Graduate Student Research Oral Presentations

Session 1: 12:00 pm to 12:55 pm

  • Jessica Schriver, PhD Childhood Studies: Postcolonial/Carceral Kids

  • Kevin de Young, MS Biology: Metabolic Regulation of Stalk Synthesis in Caulobacter crescentus

  • Kathrine Christy, MA English: How High-Brow Is Homer? The Classics and Perceptions of Elitism

  • Lidong Xiang, PhD Childhood Studies: Middle or Model? Identity Formation of Asian American Adolescents from Philadelphia

  • David Southgate, MPA Public Administration: Disaster Recovery Through Brownfields: The Puerto Rico Story

Session 2: 1:00 pm to 1:55 pm

  • Gabriele Stankeviciute, PhD Computational and Integrative Biology: Differential modes of crosslinking establish spatially distinct regions of peptidoglycan in <i>Caulobacter crescentus</i>

  • Montrell Sanders, MPA Public Administration: Is There a Detriment to Diversity? An Investigation of Minority Student Experiences at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs)

  • John Crowell, MA Psychology: The Relationship between Emotion Regulation and Different Kinds of Inhibition

  • Deszeree Thomas, PhD Childhood Studies: Juveniles for Justice and Youth Fostering Change

  • Emma Duncan, MA English: Critiquing Western Ways: Gender Roles and Christianity in Poetry by Diane Glancy & Joy Harjo

Session 3: 2:00 pm to 2:45 pm

  • Tara Carr-Lemke, PhD Public Affairs: Redevelopment in Old Havana: Resilience and the Challenge of Housing
  • Erin Doherty, MA Criminal Justice: Neighborhood Health, Concentrated Disadvantage & Family Violence

  • Caleb Gilbert, MS Biology: Biological diversity in Pitcher plant microcosms

  • Elisabeth Yang, PhD Childhood Studies: J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy: Figurations of and remedies for neurasthenia in Victorian and Edwardian England

Graduate Research and Creative Writing Presentation Abstracts

Tara Carr-Lemke
Pubic Affairs (PhD)
Title of Project: Redevelopment in Old Havana: Resilience and the Challenge of Housing
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Maureen Donaghy
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Literature on resilience addresses the adaptive capacity of communities to prepare for natural disasters and the effects of climate change. But urban communities also face enormous threats in many other realms, including economic shifts, reduction in government support, and gentrification. In this presentation, we address how long-term redevelopment in Old Havana has shaped the adaptive capacity of residents to respond to the influx of foreign investment, government interventions, and new means of governance. By applying a resilience framework, we assess the factors that shape the capability of residents to manage ongoing vulnerabilities and utilize opportunities for transformation.

Kathrine Christy
English (MA)
Title of Project: How High-Brow Is Homer? The Classics and Perceptions of Elitism
Faculty Advisor: Shanyn Fiske
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient 

In this paper, I discuss how the study of Classical texts–for example, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, are currently being perceived on college campuses. I discuss a 2015 incident in which Columbia students objected to the teaching of the text on the grounds that it was triggering for both sexual assault survivors and students from low-income backgrounds. I discuss how much of the objections to the teaching of these texts are based on assumptions made about said texts rather than the texts themselves, and that objections like this often erase the nuances of the texts they try to label as offensive. I discuss also the responses of contemporary Classists, who concern themselves with the project of making these texts keep pace with the current zeitgeist, and how the attachment of political agendas to Classical texts often interferes with any honest engagement with said texts. 

John Crowell
Psychology (MA)
Title of Project: The Relationship between Emotion Regulation and Different Kinds of Inhibition
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kristin August
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient 

Emotion regulation (ER) can be viewed as the process that individuals engage in to alter the intensity, duration, or type of emotion they are experiencing. Two of the ER strategies that have been found to be effective to be in their ability to reduce negative emotions are reappraisal and distraction. However, the role of individual factors on the efficacy of these strategies is not thoroughly understood. Thus, the purpose of the current research was to determine the impact of different kinds of inhibition of ER efficacy. Participants completed two cognitive tasks: the Flanker Task measuring selective attention and a Memory Inhibition Task measuring cognitive inhibition. Participants also completed an ER task in which they were asked to view graphic photos and use either reappraisal or distraction to reduce their negative emotional reactions. Findings from this study help to advance the literature on the role of individual factors in determining ER effectiveness.

