done to cope with this situation? In so doing, I will bear two considerations in mind: First, what it would mean to conceive of a mode of existence in which individuals no longer think in terms of values; and second, what the consequences of conceiving of nihilism as something problematicas a problem to be solvedmight be.

...Read More about Jonathon Atkinson
Humanities and Social Science

Directed evolution of crotonyl-CoA reductase for increased solubility

Biofuels have received much attention lately as the need for a renewable and carbon-neutral source of energy becomes increasingly important. We have assembled a biosynthetic pathway in Escherichia coli that produces butanol, a second generation biofuel, in six overall steps. However, there is a significant bottleneck at crotonyl-CoA reductase (Ccr) in the pathway that limits butanol production, which may be attributed to the observation that Ccr suffers from low solubility. The overall goal of my project is to carry out directed evolution of Ccr and generate a library of mutants that can be screened for increased solubility and assayed for improved activity. In the future, the mutants generated in this work will help us to understand fundamental issues related to pathway flux as well as increase production of butanol in engineered E. coli.

...Read More about Robert Bellerose
L&S Sciences

Making a Place Our Own: A History of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered Community Spaces

This summer I will be exploring the origins of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community spaces in the Bay Area. I am exploring primary sources such as newsletters and organizational records as well as doing oral history interviews with people closely involved in these centers. My study will span from the early 1950s, when many of the first homophile organizations opened offices in San Francisco, to the early 1980s, when local groups opened community centers throughout the Bay Area. Through this research, I hope to better understand the community wide effects of having a public space, besides the numerous gay bars. I also hope to show the importance of community centers to increasing awareness and acceptance of alternative sexual identities

...Read More about Sarah Carlson
Humanities and Social Science

The Neural Basis of Pro-Sociality: An fMRI Study of Compassion

My current research takes advantage of the empathic, approach-oriented facets of compassion to investigate the broader concept of prosociality. My SURF project explores the neural basis of prosocial emotion by examining individual differences in dispositional traits in context of both central (with functional brain imaging) and peripheral (with measurements of vagus nerve activity) nervous system response to compassion inducing stimuli. The ultimate goal of my research is to identify both the dispositional traits that influence compassion, and the physiological factors that support prosocial behavior, and study how impaired compassion can affect healthy social interaction.

...Read More about Elizabeth Castle
Humanities and Social Science

The Effects of RNA Binding Proteins on Alternative Splicing of FGF Receptor 2

One of the most surprising conclusions to emerge from whole genome sequencing projects in the last decade is that all animals have roughly the same number of genes. Initially, this seems contradictory to the idea that higher organisms have more genes to account for higher levels of complexity. However, one potential explanation is alternative pre-mRNA splicing, through which different exon combinations are incorporated into mature transcripts, thereby increasing the number of proteins encoded by a limited number of genes. Although there have been extensive studies in vitro concerning the biochemical basis of what determines these combinations, in vivo studies have been much rarer. For my project, I will examine which RNA binding proteins (RBPs) regulate the alternative splicing of a particular gene, Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 2 (FGFR2). More specifically, I will examine the effects of different RBPs, whether as enhancers or silencers, on splicing in Xenopus laevis frog embryos. […]

...Read More about Chen Chen
L&S Sciences

Intellectual Property and Processes of Musical Borrowing: Sound-Alike Composers and Their Work

All musical compositions borrow some material. It is not always easy for the law to draw the line between theft and inspiration. Recent changes in copyright law point to new systems of valuation of musical elements, both cultural and legal. This summer Ill be tracing these changes through a musical and legal analysis of music written for television and commercials, focusing on compositions which seek to copy elements of other, original works. Ill spend one month in Washington, D.C. using archives at the Library of Congress, and will also conduct a series of interviews with composers, producers, and musicians. My project will culminate in a Senior Honors Thesis for the Interdisciplinary Field Studies major.

...Read More about Karlyn DeSteno
Humanities and Social Science

Testing the Limits of Equality

I am working in a field of public finance that aims to develop a model indicating the optimal level of redistributive taxation in a given community. Assuming that public preference to redistribute income is determined by some combination of self-interest and civic altruism, the model must take into account the community’s various social, behavioral, and economic attributes. Using surveys, I will be gathering data on the effects of social factors, such as group cohesion, and behavioral factors, such as aversion to risk, on the tax policy decisions of kibbutzim – a network of approximately 300 membership-based socialist communities in Israel. The recent shift of a number of these communities away from high levels of income redistribution provides an excellent opportunity to gain insights regarding the factors governing tax policies in cities and states around the world.

