Assistant Professor of Visual Art
Slabs – Residency and Exhibition
Slabs is a series of trompe-l’oeil photographic collages on panel. The work will be produced during a residency at the Kala Institute of Art summer 2014 and exhibited as a solo show at Steven Wolf Fine Arts in San Francisco in the fall. This body of work is part of an ongoing visual investigation of landscape, nature, architecture and ornament. The residency will be an opportunity to use Kala Institute’s state of the art facilities to make large‐scale prints and to use their project space to install a site-specific artwork in preparation for the show.
Assistant Professor of Visual Art
Palm House Transect
Palm House Transect is a large-scale, site-specific sound installation developed for the greenhouse at the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York. The piece consists of a generative sound composition played through a set of loudspeakers spread irregularly throughout the greenhouse structure. The movement of sound in the space is articulated visually by a set of brightly colored cables that run from point to point among the speakers and key structural elements of the greenhouse. The work is based around the idea of a line transect, which is the path along which an observer counts and records occurrences of the phenomena of study. This very specific, attentive mode of moving through space provides a model for visitor engagement with the piece and the site. It also provides a concrete methodology for developing the sonic elements of the piece in close correlation with its site.
The piece will be operational from June through October of 2014 as part of “The Garden of Sonic Delights,” an exhibition of outdoor site-specific sound installations that will take place, and during its exhibition a series of four performances with guest musicians will take place within it. These are intended to activate the site and the piece in specific ways and provide focal points for audiences to experience the work.
HUMANITIES & SOCIAL SCIENCES
Assistant Professor of Political Science
The Right to Strike in a Liberal Democracy
Every liberal democracy in the developed world recognizes the right to strike. As recent strikes from the United States to Spain to Brazil remind us, it remains a socially divisive issue. Yet there is reason to think that liberal democratic theory cannot fully justify the right to strike. How should we interpret this disjunction between theory and practice? My hypothesis is that the right to strike can be understood as a right that does not have full moral justification but instead exists for pragmatic reasons: in order to maintain social peace. Surprisingly, political scientists, especially political philosophers, have given the right to strike almost no attention at all. This is unfortunate because the right to strike is very important to our understanding of the moral and practical foundations of liberal democracy. Understanding this right’s justification is further important to knowing how it should be permitted and regulated in law. My knowledge of the law and history of the right to strike in the United States suggests preliminary confirmation of my hypothesis that the right to strike is best interpreted as a pragmatic right. But I would like to engage in cross-national comparison of the history and legal status of the right to strike in a number of liberal democracies: UK, France, Spain and Sweden. I expect to use this research to generate a theoretical argument for the right to strike, and more importantly, a series of proposals regarding the most justifiable way of recognizing the right to strike in law.
Assistant Professor of History
International Squatterdom and the Fall of Global Housing Policy, 1946-1989
My project examines the moment in the 1970s when governments around the world, faced with overwhelming problems of overcrowded public housing, departed from the traditions of liberal governance by expertise. In New York City, London, New Delhi, and at the World Bank, policy-makers began to investigate new theories that bottom-up organization, rather than top-down control, could solve problems of housing crowded cities.
The social and intellectual events that constitute this shift are only slightly familiar to historians. In the decades after the Second World War, simultaneous outbreaks of squatting in Western cities inspired urban planners to contemplate the potential benefits of releasing abandoned stretches of the city to self-built housing movements. Gradually, books such as John F. C. Turner’s Housing by People (1977) held up squatters as the key to similar problems in the global South. By the 1990s, Nobel Prize in economics nominee Hernando de Soto had foregrounded the squatter as the hero of development, arguing for a policy shift from eviction to endorsement, a policy that promised to expand global credit economy while simultaneously overturning barriers of race, class, and privilege. Once merely peripheral figures of resistance, squatters had become one of the first and major case-studies for the merits of neoliberal economic policy.
My project will draw on an integrated program of archival research and digital analysis to probe the question of squatters’ role in the making of global land policy, extending the way we think about the long history of Western property law and its contestation.
Assistant Professor of Africana Studies
Transnational Feminist Political Thought and Praxis in Brazil
I propose to carry out preliminary research in Brazil on how black women mobilize political movements across borders and how they understand themselves as agents in creating a transnational and diasporic community. This research will allow me to apply for additional grant funding to continue this work in Brazil and in other countries in Latin America. I aim to produce an analytical book and an edited volume that will be the first major multi-lingual and transnational work exploring black women’s political work in Latin America. Focusing on the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Americas, I will examine how black women utilize transnational feminist thought and praxis in local and national struggles for collective recognition as well as citizenship and human rights. This research is innovative because it is international and collaborative in scope, building on a network of African-descendant scholars and activists whose interpretative writings are not readily available. It is my primary claim that black women’s theoretical and political formulations in Latin America reflect the transnational movement of black feminist ideas and the diasporization of black social movements. This research will contribute to Brown’s ongoing commitment to supporting international and collaborative research and the Africana Studies department and the Pembroke Center’s leading role in promoting black women’s scholarship produced throughout the African Diaspora.
