They Heard It Through the Grapevine: How Asclepias syriaca Communicates

Asclepias syriaca, or common milkweed, is a tall, herbaceous plant that reproduces both sexually, through pollination, and asexually, through producing multiple shoots from a single root system. It has strong chemical and physical defenses against herbivory, and when the plant senses that tissue is being disrupted by insects, it accordingly increases its production of latex (a gummy liquid) and cardenolides (toxic compounds). Previous studies have shown that other clonal plants with shoot or root connections are able to share resources such as water and nutrients between stalks. My research will investigate whether stalks of A. syriaca experiencing herbivory can share the signals that induce increased defenses with their clonal relatives; in effect, can milkweed stems “talk” to their fellow clones to warn them about present dangers?

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Contemporary Design within Historic Jerusalem

This project examines how Israeli society has selected to utilize, remember, or disregard historic architecture in Jerusalem. In such a historic environment, the layering and interaction between different architectural styles witnesses to the discourse on identity that has been asserted and contested within the city. I will seek to understand how contemporary architects and city planners take into account historic architecture and meaning when designing. This project pairs analysis of architectural design and of urban layout with study of the social, economic, and political environment that influences the design. I will seek to show how visual perception of buildings reveal historical phases and significant development through methodological approaches of art history. Studying the built environment allows one to explore how individuals and groups conceptualize their relationships and lifestyles within spaces.

Abstract: Closets and Classrooms

Throughout my time at the College, I have had the opportunity to learn about the unique experiences of several social groups that all too often go unstudied and unrepresented in traditional academic settings. One such group that is of particular interest to me is the LGBTIQ community and how members of this group navigate society through the lens of a sexuality or gender identity that is considered non-normative.

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A Computational Model of Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (Abstract)

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and some treatments for autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Crohn’s disease can result in a suppressed immune system. This opens up the possibility for further viral complications, including Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML). Leukoencephalopathy quite literally means degeneration of the white matter of the brain, which is exactly what this disease entails. When the JC virus, which is dormant in at least half of the population, becomes active, it causes demyelination. This process involves damage to the myelin sheath, a fatty layer on nerve cells, therefore creating lesions that interfere with communication between neurons. Symptomatic expression of PML can vary, but most often presents as progressively worsening visual, cognitive, and motor deficits. Though this disease is relatively rare, affecting five in one hundred AIDS patients and four in one thousand MS patients who are on the medication natalizumab, its prevalence continues to increase with the use of drugs that modify immune response (Ferenczy et al., 2012). Furthermore, the lack of current treatment for PML has resulted in a mortality rate upwards of thirty percent, and it leaves survivors with lifelong impairment. Research on PML is imperative, which is why I hope to contribute to this effort by creating a computational model of PML and its cause, the JC virus.

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