Sponsored Research

Faculty Research at Wellesley College

Sponsored research is a critically important part of Wellesley College's role as a research college. Our faculty include world-class researchers, creators, and scholars, and we are committed to fully supporting their work and bolstering its connection to our core mission of undergraduate education.

  • headshot of Ismar Volić
    Ismar Volić at the library of the University of Sarajevo Mathematics Department
    New connections in algebraic topology
    Faculty
    Department
    Mathematics
    Funding Source
    Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program

    During my semester at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a Fulbright Scholar, I worked on several projects in algebraic topology, including developing a new brand of functor calculus with my Ph.D. student there. I also started a new collaboration that will attempt to apply the cutting-edge field of topological data analysis to large data sets describing various socio-economic conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina such as poverty, child care, and the status of women. I spent a lot of time talking about mathematics, and science in general, with students and faculty in various cities across Bosnia-Herzegovina. This provided a new perspective of what it means to be a scholar in a developing country without many resources for education. I also delivered a number of lectures to a variety of audiences ranging from high schoolers to university professors in an attempt to depict mathematics as a relevant and vibrant field and indicate its many uses and applications.

    mathematics
  • Prof. Inela Selimović
    Prof. Inela Selimović
    Affective Moments in the Films of Martel, Carri, and Puenzo
    Department
    Spanish
    Funding Source
    Huntington Fund and Wellesley College

    Argentine women filmmakers have made significant contributions to the film industry since the mid-1990s. Despite the fortified and professionalized bond between women and cinema in Argentina, academic research still continues to be patchy. This project fills in parts of such lacunae, as it draws more nuanced attention to the place of affect in the films of Argentina’s most prominent, prolific, and internationally reputable women directors—that is, Albertina Carri, Lucrecia Martel, and Lucía Puenzo. Several questions drive my analyses forward regarding the distinct explorations of affective manifestations in these directors’ films: How does affect shape the meaning of these particular films or endow certain moments in them with socio-cultural significance? What kind of aesthetic newness do these filmmakers generate at the core of and beyond the New Argentine Cinema by distinctly privileging affect over basic emotions? What can concentrated manifestations of affect reveal aesthetically about these films’ sociopolitical commitments? Upon answering these (and other) questions, my project ultimately centers on the subtle tensions between affect and emotions as terrains of sociopolitical significance in these directors’ feature-length films. Such tensions significantly relate to their films’ core arguments, signaling the directors’ novel insights into complex manifestations of memory (individual, social, and historical), desire (incestuous, homoerotic, and inter-generational), and violence (political, emotional, and sexual).

    spanish
  • Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii: Ivan Turgenev Hunting (1879)
    Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgskii: Ivan Turgenev Hunting (1879)
    Hunting Nature: Ivan Turgenev and the Organic World
    Faculty
    Department
    Russian

    In this book, I clarify how Ivan Turgenev, famous for the stories and novels he wrote from the 1840s to the 1870s, managed to create some of Russian literature's most celebrated descriptions of nature. I propose that Turgenev's lifelong devotion to hunting instilled in him a particular attitude toward the natural world that meshed with his philosophical tendencies and found striking outlets in every one of the many genres he attempted. I comment extensively on Turgenev's underappreciated relationship with Sergei Aksakov, his friend and the elder statesman of Russian sporting literature, which flowered at mid-century. In making my argument, I begin by developing new terminology for analyzing, on the one hand, nature writing that imposes human meanings on flora, fauna and landscape versus, on the other hand, writing (of the kind pioneered by Aksakov) that tends to respect the autonomy of biota and natural settings. I trace Turgenev's actual hunting practices and their ideological and aesthetic implications before embarking on a detailed analysis of how his hunting-based conception of nature shapes the extraordinary artistry of, among other works, his "Notes of a Hunter" (a cycle of short stories) and the novels "Rudin," "A Gentry Nest," "On the Eve," and "Fathers and Children." These are all mainstays of the Russian canon that open themselves up to fresh, culturally sensitive readings when they are approached from an ecocritical vantage point.

    russian
  • Dr. Filomina Steady
    Dr. Filomina Steady
    The African Diaspora Returns Home with a Focus on Women
    Faculty

    Filomina Steady

    Department
    Africana Studies
    Funding Source
    Wellesley College, Kezfil Trust, IWI

    This study uses the controlled comparison method to investigate the role of women and gender dynamics in the creation of communities of freedom that constitute the Returned African Diasporas in West Africa. Field and archival studies are conducted in Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, the Gambia and Sierra Leone using anthropological methods. The establishment of Returned Diasporas in Africa was a result of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and its abolition. These Diasporas restructured and reversed concepts of 'social death' to one of ‘social rebirth’ in the rebuilding of new communities in the Motherland. The study shows the central role of women in social organization, cultural reproduction, identity reformulation, community building and the promotion of values of freedom, social justice and equality. It uses African feminism to illustrate some of the tensions and gender dynamics, while centralizing the major contributions of women in the construction and development of these communities of freedom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt7EkRgHLcw

    africana-studies
  • Mary Elizabeth Williams, Sacro Speco at San Benedetto, Subiaco (detail), oil on canvas, circa 1882
    Mary Elizabeth Williams, Sacro Speco at San Benedetto, Subiaco (detail), oil on canvas, circa 1882
    At Home Abroad: Anne Whitney and American Women Artists in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy
    Department
    Art
    Funding Source
    American Philosophical Society/British Academy Fellowship (2014); Friends of the Princeton University Library ( 2014); Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (2018); Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library (2018)

    In the late nineteenth century regular and affordable steamships and railways brought Americans to and around Europe in growing numbers. Many of these travelers were aspiring women artists seeking the training and contact with original works of art that they could not receive at home. They naturally gravitated to Rome, where Henry James evocatively but dismissively characterized some of them as a “strange sisterhood of American ‘lady sculptors’ who at one time settled upon the seven hills in a white, marmorean flock.”