Assistant Professor of History
Assembling the Dinosaur: Science, Museums, and American Capitalism, 1870-1930
I am writing a book that tells the story of how dinosaurs from the American West rose to become one of the most recognizable icons of modern science and popular culture during the late 19th and early 20th century. In doing so, I bring the history of science into dialogue with the emerging field of the history of capitalism. By examining the way dinosaur fossils were collected, studied, and put on display in large natural history museums, I document how the ideals, norms, and practices of modern capitalism manifested themselves in the creation of scientific knowledge about the deep past. Philanthropically funded museums are a particularly good site in which to explore how science and capitalism intersect. This is because it is there that the moral economy which ostensibly governed the trade of specimens, information, and credit came into direct contact with the modern market economy. What these institutions demonstrate, I argue, is that we cannot understand the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge without also understanding the changing nature of capitalism during this period. Not only that, but something of the reverse holds as well; namely, that changes taking place at the museum document the ambition of modern capitalism to create public goods in addition to profits. The Salomon Faculty Research Grant will provide crucial funds to expand the evidentiary base of my book manuscript, allowing me to conduct archival research in the United States and Europe during the summer of 2014 as well as portions of the following academic year.
Assistant Professor, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World
Brown University Labraunda Project
The Brown University Labraunda Project is an archaeological expedition to one of the main ancient religious sites in western Turkey. The purpose of the project is to excavate, document, and analyze the largest and perhaps the earliest monumental fountain house in Labraunda, a mountain sanctuary to Zeus whose main benefactors were the Hekatomnid rulers of Karia in the late 5th and 4th centuries BCE. Previous generations of archaeologists have neglected this monumental fountain because it is not made of marble and because it does not accord with canonical ideas of classical Greek or Roman architecture. These peculiarities are precisely what makes the building exceptionally interesting; in fact, the monument has the potential to shed light not only on the history of water‐management and early monumentalization of Labraunda, but also, and more importantly, on the dynamics of cross‐cultural interaction between the cosmopolitan Hekatomnids and the local quarrymen and masons who had to face the challenges of building ambitious architectural projects in inland Karia. The fountain, long dismissed by scholars as a “bizarre” monument, is actually a unique window into the life of the sanctuary, not only in the Late Classical and Hellenistic period, but even into the Roman and Late Antique periods.
Assistant Professor of Engineering
Bacterial Stimuli-Responsive Antibiotic Delivery Coatings
The proposed research will use an innovative approach to develop superior antibiotic releasing coatings that are responsive to bacteria-specific stimuli. Local antibiotic delivery systems have the potential to reduce many of the complications associated with systemic antibiotic delivery. The passive long-term release of sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics from most currently existing systems, however, renders these materials ineffective and contributes to rising levels of drug-resistant bacteria. Layer-by-layer (LbL) self-assembly based drug delivery coatings have the ability to overcome many of the challenges posed by traditional local antimicrobial delivery systems, but have thus far been unable to achieve the control in drug release that is desirable for an ideal antibiotic releasing device. We will develop LbL film architectures held together by molecules containing β-lactam ring structures. Production of the enzyme, β-lactamase, by several common bacteria will lead to hydrolysis of these β-lactams causing a triggered film degradation and release of film components. Non-β-lactam antibiotics will be incorporated into these film architectures as the antibiotic payload whose release will be triggered in the presence of β-lactamase producing bacteria. This study will lead to the development of antibiotic releasing coatings for local drug delivery that effectively combat bacteria while limiting exposure to potent antibiotics and therefore, control drug resistance.
Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
Automatically Perceiving Children with RGB-D Sensors
Americans with children under six years spend an average of seven hours each day caring for them . Despite this fact, minimal research in robotics to date has focused on assistance with childcare tasks. A critical barrier to enabling robots to safely interact with children is the difficulty of accurately perceiving their locations and activities. Although much research has addressed pose-tracking in adults, little research has focused on children. Our goal is to bridge this gap by creating a perceptual system capable of tracking the pose of children and toddlers over time using the Kinect, a commodity sensor developed for the XBox video game system and commonly used in robotics. Instead of merely returning a color (RGB) image, the Kinect augments that image with depth (D) information, yielding an RGB-D image. We propose to collect the first corpus of RGB-D video of young children paired with ground truth position and pose obtained from a motion capture system. Then we will develop a pose tracking algorithm and assess its performance on the dataset. We plan to release the code and datasets resulting from this project. This project will be part of a broader effort to develop robotic childcare assistants; besides robotics, we expect the software and data to have many other applications in research and educational contexts.