Kevin de Young
Biology (MS)
Title of Project: “Metabolic Regulation of Stalk Synthesis in Caulobacter crescentus”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Eric Klein

Caulobacter crescentus is a gram-negative bacterium known for its characteristic adhesive stalk and a tolerance to nutrient deprivation. Found mostly in oligotrophic (nutrient-depleted) aquatic environments, Caulobacter responds to changes in resource availability with dynamic metabolic and morphological alterations. We isolated a mutant strain with reduced stalk length; the mutation mapped to gene CC3617, a mannose 6-phosphate isomerase. During phosphate starvation, wild-type cells maintain a 1:1 ratio of mannose 6-phosphate (M6P) and fructose 6-phosphate (F6P). Our CC3617 mutant strain, by contrast, has a relative increase in F6P. The decrease in M6P correlates with low levels of exopolysaccharide and O-antigen synthesis.  Interestingly, we find that the CC3617 mutant strain does not readily enter stationary phase; rather it continuosly increases cell number and represses stationary-phase gene expression. Whether the inability to enter stationary phase is the cause of the short-stalk phenotype is currently being investigated.

Erin Doherty
Criminal Justice (MA)
Title of Project: Neighborhood Health, Concentrated Disadvantage & Family Violence
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Richard Stansfield
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient 

Within a large field of family violence research, a slowly growing body of literature has examined community-level variables to explain variation in violence. Studies investigating the role of ecological factors have largely been informed by social disorganization theory. This represents considerable progress, but the community context also includes many ecological factors yet to be considered by studies examining family violence, and as such, successful neighborhood interventions have been limited. Furthermore, few community-level studies have explored whether serious family violence is geographically clustered. The current study used police calls for service data to examine how the health context of a community is associated with family violence. Accounting for spatial dependence, a higher prevalence of self-reported mental illness in a neighborhood related to family violence, although a higher prevalence of physical health difficulties was negatively associated with family violence. These results carry implications that can inform community-based efforts, particularly in economically disadvantaged neighborhood, aimed at reducing family violence.

Emma Duncan
English (MA)
Title of Project: Critiquing Western Ways: Gender Roles and Christianity in Poetry by Diane Glancy & Joy Harjo
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Holly Blackford
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

In their poetry, Diane Glancy (Cherokee) and Joy Harjo (Muscogee) critique westernized Christianity and its emphasis on patriarchal gender hierarchies. Curiously, Glancy does this as a self-proclaimed “fundamental Christian” while Harjo writes as an outspoken critic of institutionalized Christianity. Duncan contextualizes her analysis of their poetry with Richard Twiss’ (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) critique of contemporary missionary efforts in Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys, illuminating unsettling connections between misguided Western Protestant missionary efforts, sexualization of the Native female body, and the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women. Duncan argues that in spite of their disparate attitudes toward Christianity, both Glancy and Harjo work toward improving the experiences of Indigenous women by deconstructing harmful hierarchies perpetuated by missionaries.

Caleb Gilbert
Biology (MS)
Title of Project: Biological diversity in Pitcher plant microcosms
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Angelica Gonzalez, Dr. Daniel Shain
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

My project will study how taxonomic and functional diversity patterns vary across spatial scales and associated environmental changes while in parallel disentangling the process underlying this biodiversity variation. Here, we will assess taxonomic and functional α, β and γ diversity of aquatic communities contained in pitcher plants across spatial scales to gain insights into the potential patterns and mechanisms driving microbial diversity. We will test the hypotheses: Taxonomic and functional diversity is not evenly distributed among spatial scales. Because environmental filtering forces species to converge toward and optimum trait value and become functionally similar, we expect that communities assembled under similar climatic conditions and equally accessible to colonizers should converge to similar taxonomic and functional diversity, whereas communities from different regions will differ in diversity. Further, we expect β diversity to be higher among regions than at local scales (iv). However, environmental variables at the local scale can greatly influence biological communities and for this reason we expect that diversity will show greater variability among sites (iii) than among plants within a site (ii), and these will show larger variability than among pitchers within a plant (i). In contrast, if regional processes are more important than local processes in the structure of communities, diversity should be predominantly shaped by stochastic processes such as dispersion which depend on the size and nature of the regional pool. As a result, communities developed in a similar environment should be taxonomically but not necessarily functionally dissimilar due to potential functional redundancy among species in local communities.

