An estimated 13,000 Puerto Ricans came to Connecticut after Hurricane Maria. Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago, who has been surveying hundreds of Puerto Rican evacuees in Hartford, said he was surprised to find that many of the evacuees he interviewed were struggling not just to find housing, but also to put food on the table. He says returnees are few because “they don’t have jobs that enable them to survive in Puerto Rico.”
Kristen Kimball and John Redden, professors of physiology and neurobiology, used experimental classroom sessions as a tool to actively engage 750 students. The undertaking came with some challenges but was met with success.
Margaret Rubega, a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, published a paper about the way hummingbirds bend their bills to get insects. When a researcher from California published 10 years of work on the evolution of hummingbird beaks, the two decided to start working together and that’s where things got interesting.
The women’s marches of 2019 were significant, even though they drew less of a crowd than previous years. Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman co-wrote about the factors affecting this year’s march including negative temperatures and controversy over anti-semitism.
Solving some of the world’s greatest problems means looking at a much broader picture, and restructuring much of the way we do things. Marlene Schwartz, professor of human development and family studies and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity says it’s going to take communication across scientific fields and with the public to make change happen.
People could be wearing prostheic skin in the next few years. Islam Mosa, a postdoctoral research assistant of Chemistry, is working with engineers, chemists, and biologists at the University of Toronto to create artificial skin that can sense pressure, vibrations, and magnetic fields.
A word used in a recently published British medical journal surprised a lot of people. Syndemic, used to describe multiple related epidemics happening at the same time, was coined by emeritus Professor of Anthropology Merrill Singer in the mid ’90s, but is not widely used.
Professor of History Alexis Dudden describes her experience meeting Kim Bok-dong, an activist on behalf of women forced into sex slavery by the Japanese military during World War II, an experience she knew all too well.
Sarah McAnulty, a Ph. D candidate in molecular and cell biology and squid biologist, dives into a discussion on the world of squid with other guests from KOLOSSAL, a nonprofit in California, and a scientist from the Natural History Museum in London.
Professor and Director of English Regina Barreca discusses the consequences of starting conversations with tantalizing phrases that immediately puts everyone on edge.
A psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development is trying to create a culture of researchers that are comfortable with admitting when they’re wrong. Facing the vastness of one’s own ignorance can cause a great deal of anxiety, but Michael Lynch, professor and director of philosophy, says it’s important to look at the challenge more like something you can progress through and eventually make better, and less like a Rubik’s cube that has one perfect solution.
Professor of Sociology Bandana Purkayastha received the Jessie Bernard Award from the American Sociological Association in recognition of scholarly work that has enlarged the horizons of sociology.
English professor Regina Barreca puts a comical spin on getting older. At age 62 she’s realizing it’s a lot less like trading in a ball cap for a mop cap and more like realizing that waiting for the one-way boat across the river Styx isn’t spent sitting in the ferry parking lot.
There’s a lot that goes into moving away from a “family home.” It’s important to think about location, finances and job security but it can be much deeper than that. Professor of Geography Thomas Cooke points out that it can really be looked at in terms of life course, with moving be a next major stage of the journey.
Racial trauma can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, seriously affecting the daily life of the victim. Monnica Williams, associate professor of psychological sciences, writes about the experiences and signs of the issue and how to help those who are dealing with it.
AM radio is seemingly on its way out of Connecticut, with trend of less listeners causing many radio stations to go dark. Hamden-based WQUN, a community radio operating for the last 21 years will go silent later this spring. Journalism Professor Steven Kalb says the radio still has great potential because it caters to such a niche audience where people really care about their local news.
Syllabus week is stressful for professors too; there is a fine line between including enough information for student success but not so much that it gets thrown in a backpack after the first day without more than the first page having been looked at. Professor and Director of English Tom Deans writes about the perfect approach to giving students an interesting syllabus.
A University of Utah student was murdered by her ex-boyfriend after she reached out to police about him harassing her and received no help. Kerri Raissian, assistant professor of public policy says it’s important to educate professors and students on understanding and recognizing domestic violence.
Schools that promote healthy eating may reduce kids’ risk of obesity, new research finds. A study of nearly 600 middle schoolers in New Haven, Conn., found that such efforts limited increases in kids’ body mass index (BMI — an estimate of body fat based on height and weight). “This is some of the strongest evidence we have to date that nutrition education and promoting healthy eating behaviors in the classroom and cafeteria can have a meaningful impact on children’s health,” said study senior author Marlene Schwartz, a professor of human development and family studies.
Nicole Wagner and Jordan Greco, with the Farmington-based company LambdaVision, are working with a protein that may one day be used to cure blindness. Wagner cited research on bacteriorhodopsin by Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Robert Birge, the company’s founder.
Susan Randolph, associate professor emerita of economics, received an award given to people whose work addresses issues on the international stage, inspires others, and advances justice and peace.
Casey Youngflesh, a post-doctoral research assistant, traversed some of the roughest waters on the ocean to collect poop from penguins. The data will help scientists identify the dietary habits of Adélie penguins in the Antarctic via satellite images.
Research shows students are more likely to choose fruit juice over milk or real fruit, meaning less nutrients in their diet. Marlene Schwartz is a professor of human development and family studies and co-author of the recent report released by UConn.
Professor of English, Regina Barreca, discusses nostalgia of loved ones during the holidays, using her own loss and recovery as a tool to show that sentiment can be used to illuminate the dark.
An Op-ed written by Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History, is featured in CNN’s most popular articles of 2018. The article written by Sinha compares the actions of Donald Trump to those of Andrew Johnson.
Michael Ego, a professor of human development and family studies, published an Op-ed discussing the transition after a career, pulling research from his thesis and other notable theories.
Rivers and streams across the US are becoming increasingly acidic. Gene Likens, a research specialist in ecology and evolutionary biology, says the widespread changes in chemistry are surprisingly quick.
A club called The Confetti Kids spends their second year raising money for foster care children. Erin Blake, an Individualized Major in CLAS, had the idea to make holiday and birthdays brighter for the children by getting them personal gifts.
Oysters in the Long Island sound filter most of the water there, including plastics. Evan Ward, professor of marine sciences at UConn Avery Point, studies the increase of plastics in the ocean, and how microplastics are ending up not just in the bodies of oysters, but humans as well.
Julie Fosdick, an assistant professor of integrative geoscience, is leading a team of students to reconstruct ancient phases of mountain building and erosion to understand how movements on and below Earth’s surface and climate interact to influence mountains.
Scientists found over a million penguins living in an area of Antarctica where they least expected, an area so small that and dangerous to get to it’s not included on most maps of the Antarctic. Casey Youngflesh, a postdoctoral researcher, used satellite images to figure out what the elusive seabirds had been eating all this time.
To what extent have physicians and other medical professionals contributed to the stigmatization of obesity? Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Rebecca Puhl, weighs in on the effects of obesity and weight stigma on children. She discusses what responsibilities parents, pediatricians, and educators share in keeping kids healthy and safe.
In medical textbooks, the nonpregnant uterus is often described as quiescent, dormant and useless. But now, researchers have found that the uterus may play a role in memory and cognition — a role hitherto unappreciated because researchers haven’t looked closely at the uterus’s role outside of pregnancy. Holly Fitch, a professor of psychological sciences at the University of Connecticut who was not involved in the research, praised the study design. This also appeared in Inside Science.
Journalism Department Head and Professor Maureen Croteau spoke as a guest on a WNPR segment about how the digital era is affecting journalism. With the current ad-based model not working, it’s time to look for something new.
Apple’s squid emoji has been anatomically incorrect for two years. Sarah McAnulty, a Ph.D. Candidate in molecular and cell biology and squid biologist, told Gizmodo she noticed the mistake when the emoji first came out but was just happy to have a squid included at all.
A team of researchers from Woods Hole, OceanX, and NASA explored the diverse underwater canyons off the coast of Massachussettes called the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Among them Rachel O’Neill, director and professor in the Systems Genomics Institute, who sequenced DNA samples allowing the team to discover new species and study how they adapted to the deep sea environment.
Lewis Gordon, professor of philosophy, writes about the life of Mabogo P. More, a South African Philosopher. Gordon recounts the constant existential existence More lived in under the influence of British colonizers.
Recognition of weight discrimination in the work place is making its way to the frontline. Many studies exist today that isolate weight as a factor in evaluations of job candidates, according to Rebecca Puhl, professor of human development and family studies.
Michael Ego, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, recollects how George H.W. Bush changed the nation through formal apology letters and his love for Baseball in an Op-Ed to the Houston Chronicle.
Research by Michele Baggio, assistant professor of economics, concluded that the legalization of recreational marijuana leads to higher birth rates. The link was that smoking lead to more risky sexual behavior.
Professor and Department Head of Anthropology Pam Erikson co-conducted research to study the genealogy of the Waorani of Ecuador, an Amazonian tribal society, through their raid and warfare history.
Research has found that water sources have become saltier from road deicers, fertilizers and other compounds. Research Specialist Gene Likens says the issue is increasing far quicker than he ever would have expected.
A host for Living on Earth took a walk in the woods with Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robert Thorson, the author of Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls. The transcription in the article is the conversation the two had.
Professor of HDFS Rebecca Puhl contributed to a newly released report detailing the alarming challenges and barriers facing transgender and gender-expansive youth around the country — and their perseverance in the face of discrimination and harassment. The findings, which focus on the experiences of transgender and gender-expansive youth both at school and at home, were drawn from the 5,600 transgender and gender-expansive youth who participated in HRC’s groundbreaking 2017 LGBTQ Youth Survey.
Professor and Director of Philosophy Michael Lynch explores the boundaries between our physical being and technology as an extension of the self. An online presence has become an extension of people’s identities but there needs to be an awareness that companies, with online algorithms, might be giving the identities to the users.
A study shows that black students who have a black teacher before third grade are more likely to go to college. Assistant Professor of Public Policy Joshua Hyman, co-author of a study done by UConn, says it would benefit to have more black teachers in the education system.
A company in Boston called Neurable is working on a device that allows the user to control virtual reality simply by thinking about the actions. Dr. Heather Read, a professor of psychological sciences, said she thinks that eventually brain implants to control everyday technology will be a common thing in the future.
The death of an American missionary who illegally snuck onto an indigenous land in the Andaman Islands is causing controversy over what to do next. Associate Journalism Professor Scott Wallace writes about how this event compares to tribes of the same hostility in the Amazon Rainforest.
As with the rest of the American health care and education system, the efficacy of cochlear implants is influenced by race, class, disability, access to therapeutic services and specialists, family support system, and the unique physiology, learning style and personality of every user. The age at which hearing loss was detected and whether a user is pre- or post-lingually deaf also play a role. “The literature on outcomes for deaf children with cochlear implants shows patterned differences,” said Laura Mauldin, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut.
Historians of the region say such tensions closer to home have made the Japanese government realize how important the past remains as it negotiates its alliances in the present. “It strikes me that the Darwin trip is an alliance management — ‘we’re going to contain China and maintain a large presence in the region’ where history is less important than the security issue,” said Alexis Dudden, a professor of history at the University of Connecticut who specializes in the modern history of Japan and Korea.
Female police officers in India are changing the way violence against women is reported. Opening all-woman police stations increased crime reportage by a significant 22 percent in the world’s most dangerous country for women, according to a June 2018 study. This is because women are more comfortable approaching these stations, according to research done by Sofia Amaral and Sonia Bhalotra of the University of Essex in the UK, and Associate Professor of Economics, Nishith Prakash from the University of Connecticut.
Sarah Roseberry Lytle, director of the outreach and education division at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences; Patricia K. Kuhl, co-director of the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences; and Adrian Garcia-Sierra, assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences at the University of Connecticut spearheaded the study and proposed the hypothesis “that infant learning from a screen would be enhanced in the presence of a peer, as opposed to learning alone.” Upon completion of the study, the researchers confirmed this hypothesis.
Social media has made it easier for trends like dressing your children in matching pajamas easier to catch on. Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dimitris Xygalatas matching clothing is a way for families to strengthen their bonds and show their connectedness.
Jeremy Pressman, an associate professor of political science, cowrote a 19th installment in a monthly series reporting on political crowds in the United States. He analyzed protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins, rallies and walkouts.
Two genetic studies show how the first Native Americans spread through their new continent with incredible speed. These studies show that the histories of the Americas are more complicated than earlier genetic studies suggested, says Deborah Bolnick, an associate professor of anthropology.
This topic was also covered in Science Magazine.
espnW spoke with Jackie Wattles (CLAS ’14) about time management and her pivot from student-athlete to breaking news reporter at CNN Business. The former Huskies volleyball player pursued her sport and her academic discipline relentlessly. “I was never discouraged by the thought of journalism declining or there not being enough opportunities,” said Wattles. “I knew I had to stick with it and had a lot to learn.”
English Professor Regina Barecca was published an opinion piece about keeping an open mind to encourage civil discourse without engaging in argument and hate speech.
The political strategies at play add up to a tug of war between Republicans focused on dislike for Malloy and Democrats hoping to capitalize on low regard for President Donald Trump. “Lamont has not been part of the Malloy administration, the Malloy team, so he can say that there is some distance between him and the governor,” said Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin. “The Republicans will say, ‘Well, it’s a difference without a real distinction. They’re both Democrats.”
Although anonymity is generally prized for successful cyber operations, it might not be ideal in all cases, especially if the United States wants to deter an Russia spreading disinformation. Assistant Professor of Political Science Evan Perkoski, and Michael Poznansky, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh explain why Russia’s 2016 election interference broke the mold of what is typically understood as traditional cyberspace behavior.
More than 104 million users of WhatsApp are located in Brazil, but the spread of fake news in the app is causing a lot of political controversy for the nation. Professor of Philosophy Michael Lynch says that knowledge-based opinions are breaking down, an people are either focusing on their existing beliefs or opting out of politics entirely.
Graham Montgomery is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; he provided the photos for this study and participated in the field work that led to the study described in the article.
A 3-decade-old study of birds in the mountains of Peru has given scientists the chance to study the effects of climate change. Mark Urban, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, says this is the first study to show that rising temperatures will lead to local extinctions.
Scott Wallace, an associate professor of journalism, covers the election of Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro and the repercussions that could have on the fate of the Amazon rainforest.
A study recreated 30 years later shows a dramatic decline of mountainous bird species in the Peruvian Andes mountains. Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Morgan Tingly gives insight that the study could show alarming effects of climate change.
Connecticut’s largest cities, such as Bridgeport and New Haven, are struggling with high debt and no way to pay it back. Mary Donegan, assistant professor of urban and community studies, says graduates are moving away because of how expensive the state is to live in, making it hard for the economy in these cities to thrive.
The Republican Party entered the race with a chance to win over six New England states. Ronald Schurin, a political science associate professor, said Connecticut was one of the places where Republicans thought they had a good chance to switch the governorship from Democratic to Republican.
Political candidates in Connecticut are trying to tie eachother back to the negative influences of Donald Trump in order to sway the voters, but a recent poll shows it may not be working as well as intended. According to Ronald Schurin, an associate professor of political science, says there’s not much connection between how people vote on the national level and their decisions on the state level.
A TBS Broadcaster used a phrase during the recent World Series that has caused quite a bit of controversy. Human Development and Family Studies Professor Michael Ego discusses the effects of the phrase with an Op-ed in the Stamford Advocate.
The British-led Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project claims to have found the world’s oldest intact wreck, a Greek sailing vessel dating back to 400 BC. The wooden hull is so well-preserved because it lies a mile below the surface of the Black Sea, where an abnormally low level of oxygen in the water slows decay. The scientific team includes Kroum Batchvarov, associate professor of Anthropology.
This story was also covered by CNN on October 25, 2018.
Pushing breastfeeding on prenatal or new mothers may seem like a good idea but it’s never as simple as it seems. Assistant Professor of Public Policy Kerri Raissian did a study that found it is more beneficial to give mothers support and access to information instead.
Rhode Island had two mayors arrested for cash bribes and corruption charges in the same decade. Associate Journalism Professor Mike Stanton covered the arrest of Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci in 2001 for the Providence Journal.
Life threatening events are traumatizing and can change a person’s entire perspective of the world. Crystal Park, professor of psychological sciences, is referenced for creating a a method to reduce stress through making sense of what traumatic circumstances might mean.
For 18 months, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Erica Chenoweth and Associate Professor of Political Science, Jeremy Pressman, counted attendance at political gatherings around the United States. They have seen crowds in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For the first time since President Trump’s inauguration, they found one state with no political gatherings. In all, in July, they tallied 743 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins, rallies and walkouts in all states and the District — except South Dakota. The data gives us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States — particularly, how crowd reports change from month to month.
A NASA astrobiologist says the shapes and structures of “the oldest fossils on earth” don’t match the organism the scientists claim it to be. Pieter Visscher, professor of Marine Sciences, says the original study of the fossils was impressive but not convincing.
China seems to be both advancing and rejecting the past, according to History Professor Alexis Duddin. History doesn’t match up to modern day China quite the way the Chinese President Xi Jinping or others may assume. Duddin is the author of “Japan’s Colonization of Korea” and “Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States.”
A new study shows that insects populations have decreased by numbers of 40 percent in the last 35 years in some parts of the world. Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Bio David Wagner says the study could show a much bigger occurrence across many ecosystems.
Senator Elizabeth Warren released an analysis of her DNA proving that she does have Native American ancestry. The debate now becomes whether or not it gives her claim to Native American cultural identity. Dr. Deborah Bolnick, an associate professor of anthropology who studies Native Americans, says that tribal belonging is established through lived experiences, not genetics.
The cover story of the most recent issue of the American Psychological Association publication, Monitor on Psychology, is “The Search for Meaning.” The study of meaning and what makes life worth living is, of course, a central area of research in the science of positive psychology. A wide range of scientists are doing important work in meaning. Professor of Psychological Sciences, Crystal Park, and Login George ’17 Ph. D., are among the scientists whose research is featured in this article.
A couple of Connecticut political scientists are not surprised by speculation in Washington that former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is on the White House short list to replace U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Associate Professor of Political Science, Ron Schurin, says it not unusual for a former U.S. senator to be appointed to the U.N.
Researchers are using the study of psychology to find out what makes life worth living. Research on meaning has increased in the last decade and many strategies for creating meaning in life have unfolded. Crystal Park, professor of Psychological Sciences, contributed research to the study.
The confirmation hearings of the Supreme Court Justice have sparked a lot of controversy but also a lot of discussion. Professor of Philosophy Paul Bloomfield says that true justice begins within ourselves; we must first be a good judge of our own character if we want to be a good judge of others.
Powerful hurricanes leave a lasting legacy, and in Puerto Rico humans are not the only ones devastated by storms such as last year’s Hurricane Maria. Michael Willig, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is part of an international team that has spent the past 30 years studying elements of the ecosystem in hurricane-prone Puerto Rico, and how that ecosystem responds to weather-driven disturbances.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected Friday to wrap up a week’s worth of work examining the shellfish population in the waters off the coast of Greenwich. This research comes as the Shellfish Commission, UConn’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering are partnering on a study of microplastics in Greenwich’s waters. Microplastics and other pollutants can impair the growth, development and reproduction of oysters, clams and other aquatic organisms and damage the aquaculture industry along the Connecticut coast.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Because of Mycobacterium’s unique lifestyle, in which they allow themselves to be eaten by immune cells and then grow inside of them, they are very hard to treat. Associate Professor of Chemistry, Alfredo Angeles-Boza and his then-graduate student, Daben Libardo, and colleagues from the Indian Institute of Science, the Max Planck Institute, and MIT, decided to make an antibiotic that could make its way into the immune cells and hit the Mycobacteria where they hide.
The concept of psychedelic-assisted therapy is now steadily gaining traction. Last year, when researchers at the University of Connecticut reviewed 18 studies on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, and concluded that worldwide the participants were overwhelmingly white. “It’s not even safe to talk about drugs if you’re black,” says Monnica Williams, a clinical psychologist professor of psychological sciences who is spearheading the first MDMA study to focus on treating racial and sexual traumas in minority populations. She’s working with the psychedelic research non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to redesign protocol to make sure that future studies will include more people of color.
Michael Ego is a professor of human development and family studies who published an Op-ed in the Greenwhich Time, a newspaper based in the southwest Connecticut area. Ego is working to raise awareness of Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a progressive disease that inhibits people’s ability to function when they have it.
Denny Tamaki, the son of a Japanese mother and a United States Marine, became the first mixed-race governor in Japan on Sunday. Alexis Dudden, a history professor who specializes in the modern history of Japan, says it helps broaden the discussion of Japanese Identity.
Out-of-pocket health care costs for routine doctor exams, tests, bloodwork and emergency room visits, coupled with higher insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles, are forcing consumers to make tough financial—and even lifestyle—choices. Assistant Professor of Economics Steven Lanza says people are spending a significant amount on health care expenses.
Prakash Kashwan, associate professor of political science, says that new technologies focused on reducing the effects of climate change should be in the public interest. The discussion comes from anticipation of a report to be released by leading climate scientists on Oct. 8.
Political Science Professor Ronald Schurin speaks to Joe Courtney’s practical personality and his style of persuasion instead of antagonizing, saying he’s “not identified as someone on the extremes of the Democratic Party.”
A program called SING is working to give scientists from Indigenous cultures important tools for their research while bringing their perspective and collaboration to the scientific community. Through the program, Deborah Bolnick, an associate professor of Anthropology, has created a research project with Indigenous cultures in the United States that has resulted in almost 150 genetic samples.
Kerri Raissian, an assistant professor in the University of Connecticut’s Department of Public Policy contributed to a study about the importance of a mother’s access to health care information in their child’s first year of growth.
Hartford has one of the largest concentrations of Puerto Ricans in the United States, and thousands more came to Connecticut after Hurricane Maria hit. “The Island Next Door”, an ongoing, multi-platform reporting initiative, tells the stories of real people touched by the storm, both on and off the island. Associate Professor of Political Science, Charles Venator-Santiago, weighs in on the struggles evacuees faced once reaching the state.
The Opacum Land Trust hosted their fifth annual fall fundraiser, a dinner event at The Publick House in Sturbridge, Wednesday, Sept. 19. The event’s featured speaker was Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robert Thorson. Thorson has written several books, primarily about Walden Pond and Thoreau or the ubiquitous historic stone walls that are found throughout New England.
Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Dyson analyzed Showtime’s political documentary series “The Circus,” which is devoted to coverage of politics in the Trump era. Dyson said the show’s “occasional inventiveness” makes it an interesting enough way to consume our current politics.
Squid biologist Sarah McAnulty, a Ph.D. candidate in molecular and cell biology , launched “Skype a Scientist” in January 2017 to connect students, teachers and other groups around the world with scientists on every continent. The program has linked more than 9,600 classrooms with 4,600 scientists from 43 countries.
Experts say the impact of the fall in vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella is already playing out – 876 cases of measles confirmed in England this year, three times the number for the whole of last year. Michael Lynch, professor of philosophy and director of the Humanities Institute, said consumer presumptions about vaccines coupled with misinformation online have contributed to the fall in vaccinations.
This month marks 80 years since the Connecticut’s worst natural disaster, the Hurricane of 1938. Associate Professor of History, Walter Woodward, said the death toll in Connecticut was so high that coffins were in short supply. Woodward explains why the storm was so devastating and what we can learn from its legacy.
The recent release by Brazilian officials of two videos of uncontacted indigenous people in the Amazon has been politically and ethically controversial, writes Associate Professor of Journalism Scott Wallace. But FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, says it has done so to increase the likelihood of public support to protect indigenous tribes.
An article that reviews the debut from the Ghanaian British author Michael Donkor references scholarship by Professor of History Micki McElya, which describes how “black caregivers whose deep love for the white children they cared for transcended the cruelty and coercions of their circumstances.”
Rising sea levels are bringing more nest-flooding tides that threaten to push the birds that breed in coastal marshes along the Atlantic Coast to extinction. Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Christopher Elphick, and Samantha Apgar, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology, are working together to record what happens when high tides flood the nests of birds that breed in coastal marshes.
Daisy Verduzco Reyes, assistant professor of sociology, discussed her new book on what it means to be Latino at three different institutions: a liberal arts college, a research university and a regional public university. ‘Learning to Be Latino: How Colleges Shape Identity Politics’ explores the distinctive racial climates of each institution and how these climates affect how Latino students experienced their institution.
The recent release by Brazilian officials of two videos of uncontacted indigenous people in the Amazon has been politically and ethically controversial, writes Associate Professor of Journalism Scott Wallace. But FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, says it has done so to increase the likelihood of public support to protect indigenous tribes.
When you put your recycling into those big blue bins on the curb for garbage night, do you ever think about where all that trash goes? For decades, much of the U.S.’s recycling was exported to China for reuse. But earlier this year, that all changed when that country decided to stop accepting most American recycling. WNPR asked experts about China’s recycling ban to find out how it impacts waste here in Connecticut. Plus—millions of tons of plastic go into our oceans every year. They also asked an expert at Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection EEP–what really can and can’t you recycle? And lastly, WNPR spoke to Professor of Marine Sciences Evan Ward to find out what scientists are learning about microplastics, and asks: how does all of this material affect sea creatures?
There are places in the southern United States where the roadsides are fenced with barbed wire, and the wire is adorned with corpses. The carcasses belong to lizards, rodents, small birds, and even snakes, all impaled on the sharp prongs. These grisly dioramas are the work of the unlikeliest of butchers: a small bird called the loggerhead shrike. The shrike is a hawk trapped in the body of a finch. From a distance, it looks like any other songbird, perched on a high vantage point. But from those perches, the two-ounce bird frequently swoops onto its prey, and subdues it with the murderous, hooked tip of its beak. “It’s like seeing a rabbit running around with long canines and a mane and acting like a lion,” says Margaret Rubega, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “I personally think they’re very badass.” Without the powerful talons of true raptors, shrikes only tear into their meals after first impaling them onto sharp points, like thorns or barbed wire. This behavior is the source of the bird’s infamy, and its nickname: the butcherbird. And although most of its victims are insects, shrikes have been known to dispatch mice and lizards that are up to three times their body weight.
Phoebe M. DeVries, assistant professor of physics, has co-published the paper “Deep learning of aftershock patterns following large earthquakes.” She and colleagues are using artificial intelligence technology to analyzed a database of earthquakes from around the world in an effort to predict where aftershocks might occur. Using deep learning algorithms, they developed a system that, while still imprecise, was able to forecast aftershocks significantly better than random assignment.
A 1600s Native American fort uncovered as part of a rail bridge replacement project is shining some light on a tribe’s first dealings with Europeans, archeologists said on Tuesday during a tour of the site. The find on a small sliver of land next to railroad tracks that carry Amtrak and Metro-North commuter trains is considered one of the most important discoveries in the Northeast for Native American history. “For me, it’s like a gold mine,” said Kevin McBride, associate professor of anthropology and research director at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. “I think the reason the site is so important is that there’s a lot of material here. It’s definitely one of the most important sites we’ve found in a long time.” Professor McBride said items found at the site provide some insight into Native Americans’ first interactions with Europeans and show how they incorporated European products such as iron tools and knives into their culture.
Also covered in AP, August 29, 2018
In North Korea, Japan appears to have replaced the United States as the most vilified imperialist enemy, with state media deriding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government as a “cult” bent on derailing Pyongyang’s diplomatic outreach. North Korea’s blistering broadsides against Japan are nothing new, given its position as a hated former colonial power and a key player in international efforts to punish Pyongyang with sanctions over its pursuit of nuclear weapons. This highlights North Korea’s continued need for an enemy to target, as well as possible hopes to push Tokyo into providing cash as part of economic incentives to get North Korea to limit its weapons program, said Alexis Dudden, professor of history. Abe’s hardline stance and cool relations with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as well as Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula as a colonial power makes Japan a “soft target” for Pyongyang that is unlikely to upset many in South Korea, Dudden said. Japan ruled Korea for 35 years ending with its defeat in World War II. “By keeping Japanese colonial era atrocities in play, North Korea is able to be ‘Korean’ together with South Korea at a time that their separate ongoing negotiations require a common baseline,” she said.
Monnica Williams, associate professor of psychological sciences, writes, “Recently, there has been much excitement in the potential of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to address a multitude of mental health conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, end-of-life anxiety, and other conditions. FDA approval of MDMA for the treatment of PTSD may soon become a reality. However, not everyone has been included or represented in this momentous process.” As noted by Dr. Nicholas Powers, the dominant, pervasive image of the psychedelic community is that of White affluence. This is thought to be rooted in the glorification of 1960s and 70s White hippie drug use as a “counterculture” as opposed to an illicit act. People of color have not been meaningfully included in this community. Other factors uniquely impacting people of color include prohibitive costs and lack of access to substances, negative stereotypes about people of color and drug use, and criminalization of people of color through the War on Drugs.” To determine if the existing data on psychedelic treatments was sufficiently applicable to all people of color, Williams conducted an international review of inclusion across ethnic and racial groups in current published psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy studies, spanning the second wave of studies from 1993-2017, finding that less than 18 percent of participants were of a background other than non-Hispanic White. She writes, “Psychedelic psychotherapy is coming and we all need to be onboard.”
What Kind of Country Will Our Grandchildren Live In? Perhaps the developers of a new science called cliodynamics will help us find an answer. In this new field, scientists and mathematicians analyze history in the hopes they can find trends and patterns in order to predict the future. Now, will we be able to recover from the bad manners, vulgarity, boorishness, lies, racism and offensive, foul-mouthed diatribes in Trump’s tweets and speeches? Will we ever be “civil” with each other again? Will the press continue to be “the enemy of the people?” Cliodynamics researchers start their investigations of history by asking the question all historians have asked for all of history: “Why do civilizations collapse? Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Peter Turchin, the director of the new science project, thinks we “are due for a wave of widespread violence in about 2020, including riots and terrorism.” Will Trump run again in 2020? This organization publishes its findings in a publication called “Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History.”
When the significance of Confederate symbols and racist histories flares up on campuses, and news stories follow, two groups are typecast in lead roles. There are the student protesters, portrayed as upset and unflinching. And there are the administrators, shown as responsive at best or ignorant at worst. What goes unnoticed are the historians, like Sturkey, whose campuses are living artifacts to interrogate. They don’t subscribe to the caricature of an academic: someone studying a niche discipline in solitude. Instead, their opinions are sought out. They’re asked to write statements, op-eds, and more statements. Because of that insistence for insight, their work bleeds into their personal lives through activism, inquiry, and the occasional death threat. Manisha Sinha, draper chair of American history, writes often about the Civil War and its aftermath. Normally she receives some dissenting emails. But when her most recent article, a historical comparison of President Trump and President Andrew Johnson, went live, she got a death threat. The man knew her home address, not easy to find, Sinha said. Within hours, law enforcement had tracked him to Texas. He’s been criminally charged, and Sinha obtained a harassment order against him. For days, she didn’t walk down her driveway to collect the mail. She called 911 when a FedEx worker arrived. And she thought: That’s it. No more writing about these topics online. But then Sinha spoke with her mentors and her husband, a German expatriate, who told her that fascism grows roots when academics are silenced. So she’ll continue writing. But Sinha said she’d think much more about what she can say to avoid becoming a target for some “lunatic.”
Whales may have made their mark on the seafloor in a part of the Pacific Ocean designated for future deep-sea mining. Thousands of grooves found carved into the seabed could be the first evidence that large marine mammals visit this little-explored region, researchers report August 22 in Royal Society Open Science. If deep-diving whales are indeed using the region for foraging or other activities, scientists say, authorities must take that into account when planning how to manage future mining activities. No known geologic mechanism could produce the grooves, report Jones and his colleagues. But living creatures might: Some scientists, including Peter Auster, emeritus research professor of NURTEC, previously suggested that certain deep-diving whales, known as beaked whales, can make such markings as they use their beaks to forage for food hiding in the seafloor. “This is a huge finding,” says Diva Amon, a deep-sea biologist at the Natural History Museum in London.
Scott Wallace, associate professor of journalism, went on a three-month expedition in 2002 to gather information about the Fleicheros tribe in Brazil. He writes, “I thought back to my near-contact with the Flecheiros recently, when a video of an indigenous man chopping a tree in the Brazilian rainforest came to global attention. By itself, the footage of the scantily clad man was unremarkable. The astonishing part was the context: he is the lone survivor of an unknown tribe and he has been living by himself for the past 22 years. The video was taken surreptitiously by a FUNAI agent assigned to protect him. Since 1987, it has been government policy to avoid forcing contact on isolated tribal populations, though exceptions can be made if a tribe faces imminent peril. These people live in near-complete independence from the global economy, thriving in one of Earth’s harshest climates without the benefit of our industrial goods. In the process, they have managed something that we in the West have not: living in harmony with the natural world, in a manner that leaves the environment unspoiled for future generations. Perhaps they have something to teach us.”
Associate Professor of Journalism Mike Stanton writes, “Baseball is a game of simple pleasures, childlike and nostalgic, a diamond, an unfolding of seasons, a journey home. But as Pawtucket Red Sox fans in Rhode Island have discovered this past week, it is also a game that can break your heart off the field. Now, the PawSox are moving to Worcester…. there is no debating the departure of the PawSox will leave a void greater than the sinkhole upon which McCoy Stadium was constructed during the Great Depression.” He says that “McCoy is not Fenway Park…. But it exudes a gritty, blue-collar charm in a city that gave birth to the American Industrial Revolution…. Time will tell if the Worcester stadium succeeds, or if taxpayers there get fleeced. But while kids in Rhode Island cried at the news, Worcester children rejoiced at the promise of free WooSox tickets (Woo-hoo!). The Worcester city manager invoked Field of Dreams: If you build it, “people will come.” It stung to hear him say the PawSox have committed to becoming part of Worcester’s “fabric and future.” “The idea staggered me. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of 50 million people — with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.””
Draper Chair in American History Manisha Sinha writes about the rise of hate groups in the United States. She says, “Exactly one year after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that left counterprotester Heather Heyer dead and many others wounded, and during which two state police troopers also died in a helicopter crash, the nation is still grappling to address the issues and forces that the rally unleashed. This was not the first time white supremacists had wrought havoc in the country…. The problem with racialized hate in America is that it is not going anywhere.” Sinha argues that the “debate over Confederate statues is more than symbolic. They certainly do not represent history but its misuse, the “propaganda of history” as the great black intellectual and activist W.E.B. Du Bois put it…. Until we truly reckon with the history and legacy of slavery and the Civil War, Confederate statues will remain a rallying point for white supremacists.”
Obese girls are more likely to develop depression during childhood and adolescence than their peers who weigh less, a research review suggests. Compared to girls at a healthy weight, girls with obesity were 44 percent more likely to have depression or to be diagnosed with it in the future, the analysis of 22 studies with a total of almost 144,000 participants found. Parents should keep the risk of depression in mind when they try to encourage overweight or obese children to achieve a healthy weight, said Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Rebecca Puhl. “When parents talk to their teen about losing weight, the teen is more likely to turn to unhealthy dieting and maladaptive weight control behaviors – like binge eating,” Puhl added. “But when parent conversations instead focus on healthy behaviors like eating nutritious foods, rather than body weight, the teen is less likely to engage in those unhealthy behaviors.”
The NOAA Ship Nancy Foster docked on River Street Thursday after a 10-day research expedition at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary to find out where snappers, groupers and sea turtles like to hang out. Knowledge about the hot spots will help Gray’s Reef staff concentrate sanctuary resources on areas overflowing with biodiversity when that’s appropriate. Led by Peter Auster, emeritus research professor of NURTEC and senior research scientist at Mystic Aquarium, a team employed a 360-degree virtual reality camera to record interactions between predator and prey fish in this sanctuary that’s been called the “Serengeti of the Sea.” In all, the research expedition supported seven projects with five dives a day for eight days.
Since 2015, the NEH has been funding the Public Scholar program, an annual series of grants designed to promote the publication of scholarly nonfiction books for a general audience. This year’s roster of 22 grant winners, announced Wednesday, includes a cultural history of allergies, a biography of Boston art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner, a history of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., and 19 more books you may be reading a few years from now. One grant winner of $55,000 is Susan Schneider, associate professor of philosophy, whose book “Future Minds: Artificial Intelligence, Brain Enhancement, and the Nature of the Self” outlines her research of a monograph on the ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence.
The vast darkness of the ocean is home to tiny, glowing fish, massive jellies that may be the largest animals on the planet, and an untold number of other creatures. What inhabits this realm of the ocean — from about 600 feet to about 3,000 feet — is so shrouded in mystery that scientists call it the “twilight zone.” In August, a team of marine biologists, engineers, and other specialists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution embarked on the first long-term study of this netherworld. But Peter Auster, emeritus research professor of NURTEC, urged officials to prevent the findings from being put to commercial use without thoughtful regulations. “New knowledge can lead to unforeseen consequences,” he said. “Policymakers and management agencies need to get in front of potential problems and keep new fisheries from developing until they can assess impacts and insure sustainable use.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman co-writes, “Our conservative guess is that between 342,319 and 353,403 people showed up at political gatherings in April, and between 97,738 and 102,188 showed up in May, although it is likely there were more participants in both months. By 2018’s standards, in April and May we found a modest number of participants…. this decline in participation is probably temporary; from what we’ve counted so far, June 2018 stands to be one of the most active months since Trump’s inauguration.” His co-research found that there are more school walkouts protesting gun violence — and supporting gun rights; that many towns and cities hosted a March for Science for the second year running; and that the official launch of a series of civil resistance and civil disobedience events associated with the Poor Peoples’ Campaign took place this May.
Nearly a week after he was cheered in the wake of his years-old racist, sexist and homophobic tweets resurfacing, Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader took the mound in San Francisco on Thursday night to boos. After the game, Hader continued to express regret for his actions, but he also offered a familiar excuse — pointing to the incident as a youthful mistake. “I can’t control what they’re going to say to me,” Hader told reporters. “I’ve made mistakes in my earlier years. I can’t let my mistakes distract me from my job going now.” Neither can his hometown fans, who gave him a standing ovation at his first home outing last week. Add racism to the list of acceptable behaviors for athletes — so long as they’re winning. “When white men do something we consider to be racist, homophobic or otherwise wrong or politically incorrect, they have to do very little to get back into our good graces,” said Matthew Hughey, associate professor of sociology. “If the team starts to do particularly badly, we might have a different story. America loves winners just as much as it loves racism.”
Professor of Educational Psychology Catherine Little writes about gifted learners for NAGC’s “Teaching for High Potential.” She says that while teaching workshops on gifted education, “someone always brings up the idea that one great way to work with advanced learners—particularly the teacher pleasers and “fast finishers” among them—is to have them help the other kids with their work.” But she argues that “it is not a solution to giving both students an appropriate challenge.” At worst, the practice becomes a context in which the gifted learner is an unpaid teacher’s aide. She brings up and discusses three important questions on the topic: “What are the intended learning outcomes, how do we measure them, and how do we guide students to achieve them?”
Parthenogenesis, the process by which an all-female species reproduces, has been somewhat of a mystery for some time, but a new study traced the lineage of a species of salamander back a few million years. The discoveries are numerous, but chief among them is evidence that males haven’t been needed by this group for a long time. The study establishes that these creatures reproduce generally by one of two ways — cloning or the occasional theft of sperm from a different species of salamander in a process called kleptogenesis. Keeping up just one sex because it limits genetic variability, which can make populations more prone to disease. It’s been thought that stealing sperm is how these salamanders remained unisexual for so long. But, a deeper look suggests that’s not the case. “This research shows that millions of years went by where they weren’t taking DNA from other species, and then there were short bursts where they did it more frequently,” project lead Rob Denton, postdoctoral researcher in molecular and cell biology told phys.org. “Surprisingly, it doesn’t look like they’re suffering any ill genetic effects. It’s a mysterious scenario that an animal can avoid sexual reproduction for millions of years and not suffer the consequences of that.”
With the rise of President Donald Trump as the head of the Republican Party, once a Democrat and liberal on many social issues, what does it mean to be a conservative today? What is the glue that connects Trump to other figures and ideas central to the conservative movement, both historical and contemporary? Associate Professor of Political Science Jeffrey Dudas has an answer to this question: paternalism. Dudas has written Raised Right: Fatherhood in Modern American Conservatism (Stanford University Press, 2018). Dudas argues that conservatives have focused on paternal discipline as an organizing principle of their worldview since the post-World War II period. Though Trump is not the focus of the book, it is hard to read Raised Right without thinking about the President’s style, rhetoric, and current policy agenda as illustrative of Dudas’ thesis.
Dyslexia, a reading disorder, is characterized by a difficulty in “decoding.” But a subset of dyslexic people, dubbed “resilient dyslexics,” exhibit remarkably high levels of reading comprehension despite difficulties decoding. What is the precise mechanism that allows certain individuals with dyslexia to overcome their low decoding abilities and ultimately extract meaning from text? A new joint study co-led by Director and Professor of Psychological Sciences Fumiko Hoeft identifies the brain mechanism that accounts for the discrepancy between low decoding skills and high reading comprehension. The research points to a larger volume of gray matter in resilient readers in the part of the brain responsible for executive functions and working memory. The researchers found that the density of neurons in the DLPFC predated mature reading ability and predicted the discrepancy, regardless of their initial reading abilities. “This helps us to understand the brain and cognitive mechanisms these children utilize to enable them to do well despite their relative weakness in decoding. It may help us think about incorporating relatively new strategies into reading interventions,” says Professor Hoeft.