    The poet and sculptor Anne Whitney (1821-1915) was part of this group. She and her companion, the painter Addy Manning (1836-1906), lived abroad from 1867-71 and 1875-76, primarily in Rome but also in Florence and for several months each summer in more temperate locales. Their lives abroad, as revealed in the art and other objects they created, admired, and acquired, and in the more than three hundred letters they wrote to and received from family and friends, form the framework for my study. But my research also examines contemporary newspapers as well as the letters and diaries of other sculptors, painters, authors, patrons, and travelers, both female and male, held in archives and institutions here and abroad. These primary sources demonstrate that Whitney’s experience abroad was not unique, though her detailed documentation of it was extremely unusual, and they provide me with a way to construct a vivid narrative of American experience in Italy. I look at what these women made, saw, wrote, bought, sold, and lived with while abroad and on their return to the United States. As the first American women to live in Italy and learn from its art and history, their lives abroad gave them a perspective they would not have had otherwise, and their experiences make them much more interesting than the anonymous flock described by Henry James.

     
    art
  • Dr. Dora Carrico-Moniz
    Dr. Dora Carrico-Moniz
    Using Organic Synthesis and Natural Product-derived Scaffolds to Identify Novel Anticancer Agents
    Department
    Biochemistry, Chemistry

    A distinctive feature of pancreatic cancer cells is their tolerance to nutrient- and oxygen-deprivation. Pancreatic cancer cells, including PANC-1, can survive for 48 hours in the absence of essential amino acids, glucose, and serum, whereas normal cells die within 24 hours under identical conditions. Since normal tissues seldom encounter nutrient deprivation, targeting the resilience of pancreatic cancer cells under nutrient-deprivation is a compelling new therapeutic approach. Research in the Carrico-Moniz Lab uses organic synthesis to develop novel compounds of medicinal importance. Our studies in this area have culminated in the discovery of a patented family of coumarins possessing anti-proliferative activity against PANC-1 exclusively under nutrient-deprived conditions.

    biochemistry
    chemistry
  • Advertisement for "Csibi der Fratz" (1934), by exiled director Max Neufeld, starring exiled actress Franziska Gaa
    Advertisement for "Csibi der Fratz" (1934), by exiled director Max Neufeld, starring exiled actress Franziska Gaa
    Trauma, Disruption, Reinvention: Exile Film in Austria, 1933-1937
    Faculty
    Department
    German Studies
    Funding Source
    Internal Wellesley College

    My project focuses on the films made in Austria between 1933 and 1937 by a few independent studios who produced films by and with the largely Jewish exiles from Hitler’s Germany. I trace the ways in which many of these attempt to come to terms with the trauma of exile, considering how the common language and close ties between Germany and Austria allowed filmmakers some level of continuity with their previous work, while pressures from Germany simultaneously meant that even these independent studios had to tightly control the content of these productions. These Austrian exile films represent an especially interesting body of work, both because they are tied most clearly to filmmakers’, actors’, and crews’ previous work and because they manage to subtly reflect on the experience of exile and the transitional period immediately after Hitler’s rise to power.

    german-studies
  • Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson & The Laroche Family
    Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson & The Laroche Family
    Losing Laroche: The Story of the Only Black Passenger on the Titanic
    Department
    Africana Studies

    My project, Losing Laroche: The Story of the Titanic’s Only Black Passenger, is the first in-depth study of the only black family on-board the RMS Titanic. The story of the Haitian Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche, his French wife Juliette Lafargue, and their descendants is largely unknown and troubles the assumption of an all-white Titanic narrative held in the United States. I recount Laroche’s life story in order to probe the ways in which African-Americans make sense of their lived existence during what historian Rayford Logan called “the Nadir” of U.S. race relations. For many African Americans, the Titanic represented the ultimate symbol of white hubris. Indeed, in black memory and literature, the Titanic became a vehicle of jokes, roasts, and legends surrounding a possible black passenger. In Losing Laroche, I demonstrate how Laroche allows us to better understand the possibilities of black advancement in the Titanic moment and throughout the Diaspora. Simultaneously, Laroche also demonstrates the limitations of black advancement in an anti-black world. Losing Laroche is a compelling story that largely explains why many black people are always in a constant state of leaving home, in search of home.

    africana-studies
  • Dr. Smitha Radhakrishnan; photo by Ganesh Ramachandran
    Dr. Smitha Radhakrishnan; photo by Ganesh Ramachandran
    Women Paying Up: Frontier Finance in India
    Department
    Sociology
    Funding Source
    American Council of Learned Societies Burkhardt Fellowship, American Association of University Women

    Through interviews and ethnographic work in the India and the United States, this project investigates how global finance continues to expand its reach to new populations through small, uncollateralized loans that target women. I argue that microfinance—neither development intervention nor scam—constitutes a crucial element of what I call “frontier finance.” This aggressive outer edge of the financial system, comprised of diverse sub-prime financial products, leverages everyday relationships between loan officers and clients to turn women previously constructed as uncreditworthy into creditworthy borrowers.

    While most research on microfinance is concerned with whether or not microfinance has had a sufficient “impact” on women borrowers, whether in terms of poverty alleviation or empowerment, I show instead that it is the working class loan officers, mostly men, who benefit most from this burgeoning financial industry in India. Women clients, on the other hand, engage with microfinance in diverse ways: they organize other neighborhood women into risk pools required by the microfinance companies, they use loans to pay school fees or medical expenses, and sometimes, they might invest their loans in a micro-entrepreneurial venture. But these working class women usually politely refuse offers of empowerment from the well-meaning microfinance providers, thus troubling taken-for-granted notions of who constitutes a poor woman in India and how loans or training can help them. A book manuscript based on this work, When Women Pay Up: Power, Profit, and Personhood in Global Microfinance is currently in production.

     
    sociology
  • Image of the computer produced by the RAND corporation
    Image of the computer produced by the RAND corporation, which allowed the United States Air Force to calculate the probability of destroying a target with one or more bombs.
    The Cult of Precision: the history of a dangerous idea
    Faculty
    Department
    Political Science
    Funding Source
    American Council of Learned Societies

    “Precision” has become a mainstay of global military doctrine. The need to adopt technologically-precise weaponry, technology capable of hitting targets with extraordinary accuracy, is extolled as both a military and humanitarian necessity of contemporary war. How is it that certain weapons have come to be defined as “precise”? This question may seem obvious on the face of it. But in reality, weapons with massive collateral damage, including strategic bombers and nuclear weapons, have been touted as precise. And why has “precise” warfare become equated with “legitimate warfare”?

