Faculty Shop Talks

Fall 2016

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

MEISA 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

Presenter:  Patricia Reeder

Title:  Learning in an uncertain world: How children and adults exploit distributional information during implicit learning
Time and Place:  February 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Throughout the lifespan – even before birth – humans are bombarded with complex information. Our job as learners is to make sense of the sounds and shapes in our environment by using a combination of implicit learning mechanisms and explicit learning strategies. Despite the long-held belief that human infants enter into a world of “blooming, buzzing confusion” that is too complex for their reduced cognitive abilities, we now know that much of the information in our environment is highly structured and exhibits predictable regularities.  Humans are remarkably sensitive to this type of distributional information, and even very young infants can implicitly use these regularities to learn about the complex structures in their input, without any formal instruction.  But little is known about how learners decide which distributional cues are important for learning. In this talk, I will describe a series of studies aimed at uncovering which distributional regularities are most useful during the implicit learning of complex information, and how development influences this type of learning.

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:  Where go the Emerging Criminal Bands (BACRIM)?: An Assessment of Counternarcotics and Counterinsurgency Policies in Colombia in the 2000s and 2010s
Time and Place:  April 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Abstract: This presentation builds on critiques of Plan Colombia and Democratic Security policies, the two main counternarcotics and counterinsurgency policies in Colombia in the 2000s and 2010s.  It argues that, despite some significant successes, these polices failed to eradicate violence and organized crime from Colombia because they overlooked the development of ‘bandas criminales emergentes’ (BACRIM) or ‘emerging criminal bands’ in Colombia in the mid-2000s.  Scholars have called these bands the third generation of Colombian drug traffickers.  The presentation examines the little-studied BACRIM groups during their first ten years (2006-2016).  It discusses the BACRIM’s evolution, size, two main groups and their organizational structures, diverse forms of criminality (including drug trafficking and illegal mining), and three main forms of violence (internecine fighting among BACRIM groups, violence protecting the BACRIM’s criminal activities and assets, and violence maintaining economic and political control of municipalities and land for elite groups or the BACRIM).

Presenter:   Jeff La Frenierre

Title: Papa Chimborazo Is Not Like He Was Before: A Story of Climate Change Writ Local
Time and Place:  April 21, 2017 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Abstract: “Papa” Chimborazo, a 20,500-foot, glacier-covered volcano in Ecuador, is one of the tallest peaks in the great Andean Mountains.  It is at once a highly symbolic feature of Ecuador’s cultural landscape and a highly visible manifestation of the local climate. Its glaciers, which tower above an agrarian landscape of colorful fields, tidy pastures and tranquil villages – and serve as headwaters for the area’s four rivers – wax and wane with small variations in temperature and precipitation. In recent decades, Chimborazo’s glaciers have been in ever-faster retreat, and the people who live nearby express nearly universal concern for what this means for their future lives and livelihoods. Together, we will explore exactly how Chimborazo’s glaciers are changing, what is causing these changes, the impacts these changes are having on regional water supplies, and what this means for the people who live below the mountain. This is a story of climate change writ local, where the impacts of a global crisis are already being felt by real people, people who have had very little role in creating the problems they now face.