Draper Chair in American History Manisha Sinha taught a class about the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War. In her lecture at the University of Connecticut, “Historical Interpretations of Reconstruction,” she outlined the different ways historians have interpreted this period – either as a success for the rights granted under the new constitutional amendments, or as a failure, since it did not achieve equality for African Americans.
Plastic surgery patients were getting infections with antibiotic resistant bacteria, and no one knew why. UConn microbiologists found the answer in a leech’s gut. Their research, published today in mBio, provides proof that tiny levels of antibiotics found in the environment can encourage bacterial resistance. Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Joerg Graf is intimately familiar with leech guts. But in 2011, one of his graduate students was having trouble growing bacteria. It was a strain of Aeromonas that usually does really well in leeches. At the same time, plastic surgeons began to report problems with patients getting infected with Aeromonas bacteria resistant to ciprofloxacin, an important antibiotic. The drug-resistant Aeromonas had to have come from the leeches—but how? The animals are raised on specialty farms. Graf realized that it was possible that these leeches could have given blood from chickens instead of cows after the mad cow disease outbreak in Europe. That switch gave Graf and his lab a clue. What if the chicken blood was contaminated with antibiotics? They analyzed the gut contents of leeches from the farm that fed poultry blood, and found traces of both ciprofloxacin and enrofloxacin. But the amount of antibiotic present was vanishingly low. “This was the first time such low levels of antibiotics were observed doing this in the natural environment. Levels of antibiotic 100x below the clinical breakpoint allowed the resistance bacteria to outgrow the sensitive bacteria a million-fold!” Graf said.
In the race for governor of Connecticut, there is one thing every candidate seems to agree on: The state’s economy is in serious disrepair. “Most folks on both sides don’t think Connecticut is working,” said Ned Lamont, who has the Democratic endorsement for governor. The Republican designee, Mark D. Boughton, echoed that assessment: “It’s puzzling as to how and why and where we lost our way, but we lost our way.” For a state that is still viewed — in the popular imagination, anyway — as a prosperous bedroom community, Connecticut has its share of serious problems. There’s negative economic growth, urban poverty, multibillion-dollar budget deficits and the flight of corporations to other states. Which party, and which candidate, will be chosen by voters to try to solve those problems will not be known until November. “Connecticut has voted Democratic in every presidential race since 1992,” noted Ronald Schurin, associate professor of political science in residence. “But the Republicans have made a lot of gains in past cycles at the state level.” It is with this set of conflicting trends that voters will head to the polls on Aug. 14 for the primaries to decide who will be on the ballot for governor in November.
A new report from the University of Connecticut and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, co-authored by Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Rebecca Puhl, reveals some of the factors behind the elevated suicide rate among LGBTQ youth. The report contains results of a 2017 online survey of over 12,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth across the US – one of the largest surveys of this population ever conducted. Some important points from that survey include that there are alarming rates of sexual assault among LGBTQ youth and that nearly half of LGBTQ youth experience bullying on school property. Equality NC calls upon North Carolina’s lawmakers to take steps to protect transgender youth from bullying, discrimination, and other forms of marginalization that can contribute to depression and suicide. Lawmakers should repeal HB142, which restricts North Carolina cities from protecting transgender youth access to appropriate facilities. Lawmakers should also enact statewide protections from discrimination in education.
Understanding the many factors that have played into shaping the biodiversity within Earth’s ecosystems can be daunting. In a major step to that end, an international team of researchers built a computer simulation that takes into account many of the fundamental factors that drive evolutionary adaptation and extinction. “We had hoped to be able to model in the simulation the most fundamental processes that shape the geography of life on Earth,” says Robert Colwell, distinguished emeritus professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, who led the research with Brazilian colleague Thiago F. Rangel, in collaboration with Neil Edwards and Philip Holden in the UK. Through computer simulation, the team was able to estimate the lifetime trajectory of species, starting with origination and ending at one of three points: when the species splits into daughter species, when the species ended in extinction, or the species persisted. “The current pace of human driven climate change is much, much faster than anything in our model, but the same processes are happening in terms of species’ range shifts today,” says Colwell.
Also covered in Phys.org, July 19, 2018
The recent release by Brazilian officials of two videos of uncontacted indigenous people in the Amazon has been politically and ethically controversial, writes associate professor of journalism Scott Wallace. But FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, says it has done so to increase the likelihood of public support to protect indigenous tribes.
Many of us think of seaweed as a nuisance. And yet, increasing numbers of fishermen, scientists, and foodies in the country are starting to look at seaweed very differently: as a promising source of food and jobs. 60 Minutes interviewed Bren Smith, the nation’s leading advocate for “ocean farming.” It all began when his livelihood as a fisherman entered into peril – cod stocks crashed due to overfishing, and after Hurricanes Irene and Sandy hit, his oyster crops were destroyed two years in a row. Searching for a new career on the water, he sought advice from Charlie Yarish, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology whose lab studies some of the thousands of different types of seaweeds. It was Yarish who suggested Smith consider sugar kelp, a local seaweed that gets planted after hurricane season is over, has a mild taste, and can also be used as animal feed and fertilizer. Smith now operates one of the largest seaweed hatcheries in the country.
Michael Ego, professor of human and family development studies, writes about baseball as “a mirror of American culture over time, reflecting the nation’s strengths and weaknesses, its accomplishments and failures.” Despite the problems the nation faces, Ego writes, “Like baseball, America is all about hope. That’s why people came here from around the globe, and why Americans love baseball, according to political scientist and baseball historian David Pietrusza. “Baseball is not about hope without effort, and a 162-game season demands day-in, day-out effort,” Pietrusza said. Like America itself, baseball stands for a belief that because success is not easy, achieving success makes it something to be treasured all the more…. no matter what the score is, hope always remains part of the game, regardless of the score at the start of the bottom half of the ninth inning.”
A new study examines how salamanders will fare as climate change warms their mountain homes. The research shows salamanders are surprisingly able to change their physiology in response to the shifting temperature and humidity. Some salamanders are expected to fare better than others, based on their location and size. Lead Author Eric Riddell said a world without salamanders could be drastically different. Salamanders are abundant in forest ecosystems, and “they eat almost everything that fits in their mouth,” working as a natural control for insects and playing an important role in the energy cycle of forests. In theory, fewer salamanders means more insects and more carbon release. “Climate change is happening, and it’s human-caused. It’s a real threat to the natural world. … Our challenge is to keep ourselves and our world alive,” said Mark Urban, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the Center for Biological Risk, who was not involved in the study.
Also posted in Washington Post, July 11, 2018
When eggs go bad, bacteria usually get the blame. But some bacteria help bobtail squid keep their eggs fresh. Bacteria that female Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) deposit in the jelly surrounding their eggs can fight off a fungus called Fusarium keratoplasticum, Associate Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Spencer Nyholm reported on July 9 at the Beneficial Microbes Conference. Nyholm and colleagues treated squid eggs with antibiotics to kill the bacteria. The eggs grew fuzzy with fungus, and the developing squid embryos soon died. Some of the antifungal chemicals created by the bacteria inhibited growth of some bacteria and other fungi, including Candida albicans, a type of fungus that causes infections in humans. Squid bacteria may one day be a source of new kinds of natural antibiotics or antifungal drugs, Nyholm says.
Also covered in Newsweek, July 12, 2018
John C. Roche ’85 (CLAS), UConn alumnus in economics, today is President & CEO of the Hanover Insurance Group, Inc., Worcester. Roche joined Hanover in 2006 as vice president of underwriting and product management for commercial lines, with previous stops at other insurers, including Travelers in Hartford. By November when Roche became the company’s CEO, the only publicly traded company inside Worcester city limits was at an important inflection point. Since becoming CEO, Roche has reasserted Hanover’s role in the Central Massachusetts community – including serving on the board of the local chapter of the United Way – and seen strong financial results: a 16-percent increase in stock price and a market cap exceeding $5.1 billion.
Despite the high profile of out athletes such as Michael Sam and Adam Rippon, adolescent LGBT athletes are “overwhelmingly closeted,” according to a study the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the University of Connecticut, including Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Rebecca Puhl. Play to Win: Improving the Lives of LGBTQ Youth in Sports analyzes the responses to sports-related questions in HRC’s online 2017 LGBTQ Teen Survey, taken by more than 12,000 people ages 13 to 17 within the United States. The report revealed that many LGBT athletes were not out to their coaches, a smaller percentage of LGBT individuals play sports than their non-LGBT peers, and some LGBT young people do not play a sport at all for fear of an unaccepting environment.
Director and Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Dyson writes about “A Very English Scandal,” a mini-series about British politician Jeremy Thorpe and the scandal of his homosexual affair with 19-year old model Norman Scott that ended his career. Dyson writes, “In 1974, Thorpe was a pivotal figure as the leader of the Liberal Party. Five years later, he was on trial for conspiracy and incitement to murder. “A Very English Scandal” is by turns a comic farce, an epic tragedy and a study in the intersection of private and public life. It reminds us that politics is, finally, a human endeavor — and can’t always be reduced to strategic calculations and data analysis. And it reminds us that cultural understandings of what counts as “scandalous” twist and turn with sometimes dizzying speed…. In its most moving moments, “A Very English Scandal” shows us the consequences of state repression of gay rights. Scott is angry both with Thorpe — the man who tried to have him killed — and with the whole British establishment, which sought to make men like him invisible.”
Why is there a yawning gap between end-century projections and what happened in Earth’s past? One big reason for the gap is simple: time. Earth takes time to respond to changes in greenhouse gases. These slow responses are typically not included in climate models. The Mid-Miocene Climate Optimum (MMCO) was an ancient global warming episode when CO2 levels surged from less than 400ppm to around 500ppm. The cause of that surge was a rare volcanic phenomenon called a “Large Igneous Province” that erupted vast quantities of basalt in the Western USA 16.6 million years ago. Postdoctoral Research Associate of Integrative Geoscience Yvette Eley and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Hren have been investigating how that changed the climate. “Our biomarkers definitely track what CO2 was doing. Whatever is happening in the terrestrial system in terms of what’s driving this event, it’s definitely following pCO2.” As ancient climate changes go, the MMCO was mild compared to the end-Permian, end-Triassic, and others linked to mass extinctions.
The University of Connecticut has held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of its new Engineering & Science Building. The $95 million, five-story building sits on the Storrs campus adjacent to buildings housing UConn’s programs in chemistry, pharmacy, and other sciences and is part of the state’s larger plan to expand STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) at UConn. “This building is the culmination of significant investment by the state of Connecticut in the field of STEM, and in the future of engineering,” says Kazem Kazerounian, dean of the School of Engineering. “Nearly 40 percent of our state’s economy is generated by engineering-related industries, and with our 70 percent increase in engineering enrollment, and significant investment in resources, UConn is providing research, talent, and technology that will pay dividends for decades to come.”
Cicadas feed on plant sap—a diet that’s high in sugar, but low in other essential nutrients. The cicadas cope with the help of domesticated bacteria, which live inside their cells. Most cicadas have two such bacteria: Sulcia and Hodgkinia. Hodgkinia isn’t optional. It makes essential vitamins and other nutrients that Sulcia cannot. If it really was absent, some other microbe must have been supplementing the cicadas in its place. “But no matter what I tried, I couldn’t find any other bacteria—only Sulcia,” says Yu Matsuura. All became clear when he used a microscope to examine the organs in which cicadas house their microbes, where Matsuura saw the cells of a foreign fungus. At first, he thought that the cicadas had picked up a fungal infection, but he found the same cells in every species that lacked Hodgkinia. These insects had clearly adopted some kind of fungus and turned it into an endosymbiont that replaced the missing bacterium. Matsuura showed that cicadas have domesticated Ophiocordyceps, turning it into an essential part of their own bodies. “So often, we want to use black-and-white definitions to define these associations between hosts and microbes,” says Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Nichole Broderick. “This study is a great reminder of the greyness of biology.”
Moments after President Donald Trump shook North Korean leader Kim Jung Un’s hand for the first time, Trump pronounced: “We will have a terrific relationship.” Trump’s snap judgment fulfilled his prediction before the June 12 summit that he would be able to evaluate Kim’s intentions “within the first minute” of meeting him. Director and Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Dyson discusses how high-level politicians often think that they are experts at reading and influencing other leaders. He writes that they quickly come to believe that they are the world’s leading authority on any counterpart they meet in person. This summit process began with a snap decision by Trump to accept an offer to meet with Kim. The most significant result may be Trump’s new confidence that he uniquely understands the North Korean leader. This will further reinforce the defining dynamic of Trump’s presidency so far: Ignore the experts, trust your gut.
Food requires huge amounts of energy to grow. It must be transported from farms in rail cars or semitrailer trucks. Then it is processed, packaged, stored, shelved, cooked and delivered — a complex industrial supply chain that generates an estimated 16 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study in the journal Food Policy. But consumers can make small changes to bring that number down, said Rebecca Boehm, postdoctoral fellow at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and lead author of the study. It’s a simple matter of watching your budget, your “food miles” and — most important — your consumption of meat and dairy. “If people reduced their spending on protein foods by 18 percent, they’d see almost a tenfold reduction in household greenhouse gas emissions,” Boehm said. “That is pretty significant.”
University of Connecticut Alumna in Physics Liana Hotte discusses her experiences as a woman in tech. She writes, “Only 18 percent of bachelor degrees in physics awarded in 2015 were to women, similar to engineering and computer science. On a personal note, when I graduated from UConn, I was one of only two women to receive a degree in physics. More than half of my current team is female, close to 60 percent. This number is a big difference from my experiences in school and labs. I am pleasantly surprised by the magnitude it has made in my work satisfaction and in my life. Seeing women of different experiences work hard and find success is a factor in why I’m excited and motivated to come to work.” She adds, “Without a doubt, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned in my professional life has been this: do not fear failure. A core belief of my manager’s team is that fear of failure keeps people from trying, experimenting, and taking risks—all of which are key to growing and learning…. Ultimately, being a woman in STEM isn’t actually about being in STEM, but about being unafraid to fail in a space where success isn’t guaranteed.”
A new study that provides the latest, most comprehensive estimate of greenhouse gas emissions generated by U.S. consumer food purchases suggests that, if Americans directed their food purchases away from meats and other animal proteins, they could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “We found that households that spend more of their weekly food budget on beef, chicken, pork and other meats are generating more greenhouse gas emissions. Our study shows that encouraging consumers to make food choices that are lower in greenhouse gas emissions can make a real difference addressing climate change,” said Rebecca Boehm, the study’s lead author and Postdoctoral Fellow with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and the Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy, who initiated this work at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “This study is a major advancement in our understanding the contribution of U.S. food choices to climate change,” according to Boehm. Previous studies conducted in the U.S. did not always capture greenhouse gas emissions from all parts of the food system.
Also covered in Public News Service, July 23, 2018
Changes in diet have been proposed as a way to reduce carbon emissions from the food system. But there has been little research on the affordability and feasibility of low-carbon food choices in the U.S. and how these choices could affect diet and climate change. A new study that provides the latest, most comprehensive estimate of greenhouse gas emissions generated by U.S. consumer food purchases suggests that, if Americans directed their food purchases away from meats and other animal proteins, they could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “We found that households that spend more of their weekly food budget on beef, chicken, pork and other meats are generating more greenhouse gas emissions. Our study shows that encouraging consumers to make food choices that are lower in greenhouse gas emissions can make a real difference addressing climate change,” said Rebecca Boehm, the study’s lead author and Postdoctoral Research Associate in Agricultural and Resource Economics with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and the Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy. The researchers utilized nationally representative data on food purchases. “This study is a major advancement in our understanding the contribution of U.S. food choices to climate change,” according to Boehm. Previous studies conducted in the U.S. did not always capture greenhouse gas emissions from all parts of the food system.
Professor of Marine Sciences Ann Bucklin wrote an article for The Conversation about marine zooplankton, which are tiny animals roughly the size of insects that drift with ocean currents. She writes that few people are aware that they are among the most numerous – and important – animals on Earth. “These minute organisms are key players in open ocean food webs and critical as they are the preferred food for many fish,” she says. Her laboratory has gained new insights into zooplankton diversity using DNA sequencing. Currently, key zooplankton species are shifting poleward in search of cooler waters in a warming ocean. This is causing major disturbances to ocean ecosystems. Deeper insights into zooplankton biodiversity will provide a foundation for future research, monitoring and management of the largest habitat on Earth – the open ocean.
For March, Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and colleagues tallied 6,056 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins, rallies and walkouts in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Their conservative guess is that between 2,587,786 and 3,944,175 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were more participants. As a monthly count, this number of participants was only surpassed during the first month we started counting, January 2017. The boost came from the overwhelming attendance at the March for Our Lives and the associated national student walkouts for school safety from gun violence. Their biggest finding since the start of this project is: since President Trump’s inauguration, the United States has seen four enormous protests — each with well over 1 million participants — objecting to the administration and its policies: the 2017 Women’s March, the 2018 Women’s March, the national student walkout on March 14 and the March for Our Lives on March 24.
The solemn ritual of a burial with military honors is repeated dozens of times a day at Arlington National Cemetery. But in order to preserve the tradition of burial at the nation’s foremost military cemetery for future generations, the Army, which runs Arlington, says that it may have to deny it to nearly all veterans who are living today. Already the final resting place for more that 420,000 veterans and their relatives, the cemetery has been adding about 7,000 more each year. At that rate, the cemetery will be completely full in about 25 years. The Army wants to keep Arlington going for at least another 150 years, so they must tighten the rules for who can be buried there. The modern concept of Arlington — an egalitarian Elysian field where generals and G.I.’s of every creed and color are buried side by side — did not truly emerge until the cemetery was desegregated after World War II, according to Micki McElya, associate professor of history, who has written about the cemetery. “Many look to the place as a self-evident case for national inclusion and belonging, as an expression of the many and diverse become one,” McElya said. That, she said, is the Arlington cited by Khizr Khan, the father of an Army captain killed in Iraq and buried at the cemetery, when he urged Donald J. Trump to visit. Now, though, that all-inclusive idea is bumping up against the lack of space.
Leaders in Asia have grown accustomed by now to President Trump’s unpredictability. But his handling of the planned summit meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un went to new levels, which threatened to aggravate longstanding questions about America’s treatment of its partners in Asia and the long-term direction of its policies there. On Friday in St. Petersburg, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said it was “unfortunate” that the summit meeting had been canceled. “But I respect and support President Trump’s judgment,” he added. “The hard-liners who define the Abe worldview will continue with this ‘Look, the North Koreans can’t be trusted,’” said Alexis Dudden, professor of history. “But in this regard, it’s the Trump administration who has pulled the plug out right now, so who can’t really be trusted right now? That’s the longer-term challenge: In the final push, the U.S. might not be there for Japan.”
Leaders in Asia have grown accustomed by now to President Trump’s unpredictability. But his handling of the planned summit meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un went to new levels, which threatened to aggravate longstanding questions about America’s treatment of its partners in Asia and the long-term direction of its policies there. On Friday in St. Petersburg, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said it was “unfortunate” that the summit meeting had been canceled. “But I respect and support President Trump’s judgment,” he added. “The hard-liners who define the Abe worldview will continue with this ‘Look, the North Koreans can’t be trusted,’” said Alexis Dudden, professor of history. “But in this regard, it’s the Trump administration who has pulled the plug out right now, so who can’t really be trusted right now? That’s the longer-term challenge: In the final push, the U.S. might not be there for Japan.”
On May 24, Donald Trump suddenly backed out of a June 13 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A day later, North Korean officials released conciliatory statements, which Trump apparently found fairly pleasing. By Sunday, US diplomats were in North Korea, prepping once again for the summit, which may or may not be back on. Naturally most coverage of these developments has focused on Trump and Kim, but they aren’t the only actors who matter. Regional powers China, Japan, and South Korea all have their own diplomatic goals and leverage points with North Korea. South Korea, for one, has been deeply invested in, and instrumental to, the Trump-Kim summit from day one. President Moon Jae-in came to power in part on a platform of diplomatic engagement with North Korea. Professor of History Alexis Dudden said that Moon sees regularizing relations with his neighbor as vital both to avoiding a violent disaster and for the future of the regional economy. On top of this, added Dudden, when Moon came to power many in DC read him as potentially anti-American and pro-North Korean because he is a progressive, and that wing of Korean politicians are sometimes pro-unification America skeptics. He allayed these fears early on, said Dudden, by affirming early on that he wants to work toward peace on the peninsula with the Americans and would not oppose their military presence.
Even in a red state such as Oklahoma, anti-Trump citizens such as Vicki Toombs, who joined a group of more than 300 Democratic women in Edmond, have found their forces of resistance. Toombs and her fellow activists have made calls and knocked doors for Democratic candidates running for special elections and helped win four of five legislative seats. In states like Oklahoma, activists often say they came “out of the closet” when they started wearing their political affiliations on their sleeves after years of hiding them to avoid conflict. Jeremy Pressman, associate professor of political science, has kept track of demonstrations since Trump’s inauguration with another colleague. They totaled 6,700 in 2017 alone, involving 6 million people or more, not just in liberal cities but in small towns in red states like Alaska, Michigan and, of course, Oklahoma. “We’re so used to seeing these maps every four years of us divided in red and blue, but these protests tend to make a counterpoint — in every red there’s blue and in every blue, red,” Pressman said.
Eastern hemlock forests have been declining due to a non-native insect pest, the hemlock woolly adelgid. A new study presents some of the best long-term data showing how the decline of a single tree species leads to the disappearance of birds specialized to those trees. A single insect species has led to a less diverse bird community across this landscape. “Invasive species, climate change, and land-use change are all similar in that they make our world a less diverse place, and this study helps greatly in understanding how the loss of the eastern hemlock plays its own role in the degradation of biodiversity,” says Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Morgan Tingley, who was not involved in this research. Lead author Matthew Toenies says, “To sum up, to people who are saddened by the loss of hemlocks and the birds that rely on them, I would say one thing: We cannot turn back the clock—we cannot un-introduce the hemlock woolly adelgid; but we absolutely possess the power to prevent this story from repeating itself.”
Also covered in Science Daily, May 23, 2018
At the end of April, thousands upon thousands of songbirds make the trek north, but you won’t see most of them. They fly in the dark to avoid as many predators as possible, and in doing so evade the humans trying to study them as well. So, even as 4,000 of the world’s 10,000 bird species fly over our heads every night, scientists are still scrambling to answer basic questions. When do birds decide to migrate? How dangerous is it? For a long time, ornithologists would have to go out to field stations, catching and tagging birds as they stopped. Research data on a single population took several years of trying to recapture tagged birds. “Even ten years ago, if you wanted to study something you had to go out and gather the data yourself,” says Morgan Tingley, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “I think in twenty years, ornithologists probably will have a good sense at any point in time where the majority of species are living and what they’re doing.” Rather than track individual species with isolated studies, ornithologists have their eye on a new tool: a radio telescope module on the International Space Station that will track seasonal migrations from the edge of space. This project, called ICARUS, will use new radio tag fences, artificial intelligence analysis of radar tracking, and the sharing of study data to help connect different scales of migration research into a single, cohesive picture.
A team led by Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology David Goldhamer recently published a study that describes the discovery of the cell type that is responsible for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare genetic disease in which skeletal muscle tissue and connective tissues are gradually replaced with bone. This bone growth, which is called heterotopic ossification (bone forming in the wrong places, separate from the normal skeleton), can be triggered by minor bumps encountered in everyday living. University of Connecticut researchers were able to use genetic engineering to produce mice that carry the same mutation. The research team identified the culprit, a cell known as the fibro/adipogenic progenitor (FAP). Remarkably, FOP mice that express the mutant receptor specifically in FAPs recapitulate all major aspects of human FOP. Under normal physiological conditions, injured skeletal muscle has an enormous capacity to regenerate. While heterotopic ossification reaches its most extreme form in FOP, it can also result from certain types of soft tissue injuries and surgeries.
Distinguished Professor of English Gina Barreca writes for the Hartford Courant about the value we find in handwritten letters. Reminiscing in her undergraduate days at Dartmouth, she writes, “Letters – hand-written, stamped and posted days or even weeks before they arrived – had the power to make me either deliriously happy or entirely miserable.” Barreca discusses how “[h]andwritten artifacts, apparently, continue to capture the imagination. We remember the letters that changed our lives.” She reminds us of college or work acceptance and rejection letters, checks and bills, letters from loved ones stationed abroad, and more. Her final conclusion: “Seeing an envelope, addressed in a familiar hand, can still make our hearts beat faster. That’s worth a first-class stamp. That’s worth a trip to the mailbox.”
Protons’ innards are squeezed harder than any other substance measured, a new study finds. The pressure in the proton’s center averages a million trillion trillion times the strength of Earth’s atmospheric pressure, the study reports. In proton research, the particle’s internal pressure distribution has been a largely unexplored frontier, even though pressure is one of the proton’s fundamental properties. “It’s as important as electric charge or mass,” says Peter Schweitzer, associate professor of physics, but it has stayed unknown until now. Protons are made up of smaller particles including quarks, which are electrically charged, and gluons, which transmit the strong nuclear force that holds protons together.
An audio version of the ‘dress debate’ – in which an image of a dress went on viral on Twitter because it appeared, to some, to definitely be white and gold, while others were positive it was black and blue – has arrived. This time, the debate concerns whether an audio recording is saying “yanny” or “laurel.” There is actually a right answer – it is saying “laurel.”So why can’t we all hear it? “The low quality recording creates enough ambiguity in the acoustic feature that some listeners may be led toward the ‘yanny’ perception,” Brad Story explains. But there is also a chance that the recording contains both noises at once. “When I first listened to the sounds I could hear both words strangely simultaneously,” says Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences Heather Read. She thinks the overlaid sounds are happening at once, with “yanny” occurring at higher frequencies, and what you hear depends on which frequencies your ear amplifies. She also thinks that if you play it repeatedly, you should hear “laurel” more and more. “Hopefully my ability to hear both words simultaneously reflects my musical ear or my acoustical scientific ear and not some other odd property of my brain,” she says. “But either way it’s fun that we all hear it differently.”
NPR’s Lakshmi Singh reports on recent allegations of racism involving college fraternities with interviews from Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey, among others. Racist incidents and sexual harassment involving fraternities, such as at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, are events that Hughey sees as rooted in the very origins of fraternity life. He says, “We have the American higher educational system, which was designed to educate white, male, propertied, elite students. As more and more students started to come into university, and university started to become a little less elite, Greek letter organizations were formed. And they were formed as a way for those very elite, propertied, white, male students to create even more exclusionary spaces within college and university life. So they became vehicles, in a way, for the reproduction of inequality.”
An estimated 13,000 Puerto Ricans came to Connecticut after Hurricane Maria, according to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. Researchers from the University of Connecticut and Hunter College have been surveying hundreds of Puerto Rican evacuees in Hartford since February in a study. At a presentation of the survey’s preliminary results, Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago said he already knew that housing would be a big concern for Puerto Rican evacuees. But Venator-Santiago said he was surprised that many of the evacuee families he interviewed were also struggling to put food on the table. “We’re also finding out that the level of poverty is much higher,” Venator-Santiago said. “In other words, there are a lot of people living with less than $7,500 a year.” He said Puerto Rico’s economic crisis has kept many families from returning to the island. “Those who are staying here, are telling us that they’re here because they don’t have work at home,” Santiago said. “It’s not necessarily because they don’t have access to a home. It’s that they don’t have jobs that enable them to survive in Puerto Rico.”
North and South Korean leaders Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un met last month in what was deemed an “historic summit” — spurring reports of a possible peace treaty between the fraught nations. On their broadcast, WNPR takes an in-depth look at this and other news out of the Korean Peninsula, as well as the plans for President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un to meet. Professor of History Alexis Dudden is one of their guest speakers.
If UConn alumna Crystal R. Emery (SFA) delivered one key message from her wheelchair to the 1,500 UConn graduates gathered at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday afternoon, it was that they can overcome whatever obstacles life throws in their path. A black woman who has overcome challenges of both race and disability to succeed as a producer, author, and filmmaker known for producing socially conscious works and stories that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, Emery said, “I am living testimony that you can challenge the status quo.”
Kanye West’s increasingly political presence on Twitter has left historians and political scientists to set the record straight on several recent occasions. “When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice,” he told TMZ in an interview published on Tuesday. In a series of later-deleted tweets, he attempted to clarify his statements. “Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will,” he wrote. “My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved.” Ironically, considering his clarified point about the enslaved not fighting back, Kanye West’s version “completely ignores the history of thousands of slaves who fled from slavery and rebelled against it,” says Professor of History Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition. Sinha’s scholarship looks at how fugitive slaves and other people of color played an active role in the end of slavery. In the uproar over Kanye West’s tweets, she sees a lesson about a crucial but often overlooked part of that history — and a reminder that not only was slavery not a choice, but also, in fact, the enslaved made every effort to get out of it. “Enslaved people fled for freedom whenever they got the opportunity,” she says. “When they did not have the right to vote, they voted with their feet.” A look at what slaves wrote and sang during that period also shows that they were the opposite of “mentally enslaved.” “[Kanye West] should read slave spirituals and black folk tales from the period of slavery that speak about the longing of enslaved people for freedom,” she says. “His music stems from those slave spirituals. He ought to know that. He ought to know that even when blacks were enslaved, their minds were not enslaved.”
Lyle Scruggs, professor of political science, co-authored an article that discusses Chief Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt’s testimony about alleged ethics violations and controversial spending decisions. Under this scrutiny, two of Pruitt’s top aides have resigned. Pruitt’s political support may be ebbing. But prominent Republicans and conservative groups have supported him for his deregulatory fervor and conservative Christian ideology. Gallup found that 35 percent of Republicans agreed that global warming is caused by human activity, down from 40 percent last year. In contrast, 89 percent of Democrats agreed this was the case, up from 87 percent last year. Furthermore, 42 percent of Republicans agreed that there was a scientific consensus on climate change, down from 53 percent last year. Pruitt may not be the only cause of that shift, but his efforts have probably influenced it. Scrugg’s research suggests that more Republicans in Congress would need to speak out in support of climate science to narrow this partisan gap and correct these misperceptions.
In 1950, in the struggle for sovereignty from American colonial rule, Puerto Rican independence fighters staged uprisings, leading to one of the only times the U.S. bombed its own citizens. Today, talk of independence feels distant to Puerto Ricans still recovering seven months after Hurricane Maria. The U.S. government has shown no interest in affecting the status quo, and many Puerto Ricans still view the current relationship as a relatively stable option that provides an adequate balance of sovereignty and support. However, the sluggish disaster response and dissatisfaction with the recovery efforts have aggravated Puerto Rico’s sense of abandonment. Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González said she will file a bill this spring petitioning for statehood and is counting on the growing Puerto Rican diaspora on the mainland to pressure lawmakers. “Granting statehood means granting seven seats to the Democrats,” Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago said. “Statehood has been dead for decades.” Culture creates another impediment. Business and everyday life in Puerto Rico are conducted in Spanish, and the island’s cultural identity aligns more with Latin America than the United States. Still, statehood has some supporters in Congress. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) supports decolonization, because he believes the status quo is at odds with the United States’ democratic values. “It places us in a position of looking like colonialists,” he said. “It would be difficult to pass legislation on statehood today, but not impossible.”
There are no outward signs that the 81-year-old Justice Anthony Kennedy is in his final months on the Supreme Court. Liberals are concerned and conservatives are hopeful because if he goes, President Donald Trump gets to nominate his successor, whom a slim Republican Senate majority is likely to confirm. The replacement justice would be more conservative, and the right would have a solid working majority of the nine justices. The speculation reflects the darkest fears and fondest wishes of people who care about the court on both sides of the political spectrum. Filling the vacancy could be as contentious as it was when Justice Lewis Powell, Kennedy’s predecessor, retired in 1987 and President Ronald Reagan settled on Kennedy only after his first two choices for the seat failed, said David Yalof, department head and professor of political science. “The difference is that in 1987 you had a Democratic Senate face off against a Republican president in his final two years in office. Here, you have a Republican Senate and a Republican president in his first two years in office,” Yalof said. But if Kennedy decides to serve another a year or two and Democrats win the Senate in November, it could be considerably harder for Trump to get a nominee confirmed.
On April 27, Kim Jong Un became the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea — where he was welcomed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. A few days later, the South Korean government reported that Kim had promised to give up his nuclear arsenal under certain conditions. While some viewed the summit with skepticism and issued reminders about Kim’s villainous past, others began talking of a unified Korea. Professor of History Alexis Dudden is co-author of an article that suggests the focus now should be on forging new ties with North Korea, and the question of how South Korea and North Korea will merge can be left for the future. Dudden and colleagues conclude that if North Korea can recognize that it is in everyone’s interest that North Korea not only continues to exist but becomes more prosperous, perhaps Kim Jong Un will make good on his promise to let go of his nuclear ambitions. Once North Korea is more economically independent, maybe reunification can be conducted as a joyful reunion between equals.
Many of us think of seaweed as a nuisance — the slimy, sometimes smelly stuff that clogs fishermen’s nets, gets tangled in our ankles in the ocean, and washes up unwanted on the beach. Even its name — sea-weed — implies something undesirable. And yet increasing numbers of fishermen, scientists, and foodies in this country are starting to look at seaweed very differently — as a promising source of food, jobs and help cleaning ocean waters. With rising global populations and limited space to expand agriculture on land, they are turning to the sea — and its “weeds” — as a new frontier. Bren Smith, the nation’s leading advocate for a whole new type of farming — ocean farming, wanted to use his staple crop, a type of seaweed called sugar kelp, to help workers across the country. Searching for a new career on the water, he sought advice from Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Charles Yarish, whose lab studies some of the thousands of different types of seaweeds. It was Yarish who suggested Smith consider sugar kelp, a local seaweed that gets planted after hurricane season is over, has a mild taste, and can also be used as animal feed and fertilizer. Smith now operates one of the largest seaweed hatcheries in the country.
Weed impairs our ability to think, organize, and pay attention, studies have shown. And it’s not usually associated with productivity and motivation. Yet, some users feel more focused, even productive, after consuming or smoking weed — even though there’s no scientific evidence cannabis acts upon the motivational circuits in our brains. So what’s going on here? Why do some people anecdotally say using cannabis increases productivity for tedious tasks, like scrubbing the floor or organizing the house? Weed could be paving the way for motivation, even if it isn’t known to promote productivity directly. “Actually, most of the research on cannabis and motivation shows no effect, or if anything, reduced motivation,” said John Salamone, distinguished professor of psychological sciences, over email. The same goes for attention and focus, he noted. But, cannabis might have a secondary, or collateral, type of effect. Feeling better might also cause someone to perceive an increased motivation or focus. There is still much, however, that isn’t fully understood about the effects of cannabis use.
A new study from the University of Connecticut and published in Climatic Change shows that regardless of political affiliation, people are more likely to believe facts about climate change if they come from Republicans. Republicans are even more persuasive than actual scientists when it comes to correcting mis-information about climate change. “Partisanship increasingly influences perceptions of scientific credibility,” said Salil Benegal, a recent UConn Ph.D. graduate in political science who is now at DePauw University. The study surveyed 1,341 people who either self identified as Republican, Democrat or Independent. There was a partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans in their stated opinions on climate change, with Democrats showing the highest level of concern and scientific agreement. Participants of the UConn study found the most effective, factual corrections to misleading information came from Republicans rather than non-partisan scientists or Democrats. The researchers of the study believe that the reason for the above result is because Republicans who make such statements are engaging in more potentially costly behavior that would lend them additional persuasive value.
Since the early 2000s, each spring up to 12,000 birds have peeled away from the coast and winged it 60 miles inland to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California —lured by a local dish many predators can’t stomach: the invasive larvae of the white-lined sphinx moths. In their native range in Arizona, the caterpillars emerge to chomp on the burst of vegetation that follows the summer monsoons; in the Anza-Borrego desert, the insect’s reproductive cycle has shifted to coincide with the eruption of flowers after winter rains. “They can be so successful [in breeding], they eat themselves out of home,” says Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology David Wagner. While some think the hawks are keeping Anza-Borrego’s caterpillars in check, Wagner is skeptical that the birds are making much more than a small dent in the population. “At this point they’re far exceeding all their enemies,” he notes. Still, he stresses, the insects aren’t immune to hardships such as drought; they will move north in search of food if conditions become too bleak.
A memorial to victims of lynching in the U.S. is now open in Alabama, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which gives visitors a sense of the terror of lynching as they walk through a memorial square with 800 six-foot steel columns that symbolize the victims. U.S. history books and documentaries that tell the story of lynching in the U.S. have focused on black male victims, to the exclusion of women. But women, too, were lynched – and many raped beforehand. Professor of Political Science Evelyn M. Simien‘s new book “Gender and Lynching” seeks to tell the stories of these women and why they have been left out. Between 1880 and 1930, close to 200 women were murdered by lynch mobs in the American South, according to historian Crystal Feimster. Will this new memorial give these murdered women their due in how the U.S. remembers and feels about our troubling history?
Scientists exploring the Gulf of Mexico recently discovered a deep-sea squid that appeared to have twisted and folded its body in such a way that it hardly bore any resemblance to what a squid should look like. As observed by Live Science, photos and videos of the deep-sea squid show its body curled inward in a “very dramatic pose,” almost looking as if it’s trying to defend itself from predators. Such a position is not unusual for squids. It’s not sure why this week’s deep-sea squid sighting was striking an extremely defensive pose when it was spotted by the Okeanos team. However, Ph.D. student in Physiology and Neurobiology Sarah McAnulty believes that the animal might be striking this pose in an attempt to collect debris from shallow waters, a food source also referred to as “marine snow.” Other squid species use their sticky skin to collect marine snow, but since the squid in question was notable for its outstretched arms, McAnulty theorized that it might use its arms to harvest marine snow, or to ensure that the substance doesn’t flow off its body.
Also covered in National Geographic, April 20, 2018
“White evangelical support for President Trump is at an all-time high, with 75 percent holding a favorable view of the president and just 22 percent holding an unfavorable view. This level of support is far above support in the general population, where Trump’s favorability is at 42 percent,” writes analyst Robert P. Jones, who says that the president-to-be’s approval never got above 50 percent in early 2016, but jumped to 61 percent by autumn, and to 68 percent upon Mr. Trump’s inauguration. “Regardless of political affiliation, people are more likely to believe facts about climate change when they come from Republicans speaking against what has become a partisan interest in this country,” says a new University of Connecticut study, which found that GOPers turned out to be even more persuasive than scientists when it comes to correcting misinformation about climate change. “Unfortunately, correcting misinformation is much harder than simply providing ‘facts’,” says Lyle Scruggs, professor of political science, and study co-author. “This may be because Republicans who make such statements are engaging in more potentially costly behavior that lend them additional persuasive value,” the authors of the study noted.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation announced the cohort of 2018 Truman Scholars, which included at least six Indian American recipients. The group of 59 college students included students from 52 colleges and universities across the U.S. who aspire to become public service leaders. The students, who are mostly college juniors, were chosen from a group of 756 candidates nominated by 312 colleges and universities. Among the students chosen was Akshayaa Chittibabu, Honors student in biological sciences and sociology. Her passion for learning languages has led her to studying Korean in Gwangju, South Korea, on a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship. She serves as the vice chairperson of the USG Academic Affairs Committee, works as an editorial assistant, volunteers as a community health educator, and leads Bhagavad Gita studies at the Hindu Students Council. She has conducted research on how rural South Indian women access and understand cervical cancer screening and implemented novel health education programs in rural Tamil Nadu. She is also a Global Health Fellow at the UN Foundation. After graduation, she intends to earn an M.D./M.P.P. dual degree and pursue a career as a physician-public servant.
A cocktail of chemicals from many human activities is making U.S. rivers saltier and more alkaline across the nation. Surprisingly, road salt in winter is not the only source: construction, agriculture, and many other activities also play roles across regions. These changes pose serious threats to drinking water supplies, urban infrastructure and natural ecosystems. Salt pollution is not currently regulated at the federal level, and state and local controls are inconsistent. Research by Gene E. Likens, research specialist in ecology and evolutionary biology, and colleagues shows that when salts from different sources mix, they can have broader impacts than they would individually. It also shows the importance of supporting water quality monitoring nationwide, so that we can detect and address other pollution problems that have yet to be recognized.
Tapeworms, which curl up inside an animal’s intestines and survive by skimming nutrients from their digestive tracts, have been around for at least 270 million years, and there are almost 5,000 different types of them. Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Janine Caira has been fascinated with tapeworms from early in her career. Over the past eight years, she has cataloged tapeworm species in thousands of animals, eventually discovering 211 species that are new to science. She published the book “A Survey of the Tapeworms from the Vertebrate Bowels of the Earth” in 2017. Caira’s work is part of a big push by the National Science Foundation to catalog and understand the 85 percent (or more) of life on Earth that they estimate hasn’t been officially discovered and described yet.