    political-science
  • Confocal microscopy image investigating the ability of four antimicrobial peptides (labeled in green) to cross bacterial membran
    Confocal microscopy image investigating the ability of four antimicrobial peptides (labeled in green) to cross bacterial membranes (labeled in red). This image was collected using a novel approach developed in a collaboration between Louise Darling and Do
    Characterization and Design of Histone-Derived Antimicrobial Peptides
    Faculty
    Department
    Biochemistry, Chemistry
    Funding Source
    NIH R15/AREA (2R15AI079685); Previously funded by a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award and by Research Corporation

    Bacteria that have developed antibiotic resistance pose an increasing health risk. Antimicrobial peptides are small proteins produced by a wide variety of organisms that represent a potential alternative to conventional antibiotics in the fight against resistant bacteria. One intriguing family of these peptides are the histone-derived antimicrobial peptides (HDAPs), which are derived from the histone proteins that bind nucleic acids in cell nuclei. Research in the Elmore Lab uses a wide variety of experimental and computational methods, including bacterial assays, confocal microscopy, spectroscopic measurements, and molecular dynamics simulations, to characterize the activity and mechanism of HDAPs. We then apply the improved understanding of HDAP structure-function relationships from these studies to design novel peptides for antibacterial and drug delivery applications. These interdisciplinary studies involve significant collaboration with Wellesley undergraduates and faculty colleagues, such as Louise Darling (Biological Sciences/Biochemistry) and Mala Radhakrishnan.

    biochemistry
    chemistry
  • Scientists aboard the first research cruise of the Northeastern Shelf (NES) LTER project
    Scientists aboard the first research cruise of the Northeastern Shelf (NES) LTER project deploying the CTD rosette (large gray package) off the side of the research vessel R/V Endeavor in February, 2018.
    Using oxygen and argon to quantify coastal ocean productivity
    Faculty
    Department
    Chemistry
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation

    The coastal waters off New England support many ecosystem services such as fisheries, recreation, conservation and shipping. Stanley is part of a newly founded Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site designed to understand how physical and chemical changes in the coastal waters stretching from Maine to North Carolina are affecting ecosystems, food webs, and productivity. The team of researchers, based at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Rhode Island, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and Wellesley College, are using observations and modeling to examine processes, mechanisms and feedbacks occurring in these societally important waters. Stanley's role is to use dissolved gases, such as oxygen, oxygen isotopes, and argon to quantify biological productivity at the base of the ecosystem. To that end, she and her students bring a portable mass spectrometer on to two to four research cruises per year to measure the oxygen and argon everywhere the ship goes. Additionally, she collects water from the CTD rosette (see image) on which to measure oxygen isotopes.

    chemistry
  • Dr. Rosanna Hertz
    Dr. Rosanna Hertz
    Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings and the Creation of New Kin
    Faculty
    Department
    Sociology, Women and Gender Studies
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation

    This research is about unprecedented families … networks of strangers linked by genes, medical technology and the human desire for affinity and identity. It chronicles the chain of choices that couples and single moms make – from how to conceive, how to place donors in their family tree and what to do when it suddenly becomes clear that there are kids out there that share half their child’s DNA. Do shared genes make you family? Do kids find anything in common? What becomes of the chance networks that arise once parents and donor siblings find one another?

    sociology
    women-and-gender-studies
  •  María Magdalena Campos-Pons and Neil Leonard, "Identified." Performance at the National Portrait Gallery. 2016. Photo by Nikki
    María Magdalena Campos-Pons and Neil Leonard, "Identified." Performance at the National Portrait Gallery. 2016. Photo by Nikki A. Greene.
    Rhythms of Grease, Grime, Glass, and Glitter: The Body in Contemporary Black Art
    Faculty
    Department
    Art
    Funding Source
    Richard D. Cohen Fellowship. W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute. Hutchins Center for African & African American Research. Harvard University. 2016-17. Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship. 2016-2017

    In Rhythms of Grease, Grime, Glass, and Glitter: The Body in Contemporary Black Art, I present a new interpretation of the work of Renée Stout, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Radcliffe Bailey, and David Hammons, using key examples of painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and installation by these prominent artists of African descent as case studies in a re-examination of the conventions and stereotypes employed in the making of works of art and in the representations of black bodies and black identity in the 20th and 21st centuries. Through the working (and re-working) of bodies and body parts that are identified as black through signs – kinky hair imprinted onto paper, a woman’s body molded and adorned with roots, a performance in a museum and as a museum, room installations of disengaged piano keys – the work of these four artists offers new ways of looking at and conceiving of black identity: by undermining familiar imagery, and shaking the viewer into a realization of the presence of the black body, their works break new ground not only in American art, but in contemporary art and American culture broadly construed.

    art
  • Ash trees
    Ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) in central New Hampshire.
    Modeling the impacts of forest insects and pathogens in ecosystems
    Department
    Biological Sciences
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation, MacroSystems Biology, NSF-1638406

    Forest insects and pathogens are global agents of ecosystem disturbance. In the United States, tree stress and mortality from insects and pathogens creates billions of dollars in costs for U.S. municipalities and individual property owners. The interactions between insects and pathogens and other disturbances, such as climate change, are highly uncertain, but in many cases climate change is expected to increase insect and pathogen activity. This project will develop a framework to simulate and forecast the impacts of forest insects and pathogens through a generalized method that accurately captures the large diversity of their impacts. This framework will be used to simulate the potential impacts of insect and pathogen outbreaks in forests across the continental U.S. and to investigate the specific impacts of three invasive insects –Lymantria dispar, Agrilus planipennis, and Adelges tsugae – in the northeastern U.S. A key benefit of this research is that it will improve the ability to simulate future impacts of insects and pathogens on forests in combination with other disturbances like drought, heat waves, and extreme rainfall events. This research will also increase the diversity of the U.S. STEM workforce by training undergraduate women in cutting-edge quantitative methods.

    biological-sciences
  • Echo: Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes
    The role of human microbiome on child development
    Department
    Biological Sciences
    Funding Source
    National Institutes of Health

    The trillions of microbes inhabiting our bodies are essential for extracting nutrients from our food to maintaining the health of our immune systems. There is a growing recognition that the microbiome is directly linked to the health and development of infants and children. Research in our lab and in collaboration with several universities and research centers across the country brings together the gut microbiome, human genetics, nutrition, and cognitive development to improve our understanding of environmental influences on health outcomes in children. The longitudinal study follows over 1000 children between the ages of 0 to 12 years. As such, the study provides an ideal system for investigating the relationships among microbes, their resilience and stability, and their interactions with the human body.

