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Student Research: With historians in Newport, PhD students preserve a crucial piece of African American history

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Doctoral students in archaeology, Alex Marko, Dan Plekhov and Miriam Rothenberg worked with the Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission in Newport, Rhode Island, to create an interactive map of God’s Little Acre, one of the oldest African and African American burial grounds in the country. It is the final resting place of untold numbers of individuals. Some were born across the Atlantic, others mere blocks away. Some died centuries ago, others just decades ago. Some were slaves, others business owners. The students are working with Newport’s Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission, whose mission is to preserve and revive their stories. Read more.

Student Research: Barnacles offer genetic clues on how organisms adapt to changing environments

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What genes help organisms survive in changing environments? As climate change impacts species across the planet, it’s a big question in basic biology. New research by a Brown research time, including doctoral student Joaquin Nunez, on barnacles may provide some answers. Barnacles are crustaceans, related to shrimps and crabs. After a brief period when they float freely around the ocean, barnacle larvae attach to a hard surface — a rock, a boat, a whale — and develop into adults. They build hard plates surrounding their bodies, which they can open to feed and to reproduce, and close protectively during low tide and other harsh conditions. Read more.

Student Research: How do zebrafish get their stripes? New data analysis tool could provide an answer

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The iconic stripes of zebrafish are a classic example of natural self-organization. As zebrafish embryos develop, three types of pigment cells move around the skin, eventually jostling into positions that form body-length yellow and blue stripes. Scientists want to understand the genetic rules that direct this delicate dance, and a new algorithm developed by Brown University mathematicians, including doctoral student Melissa McGuirl, could help them accomplish that. The algorithm, described in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is able to quantify various attributes of shapes and patterns, enabling scientists to more objectively test ideas about how zebrafish stripes — and potentially other developmental patterns — are formed. Read more.

MFA Student Davis Directs Marie Antoinette for Thesis Show

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Josiah Davis is a Los Angeles-based director, choreographer and actor from Dallas, TX, who is currently in his final year of the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA program in directing. This production of Marie Antoinette is his thesis project and features a cast of third year students from the MFA acting program. Performances run February 27 through March 8 at the Pell Chafee Performance Center.

Davis says of the show, “Some may say ignorance is bliss. But looking at Marie Antoinette, ignorance is death. We are living in a time of fire. A time when our core beliefs and values are constantly being put to the test under a microscope. This year specifically, it is pivotal that we keep thinking about who is fit to hold positions of power. We must learn from our history or it will inevitably repeat itself.” Learn more at

Student Research: Cracks in perovskite films for solar cells easily healed, study finds

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A new study, published in the journal Acta Materialia, finds that though perovskite films tend to crack easily, those cracks are easily healed with some compression or a little bit of heat. That bodes well, the researchers say, for the use of inexpensive perovskites to replace or complement pricy silicon in solar cell technologies. Nitin Padture, a professor in Brown’s School of Engineering and director of the Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation led the study, with doctoral student Srinivas Yadavalli as first author.

For the study, Yadavalli deposited perovskite films on plastic substrates. He then bent the substrate to put tensile (pulling apart) stress on the perovskite film while using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to detect cracks. Once the film was cracked, the researchers then bent the substrate in the opposite direction to see if compressive stress might heal those cracks. Read more.

Backup Care Now Available for All Graduate Students with, a family care service that can assist students with backup care and finding caregivers, is now available to all degree-seeking graduate students at Brown. A premium membership includes access to a database of providers for a child, an elderly adult, home, pet, or tutoring. There is no cost to find care providers on the self-service site. Students can identify prospective caregivers and then discuss the cost of care directly with them.

Eligible graduate students can also take advantage of subsidized backup care for in-home or in-center childcare. Backup care is charged at a subsidized rate of $4.00/hour for in-home care and $10 per child per day at a child care center. Brown will cover five days of backup per calendar year. Questions? Learn more at and signup at

Campbell Named in List of 100 Inspiring Black Scientists

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As part of a celebration for Black History month, CrossTalk, a blog from Cell Press, named Dean Andrew G. Campbell as one of 100 inspiring black scientists in America. The list includes established investigators that range from tenure track assistant professors to associate and full professors, as well as scientists the organization considers rising stars. "Our hope is that this resource will have a significant and long-lasting effect on all members of the scientific community and continue to emphasize the need for diversity in the academy," says their website. Cell Press is a publisher of cutting-edge biomedical and physical science research and reviews.

For first-year graduate students in neuroscience, a ‘magical science space’

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Through an immersive eight-day workshop at the Marine Biological Lab, graduate students gain hands-on neuroscience experience and form connections.

Meghan Gonsalves, a first-year neuroscience graduate student at Brown University, spends most of her time studying imaging techniques used to measure brain activity in humans. So when she was asked to dissect the brain of a fruit fly — which is roughly the size of a poppy seed — she thought she wouldn’t be able to do it. By later on the same January day, Gonsalves found herself gazing in awe at a video of a glowing fly brain. She had stained and imaged the brain using a confocal microscope to visualize neurons that affect fly behavior. 

“To be able to manipulate your data through a microscope is pretty crazy,” said Gonsalves, who holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brown as well. “I was really nervous doing this because I’m computational/behavioral-oriented. This shows I’m capable of doing more than I thought I was capable of.” Read more.