As our planet warms up, the seasons are shifting in many parts of the world. For instance, some birds are arriving at their breeding grounds after the insects they normally feast on have peaked. When different species fall out of sync like this, scientists call it a phenological mismatch, which may have negative consequences. For their research on this issue, some scientists have been using the notebooks of Henry David Thoreau to document major shifts in the region. Starting in 1851, Thoreau began keeping detailed records in springtime. Dozens of naturalists carried on Thoreau’s work after he died, making Concord one of the best-studied ecosystems around. Morgan Tingley, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is helping to lead a huge multi-university project to comb through satellite data, amateur bird sightings and even volunteer caterpillar counts across North America to understand whether mismatches driven by global warming really are having adverse effects on bird populations or whether birds might be able to adapt to the seasonal confusion.
On March 24, Parkland, Fla., high school students — in coalition with people nationwide — organized massive public rallies to support gun regulation, safer schools and safer communities. According to Jeremy Pressman, associate professor of political science, the March for Our Lives event brought out 1,380,666 to 2,181,886 people at 763 locations — making it the third-largest day of demonstrations since President Trump’s inauguration launched an extraordinary period of national political mobilization. He and colleagues found that the March for Our Lives was the third-largest set of rallies in a year and a half; it brought out an incredibly diverse set of participants nationwide; and that each local March for Our Lives had its own character, from how it emphasized political action to what conditions protesters endured.
The schmutz is a plasmodial slime mold, Physarum polycephalum, a glob of living cells that exhibits decidedly non-schmutzlike behavior, such as solving mazes and anticipating periodic events. The abilities of non-animals to remember events, recognize patterns, and solve problems are prompting scientists and philosophers to rethink what thinking is. In the 21st century, biologists are beginning to see cognition in other biological kingdoms – not just slime molds, but also plants. This shift in thought could help in the search for intelligence beyond Earth. “We seem to always take the human as the main golden standard which everything else gets compared to,” Monica Gagliano says. “In general [plants] do things at such a different time scale that for us it’s inconceivable. How conceivable it is for a human to think in hundreds of years? We don’t.” These biases may pose a challenge to understanding – or even detecting – intelligence beyond Earth. “Every case of life that we know on Earth is related,” says Susan Schneider, associate professor of philosophy. “But for all we know, we could be an outlier case of life relative to the bulk of other forms of life out in the universe.”
Labor took many forms for Revolutionary-era Bostonians, who conducted work in many types of locations and under a variety of social arrangements. Occupations, levels of skill, and working conditions varied considerably. Men, women, and children, free and enslaved, conducted work in households and workshops, on wharves and slipways, in ropewalks and printing-shops. Join Department Head and Professor of History Christopher Clark on May 2nd as he provides insights into the Atlantic world, the beginnings of the American Revolution, race and gender relations, and the origins of Boston’s subsequent urban growth through the lens of laboring people.
Steven Wisensale, professor of human development and family studies, writes for The Conversation about how on Feb. 9, 2001, an American submarine, the USS Greenville, surfaced beneath the Ehime Maru, a Japanese ship filled with high school students. The ship sank, and nine students and teachers died. Had a Japanese submarine surfaced beneath a North Korean ship and sank it, the two nations might have gone to war. But U.S. and Japanese officials were able to turn to a familiar diplomatic tool: baseball. To honor the victims, they formed a youth baseball tournament that takes place each year. Baseball has helped US-Japanese diplomacy since it was introduced to Japan in the 1870s.
Every week in Istanbul, Islamic mystics known as Sufis are led into a trancelike state, hoping to get closer to their God and each other. Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dmitris Xygalatas recorded the effect of the ritual on their bodies using physical activity monitors. The physical action of moving together as one and coordinating their bodies caused their heartrates to align, which is known as synchrony. Xygalatas says, “We have found that going through a ritual that involves a lot of energy and arousal and even suffering can result into a feeling of euphoria. This is similar to this experience of the marathon runner who feels euphoric after several hours of suffering.” This feeling of oneness in a group also has important social implications, such as the level of their loyalty to the group, as well as their loyalty to one another.
To determine the residents with the biggest tax burdens, WalletHub compared the 50 states across the three tax types of state tax burdens — property taxes, individual income taxes and sales and excise taxes — as a share of total personal income in the state. Connecticut has the 6th highest tax burden at 10.19%, with New York being the highest at 13.04%. Oskar Harmon, associate professor of economics, says that the income tax instruments are the most fair, and the least fair are sales and property taxes. He argues that states and localities should tax property at different marginal rates like income, and says that what makes some state and local tax systems better able to weather economic downturns is a greater reliance on taxes and fees, which make states less sensitive to fluctuations in personal income.
“The Guide to Walden Pond” by Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Geoscience Robert M. Thorson is a step-by-step guide to the place where Henry David Thoreau lived, wrote, and philosophized for more than two years. The 250-page book explores the people who played a role in Walden Pond, historical events, plants, and animals related to 15 stops around the shoreline. This is the seventh book published by Thorson, an award-winning author, science columnist, speaker, consultant, and expert guide to Thoreau’s Concord who recalls being “astonished” the first time he read “Walden” in 1970. Thorson hopes his effort to merge history, landscape, nature, and literature will inspire others to create their own enhanced Walden experience. “Walden Pond is a pleasant, but ordinary place made extraordinary by literature,” he said. “I want to help readers fuse the place of the book with the book of the place.”
Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are powerful weapons our body’s immune systems count on to fight infection and combat diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. Finding ways to spark these potent cells into action could lead to more effective cancer treatments and vaccines. While several chemical compounds have shown promise stimulating iNKT cells in mice, their ability to activate human iNKT cells has been limited. Now, an international team of top immunologists, molecular biologists, and chemists led by Professor of Chemistry Amy Howell reports in Cell Chemical Biology the creation of a new compound that appears to have the properties researchers have been looking for. The compound — a modified version of an earlier synthesized ligand — is highly effective in activating human iNKT cells. It is also selective — encouraging iNKT cells to release a specific set of proteins known as Th1 cytokines — that stimulate anti-tumor immunity.
UConn Alumna in Journalism Sara Grant, creator and editor of The Know (The Denver Post’s entertainment site), is one of twenty-five young professionals who love their jobs and believe in the future of journalism. These individuals have been called the leaders that are moving the industry forward by Editor & Publisher. Grant understands what her readers want. She’s done such a great job of it that the Denver Post tapped her to lead audience development for the paper. “We originally hired Sara to bring her strategic thinking to our social channels, but quickly learned that her expertise on audience development hit many other areas, including breaking news, video, features and more,” said editor Lee Ann Colacioppo. Since her hiring in 2014, Grant has been a leader in the Post’s digital transformation. Fast forward four years, she is now a year into spearheading The Know, a mini publishing venture of the Post. Through her leadership there, readership has grown beyond expectations, and she’s already launched two spin offs for the new site and is still strategizing for more. “One of the most important contributions Sara makes is her ability to bring stragglers on board to embrace a digital-centric newsroom,” Colacioppo said.
Dementia can be caused by a number of diseases, but the most common is Alzheimer’s, which affects 5.7 million people in the U.S. today. Michael Ego, professor of human and family development studies, says he always wondered why in the U.S. less attention is devoted to improving the quality of life for persons with dementia. So a few years ago, he started to look outside of the U.S. to learn about how other countries are responding to Alzheimer’s in innovative ways. He found that sports — specifically, something called “sports reminiscence therapy” — is increasingly playing a role. The success of soccer historian Michael White’s successful program in Scotland called “Football Memories” inspired a similar one across the Atlantic: baseball reminiscence therapy. The first launched in St. Louis in 2013; now, there are six across the country, including one implemented in early 2017 at the River House Adult Day Care Center in Cos Cob, Connecticut, where Ego is currently conducting a study to assess its benefits. Ego says, “My study is still ongoing…. But the laughter and smiles I witnessed during the wiffle ball game tell me that something’s working.”
Postdoctoral Fellow in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Kevin R. Burgio writes about the extinction of the Carolina parakeet, America’s only native parrot. It was a mystery why they went extinct. Over the past six years, he collected information about where the parakeet was observed over the last 450 years. He and his colleagues able to use the data he collected to reconstruct their likely range and climate niche. They were able to confirm the longstanding hypothesis that the parakeets in the northwest part of their range migrated southeasterly in the winter, to avoid the blistering cold of the Midwest. While this may seem rather minor in importance, some scientists consider the Carolina parakeet one of the top candidates for “de-extinction.” That’s a process in which DNA is harvested from specimens and used to “resurrect” extinct species, not unlike “Jurassic Park”. Today, parrots face a serious threat of extinction. Parrot diversity tends to be highest in areas around the world that are rapidly developing, much like the U.S. during the 19th century. So whatever lessons the Carolina parakeet can teach us may be crucial moving forward.
Also covered in Washington Post, March 31, 2018
Right now, the SAT and ACT are generally conducted outside of school hours and in limited locations, and they come with registration fees — all of which limit their accessibility to disadvantaged students. Recognizing the problem, some dozen states have started giving the SAT or ACT at school, during school hours, and for free. In most cases, the test stood in for another standardized test that the high schoolers would have had to take anyway. The plan seems to be working. For one, it raised the rate of test-taking from 35 percent among low-income students in Michigan to almost 99 percent. In addition, according to a study by Joshua Hyman, assistant professor of public policy, the test also uncovered low-income students who might have otherwise not applied to college: about 480 for every 1,000 who had taken the test before 2007 and had scored well. Given the potential benefits of this change and its impressively low cost, states around the country would be foolish not to pursue it, and to consider universal screening programs designed to identify gifted and talented children who aren’t lucky enough to have pushy parents.
It’s clear that antibiotics won’t help treat a viral infection – and a study found that they could actually make them worse. While the idea that antibiotics can modulate antiviral immunity is not new, an interesting aspect of this study is that it suggests a mechanism for that effect. Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Nichole Broderick who studies host-microbe interactions in Drosophila and was not involved in the new work, says the tissue-specific effects the researchers saw point to considerable complexity in the factors that determine susceptibility to disease. She notes that the antibiotics could have affected antiviral immunity independently of their impact on the microbiome—a possibility the study could not rule out. Broderick suggests doing the experiment in germ-free mice could help clarify whether that’s the case.
On Wednesday morning, the Northeast was pummeled with yet another nor’easter, the fourth in three weeks to wallop the region. But what do we call the storm? On social media, a duel of sorts has emerged between the National Weather Service—the government agency that’s traditionally been tasked with naming severe storms like hurricanes—and the Weather Channel, which started the practice of naming winter storms in 2012. That controversy over whether to name winter storms is playing out on social media with this latest storm. #Noreaster4 is trending on Twitter. Click over to the Weather Channel, though, and the storm is being breathlessly dissected and analyzed as Toby. So is it Toby or the more clinical “nor’easter?” And does it even matter? Adam Rainear, doctoral candidate in communication, published perhaps the first and only paper on winter storm naming in the journal Weather, Climate, and Society with his professors. “I really found no differences [in perception], no real differences at all,” he told The Daily Beast. “My main takeaway after finishing it, actually, was wondering if we’re overthinking these names.”
Millions of tons of plastic makes its way into the oceans every year, but once it gets there, scientists still don’t know precisely what happens to it. It’s hard to see, so they don’t know where it goes or how long it stays there. Now, scientists at the European Space Agency want to use a satellite to help get a better handle on these questions. If the project is successful, it could be the first global effort to measure how much plastic is where across the oceans. The team wants to build a machine that can identify plastic by spotting distinctive characteristics in light reflecting off it. Scientists such as Professor of Marine Sciences Heidi Dierssen are already working on making that technique a reality using airplane surveys. The approach relies on plastic reflecting more invisible light in the inftared spectrum back to the sky than the ocean itself does. If there’s enough plastic in one area, scientists armed with imaging technology can identify and measure plastic based on those light signatures. Of course, it gets complicated. “To know that it’s actually plastic and not something else floating or even a bubble or a whitecap, we have to have more of a sense of the spectral fingerprint and what’s unique to plastics,” Dierssen said. “It’s going to be very challenging.”
Director and Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Dyson writes about how “Occupied,” the Netflix thriller about a Russian “soft invasion” of Norway, reflects the dystopian connections with today’s political climate. He says, “Political fiction can show us an idealized version of politics — think “The West Wing” or “Occupied’s” sunnier Scandinavian cousin “Borgen.” Or they can mirror and even magnify the anxieties of society, like “House of Cards” or “Scandal.” These are anxious days, and “Occupied” is the unsettling, dystopian thriller that fits them.”
Assistant Professor of Sociology Ruth Braunstein writes about how daily distractions draw our eyes downward: toward our phones, our to-do lists, our immediate needs and wants. We live in a time of information overload, in which we “know more and understand less” than ever before. This condition, which we might call myopia, afflicts most of us. Socially, the term refers to a “lack of foresight or discernment.” Political systems, too, are designed as correctives to myopia, although this is not always recognized. While the history of the United States is often associated with the concept of e pluribus unum, this emphasizes a process of reduction—we started as many, but now we are one. It is easy to overlook the extent to which democratic life is also about enlargement, by encouraging us to think beyond the self—we may be one person, but we are also part of a people. In other ways, this system was also designed with reduction in mind—specifically, the reduction of possibility. While the nation was born of revolution, the founders believed it would only survive by taming future revolutionary impulses. As such, the system was designed not to enlarge our visions of political possibility, but to tamp them down.
President Trump’s acceptance of Kim’s invitation to discuss North Korean denuclearization is a stunning move that some have greeted as a potential breakthrough and others have decried as a massive risk. He would be the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader. Stephen Dyson, director and associate professor of political science, discusses how President Donald Trump will need to understand what makes the North Korean leader tick before meeting with him. Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara said to empathize with your enemy, and intuit how the world looks to them. “We must try to put ourselves in their skin, and look at ourselves through their eyes,” he said. History tells us that to influence Kim, we must empathize (note: not sympathize) with him. If the meeting is to be a success, Trump and his advisers must first understand how we look to the North Korean leader, peering at us from his very particular vantage point.
When Cape Town acknowledged in February that it would run out of water within months, South Africa suddenly became the global poster child for bad water management. Cape Town is not alone. Mexico, too, has seen its water fall prey to cronyism in many cities. Assistant Professor of Political Science Veronica Herrera interviewed 180 engineers, politicians, business leaders and residents in eight Mexican cities for her book on politics and water, and was startled to discover that Mexican officials frequently treat water distribution and treatment not as public services but as political favors. In Nezahualcoyotl, she met a water director who openly boasted of using public water service for his political and personal gain. In the same breath, he told her that he fought to keep water bills low in this mostly poor city because water was a “human right” but also that he had once turned off supplies to an entire neighborhood for weeks because of a feud with another city employee. Water may be a human right. But when politicians manipulate it for their personal or political benefit, some cities flood while others go dry.
It has been 101 years since the residents of Puerto Rico, which is neither a U.S. state nor an independent country, were collectively naturalized as U.S. citizens under the Jones Act of 1917. But this particular citizenship created contradictions and led Puerto Ricans to feel something less than fully American then — and now. Puerto Ricans cannot vote for the U.S. president when they live in the territory, but they can when they reside in one of the 50 U.S. states or the District of Columbia. And in crisis — notably during Puerto Rico’s 2017 bankruptcy, and the federal response to the devastation of the island by Hurricane Maria — the inequality of Puerto Rico is often exposed, and questions are asked again about the Jones Act. Charles R. Venator-Santiago, associate professor in political science, outlines what the Jones Law was and was not.
A climate scientist trying to figure out what might happen to our planet in the near future would love to be able to determine how much rain fell during past eras of global warming. A pair of University of Connecticut researchers has come up with a way to do exactly that. Their unique approach involves measuring the ancient residue left in soils and rocks from the waxy surfaces of plants that were alive millions of years ago. Their findings were just published in the magazine Scientific Reports. The new method was discovered by Michael Hren, an assistant professor of chemistry, and Yvette Eley, a former UConn post-doctoral research associate in integrative geoscience. As the globe heats up in our own era, Hren said, “There is a fierce debate over what areas are going to be dryer, and which are going to be wetter.” Getting a handle on that is likely to be critical to helping people prepare for future increases or decreases in precipitation.
Anthropologists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and an international team of collaborators have discovered that early humans in East Africa had — by about 320,000 years ago — begun trading with distant groups, using color pigments and manufacturing more sophisticated tools than those of the Early Stone Age. These newly discovered activities approximately date to the oldest known fossil record of Homo sapiens and occur tens of thousands of years earlier than previous evidence has shown in eastern Africa. These behaviors, which are characteristic of humans who lived during the Middle Stone Age, replaced technologies and ways of life that had been in place for hundreds of thousands of years. The research teams for the three studies published in Science include collaborators from the University of Connecticut.
The story of the notorious late Mayor Buddy Cianci, who was forced out of office twice, is coming to the stage. Trinity Repertory Company in Providence announced on Thursday that it has commissioned playwright George Brant to write a play or musical adaptation of “The Prince of Providence,” the 2004 book detailing Cianci’s tumultuous two decades at the city’s helm. Bringing Cianci’s story to the theater is a natural step for a man who was often described in Shakespearean terms, said the book’s author, Mike Stanton, associate professor of journalism and a former reporter at The Providence Journal. “Politics is theater, and Buddy’s life was a huge drama,” Stanton said in an interview. “Buddy was this larger-than-life persona, and I think it could be a really meaty role for someone.” Cianci (pronounced see-AN-see) was known for his colorful TV appearances and publicity stunts touting Providence and himself. But he was forced from office twice due to felonies.
Also covered in Tampa Bay Times, March 15, 2018
The game, Super Seducer: How to Talk to Girls, was designed by self-proclaimed British “pick-up artist” Richard La Ruina, and released on Tuesday. It is billed as “the world’s most realistic seduction simulator.” According to the game’s description, players are put into everyday scenarios, including the office, and are allowed to “do practically whatever you want, to see how it plays out with beautiful women.” Sony announced last week that it had dropped plans to release the Game on PlayStation 4, potentially to avoid appearing tone deaf to the #MeToo movement. “The game appears to essentialize women’s and men’s sexuality by assuming that all people are basically the same, leaving no space for individual preferences,” said Amanda Denes, associate professor of communication, who has studied the “pick up artist” community. “The game also seems to fall into the sexist trope of assuming that women’s sexuality is passive—that men ‘make a move’ and that women ‘react.’”
President Trump on Tuesday is to visit a barren stretch of scrubland in San Diego to view eight attempts at realizing his vision for a “big, beautiful wall.” All the prototypes are big. None are beautiful. Among the unsuccessful bidders was Clayton Industries, a Pittsburgh-based outfit that envisioned a 30-foot wall reinforced by sensors, an electrified chain-link fence and a railroad track dumping nuclear waste into a 100-foot deep moat. Some saw potential for creating a stirring monument; others saw a chance to express their revulsion at the entire endeavor. In the latter category is the “Prison Wall,” a proposal for a 2,000-mile, vivid pink wall complex envisioned by Estudio 3.14, a design firm in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the Mamertine Group, a design lab at the University of Connecticut directed by Assistant Professor of Literatures, Cultures and Languages Hassanaly Ladha. Leonardo Díaz Borioli, Estudio 3.14’s creative director, rallied students from three Guadalajara architecture schools to come up with a design “inspired by Luis Barragán’s pink walls that are emblematic of Mexico.”
About half a million people visit Walden Pond State Reservation annually. Many come because of Henry David Thoreau’s book, “Walden,” which remains at least as popular as it was one hundred and fifty years ago. Why does Thoreau continue to resonate with readers? The new “Guide to Walden Pond,” connects the dots between the book and the place. It’s written by Robert Thorson, professor of ecology and evolutionary sciences and a long-time tour guide for Thoreau’s Concord. The book started out as an online pamphlet that got very popular. So popular, that Thorson’s wife suggested he make it a book. The book is a narrative journey that makes a complete loop around the pond, going back in time to Thoreau’s world, and returning to the modern world again, Thorson said. “Every time I read ‘Walden,’ I’m very taken with how he captures the sense of place,” he said.
Carel van Schaik and his team at the University of Zurich have spent several years confirming that wild orangutans are decidedly incurious. Captive orangutans couldn’t be more different. They readily explore what their wild counterparts ignore. There are parallels with humans. Adjunct Faculty of Avery Point Instruction and Research Allison Kaufman says that the qualities that van Schaik bundles into “curiosity” are very similar to what psychologists called “openness to experience.” This is one of the so-called Big Five personality traits, and it’s strongly correlated with creativity. And as in orangutans, human creativity only flourishes in the right environment. “It is hard to create without proper tools, time, and safety,” says Kaufman.
New research, published in Scientific Reports, has outlined a new methodology for estimating ancient atmospheric water content based on fossil plant leaf waxes. As the Earth’s surface and atmosphere warm, the amount of moisture — water vapour — in the atmosphere will increase. Understanding the size of this increase is important for predicting future climates as water vapour is a significant greenhouse gas. The relationship between temperature and moisture content can be explored by the study of intervals in Earth’s history when climates where significantly warmer than those seen in modern times. The validity of this new tool was proven in studies of modern soils across the US and Central America, carried out by the research team of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Hren in the Center for Integrative Geosciences. These studies showed a clear relationship between the chemistry of these waxy compounds and the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.
Human sacrifice is defined as the ritualized, religiously motivated killing of a human being. It is no longer sanctioned by any state, but it was once practiced by societies across the globe. Chiefs and priests routinely strangled, bludgeoned, drowned, and burned their victims to death in order to please various ancestors or deities. Though human sacrifice is a thing of the past, many believe that understanding what motivated it is still relevant because other manifestations of extreme inequality do persist—slavery, for example. Seshat is a database that covers more than 400 societies that existed across the globe over the last 10,000 years. Seshat’s founders argue that beyond around 100,000 people, human sacrifice becomes a destabilizing force. They say at these thresholds human sacrifice became a parasitic practice—an attempt, often by military heroes who had transformed themselves into “god-kings,” to seize and maintain power, to the detriment of social cohesion. According to Peter Turchin, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and one of Seshat’s founders, this mattered because the survival of historical societies often depended on their military prowess. Those that were less united and hence weaker on the battlefield may have found themselves destroyed by, or absorbed into, militarily superior ones that had rejected human sacrifice, having found better ways of promoting social cohesion. The Spanish conquest of the Inca could be considered an example of the survival of the fittest society, in this sense.
Every 13 or 17 years, cicadas crawl out from the ground in unison for a wild mating orgy that ensures the production of the next generation. But all that sex is a great opportunity for something else—a fungus that puts a gruesome spin on cicada romance. Adjunct Faculty Member of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology John Cooley is the first author of a new paper on the infection, published in the journal Scientific Reports. Those behavioral changes affect a habit called wing-flicking, which is how female cicadas signal their interest in a male. The flicks, which produce noise, are synchronized with the male’s vocalizing and tell him he can approach to proceed to the next stage of mating. The infection changes the male’s mating behavior. After the fungus-laden cicadas emerge from the soil, they masquerade as eager females, attracting other males into trying to mate with them. The males who fall for the trick become infected themselves and spread the fungus to healthy females they then try to mate with. The fungus hijacks the insect’s abdomen as a factory for creating spores—eventually causing the abdomen to fall off entirely.
Last week, President Donald Trump suggested that violent video games and movies are the real culprit behind mass shootings. But does the research back up the president’s theory? It’s a question that’s been around since the Columbine Shooting almost two decades ago — Does playing violent video games produce mass shooters in real life? Kirstie Farrar, associate professor of communication, is a researcher at UConn’s Video Games and Media Effects Lab. She said studies since Columbine have been pretty conclusive. “Most media effects researchers do agree that there is a small, but consistent correlation between all types of media violence exposure and aggression,” said Farrar. Aggression, yes, but not the type of profound violence associated with mass shootings. Farrar said public acts of violence like Parkland are extremely rare. She said media violence alone will not increase aggression to the point of being a public threat. Farrar calls President Trump’s assertion that violent video games and movies are to blame for the mass shootings in this country “absurd” and “a red herring.”.
Hundreds of schools in Puerto Rico still remain without electricity. Faced with a dire situation, Puerto Rico’s leaders are using post-storm recovery as an opportunity to dramatically overhaul the territory’s education system. Governor Ricardo Rosselló recently announced that more than 300 public schools out of 1,100 will close, and he outlined changes he wants to make to the system, including instituting charter schools and using private school vouchers—similar to the practices touted by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. In 2008, it was a different kind of storm—the financial crisis—that triggered that round of public school closings, according to Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago. The loss of the government’s authority to finance schools boosted the pro-statehood movement, which supports making Puerto Rico’s structures similar to those on the mainland to make the territory a more attractive state candidate. It may be sensible to close some rural public schools with low enrollments, but Venator-Santiago, who studies U.S. territorial law, believes that Rosselló’s call for more charter schools and vouchers is at base a strategy to curry favor with the U.S. and obtain more federal funding.
The SAT may be an important hurdle in the college admissions process, but until recently it was one that many students in the Long Beach Unified School District weren’t clearing. Less than half of 11th-graders in the district were even attempting the test. Then three years ago, the district began offering the SAT for free during the school day. The move boosted the SAT-taking rate to almost 100 percent and, district officials say, created a more college-oriented culture among students. Joshua Hyman, assistant professor of public policy, studied the effects of mandatory ACT tests in Michigan’s public high schools and found that the policy led to many more low-income students not only taking the test, but performing well. “There’s a hidden group of high-achieving students that don’t even get to the point of taking these exams,” Hyman said. Before the change, for every 10 low-income Michigan students who scored high enough to get into a selective four-year college, there were another five who would have done well but didn’t take the exam. Afterward, Hyman found, the state saw a small bump in the number of disadvantaged students attending college.
Also covered in KQEd News, February 23, 2018
Bhakti Shringarpure, assistant professor of English, is also the editor-in-chief of Warscapes — an independent online magazine that aims to challenge the mainstream understanding of war, the roots of war and the people who live in these spaces. It provides a lens into current conflicts via fiction and nonfiction pieces, book and film reviews — and showcasing writing from war-torn areas. In this interview, she answers questions about herself and the magazine. She says, “Warscapes was the name of my Ph.D. dissertation, and at that time I was doing a lot of research on war novels that had been completely overlooked in Western, mainstream spaces…. My first motivation with Warscapes was to problematize the mainstream understanding of war, not simply as journalistic dispatches or military history or policy documents, but as something deeply rooted in colonial logics and colonial legacies.” She comments on ‘feminism-lite’: “I am very much opposed to feminism-lite and right now you see this tendency everywhere. There is a desperate need to proclaim feminism as cool and trendy, but all the while there is also a desire to limit feminist discourse by claiming it’s about personal choice.”
For their 13th installment in the monthly series reporting on political crowds in the United States, Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and Erica Chenoweth tallied 1,040 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States in January 2018, with at least one in every state and the District. Their conservative guess is that between 2,441,891 and 3,384,073 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were more participants. They found that firstly, the Women’s March was much larger than expected. Secondly, January saw several other mass marches and protests. In addition to the massive Women’s March, there were several other marches in January where even the lowest count suggested 10,000 or more participants, such as at San Antonio’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. march. Thirdly, the share of protests against the Trump administration dropped slightly in December 2017. Whereas such events represented roughly 88.5 percent of crowds in December 2017, they estimate that 84.1 percent of the events we recorded in December were opposing President Trump’s policies.
Canadians Kaillie Humphries and alumna Phylicia George ’10 (CLAS) have won the bronze in women’s bobsleigh at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The pair came in third with a cumulative time of 3:22.89 over their four runs at the Olympics. Germany won gold with a time of 3:22.45 and the United States got silver with a time of 3:22.52. This is Humphries’ third Olympic medal. and George has competed in hurdles at the Summer Olympics.
Jamie Oleka has a class of 31 AP freshman life science students at Southern High School. They’re part of a generation of students that have been on the receiving end of a yearslong national push to get more students engaged with STEM (that’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics) topics. But in some classrooms, like Oleka’s, teachers are realizing students may not fully understand the career opportunities in those fields. “In the beginning of the trimester, I took a survey to try to figure out what type of science careers my students knew about,” Oleka said. “And the majority of them said ‘doctor’ or ‘nurse’ — but couldn’t think of any other STEM careers, which really upset me as a science teacher.” That’s when she found out about the Skype a Scientist program at UConn, created by then-Graduate Student in Molecular and Cell Biology Sarah McAnulty. Skype a Scientist has already connected scientists to more than 800 classrooms in nearly every U.S. state, and in more than a dozen countries around the world. “We did it for about 40 minutes and there were even some that were so interested that they stayed beyond class,” Oleka said. One student said, “I really liked it because it gave me a chance to actually ask a real scientist about what they do in their specific profession and what it entails. It helps me figure out what kind of scientist I want to be.”
Professor and Draper Chair in American History Manisha Sinha presents a wide-ranging and fresh perspective on the history of American abolitionism in her groundbreaking book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press). Her lively book offers an original interracial, transnational view of the movement to abolish slavery from the colonial period to the Civil War, while providing a corrective to popular conceptions of abolitionists as mostly white, armchair reformers or rabid fanatics. She relates a much more complex and nuanced history by bringing to life the black activists, slave and free, at the center of the movement as well as the interracial mix of men and women who fought to end the cruel scourge of slavery. In this interview, she responds to questions about her book. She says, “What is different about my book is the [focus on] the slaves themselves—their motivations and actions in the movement. Also, the second thing was to look at how abolitionism overlapped with contemporary revolutionary and progressive movements. The abolitionists were trying to harness international progressive forces against slavery.”
For Black History Month, an annual opportunity to reflect on progress and power, TIME asked scholars of African-American history to name the books they’d recommend to help readers better understand what came before. W.E. B. Dubois’ “Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880” was recommended by Professor and Draper Chair in American History Manisha Sinha. She writes, “This classic of black history is especially pertinent today because it describes the attempt to establish black citizenship and an interracial democracy in the United States immediately after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. This experiment in American democracy was overthrown and a rigid system of racial subordination, segregation, disfranchisement, lynching and racial violence was established in the south. It teaches us how quickly political gains can be undone and that the fight for racial equality in the United States is an ongoing one.”
Assistant Professor of Journalism Marie Shanahan wrote an article for the Hartford Courant about staying informed in the digital age. She says, “A traditional function of the press in society is to foster discussion and debate on issues of public concern. That obligation hasn’t disappeared in the digital age. It’s become even more important. But digital discourse needs a course correction. It’s stuck in a spiral of negativity. The hostility of online speech dissuades moderate, level-headed speakers from publicly expressing their views, while the most subversive, ideologically-oriented and politically rancorous speakers siphon the public’s attention. I don’t like that reasonable, informed citizens are choosing to not add their voices to important public discussions. This is where the media can help. Meaningful public discourse requires news outlets to be the aggressors — the driving force in convening constructive conversations.” She writes that journalists, at their best, are trained in verification and reasoned debate. They can question and fact-check, label verified information and keep the record straight.
When it comes to spreading their seeds, many trees in the rainforest rely on animals, clinging to their fur or hitching a ride within their digestive tract. As the seeds are spread around, the plants’ prospects for survival and germination are increased. But in many tropical forests, over-hunting is diminishing the populations of those animals, and, as a result, changing the make-up of the forests themselves. A new study of the Amazon rainforest by researchers at UConn and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation and Research, published in the Journal of Ecology, examines what happens to plants if their seed dispersers are no longer present. They found that theoretical models predicting a dire impact on plant communities and huge decreases in the amount of carbon stored in tropical forests are not supported by the facts. Instead, the effects on the ecosystem are less straightforward and less immediately devastating. “Yes, there is a negative effect, but there isn’t 100 percent mortality,” says Robert Bagchi, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “The story is more complex and much more subtle.” Smaller seed dispersers that often increase when their larger competitors are hunted out may be compensating. Additionally, the trees analyzed in the study were already at least 10-15 years old, so follow-up studies will instead focus on the early lives of these trees, starting at the germination stage.
Also covered in National Science Foundation, February 15, 2018
When Kim Jong-un decided to send a large delegation to the Winter Olympics, he could not have chosen a better emissary than the one he sent: his only sister, Kim Yo-jong, whom news outlets in the South instantly called “North Korea’s Ivanka.” Ms. Kim managed to outflank Mr. Trump’s envoy to the Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence, in the game of diplomatic image-making. While Mr. Pence came with an old message — that the United States would continue to ratchet up “maximum sanctions” until the North dismantled its nuclear arsenal — Ms. Kim delivered messages of reconciliation as well as an unexpected invitation from her brother to the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, to visit Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Mr. Pence drew the greatest reaction for where he did not appear: most pointedly, at a dinner Mr. Moon hosted before the opening ceremony. Analysts of Korean affairs said that Mr. Pence had missed an opportunity. “I think it would have been really helpful to the conversation of denuclearization for the Pences to have appreciated the effort put into bringing team unified Korea into the stadium,” said Professor of History Alexis Dudden, a professor of history at the University of Connecticut. “And it wouldn’t have lessened the American position.” She added, “The fact that he and Mrs. Pence didn’t stand when the unified team came in was a new low in a bullying type of American diplomacy.”
There are many logistical hurdles on the road to college from admissions tests to financial aid forms, and dozens of details to remember, deadlines to meet, forms to complete, and fees to pay. These seemingly minor obstacles put many low-income students off the path to college. A study of high school seniors in Boston found that few low-income youth “decide” against college. Rather, they miss a key deadline or incorrectly fill out a form, and thereby fall off the path to college. But, in a dozen states, the ACT or SAT is now given in school, for free, on a school day during school hours. Sitting for the test is also required, which means that students can’t opt out. Assistant Professor of Public Policy Joshua Hyman studied the effects of this new policy when it was put in place in Michigan. Hyman analyzed the test scores and college attendance of all public, high school students in Michigan, before and after the ACT was made universal. The results were surprising across the board. But among low-income students, the effect was even more dramatic: for every 1,000 low-income students who had taken the test before 2007 and scored well, another 480 college-ready, low-income students were uncovered by the universal test. Universal and free testing can help to level the playing field, uncovering disadvantaged students who can benefit from college.
In Netflix series Altered Carbon, the body no longer matters. As one character quipped: “You shed it like a snake sheds its skin.” That’s because the human consciousness has been digitized, and can be moved between bodies—both real and synthetic. Will we ever be able to upload our minds into other bodies? Furthermore, should we? And honestly, if we ever achieved such a feat, could we even call ourselves human anymore? Gizmodo consulted Susan Schneider, associate professor of philosophy, to get her opinion on the debate. She says she is skeptical that we will ever be upload our minds into others’ bodies and outlines several reasons. Then she asks, what is a mind? “To know whether you survive uploading, it would be important to have a sense of what a mind is. If the mind is just the brain, then, you do not survive. Some say the mind is a program. But a program, like an equation, is an abstract entity. An equation doesn’t exist anywhere, although inscriptions of it do. Presumably, your mind is a concrete thing, having a location. Perhaps you are a program instantiation — some thing, running a program (akin to a computer, in some sense). But what is that thing? This just brings us back to my original question: what is a mind?”
Stone-tool makers in what’s now India redesigned their products in a revolutionary way much earlier than previously thought. Excavated stone artifacts document a gradual shift from larger, handheld cutting implements to smaller pieces of sharpened stone, known as Middle Paleolithic tools, by around 385,000 years ago, researchers say. Unlike earlier populations, Middle Paleolithic toolmakers followed a set of steps to prepare chunks of rock, or cores, before pounding off sharp tools, or flakes. Until now, many researchers had assumed that the transition from tools such as hand axes, which emerged in Africa nearly 2 million years ago, to Middle Paleolithic implements happened in South Asia between 140,000 and 90,000 years ago. The new finding suggests, however, that some humanlike populations reached South Asia shortly before Homo sapiens even appeared in Africa, which possibly occurred around 300,000 years ago. Stone-tool making in South Asia evolved in complex ways among relatively small groups belonging to the Homo genus that were spread across the landscape and occasionally came in contact with each other, says Assistant Professor of Anthropology Daniel Adler. Those scattered, humanlike populations shared a common toolmaking ancestry, “but perhaps little else,” he contends.
While many reports are split on how harmful e-cigarettes are for teens and adults, a new study is claiming that vaping is just as bad for you as picking up a real cigarette. According to scientists at the University of Connecticut, a brand new test that examines DNA has concluded that the nicotine liquid-filled devices can cause as much damage to humans as standard tobacco products. “From the results of our study, we can conclude that e-cigarettes have as much potential to cause DNA damage as unfiltered regular cigarettes,” Postdoctoral Graduate in Chemistry Karteek Kadimisetty said in a university release. UConn’s researchers tested how known cancer-causing chemicals found in regular cigarettes damaged a DNA sample and compared it to how the various chemicals e-cigarettes use affected DNA. According to the chemists, the damage caused by vaping increased as a person took more puffs of an e-cigarette. “I never expected the DNA damage from e-cigarettes to be equal to tobacco cigarettes,” Kadimisetty said. “I even diluted the samples. But the trend was still there – something in the e-cigarettes was definitely causing damage to the DNA.”
Federal fishing regulators on Tuesday approved a compromise they said would expand the amount of coral habitat preserved in the Atlantic Ocean while also protecting fishing interests. The New England Fishery Management Council voted on coral protections in an area south of Georges Bank, one of the most important commercial fishing areas in the Northeast. The new protections mean 100,000 square miles (259,000 square kilometers) of deep-sea coral habitat would be protected from the Canadian border to Florida. Peter Auster, emeritus research professor for the Northeast Underwater Research, Technology & Education Center (NURTEC), said the council “took action where none was required” but may have missed a chance at more dramatic protection for corals. “In all these kind of things, getting some is better than getting none,” he said. “Future actions could still take place.”
Soon, many Tamils will take part in the annual Hindu ceremony, the Thaipusam festival, which requires amazing endurance. The keenest participants prepare with days of fasting, prayer and austere living. Then they have their skin pierced by sharp objects, which range from single needles to chunky skewers that pass through both cheeks. This may be an extreme case, but it is by no means the only instance where rites of communal and religious importance are seen as inseparable from pain or risk. Dimitris Xygalatas, assistant professor of anthropology, is intrigued by communal activities that involve pain. He has looked in detail at the Thaipusam festival in Mauritius, and also at fire-walking rites in Greece and Spain. At the Thaipusam festival, soon after the proceedings were over, people in the vicinity were interviewed, and then rewarded for their time with the equivalent of two days’ wages. A little later they were invited to hand over part of these earnings to charity. Generosity was greatest among people who had participated in the painful bits of the ceremony, and also among those who had followed the ceremony closely, albeit without being pierced. This, among his other research, supports the idea that the experience of pain, whether directly or indirectly, seems to cement community bonds and increase the likelihood of “pro-social” behavior.
Professor and Director of Philosophy Michael Lynch wrote an article for Cardiff University’s blog page about democracy. He relates back to how philosopher John Dewey saw democracies: as a common space where disagreements can be navigated without fear of violence or oppression, such as in public discourse. But in the U.S., political fracturing has become so great that it could undermine the very possibility of Dewey’s ideal ever becoming realized. Lynch writes that this fracturing is being caused by a state of mind that is best exemplified by Trump: a kind of know-it-all arrogance of belief. Such people already “know” their beliefs are superior—hence they don’t need to listen or even be accountable to any one else’s experience. This is a form of self-deception that distorts the truth. Arrogance is harmful as it can encourage us not to engage in discourse at all, and because the arrogant don’t see themselves as accountable to those they are arrogant towards. The harm wrought on the ideal of reasonable public discourse by this kind of phenomenon is profound because it undermines the very basis—equal respect—of egalitarian democracy.
Veterans who come home to spouses or partners are at greater risk for suicide than returning single soldiers, according to a surprising new study. Moreover, older married female vets are at the highest risk. The findings sound counterintuitive, but the support and company provided to veterans home from deployment may be offset by pressures and demands of sharing a domestic environment, suggest researchers at the University of Connecticut. “It certainly makes sense when you think about it,” said study co-author Crystal Park, professor of psychological sciences. “There are added pressures that come with maintaining a relationship and meeting household needs.” Findings are based on responses of 772 recently returned veterans with an average of 35 who participated in the government Survey of Experiences of Returning Veterans (SERV). Women made up more than 40% of those surveyed. “There are a lot more veterans out there thinking about suicide and who are in despair and we really do owe them some kind of help for these issues,” said Park.
Also covered in Stars and Stripes, January 24, 2018
In the 1980s, PhD students who had just finished their degrees in plant morphology already felt their skills could be soon obsolete, as many were turning to a new approach: molecular biology. At universities, botany departments folded and molecular-biology departments swelled. The prospect of fading expertise so worried William Friedman, director at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, that, in 2013, he and his wife, plant morphologist and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Pamela Diggle, launched an intensive botany bootcamp for biologists. “It’s been one of my missions as an academic to keep that knowledge going,” says Diggle. “It’s important to keep this information alive in the community.” But lately, there has been a resurgence of interest in the old ways. Advances in imaging technology—allowing researchers to peer inside plant structures in 3D—mean that biologists are seeking expertise in plant physiology and morphology again. Plant morphology was once a science of form for its own sake, but now, it is being pressed into service to understand how plant traits connect to gene activity across disparate species.