    biological-sciences
  • Film still from "The Walls of the WTO" (Ryan Jeffery & Quinn Slobodian, 2018)
    Film still from "The Walls of the WTO" (Ryan Jeffery & Quinn Slobodian, 2018)
    Tying Ulysses to the Mast: International Economic Law and the Bonds of Globalization
    Faculty
    Department
    History
    Funding Source
    American Council of Learned Societies

    Mainstream accounts narrate globalization since the 1970s as markets set free. Yet the story is more one of encasement than liberation as proliferating trade treaties, investment agreements, justice reform projects, Rule of Law indicators, balanced budget amendments and forums for non-state arbitration have shifted the world economy from the purview of government to that of law. It shows that the field of international economic law developed since the 1970s from the belief that decolonization and democracy were threats to the global economy. This project offers the first intellectual history of this transformation. Experts proposed that global capitalism and democracy could only co-exist by legally limiting state sovereignty or “tying Ulysses to the mast.”

    history
  • Dr. David Ward
    Dr. David Ward
    Collective writing in contemporary Italian literature
    Faculty
    Department
    Italian Studies
    Funding Source
    Wellesley College

    Collective writing has been a part of the Italian literary scene for the last 15 years or so. Some writing collectives have enjoyed a degree of commercial success. My project surveys these groups, assesses their similarities and differences and asks what repercussions collective writing has on the concepts of author, authorship, property and ownership of the text.

    italian-studies
  • ARTH 309 class at the Katherine Lee Bates House
    ARTH 309 (Spring 2017) "Women and the Making of the Modern House" (with Professor Friedman, L, and Professor Martha McNamara) at "The Scarab," The Katharine Lee Bates/Katharine Coman House
    Poker Faces/Private Spaces: Houses for Unconventional Clients
    Faculty
    Department
    Art
    Funding Source
    Beinecke Library, Yale University; Arcus Foundation

    Through a series of case studies, my book-in-progress examines the ways in which "unconventional" clients – men and women who stood apart from social norms by virtue of their sexuality or alternative ways of living – and their architects used hybrid designs and unusual planning strategies to create public facades (both literal and figurative) that shielded private enclaves behind blank Modern walls or deceptively traditional exteriors.

     
    art
  • Financial Openness in relation to Voice and Accountability
    Financial openness and political repression have increased at the same time under Vladimir Putin's rule.
    CONTROL AND ACCESS: INTRA-ELITE CONFLICT AND FINANCIAL INTEGRATION IN RUSSIA
    Faculty
    Department
    Political Science, Russian Area Studies

    Weak institutions can be both detrimental and beneficial to the interests of economic elites. I argue that a particular model of financial integration that combines majority control with otherwise unrestricted access for foreign investors allows the the economic elites to continue benefiting from weak property rights while obtaining liquidity, investment capital, and increasing the cost of expropriation for the current or future political elites. This "control and access" approach was first implemented by the "old" Russian oligarchs during the first decade of transition, and later embraced by the new economic elite that arose around Vladimir Putin. I use evidence from three major episodes of property ownership reconfiguration in Russia since 1991 to support this argument. All three displayed the same pattern: in the absence of functioning domestic property rights institutions, short-term political considerations dictated the distribution of control over property to the new owners, who in turn decided the conditions for foreign access to those assets. This account of Russia's history of financial integration suggests that increased capital mobility can reinforce a kleptocratic autocracy. The argument also explains the continued commitment to financial openness under Putin and suggests reasons why Western financial sanctions hold significant implications for the relationship between Russia's political and economic elites, and, by extension, the future of the current regime.

     
    political-science
    russian-area-studies
  • Nick with a Malaise trap for capturing insects
    Nick with a Malaise trap for capturing insects
    Migratory birds, insects and climate change
    Department
    Biological Sciences
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation

    As a part of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study (hubbardbrook.org), I am investigating how climate, weather and the abundance of insects and nest predators affect the distribution, demography and population dynamics of songbirds in a northern hardwood forest, Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire.

    biological-sciences
  • “Warrior and Attendants” Court of Benin, 16-17th Century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    “Warrior and Attendants” Court of Benin, 16-17th Century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Open Access Program-Creative Commons Zero.
    The Ethics and Politics of Cultural Heritage
    Department
    Philosophy

    This project concerns a set of related questions about access to, control over, and preservation of cultural heritage, especially as it is manifested in art and the environment. Where does art belong? Who should own or control art? Does art have universal value that dictates everyone should be able to access it? What role do histories of colonial acquisition play in addressing these questions? What does it mean to claim a place as part of one's heritage? How should we account for heritage values in pursuing environmental preservation? I attempt to shed light on these questions through interdisciplinary investigation of cultural property, appropriation, repatriation, and preservation.

    philosophy
  • Dr. Christen Deveney
    Dr. Christen Deveney
    Investigating Irritability
    Department
    Psychology
    Funding Source
    Wellesley College

    Psychiatric disorders are impairing and distressing to a large percentage of the population. Unfortunately, the field has a limited understanding of which factors contribute to the development and maintenance of psychiatric symptoms. My lab uses a variety of behavioral and neuroimaging techniques to examine the factors that contribute to irritability, a proneness towards anger that exceeds one's peers. Recent projects have explored whether irritability in young adults is associated with the same types of behavioral and neural abnormalities that have been observed among pediatric populations.

    psychology
  • Matthes collects soil cores at Hubbard Brook for experiments back at Wellesley
    Matthes collects soil cores at Hubbard Brook for experiments back at Wellesley.
    Long-Term Ecological Research at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest
    Department
    Biological Sciences
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation, Long-Term Ecological Research Program, NSF-1637685

    The overarching research theme of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study (HBES) is the response of ecosystem structure, composition and function to disturbance. Disturbances, both natural and anthropogenic, are the most important factors driving change at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and throughout the Northern Forest region. Predicting the future of these forested landscapes requires a comprehensive understanding of multiple disturbances and their interactions. Some of these disturbances are chronic and long-term, such as gradual changes in average temperature and precipitation or the steady progression of beech bark disease. Others are intense and episodic, such as ice storms, wind storms, and insect outbreaks. Moreover, these disturbances may leave legacies that affect the forest, and its response to future disturbances, for decades or centuries. In this project, Matthes and her students work to understand the long-term feedbacks between soil processes, plant physiology, and tree community composition, structure, and function.