Montrell Sanders
Public Administration (MPA)
Title of Project: Is There a Detriment to Diversity? An Investigation of Minority Student Experiences at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs)
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Erin Robinson

While diversity is an aim of higher education institutions in the United States, scholarship lacks evidence of whether diversity has particular implications for minority student populations.  As of the 2011-2012 school year, 1,412,688 African American students were enrolled in four-year institutions. College attendance and degree attainment are well-supported factors that break down barriers of systematic inequality for minority populations; therefore, it is not surprising that student enrollment for this and other historically underrepresented groups has steadily increased for decades. This research investigates the ways in which predominantly white institutions (PWIs) equip minority students to succeed during matriculation and post-graduation. Specifically, this analysis reviews existing literature on diversity in higher education, crafts a theoretical argument that explores the potential detrimental impacts of diversity and concludes with a set of recommendations on how predominantly white institutions might effectively support minority students while simultaneously striving for diverse and inclusive campuses.

Jessica Schriver
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Postcolonial/carceral Kids
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lauren Silver
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient 

Within the United States, juvenile detention centers are framed as sites of protection and rehabilitation. A way for the state to fix problematic youth populations, these spaces exist to separate the good from the bad, thus making it possible for the good to become better and the bad to—insert question mark here, because while reform is often the planned program of juvenile detention, what does a future post-program like for the child who exits the building? The US justice and penal complex relies on a de-humanization process, stripping people convicted of crimes of their names, clothes, homes, privacy, culture, rights, and history. Some of these items are returned upon release—in material ways, such as wallets with identification cards and pieces of street clothing. Other items—more invisible—are never returned, such as suffrage and history. It’s history that I plan to take up here, specifically what happens to a young person’s history surrounding this moment of detainment. Using Sarada Balagopalan’s postcolonial criticism and the reported experiences of Jennifer Tilton’s REACH project, a quiet violence may be heard. In critiques of citizenship and rhetoric of Western responsibility, the act of history making, as a physical and personal archive, troubles the espoused protection and rehabilitation of the juvenile justice system.  The juvenile detention system not only elides youth history, but simultaneously troubles futurity of individuals and groups over-represented in the detained population. 

David Southgate
Public Administration (MPA)
Title of Project: Disaster Recovery Through Brownfields: The Puerto Rico Story
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Transforming brownfields – idle lands whose redevelopment is complicated by the presence of contamination – is difficult work for many communities. But following the catastrophic climate disasters of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, those challenges multiplied for the PR127 Corridor, a 3,500 acre decaying petrochemical corridor on the shores of the Carribean Sea in Guayanilla and Peñuelas, Puerto Rico.

David Southgate presented to the Council of Development Finance Agencies National Finance Development Summit in Dallas, TX in 2018. He will explain the community development plans and the multi-sectoral collaboration between federal, state, and local governments, as well as citizens as stakeholders aim to transform the zone into an Eco-Industrial Zone to support an island-wide manufacturing renaissance through a variety of new initiatives, biofuels, and robust industrial-scale renewable energy and zero waste initiatives.