Wisconsin researchers are joining a worldwide effort to preserve cures for common infections by using crowdsourcing to discover new antibiotics. A dwindling supply of new antibiotics is a health threat that scientists around the world are trying to solve, and in this country, experts say the problem is compounded by a shortage of science graduates. “If we could get every freshman in college, not just the STEM ones but everybody, into research courses and teach them the excitement of discovery and what science really is — the inquiry process — and hook them on it, we would have … a chance of keeping more students in science — since 60 percent of them leave — and even better, we could have a scientifically literate society,” said Jo Handelsman, director of Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. She created the program Small World Initiative, a week-long crash course that aims to discover new antibiotics and keep students interested in science. Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Nichole Broderick temporarily ran the Small World Initiative when Handelsman served as President Barack Obama’s science advisor, and she continues to help as an instructor.
Michele Baggio, assistant professor of economics, is a contributor to a joint study that claims a reduction in the U.S.’s overall alcohol consumption, which seems to be directly related to the rise of medical marijuana laws recently enacted in a number of states. The research for this study made use of available Nielsen Retail Scanner alcohol sales data from 90 alcohol chain stores—grocery, convenience, drug, and mass distribution stores—from 2006-2015. Over the ten years studied, counties located in medical marijuana states showed almost a 15 percent reduction in monthly alcohol sales. The overall conclusion of the study is that marijuana and alcohol are strong substitutes for each other. In other words, they share almost the same audience. If that’s true, then it stands to reason that introducing legal marijuana where alcohol consumption is legal may very well result in a negative effect on alcohol sales.
The Crowd Counting Consortium is one year old. It has recorded more than 8,700 protests in the United States through Dec. 31, 2017. It is estimated that between 5.9 million and 9 million, or roughly 1.8 to 2.8 percent of the U.S. population, came out to protest. About 74%, or 5.2 million to 8 million, of those turned out to oppose Trump’s policies or points of view. Assistant Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman, one of the investigators of the consortium, likes to call the group “the resistance” because in many cases that is how it sees itself: a movement opposed to the current government. This data tells us that protests are persistent; that there is a small, albeit visible, movement for Trump; that protestors are overwhelmingly nonviolent; and that “the resistance” is diverse. Often it is easier for movements to mobilize in opposition than to mobilize in support. So far, the opposition to Trump’s agenda seems unifying enough.
One-hundred-and-eighty years after Jesuit priests sold slaves to save Georgetown University from financial ruin, a group of descendants is calling for restitution. The university’s president has apologized for the sale, and the school has taken steps to make amends. But Georgetown owes its existence to the money made from the sale of 272 enslaved people, argues Georgia Goslee, lead counsel for the GU272 Isaac Hawkins Legacy group. And the school is no longer near insolvency, but instead a thriving, elite university with a substantial endowment. She declined Wednesday at a news conference to name the amount the group proposed to the university in June but said her clients “do not believe Georgetown has fully atoned for the wealth it unjustly accumulated off the back of unpaid slave labor.” The GU272 Isaac Hawkins Legacy group, which Goslee said includes 200 people, has asked for a direct benefit for descendants. Associate Professor of Public Policy Thomas Craemer helped the group calculate their request for restitution, based on the idea that forced labor created wealth for others than the enslaved people. He said descendants would otherwise have inherited money earned through wages and interest. “The wealth gap between African Americans and white Americans in the United States is rooted in this reality,” he said.
Scientists long doubted that changes in sea level could affect volcanoes erupting deep in the sea along mid-ocean ridges. Recently, however, measurements of iron that bubbled up as magma, released long ago from hydrothermal vents along those ridges, suggest a possible connection. The new findings indicate that the activity of magma at mid-ocean ridges, which lie an average of 2.5 kilometers underwater, may fluctuate in response to sea level ups and downs and the accompanying relatively small changes in water pressure. Iron is often used by scientists as a measure of the activity of magma at these locations. With the change of sea levels, changes have been occurring in hydrothermal iron deposition at all of the sites that have been explored. David Lund, associate professor of marine sciences, said the new findings highlight a growing understanding of links between liquid and rocky components of Earth. “The research suggests a connection between the fluid Earth and the solid Earth that we didn’t know about 10 years ago,” he said. “It’s very exciting.”
There’s too much salt getting into our rivers and streams. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds over the past 50 years, freshwater systems across the country have become saltier, and that can cause problems for people, wildlife and our infrastructure. Gene Likens, research professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and president emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, was an author of the study. He says this excess salt is coming from a variety of sources. “Road salt is one big factor in the wintertime. We just had a big blizzard here on the east coast last week, and massive amounts of road salt were added in order to try to make the roads safe for drivers,” he says. The study found agricultural fertilizers, mine drainage, fracking brine, and sewage also contribute salt to freshwater systems, depending on the region of the country. The researchers used data from 232 monitoring sites from the U.S. Geological Survey, and they found “37% of the drainage area of the contiguous U.S. experienced a significant increase in salinity.”
A “shadow” congressional delegation of seven politicians from Puerto Rico traveled to Capitol Hill on Wednesday and demanded they be recognized as voting members of Congress. Five of them would represent Puerto Rico in the House, and two in the Senate. The island — plagued by the devastation of Hurricane Maria and still struggling to restore electricity — has been a US territory since 1898 but has long suffered from widespread American indifference toward, or ignorance of, Puerto Rico’s situation. When Maria hit, only about half of Americans knew that Puerto Ricans are US citizens. Now, there is hope that the post-hurricane media attention has raised enough awareness of the “second-class” status of Americans in Puerto Rico. While Puerto Ricans have been fighting about their political status for decades, Congress has shown little interest in changing anything. Washington lawmakers have introduced more than 130 bills to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status, and none have gone anywhere, said Charles Venator-Santiago, associate professor of political science. That’s partly because there is no defined process for statehood. “The Constitution doesn’t give direction on how to admit a new state,” says Venator-Santiago.
Researchers studying deep-drilling cores have long noticed odd flecks of material in their samples, possibly from insects. They generally treated these as a distraction from their real work, but their surprising abundance in a recent sample from northern Germany has now led a team of scientists to pay closer attention. The accepted theory up to now has been that the sucking proboscis only emerged at that point as a product of coevolution between flowers and the insects that pollinate them. Their research, however found a type of moth that seemed to indicate that it was within the same taxonomic group as the modern moths and butterflies with a sucking proboscis, challenging the theory by suggesting the early emergence of the sucking proboscis may even have helped drive the emergence of flowering plants, rather than vice versa. Other scientists greeted the find with excitement, as it begins to fill what Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology David Wagner calls “this huge gap in the fossil record.” But Wagner, who was not involved in the new study, also describes its interpretation of this new evidence as “widely speculative and likely wrong.” He questions the idea that the proboscis evolved in response to aridity: “There are 24 other orders of flying insects” from the same period, he says, “that did just fine without having a [sucking] proboscis.”
The places where children sleep, the time they lay down at night and even how they prepare for shut-eye vary across cultures. Clinical psychologist Jodi Mindell and her colleagues analyzed how the parents of 29,287 infants and toddlers, up to 3 years old, responded to questionnaires about their children’s bedtimes. The researchers found that the latest bedtimes were reported among parents in Hong Kong, who on average reported bedtimes about 10:17 p.m., whereas the earliest bedtimes were reported among parents in New Zealand: around 7:28 p.m., on average. Bedtimes also appear to vary across European countries, said Sara Harkness, professor of human development and family studies and director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Health, and Human Development. Her research found that in Spain, late bedtimes for kids – even past 11pm – were very common, whereas in the Netherlands, young children were put to bed at around 6:30 or 7.
Budget cuts to American Sign Language (ASL) programs are often seen as a cultural insult to the deaf community. More than any other factor, ASL fluency offers the most direct conduit into deaf culture. For this reason, supporters of deaf culture have become particularly concerned about what many see as the most common medical intervention into their way of life: cochlear implants. A cochlear implant (CI)—sometimes called a “bionic ear”—is a surgically implanted device that offers deaf people access to sound. In some cases, an implant can help a user make out spoken language. But what if we didn’t automatically assume that CIs meant the death of ASL? Laura Mauldin, assistant professor of human development and family studies, wrote a book called “Made to Hear: Cochlear Implants and Raising Deaf Children”, through which she seeks common ground between the medical and deaf communities.
Ask most Americans what they know about coal in central Appalachia, and they’ll tell you it’s a dying industry, but the idea is not quite true. For much of the hundred-plus years of its existence, the industry has been on a kind of artificial life support from state and federal governments. The destruction of central Appalachia’s economy, environment, social fabric and, ultimately, its people’s health is, in a sense, hidden. But they’re plain enough to see based on lung cancer deaths, diabetes mortality, opioid overdoses, poverty, or welfare dependency. Political problems are signs, too. During the coal era, coal operators controlled political machines and therefore the votes of their employees. Nowadays, West Virginia frequently has the lowest voter turnout in the US. Emeritus Professor of History Altina Waller‘s book Feud: Hatfields, McCoys and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900 recounts how before, political activity actually followed the opposite trend. She writes that the biggest festival of the year in central Appalachia was election day—a state fair, market day, and political convention rolled into one. Trump, like generations of Appalachian politicians, says that he’s trying to save coal for the sake of the people. But the problem that he’s solving for isn’t how to invest in making people healthier and better educated. Rather, the problem Trump is intent on solving is how best to give vast, distant corporations more opportunities, and to revive an old oligopoly instead of innovating new work.
Advocates are calling for a renegotiation of the 2015 “comfort women” deal between South Korea and Japan to involve surviving victims and other Asian countries, following the release of a South Korean government task force report. A task force under the South Korean Foreign Ministry was launched two months after Moon assumed office to review the much-criticized deal. Last week, the task force released findings that the previous government of ousted president Park Geun-hye kept part of the deal secret from the public in order to avoid criticism of concessions made to Tokyo. The upside to the 2015 accord is it acknowledged that Japan had orchestrated a violent, systemic program of sexual slavery in the 1930s and 1940s, said Alexis Dudden, professor of history. But the problem with the deal was – and remains – what the South Korean government task force highlighted: that the surviving victims were ignored in the deal, Dudden said.
At the root of most perpetrators’ decisions to abuse are deeply held beliefs about male power and privilege. The vast majority of abusers are male. “I’ve never met a woman offender who wasn’t also a victim,” said Stephen Lanza, assistant professor in residence of economics and former executive and clinical director of Family Re-Entry, which runs batterer treatment programs. The male role models who abusers grow up with can be crucial in determining how they treat the women in their lives. Having a family history of abuse dramatically increases chances that a child, too, may abuse. Ideas of male privilege can also stem from movies, music, media, culture and gender socialization. “People are going to come to a relationship with varying degrees of power,” said Lanza. “Ideally, what we are trying to do in society is equalize people’s access to power … Generally speaking, in societies where women have more power, there is less domestic violence.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman co-authored an article that explains the trends of political crowds in the United States. For November 2017, he co-tallied 680 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. His conservative guess is that between 46,547 and 51,385 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were far more participants. They found that the share of protests against the Trump administration increased in November 2017; that about 6.6 percent of the events they recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies, either directly or indirectly; that the final 15.6 percent of the crowds were involved in actions directed at other politicians or about issues that were neither pro- nor anti-Trump; and that lastly, at about 661 events, or 97.2 percent, no arrest was made.
Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Janine Caira‘s is one of the world’s top specialists in the tapeworms of sharks and stingrays, and has helped discover and name a whopping 170 tapeworm species. Her lifelong passion began in her 20’s on a beach in Baja California, where she bought and dissected two small sharks. One yielded a previously unknown variety of tapeworm — a tiny, squiggly creature with hooks on its head, which she named Calliobothrium evani. In 2017, Caira released her magnum opus: “Tapeworms from Vertebrate Bowels of the Earth.” Caira and some three dozen fellow scientists gutted an estimated 14,884 fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, mammals and birds for this project. “We’ve set the stage for future generations,” she concludes, “and for us.”
The victims of sexual harassment who have recently come forward are far from alone: Nearly half of women say they have experienced some form of it at work at least once in their careers. But there has been little research about those responsible. In a new survey, about a third of men said they had done something at work within the past year that would qualify as objectionable behavior or sexual harassment. Vicki Magley, professor of psychological sciences, says that organizations play a big role in curbing or permitting harassment. “Research finds that sexual harassment occurs when it is tolerated — that is, when policies are not enforced and when incidents are not taken seriously,” she said.
At this very moment, scientists are sifting through 1,200 gigabytes of genetic data, taken from hundreds of Christmas trees growing all over the world, to figure out what separates the best needle-holders from the worst—and to make the perfect Christmas tree. Jill Wegrzyn, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, expects it will take five years to analyze all the sequencing data being done now. That’s because the conifer genome is not just enormous—20 billion base pairs compared to your 3 billion—but also pretty weird. At some point in their deep past, spruces, pines, firs, and their relatives acquired a complete second set of genes. Scientists think this genome-wide duplication likely helped shape these species into the tallest, hardiest plants in the world. But it’s also made sequencing them an incredibly daunting challenge.
Human beings yearn for light because through most of human history, night’s darkness was hazardous. Professor of History Peter Baldwin‘s new book “In the Watches of the Night: Life in the Nocturnal City, 1820-1930” is one of two recommended books that tell of why humans have always been drawn to light. His book charts the transformation artificial lighting wrought on American urban life. “Night was known by long tradition in Western society to be a time of crime, immorality, and sickness,” Baldwin notes. “As cops and gas lamps spread nearly simultaneously through the commercial districts, and more haltingly through residential neighborhoods,” Baldwin observes, “they were understood to be mutually reinforcing ways to conquer territory from urban barbarians.” To fully appreciate light’s blessings, it’s worth remembering what life was like when night was black and light was scarce.
Professor of Anthropology Natalie Munro explains how she and her colleague discovered the earliest evidence of a ritual feast at a 12,000-year-old archaeological site in northern Israel and learned how feasts came to be integral components of modern-day ritual practice. The cave they investigated yielded the skeletal remains of at least 28 individuals interred in three pits and two small structures. The butchered remnants of more than 90 tortoises buried in the grave and the leftovers of at least three wild cattle deposited in a second adjacent depression excavated in the cave floor represent the remains of a funeral feast. These feasts had an important role to play. Adapting to village life after hundreds of millennia on the move was no simple act. Research on modern hunter-gatherer societies shows that closer contact between neighbors dramatically increased social tensions. New solutions to avoid and repair conflict were critical. The simultaneous appearance of feasting, communal structures and specialized ritual sites suggest that humans were seeking to solve this problem by engaging the community in ritual practice.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dimitris Xygalatas explains why the mere thought of holiday traditions brings smiles to most people’s faces and elicits feelings of sweet anticipation and nostalgia. These (often quite literal) bells and whistles signal to all of our senses that this is no common occasion – it is one full of significance and meaning. Everyday life is stressful and full of uncertainty. Having a special time of the year when we know exactly what to do, the way we’ve always done it, provides a comfortable sense of structure, control and stability. Also, the long hours spent in the kitchen and the dining room during the preparation and consumption of holiday meals serve some of the same social functions as the hearths of our early ancestors. Lastly, anthropologists have noted that among many societies ritualized gift-giving plays a crucial role in maintaining social ties by creating networks of reciprocal relationships.
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman writes about Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and its implications. As expected, the move drew praise from Israel’s right-wing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and condemnation from a variety of Arab and Palestinian leaders. What Trump’s Jerusalem proclamation tells us is that the Trump administration does not view the Palestinian national movement as a near-equal negotiating partner, and therefore the administration is unlikely to produce a proposal for negotiations that might bridge gaps between the two sides. The complete lack of symmetry, even for a country that has long favored its relations with Israel over those with the Palestinian national movement, was clear in his remarks. As a result, successful negotiations are highly unlikely. If Trump administration officials do not view the Palestinian Authority as a legitimate actor with rights, that does not bode well for any comprehensive proposal.
Associate Professor of Journalism Scott Wallace has published an article that outlines the connections between a possible murder of Arrow People in the western Amazon of Brazil and agents blowing up mining dredges on a remote river. In a major crackdown on illegal gold prospecting that threatens isolated tribes in the far reaches of the Amazon rain forest, Brazilian army soldiers and indigenous affairs agents have destroyed mining platforms along a remote river where an alleged massacre of tribal people was reported two months ago. Officials of the indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, said that ten gold dredges were blown up on the Jandiatuba River during an expedition late last month, and more than 30 miners were detained and charged. FUNAI officials are greeting the results of the expedition with jubilation. The gold dredges on the Jandiatuba River are gone, and so are the prospectors. For now. But funding for the agency was slashed by 50 percent in the past year. “It’s spreading like a cancer,” says field agent Guilherme Gnipper. “FUNAI barely has the resources to keep its offices running.”
Morgan Tingley, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, helped lead the Grinnell Resurvey Project, an effort to repeat the remarkably thorough biological inventories that Joseph Grinnell, the founding director of Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Taxonomy, had orchestrated across California 100 years previously. By documenting songbirds in the Sierra Nevadas, he and colleagues found that while most of the birds have shifted their nesting locations as well, close to 40 percent have not. They’re not sure what causes these birds to nest earlier; maybe some California birds can tolerate wider temperature ranges than others, or as it warms up, they shift to where it’s cooler. But as temperatures continue to rise, the future of many of California’s songbirds may depend on that answer.
Alcoholic beverage sales fell by 15 percent following the introduction of medical marijuana laws in a number of states, according to a new working paper by Assistant Professor of Economics Michele Baggio and Graduate Student of Economics Sungoh Kwon, and a faculty member at Georgia State University. The study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that marijuana availability can reduce alcohol consumption. Because experts generally agree that, on balance, alcohol use is more harmful to individuals and society than marijuana use, this would represent a significant public health benefit of marijuana legalization.
One method of stemming greenhouse gases – by pruning excessive undergrowth that prevents forests from flourishing – is one of a slew of quixotic ideas being worked on by scientists and researchers around the world to help solve what could be the dominant issue of the next 100 years. Preserving the health of forests is one of the best ways to slow global warming, but reforestation is the only agricultural and horticultural activity that hasn’t been automated yet. Drone squadrons might be the answer. But many researchers are withholding judgment about the potential for drone restoration of forests. Robin Chazdon, emeritus professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, says Elliott’s idea for robotic weeding “raised my eyebrows a bit.” She edited a 2016 paper in the journal Biotropica where Elliott laid out his ideas. “There are a lot of issues that remain to be worked out,” she says. Not the least of these is how to induce air-dropped seeds to germinate and how to repel seed-hungry herbivores.
Guilt can be a complicated element in the parent-child equation; we feel guilty, they feel guilty, we may make them feel guilty and then feel guilty about that. But certain kinds of guilt are a healthy part of child development. Very young children may cry if they break a toy, but children do not have enough understanding of other people’s perspective to experience the more complex emotion of guilt until around age 6. By then, she said, most children report guilt in response to transgressions, and that can help them treat other people kindly. For Colin Leach, professor of psychology, both guilt and shame are loaded terms. “What really matters is the way adults and also kids think about missteps or mishaps,” he said, “how much they believe they themselves or their relationships can be improved with effort.”
When Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Margaret Rubega first read about how hummingbirds drink, she thought to herself: That can’t possibly be right. Hummingbirds drink nectar using tongues that are so long that, when retracted, they coil up inside the birds’ heads, around their skulls and eyes. At its tip, the tongue divides in two and its outer edges curve inward, creating two tubes running side by side. The tubes don’t close up, so the birds can’t suck on them as if they were straws. Instead, scientists believed that the tubes are narrow enough to passively draw liquid into themselves through capillary action. But it still didn’t seem right to her. Decades later, she hired a student named Alejandro Rico-Guevara who would help her solve the mystery. He found that the two tubes also separate from each other, giving the tongue a forked, snakelike appearance. And they unfurl, exposing a row of flaps along their long edges. It’s as if the entire tongue blooms open, like the very flowers from which it drinks. When the bird retracts its tongue, all of these changes reverse. The tubes roll back up as their flaps curl inward, trapping nectar in the process.
As the nation roiled with stories of sexual harassment and abuses of power occurring from Hollywood to county legislatures, at Catharsis Productions in Chicago no conversation was too trivial to become a lesson on power and sexuality. For the past 17 years, with quiet momentum, the group has become one of the most sought after, and unlikely, sexual-assault prevention organizations in the country. Professor of Psychological Sciences Vicki Magley who studies sexual harassment in organizations, thinks many sexual-harassment prevention programs are well-meaning but says there have been no “meaningful long-term evaluations” on how effective most of these programs have been. “Why? Because it’s hard to measure.” Results are often more anecdotal than statistical. Except in one area. “The military,” Magley said, “have taken (these programs) seriously.” Indeed, since Catharsis — which has performed for every branch of the U.S. military — became a part of the Great Lakes Naval Station routine in 2011, reports of sexual assault on the base dropped by half, according to both Catharsis and the Navy itself.
Director and Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Dyson’s article on the new “Star Trek” television series and televised political fiction has appeared on the New York Times. He writes, “‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ set a decade before the adventures of Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock, is a dark and disconcerting take on the franchise. Mudd’s populist anger is just one departure from the traditional interplanetary idealism of the “Star Trek” universe. In this fictional future, primal forces are warring against the technocratic Federation. Back in our world, nationalist populism is challenging the liberal international vision. “Star Trek” is once again a mirror on our politics and a lens into our possible future.”
Professor of Philosophy, Lewis Gordon, has written particularly extensively on race and racism, postcolonial phenomenology, Africana and black existentialism, and on the works and thought of W. E. B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon. In this interview with The Reading Lists, he outlines his typical day, what he is reading at the moment, how he fell in love with philosophy, and more.
The prospect of nuclear war. How serious is it? WNPR checks in with three experts on the topic. One of them is Alexis Dudden, professor of history and author of Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States and Japan’s Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power.
Does eating turkey really make you sleepy? John Redden, assistant professor in residence of physiology and neurobiology, provides some facts on the issue. “No,” he says. “Contrary to popular belief, eating turkey doesn’t make you sleepy. It’s a great example of pseudoscience. The idea comes from the knowledge that turkey contains a lot of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. We can’t make it, so we must get it from our diet.” He explains that turkey doesn’t actually have a particularly high level of tryptophan. As for why people get sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner, he says, “We usually consume over 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving! After we eat, blood starts to be redistributed to the gut, and your bloodstream gets flooded with hormones.” That can cause other hormones such as orexin, the hormone that controls appetite and alertness, to become inhibited, thereby causing sleepiness.
For all the attention paid to weight and its health effects, the social and emotional side is often neglected, says Rebecca Puhl, professor of human development and family studies. “Weight is now one of the most frequent reasons kids are teased or bullied,” she said. In addition to the well-documented effects on children’s mental health and self esteem, she says, research has shown that weight stigma carries very harmful effects on children’s eating behavior and increases the risk that they will stay sedentary and gain weight.
Assistant Professor of Political Science Prakash Kashwan writes about how prejudice against indigenous people is visible today, not only culturally but also science- and policy-wise. For example, the method used particularly often in the global south in which farmers use seasonal fires to rotate their crops known as swidden agriculture not only preserves soil quality and promotes biodiversity, but also helps to prevent larger wildfires of the type that ravaged California recently, leaving 41 people dead. After decades of neglect, the US Forest Service is now embracing the Native American methods of fire management. But elsewhere, such neglect continues to reinforce the stigmatisation of swidden and other indigenous farming methods. Many government agencies and environmental NGOs seek to ban, restrict, or phase out swidden, without any provisions for viable alternatives. This is unfortunate because if swidden landscapes are allowed sufficient fallow period and are protected against commercial exploitation, they help nurture biodiversity and contribute to the food security of some of the poorest people on earth.
At the start of a news conference on Wednesday, Roy Moore’s campaign chairman began his address to reporters like this: “Thank you all for joining us today. As you know, Judge Moore has been falsely accused of some things that he did not do.” If the phrase “as you know” sounds familiar, in the context of a statement to journalists, that might be because it is frequently deployed by President Trump. More than a verbal tic, it is a tactic designed to suggest to anyone watching that the media agrees with whatever assertion is about to follow. Ross Buck, professor of communication, says, “The phrase ‘as you know’ implicitly communicates both to the reporters present and the audience that the chairperson and reporters are buddies, part of an in-group that has established friendly and cordial relationships. It does tend to mislead viewers and also may disarm reporters.”
Field notes taken in California between 1911 and 1940 are helping today’s scientists figure out how climate change is affecting the state’s wildlife. Since 2003, scientists have resurveyed those study areas to collect data on bird species in California’s Coast Range and the Sierra Nevada. When they compared their updated data with the previous, they saw that California’s birds now nest about a week (8.6 days) earlier on average. Over the same time period, daily maximum temperatures increased by over 1.8°F (1°C) across the state. University Postdoctoral Fellow of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Jacob Socolar notes that in California in June, when most birds breed, nesting one week earlier translated to 1°C cooler temperatures. That means that avian parents might effectively compensate for global warming by shifting their schedules.
If you’ve ever tapped “I agree” to a legal terms and conditions agreement after hardly giving it a glance, you’re not alone. A Deloitte survey of 2,000 consumers in the U.S. found that 91% of people consent to legal terms and services conditions without reading them. Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch, assistant professor of communication, co-conducted a study to get an empirical idea of how far consumers could be conned into going. They created a fake social networking site called Name Drop, and wrote up a terms and services agreement for users to agree to before signing up. In the agreement they included the disclosure that users give up their first born child as payment, and that anything users shared would be passed along to the NSA. A whopping 98% of participants agreed. The experiment highlights how easily consumers are willing to waive their rights. Of course, consumers don’t have much of a choice. If they don’t agree, they don’t get access to whatever it is they want to use — and there’s nothing they can about it.
Birds in California are laying eggs earlier in the spring to cope with climate change. Species can respond to climate change either by shifting their geographical range or by changing the timing of life events. To determine how birds are reacting to a warming world, University Postdoctoral Fellow of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Jacob Socolar and his colleagues analysed historical data on bird sightings that correlate with both breeding and nesting. The team found that the state’s birds have moved their breeding window up by an average of about one week over the past century. The shift in timing reduced the average temperature during nesting by about 1 °C — roughly the same amount that temperatures rose over the study period. By breeding earlier, birds can continue to nest at an ideal temperature range without having to relocate.
Japan and South Korea don’t get along well when it comes to issues involving their history. Much of the friction dates to Japan’s occupation of Korea in the first part of the 20th century. Tensions related to that occupation still simmer — even 70 years after South Korea was liberated. During that time, “comfort women” served at temporary brothels near the front lines — often tents or wooden shacks surrounded by barbed wire — and were forced to have sex with as many as 70 men per day. Professor of History Alexis Dudden says, “I think as long as this particular administration in Japan seeks to discredit and shred the dignity of the survivors of this crime against humanity, absolutely, put it right on their front doorstep…. It remains only Japan that is seeking to remove a statue of a victim. Politically speaking, there’s just no winning in that.”
Congress has a serious problem with sexual harassment and assault, according to California Rep. Jackie Speier. She said that’s in part because members and staff aren’t required to undergo sexual harassment training — something commonplace in corporate America. Several members of Congress are proposing bills to require this kind of training on Capitol Hill. But here’s the problem with training: It’s not totally clear that it always works. Vicki Magley, professor of psychological sciences, explains how unfortunately, training men can lead to backlash. However, making certain that the training is perceived to be genuine and thereby minimizing any type of cynicism before the training will make it much more effective.
Also covered in Scientific American, November 10, 2017
In a new poll, 31 percent of Latinos report that at some point in their lives they experienced discrimination because they are Latino when looking for a house or apartment. However, Stephen Ross, professor of economics, says there is evidence that housing discrimination against minorities is on the decline. “This happens much less than it used to,” he says. In his research, white, black and Latino researchers, posing as people looking for a new home, show up to inquire about houses or apartments to rent or buy. In 2000, a study found that nearly 7 percent of the time, Latinos were told by landlords that apartments were not available to rent when in fact they were. Twelve years later, that happened only 2 percent of the time. Ross says that over the past three decades, enforcement efforts by fair housing centers across the country have made a real impact, but these efforts continue to find evidence of discrimination.
President Donald Trump was eager to take credit for last month’s declassification of the last JFK assassination records, even though their release had been planned in 1992. But he didn’t have anything to say about one of the biggest declassifications of the decade: the release of nearly from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. The records add new details to America’s involvement in the Indonesian military’s mass killing of up to one million suspected Communists in 1965 and 1966. Although the release has been lauded by activists and Indonesians, its official reception has ranged from silence to displeasure. Some say the release of the Jakarta documents could have been handled better. Associate Professor of Political Science Bradley Simpson says that the independent push on the embassy records was necessary because the State Department didn’t act to declassify more Indonesia files from the period.
Our modern-day worldview can make us believe that loss is something we should be able to quickly get over, to move on with our lives. Alexus McLeod, assistant professor in philosophy and the Institute of Asian and Asian American Studies, discusses two influential Chinese philosophers who reflected on these issues: Zhuang Zhou and Confucius. In reflecting on life through the myriad changes taking place in the world such as the seasons, Zhuang Zhou’s grief over the death of his wife disappeared. For Confucius, though, the pain of grief was a natural and necessary part of human life. It demonstrates commitment to those for whom we grieve. Ultimately, both philosophers help us understand that enduring grief is a necessary part of the process of becoming a fully thriving person. It is not something we should look to eliminate, but rather something we should appreciate or even be thankful for.
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman is co-author of a study that has tallied 578 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. The study’s conservative guess is that between 80,130 and 89,854 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were far more participants. It is estimated that September saw a sizable decrease in people protesting compared with August. So who demonstrated against and for what in September? Resistance against the Trump administration continued to drive most protests, about 85 percent. Protests against specific police shootings continued as well. About 6 percent of the events recorded were rallies supporting Trump, and the final 8.8 percent were neither for nor against Trump.
John F. Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff praised Robert E. Lee as “an honorable man who gave up his country to fight for his state.” It was “the lack of an ability to compromise,” he said, “that led to the Civil War.” The comments drew an instant failing grade from many historians, who pointed out that the Civil War was, in fact, preceded by decades of compromises over the freedom of African-Americans. The compromises over slavery can be found in the Constitution, the Missouri Compromise, Abraham Lincoln, and the Compromise of 1877. Draper Chair in American History Manisha Sinha says it was the slaveholding states that refused to compromise. “Lincoln could have avoided the Civil War if he had agreed to compromise on the nonextension of slavery, but that was one thing Lincoln refused to compromise on,” she says.
Many activists believed that if women had political power, they would not pursue war. But how true is this? According to one study, just 48 national leaders across 188 countries—fewer than 4% of all leaders—have been female. With this tiny sample size, does it even make sense to ask if, given power, women are more or less likely than men to wage wars? Some say no. Distinguished Professor of Geography Mark A. Boyer co-authored a study that counted 10 military crises in the 20th century that involved four female leaders. To assess the behavior of women leaders during crises, he and colleagues say, one needs a large sample — ”which history cannot provide.”
A newly declassified document from the CIA claims that Adolf Hitler apparently survived World War II and lived in Colombia for several months in 1954. The memo provides details from an informant to a CIA agent about Hitler’s whereabouts in the Colombian city of Tunja, Boyacá. Hitler’s fate has been subject to widespread speculation. In 2009, Nick Bellantoni, emeritus state archaeologist, analyzed a piece of a skull that Russia claimed it belonged to Hitler, but confirmed that it actually came from a 20 to-40-year-old woman. Nonetheless, historians widely believe that Hitler committed suicide by gunshot and cyanide poisoning as the Soviet Army rushed into Berlin in the waning days of the war.
Halloween horror aside, vampires are really pretty spineless. Most have no backbone at all. According to one count, about 14,000 kinds of arthropods, including ticks and mosquitoes, are blood feeders. Yet very few vertebrates are clear-cut, all-blood specialists: just some fishes and three bats. Why hasn’t evolution produced more vertebrate vampires? Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Kurt Schwenk who studies feeding morphology muses over what animals might have precursor biology that could lead to blood feeding. “A leechlike or lamprey-like blood-sucking tadpole should be a real possibility,” he says.
Brad Simpson, associate professor of history, is the founder and director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, and author of the book “Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960 to 1968.” On The Takeaway, Simpson outlines what he found in the documents.
As Halloween approaches, crowds will head to Salem, Mass., the longtime epicenter of witch-related tourism. But few will visit Connecticut, where practicing witchcraft became a crime punishable by death in 1642, decades before it was outlawed in Salem. The Connecticut Colony sent colonial America’s first condemned witch — Alse Young, a resident of Windsor — to the gallows in 1647. A total of 11 people, nine women and two men, were executed by 1662. The men were the husbands of the convicted women. In total, 35 residents were accused of witchcraft. Fearing for their lives, many left their communities. Walter Woodward, associate professor of history, said the state’s witch history has been overlooked. “Historians of New England have long treated events in Massachusetts as if they represented the entire history of New England,” he said. “This has only begun to change significantly in recent years.”
Researchers are concerned that microparticles of plastics that are showing up in oysters and shellfish could pose health problems for humans in the future. As they filter seawater through their gills, oysters and other shellfish are ingesting the microplastics that are accumulating throughout the oceans. What and how much plastic is in shellfish, and what could it mean for human health as the amount of plastics in the oceans continues to grow? Professor of Marine Sciences Evan Ward who studies plastic ingestion by Long Island oysters says that “the things we don’t know far exceed the things we know. What we do know is there is a good deal of microplastics out there in the environment.”
Sociology has a reputation for diversity and inclusion, including at its conferences. So a preliminary, nearly all-male list of featured speakers for the upcoming Eastern Sociological Society conference sparked criticism and backlash over gender equity and collegiality. Matthew Hughey, associate professor of sociology, tweeted: “If you don’t see a problem here, you might be a part of the problem here.” When asked by the Society to remove his tweet, Hughey said it was an “inappropriate” request, “bullying and authoritarian in style,” that could have a chilling effect on academics’ willingness to promote change from within their fields.
This article, written by Dimitris Xygalatas, assistant professor of anthropology, questions how religion relates to morality. Across the globe, people assumed that those who committed immoral acts, even extreme ones such as serial murder, were more likely to be atheists. Where does such extreme prejudice come from? Many might assume that religious commitment is a sign of virtue, or even that morality cannot exist without religion – but both of these assumptions are problematic. Overall, the results are clear: No matter how we define morality, religious people do not behave more morally than atheists, although they often say (and likely believe) that they do.
The Weather Channel, as it’s been doing for five years, will again name significant snowstorms this winter. It’s done to hopefully generate more public awareness and social media buzz about the storms.But is it a real, useful service, or just a gimmicky marketing ploy? PhD student Adam Rainear, who realized there was no formal, scientific study about the practice, decided to conduct one that involved 400 students at UConn. He found that people will likely pay attention to the storm regardless of its name, or even if it has one.
Sea levels in Long Island Sound are now expected to rise by 20 inches by 2050, according to a new study, and experts warn that it is likely to create increased storm flooding for many communities along Connecticut’s shoreline. James O’Donnell, professor and director of marine sciences as well as the executive director of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation, says that Connecticut’s unique combination of location, weather and geography means it will experience “more sea level rise than other areas.” He authored the new study, which indicates that storms will cause more severe flooding than before and that flood zones will change.
Martha Cutter, professor of English, has published her new book, “The Illustrated Slave: Empathy, Graphic Narratives, and the Visual Culture of the Transatlantic Abolition Movement, 1800-1853”. Scholars have examined various aspects of the visual culture that was slavery, including its painting, sculpture, pamphlet campaigns, and artwork, yet an important piece of this visual culture has gone unexamined, which Cutter’s book seeks to analyze: the popular and frequently reprinted antislavery illustrated books that were utilized extensively by the antislavery movement in the first half of the nineteenth century.
In 2009, it was discovered that many flowers have secret blue halos in their flowers. The halos are rings at the bases of the flowers’ petals. Sometimes, they’re visible to us, especially if the petals are dark. But in most cases, they’re so faint that we can’t see them. Even stranger, the degree of the variability (“disorder”) in the ridges in the petals producing this hue is the same across flowers. For reasons that are still unclear, this particular amount of disorder scatters blue light at specific angles away from the petals. Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Yaowu Yuan comments that there’s still a ways to go with the implications of this research. “Being able to perceive the pattern doesn’t necessarily mean the pollinators actually care about it, or prefer it to simple, pigment-based colors.”
This month, nearly 30,000 pages of declassified records from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta between 1964 and 1968 were published. The period includes the Indonesian military’s mass killing of 500,000 to 1 million suspected Communists in 1965-66, which the U.S. materially supported at the time. Bradley Simpson, associate professor of history and founder of the Indonesia/East Timor Documentation Project, led a team of seven volunteers who helped scan and digitize the documents. He says that this is the first time the National Declassification Center has pursued a project due to public interest.
Also covered in VOA, July 24, 2018
Today we encourage our daughters to be ambitious and athletic, opinionated and outspoken. We want them focused on STEM and outfitted in T-shirts that read, “Who runs the world? Girls.” But what if raising truly empowered girls also means raising funny ones? What if we teach our daughters that humor is their turf — just as much as any boy’s? Professor of English Gina Barreca, who writes extensively on women and humor, comments on the issue of single-sex environments and how they can limit female humor.
President Trump decertified the internationally-supported Iran nuclear deal Friday but didn’t walk away from it. Instead, he kicked it to Congress to determine whether to reimpose sanctions even though the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Iran was in compliance with the deal. Jeremy Pressman, associate professor of political science, shares his input on the situation.
Associate Professor of Sociology Andrew Deener has co-authored an article about how gentrification, despite its negative connotation, could potentially change cities that are struggling to overcome bankruptcy, such as Hartford. Gentrification originally meant “a return to the center”, but today refers to the process by which new and affluent residents or developers are investing in a neighborhood. Where is Hartford’s gentrification? Or, more precisely, is there a kind of gentrification that would be welcomed in a place like Hartford?
With a businessman turned politician now in the Oval Office, a small but growing number of bankers and Wall Street financiers across the United States have set their sights on politics. In New Jersey, Connecticut and California, former bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity executives have either announced bids for legislative and gubernatorial seats. However Paul Herrnson, professor of political science, is skeptical about how successful the new crop of candidates will be. “Sure, the mood is better than it was when the market collapsed, but I don’t think people say, ‘Wall Street financier – that’s someone I can vote for,” he said.
Year after year, Puerto Rico’s government has been cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from roads, schools and other public works. Long before Hurricane Maria struck Sept. 20, this man-made disaster left the bankrupt U.S. commonwealth vulnerable. Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago comments on the local misconceptions concerning how their debt would be dealt with. “Part of it is also a lot of mismanagement at the local level. The elites in Puerto Rico, nobody really cared about Puerto Rico, they just wanted to make as much money as possible.”
Paul Bloomfield, professor of philosophy, has written an article that outlines the problem of Connecticut’s monstrous debt of $74 billion of unfunded pension and bonded debt commitment, and how we as a state ought to deal with it. His solution? It’s not the government’s sole responsibility, he says. “Every state institution and adult resident ought to pitch in to the degree to which they are able. Only we can save the state.” He calls for everyone, from the rich to pensioners, to contribute proportionally what they can take responsibility for the debt of Connecticut.
Degrees of illness can become a competition, belittle personal struggles, and create segregation among patients. According to Professor of Psychological Sciences Crystal Park and colleagues at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, living through cancer results in the development of new identities that can define people for the rest of their lives. For those still in active treatment, the identity of patient or victim can develop, carrying the connotation of severe suffering inflicted on them. But for those who have survived such adversity, the most common identity was survivor, which carries the connotation of cure.
In March, some of the country’s foremost historians gathered at Harvard University for a conference that examined the delicate topic of Harvard’s profits from slavery. The keynote speaker was someone who lacks a university degree of any sort and has no scholarly publications. But Ta-Nehisi Coates occupies a unique position — he is a writer who has a reputation among historians such as the Draper Chair in American History Manisha Sinha as, well, almost one of them.
In contemplating a future with automated humans, what happens when we can no longer tell robots apart from humans? Contemporary science fiction in combination with classical philosophy may help us find an answer. Blade Runner: 2049 is a Hollywood film in theaters now, coming out thirty years after the first film directed by Harrison Ford, that deals with the concept of “replicas”, machines that merely look human. However, they also have the capacity to look and speak just as humans do, contain implanted memories, and can feel emotions and empathy – traits that would make these automatons pass as human for philosopher such as Descartes and Locke. But does that make them human? For Associate Professor of Philosophy Susan Schneider, perhaps that question is irrelevant. “It’s a very strong case for treating [a non-human] with the same legal rights we give a human. We wouldn’t call [a replica] a human, but maybe a person,” she says.
Robert N. Lupton, assistant professor of political science, has collaborated with two other assistant professors to create an analysis that questions why Republicans struggle to govern, despite controlling Congress and the White House. They examined Democratic and Republican delegates’ attitudes toward 10 issues in each year that covered the major policy domains in U.S. politics, and their findings showed that the Democratic coalition is significantly more ideologically unified than the Republican. What does this mean for the future? “Legislating will continue to be difficult for Republicans in Congress as long as deep disagreements on major policy issues continue to divide GOP elites,” they write.