    biological-sciences
  • Prof. Metaxas with TwitterTrails research associate Sam Finn.
    Prof. Metaxas with TwitterTrails research associate Sam Finn.
    Online Misinformation, "Fake News" and Trust
    Department
    Computer Science
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation, Brachman-Hoffman Grant, Wellesley College

    The fact that online social networks play a significant role in our perception of reality is relatively new and well documented. Along with Search Engines, they are our principal source of information on a daily basis. In the last decade, we have been researching many aspects related to the propagation of information and misinformation, the prediction of political events, and have developed tools that help users evaluate the trustworthiness of information. In particular, research in my lab has documented the shifting ways that students rely on the Web for information; the efforts of individuals, groups, and companies manipulate the ranking of search query results; the first Twitter Bomb, Google bombs; the evolution of the “fake news” phenomenon; and other examples of online propaganda using algorithmic techniques. We have also analyzed the reasons behind the unpredictability of electoral results based solely on data from online social networks.

    computer-science
  • Tahir ul Qadri behind bullet-proof glass.
    Tahir ul Qadri, beloved leader of a vast religious movement - social welfare organization, behind bullet-proof glass.
    Faith in Pakistan: Muslim Charity and the Islamic Welfare State
    Department
    Political Science
    Funding Source
    American Institute of Pakistan Studies, the East West Center, Wellesley College, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

    Why are Islamic charities in Pakistan building a parallel state?

    political-science
  • Artist depiction of the planet KELT-9b
    Artist depiction of the planet KELT-9b, which is hotter than some stars.Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
    Puffy Planets, Hot Host Stars
    Faculty
    Department
    Astronomy

    Our Solar System is not alone in the Galaxy. My group uses our on-campus research telescope to help discover exoplanets -- planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. We search stars for signs that an orbiting planet is passing between us and periodically blocking a small fraction ( < 1%) of the star's light in an event known as a transit. We work as part of two international collaborations. With the ground-based KELT (Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope) project, we have already helped to discover several giant planets that have been puffed up as a result of their close proximity to the very hot stars they orbit. We are also part of the follow-up team for NASA's TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission, due to launch in Spring 2018.

    astronomy
  • The Apache Point Observatory Lunar Laser-ranging Operation (APOLLO) in action.
    The Apache Point Observatory Lunar Laser-ranging Operation (APOLLO) in action.
    Testing Einstein with Lunar Laser Ranging
    Faculty
    Department
    Physics
    Funding Source
    Jointly funded by the National Science Foundation (PHY-1404491) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NNX-15AC51G).

    Quantum mechanics and General Relativity are immensely successful frameworks that agree with experiment with unprecedented precision. But they are incompatible with each other. New ideas in physics that unite quantum mechanics and general relativity predict tiny but detectable deviations from General Relativity. Using a technique called Lunar Laser Ranging, we can measure the Earth-Moon distance with a precision of one millimeter (that's a part in a trillion of the distance). We pulse green laser light from a telescope on Earth to retro-reflectors placed on the Moon by Apollo astronauts and Russian rovers. By monitoring the shape of the lunar orbit over time, we achieve leading constraints on relativistic gravity. Although our observations thus far are consistent with General Relativity, ongoing enhancements to our experimental sensitivity could reveal the first cracks in Einstein's gravitational edifice, and would provide a vital clue toward a grand, unified theory.

    physics
  • The expected dark matter skymap
    The expected dark matter skymap, which encodes information about the structure of the Milky Way galaxy. The yellow hot spot is produced by the motion of the Earth around the center of the galaxy, and is a "smoking-gun" signature of dark matter.
    Pulling back the veil: the search for dark matter particles
    Faculty
    Department
    Physics
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Research Corporation

    Astrophysical observations reveal that more than 80% of the matter in the Universe is dark. Identifying the new physics of dark matter is a primary scientific target for the 21st century. My group develops detectors to sense dark matter particles as they stream through the laboratory. These particles should strike an atom in the detector, causing it to recoil. By measuring the direction of the resulting recoil, we can build a skymap, as shown above, to learn not only about the physics of dark matter, but also about the structure of the Milky Way galaxy.

     

    physics
  • Rachel Stanley with students Callie Krevanko and Helene Alt and a noble gas quadrupole mass spectrometer
    Rachel Stanley (lower left), with students Callie Krevanko (upper left) and Helene Alt (lower right) and a noble gas quadrupole mass spectrometer on top of the wind wave tank.
    Investigating Air-Sea Gas Exchange in the SUSTAIN wind-wave tank National Science Foundation and internal student support
    Faculty
    Department
    Chemistry
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation and internal student support

    The ocean takes up about 25% of the carbon dioxide that is emitted by fossil fuel burning - so without the ocean, the atmosphere would be heating up even more quickly. The first step in this oceanic uptake process is air-sea gas exchange -- the crossing of the molecules of carbon dioxide (or other gases) from the atmosphere into the ocean. One of the aims of my research is to improve our understanding of and ability to model air-sea gas exchange. To that end, I am conducting research in the nation's largest wind-wave tank at the Rosenstiel School of Marine Science at the University of Miami. During the summer, my students and I set up two mass spectrometers on top of the tank and measure noble gases, oxygen, and carbon dioxide within the tank water at a range of wave conditions at wind speeds ranging from 20 to 80 miles per hour. We are using these gases to understand how bubbles and high wind speeds affect air sea gas exchange.

    chemistry
  • Dr. Peggy Levitt
    Dr. Peggy Levitt
    Transnational Social Protection
    Faculty
    Department
    Sociology
    Funding Source
    Radcliffe Institute

    In this world on the move, how are people protected and provided for outside the framework of the nation-state. What kinds of new, transnational institutional arrangements are emerging to serve people whose lives traverse more than one nation-state?

    sociology
  • Dr. Ada Lerner
    Dr. Ada Lerner
    Understanding the Security and Privacy Needs of Marginalized Groups
    Faculty
    Department
    Computer Science

    Technology pervades so many personal and public aspects of our lives, making understanding its security and privacy properties critical to supporting the well being of all members of our free society. In this project, we aim to understand the security and privacy challenges faced marginalized groups, and how it may be possible to make technology better serve their needs.

    computer-science
  • Cotyledon venation pattern of Arabidopsis thaliana
    Cotyledon venation pattern of Arabidopsis thaliana
    The Role of Patellin1/2 in Plant Vascular Development
    Faculty
    Department
    Biological Sciences
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation - Division of Integrative Organismal Systems 1354255