...Read More about Yehuda Donde
Humanities and Social Science

The Politics of Meat Regulation: An Examination of Californias Small-Scale Ranches

In an era of globalization where food travels through tortuous production chains before arriving at its destination, too little attention has been given to government regulation. The question driving my research is how do small-scale California farmers involved in rearing animals respond to different forms of government regulation? Given that questions broad scope, I will bifurcate it along two lines: one related to production and one related to political mobilization. On the production side, I am interested in understanding how small-scale farmers adjust production based on various regulations. The political question centers on whether small-scale farmers can solve the collective action problem and mobilize when watershed legislation appears in the legislature.

...Read More about Andrew Feher
Humanities and Social Science

Skewed Perceptions: The Ethnic Relations of Tourists and Tour Guides in Costa Rica

International tourism provides tourists with a physical space that allows them to encounter new experiences, exotic places, and unfamiliar cultures. For the most part, these experiences abroad stimulate inter-cultural contact, which results in the formation of an ethnic relation between strangers. My research aims to identify the different affinities, misunderstandings, and stereotypes that can characterize this relationship in the tourist setting of San Jose, Costa Rica. I will study two groups: tourists from the United States who come to San Jose for short-term vacations and tour-guides from Costa Rica who partake in the commodification of culture that comes along with most, if not all, tourist endeavors. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews, I will explore how the commercialization of native culture and the differences in class and race affect and determine the kind of relationship that develops between these two globalized actors.

...Read More about Brittany Gabel
Humanities and Social Science

Stressor Controllability Effects and Stress-Induced Suppression of Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis

My research will focus on the effects of stress on neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the adult rat hippocampus. The hippocampus is essential for memory and learning function. Interestingly, chronic stress has been shown to decrease cell proliferation in the DG and reduce the effectiveness of hippocampuss memory function. My project will investigate one potential factor that may prevent stress-induced reduction of neurogenesis: controllability. Studies have shown that animals that can control the onset/offset of stress do not show many negative effects of uncontrollable stress. I will try to recreate the data, found in previous research, in the presence of controls for the stress effect that other studies did not have.

...Read More about Abhiram Gande
L&S Sciences

From Pulp Fiction to Film Noir: Cinematic Translation of a Literary Style

This research explores three pulp novels by 20th century American writer James M. Cain and their subsequent film adaptations of the 1940&Mac226;s: The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity. These three movies are a few famous examples of film noir, an American cinematic style that reached its heyday in the 1940&Mac226;s. My research explores the text of these novels in comparison with their film translations, along with theoretical, historical and other secondary resources. I hope to better understand how instruments such as syntax, narrative structure and point of view create a distinct textual style, and how that translates into a distinct cinematic style, despite different directors, in their film noir adaptations. This research will provide the basis for my English undergraduate thesis.

...Read More about Faith Gardner
Humanities and Social Science

Effects of habitat fragmentation on the population genetic structure of the white-ruffed manakin, Corapipo altera, in southwestern Costa Rica

My research project revolves around the population genetic structure of the white-ruffed manakin, Corapipo altera, a species of passerine bird native to Costa Rica that has been previously studied to determine the effects of deforestation and habitat fragmentation on the genetic diversity of bird populations. By sequencing 15 microsatellite DNA loci from blood samples of individuals of different subpopulations, we hope to detect some genetic structuring indicating an absence of gene flow as expected by theoretical population genetics models. This result, if actually observed, would contradict previous research in this area and provide useful insight into the dynamics of habitat fragmentation and its consequences on the viability of wild avian populations. After the preliminary planning is complete, the necessary fieldwork will be carried out in Costa Rica between August 25th and October 7th.

...Read More about Stefano Iantorno
L&S Sciences

Variation in Reproductive Timing in the European Great Tit, Parus major

I am studying how birds time their reproductive systems in response to local environmental changes. For instance, the European great tit has expanded northward as temperatures have increased and these northern populations have delayed the timing of breeding, an advantageous adaption because spring conditions come later in the year with increasing latitude. It is thought that the delay occurs via an increase in the photoperiodic threshold to induce gonadal growth. We think that a delay in the activation of genes that regulate photoperiodic response in the northern population is responsible for this variation. I will investigate the timing of gene expression patterns in two populations of the great tit from different latitudes via molecular techniques such as qPCR and ICC. The ability of animals to respond to stresses in their environment will greatly shape the makeup of future communities. This study may elucidate crucial insights on species preservation and management […]