In 1965, members of Indonesia’s armed forces kidnapped and killed six high-ranking generals in Jakarta. To this day, it’s not entirely clear who was involved. But the military-led mass killings of at least 500,000 Indonesians accused of being communists that followed have entered history as one of the Cold War’s darkest chapters. A member of the U.S. Embassy staff in Jakarta later admitted that he had handed over a list of communists — compiled by U.S. officials — to Indonesian authorities as the massacre was underway. Brad Simpson, associate professor of history, is working with the National Declassification Center to process and make public thousands of the Jakarta embassy’s files from this period.
Jeremy Pressman, associate professor of political science, has collaborated with Erica Chenoweth from the University of Denver to create a tally that has given us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States. With 834 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States tallied for August 2017, and hundreds of thousands participants, Pressman’s data shows that the month saw a notable increase in people protesting compared with July.
Puerto Rico plunged into darkness last week after the second major hurricane in a month. The island is projected to be without power for six months or more – which reflects vulnerabilities that lie not just in their infrastructure, but also in their dependence on fossil fuels and the disadvantages it faces with its status as a US territory rather than a state. Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago comments on how budget limitations have halted infrastructure development in Puerto Rico, and what role the US government plays in such funding.
Monnica Williams, associate professor of psychological sciences, has been named one of the Top 25 thought leaders in the area of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She is a strong proponent of the concept that racism is a cause of PTSD and should be included as such in the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of mental disorders. She has written on PTSD and racial trauma and on issues of mental health for African-Americans in national publications.
Brazil is home to the largest number of uncontacted indigenous communities of any country in the world. Scott Wallace, associate professor of journalism, writes about the future of the flecheiros, an indigenous group in Brazil composed of archers who have retreated into one of the Amazon’s most inaccessible redoubts, from which they shun all contact with the outside world. In August, the tribe suffered a massacre, an incident that goes a long way toward explaining their choice. Wallace illuminates two paths for Brazil’s government: “It can continue its slow strangulation of Funai [Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency], or it can enforce its own laws and reclaim its stature as guardian of its rich cultural and biological diversity.”
Students, faculty and staff of UConn and UConn Health delivered their message to legislators Friday with a rally outside the Capitol complex protesting the massive cuts in the budget approved by the General Assembly a week ago. Tom Bontly, associate professor of philosophy and president of UConn’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, provides his opinion on the situation. “Do not let your great state university become a casualty of partisan warfare,” he declares.
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, in his meeting with President Trump and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, will be meeting two of his strongest allies in pressuring North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs. Like Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe, Mr. Moon strongly advocates imposing sanctions and pressure on North Korea. But unlike them, he has repeatedly ruled out military action, while Mr. Abe has been aligning Japan with Trump’s perspective – a fact that Professor of History Alexis Dudden believes suggests that the current Japanese administration is aiming to convince its people that Japan needs to adopt a much more proactive military.
A perfectly preserved 2000-year-old Roman ship and 59 other ancient shipwrecks were found in the azure waters of the Black Sea through the searches done by marine archaeological project, Black Sea MAP. All the shipwrecks discovered are reportedly from the Byzantine era to the 19th century, covering 2,500 years of maritime history. Kroum Batchvarov, associate professor of anthropology, comments on the striking intactness of the Roman ship, which has left him and his colleagues stunned in the wake of this never-before-seen archaeological finding.
Also covered in Smithsonian, September 21, 2017
In what ways can comic books provide insight into American memory surrounding the Vietnam War? “Comics are a type of historical record; they’re a window into what people were thinking and how they were interpreting events – almost in real time”, writes Professor of English Cathy Schlund-Vials. She writes about how one can track the transformations of popular attitudes towards the war through comic books, and how these graphic novels act as modes of modern memory.
Also covered in Smithsonian, September 21, 2017
UConn students and faculty rallied Wednesday evening to protest a Republican-proposed state budget that the school says would cut $300 million over two years and damage the standing of the state’s flagship university. Associate Professor of Philosophy Lionel Shapiro responds to one measure in the Republican budget that would require professors to teach an additional course for savings of $10.4 million, stressing the adverse consequences of the budget cuts and of the burden placed on professors to teach an extra class.
This week 80 professors across the country will begin their classes by reading a statement that decries what they see as the hate speech and threats that progressive faculty members have faced for controversial remarks. Noel Cazenave, professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, is also an organizer of the “Stand Up and Speak Out” campaign, which seeks to defend minority faculty members who faced intense criticism this summer for things they said or were reported to have said.
Kerri M. Raissian, assistant professor of public policy, together with Leonard M. Lopoo, professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University, writes about why our policies on immigration, family planning, and much more affect long-term population growth and even Social Security in ways we don’t understand – and how the creation of a Congressional Population Office can aid us to do just that.
Barbuda, a small Caribbean island, bore the biggest burden when Hurricane Irma first touched down. About 90% of the island’s land structures have been lost, according to the nation’s prime minister, and 60% of the island’s residents are now homeless. Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Director of the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering (CESE) Michael Willig comments on the potential biodiversity loss that may also lay ahead for Barbuda.
Sessions and Trump are demonstrating a pattern that has emerged time and again in presidential administrations since Watergate: It is very hard for the president and the attorney general to be friends. David A. Yalof, department head and professor of political science, provides insight as to why he believes this dynamic is, in fact, inevitable.
The continued existence of people who hold openly white supremacist ideologies more than seven decades after the fall of the Third Reich can be explained, in part, through a social theory developed in the early 1990s by Professor of Psychological Sciences Felicia Pratto, which postulates that societies maintain their hierarchies by creating and promoting social beliefs that keep dominant groups on top.
One tech startup in Reykjavík envisions a future in which office workers escape the glare of fluorescents and the distractions of colleagues’ chatter by donning headsets and sealing themselves off inside fascinating, restorative virtual realms – a concept that finds scientific support through studies such as one co-authored in 2015 by Professor of Psychological Sciences Kerry Marsh.
The catastrophic flooding in Texas has prompted researchers at the University of Connecticut such as Chris Elphick, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, to discover that a lot of climate science currently focuses on biology and ecology, overlooking something else very important: the humans who own the land.
Mark Urban, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, provides his remarks on the phenomenon of climate change within the context of a new study, which provides evidence that a sudden 1°C rise in seawater temperature—a change expected to arrive within half a century—will drastically alter ocean communities.
Associate Professor of Anthropology Daniel Adler provides commentary on a new study that provides evidence for the idea that Neandertals didn’t strictly need fire in order to create tar, a useful material for connecting stones with handles to create weapons or tools.
A research team at the University of Connecticut, led by Professor of Chemistry Douglas Adamson, has developed and patented a one-of-a-kind process for exfoliating graphene in its pristine form, as well as manufacturing innovative graphene nanocomposites.
Also covered in Phys.org, August 29, 2017
Advocates claim that raising the minimum wage would lift many families out of poverty and reduce income equality, but that’s not all; a new study co-authored by Assistant Professor of Public Policy Kerri Raissian contends that a rise in wages would also help to reduce child maltreatment.
Historians have long argued that the Confederacy was founded to protect, expand and perpetuate racial slavery; but that hasn’t stopped defenders from peddling the idea that Confederate monuments are innocuous symbols of southern history, writes Manisha Sinha, the Draper Chair in American History.
Monnica Williams, associate professor of psychological sciences, writes in a commentary that Civil War-era racism is baked into the culture and architecture of places like Charlottesville, Va. “We need to recognize the White nationalist/supremacist movement for what it is — a well-armed domestic terrorist organization fueled by hate,” she writes.
Rebecca Puhl, professor of human development and family studies and deputy director for the Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity comments in an article about the early and pervasive effects of fat bias. “In a study of more than 2,400 overweight and obese women who belonged to a weight loss support organization,” she is quoted as writing, “79 percent reported coping with weight stigma on multiple occasions by eating more food, and 75 percent reported coping by refusing to diet.”
In The Washington Post’s The Monkey Cage blog, Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and colleagues analyze the numbers of people who participated in rallies and protests in July 2017. These numbers decreased drastically from June 2016, and they primarily concerned pro- or anti-Trump events.
In a video on NBC News about Latina and Latino Greek organizations, Assistant Professor of Sociology Daisy Reyes speaks about the positive impacts of culture-based sororities and fraternities, saying that they increase graduation and retention rates. “My research shows that these Latino organizations are doing the work that their institutions are failing to do,” she says.
Daisy Reyes, assistant professor of sociology, discusses the recent demand of Yale University students that their institution recognize the Quinnipiac tribal land that their university is built upon. “So as a country we’re grappling with commemorative politics, right?” she asks. “How are we going to grapple with our history of racism and what is the answer here?”
Manisha Sinha, Professor and Draper Chair in American History, writes a tribute to and defense of heroic white anti-racists throughout history. She places Heather Heyer, a white woman who lost her life in the attack on Charlottesville, Va. on Aug, 12, among their ranks. “The abolitionist legacy of interracial activism is as embedded in American history as the sorry history of racial oppression,” writes Sinha. “Like the abolitionists of yore, she seemed to deeply empathize with the plight of the oppressed, and like them, she deserves to be remembered and emulated.”
Kerri Raissian, assistant professor of public policy, is coauthor on a study showing that raising the national minimum wage by $1 would result in fewer reported cases of child neglect. A $1 increase would result in 9,700 (9.6 percent) fewer reported cases of child neglect annually. the story reports.
A theory of social hierarchy attitudes, called social dominance orientation, or SDO, can predict a person’s political ideologies. The index, developed by Professor of Psychological Sciences Felicia Pratto and her colleagues, can help explain why white supremacy still exists, as exemplified in the Aug. 12 portest clashes in Charlottesville, Va. “There is a strong tendency for countries that have more equality for women, such as higher education levels, less unequal pay between men and women, and more women in political office, to have lower SDO scores,” says Pratto.
Work by Dimitris Xygalatas, assistant professor of anthropology, and his colleagues showed that across the world, people are more apt to believe that a serial killer is an atheist than that he or she is a religious believer. Professor of Anthropology Richard Sosis comments: “They’ve got a method that can be used to see how this bias plays out not just in judging a sociopath, but for many more mundane moral violations.”
Coastal landowners in Connecticut may need more than the threat of climate-related destruction to property, as seen in major hurricanes, to convince them to convert their land to conservation easments. A study by Christopher Elphick, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Ph.D. student Chris Field, showed that even in the wake of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. landowners were skeptical that they would be treated fairly by environmental groups in conservations agreements.
Merrill Singer, Professor of Anthropology, writes that with climate change disproportionally heating up urban areas in the next century, minorities and the poor are especially at risk from lethally hot temperatures. His work shows through surveys that many urban poor are aware that climate change exists and are concerned about it, they often don’t have access to services that would help mitigate negative heat effects. “Our findings demonstrate that there is an urgent need for climate change planning efforts that give all urban residents a voice,” he writes.
Manisha Sinha, Professor and Draper Chair of American History in the Department of History, reviews Fred Kaplan’s book, Lincoln and the Abolitionists. She criticizes Kaplan’s treatment of Lincoln as a lifelong racist and saying his “understanding of the interracial abolitionist movement is outdated, quaint and erroneous.”
Symptoms of dementia can in some instances be mitigated by reminiscences of the past, and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Michael Ego‘s work has shown that discussing baseball, a shared memory many people have from their youth, can help people to strengthen brain connections.
Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Dyson recalls a comedy sketch in which British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher tries to fire all the economists in her government. He likens the superfluous Sir Humphrey to President Donald Trump. “‘“Yes, Minister’ was the formative political experience for a generation of British politicians,” he writes. “When they went into government themselves, they were determined not to become the pawns of the bureaucracy.”
Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin comments in a piece about the resurgence of Republican voters in traditionally blue areas, such as Windham County, Connecticut. He notes that since 2008, Republicans have gained between 5 and 9 percentage points in Connecticut’s eastern counties.
Professor of Psychology Ed Large has developed an LED-light system that blinks in time to music sounds. The technology will go on the market this fall. “If you play a rhythmically boring song. it’ll just go with the beat and it becomes boring really fast,” Large says of Synchrony’s lighting effects. “But if you listen to music that has an interesting rhythm, that’s when it does super interesting things.”
In their sixth installment, Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and colleagues Erica Chenoweth and Devin Finn have tallied the protest activity for June 2017. They tallied 818 various protests across the U.S., with at least one in every state and D.C. “In this case, we estimate that June saw a staggering ninefold increase from May in the number of people protesting,” they wrote.
While astrology may be a matter of belief, some scientific studies have linked birth season to personality and health conditions. One such impact has been studied by Professor of Communication Mark Hamilton, who claims that people born in summer are less likely to become famous. Hamilton surveyed 300 celebrities across various industries and found that they tended to be born in January and February, rather than summer months.
Matthew Guariglia, a PhD candidate in history, writes about the controversial issue of surveillance. “An intelligence system that is overextended is also ineffective and dangerous,” writes Guariglia. He points to the fact that everyone’s communications are being monitored, not just suspects, which leads to a lack of focus. He claims that this problem has been a product of the entire criminal justice system, top to bottom. “The noise generated by this much information, by seeing a massive populace as potential criminals, proved deafening for investigators searching for a single suspect,” Guariglia says.
Associate Professor of English Anna Duane traces the history of Rikers Island, New York’s infamous prison facility. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has put forward a $30 million, 10-year plan to close the city’s prison, a decision partly motivated by the tragic story of Kalief Browder, a 16 year old who spent three years at Rikers because he couldn’t afford to post bond after being charged with stealing a backpack. Following his release, Browder took his life. Browder’s story, according to Duane, is emblematic of the prison’s past. “The history of Rikers Island carries the suppressed memories of a system that moved seamlessly from slavery to abduction and forced conscription, to incarceration in the service of profit,” writes Duane.
“Game of Thrones” has returned for a seventh season, and fans have a lot to say about what is often considered the closest thing in the U.S. to a “consensus show.” During a recent symposium, various speakers discussed some of the political undercurrents in “Game of Thrones” that mirror real-life politics. Director and Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Dyson discussed Targaryen’s progressive politics. “Should you run a foreign policy where you go around freeing people who are not your people, in service of this idea of universal human rights?” Dyson asked.
The Chuuk flying fox, black-spotted cuscus, Fijian crested iguana, Mariana skink, greater monkey-faced bat, and Poncelet’s giant rat are all critically endangered species living on islands in the Pacific Ocean. According to a new study, all these species are at risk of global extinction due to rising sea levels. Though not a part of the study, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Mark Urban says that these types of studies help scientists identify species under threat from climate change are critical to direct conservation funds where it is needed most. “We will need to accelerate our knowledge of the world’s natural history as rapidly as climate change advances, or we risk losing it entirely,” Urban said.
A recent study has looked at 18 species of hummingbird from North and South America in order to better understand how these birds drink. Research Specialist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Alejandro Rico-Guevara explains that a hummingbird’s tongue, which can be stuck out about the same length of its beak, is tipped with two long tubes. The elastic expansion of these tubes draws nectar into the tongue.
Research has found that simply requiring and paying for all students to take the ACT or SAT can boost the share of poor students who go to college. The impact is rather small, but the policy would only cost $34 per student. Assistant Professor of Public Policy Joshua Hyman says, “Although these increases in the four-year college enrollment rate might not appear to be dramatically large, relative to other educational interventions this policy is inexpensive and currently being implemented on a large scale.” Hyman was also featured in Chalkbeat.
NASA’s Hubble Telescope has recently been taking magnified images by using the cosmic effect known as gravitational lensing. These reconstructed images have revealed two dozen clumps of newborn stars only spanning about 200-300 light-years, which has contradicted existing theories about star-forming regions in the distant, early Universe. Assistant Professor of Physics Kate Whitaker says, “The cosmic explosions forming new starts across SGAS 1110 are happening on surprisingly small scales.”
The saltmarsh sparrow may be more vulnerable to sea-level rise than other animals that inhabit coastal wetlands. The numbers of these birds have dwindled over the decades as marshes are drained and filled to build seaside homes, roads, and rail lines. But another problem is that the rate of their nesting success is low. According to Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Chris Elphick, only about half of nests produce at least one offspring. Elphick was also featured in Science Daily.
Based on his research on political leaders, Director and Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Benedict Dyson says he’s found that different people have different definitions of rationality, which can influence how leaders decide what their best move will be. Figuring out what the best course of action to take is often answered by a leader’s idiosyncratic beliefs, rather than immediately obvious logic, according to Dyson.
Despite the accomplishments we attribute to Henry David Thoreau, many of his contemporaries considered him little more than a self-involved crank. But many writers today are trying to shine light on the truth about the life and works of Thoreau. One such writer is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robert M. Thorson. Thorson suggests Thoreau held complicated views toward the natural watershed he knew so well, and he surprisingly allied with industrialists of Massachusetts, rather than the farmers.
“In the next few decades, the number of adults living with cancer is expected to triple in size,” writes Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Keith Bellizzi. Despite the staggering statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, early detection, innovative treatments, and supportive care have made great improvements in the outlook of a cancer diagnosis. “Our current understanding of appropriate care for older adults with cancer and their unique needs is limited,” Bellizzi adds. “As an expert in cancer survivorship and aging, I see several specific areas that warrant our attention.”
In the years since America first celebrated its independence, there have been plenty of moments that swayed the course of the nation’s history. One such moment was January 1, 1863 when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Professor of History and Draper Chair in American History Manisha Sinha is the author of The Slaves Cause: A History of Abolition. The Emancipation Proclamation helped declare an overwhelming majority of American slaves as free. Lincoln called this the “pivotal act” of his administration and the greatest event of the 19th century.
President Trump’s ongoing sexist attacks on women has spurred a conversation about two kinds of sexism: hostile and benevolent. Hostile sexism manifests as derogatory or threatening comments about a woman, while benevolent sexism manifests as praise or chivalry that reaffirms a woman’s subordinate status. A 2010 study conducted by Professor of Psychological Sciences Diane Quinn and Stephanie Chaudoir, an alumni of UConn’s social psychology Ph.D. program, found that merely hearing a man speak in demeaning sexual terms to another woman made female college students feel more anger and motivation to take direct action toward men.
American Scientist celebrates the bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau’s birth with an article featuring four authors who have specialized in his work as a naturalist, including Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robert Thorson. Thorson’s latest book The Boatman examines the Concord River’s vital influence on Thoreau, with an emphasis on how industrialization spurred an evolution on his thinking.
Emeritus Professor of Political Science Richard Vengroff writes about President Trump’s new rules regarding political asylum. Vengroff discusses a recent case where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested nearly 200 Iraqi refugees in Michigan and ordered for them to be deported. When they were denied a hearing in immigration court, a federal judge intervened. “The case appears to be the result of new Trump administration rules intended to make it harder to secure political asylum,” Vengroff writes. “The new guidelines order ICE agents to more aggressively push for deportation. At the same time new judges, selected by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are being added to the backlogged federal immigration courts that handle asylum claims.”
Implicit Bias refers to a variety of automatic, non-conscious prejudices in which one group is favored over another, and the most commonly used measure of this bias is the Implicit Association Test (IAT). However, the test-retest reliability of the Race IAT is only .42, which falls well below the standard of .80, which calls its usefulness as a measure of bias into consideration. Professor of Psychological Sciences Hart Blanton has noted the ease with which people can decrease their racial bias score. He says he did this “by simply exposing people to pictures of African-Americans enjoying a picnic.”
Professors have long been political targets, but a recent increase of threats against scholars is raising fresh concerns about safety and academic freedom. Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey recently wrote about his own experiences with threats in The Huffington Post. “Folks seem to be getting attacked when they critique whiteness,” Hughey wrote. While he feels supported by UConn, Hughey said, “[professors] always have an obligation to speak wisely (regardless of what’s going on), but they also have the freedom to use their personal social media as they see fit.” He added that if universities are going to praise and link faculty to their social media accounts when they receive awards or get published, then they also need to support their faculty when they become targets or share something controversial.
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and his colleagues Erica Chenoweth and Erica MacDonald have continued to collect data on protests across the nation. For the month of May, they tallied a total of 495 protests, marches, sit-ins, and rallies in the U.S. Of these protests, 68 percent were in opposition to President Trump’s policies, about 5 percent were rallies in support of the president and his policies, and 27 percent were directed at other politicians or issues that were neither pro- nor anti-Trump.
The American Society of Microbiology (ASM) announced last month that they plan to significantly scale back its small-conference organizing, which will put more pressure on what some see as an already undervalued chance for networking. Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Joerg Graf has attended both large and small conferences throughout his career and said that scaling back small conferences was not a move that ASM would take lightly. “The American Society for Microbiology is a very important organization in this field, and I think ASM conferences were very important in how the American Society for Microbiology was able to reach out, especially to early-career scientists,” says Graf. “But ASM really has to make difficult decisions.”
When it comes to decision-making, there are maximizers who take pains to make the absolute best decision possible and there are satisfiers, those of us who go with the first choice because they perceive it as good enough. Historically, satisfiers have been found to be happier and less stressed than their overly analytical counterparts, but a recent study co-authored by Xiaoyuan Zhu, a graduate student in the Department of Psychological Sciences, is challenging this assumption. In the study, the authors claim, “When setting the standards for their decisions, maximizers are more likely to consider the future because their current decisions have to meet their higher present and future standards.”
Congressional Briefing on Family Homelessness, June 6, 2017
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Preston Britner spoke at the congressional briefing entitled “Escaping Homelessness: Helping Families Reach Their Full Potential.” The briefing included an overview of what family homelessness looks like in the U.S. and what challenges these families face. The various speakers covered a wide variety of topics with a key theme being that current policies related to homelessness focus almost solely on the needs of adults, which led to a detailed conversation about the importance of the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017.
In the wake of Bill Cosby’s mistrial, Shayla Nunnally, an associate professor of political science, says there are a number of conspiracy theories circulating about Cosby and the supposed cause of his troubles. “What they have in common is a connection to long-running tropes about the notion of a place for black people in America, a certain set of limits that must be observed or there will be consequences,” Nunnally says. “But as wild as those ideas may sound to some people, it’s important to remember that they differ from simple lore or paranoia fed by fake news about power and activity in smoke-filled rooms. These Cosby conspiracies are ideas bolstered by a very real history and experiences which black people, people of color, have every day.”
Residents of the Northeastern United States have become very familiar with diseases transmitted by ticks, but the tick population has begun spreading and growing, which means the diseases they carry will also spread. Adjunct Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Richard Ostfeld discusses the latest information on ticks and tick-borne diseases. “The more we look inside ticks and people who get tick bites, the more of these pathogens and diseases we discover. And I think that’s likely to continue,” Ostfeld says. “These tick-borne diseases are on the move. They are increasing in their geographic range, but all of them seem to overlap in that sort of Northeastern and Upper Midwest area.”
Professor of History Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar writes about the life and legacy of Tupac alongside the release of the long-awaited film “All Eyez on Me.” “Beyond the commercial success, the life of Tupac could be thought of as a metaphor for a generation of African-American youth,” writes Ogbar. “A personification of hip-hop’s ascendance and the vexing forces that shaped it, Tupac was born in 1971 at the dawn of the post-civil rights era. His life would span the War on Drugs, the rapid expansion of the prison-industrial complex, a black power reprise, the mainstream recognition of hip-hop — and all the pitfalls therein.” Ogbar was also featured in the Philadelphia Tribune and Salon.
USA Today has compiled a list of some of the terms that LGBTQ allies should know. Contributing to this list, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Ryan Watson discusses sexual orientation. “There are three distinct components of sexual orientation,” says Watson. “It’s comprised of identity (I’m gay), behavior (I have sex with the same gender), and attraction (I’m sexually attracted to the same gender), and all three might not line up for all people.”
Aetna has announced that it plans to move its headquarters out of Hartford, the city it has called home since it was founded over 150 years ago. Aetna helped elevate Hartford to international recognition as the world’s insurance capital. “In some ways, of all the companies that could move their headquarters out of the state, symbolically this may be the most painful, says Associate Professor of History Walter Woodward. “This is not just a corporate loss. It’s a cultural loss.”
A recent study conducted by postdoctoral researcher Karteek Kadimisetty and his colleagues in the Department of Chemistry has found that carcinogens found in cigarettes and e-cigarettes cause damage to DNA to a similar degree. “From the results of our study, we can conclude that e-cigarettes have as much potential to cause DNA damage as unfiltered, regular cigarettes,” says Kadimisetty.
The U.S. has flatlined when it comes to electing women, ranking 101st when it comes to gender equity in our national legislature. Studies show that women tend to win elections at the same rate as men, but they are far less likely to run at all. Traditional explanations such as fundraising imbalances, sexism, and unyielding bureaucracies have faded in importance. Today, the greatest obstacle women face is really the fact that women don’t want the job. However, there’s been a shift since the presidential election. Data collected by Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and colleague Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver, has shown that political involvement of women has increased dramatically.
UConn researchers Kun Chen, an assistant professor of statistics, and medical sociology Robert Aseltine have created a map that shows where in the state teenagers have attempted suicide, in an attempt to help determine where resources might be needed to address the issue. Chen and Aseltine are the first to attempt to map not only actual teen suicides, but serious attempts. They then took their map and adjusted the data for certain socioeconomic and academic variables to try and determine the relative risk for suicidal behavior among teens in 119 school districts across Connecticut.
60-70% of people yawn when they see another person yawning. For a long time, yawning was believed to be a precursor to sleep, but recent research has suggested it bears no relation to dipping energy levels. Instead, catching yawns seems to indicate more about your personality than sleepiness. A 2010 study from researchers Deborah Fein, distinguished professor of psychological sciences, Inge-Marie Eigsti, associate professor of psychological sciences, and colleagues Molly Helt and Peter Snyder found that catching yawns may be an unconscious sign you’re attuned to other people’s emotions. Fein and Eigsti were also featured in Southern Living.
A new study led by Professor of Chemistry James Rusling and Karteek Kadimisetty, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher, has found evidence that electronic cigarettes, or vaping, is potentially as harmful as tobacco cigarettes. “Some people use e-cigarettes heavily because they think there is no harm,” Kadimisetty said. “We wanted to see exactly what might be happening to DNA, and we had the resources in our lab to do that.” Rusling and Kadimisetty were also featured in UPI, The Economic Times, Health Medicine Network, Science Daily, and Men’s Fitness.
On June 11, Puerto Ricans were given the opportunity to vote in a non-binding plebiscite to determine Puerto Rico’s political status. Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago writes about the three options for voters: statehood, independence or territorial autonomy, or keeping the status quo. Following the vote, The Conversation released a follow-up article with the results. The option for statehood received 97.18 percent of the votes cast; however, due to low voter turnout and the failure of the U.S. Department of Justice to certify the plebiscite, Congress is likely to ignore the outcome of the vote like it did in 2012. Venator-Santiago was also featured in Salon.
Professor and Director of Philosophy Michael Lynch writes that, “Humility isn’t a word that most academics — or Americans — identify with. Indeed, if there is a single attitude most closely associated with our culture, it’s the opposite of humility.” Lynch explains that our culture’s infatuation with arrogance doesn’t come out of the blue. “Trump is a symptom and not the cause of a larger trend, one that rewards dogmatic certainty and punishes those who acknowledge the possible limitations of their point of view.”
Professor of Political Science Lyle Scruggs writes about President Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. When he pulled the U.S. out of the accord he said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” This invocation of Pittsburgh was quickly denounced by their Mayor, Bill Peduto, who vowed to adhere to the Paris commitments.
Professor and Director of Philosophy Michael Lynch connects 18th-century critic Samuel Johnson’s argument that material things exist by kicking a rock to our current political environment. Johnson was refuting Irish philosopher George Berkley’s view that nothing is material because everything we perceive is an idea, including the sensation of kicking a rock. Lately, Lynch has begun to suspect that Johnson was actually onto something. “Perhaps his point was that there are things that our perceptions of reality share in common,” Lynch writes. Also featured in MPR News, Lynch explains that we no longer see ourselves as living in the same world as those with whom we disagree. It’s a flaw of both the left and the right, perpetuated by social media’s ability to confirm what we already believe.
When zapped with the strongest x-ray laser, large atoms within some molecules behave like a minuscule “black hole,” sucking electrons from the molecules around them. This new study may help scientists better analyze viruses, bacteria, and other tiny, complex structures on Earth. Though not part of this study, Department Head and Professor of Physics Nora Berrah says, [my colleagues and I] observed this effect recently in a large molecule, but we didn’t yet publish our work. Thus, we confirm that this is a general effect.”
Assistant Professor of Political Science Yonatan Morse writes about the crisis Cameroon has been gripped by for the past six months. “Thousands of lawyers, teachers and students, and several civil society groups have taken to the streets and launched strikes in opposition to discrimination against Anglophones by the central government and by Cameroon’s long-serving president, Paul Biya,” Morse writes. He explains that the government’s response to the strikes have been harsh, and the situation continues to escalate.
Finding a good peer reviewer is difficult, which causes some to question if it makes sense to expand the search to graduate students. J Beall, a distinguished professor of philosophy, posed this question and listed some of the pros and cons. On the one hand, there’s a supply-and-demand argument for enlisting graduate students, Beall wrote. However, Beall found many strong reasons against enlisting graduate students. “[They] already have too little time for their own work,” Beall wrote. “Why should they be given work that few want in the profession?”
On his first trip to the Middle East, President Trump received both pageantry and a warm reception. As an expert on U.S. policy in the Middle East and on Arab-Israeli relations, Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman thinks it is clear that President Trump’s hopes for regional stability or an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement rests on shaky ground. “But in policy terms, the trip did not address how Trump will grapple with the core problems the United States has with each of these close allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel,” Pressman writes. “Trump is an entertainer, not a diplomat.”
A new study, led by Professor in Residence of Human Development and Family Studies Rebecca Puhl, has found that teens who are taunted about their weight may be more likely to become obese adults who struggle with poor body image. “Our findings suggest the need for broader anti-bullying initiatives that include both the school and family/home environments as targets for intervention,” says Puhl. The study also found that in the long run women were more affected than men by weight-based teasing from family members.
Fishermen out on the Outer Schoodic Ridge are facing a potential fishing ban in the Gulf of Maine that would help preserve the cold-water coral reefs. Emeritus Professor of Marine Sciences Peter Auster led two survey expeditions in the Gulf of Maine coral zones and found evidence of the damage fishing has inflicted on these habitats, including scarring on the ocean bottom from nets dragged along the basins (trawling). “Is the footprint of lobster gear smaller than trawl gear? Sure, because traps are smaller,” Auster said. “But their small size also means they are set in places where trawl gear can’t go, the places where the coral still exists. These are the areas we’re trying to protect.”
A stone tool found in Syria over 80 years ago has helped scientists better understand the Stone Age. The tool is made of obsidian and dates to between 41,000 and 32,000 years ago, and it was found at least 700 kilometers away from the volcanic rock outcrops that produced the obsidian. Associate Professor of Anthropology Daniel Adler explains that recent investigations of obsidian artifacts at late Stone Age sites in Eurasia have indicated that hunter-gatherers there also exploited vast territories. “[As for the obsidian tool], a 700-kilometer transport distance is fully within the realm of possibility for a single person over an extended period of time,” Adler says.
Technological advancements in the mid-1990s first allowed researchers to isolate and analyze small bits of DNA in order to easily and quickly distinguish species. W. John Kress, botany curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, recalls working with colleague Carlos García-Robledo, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, using DNA barcoding to compare various plants that insect species fed on in the Costa Rican rainforest. Using these techniques, they were able to collect insects and quickly sequence the DNA to determine what they were eating.
Jim Scanlon, owner of Jim’s Local Market on Jefferson Avenue in Newport, has built a grocery store in a low-income, difficult-to-get-around area defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as lacking a supermarket within one mile of city residents and 10 miles of rural homes. For health advocates, this is an epidemic that is leading to increased obesity rates and illnesses. Scanlon is finding that just because you open a store where there wasn’t one and sell fresh produce, doesn’t mean customers will buy it. Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and a professor of human development and family studies, says, “Of course, everyone should have a grocery store relatively close to their house.” But access to healthy food is complicated, and there are always questions of transportation and affordability.
Assistant Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and colleagues Evan Perkoski of the University of Denver and Ches Thurber of Northern Illinois University have mapped April’s protesting activity. For April 2017, they tallied 950 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, and rallies in the United States, with a conservative guess that between 637,198 and 1,181,887 people attended these political gatherings. “We think our tally gives us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States — particularly how reports of crowds change from month to month,” they wrote. “In this case, we note that April had a 62 percent increase over the number of reported crowds in March.”
Connecticut, the richest state in the United States, is realizing that there is only so much to be gained by continuously increasing taxes on the 11, 223 Connecticut millionaires. Connecticut expects a $400 million shortfall from state income-tax collections this year, which will worsen the current budget crisis. “If you can count on a steady influx of new residents, you can count on some additional revenue from them,” says Department Head and Professor of Public Policy Mark Robbins. “But where the population is flat [as in Connecticut], that is one thing you don’t have to look to.” Robbins was also featured in MorningStar.
Save the Sound has launched a groundbreaking water testing program that will dramatically increase available data on the health of the Long Island Sound. More than a decade of monitoring of the open Sound has documented the destructive impact of nitrogen pollution. However, recent research conducted by Assistant Research Professor of Marine Sciences Jamie Vaudrey has shown that conditions in the bays and harbors can be different from conditions in the open waters. This implies more testing on bays and harbors, where most of the public comes into contact with the Sound, is needed to truly judge the effect of nitrogen on these inlets and determine the necessary action to be taken.
Cicadas emerge across the Mid-Atlantic once every 17 years, like clockwork. But recent data is showing that longer growing seasons linked to climate change may have shortened the life cycle of many 17-year cicadas, which could end up creating new cycles of timekeeping broods. Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Chris Simon says, “You could see many more individuals coming out four years early, and eventually those could become so numerous that they’re self-reproducing.” Simon was also featured in The Baltimore Sun and Popular Science.
Scientists can often get caught going through airport security with interesting items in their possession, like the time Martin Cohn was questioned about the 3-D-printed model of a mouse penis in his bag. But many have stories about more animate luggage. Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Jonathan Klassen studies leafcutter ants and has permits that allow him to carry them onto planes. “Inevitably, some poor security officer gets a duffle bag full of 10,000 ants and gets really confused,” Klassen says. “My strategy was to pretend that everything I was doing was perfectly normal.”
New research shows that climate change is altering the delicate seasonal clock that North American migratory songbirds rely on to successfully mate and raise healthy offspring. This could set in motion a domino effect, threatening the survival of many familiar backyard bird species. Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Morgan Tingley, an author of the study, says, “The birds are trying to keep up with the speed of climate change, but they can’t…it’s just to fast.” Tingley has also been featured in Phys.org and Bird Watching.
Researchers from UConn, led by Professor of Chemistry James Rusling, and from UCLA, led by Richard Kaner, have designed a new biofriendly energy storage system called a biological supercapacitor, which operates using charged particles from fluids in the human body. The device is harmless to the body’s biological systems, and it could lead to longer-lasting cardiac pacemakers and other implantable medical devices. Rusling was also featured in New-Tech Europe and Medical Design and Outsourcing.
Until 2010 when firefighter Thomas Fritz became infected with the microbe Sodalis, scientists had assumed it was permanently dependent on their animal hosts. “It provides a really unique tool to probe microbial features important for establishing associations with a host,” says Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Nichole Broderick. Researchers also believe Sodalis may have ways of evading its host’s immune system or even providing benefits to its host.
For more than a century, scientists have known that, throughout the body, blood vessels dilate when cellular waste products build up. One day, Associate Professor of Physiology and Neurobiology Dan Mulkey was teaching this to his students when he realized this couldn’t possibly be true in a certain part of the brainstem. “I thought, wow. If that happened in the region of the brain I study, it would be counterproductive,” Mulkey says. Since then, Mulkey and fellow researchers at UConn have published a new paper explaining how certain blood vessels in the brainstem actually constrict when blood vessels elsewhere in the body would dilate, which is actually what keeps us breathing.
Henry David Thoreau is best known for the time he spent at Walden Pond near his home in Concord, Massachusetts, but a new book by Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robert Thorson offers a new take on the life of the famous author and naturalist. In Thorson’s book The Boatman, he describes that the rivers that flowed around Thoreau are a better metaphor for his life than Walden Pond. “If it’s life you’re after — real life, the history of life, the ebb of life, the flow of life — the river is the place,” Thorson says.
According to Stephen Dyson, director and associate professor of political science, the history of U.S. dealings with inscrutable foreign leaders is instructive, where understanding the other is the most urgent challenge of national security decision-making for the U.S. “In my research on political leaders, I’ve found that different people have different definitions of rationality,” says Dyson. “The core question — ‘What is my best move?’ — is often answered by a leader’s idiosyncratic beliefs, rather than by an immediately obvious logic of the situation as see by external observers.”
Professor of History Manisha Sinha writes about how, if nothing else, President Trump and the Republicans are making Civil War revisionism “great again.” Sinha references North Carolina GOP state Representative Larry Pitman’s argument that Abraham Lincoln was the same kind of tyrant as Adolf Hitler, to illustrate the kind of reasoning that posits the Civil War as a needless and illegal conflict.
Red Sox fans yelling the N-word at Orioles outfielder Adam Jones in Fenway Park was a reminder of Boston’s racial legacy, particularly around its sports teams. Boston’s racial history has spilled into sports as some working-class residents experience a “white crisis,” according to Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey. “They can’t live up to the levels of superiority they’re told they’re supposed to naturally have, so they turn to symbolic things or people to build a sense of identity and to take out a sense of frustration,” Hughey said. “Sports can be that sense of identity.”
U.S. News & World Report ,May 1, 2017
There are three changes underway that will have an impact on the ability of individuals to make informed decisions about saving and investing for their retirement. One such way is the removal of paper Social Security statements being mailed to people under the age of 60. By doing so, the Social Security Administration expects to save $11.3 million in fiscal year 2017; however, forthcoming research by Professor of Economics Kenneth Couch and Barbara Smith, a senior economist, have found that receiving a Social Security statement significantly decreases early claiming.
The Trump administration is scaling back school lunch requirements set by the Obama White House in 2012. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said this ruling is the result of years of feedback. Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and a professor of human development and family studies, says the argument that food is ending up in the trash isn’t supported by the research. “What I’ve studied is whether or not children are eating the lunches, and we found that they are,” Schwartz says.
“Burning Sands” is a film about a group of black college students pledging a fraternity, and it focuses on the hidden culture of hazing. The fraternity in the film is shown believing there is a positive correlation between the amount of physical suffering a Big Brother can disseminate and the amount of suffering a pledge can withstand with the subsequent fraternal bonding. Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey, a member of the fraternity Phi Beta Sigma, believes this is where fraternities have gotten it wrong. “What I’ve found in my research is if you hardly go through any time of pledge process at all, you’re less likely to stay active years down the line and less likely to do service activity,” Hughey says. “If you go through a whole lot, anything that’s violent or abusive, you’re also less likely.”
Winter ice deposits that form on top of Arctic rivers, providing crucial water for ecosystems in the summer, are melting far earlier each year. Plants and animals downstream of icings rely on continuous meltwater from river icings in the summer and fall during periods of low river flow. The Arctic grayling is one species of fish that could be threatened, according to ecology and evolutionary biology doctoral student Heidi Golden. If river icings disappear, coldwater fish could have fewer comfortable streams to travel through. “If this were to occur, these migratory populations might be at increased risk of local extinction due to changes in population dynamics,” Golden said.
Professor of English Wayne Franklin has written a biography on James Fenimore Cooper, an old-fashioned author. Franklin took up the torch from James Beard who had gained unprecedented access to Cooper’s papers. A decade ago, Franklin wrote his first volume of Cooper’s life,”The Early Years,” which chronicled the novelist’s impetuous youth, his brief enrollment at Yale before being expelled for mischief, his adventures at sea, his exponential literary rise and his marriage and family.
The 2016 presidential election has shown just how subjective the truth is. The cherry-picking of “facts” to support personal beliefs might be blamed on social media sites like Facebook or on President Trump or our easy, constant access to information. Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Humanities Institute Michael Lynch explained in a TED conference what he calls “knowledge polarization,” which is the idea that technological advancements have contributed to giving us a superficial sense that what we know is right. Lynch explains that what we’re really lacking in our public discourse is humility. “That’s more than being open to change, that’s more than self-improvement. It’s seeing your knowledge as being able to be enriched by what others contribute,” says Lynch.
The metalmark moth mimics its spider predator as a defense. The moth’s “eyes” are actually patterns on its wings, and its “furry legs” are contorted wings with a striped pattern, giving the impression that it is a big spider. “It confuses the spider,” says Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology David Wagner. “If the spider is smaller, it even imitates the spider.” Cannibalism is common in spiders, so smaller ones will prefer to run away, rather than risk being eaten.
Back around the turn of the millennium, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy Susan Anderson puzzled over an ethics problem: is there a way to rank competing moral obligations. She posed this problem to her spouse Michael Anderson, a computer scientist, figuring his algorithmic expertise might help. The Andersons have since devoted their careers to designing the first ethically programmed robot, which they deployed in 2010. The humanoid machine was conceived with just one task in mind: to ensure homebound elders take their medications. According to Susan Anderson, this responsibility is ethnically fraught, as the robot must balance conflicting duties, weighing the patient’s health against respect for personal autonomy.