    The plant vascular system is of critical importance for normal plant growth, development and function, yet the mechanisms that govern development of the intricate and beautiful vascular patterns we observe in nature, are largely unknown. The vascular patterns of leaves and cotyledons provide a convenient system for addressing this complex problem. The process begins when narrow files of cells are recruited in a pattern that predicts the final venation pattern. These cells subsequently become committed to a vascular fate and differentiate into the procambium, a stem cell population that will ultimately produce the conducting tissues of the veins – xylem and phloem.  Research in the Peterman lab is exploring the cellular and molecular mechanisms required for establishment of this critical stem cell population in the flowering plant model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana. Specifically, this project aims to define the role of the Sec14-related proteins, PATELLIN-1 and -2, in membrane trafficking events critical to the formation of the procambium. The enhanced understanding of how the plant vascular systems develops that will result from this project may prove useful in designing genetic modifications of plants of agronomic importance. This is particularly relevant for plants used for biofuels since xylem, makes up the bulk of plant biomass, an increasingly valuable source of renewable energy.

    biological-sciences
  • Alden and Tania Ahmed ('16) measuring garlic mustard individuals
    Alden and Tania Ahmed ('16) measuring garlic mustard individuals
    Advancing the ecological niche through demography
    Faculty
    Department
    Environmental Studies
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation - Division of Environmental Biology 1655541

    This project examines how multiple environmental factors collectively affect populations of an aggressive invasive plant species, Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard), across a range of conditions. A key focus is on constructing empirically-parameterized population models in order to quantitatively link processes at different ecological scales. As species do not exist in isolation, the project will also investigate the intersection of competition between plant species and their surrounding habitat; specifically, how does the environment influence the outcome of species competition, and what are the implications for coexistence or exclusion? Overall, this work aims to explicitly test and advance invasion biology theory, improve ecological forecasting, and inform the management of invasive species.

    environmental-studies
  • Dr. Lewis and a Tibetan yogi
    Dr. Lewis interviewing a Tibetan yogi
    Navigating the End of Life in the Tibetan Diaspora
    Faculty
    Department
    Religion
    Funding Source
    Mind and Life Institute

    The objective of this ethnographic research is to investigate how Tibetan Buddhists in three diaspora communities in New York City, India, and Nepal, conceive of, and prepare for death. To address this research objective, the project asks: 1) Do Tibetan Buddhists in transnational contexts who are exposed to new end-of-life practices, perspectives, or technologies reimagine what it means to die a “good death”?; and 2) Does globalized discourse on gender reconfigure women’s aspirations for death and rebirth? Using death as a site of inquiry, this project considers an apparent paradox: how a temporal focus on life beyond death may enhance agency and empowerment in the present.

    religion
  • Dr. Ophera Davis
    Dr. Ophera Davis
    Mississippi Black women survivors of Hurricane Katrina
    Faculty
    Department
    Africana Studies

    My work analyzes the untold stories of an overlooked group of Mississippi Black women survivors’ experiences before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina longitudinally (over 12 years) through the lens of Womanist epistemology and narrative theory; and adds new knowledge to the disaster canon on their lived experiences from the response to the recovery and reconstruction stage of the disaster.

    africana-studies
  • An interval graph and a representation of it.
    An interval graph and a representation of it.
    Structured Families of Graphs and Posets
    Faculty
    Department
    Mathematics
    Funding Source
    Simons Foundation Collaboration Grants for Mathematicians

    Graph Theory is a field of mathematics that encompasses tools and techniques for modeling and solving real world problems.  A graph consists of a set of vertices, some of which are joined by edges.  As an example,  we can form a graph in which the vertices  represent a set of people and the edges depict friendships.

    In my research, I study families of graphs with inherent structure.    I am particularly interested in interval graphs and their variants, which can be used to model scheduling problems.  Given a set of meetings, each occurring in a fixed time block (an interval), we can form a graph by assigning a vertex to each meeting and joining two vertices by an edge precisely when the corresponding meetings conflict.  Interval graphs can be used to analyze scheduling conflicts and determine the number of rooms needed to accommodate a set of meetings.

    As a researcher, I seek results that characterize which graphs belong to a given structured family and develop algorithms to efficiently determine membership.  Many of the families of graphs I study can also be viewed as partially ordered sets (posets) and I take advantage of this dual perspective in my work.

     
    mathematics
  • Spectral sequence computing the cohomology of knots
    Spectral sequence computing the cohomology of knots
    Algebraic Topology of Knot and Link Spaces
    Faculty
    Department
    Mathematics
    Funding Source
    Simons Foundation

    My research is in topology, and in particular in the Goodwillie-Weiss manifold calculus of functors and its applications to embedding spaces and to knot and link spaces in particular. I have studied some ways in which this theory connects to the theory of finite type invariants of classical knots and Milnor invariants of homotopy links. I have used both embedding and orthogonal calculus of functors to study the rational homotopy type of spaces of knots in any dimension, and more generally spaces of embeddings of any manifold in a Euclidean space. I have also studied configuration space integrals and their interaction with functor calculus. In addition, I have been trying to understand how these integrals might give insight into the topology of links, homotopy links, and braids, as well as how they can be used to define asymptotic invariants of vector fields. I have also recently started studying r-immersions (immersions without r-fold self-intersections) using functor calculus techniques in hope to apply them to some problems in combinatorial topology.

     
    mathematics
  • Dr. Olga Shurchkov
    Dr. Olga Shurchkov
    Can You Hear Me Now: Gender Bias in the Consideration of Ideas
    Faculty
    Department
    Economics
    Funding Source
    Harvard Business School

    New data from a Russian game show reveal that female players of equal ability are significantly less likely to be picked by male team captains to answer a given question as compared to their male counterparts. We design a controlled laboratory experiment that sheds light on why the ideas contributed by men may be evaluated differently as compared to ideas contributed by women of the same baseline ability. We use a simulated group discussion with a novel task to explore this question. Subjects propose answers to a question, and then have the opportunity to select another individual to answer on behalf of the group. By randomly assigning subjects to treatments where gender is or is not observable and by varying the extent to which players can communicate and express confidence in their ability to answer, we separate the mechanisms behind any gender gap in the probability of being chosen to answer. In particular, we consider two possible explanations. Discrimination may be taste-based (pure bias against women), in which case we would expect to see the gender gap only in any treatment where gender is revealed. However, the ways in which women express confidence could also influence outcomes. In this case we would expect to see that women are chosen equally in treatments at some levels of communication, but are less likely to be chosen at other levels of communication, regardless of whether or not gender is revealed.

