Faculty Shop Talks


Fall 2016 Schedule

Presenter: Paul Saulnier

Title: Joined at the Hip from Birth: A Story of Entangled Photons
Time and Place: September 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Ever since the apple hit Isaac Newton on the head, scientists have wondered about the nature of the mechanisms that cause one object to influence the behavior of another more distant object.  Since Newton could not see a rope connecting the Earth to the Moon, he wondered how it was that the Earth changed the Moon’s motion.  What accounted for this seemingly “spooky action-at-a distance”?  Physicists eventually created models that did away with the need for any spooky influences and all was right with the world for over 100 years; until…  This Shop Talk, intended for a general academic audience, will explore the creation, manipulation, and spectral measurement of entangled photons that are both “spooky” and joined at the hip from birth.

Presenter: Laura Burrack

Title: Lessons from modeling the evolution of cancer cells using microbes

Time and Place: October 7, 2016 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

The word “cancer” dates back more than 2000 years and is used to describe diseases associated with excessive growth of cells within our body. Cancer cells share a common tendency to grow in an unregulated fashion, but what we call cancer is actually thousands of different diseases rather than a single disease because there are many possible ways for cells to acquire the genetic mutations causing excessive growth. Even within a single patient, the cancer cells causing a primary tumor differ from the cancer cells that spread to other areas of the body during metastasis. The goal of my research is to better understand how normal cells acquire the numerous genetic changes necessary to become cancerous and what factors contribute to the continual evolution that occurs following formation of a primary tumor. To do this, I use yeast to model the types of genetic changes that happen in cancer cells. Microbes such as yeast have many advantages including easy manipulation, fast growth rates, and the ability to track their evolution rapidly in the lab. In this talk, I will discuss what we have learned so far about the evolution of cancer cells using the yeast model system and how this knowledge might be used to improve treatment of certain types of cancer.

Presenter: Melissa Rolnick

Title:  MEISA Movement - Exploration - Imagination - Sensation - Awareness
Time and Place: October 28, 2016 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

is a developing contemplative/somatic practice that invites curiosity into the kinesthetic experience. The practice seeks to enliven a practitioner's inner space and awaken the creative impulse by attending to sensations and engaging imagination. Embodied expression through movement unfolds, and awareness heightens as one follows a kinesthetic thread through sustained, directed exploration. This session will introduce participants to the practice/form as it has evolved up to this point, which involves experiential participation.

Presenter: Annika Ericksen

Title:  Narrative of an Unfolding Disaster: Creative Writing to Garner Empathy for Distant “Others” Affected by Climate Change
Time and Place: November 11, 2016 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

In this talk I will discuss a narrative writing project through which I aim to expand the impact of my research. My work in Mongolia revolves around winter disasters (called zud) that periodically kill off livestock and destroy herding livelihoods. Climate change is disrupting summer rainfall patterns, which can jeopardize pasture growth and subsequently trigger winter disaster. Although zud have occurred throughout history, rural households are especially vulnerable since the end of communism in 1990, when state support for herding was abruptly withdrawn. Teaching a 100-level liberal arts perspective course, I have observed that my students engage most fully with books that read like novels. In order to reach audiences at this level and outside of academia, I am working on a chronicle of an unfolding zud disaster that is peopled by colorful characters and contextualized by vivid flashbacks. I aim to produce a manuscript that, as well as being a good read, will challenge assumptions, invite critical thinking, and expand readers’ spheres of moral consideration. In this talk, I will discuss the major challenges I have come across. Most importantly, disciplinary ethics prevent me from taking liberties in how I present other people's perspectives. The project has therefore become a collaborative one (my “characters” will review my work and weigh in), and I am searching for the right balance of polyvocality and cohesiveness of the narrative.

Presenter: Lauren Hecht

Title:  Exploring Peppermint Oil's Influence on Attention
Time and Place: December 2, 2016 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center
Peppermint aromatherapy claims that peppermint essential oil can impact a number of cognitive functions. For example, peppermint oil’s influence on mood has led to its use in treating anxiety, depression, and stress. Another common claim is that peppermint oil acts as a stimulant, improving “focus”. Although studies have shown that smells, including peppermint, can capture one's attention (“Wow, what’s that smell?! Is that peppermint?”), few have consistently shown any change in how attention works following exposure to peppermint oil (“I can focus on this task so much better now!”). In recent years, my students and I have been exploring the idea that peppermint oil influences the mechanisms of attention. In this talk, I will briefly review previous research before describing the evolution of our experiments and research equipment, which involved building an olfactometer to administer smells to participants.