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Eric Schultz joined fellow academics at the rally for science and research in Washington on Saturday, April 22. Schultz said the March for Science was about communicating with the general public about what science does and why it is valuable. Schultz’s work is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation, with some support from the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. He explains that his department could lose the ability to support their graduate students if the budget cuts proposed by the White House budget last month become a reality. “That means we’re selling out our future essentially for the sake of weapons,” Schultz said.
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and his colleagues Erica Chenoweth, David Prater, Ches Thurber, and Stephen Zunes have tallied 585 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, and rallies in the United States and analyzed who protested in March and why. Aside from analyzing where protests began, what symbols were used, and how many arrests occurred at each protest, the authors broke down their analysis into three basic groups: the opposition to, the support for, and protests that were neither for nor against President Trump.
In 1859, an association of Concord’s famers hired Henry David Thoreau to measure the abutments of all the brides that crossed the river upstream from Billerica in order to determine how much the bridges contributed to flooding. Thoreau write a literary map of the river running through his hometown in his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. This map is at the center of Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robert Thorson’s latest book, The Boatman: Henry David Thoreau’s River Years. Thorson argues in his book: “[Thoreau] properly interpreted most of the key ideas in fluvial geomorphology a half century before the subject was invented.”
“‘Hey, mom! I survived the Cuban Missile Crisis!’ declared by 11 year-old on Easter morning 2017 here in South Korea where we live,” writes Professor of History Alexis Dudden who reflects on the growing tensions in Northeast Asia following “The Easter 2017 Crisis,” which Dudden claims has made war more conceivable. “A week later, this dangerous situation is only getting worse, with bloggers laying odds on another North Korean nuclear test fractured into subgroups of the likelihood and substance of America’s response,” Dudden says.
Reducing the cost of medical care is often underemphasized in discussions about reforming the health care system, despite the fact that lowering these costs is essential for broadening access to care and ensuring better health. Many politicians have called for price caps to control drug prices, but these caps don’t provide the deserved products at lower prices. Instead, caps always restrict availability of a product. Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Thomas Abbott and his colleagues researched how pharmaceutical price controls diminish incentives, and they found that cutting prices by 40-50% leads to 30-60% fewer early stage research and development projects.
Because Governor Dannel P. Malloy will not be pursuing another term in office, he will be free to pursue his vision for Connecticut. “This will allow Malloy to strike hard bargains,” Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin says. “Now he can strike deals with Republicans who know he can’t turn around politically and claim he forced them to be bipartisan.” Malloy’s ability to threaten employee layoffs has also increased his credibility, according to Schurin. “He can use it for powerful bargaining power.”
Learning a new language fosters community and understanding between people of all political persuasions and nationalities. People who speak several languages often report that they feel like different people when they speak in a different language. Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences Nairan Ramírez-Esparza has researched this phenomenon. In one study, she had Mexican-American subjects talk about themselves in both English and Spanish. “In English, they spoke of their achievements, college, and daily activities. In Spanish, the subjects talked about themselves in relation to their families, relationships, and hobbies,” says Ramírez-Esparza. She explains this is because language primes behavior. English is individualistic, whereas Spanish primes you to be more communal.
New research conducted by Professor of Economics Kenneth Couch and Senior Economist at Social Security’s Office of Retirement Barbara Smith has found that workers who receive Social Security benefits statements by mail are less likely to claim benefits early, which can make for a more secure retirement. However, the Social Security Administration announced a sharp cutback in its mailings this January on on account of budgetary pressure. “Our results, although preliminary, suggest that the provision of information might be an effective tool for policymakers interested in encouraging retirement security by having workers delay claiming Social Security benefits and work longer,” Couch and Smith wrote.
“Many of our planet’s most beautiful areas are also sites of intense conflicts,” says Assistant Professor of Political Science Prakash Kashwan. These tensions occur all over the world, including wealthy nations like the United States, where conflicts continue to simmer over the control of federal lands and national wildlife refuges. “But in former colonies in Asia and Africa, the contemporary effects of colonial land acquisitions are made even more complex by continuing social divisions based on caste or ethnicity,” Kashway says. “My research shows that when countries protect the rights of forest-dependent people and support popular participation in the political process, they are better able to handle conflicts over the environment.”
Culture and experience contribute to the process that translates a complex acoustic stimulus into an intelligible message according to an article by Associate Professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Emily Myers. “During the past decade or so, psychologists, neuroscientists, and acousticians have made tremendous strides in understanding the quasi-magical process of putting your thoughts into someone else’s head,” Myers says.
Self-Care initially caught on as a medical concept. It has long been discussed among medical professionals as a way for patients to treat themselves and exercise healthy habits. In the past few years, self-care has become a popular topic within the black community once again. “It’s kind of frowned on to think about self-care; people thing it’s kind of selfish,” Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences Monnica Williams says. However, the lack of attention given to one’s own stress levels, diet, and fitness can lead to medical issues later in life.
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and co-authors Erica Chenoweth, Jonathan Pinckney, and Stephen Zunes have been counting political crowds since the Women’s Marches on January 21. They have tallied 762 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, and rallies in the United States for February 2017. “Overall, we are struck by the peaceful nature of the protests, particularly given the consistent protest activity throughout the month,” they wrote. “At more than 700 events, no arrests were made.”
Professor of English Gina Barreca talks about why she likes teaching at a public university. “I was the first woman in my family to go to college, practically the first to graduate from high school in a timely fashion. I entered Dartmouth in 1975,” Barreca says. “Except in my case it was more like breaking and entering.” Barreca then writes about her experiences in various schools and ends up at the conclusion that what goes on in the actual classrooms at public institutions is just as good as what takes place in “ivied” campuses.
Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Marlene Schwartz comments on the notion of a time delay being implemented when waiting for an unhealthy snack to make people want it less. Schwartz says we are still a little unclear why making people wait for junk food works. “It could be that people don’t like waiting and will pick a quicker choice,” Schwartz says. “It’s clear in these machines which are healthier options. Building this (time delay) in probably increases the amount of attention to healthier options.” However, there could be some risk. “There is a risk that people would get upset with the delay because people know it’s just to influence their behavior. Some might complain,” she says.
According to a new study from Portugal, the addition of a placebo pill to a treatment for chronic low back pain resulted in clinically significant improvements in patients who were informed about the placebo beforehand. “We knew that placebos are effective for pain relief, but also that the deception assumed to be necessary for them to work constituted an ethical barrier to their use,” said the study’s co-author Emeritus Professor of Psychological Sciences Irving Kirsch. “We did this study to see if we could eliminate this barrier to the use of placebo.”
Emeritus Professor of Political Science David RePass writes about how both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have encountered problems in the presidential primaries this election cycle. “One can easily assume that both parties will be looking to revise their primary rules,” RePass says. RePass explains that there are three fundamental problems with primaries: the parties no longer nominate their own candidates, voters are given an impossible job, and primaries provide an inviting stage on which demagogues can perform.
Professor of English Gina Barreca talks about the conversations we’re having that seem to be increasingly belligerent, unkind, and ruthless to crush the opposition rather than listen to what they have to say. “Could it be that what we fear most is that our positions might change?” Barreca asks. “We all need to examine our beliefs, air them out, and let them breathe.”
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite commonly found in cats, but it can also be carried by other warm-blooded animals, including humans. It lives inside one third of UK’s population, in fact. A new study has discovered how the parasite uses a key protein to form a communication network and ultimately continue the infection process. “We’ve known for many years that actin was an important protein needed for parasite entry into host cells,” Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Aoife Heaslip said. “However, our recent discovery that actin forms communication channels between parasites as they grow inside host cells adds a whole new dimension to our understanding.”
Denialism is inevitable when powerful financial, governmental, cultural, or religious interests conflict with scientific reality. For example, HIV researcher Glenda Gray say this first-hand when South African president Thabo Mbeki refused to accept the link between HIV and AIDS. Professor of Psychological Sciences Seth Kalichman says, “Denial always starts with a cadre of pseudo-experts with some credentials that create a facade of credibility.
Professor in Residence of Mathematics Jay Vadiveloo is the Director of the recently endowed Janet & Mark L. Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research. The center will join the Travelers Institute in hosting its national Cyber: Prepare, Prevent, Mitigate, Restore℠ educational series to Hartford. The series is intended to help small and midsize business leaders learn to prepare for and respond to cyber threats.
There is an increasingly dense ecosystem of conservative news sites aimed at millennials. There are 75 million millennials in the United States, and not all of them find the ethos of “lefty” news sites like Vox or Mic. “There’s a market out there,” says Associate Professor of Communication Dave D’Alessio. “[The idea is that there is] money in these niches.”
According to a study led by Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences Nairan Ramirez-Esparza, our perceptions of culture associated with a given language can impact our behavior. The study involved asking bilingual Mexican Americans to take a personality test in both English and Spanish. Subjects scored higher in extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness when they took the English test, which they speculate might be due to the characteristics typical of individualistic cultures.
A county in Maryland engaged in a three-year onslaught of TV ads, digital marketing, direct mail, outdoor ads, and social media against sugary beverages in an attempt to reduce sales of sweetened beverages. “One of the features of Howard County that I think people find surprising is how diverse it is,” said the Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Marlene Schwartz. “Honestly, the reason I was excited by [the study] is, I grew up in Howard County, even though I live in Connecticut now,” she explained.
A recent study conducted by Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology David Wagner has found that power lines actually serve a vital role in maintaining the health of a significant population. In the Northeast, in regions with high human population density, power lines are vital t the conservation of species. “All manner of vertebrate and invertebrate life, as well as a wide range of wild flowers and other native plants flourish there,” Wagner said.
Kristiina Hurme, a research specialist in ecology and evolutionary biology, talks about how hummingbirds are typically solitary and territorial, even aggressive. “Hummingbirds are mean to everybody,” Hurme says. These birds limit their social interactions to feeding and mating, she explains.
Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago writes about a recent poll that showed 41 percent of respondents did not believe that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens, and 15 percent were unsure. “Today, being born in Puerto Rico is tantamount to being born in the United States,” Venator-Santiago says. “But it wasn’t always that way, and a lot of ambiguity still remains.” Venator-Santiago has also been featured in NBC News, Time, and U.S. News.
President Trump’s travel ban has had repercussions for the academic community. 177 scholars chose to not attend the International Studies Association (ISA) annual conference in Baltimore last week. Distinguished Professor of Geography Mark Boyer said that 40 to 50 of the non-attendees were directly impacted by Trump’s travel ban, and the rest opted out of going for fear of being profiled, questioned, detained, or barred from entering the U.S. “It is absolutely an impediment in terms of our work as academics in researching, investigating, and making the world a better place,” Boyer said.
Assistant Professor of Political Science Veronica Herrera studies the widespread problems with water in Mexican cities. In her book, “Water and Politics: Clientelism and Reform in Urban Mexico,” she explains that the real challenge of providing high-quality water is not financial or technical. “Instead, politics are what hinder access to safe water in Mexico’s cities — and many of the same political issues also may be at work in U.S. cities,” Herrera says.
Online health tools with good and controlled communication skills can promote healthier lifestyles. However, if these online tools use a conversational tone, they may lull users into a false sense of comfort. Assistant Professor of Communication Saraswathi Bellur explains that although the back-and-forth feel of a conversation could lead to improved health intentions, a conversational tone may make users feel less susceptible to health risks. “If you want people to stand up and take action, this type of friendly turn-taking softens the effect,” Bellur said. “However, if the goal of the interaction is to promote a sense of comfort among individuals, the same conversational tone strategy could work well, with the online tool acting like a virtual coach and providing reassurance.” Bellur was also featured in Mobi Health News.
Biologists say that approximately half of the species on Earth today could be gone by the middle of the century unless humans tackle climate change and slow our population growth. Given this prediction, a 2015 study conducted by Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Mark Urban suggested that one in six species, approximately 16 percent of species, could become extinct by 2100.
Public health organizations and groups aiming to end hunger are all advocates for food stamps, but the topic of restrictions has them disagreeing. Public health organizations have pushed for restrictions because the current rules endorse unhealthy habits, while groups aiming to end hunger are against regulations. The Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Marlene Schwartz says the disagreement is fueled by distrust. She says that the groups fighting against hunger often receive funding and resources from the food and soda industries. If restrictions are implemented, their funding may diminish. “That’s where it gets really tricky,” Schwartz says. Schwartz was also featured in Bangor Daily News.
The My Favorite Murder podcast seems to be made for true-crime fans, but it stands out from other true-crime media because it goes beyond merely thrilling or scaring the audience. The podcast’s host also talk openly about their own struggles with anxiety, depression, alcoholism, and drug use. Professor of English Gina Barreca thinks My Favorite Murder is an example of women using comedy as a source of empowerment. She paraphrases Margaret Atwood’s observation that women’s greatest fear is that they will be likely killed by men, while men’s greatest fear is that women will laugh at them. “That’s the whole Wizard of Oz effect,” Barreca says. “‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,’ or the man behind the mask. Rip it away, and you take some of his power away in that laughter. You’re not taking his terror seriously.”
Jamie Vaudrey, an assistant research professor in marine sciences, has developed a model that can pinpoint sources of nitrogen pollution along the Long Island Sound. It can be used to show municipalities what they might do to alleviate the growing problem. “[The model] is a tool for citizens and managers to explore the impact of different actions,” Vaudrey said. Vaudrey is also starting work on a second model that will look at what happens in coastal waters when nitrogen is introduced. Vaudrey was also featured in Health Medicine Network.
Hundreds of scientists and supporters rallied in Boston’s Copley Square on Sunday, February 19, demanding that the Trump administration accept empirical reality on issues like climate change. Physics Ph.D. student Perry Hatchfield attended the rally. “Science and education are the future, and denying that denies us a future,” Hatchfield said.
Associate Professor of Political Science Evelyn Simien‘s research has focused on the relationship between black presidential candidates and potential voters. Obama’s success, Simien attributes partly to his rhetoric that was aimed at satisfying diverse constituents across racial and ethnic groups. “Obama used universal, color-blind language that appealed to most Americans,” Simien wrote. “Still, pundits pondered whether a black man, elected by a white majority with support of African-American voters, represented a psychological, but not necessarily substantive, triumph over race.”
Tiffany Tran ’19 (CLAS), a molecular and cell biology major and the CFO of Her Campus for UConn, interviewed fellow molecular and cell biology student Aziz Sandhu ’19 (CLAS) about her UConn experience. Sandhu is highly involved in service and leadership programs at UConn. “The ability to have a meaningful dialogue and learn and listen to individuals different from yourself is something that UConn’s enriched student body really allows for,” Sandhu said.
On Wednesday, February 15, the military tracked a Russian spy ship moving up the East Coast, which some political figures are calling another aggressive action by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Distinguished Professor of History Frank Costigliola, a foreign policy expert, said the Russian ship would bee off the Connecticut shore trying to collect information no matter who was in the White House. “The only way a war would come is from a miscalculation,” Costigliola said. “The more information we know about each other, the better.”
President Trump’s executive order on immigration and talk of a Muslim registry seems reminiscent of World War II, when Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps. Professor of English and Director of the Asian and Asian-American Studies Institute Cathy Schlund-Vials joins the conversation about this history and why the University of Connecticut opened up its campus to some young internees.
With tensions running high between the White House and much of mainstream media, WNPR asks what the role of the local press will be under Donald Trump’s presidency? WNPR’s John Dankosky, Assistant Professor of Journalism Marie Shanahan, and reporters from The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, held a live, in-studio town hall meeting to discuss the changing face of news and media.
Professor of History Manisha Sinha analyzes Daina Ramey Berry’s new book, “The Price for Their Pound of Flesh,” which reinforces the trend of dismantling the portrayal of slavery as a paternalistic institution. “It not only emphasizes the horrific nature of the so-called peculiar institution but also its central place in the grown of early capitalism in the western world.”
U.S. News, February 13, 2017
A recent study led by Professor of Psychological Sciences Seth Kalichman has found that unprotected anal sex among men, both HIV uninfected and HIV-positive, has risen since the treatment of HIV infections has been revolutionized by antiretroviral therapies (ART). Kalichman and his team have analyzed surveys from 1997, 2005, 2006, and 2015 where gay men provided anonymous information about their substance use, sexual behavior, beliefs about HIV treatment, and how they perceive sexual risks in relation to the HIV treatment status of potential sex partners. Kalichman was also featured in HealthDay and Science Newsline.
In 1856, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner delivered a 112-page handwritten address called “The Crime Against Kansas,” which has become one of American history’s most inflammatory and dangerous speeches. Sumner’s popularity with the abolitionist crowd did not go over well with Southern plantation owners. “Southerners had declared abolitionists miscreants and criminals,” said Professor of History Manisha Sinha. “There were laws in Southern states that said you could be imprisoned for speaking out against slavery, so to have someone like Sumner speaking out in Congress really galled them.”
The Post Star, February 7, 2017
Associate Professor of Political Science Evelyn Simien has researched the relationship between black presidential candidates and potential voters. The research has shown that white voters tend to ascribe characteristics to black candidates that place them at a disadvantage. “That’s why Barack Obama’s presidency has become synonymous with an end goal of the civil rights movement and a source of pride for so many Americans,” Simien wrote. “His campaign experience, like that of predecessors Shirley Chisholm and Jesse Jackson, suggests something about the extent to which African-Americans have gained acceptance as legitimate political actors.”
The Trump administration’s executive order on January 27 barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States has had diplomatic and legal reverberations. This includes professionals who oversee and coordinate meetings and conventions in the business of corporate travel. Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Geography Mark Boyer was finalizing details for his group, the International Studies Association, to meet for their annual convention when this order was signed. “An enormous number of the attendees at our convention are coming from outside North America,” Boyer said. “That obviously raises a lot of implications.” He estimates at least 100 attendees might decide not to attend.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation proceedings as nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court could prove to be important to several senators from New England. Democrats, in particular, want a fight against Trump’s decision, and they view Senator Chris Murphy as a “rising star with national potential.” Associate Professor in Residence of Political Science Ron Schurin notes that while the state’s liberal base wants Democrats to reject all Trump nominees, Murphy has not done that. “[Murphy] is picking and choosing carefully, but I expect that if the right moment comes on Gorsuch, particularly in the area of gun control, Murphy will lead a fight,” Schurin said.
Following the inauguration on January 20, 2017, millions of protestors have gathered across the globe. Despite presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway telling NBC, “There’s really no way to quantify crowd numbers,” digital humanists, data scientists, librarians, and geographers disagree. For instance, Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and Erica Chenoweth of the University of Denver began a Google Doc to collect crowd-sourced estimates from the Women’s Marches.
A recent study has found that shaming an overweight or obese person into losing weight may raise their risk for heart disease and other health problems. Professor in Residence of Human Development and Family Studies and Deputy Director of the Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity Rebecca Puhl said “[these findings suggest that weight stigma and fat shaming] go much deeper than the inappropriate remarks or hurt feelings.” The study’s authors said obese people are viewed as lazy, without willpower, unattractive, and to blame for their weight, which leaves them feeling stigmatized. Previous studies have also linked feeling stigmatized about weight to further weight gain and emotional distress. Puhl was also featured on WebMD.
Mr. Obama’s legacy as the first African-American president also contains his legacy as a historian. Among his contributions, Mr. Obama’s monument designations don’t just put more diverse history on the table, but they also reflect current scholarly emphasis on the ways marginalized groups demanded their own rights to get politicians to act. Professor of History Manisha Sinha, pointed to Fort Monroe in Virginia, which was Mr. Obama’s first monument designation in 2011. The focus of this monument is mainly on the enslaved African-Americans who sought refuge there early in the Civil War, setting off the argument that ultimately led to the Emancipation Proclamation. “It shows Obama understands emancipation wasn’t just about Lincoln, but part of a more complicated historical process,” Sinha said.
On Saturday, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, approximately 3 million Americans turned out for street protests. This is unprecedented. The crowd estimate comes from the work of Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman and Erica Chenoweth of the University of Denver, who tracked down figures from newspapers and other sources around the U.S. Adding up their low estimates suggests 3.33 million protestors took to the streets. Their high estimate is a total of 4.63 million protestors. Pressman was also featured in Fortune.
In today’s era of “fake news,” national tabloids now seem nostalgically innocent. Fake news is much more serious and is beginning to reshape our civic environment because of how quickly it spreads through social media and then permeates into national media. Professor and Director of Philosophy Michael Lynch said, “Fake news has the effect of getting people not to believe real things.” He adds that it is up to us to recognize that there are media sources that traffic in fake news and we need to discriminate what is a reliable source.
After the Women’s March in Washington and ‘sister marches’ across the world, some wonder if one day of marches can make a major difference. “The marches of the sixties on civil rights led to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act,” said Professor of Political Science Paul Herrnson. “The marches and protests on Vietnam also had an impact. Lyndon Johnson decided not to seek his party’s presidential nomination for another term as a result of those marches.” Herrnson said there is a key ingredient at play: the follow-up. He said, “You know, American politics is really about sustained interest and sustained pressure. It’s about organizing. It’s about making sure that, over time, policymakers hear what you have to say and get the sense that you are determined.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman aggregated the data from public reports of crowd sizes at the women’s marches across America and reached an astonishing conclusion: more than 1 in every 100 people turned out to march against President Trump and for women’s rights on the second day of his presidency. “The overall number is bigger than I expected,” Pressman said. “With a low estimate it’s a little bit above 1 percent, and with a higher estimate, it’s probably close to 1.5 percent.”
Associate Professor of Chemistry Nicholas Leadbeater tackles the question, “Is laughing gas a bad thing?” Leadbeater said that despite the fact that nitrous oxide (laughing gas) has been used for many years as an anesthetic, the exact way that nitrous oxide works is still not fully understood. Inhalation of nitrous oxide to cause euphoria or hallucinations began in 1799 among the British upper class at what was known as “laughing gas parties” and is a tradition that lives on today. But there are risks of asphyxiation, rapid reduction in the blood’s level of oxygen, and can easily be mistaken for dangerous gases like butane, Leadbeater warns. “With this in mind, it is probably saver to get your laughs from your favorite stand-up comedian rather than a whiff of nitrous oxide.” Leadbeater was also featured in Inside Higher Ed.
Journalism Lecturer Terese Karmel grew up in the Nation’s Capital where she saw Inauguration Day and the parade up close. With this year’s inauguration, Karmel reflects on year’s past and how this day has changed for her over time. “Will I watch the inauguration? The jury’s still out on that one,” Karmel wrote. “But if I watch this parade unfold through the streets of my fondest memories, I’ll have my mind on another march the next day: the woman’s march in Washington.”
Nitrous oxide plays a significant role in greenhouse warming and the destruction of the ozone layer. Recently, an international group os scientists have discovered that the production of the potent greenhouse gas N2O can be bypassed as complex nitrogen compounds in soils, water, and fertilizers break down into the unreactive nitrogen gas that makes up most of Earth’s atmosphere. These findings were published in a recent edition of Nature Scientific Reports, authored by Associate Professor of Marine Sciences Craig Tobias as well as lead author Rebecca Phillips of New Zealand’s Landcare Research Institute, Landcare colleagues Andrew McMillan, Gwen Grelet, Bevan Weir, and Palmada Thilak. Tobias was also featured in Health Medicine Network.
Since it first went online in 1998, millions of people have used Harvard’s Project Implicit Website to check their implicit biases. The link between unconscious bias and biased behavior has long been debated among scholars, now has new reason to doubt the connection. Professor of Psychological Sciences Hart Blanton was not shocked. For years, Blanton has argued the Implicit Association Test is not all it’s cracked up to be. Blanton and co-authors wrote, “the IAT provides little insight into who will discriminate against whom, and provides no more insight than explicit measures of bias.”
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Peter Turchin was published in Nature regarding his work in mathematical modeling and statistical analysis of historical societies and how it applies to our modern society. Turchin then looked at his prediction of turmoil in light of the election of Donald Trump. “The presidential election which we have experienced, unfortunately, confirms this forecast. We seem to be well on track for the 2020s instability peak,” Turchin said. “And although the election is over, the deep structural forces that brought us the current political crisis have not gone away. If anything, the negative trends seem to be accelerating.” Turchin was also featured in The New York Post and Daily Mail.
Distinguished Professor of Geography Mark Boyer writes about the political divide when talking about climate change. Boyer explains that even as a climate change researcher, he can understand why some want to deny climate change is happening. Boyer writes, “What I have greater difficulty understanding are those who spin conspiracy theories about a climate hoax. Most policy areas are informed by science, but the climate debate generally focuses on those who ‘believe’ in climate change versus those who do not.”
Professor of English Gina Barreca said the one thing you need to do in 2017 is write everything down. She said, “Write down the great ideas you have in the middle of the night, the plots to novels, the blueprints for inventions, the obvious next steps for launching ourselves into fabulous careers and simultaneously solving the problems of the universe.” Barreca added, “While most of these will not make sense int he morning, to have a record of them is both fascinating and hilarious.”
Studies have shown that most people choose the pursuit of happiness over the pursuit of meaning, but that the surest path to true happiness actually lies in chasing a meaningful life. The pursuit of happiness ultimately has a negative affect on our well-being. According to a paper published by Professor of Psychological Sciences Crystal Park and Ph.D. student Login George, there are three features that meaningful lives have in common: purpose, comprehension, and mattering.
The Israeli government and Republicans in Congress have expressed outrage over the Obama administration’s decision to allow for an adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution that condemns Israel’s settlement construction. That said, Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman said, “Virtually every U.S. administration in the last 30 to 40 years has allowed a resolution critical of Israel, particularly of settlements, to pass through abstention.” Pressman added that the strong reaction to the Obama administration’s abstaining vote had to do with it’s timing.
Recently researchers have delved back into the long-debated question of whether or not women should take off from work after having a baby, looking specifically at children born in or after 2000. Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Caitlin Lombardi said, “There wasn’t any negative link between returning to work early and children’s development, both in terms of academic and behavioral skills.” Lombardi and colleague Rebekah Levine of Boston College said there were still some situations where this was not the case.
Professor of English Gina Barreca asks, “What do you consider a safe yet intriguing topic for conversation?” Barreca wonders if such a thing exists these days, since discussing what used to be acceptable topics such as weather or health can cause a fight. Barreca wrote, “But because we need to exist in the world as social animals, what neutral conversational territories — if any — can we approach without trepidation?”
A few days after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his visit to Pearl Harbor, reports emerged that this would actually be the fourth, not the first, Japanese prime minister to visit the U.S. When answering questions about why these previous visits had not been recognized by the Japanese government, Mr. Abe’s chief cabinet secretary told reporters that Mr. Abe would be “the first to express remorse” at the Pearl Harbor memorial. Professor of History Alexis Dudden said that the politics of apology only began to gain currency by the 1980s. Dudden added that Mr. Abe’s visit represents “a formulaic understanding of contrition that enables a nation to reinstate itself as sufficiently contrite in order to move on into the future.”
Richard French interviewed Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Michael Ego about the legacy of the Japanese Internment Campus during WWII in light of President-elect calling for a Muslim registry.
A study by Associate Professor of Sociology Maya Beasley found that nearly 90 percent of search consultants used to find high-level executives for environmental organizations have encountered bias at the hiring organizations. The result of pervasive bias is that approximately 15 percent of workers at environmental organizations are people of color. “What I’d like to emphasize is that the solution is not to take the bias out of people — that doesn’t work,” Beasley wrote. “Instead, what we want to work on is minimizing the impact of bias in searches.”
With the holidays just around the corner Professor of English Gina Barreca asks the important question, “Who will you be this Christmas?” since “major holidays rarely encourage us to be ourselves.” Her top-seller prediction list is includes the disgruntled voter, the TV series aficionado, the American, the perfectionist, the philatelist, and the young adult who brings a pet.
Four years following the massacre at Sandy Hook, the nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise is building a movement to push for gun control. Instead of tackling gun control as a political problem, Sandy Hook Promise is trying to reshape attitudes on the issue. Associate Professor of Sociology Maya Beasley said it’s a smart approach. She said it is more relatable to put a face on the tragedy of school shootings. “How can you look at those young children and say they don’t deserve to be protected?” Beasley added.
1200 scholars of United States history and related fields express their concern and alarm as we moved from a divisive campaign season to the election of Donald Trump as president-elect. Among these scholars are many faculty from UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Assistant Professor of History Jason Chang, Associate Professor of History Bradley Simpson, Professors of History Jeffrey Ogbar and Manisha Sinha, as well as Assistant Professor in Residence of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Sherry Zane.
Associate Professor of Sociology Maya Beasley authored a study titled “Diversity Derailed: Limited Demand, Effort and Results in Environmental C-Suite Searches,” which found that nearly 90 percent of search consultants have encountered bias on the part of the organizations using them during their search for senior-level positions. “This [study] is one of the few to examine the specific organizational practices that show workplace inequality, not only in the environmental sector but in any sector or industry,” Beasley said. “And it is the first study that solely focuses on the efficacy of search firms on the practices that they employ to increase diversity.”
Professor of English Gina Barreca talks maturity in her latest piece. Barreca writes, “Here’s what maturity does: Maturity fills the salt-shakers and it wipes down the shelves in the fridge when they’re sticky. It empties the kitty litter before stalagmites form. Maturity understands that there can be one junk drawer in a house, but not 27.” She contrasts her vivid description of maturity by writing, “immaturity is spoiled,” immaturity makes “excuses to slip the knot of accountability.”
Philly.com, December 10, 2016
Comment sections for news stories have become a “bare-knuckle space.” According to research, women are the most-frequent targets. The Guardian published that eight of the ten most abused writers were women. Assistant Professor of Journalism Marie Shanahan has studied online commenting and said news organizations need to find a way to push thoughtful comments to the top. “We need some smart people to realize how subversive humans are, and to temper that subversiveness so we can do something constructive,” Shanahan said.
Researchers including Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Jill Wegrzyn and a team out of the University of California Davis have sequenced both the genome and transcriptome of the sugar pine. The sugar pine is one of the world’s tallest trees, reaching 76 meters in height, and may have a lifespan of 500 years. Recently, the sugar pine has suffered damage from white pine rust, making this research important.
Professor of English Gina Barreca talks about how personal diets have replaced personal philosophies. “Rules of everything from morality to etiquette no longer appear to apply. People will eagerly discuss their open relationships, their dismissal of religion, the fact that they didn’t vote, their contempt for handwritten notes, and their sexually transmitted diseases,” Barreca wrote. “Yet these same people will also threaten never to speak to you again if you serve them runny eggs.”
Many people voiced concerns regarding the recent article titled “Are Jews White?” for a variety of reasons, including concerns over dog-whistling white nationalists, believing it promotes the use of racial categories, and thinking it reinforces stereotypes. But The Atlantic is keeping the headline for a variety of reasons. One such reason is backed by the scholarship of Professor of Philosophy Lewis Gordon. The idea is that by asking “are Jews white?” is really a way of questioning the lack of racial awareness among some American Jews. It is meant to highlight all of the things that challenge the notion that Jews are un-complicatedly white, including the experiences of Jews of color.
Health News Digest, December 7, 2016
Under the tutelage of Professors of Chemistry James Rusling and Challa Kumar, Chemistry Ph.D. student Islam Mosa is developing a new micro-scale power source that is smaller and more efficient than the batteries currently used in most cardiac pacemakers. “Our supercapacitors are thinner than a human hair,” Mosa said. “They are also very stable. They could be designed to power a cardiac pacemaker for the life of a patient.” The efficiency of the power source allows it to remained charged for a long time. This feature would make it suitable for other bioelectronic devices like implantable neurostimulators, which are used to treat some patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Trump’s election has reopened questions that have long seemed settled, including the acceptability of open discrimination against minority groups. Given recent political attacks against Jews, raises the interesting question: are Jews white? During the peak of Jewish immigration, many Jews lived in tightly knit urban communities that were distinctly marked as separate from other American cultures. But over time, they assimilated. “Ironically, investment in religiosity paved the way for greater white identification of many Jews,” said Professor of Philosophy Lewis Gordon. This allowed more religiously observant Jews to think of themselves as white, rather than ethnically Jewish.
CNN president Jeff Zucker has received a lot of criticism for his network’s coverage of the 2016 Presidential election. One analysis has shown that Trump received roughly $3 billion in free advertising via news coverage during his campaign, which has raised accusations of bias in the media. However, accusations from all sides of the political aisle are often overblown, according to Associate Professor of Communication David D’Alessio. “We know that, when people look at a story, they pick out the stuff that disagrees with them and they point at that and say, ‘this is a biased story,'” D’Alessio said. When it comes to cable news networks, D’Alessio states that the disproportionate coverage of Trump’s campaign was less about political bias and more a factor of Trump’s manipulation of the modern media landscape.
TEDx Vienna, November 26, 2016
Emeritus Professor of Physics Ronald Mallett presented a Ted Talk on the real science of time travel. “Is time travel even possible? That is a question that has haunted me my whole life,” Mallett said at the outset of his talk. The Ted Talk then focuses on theories of relativity and quantum mechanics to scientifically explain the possibility of traveling to the past and the future. “So is time travel possible?” Mallett asked. “Yes, scientifically, it is possible. And it will occur in this century, which I believe will be the century of time travel.”
A new experimental treatment uses MDMA, better known as Ecstasy, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The treatment has been controversial because MDMA was listed as a “Schedule 1 substance,” which is a category reserved for substances with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Removing drugs from Schedule 1 is rare but not unheard of. “I was skeptical at first,” Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences Monica Williams said. “But seeing videotapes of all the patients who seemed to get so much better, I was converted.” Williams added, “If we can find a way to make treatment less awful and more humane, I’m all for it.”
In the fallout of the Chernobyl disaster, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. The negative effects are still being seen to this day with those affected continuing to struggle, living in fear of the long-lasting consequences of exposure to radiation. Some say that small doses of radiation are actually good for people of middle or old age, while others suggest that drinking red wine or swabbing the throat with antiseptic iodine can protect against radiation. Research conducted by Professor of Anthropology Richard Sosis corroborates this notion. Sosis has studied the effects of psalm recitation and found that, among secular women, those who recited psalms to cope with violence experienced lower anxiety.
Three UConn researchers, including Associate Professor of Geography Carol Atkinson-Palombo as well as Norman Garrick and Hamed Ahangari in the department of civil and environmental engineering, have looked at the increases in traffic fatalities over the past two years in the U.S. We are currently on track to kill 38,000 vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians in 2016. Their research concludes that there is nothing surprising about these statistics because traffic fatality rates have been highly sensitive to fluctuations in gas prices and cyclical variations in macro-economic conditions like the unemployment rate.
According to a new report from the Connecticut Audubon Society, the saltmarsh sparrow could soon become the first bird to go extinct in the continental United States in more than eighty years. A study authored by Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Chris Elphick last year found that many restoration efforts have failed to create more suitable nesting habitats for the saltmarsh sparrows. Elphick said that this is partly because most of the projects focus on conserving vegetation, not the sparrows.
Teledyne Optech lidar technology builds a 3-D model of a surface that includes the grass, bushes and trees, and also creates a “bare-earth” version of the surface that strips all that away. Kate Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in the geography department, has been using the lidar technology with her advisor in order to advance the study of landscape history in New England. “The advent of lidar has basically revolutionized the way we are able to study the landscape,” Johnson said.
Associate Professor of History Micki McElya’s first book, Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in 20th Century America, was included in a list compiled by author and professor Melissa Harris-Perry, entitled “24 Books, Essays, and Other Texts to Read Because You’re Still Having Trouble Processing the Election.”
The New Literature from Europe Festival returns for its 13th year to present best-selling, award-winning, and emerging authors from across the continent. Instructor in Residence of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages Peter Constantine will be joining the four-day festival alongside the European guests and many other acclaimed authors.
Food advertisements that young children see on TV can actually sway them to overeat when they aren’t even hungry, according to a new study. Marlene Schwartz, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at UConn and professor of human development and family studies, said, “Parents should not shrug off food marketing. These ads really do influence children.” A 2015 Rudd Center study found that about 40% of all food and beverage ads that children and teens see on TV advertise unhealthy snacks.
Professor of English Gina Barreca‘s latest column talked about class. She wrote, “It class a matter of identity, like gender and race? Is it a matter of loyalty? How do Americans define themselves when it comes to class?” In her discussion of class in America, Barreca brought up the election and how people often voted against what would benefit their class. “My friends who voted for Trump are, for the most part, hard-working, working-class people who I believe will be punished by the Republican administration,” Barreca said.
A recent article by Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Peter Turchin analyzes historical cycles that reflect popular well-being, inequality, social cooperation, polarization, and conflict in the U.S. Turchin wrote, “The roots of the current American predicament go back to the 1970s, when wages of workers stopped keeping pace with their productivity.” His article then examines how growing economic inequality leads to political instability.
It has been reported that the infrastructure for the wall that would separate Mexico from the United States has actually been designed for President-elect Donald Trump. Assistant Professor of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages Hassanaly Ladha expressed her anxiety about Trump’s triumph and suggested to the 3.14 Studio creative director Leonardo Diaz Borioli that what he designed was a wall that would be a dungeon.
For professors, an endowed chair means they do not have to worry about the impact of budget cuts on their work because their position is funded by private donations that are invested in a fund which generates annual income in perpetuity. The position also confers a level of prestige to a professor’s career. UConn has used these positions to hire new and replacement faculty over the past five years, including Professor of History Manisha Sinha. Sinha had been at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but the offer from UConn forced Sinha to make a decision. “Making a change seemed like the right thing to do,” Sinha said. “It gives you new energy academically and professionally.”
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Michael Ego revisited the Carnoustie Memories group in Scotland to see how work in golfing memories and football action groups for dementia suffers has been progressing. Ego was accompanied by Michael White, Football Memories manager for Alzheimer’s Scotland, and they saw the football and golf groups in action. “I wish that we could replicate back home in America what is in place here in Carnoustie. I felt that what I’ve experienced here was ground-breaking and unquestionably both enjoyed by and beneficial to all those who participate,” Ego said.
Four years ago, health advocates dumped 9.6 tons of white sand outside an Ellicott City middle school four years ago to launch Howard County Unsweetened, a campaign aiming to decrease the consumption of sugary sodas and fruit drinks. Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at UConn and professor of human development and family studies, announced that sales of soda at 15 grocery stores in Howard County dropped nearly 20%. Schwartz said, “It sort of reinforced this message that people should think twice before purchasing.” Schwartz was also featured in Health Medicine Network and Capital Bay.
This fall, a team of explorers uncovered the remains of a medieval ship at the bottom of the Black Sea that can be dated back to the 13th or 14th century. Never before has this type of ship been found in such complete form. Assistant Professor of Anthropology Kroum Batchvarov said, [the recent discoveries] far surpassed by wildest expectations.” Batchvarov explained that the wreck was part of a class known by several names, including ’round ship,’ named for how the ship’s ample girth let it carry more cargo and passengers than a warship.
Over the course of the 2016 Presidential Election, many varieties of anger have been put on display by Presidential candidates. While some forms of anger are divisive and destructive, others are actually uplifting and constructive. According to Professor of Psychological Sciences Colin Leach and co-authors Martijn van Zomeren, Russell Spears, and Agneta Fischer of the University of Amsterdam, sharing anger with other like-minded people can be empowering and lead to collective action. Their publication “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! Explaining Collective Action Tendencies Through Group-Based Anger and Group Efficacy” explains how theories of emotion are used to integrate elements of theories on collective action, which can provide insights into understanding the role of anger in the recent election.
Professor of English Gina Barreca‘s recent article humorously discusses crying on public transportation. Barreca wrote that, “Subways and tubes are the worst places to cry because the lighting flatters no one. Even riders who will unblinkingly sit next to a person who’s been homeless since 1986 will move away from a young, sobbing woman.” Past the humor, Barreca comments on society in terms of how we treat public displays of sadness, the differences between men and women, and the stigma. “I don’t cry much anymore. It’s like a habit I’ve given up, like biting my cuticles,” Barreca concluded. “Tears, like time, are a currency that has increased in value. I used up a lot of it when I was younger; what remains I want to make sure is well spent.”
This election cycle has revealed the dark side of technological progress with the same social media platforms that put a world of information in our reach being used to undermine the truth. “From a contradiction, you can derive anything,” Professor and Director of Philosophy Michael Lynch said. “You get people to a point where they’re receiving contradictory signals, and they start to just ignore the bit that seems inconsistent with their own beliefs.” All this makes political discourse difficult because the two sides cannot agree on even a basic set of facts.
This year, various counties across the country leveraged geographic information systems (GIS) for voting purposes. Software company Esri’s mapping technology allowed individuals to cast their ballots at just about any polling place in their county. Professor of Political Science Paul Herrnson said, “From the voters’ perspective, its impact on election day is probably limited.” He added, “Most voters go to the polls when they can–before or after work.” The concern being that, for some, seeing how long they’ll have to wait to vote might be discouraging, which is why this software really does have a big impact.