    economics
  • Dr. Claire Fontijn
    Dr. Claire Fontijn
    Weeping-Singing in Barbara Strozzi's Laments
    Faculty
    Department
    Music

    Barbara Strozzi (1619-77), a Venetian virtuosa singer-composer, wrote three laments in the 1650s in response to a contest debated by the Academy of the Unisoni: what is more powerful to inspire emotion, witnessing tears or song?  At the time of the debate in the late 1630s, Strozzi recited the arguments of the contestants on both sides of the question, having a profound effect on the gathered academicians.  She answered the question when she performed with a weeping-singing technique that was new to the genre of the lament, which had been established by Claudio Monteverdi and Francesco Cavalli and was all the rage at the time.

    music
  • Dr. Christine Bassem
    Dr. Christine Bassem
    Coordinated mobile Crowdsensing
    Department
    Computer Science

    The main purpose of this project is to understand the incentives of crowds in mobile crowd sensing (MCS) platforms, and attempt to coordinate their mobility to optimize for system objectives. This is performed through the development of a crowd sensing mobile application, which will provide incentives for agents to share their mobility information, which will be used to recommend for them the tasks that they should complete along their routes.

    computer-science
  • Trends in labor force participation of older men, 1980-2015
    Trends in labor force participation of older men, 1980-2015
    Working Longer in the U.S. and Around the World: The Role of Social Security
    Faculty
    Department
    Economics
    Funding Source
    Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and U.S. Social Security Administration

    A century-long trend towards earlier retirement for men in the U.S. and other developed countries came to a sudden halt in the mid-1990s.  Over the past twenty years, both men and women in these countries have been working longer.  During the same period, many countries enacted reforms to their social security programs, such as raising the eligibility age and cutting benefits.  How much of the increase in work at older ages is due to these reforms?

     

    Through my work as Co-Director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s International Social Security (ISS) working group, I hope to help answer this question.  The ISS team is a group of researchers in a dozen countries that has been working together for two decades to explore the economics of an aging workforce.  For each question that we tackle, country teams conduct their own studies following a common approach and the results are combined to draw cross-country comparisons.  Differences across countries in social security provisions serve as a “natural experiment” we can use to learn the program’s effects on behavior.  In our current work, we document how the financial incentive to retire has changed over time due to social security reforms and explore how this relates to changes in retirement behavior.

     
    economics
  • Dr. Julie Matthaei
    Dr. Julie Matthaei
    From Inequality to Solidarity: Co-Creating An Economics for People and Planet
    Faculty
    Department
    Economics
    Funding Source
    Wellesley College

    This project examines the paradigm shift from inequality to solidarity currently underway in the U.S.; the ways in which economics as a discipline has to evolve in order to study and facilitate this shift; the various ways in which social movements - feminist, anti-racist, workers, and ecology -- are bringing this transformation; and the emergent "solidarity economy."

     
    economics
  • Dr. Gobes with a zebra finch; students conducting research in the lab.
    Dr. Gobes with a zebra finch; students conducting research in the lab.
    Neural mechanisms of auditory memory formation necessary for vocal learning
    Department
    Neuroscience
    Funding Source
    Award R15HD085143 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health

    There is a fundamental gap in understanding how plasticity in the nervous system supports the development of communication skills. The acquisition of a songbird’s song parallels human speech learning at the behavioral as well as the neuronal level and thus provides unique opportunities to investigate the neural mechanisms of learning and memory. In this project, we aim to determine how early auditory experience modifies neuronal systems underlying memory for vocalizations. We use manipulations of the early auditory environment, quantification of stimulus-dependent neuronal activation, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and pharmacological inhibition of neuronal activity. Understanding the normal development of auditory perception will allow us to further investigate auditory-vocal learning at the cellular and molecular level and, ultimately, to identify candidate mechanisms for disorders of auditory perception and language acquisition.

    neuroscience
  • A braid of fibrations for surgery computations
    A braid of fibrations for surgery computations
    High-Dimensional Manifolds and Surgery Theory
    Faculty
    Department
    Mathematics

    My research does not involve medical surgery but the study of spaces of dimension 5 or larger. Surgery is a mathematical tool that rips spaces apart and glues them back together in a different way than before. With this machinery, topologists are able to understand topological objects and even identify the existence of spaces that we do not even know how to construct explicitly. Surgery theory arises as the combined effort of hundreds of mathematicians over six or seven decades. Recently I co-authored a research monograph on surgery theory which will be published by Princeton University Press.

    mathematics
  • Bluegill sunfish in Lake Waban
    Bluegill sunfish in Lake Waban (image credit: Clinton Moran)
    Collaborative Research: RUI: Evaluating Form-Function-Fitness Relationships in Polyphenic Bluegill
    Faculty
    Department
    Biological Sciences
    Funding Source
    National Science Foundation - Division of Integrative Organismal Systems 1354274

    Locomotion and feeding are essential behaviors for the survival and reproductive fitness of most animals. However, little is understood about why some individuals within a population outperform others and are better suited to their habitat. Populations of bluegill sunfish often diverge into two different body forms based on their habitat: a deeper-bodied shallow water form or a streamlined deep water form. This variation creates an ideal system for investigating the relationships between form, function and adaptation to habitat.

    biological-sciences
  • CT scan of a fetal Franciscana, a South American River Dolphin
    CT scan of a fetal Franciscana, a South American River Dolphin. Paired bony sternal elements lie in the midline of the chest; the umbilical cord curves to the right.
    Sternal transformation and axial patterning at the Synapsid / Mammal transition
    Faculty
    Department
    Biological Sciences

    My current research project addresses the anatomical transformation of the shoulder girdle that occurred during the evolutionary transition from synapsid reptiles to mammals. The sternum integrates the head, neck, chest, and limbs, and plays a key role in establishing patterning along the anterior-posterior axis of the body. Specifically, my students and I ask whether the sternum of living mammals is a single element, or the fusion product of multiple ancestral elements, each with a unique developmental history and peripheral articulation. We use CT scans of fetal whales to document sternal structure along the timeline of an individual’s development, and fossil ground sloths and armadillos to document changes over evolutionary history.