Spring 2017 Schedule

Presenter: Patricia Reeder


Time and Place: February 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Presenter: Maddalena Marinari

Title:  Caught between Two Worlds: Undocumented Italians in the United States

Time and Place: March 3, 2017 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

In 1929, Mauro Bruni left Southern Italy with just enough money to make it to the United States, but his trip to the new world was different from what many Americans would expect today. To reach the United States, Mauro surreptitiously left Italy, boarded a ship to Canada from France, and then crossed the porous Canadian border on a train to New York City. Looking for loopholes to circumvent restrictive immigration laws that marked them as undesirable, Mauro and other Italians began entering the United States illegally at the turn of the twentieth century, during the rise of a global regime of immigration restriction. Although the phrase “Italian illegal alien” might seem incongruous to many observers today, Italian “illegals” were the subject of intense debate on both sides of the Atlantic at the time. Rather than framing this phenomenon as an American story, this talk approaches undocumented immigration as a multi-country phenomenon that, in addition to migrants, involved a network of smugglers and forgers spanning the Atlantic that frustrated American and Italian authorities unable to control the illegal flow in and out of their countries.


Presenter: Eric Dugdale

Title: Breaking out of solitary confinement:  arts and humanities research reimagined
Time and Place: March 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

This shoptalk presents collaborative research projects involving faculty colleagues as well as undergraduate collaborators. These collaborations break with the norm of single-authored scholarship in the arts and humanities. Two projects are treated in passing: an article on restorative justice in Aeschylus’ Eumenides co-authored with Mimi Gerstbauer (Political Science), and a review of Henry MacCarthy’s Gustavus production of Mary Zimmerman’s Argonautika co-authored with William Riihiluoma ’17, both forthcoming in classical journals. The main case-study is a chapter (forthcoming in the Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Sophocles) on the later reception of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, a tragedy about an abandoned war veteran. The play has directly inspired the creative work of Voltaire, William Wordsworth, Franz Schubert, Tom Stoppard, and Nobel laureates Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott among others. The chapter will incorporate the research and writing of four Gustavus students: Ellen Stoll ’19 (on a song by Franz Schubert), Nicholas Beck ’19 and Caitlin Juvland ’19 (on Philoctetes’ representation in a Disney TV series and film), and Teriq Canales ’19 (on a painting by Guillaume Gillon-Lethière, an artist from Guadeloupe of African descent).

Presenter: Suzanne Wilson

Title:  What Is in a Label?: A Comparison of the Colombian Paramilitaries and the BACRIM

Time and Place: April 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Abstract: This presentation explores the social construction of criminality through comparing the Colombian paramilitaries (from their formation as a national confederation until their demobilization, 1997-2006) with the newer bandas criminales emergentes (BACRIM) or emerging criminal bands (2006-2016).  The Colombian government has viewed the BACRIM strictly as criminal actors while it provided the paramilitaries with legal protections as political actors.  Why are two groups that are both criminal and violent viewed so differently?  This presentation examines three areas that the Colombian government argues that the BACRIM differs from the paramilitaries: a) organized crime; b) violence; and c) links to the political sphere and civil society.  There are some notable differences between the two groups (e.g., the BACRIM are not mortal enemies of guerrilla groups, have not killed and displaced persons at the levels that the paramilitaries did, and lack the systematic links with politicians at the national level that the paramilitaries had).  While these distinctions are important, I argue that the BACRIM are akin to their paramilitary predecessors in several key respects.  Both groups have dominated domestic drug trafficking and been violent actors.  Like the paramilitaries, the BACRIM have maintained de facto control of many localities and worked closely with regional and municipal politicians.  Last, this presentation discusses the implications of viewing the BACRIM as criminals while treating the paramilitaries as political actors for Colombian politics and theories of criminalization.  Demonstrating criminalization processes’ selectivity and political roots, the differential labeling obscures the paramilitary’s criminality and their culpability for many deaths and massacres, while downplaying the BACRIM’s links to the political sphere.

Presenter: Brandy Russell

Time and Place: April 21, 2017 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center