Gabriele Stankeviciute
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Title of Project: Differential modes of crosslinking establish spatially distinct regions of peptidoglycan in Caulobacter crescentus
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Eric Klein

The diversity of cell shapes across the bacterial kingdom reflects evolutionary pressures that have produced physiologically important morphologies. While efforts have been made to understand the regulation of some prototypical cell morphologies such as that of rod-shaped Escherichia coli, little is known about most cell shapes. For Caulobacter crescentus, polar stalk synthesis is tied to its dimorphic life cycle, and stalk elongation is regulated by phosphate availability. Based on the previous observation that C. crescentus stalks are lysozyme-resistant, we compared the composition of the peptidoglycan cell wall of stalks and cell bodies and identified key differences in peptidoglycan crosslinking. Cell body peptidoglycan contained primarily DD-crosslinks between meso-diaminopimelic acid and D-alanine residues, whereas stalk peptidoglycan had more LD-transpeptidation (meso-diaminopimelic acid-meso-diaminopimelic acid), mediated by LdtD. We determined that ldtD is dispensable for stalk elongation; rather, stalk LD-transpeptidation reflects an aging process associated with low peptidoglycan turnover in the stalk. We also found that lysozyme resistance is a structural consequence of LD-crosslinking. Despite no obvious selection pressure for LD-crosslinking or lysozyme resistance in C. crescentus, the correlation between these two properties was maintained in other organisms, suggesting that DAP-DAP crosslinking may be a general mechanism for regulating bacterial sensitivity to lysozyme. 

Deszeree Thomas
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Juveniles for Justice and Youth Fostering Change
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lauren J. Silver, Dr. Kate Cairns, Dr. Sonia Rosen
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Juveniles for Justice and Youth Fostering Change is an ethnographic study of the Juvenile Law Center’s Youth Advocacy Programs.  Through participant observation, organizational document review, media coverage, City Council hearing transcripts, staff and youth interviews, and staff and youth focus groups, I will examine race, childhood, and agency within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and the experiences of staff providing and youth participating in the Juvenile Law Center’s youth advocacy program. 

Lidong Xiang
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Middle or Model? Identity Formation of Asian American Adolescents from Philadelphia
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lauren Silver

This research explores issues revolving around concepts such as “model”, “minority”, and “middle” through the juxtaposition of the novel Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (2010) and lived experiences of three high school Asian American adolescents who were born after the millennium in low-income families as the first-generation immigrants living in Philadelphia. The “middle” here refers to an in-between position of Asian American among other minorities. This research dismantles the assumed family and community supports to this group of youth, and provides nuanced understandings which are usually veiled under the racial category of “model minority”. First, college essays and school experiences reflect the situation that Asian youth are left out from the care and attention in public schools to some extent. Linking to the novel and how Kimberley always gets the full scholarship from the private high school and Yale University, I argue that it is definitely problematic to regard the Asian identity as the panacea to all difficulties. Second, PCDC’s Teen Club is the representative of community supports in youth’s lived experiences. from the examination of materials and experiences from the Teen Club, I suppose programs’ availability is from an adult-centric perspective resulting in the problematic effectiveness as community supports to these youths. 

Elisabeth Yang
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Moral Agency and Personhood of Infants in Medical and  Pedagogical Literature of Pre-Darwinian America
Faculty Advisor: Dr. John Wall
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

In this paper, I investigate conceptualizations of the moral agency and personhood of infants in nineteenth-century American medical and pedagogical texts to disentangle the interweaving of hegemonic religious, scientific, and philosophical conceptions of children and childhood during the nineteenth-century and prior to an evolutionary understanding of child development in the 1860s and the growing mechanisation of the child’s body in the early twentieth-century. During the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century, medicine and pedagogy overlapped with one another, with Anglo-American church leaders offering advice on physical health and physicians authoring treatises on the moral precepts for children and mothers. Emphasis on the physical health of the child, hence, prescriptions for exercise, was prevalent within these texts as it was believed that a strong body led to a strong soul.[1] During the mid-to late nineteenth century, medical and religious discourse concerning the moral agency and status of the infant shifts as child-rearing and motherhood become more ‘scientific’ and specialized and a sort of fragmentation of the infant, a separation of the physical, mental, and moral features of the child and discourse of the moral agency of infants wanes. Through a textual analysis and interrogation of child-rearing manuals of the mid-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century, I consider how various authorities of child-rearing define and conceptualize morality, agency, infancy, and personhood and how conceptualizations of the infant persist or change particularly during major political and scientific moments, such as the emergence of the new republic in the mid-to-late eighteenth century and the inauguration of Darwinism in the mid-nineteenth century.