    biological-sciences
  • impact of a provision of the Clayton Antitrust Act
    This figure illustrates the impact of a provision of the Clayton Antitrust Act that restricted banker participation in the governance of railroads beginning in 1921
    Role of Investment Bankers in American Financial Development
    Faculty
    Department
    Economics

    This project analyzes the role of securities underwriters in American financial development.  During the nineteenth century, investment bankers developed the capacity to raise huge amounts of capital for railroads and other large firms, and typically played an important role in their governance.  Yet their growing influence over economic life became politically controversial.  In this project, which is joint work with Prof. Carola Frydman at Northwestern University, I study the rise and decline of financiers in the American economy, and I use legislative changes intended to restrain the influence of financiers to estimate the benefits or costs associated with their roles.

     
    economics
  • Dr. Yui Suzuki
    Dr. Yui Suzuki
    Regulation of body size sensing and developmental timing in insects
    Faculty
    Department
    Biological Sciences
    Funding Source
    Award NSF-IOS 1354608 (National Science Foundation, Integrative Organismal Systems)

    Developmental plasticity has dramatic effects on the survival and reproductive fitness of organisms. In many organisms, including humans, changes in developmental physiology initiate dramatic alterations in growth and morphology. Attainment of particular body size thresholds triggers these changes in developmental physiology; however, we do not yet know how an organism senses its body size. Research in the Suzuki lab aims to answer this issue by studying the transcriptional regulation of developmental hormones in arthropods (insects and crustaceans) and experimentally manipulating conditions that alter the body size thresholds. Our current work focuses on genes that regulate the production of ecdysteroids and juvenile hormone. In particular, we focus on the endocrine roles of the POU transcription factor, ventral veins lacking, which has been demonstrated to play a key role in regulating hormone biosynthesis. Given the current trend towards precocious puberty onset among youth, understanding the regulation of developmental transitions will have important medical and public health implications.

    biological-sciences
  • Light micrograph of a wild type hermaphrodite worm
    Light micrograph of a wild type hermaphrodite worm, taken at 400X optical magnification. Credit: Moriah Harling (’17)
    The role of glutamate transporters in C. Elegans behavior and lifespan
    Faculty
    Department
    Neuroscience

    Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain and its synaptic levels are tightly regulated by glutamate transporters, located primarily on glia. In the nematode, C. Elegans, the major excitatory neurotransmitter is acetylcholine, but glutamate neurotransmission remains critical for a number of functions. Glutamate synapses in C. Elegans are not surrounded by glia and of the six glutamate transporters expressed, only one is found in neurons.  So, what is the role of glutamate transport in C. Elegans? Research in the Bauer lab centers around studying mutant worms in which the genes for one or more transporters have been knocked-out. We are interested in how glutamate transporters regulate behavior – particularly learning and memory – and how the transporters are involved in metabolism and lifespan. We hope that these studies will teach us something about how the process of neurotransmission has evolved.

    neuroscience
  • Marc Tetel
    Dr. Marc Tetel
    MECHANISMS OF STEROID ACTION IN BRAIN AND THE ROLE OF ESTROGENS IN ENERGY HOMEOSTASIS
    Faculty
    Department
    Neuroscience
    Funding Source
    National Institutes of Health R01 DK61935

    The ovarian hormones, estradiol and progesterone, bind to their receptors in the brain and throughout the body to influence behavior and physiology. Our work focuses on how receptors for these hormones function in specific brain regions to influence behavior. We have taken a proteomics-based approach to identify proteins from the brain that interact with estrogen and progestin receptors. More recently we have begun to study how estrogens regulate energy homeostasis. Estrogens elicit profound effects on metabolism by acting to decrease weight gain in women. For example, post-menopausal women tend to gain weight, which increases their risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Estrogens have similar anorectic effects in female rodents. Recent work from our lab and others reveals that estradiol protects against high fat diet-induced obesity in female mice. We are currently exploring different mechanisms by which estrogens elicit these effects in female mice. Much of our work involves collaborations with colleagues at Wellesley and others in the United States and abroad. By enhancing our knowledge of basic hormone mechanisms, we may better understand how hormones impact women’s health and disease, including breast cancer, diabetes and obesity.

     
    neuroscience
  • Dr. Beltz in her lab with colleagues.
    Dr. Beltz (second from right) in her lab with colleagues.
    Adult neurogenesis: Contributions from the innate immune system
    Department
    Neuroscience
    Funding Source
    Award NSF-IOS 1625270 (National Science Foundation, Integrative Organismal Systems)

    New nerve cells are generated in the brains of many adult organisms, including humans, and their production is regulated by a variety of factors such as environment, diet, the day-night cycle and hormones. These adult-born neurons appear to play a role in learning and memory, and a dysregulation in adult neurogenesis has been linked to several neurological diseases. The Beltz lab has been using a relatively simple model system, the crustacean brain, to explore fundamental questions about mechanisms producing the adult-born neurons. Among these are issues related to the stem cells that are the 1st-generation neural precursors. In the crustacean brain, these "stem cells" are not self-renewing and must be replenished from a non-neuronal source. Our studies show that hemocytes (blood cells) coming from the innate immune system are a likely source of these neuronal precursors. Goals of current research in the Beltz lab are to: (1) localize the specific immune tissue source of the neuronal precursors; (2) define agents that may be important in attracting hemocytes to the neurogenic niche; (3) develop in vitro and transgenic approaches that will allow us to examine these issues in new ways.

    neuroscience
  • Sara Wasserman
    Dr. Sara Wasserman
    The Effects of Internal State on Sensory Perception
    Faculty
    Department
    Neuroscience

    Decision-making requires the brain to integrate multiple stimuli and elicit an appropriate behavioral response. However, a singular input does not always produce the same output. An animal’s external environment, internal physiological state, and behavior will determine how it assigns the appropriate valence or value to a stimulus. Stress has been shown to directly effect multisensory processing, but the mechanisms of this remain largely unknown. We use behavioral and physiological assays, in which Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly) are able to control their sensory experiences in real time. We combine these ‘virtual reality’ flight simulators with molecular, genetic, optogenetic and opto-physiological techniques to investigate the neuronal circuitry that is able to process a variety of states and produce an adapted behavioral response. Currently we are investigating the neuromodulatory mechanisms by which internal state alters visual and olfactory behaviors.

    neuroscience