The recent article written by Assistant Professor of Political Science Prakash Kashwan explained that “the international campaigns for nature conservation in countries with higher levels of inequality and less effective democracy tend to get entangled with the vested interests of leaders and officials. This ends up wasting many of the resources directed towards conservation efforts — and has a serious impact on indigenous and other forest-dependent communities.” He said that while the world is constantly adding more ‘protected’ land, this expansion is not what it seems. Ultimately, Kashwan argued, “Instead of chasing ever-larger targets, effectively protecting the lands already under ‘protection’ might be a better option.”
Fall colors can be impacted in surprisingly complex ways by weather and climate. Emeritus Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology John Silander said, “There’s not a simple story.” This year’s drought across New England and the Southeast has led to variation in fall leaf change, and climate change could have similarly complicated impacts on fall foliage. “What I think people have seen is just a lot of variability,” Silander said. “Some species are much more sensitive to drought than other species.”
The paper “Antitrust: Where Did it Come From and What Did it Mean?,” written by Professor of Economics Richard Langlois, is part of a book project about corporations in the twentieth century. The paper attempts to explain the decline of the vertically integrated form in the late twentieth century. In it Langlois argues, “institutions, notably various forms of non-market controls imposed by the federal government, are a critical piece of the explanation of the rise and decline of multi-unit enterprise in the U.S.” He added, “One important form of non-market control — though by no means the only form — has been antitrust policy.”
A recent study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, co-authored by Michael Hren, an assistant professor of chemistry and researcher for the center for integrative geosciences, as well as reachers at the University College Dublin, University of Michigan, Baylor University, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and Haverford College, has found that the responses plants have to climate change can have a direct effect on how the climate changes. Plant reactions amplify and cause more unpredictable outcomes. The study’s lead author Isabel Montanez with UC Davis Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences said, “Most of our estimates for future carbon dioxide levels and climate do not fully take into consideration the various feedbacks involving forests, so current projects likely underestimate the magnitude of carbon dioxide flux to the atmosphere.”
Earlier this month, Donald Trump attacked the media at a rally, claiming the media is biased. Associate Professor of Communication David D’Alessio studies media bias in presidential elections since 1948. “Neither the overall analysis, nor any of the differences between proportions of coverage, statement, or gatekeeping bias favoring Democrats or Republicans, was statistically significant,” D’Alessio said. “Broadly speaking, I don’t trust anybody that says the media are biased because the very nature of bias is that it’s a perception — it’s something that people see and they base it on what they see,” D’Alessio added. “They see coverage as biased against their position, no matter what it is.”
EarthCube, A U.S. National Science Foundation program, designed to help geoscientists handle ever-increasing amounts of data is facing a crisis. In March, an external advisory panel warned that EarthCube still lacked a clear definition and might not be sustainable, but there are still some promising EarthCube tools on the horizon. Professor and Director of the Geography Department Lisa Boush said that five years from now, EarthCube should be nimble enough to quickly give scientists the rich, interlinked data they need. “We’ll be able to do in an easy way what would take days, weeks, or months now,” Boush added.
Throughout history, hideaways in homes have not just been a novelty, they have also provided a lifeline for people fleeing war, persecution, and slavery. “People did hide in false places and attics, places that were inaccessible in houses,” Professor of History Manisha Sinha said. “What I think is a little questionable is when everyone claims today that the attic in their house hid fugitive slaves.”
Mary Fischer, an assistant professor of sociology and co-author of a new study published in Social Science Research, has found that when members of the U.S. military leave the service, they tend to settle in neighborhoods with greater diversity than their civilian counterparts of the same race. “It’s encouraging that having served in the military appears to have a long-term impact on how people choose their neighborhoods,” Fischer said. “According to the social contact hypothesis, racial attitudes are improved and stereotypes are broken when diverse groups come together under circumstances that promote meaningful cross-group interaction, such as in the military.”
Infantile amnesia refers to the phenomenon of forgetting one’s earth childhood over time. A new study provides evidence for how infant memories recede on a neural level and that these memories can be retrieved by contextual similarities between the present and the past. This, however, can be difficult. Assistant Professor of Psychology Kimberly Cuevas explained, “Even if you had the same room, your proportions inside a room would be quite different before and after the infantile amnesia period, so that would make even the perception of the context quite different.” Cuevas added, “It’s not that the memories aren’t there, it’s that we don’t have the retrieval cues.”
Scientists have wondered for years why nearly one-third of yellow-shafted northern flickers, a types of common woodpecker, have been spotted with reddish and orange plumage. The mystery has finally been solved. Work by Jocelyn Hudon, the curator of ornithology at the Royal Alberta Museum, Robert Mulvihill, a National Aviary ornithologist, and Emeritus Professor of Physiology and Neurobiology Alan Brush, showed that when birds eat berries from two types of invasive shrubs, their feathers can change color.
Controversy was sparked recently when an unusual bloom of toxic algae closed a third of Maine’s coastline to clam and mussel harvesting, triggering a widespread shellfish recall when some shellfish tested positive for high levels of a dangerous neurotoxin. Shellfish tainted with domoic acid can cause Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), which can lead to brain damage, disorientation, short-term memory loss, seizures, and possibly death. Sandra Shumway, a research professor of marine sciences, said, “If it is showing up in high numbers, I’d be worried. It is a very nasty toxin.”
Following an officer-involved shooting of a black person, some have learned to avoid social networks altogether because of the inevitable onslaught of graphic photos and videos. For some, these images become a form of trauma that underscores a persistent lack of empathy for people of color, but others say that the videos are necessary to raise awareness. Associate Professor of Psychology Monnica Williams said, “It’s not usually the one video that traumatizes. It’s the lifetime of experiences.” She added, “These videos are the icing on the cake.”
Today, most psychologists and psychiatrists do not view Freudian dream analysis as rigorous enough to form a sturdy basis for working with patients, but it is still impossible to deny the profound legacy Freud’s views on dreams have had on the cultural and scientific landscape. Sarah Winter, a professor of english and author of Freud and the Institution of Psychoanalytic Knowledge, assisted NY Magazine with creating a quiz to gauge how much people know about Freud’s legacy.
Associate Professor of Communication Kristine Nowak co-authored a virtual reality study aimed towards enhancing empathy people feel for the natural world. Researchers hope that getting to virtually experience life from an animal’s point of view could change environmental behavior where other methods have failed. One of the challenges for virtual reality is the inability to stimulate touch to convince users that they truly inhabit their virtual bodies.
Professor of Philosophy Paul Bloomfield writes about alt-right ideology, a movement that owes a lot to Jared Taylor. According to Bloomfield, Taylor describes himself as a ‘race realist,’ which means race is a biologically legitimate category and they are not equal or equivalent. Common responses to this argument is to deny race realism by forwarding the view that race is socially constructed. Bloomfield asserts that this strategy is a mistake, and he describes how to best argue against racism. Bloomfield claims, “It is easier and better to argue against racism by agreeing with racists that the races are distinct biological populations and then argue, based on science alone, that no one race is superior to any other.”
Recently, a teacher’s aide was fired, a small-town mayor was censured, and an East Tennessee State University student was arrested for the same reason: they compared black people to apes. This racist speech has been met by swift public condemnation, yet it is also accompanied by an emboldening of white supremacist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan. Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey said, “Broader attacks on ‘political correctness’ are simply an attempt to hide the sentiment that whites are mad that they don’t get to speak any way they want to in offensive, horrible, dangerous, threatening, and illegal ways about folks of color.” Hughey added, “Trump is drawing from that well.”
Wildfires that don’t burn too hot or too cold are what Morgan Tingley, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, calls “Goldilocks fires.” In fact, wildfires like these, under the right conditions, actually help to increase the variety of birds in a forest. “I think there’s a general perception out there that fire is not good for wildlife,” Tingley said. “It’s not that interesting two years after fire, [but eight to ten years later] these areas are thriving and vibrant,” he added. Tingley said that researchers refer to this phenomenon as “pyrodiversity.”
People are getting really sick of the slave narrative, as Hollywood churns out the film “Birth of Nation,” the TV miniseries “Roots,” WGN’s series “Underground,” and the film “Free State of Jones” all just this year. Assistant Professor of History Dexter Gabriel said, “Slave films tend to reflect the politics of the moment.” He added, “We have a hard time talking about slavery to each other, so films become the surrogate. But we want to see it in ways that make us feel better in the present.” Gabriel said that some people are tired of seeing these films, but that it may be because of the common, reoccurring tropes of the “white savior” narrative, or the “Mammy” and “Uncle Tom” character. Dexter Gabriel was also featured in The News Tribune.
Accusations of infidelity are flying during the presidential debates, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliana defended Trump’s comments by claiming that everyone cheats. Research has proven that this simply is not true. People’s attitudes towards cheating have changed though, and so have their views on marriage. Assistant Professor of Sociology Christin Munsch said that surveys from the 1970s show that it was much more common for people to accept that they spouse cheated, because they weren’t looking for their partner to be their best friend, confidante, and amazing lover, like people expect today. Munsch added that people today have really strong opinions about cheating.
A 2012 study has suggested that fathers tend to be the parental figure that shapes their children’s personality the most. The study found that children are more likely to pay more attention to the parent in their lives who they perceive as having higher interpersonal power or prestige, which is typically their father. Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and the study’s co-author Ronald Rohner said, “The great emphasis on mothers and mothering in America has led to an inappropriate tendency to blame mothers for children’s behavior problems and maladjustment when, in fact, fathers are often more implicated than mothers in the development of problems such as these.”
US News has been traveling to colleges all over Connecticut, and recently stopped by UConn. While they were here, they talked to many students, most of whom are part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. These students talked about their involvement, UConn’s welcoming culture, and their various achievements since coming to the university. Journalism and Latino studies major Antonio Salazar ’18 (CLAS) said “[UConn] is like a city within itself.” He added, “There are things [here] for everybody.”
An international group of top biologists, led by Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Mark Urban, is calling for a coordinated effort to gather important species information to improve climate prediction models. “Right now, we’re treating a mouse the same way as an elephant or a fish or a tree. Yet we know that those are all very different organisms and they are going to respond to their environment in different ways,” Urban said. He added, “We need to pull on our boots, grab our binoculars, and go back into the field to gather more detailed information if we are going to make realistic predictions.”
Obesity was unexpectedly discussed at the presidential debate at Hofstra University, and some comments made by presidential nominees have sparked concern among obesity experts. Rebecca Puhl, professor in residence of human development and family studies and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, said, “We know from our research on weight stigma and discrimination that even though both men and women experience unfair treatment because of excess weight, women report these experiences at lower levels of obesity than men.” In fact, women are more likely to be discriminated for their weight in the workplace, even when their BMI is within the healthy range. Puhl was also featured in The New York Times.
A U.N. panel has declared that the U.S. owes African Americans reparations as compensation for colonialism, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, terrorism, and racial inequality. Associate Professor of Public Policy Thomas Craemer recently published an estimate of the value of U.S. slave labor owed to African Americans; it’s a staggering $5.9 trillion, corrected for inflation. Paying reparations, according to Craemer, “doesn’t bring anybody back that’s dead. It doesn’t begin to repair for the damages incurred. At least it is a symbolic gesture that is more meaningful than just saying, ‘Sorry.'”
According to Associate Professor of Psychology Monnica Williams, even if repeated viewing of physical trauma does not cause PTSD, it can still have other adverse effects such as anxiety, paranoia, and jumpiness. Even those who are not physically present during an episode of violence can still experience “vicarious trauma,” Williams said. Williams told The Huffington Post, “It’s totally natural and normal for us to be upset, confused, [and] scared about what’s going on in our society and what we’re seeing.” She added, “Often, [kid’s] take aways [are]: people like me are being shot and killed and nothing’s being done…I am not a worthwhile person…I can’t count on anybody…my life is meaningless.” Williams was also featured on PBS.
Associate Professor of Psychology Monnica Williams appeared on the Chauncey DeVega Show to discuss race and mental health, questions of identity, and racial disparities in health outcomes. Williams shared her insights on how race impacts the diagnosis of mental disorders. She also added that racism in America, “Is costing everyone a ton of money.”
A recent study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has found that children and teenagers that are obese have different microorganisms in their digestive tracts than their lean peers. The study is the first to find a connection between gut microbiota and fat distribution in children and teens. Joerg Graf, a professor of molecular and cell biology, co-authored the study titled “The Role of Gut Microbiota and Short Chain Fatty Acids in Modulating Energy Harvest and Fat Partitioning in Youth.” The research was funded by the American Heart Association, the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, the Allen Foundation Inc., and the National Intitutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
Professor in Residence of Human Development and Family Studies and Deputy Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Rebecca Puhl recommends that patients go to doctor’s offices as prepared as possible with their questions. Obese patients have faced stigma for many years that can beat them down and result in some less than helpful remedies for their ailments. For example, suggesting that a patient needs to lose 50 pounds to treat knee arthritis is a biased diagnosis, seeing as most knee pain occurs with aging to patients of all weights. Puhl thus suggested that obese patients should take a friend or family member to act as their advocate during doctor’s appointments. If the doctor is impatient or unwilling to look past a patient’s weight Puhl said, “Ask for a second opinion…or consider switching doctors.”
The extent of Fox News host Sean Hannity’s support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may become a problem with his network. While it is not the host’s first encounter with news ethics, David D’Alessio, an associate professor of communications at UConn’s Stamford campus, believes Hannity has crossed the line. D’Alessio said, “He allowed the campaign to have a more or less unfettered channel to the public. His behavior is literally ethically inappropriate.”
Three and a half years following the shooting that claimed the lives of 20 students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, town leaders of Newtown Connecticut, along with a team or architects, led members of the media on a walk around the rebuilt campus. According to Professor and Department Head of Geography Kenneth Foote, the ability to openly confront death is critical to the public process of returning a site like Sandy Hook to regular civic use. In his book, Foote writes that some cultures “have rituals that serve to lift stigma, guilt or blame, ceremonies that symbolically cleanse people and places and allow them to return to full participation in day-to-day life,” but he added, “this is not true of American society; there is no easy way for stigmatized sites to be returned to use.” Foote was also featured in Ford’s Theater Blog.
Terese Karmel, an academic specialist in journalism, has written an article about the Folger Shakespeare Library loaning each of the 50 states one of its 82 First Folios of his complete works in 2016, and that UConn was lucky enough to be selected for the state of Connecticut. Part of the reason UConn was selected was “the multidiscipline contributions from segments of the university (plays, special seminars, graphic arts posters, puppet making workshops, and other events),” wrote Karmel.
President Barack Obama just established the first marine national monument in the Atlantic, prohibiting commercial fishing and other types of extraction in a series of deep canyons and extinct undersea volcanoes more than 150 miles off the coast of southern New England. Research Emeritus Professor of Marine Sciences and Senior Research Scientist at the Mystic Aquarium Peter Auster said, “[It] looks like a walk through Dr. Seuss’s garden.” He added, “These are places where you can go and still find animals, big animals, never named by science. They are places that represent how much we have yet to learn about the oceans. They are outstanding repositories of our natural heritage for the future.”
The saltmarsh sparrow is a small bird that lives in salt marshes from Maine to Virginia. Unfortunately, this bird could be the new “poster child” for our changing coastal habitat because sea levels rising makes the bird’s future uncertain and may be the first sign of danger to an entire ecosystem. Samantha Apgar, an ecology and evolutionary biology Ph.D. student studying coastal wetland birds, said, “Flooding is an essential part of marshes. It’s just a way of life daily.” Apgar said that the salt marshes are not an easy place for any animal to live in. This is why, she said, “there are only a couple specialist species that live and breed, and spend most of their life cycles in this ecosystem.”
Gina Barreca, a professor of English, recently wrote an article commenting on the FiberFix duct tape commercial titled “Redneck Drives Duct Tape Car Off a Cliff,” which skillfully and subtly undermines the masculine mystique throughout the advertisement. The ad is both complex and subversive. “FiberFix might also fix, or at least adjust, your man’s definition of manly. It might at least help him to discuss whether the straightjacket of conventional masculinity is as confining as the one for femininity,” wrote Barreca.
Other than her gender, Hillary Clinton is a very conventional presidential candidate on account of her experience in politics, use of rhetoric, and tailored views. The reaction towards her candidacy has been unconventional though, with antipathy towards her among white men being unprecedented. A lot of this comes from perceptions of gender. Assistant Professor of Sociology Christin Munsch said that men who are economically dependent on their wives are more likely than others to be unfaithful. This relates to Hillary Clinton because the Americans who dislike her most are the ones who are the most afraid of emasculation.
Following the most recent sexting scandal, linked to former congressman Anthony Weiner, the child-welfare agency opened an investigation because Weiner’s son was in the background of the image. Regarding to whether or not this kind of photo should be reported to a child-welfare agency, Professor of Psychology Seth Kalichman told The Washington Post, “If I was sort of looking through a Twitter feed and saw sexting going on, with a young child in the picture, I believe that a citizen, a responsible citizen, should report that for investigation.” Despite this most recent image not being posted on social media, Kalichman said that did not really matter. “I think what matters is that there’s this sexualized picture with a kid in it,” he said. “That’s what matters. That’s sort of the bottom line.”
Over the past academic year, NPR Ed has followed a group of students who graduated from high school in Montgomery County, Md., outside Washington, D.C. just a few years ago to see what they find the value of higher education to be and how to get the most out of continuing one’s education. Rhys Hall, a Ph.D. student in sociology, was one student NPR interviewed. Hall said, “One tip that I would give based on my experience is applying to grants and scholarships. You might fill out 10 applications for essays and only win one, but you know what? You’ve just won $500. And it builds up.”
Professor of English Gina Barreca reflects about true laughter and the difference between photographs and real life after stumbling upon an old photograph of her from a bridal shower for her second marriage. In the photo, Barreca is wholeheartedly laughing. She wrote, “This laughter differed from the laughter I heard at showers for younger brides (including the one for my first weeding), insofar as this laughter is genuine.” More importantly, perhaps, is the ability to capture such moments in photographs. Barreca concludes her article by saying, “The best photographs are the ones that initially make us gasp, widen our eyes, shut our eyes, or laugh. It’s not the posed, poised portrait photographs we most passionately cherish but those images that, like love, joy, generosity or grace, catch us entirely unawares.”
The initial attempts to map the ocean floor occurred because Britain and America wanted to find the best place to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cable. Associate Professor of History Helen Rozwadowski said that exploring this “eighth wonder of the world,” the ocean, would boost business, trade, and would lead to a “communications breakthrough that would ensure peace between nations.”
With Donald Trump’s response to the Gold Star parents still reverberating, Micki McElya, associate professor of history at the University of Connecticut and the author of The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery (Harvard University Press, 2016), looks at the nation’s military cemetery, its history and the politics that have shaped it.
Recent studies have shown a correlation between kids who grow up with higher levels of violence as a backdrop in their lives and weaker real-time neural connections and interaction in parts of the brain involved in awareness, judgment, and ethical and emotional processing. Effectively, poverty and the conditions that often accompany it, like violence, chaos at home, pollution, malnutrition, and excessive noise, can affect the interactions, formation, and pruning of connections in a young brain. Matthew Hughey, an associate professor of sociology, worries, “We run the risk of these findings becoming fodder for a nouveau eugenics movement.” Hughey added, “The easily dispensed adage that ‘the poor’s brains are different’ is an all-too easy, scary, and simply wrong-headed approach.”
The Saltmarsh Sparrow resides along the Eastern Seaboard year-round, but can only breed on a small sliver of coastline between Maine and Virginia. Ocean levels on the East Coast are rising between two and six millimeters every year as a result of climate change, which could cause the bird’s population to plummet from 53,000 to only 5,000 within the next 25 years. Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Chris Elphick said, “This is a little piece of biological diversity, of life, that is just going to disappear and will be gone forever.” Elphick is part of a scientific task force that spans the Atlantic coast, collecting data for the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program (SHARP).
NPR Host David Greene and NPR Social Science Correspondent Shankar Vendantam’s discussed Assistant Professor of Communication Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch and colleague Jonathan Obar of York University’s experiment with public consent to legal documents such as ‘terms of service’ when you sign up for certain services or products. The experiment found that it would take the average user 40 minutes every day to read all of the privacy and terms of service policies that we encounter. As a result, the study found that people sign these documents without reading them. It raises the question of how many people are really providing their informed consent when they click ‘I agree’ on a terms of service document.
Peter Auster, a research professor emeritus of marine sciences, explained the Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts, an underwater ecological hotspot 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, as “incredible wildlife landscapes.” Auster added that taking a submarine or remote operated vehicle through them “is like a stroll through a Dr. Seuss garden.” Now, a coalition of environmentalists and scientists want the region, and another nearby area called Cashes Ledge, to be declared marine national monuments. If this happens, the Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts would be the first U.S. marine monument ever created in the Atlantic Ocean.
Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology, is the lead author of a new study that looks at married couples in relation to who is the breadwinner. “The data definitely seems to indicate that, in general, as men take responsibility for greater and greater shares of the couple’s pooled income, they experience declines in their psychological well-being and health,” said Munsch. For women, however, carrying a heavier financial load has the opposite effect. Munsch was also featured in CNN, The Guardian, and The Atlantic.
Professor of History Manisha Sinha’s recent article covers the historic 2016 Democratic Party nomination of Hillary Clinton. Sinha wrote that “the political alliance Clinton-Kaine represents is as old as the American Republic itself: The Empire State and the Commonwealth of Virginia have played starring roles in American history since the country’s founding. Sinha does maintain that the “signal difference is that the current New York-Virginia alliance embodied in the Clinton-Kaine ticket is as broad and inclusive as its previous incarnations were exclusive. It represents everyone’s democracy against one of the gravest threats to the American Republic in modern times.”
Scientists are arguing that we have more pressing matters to attend to than tackling climate change. Nature just published that practices like hunting, fishing, and agriculture are still the biggest threats to biodiversity on Earth, yet other experts caution that we don’t fully understand how severely climate change will affect plants and animals in the future. Mark Urban, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said, “Most scientists would agree that current threats to species extinction are largely dominated by exploitation and habitat degradation.” He added, “But I think we also can’t lose sight of the accelerating risks of extinction from climate change.”
New research has shown that people are twice as likely to cheat at the age of 39 and are more likely to have affairs during the last years of other decades. For instance, a 29-year-old is more likely to have an affair than a 23-year-old. Assistant Professor of Sociology Christin Munsch said infidelity is difficult to study because it is challenging for researchers to find willing participants and thus gather accurate reports, and that cheating itself is defined too inconsistently across relationships.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dimitrios Xygalatas relates modern DJs, bands, sports teams, and so on, to shamans and spiritual leaders in tribal or religious settings. Xygalatas has found empirical evidence to support collective effervescence during what he calls ecstatic experiences. “Ritual is a social technology,” Xygalatas said. “There’s a communicative aspect, but also a primordial, instinctive aspect; to follow rhythm, be driven by it.”
A recent study from researchers at UConn has found that one in six species could go extinct if global warming continues unabated. The decimating effects of global warming are already being seen. Recently, researchers in Australia reported the disappearance of the first mammalian species as a direct result of global warming. Mark Urban, the study’s co-author and associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said, “The risk if we continue on our current trajectory is very high. If you look out your window and count six species and think that one of those will potentially disappear, that’s quite profound.”
In 2014, millions of people dumped buckets of ice water over their heads to help fight Lou Gehrig’s disease. As a result of the challenge, the A.L.S. Associate has continued to receive higher amounts of contributions than years prior to the Ice Bucket Challenge and the average donor age dropped. Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dimitrios Xygalatas has studied the effects of such rituals in his experiment with individuals undergoing kavadi (a Hindu ritual that involves piercing the skin with sharp objects and then making a long procession while carrying heavy objects). Xygalatas found that those who did rituals like kavadi donated more to charity than people in a control group.
The Black Lives Matter movement maintains that the idea of “colorblindness” in America has instead become a way for white Americans to ignore deeper and more insidious forms of racism. The hope behind being color conscious is that it will help Americans be more honest about how they classify each other into groups and help them to check their prejudices and motives. Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey discusses how Trumps overwhelming appeal among white Americans is likely the result of the discomfort such ideas kindle among voters. “Trump is using tried and true talking points that resonate with a white populace that feels under attack,” Hughey said.
The wait is over for the nation now that Hillary Clinton became the first woman to clinch a major party’s nomination for U.S. president Tuesday, July 26. Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin said, “We’re lagging behind, not just countries like Great Britain and Germany, but even countries like India and Israel.” He added, “We’re late to the game of having women compete for national leadership.” Schurin warns that there is still a ways to go. “The route is open for women to attain significant (political) offices, but whether this plays a role for paving the way for women to ascend nationally, I’m not sure,” he said.
Transgender people face many challenges when transitioning, and one such struggle that is often overlooked is finding their voice. Wendy Chase, a lecturer in speech, language, and hearing sciences and the director of UConn’s speech and hearing clinic, works with people who want to make changes to their voice. “Most of our patients are seeking to allow the world to perceive them in the way that they want to be perceived, and communication is a really critical component of that perception,” Chase said. “I think that it’s important for there to be safe places to practice and try things out, and the speech therapy room can be one of those places.”
Anne Bartelmo and Matthew Belfiore, two educators in Stamford, are spearheading an effort to end male mascot predominance by creating female mascots. Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program Ingrid Semaan said, “[female mascots] might have a positive impact on girls,” though she warned this could be problematic. Problems arrive when negative stereotypes are promoted by mascots, which is a frequent occurrence. “It’s not just representation that matters, but also what kind of representation,” Semaan said. “Mascots are particularly challenging because it’s just one image.”
Peter Turchin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said in a recent article, “The EU’s rapid expansion from the original group of 6 states to the current 28 has clearly contributed to its dysfunction.” Historians call this kind of incident “imperial overstretch.” Dysfunction occurs for several reasons, first, because it is easier for six people to compromise and agree on a course of action than for 28 to do so. Expanding beyond the western European ‘core’ also diversified the group and made it more difficult to cooperate. Going forward, Turchin believes the first step should be to invest in research regarding how human cooperation on a large scale has been achieved in the past.
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robert Thorson’s latest article regards how certain stones can begin to fall apart as a result of a simple chemical reaction. In his book “Exploring Stone Walls,” Thorson features what he calls his “candidate for New England’s saddest wall, located in Storrs.” It’s the saddest because the stones were entirely rotten after only half a century, which wouldn’t be a big deal except that building foundations are made of the same material in several towns in Connecticut. Thorson concluded, “We ignore earthly matters at our own peril.”
Crossroads Today, July 21, 2016
Visiting fellow at UConn’s Humanities Institute and assistant professor of history at Stony Brook University and State University of New York Robert Chase has written about the history of racial violence in the United States and questions where to go from here. In light of so many police shootings, Chase said, “we can’t continue with business as usual, embracing law and order rhetoric that replaces poverty programs with expensive punitive measures. If we are to heal the racial divide, we need a new presidential-level commission that considers these overlapping problems of poverty, inequality, gun violence, public mental health, mass incarceration, hyper-policing and militarization.”
Danielle Martin ’16 (CLAS) graduated from UConn with a degree in psychological sciences and is now fundraising to afford to travel to Tanzania this August to educate underprivileged children at St. Joseph’s orphanage. “My goal is to provide these orphans with a future, enhance their academic education so they can be independent, help them developmentally, and give them the support they need to succeed even though they were abandoned,” said Martin on her GoFundMe page.
Odette Casamayor-Cisneros, an associate professor of literatures, cultures, and languages, and Flavio Clermont were both in Nice, France on Thursday when a terrorist ran a large truck into crowds gathered for the annual Bastille Day celebration. Casamayor-Cisneros and Clermont recount that “[they] couldn’t think, just run, desperately, until we reached our street, and then our hotel.” They wrote that the next day “the sky was brighter than ever,” which they supposed was the peace that survivors describe after the chaos of an attack.
Professor of English Regina Barreca questions, “why do all the female newscasters, pundits, commentators, and experts appear with their arms bare?” in a recent article. Barreca said the more important question is why do men “bear arms” while women “bare arms.” Barreca humorously wrote, “a spaghetti strap top would look great on Chris Cuomo, for example, and stunning on Lester Holt.”
In a recent study, scientists have found that across a majority of the Earth’s land surface the abundance or overall number of animals and plants of different species has fallen below a “safe” level identified by biologists. Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Mark Urban said the study has found “sobering evidence that we have already crossed that line in terrestrial ecosystems.” Urban added, “this result ignores the accelerating threat from a warming climate. Climate change is about to make things more complicated as we try to pull back from the edge of the Earth’s resilience.”
While most butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology David Wagner and co-author Benedict Gagliardi believe that northern oak hairstreaks feed on non-nectar sources such as oak galls and honeydew from aphids and other insects. They believe that the perceived rarity of the northern oak hairstreak may be due to the fact that it lives covertly.
Professor of English Gina Barreca’s recent article is regarding how we are living in a state of perpetual fear. Barreca wrote, “Nobody can blame us for being jittery these days. Politicians, newscasters, and spokespeople from various organizations are selling fear like it’s a hot new item.” Barreca claims that this is a scam that fear-mongers profit from.
The United Kingdom will soon be led by a female Prime Minister, raising questions about whether female leadership results in any noticeable difference in the way we are governed. Mark Boyer, a distinguished professor of geography, and Mary Caprioli, an associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota, argue in their study that female leaders are often perceived to be just as aggressive as men. Boyer and Caprioli’s research suggests that we don’t just need more women in parliaments and legislatures, but also to live in societies that embrace more feminine values, so that women who succeed will feel less pressure to be more like men.
Greenwich has entered into a first-time agreement with UConn researchers, allowing them to conduct research in the Sound. Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Michael Willig said there aren’t specific projects identified yet, but there are some general themes those projects will come from, namely to provide a more accurate picture of the overall health of the Long Island Sound. “The Long Island Sound is one of the most important watersheds in the world, or certainly the country,” according to Willig. He added, “I think the people of Greenwich really appreciate the value the environment provides. The first step is to have science inform our understanding so we can make wise, or at least informed, decisions.”
Connecticut’s middle class continues to lose ground, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Associate Professor of Sociology Jeremy Pais said this report isn’t surprising because of ongoing increases in vulnerability of the middle class, with people earning less money while working longer hours. “What we’re seeing in Connecticut largely echoes the entire report,” Pais said. “It’s diminishing in numbers, and we’re seeing more people at the upper end and bottom end of distribution.”
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robert Thorson‘s recent article argues that “zoos are prisons where the inmates are put on exhibit.” Thorson admits that this has been his belief ever since he found himself boycotting family zoo visits in the early 1980s. In light of the recent incident at the Cincinnati Zoo on May 28, Thorson questions if zoos are really a good idea in the first place. “I still can’t shake the feeling that my curiosity was satisfied at the expense of their freedom,” Thorson said. “For me, it all boils down to the world ‘wild,’ which derives from ‘willed.’ Zoos don’t have it because the animals are kept under control. The squirrel who’s free to come in my backyard is wilder than the king of beasts kept behind bars,” he added.
A human foot and 86 tortoise shells were just some of the extraordinary finds discovered in the prehistoric grave of a female shaman in the Galilee, in norther Israel, dating back around 12,000 years. According to the archaeological team led by Professor Leore Grosman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Professor of Anthropology Natalie Munro, the unique features of the woman’s interment have shed new light on human society during the late Natufian era (10,800-9,500 B.C.E.), and on how the ancients treated the dead. Munro was also featured in Archaeology.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Marie Coppola is a hearing professor who advises graduates from the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate Program, which prepares deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals for doctoral degrees in the biomedical sciences. Coppola said that most deaf graduate students are the only ones in their class, which makes interacting with peers to form social relationships difficult. “When I was a graduate student, I certainly learned easily as much from my peers as I did from my professors,” Coppola said. “That part of [deaf students’] training is lessened, but also just the camaraderie and social support that’s really necessary for graduate students to succeed is not as available to them.”
Professor of English Gina Barreca has recently written an article about apologies, surveying people about who they feel they want to hear an apology from. She questions whether or not someone accepting responsibility for the pain he or she caused will change things in your life.
Director David Yates said the new film “The Legend of Tarzan” has no place for all the racist baggage that belonged to the earlier books or movies. Associate Professor of Sociology and author of the book “The White Savior Film” Matthew Hughey said, “Tarzan is a time machine.” Hughey added that, “He transports these 19th century views into the 20th and 21st centuries. He reassures audiences that down deep there is a natural order to things. In the age of the Black Lives Matter movement and Brexit, that’s a pretty powerful story and it’s retold over and over.” Matthew Hughey has also written an article on Tarzan in the Huffington Post.
Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin said moderated reactions to Trump are understandable. “There is a way to provide minimal support while not outright defying the party,” Schurin said. “There’s nothing to be gained for them with a wholehearted endorsement of Trump, and there is very little to be lost.” According to Schurin, tepid endorsements and distancing is common when there is a controversial candidate. Meanwhile, the Connecticut Democratic Party is trying to tie Carter, Cope, and other GOP candidates to Trump, hoping it will alienate voters.
A recent study from researchers at the University of Connecticut has found that one in six species could go extinct if global warming continues unabated. Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Mark Urban said, “The risk if we continue on our current trajectory is very high. If you look out your window and count six species and think that one of those will potentially disappear, that’s quite profound.” Urban said these losses will affect our economy, cultures, food security, and our health.
On June 29, legislation passed through the Senate to help Puerto Rico restructure is more than $70 billion debt. Going forward, Puerto Rico will need to figure out a way to generate revenue. Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator Santiago said this bill will put a pause on bond holders suing the Puerto Rican government, but otherwise does not address the problem. “I don’t think it’s going to resolve anything other than perhaps stall litigation, enable some debt restructuring, and begin a process of responding or paying back some of the debt,” he said.
In the wake of the Brexit vote, many are now mourning the loss of truth after ignoring facts and expert opinion before casting their vote. Professor of Philosophy Michael Lynch said all the information now available to us can lead us into cognitive traps. “The more information people have at their disposal, even good information, the more overly confident they become with regard to their own knowledge,” Lynch said.
Motivation is regulated by a part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, which strongly influences whether or not you do things. A key neurotransmitter in this process is dopamine. Distinguished Professor of Psychology John Salamone explains how “dopamine helps bridge what scientists call psychological distance.” This means that dopamine is what enables you to make a decision to do something.
Professor of History Christopher Clark said older and working-class people living in the north of Great Britain favor leaving the European Union whereas younger people living in urban areas such as London prefer to stay in the EU. “The few people I’ve spoken to are all in favor of remaining,” Clark said. “I’m guessing that that’s probably the prevailing view among people here in the United States.”
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Peter Turchin said, “I think of the European Union as an empire,” in terms of its functionality. Turchin describes historical empires as large-scale, multi-ethnic conglomerations that wouldn’t have come together except under a mighty ruling class. “Large empires are groups of states glued together by cooperation,” according to Turchin. “One of the signs you see in civilizations going the wrong direction is where the elites make policy choices that bring about increasing inequality.”
Crystal Park, a professor of psychology, and student Kristen Riley provide insight into how individuals can take the feeling of being overwhelmed and transform it into useful action. According to Park and Riley, there is a type of coping called ‘meaning-focused coping’ where you change the way you approach a stressful situation and see it instead as an opportunity for growth.
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Kurt Schwenk said that, “We’ve known for a very long time that the ‘stickiness’ of mucus is an important part of the tongue’s adhesive mechanism in chameleons and related lizards that also use their tongues to capture prey.” Schwenk also said that sticky mucus is not the only force working to keep prey attached to chameleons’ tongues.
Mark Urban, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, discussed how human actions wiped out the Bramble Cay melomy. The loss of the mosaic-tailed rat has been declared the first mammal extinction caused directly by human-induced climate change. Urban also shared that his research has indicated that one out of every six of the world’s species faces extinction due to our effect on the climate.
Professor of English Gina Barreca has written an article about how we need to start making mass murder less attractive. Calling these murderers “lone wolves makes these slobs sound like they’re independent, intriguing predators. They’re not,” Barreca wrote. She humorously suggests calling them ‘deformed possums’ instead because “they only have two attributes: the ability to obtain weapons (as if that’s hard to do; in certain states you’re given a choice between a gun and an iced tea when you purchase more than $40 worth of goods in a single transaction) and the willingness to make an irrevocable mess.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Ron Schurin says gun control is tough to pass even if Democrats are in control of Congress because of a highly motivated minority of voters who call themselves second amendment advocates. “Those people will vote against any candidate, even if they agree with that candidate on other issues, if the candidate proposes any kind of gun safety measure. And that’s what’s kept a lot of politicians, including Democrats, from being the advocates of gun safety they might want to be,” Schurin explained.
Manisha Sinha from UConn’s history department explains that most people are misinformed about the abolition movement and the end of slavery. “The abolition movement was an interracial radical social movement of disfranchised people, men and women, white and black, free and enslaved. Slave resistance lay at its heart,” explained Sinha. “It is important to recall that African Americans were not passive recipients of the gift of freedom but architects of their own liberation.”
Rebecca Puhl, a professor of human development and family studies, chimed in on whether or not parents should talk to an overweight child about weight. “Parents who have a child who’s identified as having obesity may be worried, but the way those concerns are discussed and communicated can be really damaging,” said Puhl. The long-term impact on girls may be especially destructive because “girls are exposed to so many messages about thinness and body weight, and oftentimes women’s value is closely linked to their appearance. If parents don’t challenge those messages, they can be internalized.”
Most snakes have a great sense of smell, partly to make up for their poor vision and hearing. Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Kurt Schwenk explained that they do have a regular nose and if “they smell something [with their nose], and if it’s interesting to them that will trigger tongue-flicking behavior.” When reptiles flick their forked tongues, each pair of the tines on the ‘fork’ picks up odor chemicals.
Seaweed is appearing more frequently these days, particularly in the kitchen. A new Danish scientific study has reported that we should be eating the nutrient rich ingredient on a regular basis, which Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Charles Yarish agrees with. Yarish has been pro-seaweed cuisine for 35 years on account of its nutritional value, taste, and depletion of seafood. Charles Yarish was also featured in The Hour.
Rising senior English major Ali Oshinskie never intended to attend UConn, but looking back now has realized how much of a positive impact UConn and the people there have made on her. She said, “I didn’t believe when I started that I could meet so many people and have so many experiences in my home state. I am proud of UConn, not in its stadiums, but in its offices and hallways.”
Robert Thorson, a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has written an article about the importance of allowing children to spend their summer vacations learning on their own, as opposed to being over-scheduled once school is out. Thorson believes that some of the really important moments in his education took place when he was young during summer vacation. That’s not to say that formal coursework wasn’t essential, but that cognitive integrations during summer was just as valuable.
Assistant Professor of Political Science Thomas Hayes has written an article regarding the conversation about economic inequality being debated frequently in the 2016 general election and in the media. He closely discusses the Obama Administration’s economic legacy and their recent push to outline new guidelines for overtime pay. Economic inequality has been rising since the 1970s, and future inequality is dependent on decisions made by the next presidential administration.
Professor of English Gina Barreca said, “The day I’m forced to offer ‘trigger warnings’ before teaching is the day I stop teaching.” A trigger warning is when students are warned that material in a class might be upsetting, and Barreca believes that defeats the purpose of education. She argued that “Education is not designed to reassure; its job is not to soothe but to disturb.” She worries that if people spend their lives ignoring or refusing to listen to something they do not like, they will miss most of what is going on in the world.
The mosquito-monitoring program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has recently stated that it is unlikely that mosquitoes will bring Zika virus to Connecticut because the insects have not brought other tropical diseases to Connecticut either. Nonetheless, ag station scientists are still testing mosquitoes for Zika. Senior biology major Robin Pancoast is a summer research assistant with the ag station and is responsible for setting and collecting traps. “Mosquitoes are pretty dependent on weather patterns. They like wet weather so they can breed,” Pancoast said. Mosquito-collecting began in late May, which means interns like Pancoast will collect up to 200,000 insects by the end of the season in October.
The inability to take high quality images of coral reefs is hindering scientists who need images of the coastline to study how these ecosystems are being affected by climate change, development, and other hazards. Associate Professor of Marine Sciences Heidi Dierssen who is also a co-investigator in the CORAL campaign, had worked on developing the PRISM technology to help gather coastal data. The first time Dierssen used PRISM she said she was shocked. “The first time we collected imagery, we got very good agreement with the field data. That instrument is truly a leap forward,” Dierssen said.
Christine Simon, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, talked to NPR’s Jeremy Hobson on Here & Now about the Brood V cicadas about to emerge in the northern United States, east of the great plains. Simon explained, “Brood V got separated from the other groups sometime in the last ten thousand years,” due to changes in climate and glacial advances. Simon said that the cicada genus has been around for four million years, if not longer, based on their DNA work.
At first glance, the Minneapolis-St. Paul region looks prepared for continued economic and cultural vitality, but that’s been the story since World War II. However, a significant roadblock stands in our path toward this bright future: the stark facts of racial inequality. Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb said, “As an historian, I know that we cannot understand this country unless we understand race.” Cobb disputes the idea that we can just be done with race and that America became a “postracial society” after Obama was elected president in 2008.