...Read More about Sun Young Jeong
L&S Sciences

Essential amino acids for the regulated proteolysis of the master cell cycle regulator, CtrA

CtrA is a central regulatory protein controlling cell cycle progression in Caulobacter crescentus. The active phosphorylated form of CtrA directly controls the transcription of at least 95 cell-cycle-regulated genes as well as binding to sites near the origin to prevent initiation of chromosome replication. CtrA consists of receiver domain and DNA binding domain. CtrA activity is regulated by phosphorylation and degradation. My project is to elucidate the degradation mechanism of CtrA. We hypothesized that there are specific amino acid residues on CtrA receiver domain that are essential for its proteolysis. Thus, I will employ Genetics, Molecular Biology and Biochemical approaches to uncover the identity of these residues, and to determine how they mediate the effects of other factors which are known to be necessary for CtrA degradation.

...Read More about Aaron Kamajaya
L&S Sciences

A More Natural Approach that Tests Electrical Stimulation on Perception

Neural Prosthetics is a newly emerging field with many potential applications for patients who have lost one of their five senses. At the core of this technology, electrical microstimulation of neurons is used to artificially generate and restore lost senses. For my project, I will be targeting the visual cortex, and developing a rodent visual model for microstimulation in order to explore stimulation patterns that mimic natural neural activity. The goal of this project is to develop a more safe and effective way to elicit visual response and perception in the animal. Through the course of this project, I will be considering effects from the surgical procedure and animal behavior to properties of electrical circuits and its effect on individual neurons.

...Read More about Raymond Lam
L&S Sciences

Investigating the Vaccum Compatibility of Filter Circuits for Ion Trap Quantum Computing

This summer I will be working in ion trap quantum computing. Quantum computing is an alternate form of computation that uses a quantum bit, called a “qubit”, in place of the binary system. My professor, Hartmut Haeffner, isolates ions in radio frequency traps to create qubits. This trapping must take place in an ultra high vacuum so that air molecules do not interfere with the ion. My project entails building RC filters for the ion trap that are compatible with the vacuum. These filters need to remove any radio frequency pickup in DC electrodes in the trap. The main challenge, however, will be the vacuum compatbility which will involve rigorous testing and research in material science.

...Read More about Isabela Le Bras
L&S Sciences

Why Are Gene Regulators and Their Targets Co-localized in the Bacterial Genome?

In bacterial genomes, functionally related genes tend to be grouped together in operons, possibly to facilitate co-regulation and coordinated horizontal gene transfer. However, co-regulation and the formation of selfish gene clusters cannot explain the co-localization of regulators and their target operons. Yet this co-localization of prokaryotic transcription factor genes and their binding sites is widespread and is a driving force in the specific organization of transcriptional units on the chromosome. Thus in this study I will use the paradigmatic model of gene regulation, the lac locus, to address a fundamental question: why are gene regulators and their targets co-localized in bacterial genomes?

...Read More about Lusha Liang
L&S Sciences

Allan's Carrying Capacity: The Political Origins of Neo-Malthusian Scientific Thinking in Colonial Zambia

Although considerable scholarship has debunked neo-Malthusian myths of “overpopulation,” its specters and tropes continue to be invoked in environmentalist, anti-immigration, and ‘development’ discourses. However, little historical work has been done on the origins of these discourses. My project focuses on the genesis of a particular concept that raises specters of “overpopulation” — ‘human carrying capacity’– whose various conceptual, political, and historical blind spots I will seek to elucidate and contextualize, and whose textual origins in late colonial Zambia place it at the cusp of a scientific revival of neo-Malthusian thinking. By understanding the political origins of this term alongside the interventions that it was invoked to justify, this project may provide an intriguing way to combat the still hegemonic ideas of Africa as a continent in a perpetual crisis of “overpopulation.”

...Read More about Eyal Mazor
Humanities and Social Science

Tracing the transgenerational epigenetic function of rmr-4 in Zea mays

This summer, I will find the precise location of a gene known as rmr4 in the Zea mays genome. This process is known as mapping, and will require me to spend time at the lab bench, in the greenhouse, and on the internet. I will use bioinformatics tools available online to design specialized markers in order to determine the recombination frequencies between known loci and my gene, enabling me to identify exactly where the gene resides. I will employ DNA extraction methods, PCR, and gel electrophoresis in order to gather most of the data for this project. Once I have located the gene, I will sequence it and begin characterizing its function in order to further understand the phenomenon of paramutation in maize.

...Read More about Alexander Parisky
L&S Sciences