Christopher L. de Graffenried
Assistant Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Generating bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei containing analog-sensitive polo like kinase to evaluate new strategies for drug design
Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), a debilitating illness in sub-Saharan Africa that afflicts 30,000 people annually. The drugs available for treating HAT are either difficult to administer, toxic, or in danger of being overwhelmed by resistance. New drugs that target unique aspects of the parasite’s biology are sorely needed, but few compounds are currently under investigation. T. brucei has a complex and highly polarized cytoskeleton that is vital for its pathogenicity and viability. In work conducted in the insect-resident (procyclic) version of the parasite, we have shown that the T. brucei polo like kinase homolog (TbPLK) regulates several key steps in the biogenesis of the cytoskeleton. We generated procyclic cells that express analogsensitive TbPLK, which allows the kinase to be inhibited by a small molecule that cannot inhibit other kinases. This approach was essential to determining TbPLK function in procyclics. We will extend our work into the mammalian-infectious form of the parasite, known as the bloodstream form (BSF), so that we can directly test if TbPLK is a viable candidate for drug design. Establishing an analog-sensitive TbPLK BSF cell line is an essential step towards this goal, which would allow us to confirm that the kinase has the same function in this lifecycle stage and begin to perform experiments in animal models. Showing that TbPLK is a viable drug target would be an important advance in my field and would identify the T. brucei cytoskeleton as a novel point of intervention for treating HAT.
Professor of Biology
The Origin of Dinosaur Footprint Diversity
Fossil footprints preserve unique evidence of behavior in extinct species such as Mesozoic dinosaurs. Correct interpretation of these traces requires an understanding of the dynamic interaction between foot and substrate during track formation. I propose to study the rich diversity of Early Jurrassic (~200 million year old) dinosaur tracks housed in the Bineski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College. Specifically, I will image the internal structure of fossil tracks using a high-resolution CT scanner at a facility at the University of Texas. Such volumetric data will provide insight into the 3-D path of the foot as it sank into and was removed from soft substrates. These trajectories will be combined with experimental data from living birds, biped robots, and computer simulations to create a unifying context for the spectacularly disparate track shapes in the Amherst collection.
Assistant Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Understanding the interaction of the airway micobiome with pulmonary diseases
The human microbiome is made up in part by approximately 100 trillion bacteria that reside throughout the body. It is now recognized that the intestinal microbiome impacts many facets of physiology, however very little is known about the impact of the airway microbiome on lung diseases. Recent studies in humans have shown that the airway microbiome is altered in pulmonary disease states such as infection, asthma, COPD, and cystic fibrosis. These studies show a correlation between lung disease and changes in the airway microbiome, however the key to understanding the interplay between the microbiome and the host is to understand the feedback loop between disease etiology and alterations of the microbiome. To determine how the airway microbiome impacts lung disease we must develop an animal model. To date there is no thorough published cultivation-independent characterization of the bacteria in the mouse lung. My laboratory is currently identifying bacteria in the mouse respiratory tract using next-generation sequencing, and we will determine how lung diseases alter the composition and location of the microbiota. We are pioneering a technique in the lung using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) probes specific for 16S ribosomal RNA to identify the anatomical location of bacterial subsets in the airway. These techniques and tools will be a springboard leading to a complete understanding of the airway microbiome. Understanding the precise impact that the airway microbiome has on specific lung diseases will lead to significant advances in the field of pulmonary biology.
Katherine F. Smith
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Up and Down the Rabbit Hole: Host-Pathogen Dynamics in New England’s Threatened and Invasive Cottontails
I am broadly interested in the host-pathogen dynamics and disease risks associated with two types of wildlife: 1) threatened species heading for extinction and 2) species introduced (intentionally or accidentally) to new regions. To date I have studied these groups separately, but now have the opportunity to merge these interests through a new study of threatened native New England Cottontails (NEC) (Sylvilagus transitionalis) and co-occurring invasive Eastern Cottontails (EC) (Sylvilagus floridanus). I aim to study changes in pathogen composition and disease risk associated with 1) NECs during population declines, 2) NECs during reintroduction and recovery, and 3) ECs during invasion and establishment. Findings will be used to test a new conceptual model of pathogen loss and gain during host species perturbations. Samples will be collected from museum specimens and from zoo and wild populations with support from Roger Williams Park Zoo, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. The proposed work will advance the fields of disease and invasion ecology, which both suffer from a lack of studies documenting host-pathogen dynamics as species flourish and fail. Findings will also fill a critical gap in the management plan for the NEC, specifically by identifying pathogens early on that may pose a disease risk. Finally, findings will be used to determine NEC competence as a reservoir host for regional disease threats to humans like tularemia.