Eric Hochberg has studied coral reefs for two decades. Beginning on June 6, Hochberg and his colleagues will use a specially outfitted NASA aeroplane to map the spectra of sunlight reflecting off reefs spread across the Pacific Ocean to check the health of the reefs. Associate Professor of Marine Sciences Heidi Dierssen said that remote sensing of coral reefs is hard because oceans reflect so much less light than the land. Scientists end up having to do elaborate calculations to correct for light distortion. “When you have the full spectrum [of light], you can say so much more about what is there,” said Dierssen.
During President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, Japan, he did not offer an apology nor did Japan seek one. Leaders of both nations have described the visit as a chance to heal the wounds of the past and reaffirm a commitment to nuclear disarmament. Professor of History Alexis Dudden said, “Any more nuclear weapons is an inherently more dangerous world, more dangerous region.” She explained that the President’s visit is Obama’s ‘reality tour’. “It’s an acknowledgement at the highest level that the United States bombed a city, something that never happened before. The way to move all history forward is to acknowledge the truth of what has happened.”
This March, North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory signed a law requiring people to use the public bathrooms which correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than their stated gender identity. Attorney General Loretta Lynch not only denounced this law, but also declared that her office had found that it violated federal civil rights laws. Phoebe Godfrey, an assistant professor of sociology, said that when it comes to the anti-trans movement and the anti-segregation movement, “the parallels are direct and obvious.” Godfrey said during the Jim Crow era, there were “rumors about getting syphilis from the toilet seat,” which many people believed. Many white people also feared that desegregation would encourage interracial marriage and thus lead to the eventual destruction of ‘whiteness’ itself, according to Godfrey.
Several years ago, Distinguished Professor of Psychology Deborah Fein became interested in children who recovered from autism over time. In her own practice she realized, “If [her patients] were getting good treatment, some of them were making amazing progress.” In Fein’s research, she found that almost all of those who eventually stopped meeting the criteria for autism tended to be diagnosed with autism earlier than others. Fein stresses that even with intensive applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, only a small number of children achieve what she calls an “optimal outcome,” where they shed the diagnosis of autism entirely.
Director and Professor of Philosophy Michael Lynch’s new book The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data examines the effects of information that is so easily gleaned in the Internet Age. Lynch said that we used to say, “seeing is believing,” but now we say, “I Googled it!”
Donald Trump will have counterterrorism and military intelligence shared with him as part of a long-standing practice accorded to both party’s presidential nominees that dates back to the Truman administration. This information is shared with each candidate to better prepare them to deal with foreign policy challenges. “For better or worse, the Republicans have chosen Donald Trump as their standard bearer,” Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin said. “Unless we’re going to depart from past practice, the customary briefings would be provided.”
Afghanistan is desperately low on electricity, with less than 40 percent of the population connected to an aging national grid. There are two pipeline routes suggested to address the shortage, which are causing Hazara demonstrations and squabbles over the pipeline routes. Melissa Kerr Chiovenda, a graduate student in anthropology, said, “There’s definitely a lot more going on. Each time something like this happens, the Hazaras see it as another stone on their backs; they related it back to a long history of oppression.”
A new study published by Robin Chazdon, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and her colleagues reports that recently established forests on abandoned farmland in Latin America, if allowed to grow for another 40 years, would probably be able to suck at least 31 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. “This is a potential contribution that is sitting right under our noses,” said lead author Robin Chazdon, who is currently working at the International Institute for Sustainability in Rio de Janeiro.
This year cicada scientists are converging on Ohio to map the Brood V emergence of cicadas. Leading the mapping effort is Research Scientist of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology John Cooley. Cooley says the key to unlocking the mystery of cicadas’ unique lifestyle is to understand how all the broods fit together. All the data is being recorded on Cooley’s website, which has a portal that allows anyone who sees cicadas to contribute their own data. Cooley said, “It will be a good question to see whether we have all three species going all the way up to the top of the brood.”
Despite a travel alert for Puerto Rico due to Zika virus, travel from Connecticut to the island has not noticeably lessened. Charles Venator-Santiago, an associate professor of political science, says Zika virus will not stop him from traveling to Puerto Rico this summer. “I will say that I’d be much more concerned about getting Lyme disease from a tick bite, than Zika,” Venator-Santiago said. Venator-Santiago travels to Puerto Rico several times a year for academic reasons and to see family. He returned from Puerto Rico on May 5 and said the virus is not as big of a deal as American media are making it out to be. Still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects Zika to affect 700,000 people in Puerto Rico by the end of 2016.
In 2013, Bren Smith launched the nonprofit GreenWave to help other fishermen replicate his innovative farming model. Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Charles Yarish conducts research in UConn’s Seaweed Marine Biotechnology Labs. Yarish said, “We are releasing large quantities of CO2 in the past century, and we get into an oxygen deficit. Kelp take up CO2 and nitrate, and provides a food product that is healthy for us and tastes good.”
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robin Chazdon has recently published an article about carbon sequestration potential of second-growth forest regeneration in Latin America. Chazdon said, “this research is vital because actively growing vegetation takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and converts it to plant tissues such as wood and leaves. Old-growth forests contain large stocks of carbon in their biomass. When these forests are cleared and burned, this carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. This is one of the main reasons why it is important to halt deforestation.”
The plan for the first-ever visit to Hiroshima by a sitting U.S. president has been expected to draw a mixed reaction based on the U.S. past of glossing over its actions in World War II and playing up its own victimhood. Professor of History Alexis Dudden believes that skillful footwork by Obama might be able to meet the concerns and help end the bickering. “Obama’s visit to Hiroshima may defuse its history’s political use,” Dudden said. “His visit, if done with the true leadership such history demands, has the potential to deflate those in Japan who use it as the cornerstone of the ‘Japan as victim’ argument. The survivors of Hiroshima were the victims of the American bombing, not Japan.”
On Sunday, UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences students graduated. During the first of two CLAS graduations, Provost Mun Choi spoke, recalling when the Class of 2016 first sat in Gampel Pavilion to begin their academic careers. Faculty member from the literature, culture, and languages department Peter Constantine read a Greek poem to the graduates and encouraged them to all take pleasure in their life journeys. The Class of 2016 is diverse, with the oldest graduate being 69 and the youngest 19, with 56 military veterans, 26 sets of twins, and 34 nations represented. Some graduates plan to continue their education, while others move on to start new jobs.
Today, nitrogen makes up more than three-quarters of the modern atmosphere, and oxygen helps keep the cycle in balance, but billions of years ago there was almost no free oxygen in our planet’s atmosphere. When the Great Oxygenation Event began about 2.4 billion years ago, the process changed and atmospheric pressure increased again. Pieter Visscher, a professor of marine sciences, is skeptical of that explanation and said, “It makes it sexy, but I don’t like that part.” Visscher added, “The nitrogen cycle is, of course, important for productivity today, but there are so many facets of that that may or may not have taken place in the presence of oxygen.”
This month millions of cicadas will surface primarily in Ohio and West Virginia for the first time in 17 years. Some researchers hypothesize that cicadas emerge after 13 or 17 years is because it makes it more difficult for a dedicated predator to synchronize its life cycle with the insects. Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Chris Simon said, “Eventually, the predators get sick of them…There are so many, you can’t possibly eat them all.” Christine Simon was also featured on WBUR’s Here and Now.
The All-MIT diversity Forum, a day-long Institute conference, addressed the many facets of sustaining an inclusive educational community at MIT. Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb gave the keynote address at the forum, emphasizing that social progress and political discord often accompany each other in American society, during repeated episodes in which “people are concerned that their country has been infiltrated by people who don’t look like them.” Cobb emphasized the question, “Who is included in this idea of ‘We the People?'”
Multigenerational drug use in Austen, Indiana has been mysteriously linked to the single largest HIV outbreak in U.S. history. Professor of Anthropology Merrill Singer‘s new theory of public health called syndemics might hold the answer to why this outbreak has occurred. Singer was working with injecting drug users in Hartford in the 1990s in order to find a public-health model for preventing HIV, and he chronicled the presence of HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C. Singer called this clustering of conditions a “syndemic.” Singer’s work suggested that syndemics also encompassed conditions like poverty, drug abuse, and other social, economic, and political factors. “Syndemics is embedded in a larger understanding about what’s going on in societies,” Singer said.
The New York Times, April 30, 2016
Indiana Senate candidate Marlin Stutzman paid his brother-in-law nearly $170,000 to manage the finances of his congressional campaign despite his relative’s lack of experience in politics. Professor of Political Science Paul Herrnson said, “There may be an occasion where a relative is hired, but generally speaking that’s not the case for a position like finance director.” Although it is not illegal for relatives to work on a campaign staff, often relatives are given lower-level positions, according to Herrnson.
Educators in Staunton are taking mandatory reporting of sexual abuse very seriously. Professor of Psychology Seth Kalichman said that requiring every adult to be a mandated reporter will, of course, create additional reports and cases, which will result in increased financial costs. “States that limit reporting are choosing to limit investments in child protection,” said Kalichman. “That sounds harsh, but it is true. I believe if you look at states that do not require all citizens to report, you will find they have fewer child protection resources.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin attributed Clinton’s favor in Connecticut to her long history in politics. “Connecticut Democrats have generally looked favorably on the Clintons,” Schurin said. As a result of Connecticut’s relative wealth, Schurin said “Bernie Sanders’ message maybe didn’t resonate as strongly as in other places.” Additionally, Schurin believes that Clinton’s gender may have also helped elevate her status. “If Hillary were not a woman, should would have been a very conventional candidate,” Schurin said.
New research suggests that after feeding on toxic algae tiny crustaceans known as copepods act in risky ways that increase their chances of meeting an untimely end. Professor of Marine Sciences Hans Dam said, “It is a bit like being drunk.” Though the alcohol itself might not kill you, Dam explains it can “increase your chance of getting killed by engaging in risky behavior like driving a car while intoxicated, or, say, walking into a field of lions while drunk.” Dam was also featured in News Discovery.
Modern society’s obsession with Shakespeare is well-established, especially seen in Shakespeare’s prominence in school curriculums. Professor of English Jean Marsden has rightly observed in her book that “Each new generation attempts to redefine Shakespeare’s genius in contemporary terms, projecting its desires and anxieties onto his work.” While society certainly capitalizes on Shakespeare in varied forms, it is also true that Shakespeare’s work is appropriated in popular and visual culture, making him accessible to the masses.
Tuesday’s Connecticut primary was an important vote not only for Clinton, but also for Governor Malloy, whose name has been bandied about for a potential job in a Clinton administration. Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin weighed in, saying, “As the wife of a longtime governor of a state, Hillary probably understands the challenges that the governor is facing…I think she would not hold this too much against Governor Malloy.”
Stephen Dyson, associate professor and director of political science, has used Game of Thrones as an access point into our own modern political system by comparing characters from the TV show to current politicians. Dyson said that when he made these comparisons and analogies, it immediately clicked for his students because international relations, science fiction, and fantasy all share a dependence on world building in order to explain essential truths and theories. Dyson said Donald Trump is definitely a Lannister and not a Stark, but perhaps a character who hasn’t been introduced yet. Hillary Clinton is like Cersei Lannister because both are female rulers in a male dominated world. Bernie Sanders is Mance Rayder, “challenging the one percent unsuccessfully,” Ted Cruz is Walder Frey, a “reckless violator of societal norms,” and though not as popular as Jon Snow, John Kasich “also needs an extraordinary reboot.”
If there is any place that could host an upset in the Democratic Primary, it’s Connecticut. Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin said, “If you are going to make a bet, I would bet on Sanders right now.” Schurin added that the typical Connecticut Democratic primaries are made up mostly of white, well-educated liberals who have been the favorable demographics for Sanders in past primaries. The key for Clinton will be driving up minority turnout in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. Meanwhile, there could also be an upset on the GOP side. Connecticut Republicans who don’t like Trump may not be in line with Cruz’s conservative brand either, which leaves Kasich who is still lagging far behind.
Connecticut lawmakers have raised and spent millions of dollars in political funds, a system that Executive Director of Common Cause in Connecticut Cheri Quickmire is disappointed about, wishing that federal candidates would adopt public funding of their own campaigns. Ron Schurin, an associate professor of political science, explains that this can happen “to scare away challengers.” As delegation members gain seniority, more of their political money is coming from political action committees (PACs), representing industries, individual companies, labor unions, or other special interests.
Fifty years ago, President Homer D. Babbidge Jr. agreed to start a journalism department in Storrs. The department has recently celebrated its golden anniversary with receptions, panel discussions, and reuniting dozens of alumni. Since previous department head Evan Hill retired nearly 33 years ago, Professor of Journalism Maureen Croteau has been the chairmen and head of the department. Her work has paid off, now that UConn’s journalism department has become the only public university in New England to achieve accreditation by a prestigious national journalism review board.
Noam Chomsky’s work in linguistics and politics is well known and generating questions about syntax, the limitations of big data, and political commentary. Jon Sprouse, an associate professor of linguistics, was frequently cited by Chomsky in a recent interview. The experimental syntax methods are very important, according to Chomsky, and you can use experimental syntax to investigate new questions. “Sprouse and Norbert Hornstein, [a professor of linguistics at the University of Maryland, College Park], review interesting studies on questions such as, to what extent do island conditions reflect syntactic principles, and to what extent do they reflect performance factors?” Chomsky said.
Not surprisingly, a new study from the Williams Institute has found that households with same-sex parents show no differences from those with opposite-sex parents in regards to partner relationships, parent-child relationships, children’s physical and emotional health, the child’s coping skills and learning behavior, etcetera. This study starkly refutes sociologist Mark Regnerus’ study in 2012 that claimed children of same-sex parents were more likely to be depressed, financially unstable, and battle substance abuse. Simon Cheng, an associate professor of sociology, comments, saying, “If [Regnerus] were one of my students I’d make him redo the paper.”
In a political race marked by contrasts, Connecticut is emblematic of that divide. Connecticut is the third-most generous state in the nation per capita in campaign contributions, and though Clinton has been the largest beneficiary in dollars, Sanders has received the most contributions. Assistant Professor of Political Science Vincent Moscardelli argues that “Sanders is, in some ways, fighting with two arms tied behind his back here in Connecticut.”
President Obama will attend the G-7 Ise-Shima summit of leading industrial nations in Japan’s Mie Prefecture next month, which has sparked speculation that he might venture to Hiroshima to pay respects at the Peace Memorial Park as well. Professor of History Alexis Dudden says Obama, “should visit for humanity’s sake in terms of the value of learning from the past to make the present and future a slightly better place to live…[visiting] would give Obama and the United States credibility to move forward in setting the tone for discussions of nuclear nonproliferation, weapons reduction and, ultimately, their abolition.”
In May, a 17-year cycle will end, and a special species of cicadas native to North America will emerge in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Christine Simon, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, told Weather.com that the emergence of the cicadas can provide food to other wildlife such as birds and other insect-eating animals. “When the cicadas die, there will be a large nutrient input to the soil that will benefit trees and understory vegetation. As the cicadas emerge, underground biomass will decrease and mole and other insectivore populations that have been feasting on them for years will suddenly be left with a lot less food,” Simon explained.
The phenomenon of “elite overproduction,” which Peter Turchin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, describes as the process by which a growing number of elites were thrown into competition over a proportionately shrinking number of trophies, not only helped bring down the Roman Republic, but contributed to the onset of the American Civil War and other historical calamities. Turchin is a pioneer in cliodynamics, which aims to trace broad historical trends through statistical modeling. Turchin’s model predicts some kind of major political crisis to occur within the next five years. “Everything is developing, unfortunately, according to the theory,” he said. “[Politically active millionaires and billionaires aim to transform their wealth into political power…some of them run for office themselves, like Donald Trump or Michael Bloomberg.”
How election turnout might be affected in Connecticut is currently a point of contention. Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin said there is evidence that polling station closures in other states have had a “significant impact” on access for low-income voters with transportation issues. “Here in Connecticut, particularly in the eastern part of the state where polling places might be some distance from where somebody lives…there might be an impact,” Schurin said. He added that he would be very surprised if already-low primary turnout would decrease significantly as a result of this legislation.
As the presidential primary enters its final stretch, competition for delegates from both parties has intensified. Connecticut’s primary on April 26 is usually held too late to make an impact on the race, but not this year. Associate Professor of Political Science Ron Schurin said, “Bernie can very well close if he pulls an upset in New York.” There are 55 Democratic pledged delegates in Connecticut. Schurin added, “What Clinton has to do is chalk up some vidtories so she has legitimacy as the nominee, so it’s not just the support of the superdelegates.” Ron Schurin was also featured in the New Haven Register.
A scientific field focused on virtual reality and specifically video games with embedded health messages has been emerging. Hart Blanton, a professor of psychology, said “There’s a lot of literature on what’ a healthy environment. I think we need to start thinking about what is a health virtual environment.” Blanton and colleague Christopher Burrows have been researching the connections between online gaming and health messages, finding receptiveness among gamers when they are exposed to public health issues such as drunk driving.
Richard Sosis, a professor of anthropology, commented on the recent finding that human sacrifice may be linked to modern systems of social class. Having researched religion extensively, Sosis and other researchers of religion are glad to see rigorous data analysis being used in these studies. “The study of religion has been plagued in many ways by an abundance of ideas and a shortage of strong quantitative tests of these ideas,” said Sosis. “These methods have power, and they are certainly an advance in the way we can evaluate ideas.” Sosis added, “At least the conversation can begin here and begin in a systematic way that hasn’t happened before.” Richard Sosis was also featured in Quartz.
Spring has a way of influencing the dispositions of people, which is never more true than for spring babies. Emerging research has continued to suggest that the season you are born in can impact your health and personality. Professor of Communication Mark Hamilton analyzed over 300 public figures, including celebrities, artists, scientists, and politicians, and discovered that the majority of them were born in “wet” months, like early spring, and were thus more likely to be creative and innovative.
The Common Core Standards push students to craft arguments and master academic language, but discussing emotional responses to literature are not included. Professor of English Patrick Hogan suggests that literature can play a vital role in helping people to understand the lives and minds of others, which can benefit communities with that ability along with literacy and analytical prowess. Hogan said literacy should “provide us with many complex models for understanding and responding to others and to ourselves.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago has commented on Connecticut’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission asking Congress for legislation to help Puerto Rico with its $72 billion debt crisis. Professor Venator-Santiago said it would difficult to restructure Puerto Rico’s debts without an infusion of federal cash. “In order to restructure debt, you have to have money,” he said. He added that a financial review board would be necessary, and that the Supreme Court may settle the issue if Congress does not act.
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robort Thorson gave a lecture at the Marion Natural History Museum about stone walls in New England. At his lecture, Thorson talked about the history, beauty, mystery, and particularly the utility of stone walls. “There’s a mosaic to the landscape in New England that wouldn’t be there without the walls,” Thorson said. The oldest known wall was built in 1607 in present day Maine before the Pilgrims arrived, but peak wall building occurred after the Revolutionary War. Following the war, forests were cleared to make room for farms, bringing billions of stones to the surface. These walls inadvertently became a dividing point for plant species.
Creating ethical robots has been a project for philosophers and computer scientists for some time. Susan Anderson, emeritus professor of philosophy, has been working with her husband Michael Anderson, a professor of computer science at the University of Hartford, on developing robots that could provide ethical care for the elderly. Their approach for teaching the robots relies exclusively on learning through ethicists, instead of via the general public. When asked if we can really trust robots, Anderson pointed out that robots can be superior to humans when making ethical decisions. “Humans are a product of natural selection so we have built into us ideas that are self-interested or, at least, in the interest of our group over others,” Anderson said.
Approximately seven percent of children with autism eventually lose their diagnosis with time, but it is still unclear whether this transition is associated with a return to typical brain function or a reflection of a compensatory process. New findings are supporting an ‘optimal outcome,’ which is when children have unusually active language regions in the brain. Associate Professor of Psychology Inge-Marie Eigsti says, “The complete normalization of language skills that we observe in children with optimal outcomes from autism seems to reflect a rather atypical organization at the level of the brain.”
Ritual human sacrifice now seems to be key to the emergence of inherited class systems. While the taking of human life for religious purposes used to be widespread, there are others who do not believe this connection is true. Peter Turchin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, thinks the new analysis misses a broader point. “Human sacrifice is actually a maladaptive cultural trait,” he says. As a member of a team that analyzes the global history of social and political organization, their results show that extreme inequality, characterized by traits including human sacrifice and slavery, is a stage that cultures quickly grow out of as they continue to develop.
Research suggests that gruesome rituals like human sacrifice may have served an important function in society, which may have helped civilizations in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific develop into more complex civilizations. Professor of Anthropology Richard Sosis says, “The study of religion has been plagued in many ways by an abundance of ideas and a shortage of strong quantitative tests of these ideas,” in response to the lack of evidence that often supports such theories. “At least the conversation can begin here and begin in a systematic way that hasn’t happened before.”
Jelani Cobb, an associate professor of history and the director of the Africana Studies Institute, has been featured for his article in The New Yorker about the birth and development of Black Lives Matter. Central to Cobb’s analysis in The New Yorker was his clear differentiation between the sprawling social movement that has dominated headlines and the civil rights organization with more than 30 chapters across the United States. “That contentious distinction between the organization and the movement is part of the debate about what Black Lives Matter is and where it will go next,” said Cobb.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology Gideon Hartman has led a team of researchers in developing a new set of seasonal climatic data using carbon isotope measurements taken from the tooth enamel of gazelles from archaeological sites of the Hayonim and Hilton Tachtit caves in western Galilee, Israel. The results reveal that, although climate conditions were cooler, they were not dryer than the preceding period. Thus, the researchers hypothesize that the cooler conditions prompted the establishment of Natufian settlements in the Jordan Valley, where the warmer more stable environment created more favorable conditions for wild cereal productivity, facilitating the transition to agriculture.
Over the past decade, archaeologists have started using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technologies, which is a much less invasive way to gather data. Kate Johnson, a PhD student in geography, has said this technology “opens up a whole new area of research we weren’t able to do before because we couldn’t see any of these features.” Johnson has been using LiDAR technology to study the old stone walls, abandoned roads, and other hidden imprints of New England’s previous human inhabitants.
Bren Smith is certain that what lies beneath choppy waters can change the way the world raises and eats food by using “vertical ocean farms.” In the process, Smith came across the research of Charles Yarish, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, who had started an experimental kelp farm off New London in 1985. Professor Yarish’s research helped Smith realize he had to lift the farms off the sea floor to protect them from storms.
Dangerous microbes can evolve rapidly, but most microbes don’t cause disease. Nichole Broderick, an assistant professor of molecular and cell biology, discusses the many examples of how microbes actually protect their animal hosts from parasites and diseases. “We often consider ways in which the microbiome directly impacts host responses to infections,” said Professor Broderick.
The EPA recently released their plan that incorporated the requests of a petition made by several grassroots organizations last year to help develop new water quality standards and maximum daily nitrogen levels of their waters. James O’Donnell, director and professor of marine sciences, explained that high nitrogen levels causes plants such as algae to grow too rapidly, which leads to hypoxia, or a decrease in oxygen for the rest of the ecosystem.
Christopher Vials, an associate professor of English, appeared on WNPR’s Where We Live this week to discuss fascism in the United States and American politics. Vials argues that fascism has been a “persistent problem in the United States,” which we are seeing particularly with Trump in his campaign. Vials said in a Between the Lines interview that Trump is “not a fully developed fascist in my view, but I would say he is far enough down that road, that if you were to call him an actual fascist or the fascist candidate, you wouldn’t really be wrong.” He adds that “fascism did not begin with Trump in the United States, but he does bring it a new visibility and a new level of danger.” Professor Vials was also featured in Between the Lines.
As Republicans are gathering in Cleveland this summer to select their presidential candidate, three delegates from Connecticut are among those who could wield enormous power if there is a nomination fight. Ron Schurin, an associate professor in residence of political science said, “[Convention rules] are not carved in stone; they can be changed convention to convention.” For example, committee members could undo policies requiring most of the 2,472 convention delegates to abide by the will of primary voters, freeing delates to vote according to personal preference.
Professor of Psychology Edward Large has studied a group of bonobos (apes) at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida with fellow researcher Patricia Gray, a concert pianist and director of the biomusic program at the University of North Carolina, to see if these apes could drum to a beat. After zoo staff demonstrated how the drums were used, the bonobos would voluntarily drum along with the staff members. Their drumming abilities matched that of a human child, accurately tracking a beat in bouts rather than continuously. Professor Large was also featured in The Atlantic.
Michael Lynch, professor and director of philosophy, comments on the social media trend where ‘facts’ are increasingly seen as one-liners that shock or surprise you into sharing them. Professor Lynch, author of “The Internet of Us,” explains that sites like @OMGFacts and @UberFacts “further encourage people to think that sheer availability equates with knowability” because “people often vaguely (and unconsciously) assume that if someone has bothered to put this list of ‘facts’ out there–where it can supposedly be verified or unverified–then it must be more or less accurate.”
Associate Professor of Literature, Culture, and Languages Odette Casamayor Cisneros comments on President Obama’s recent visit to Cuba and the open conversation he had about race, which is a critical and unresolved issue in Cuban society that their revolution was supposed to have erased. Professor Casamayor-Cisneros said, “The images of the meetings, the agreements, they’re all shameful for many black Cubans–I’m including myself in this–because it’s difficult to feel represented.” She added that what you see with the President’s visit “is confirmation of black empowerment, which has generally been denied in Cuban society…for black Cubans, the mere existence of Obama is unusual and overwhelmingly symbolic.”
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Christine Simon began studying periodical cicadas as an undergraduate student because she was interested in learning about speciation. In an article about cicadas and their life-cycles, Professor Simon says “the year of cicada emergence is cued by what I and others believe to be an internal molecular clock,” which is “most likely calibrated by environmental cues that signify the passage of a year, such as the trees leafing out…[and] the accumulation of 13 or 17 years triggers the emergence.”
Odette Casamayor Cisneros, an associate professor of literature, culture, and languages, said Cuban culture is diverse and complex in reaction to the importance of President Obama visiting Cuba with a message about hope and the future. For many Afro-Cubans the President’s presence in their country isn’t just a political victory, but a social triumph as well.
The recent article by Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb looks at Donald Trumps ascent to the top of the Republican field. Cobb says “the old adage holds that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but the candidacy of Donald Trump suggests an alternate possibility–that sometimes we repeat history precisely because we understood it the first time.” Cobb extends this conversation to the types of crowds drawn to both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump where the lines begin to blur, each defining themselves as “establishment candidates whose positions were cemented by their familial ties to Presidencies past.” These lines became more distinct following the protests that disrupted the Trump rally in Chicago.
In light of the violent events at the Trump rally in Chicago, Trump responded in North Carolina by saying his rallies aren’t violent but “love fests.” Professor and Director of Philosophy Michael Lynch says, “The Internet is the best fact-checker and the best bias-confirmer ever invented…it’s both things at once.” Lynch argues that one of the key reasons Trump is able to get away with stretching the truth is because he repeatedly condemns the media for being morally bankrupt and biased, which gets “people to think he’s valuing objectivity” when actually “what he’s doing is undermining it.”
Associate Professor of Philosophy Susan Schneider’s recent article comments on the widespread recognition that sophisticated AI is being developed, despite warnings from Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking about the threat imposed by these “superintelligent” machines. Schneider defines superintelligent machines as “AIs that outthink the smartest humans in every domain, including common sense reasoning and social skills.” While some say this technology some say could destroy us, others, such as Google’s Chief Engineer Ray Kurzweil, think AI could lead to a technological utopia that would bring an end to disease, poverty, and resource scarcity.
Hallie Liberto, an assistant professor of philosophy, joins NPR’s Jasmine Garsd and The Washington Post’s Andrea Sachs on Michel Martin’s show the Barbershop to discuss how to act in a culture where the customs and views may be different from your own, such as women’s rights or LGBT rights. Liberty says that “safety is a really important thing to take into account…[but] a matter of integrity might matter to you as much as safety. And when it comes to respect for other cultures, you have to maybe do some research into whether or not this signal of disrespect that comes from displaying a woman’s body arises from a dehumanizing attitude about women that you might not want to endorse or whether maybe the standards are even the same for men and women…in which case it seems like that’s probably a good norm to follow if you want to show respect.”
Professor of History Jeffrey Ogbar delivered keynote remarks at an event held at Amarante’s Sea Cliff in New Haven, celebrating he 175th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to free the Amistad captives. The Amistad Memorial, located in front of New Haven’s City Hall, was created by accomplished sculptor Ed Hamilton who attended the event with Professor Ogbar as the event’s special guests.
A recent article by Professor and Director of Philosophy Michael Lynch links the republican debates to the ebb and flow of information, and who controls it. Professor Lynch says the idea is simple: “If citizens are going to make even indirect decisions about policy, we need to know the facts about the problem the policy is meant to rectify, and to be able to gain some understanding about how effective that policy would be.” However, the current worry is no longer about who controls content, but “who controls the flow of that content,” which is why it is not surprising that “we are now seeing Big Data companies like Facebook sponsor presidential debates.”
Israeli cities have been experiencing seemingly random assaults on civilians over the past six months, starting shortly after clashes broke out over Jerusalem’s most controversial religious site. Associate Professor of Political Science Jermey Pressman says, “A lot of these attacks have been perpetrated by teenagers” and “there’s clearly a sense of despair: I’m not sure this is always conscious, but part of that despair is driven by the inability of Palestinians to achieve their national goal of self-determination.”
Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb has written an article in light of Black History Month. “We were very much aware that this was the last Black History month of this Presidency,” said Sherrily Ifill, the director-counsel of the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Educational Fund, at a meeting about civil-rights issues with President Obama and other African-American leaders. This meeting was the first of its kind because it brought together different generations of activists, all of whom are prominent figures in the civil-rights movement Black Lives Matter. Professor Cobb discusses the history and goals of the movement, and he considers how things will change when President Obama is no longer in office. Professor Cobb also talked to NPR about this recent publication.
Mark Urban, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and fellow researchers predict that one-sixth of Earth’s species may be wiped out by climate change. “Some species will be just fine — in fact, will do better in a changed climate,” Professor Urban said. “But then there are others that are in serious danger.” As a result of this, Urban says researchers need to identify the key species on which entire ecosystems depend, like the lake trout of Northern Alaska. “We’re going to have to live through basically a global heat age,” he said. “We want to make it through the heat age with the least number of casualties as possible.”
Nancy Hulse’s multimedia presentation “Woman Banned,” a spoken-word performance about rape, relationship violence, mental illness and addiction, and violence against women will be performed in the Orange County Trust Company Great Room in Kaplan Hall on March 15. Director of UConn’s Women’s Center Kathleen Holderson has reported that “the performance is a powerful and innovated way of raising awareness…[it is] articulate and inspiring.”
Following the cancellation of Melissa Harris-Perry’s show, many people have voiced concern that the show’s cancellation might be a sign mainstream news will no longer make space for them in a post-Obama world. Jelani Cobb, associate professor of history and the director of the Africana Studies Institute, remembers being on the show in 2013 after George Zimmerman was found not guilty for shooting and killing Trayvon Martain. “We had this inchoate despair that was very prevalent among African Americans, and we needed a forum where we could discuss that. Our analysis needed to be happening in terms of what was happening with racism in this country,” said Professor Cobb.
Associate Professor in Residence of Political Science Ron Schurin has said it is unlikely the presumptive Democratic nominee will be decided by the primaries being held on April 26. He adds that there is an “outside chance” the GOP contest may not be finished and that “a ‘stop Trump’ movement may be taking hold.” Delate-rich states like Florida and Ohio, whose primaries are on March 15, will decide a lot and may be able to stop Trump’s momentum.
Recent studies have challenged the theory that Earth had a very warm climate during it’s early years. The findings published in Science Advances claim that 3.5 billion years ago, Earth’s climate was actually relatively cool. “This article focuses on getting a better grip on early ocean temperatures because we like to know how the evolutions of life took place,” said Pieter Visscher, a professor of marine sciences. He added that the findings “are a bit outside our conventional thinking, so I think there’s some really good work necessary to come ahead.”
Françoise Dussart, a professor of anthropology, has curated an exhibit called Lifelines: Indigenous Contemporary Art from Australia, which is currently set up at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City. Lifelines is a kaleidocopic collection, containing nearly 100 major works by Australian artists with strong themes of Indigenous dispossession, all of which were selected by Professor Dussart. “Lifelines are ways to hang on to something, said Dussart. “You want to be able to go along and survive and move forward.”
The recruitment pipeline is being blamed for the striking levels of low employment of black and Hispanic workers in technology companies, despite data showing that there are many more black and Hispanic students majoring in computer science and engineering than who work in tech jobs. Associate Professor of Sociology Maya Beasley’s research indicates that at the top 25 undergraduate programs, nearly nine percent of graduates are underrepresented minorities.
Associate Professor in Residence of Political Science Ron Schurin comments on the departure of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush from the race. Bush’s removal gives the remaining GOP presidential candidates a better chance, but it is still uncertain who will benefit. Professor Schurin said, “The obvious guess is that the Bush money and the Bush support will go now to the other establishment candidate,” which he thinks is Rubio.
With the Super Tuesday primaries upcoming, Sanders’ supporters in Connecticut fear the Democratic Party’s superdelegate system could doom his campaign even if he wins Vermont’s primary. Paul Herrnson, a professor of political science, says that the Democrats’ system is the product of waves of reform decades ago. Delegates used to be selected by party leaders, but now most slots are reserved for rank and file Democrats, making for a more open and participatory process. Herrnson argues that Sanders’ anti-establishment image meshes well with his message that the Democratic Party’s selection process is rigged against him.
Associate Professor of Sociology Maya Beasley has analyzed data regarding the pipeline of qualified applicants and the discrepancies between the number of minority students graduating with qualifications in highly skilled jobs and the number who are actually hired. “The pipeline argument can be wiped out with basic statistics,” according to Professor Beasley. “The number of people graduating from top schools is just enormous, so you have to think, what could these companies do wrong to not get them?”
Distinguished Professor of History Richard Brown recently published an article about the life of Caleb Strong, a man descended from church founders who later became a U.S. senator and governor of the Commonwealth. At the age of 27, Strong was elected as a selectman. This unusual mark of trust proved emblematic of Strong’s career as one of the most reliable leaders in the independence movement. Ultimately, “moderation, common sense, and an understanding of human frailties, not brilliance, distinguished Strong’s leadership,” according to Professor Brown.
UAS Magazine, February 18, 2016
Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are being used by archaeologists to document excavations, map and identify buried features of landscapes. Austin Hill, a research scientist of anthropology, is the UAS pilot for a research project at the Dead Sea burial site led by Assistant Professor of Anthropology at DePaul University Morag Kersel. Hill uses a UAS equipped with a camera and a GoPro to capture better quality, higher resolution images than satellites usually provide.
A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, written by Professor and Acting Department Head of Economics Stephen Ross and his colleagues Stephen Billings and David Deming, has linked data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. public schools with local police-arrest records. Their study found that students who lived within walking distance of each others’ houses, who also attended the same school and grade, were more likely to be arrested together.
In the Clinton versus Sanders debate on gun policy, Department Head and Professor of Political Science David Yalof said, “It’s one of those very few areas that Hilary can get to the left of Bernie Sanders…It definitely helps her to harp on it.” He added, “As long as the House is controlled by the Republicans, it’s clear that gun control is not going to be high on the president’s agenda.”
Researchers led by Matthew Hall, a postdoctoral fellow at UConn, alongside Diane Lillo-Martin, director and distinguished professor of linguistics, are reexamining whether deaf children should learn sign language to maximize their potential for development. “The problem is that we can’t reliably predict who’s going to succeed with the spoken-language approach, and who isn’t,” said Hall. “By the time it’s clear that a child’s spoken language proficiency hasn’t supported healthy development across the board, it may be too late for that child to master sign language.” Lillo-Martin added that, “This work is especially meaningful because it has important theoretical implications, but it also has the potential to change practices that affect the lives of deaf children and their families.”
Jelani Cobb, associate professor of history and the director of the Africana Studies Institute, recently said, “These are interesting times we live in…because I’m a historian, I recognize the grasp that the past has on the present.” Throughout his speech at Carnegie Mellon University he continued to connect past events with current headlines, touching upon events ranging from the Missouri Compromise to conflicts, such as those in Ferguson, Missouri.
Professor of History Jeffrey Ogbar‘s latest article stresses the need for “smart, energetic, courageous activists with integrity and vision to push politicians and galvanize people when elected officials cannot do it” in the United States. Professor Ogbar states that activism is “politically essential in a society like ours, with such a long history of legal and de facto discrimination.”
Robert Thorson, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, has already written several books under England’s stonewall and has recently been looking through the ruins of a former civilization in New England that dates back to shortly after the revolutionary war. This work has been ongoing as more fieldstone surfaces every year.
Professor of Economics Stephen Ross and his colleagues have conducted a study regarding the ongoing “problem of race-based mortgage discrimination against the Black community.” They have found that Latinos face similar “economic exploitation,” and Asian-Americans are also 7% more likely to experience high interest on their mortgages. This form of discrimination was found primarily in communities with high poverty and low educational levels.
Recent analysis has indicated that native plants are struggling to keep up with global warming, and Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Morgan Tingley said “plants and animals aren’t moving together in sync.” Tingley has been studying the shifting ranges or native birds in California and adds that this data “leads us to suspect that ecological communities are breaking down and disassembling,” which is “a worrying possibility, and one that we don’t know yet know the consequences of.”
Mark Urban, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and co-writer Linda Deegan write about the challenges ecosystems will face in the coming heat age in the Arctic. Urban said, “We are only just beginning to understand these changes. Ecosystems involve a complex web of connections among species and the physical environment. Climate change alters these connections in ways that can surprise and baffle us.”
Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Peter Burkhard‘s new study focuses on a class of artificial SAPNs that can help create simple, cost-effective vaccines. Burkhard said, “the protein nanoparticles show great promise as future vaccine carriers and our malaria vaccine will be tested…understanding the geometric principles of the self-assembly to nanoparticles is essential for the successful design and development as vaccines.”
Ron Schurin, an associate professor of political science, recently said Connecticut’s Democratic power establishment “made the rational calculation that Clinton is the establishment candidate.” Professor Schurin predicts that Democrats in Connecticut will continue to donate money to Clinton if she can hold her own in Iowa and New Hampshire, and if she wins the primary in South Carolina. He says if Bernie Sanders becomes Connecticut’s Democratic nominee, he would be unlikely to hold a grudge over contributions to Clinton, instead, “he’d be holding a grudge against the entire Democratic political establishment in the nation.”
Assistant Professor of Journalism Marie K. Shanahan has written about the controversial topic of safe spaces on college campuses by relating the debate to her first year of teaching digital-journalism. Shanahan said, “I worry that my college students have grown so conditioned to toxic online discourse that they’ve joined in, or else their sensitivities are being so damaged by it that it’s fueling their cry for ‘safe spaces’ in the real world,” but that “there are still two options when encountering speech we find offensive: Filter out the speech with a ‘safe space’ or counter it with robust speech of our own. What college needs to be is a hybrid of those two options — it should be a safe space for debate.”
Tanika Simpson, a human development and family studies doctoral student, has been working with Connecticut’s D.C.F. where she has been practicing a model for raising children that’s different from what we have grown accustomed to, called “Minding the Baby.” Prior to Minding the Baby, Simpson worked with young kids and said, “Parents would bring in their three-year-olds and they’d already given up on them.” According to Simpson, many mothers who will be served by Minding the Baby have already had experience with child-protection services as kids, and have residual anxiety about visiting social workers. It is hoped that this program will help alleviate some of that stress and inspire more optimism.
Associate Professor of Philosophy Susan Schneider and Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, write about the possibility of life in space being scientific plausibility, not just science fiction. The more likely arguments suggest this extra-terrestrial life will be a “special kind of artificial intelligence (‘A.I.’) called ‘superintelligence,'” which means life outside of Earth may be something post-biological.
Scott Stephenson, assistant professor of geography, in collaboration with Lawrence C. Smith, a professor at UCLA, have been studying different climate models that predict when and where new shipping routes will emerge as climate change progresses. They have worked out what the near-future Arctic shopping possibilities will be for 10 different global climate models that reveal many possibilities for what the future of shipping routes might look like.
Professor of Psychology Colin Leach and his doctoral student Atilla Cidam have examined the links between shame and “constructive approach behaviors” in relation to the conversation about how feelings of shame might be beneficial to those recovering from addiction or other destructive habits. Professor Leach has found participants who were more vulnerable to shame were more inclined to take corrective measures when they thought their mistakes were able to be corrected. This finding indicates that shame can catalyze a desire to fix self-inflicted damage in cases where that damage is both fixable and manageable.
After General Electric Co. announced it would be relocating to Boston, Steven Lanza, assistant professor of economics, said GE’s departure will be a moderate setback for Connecticut. “These are high paying jobs…it’s millions of income that will cost the state in tax revenue,” according to Lanza. “More importantly…it’s a blow to our pride,” though Lanza believes that Fairfield County will still remain a top destination for corporate headquarters going forward.
Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at UConn and professor of human development and family studies recently said, “When you have particular groups with higher rates of a problem, people start to think that they’re doing something wrong that’s specific to them,” in discourse with research being done by University of Michigan Professor Kim Eagle. Recent studies are finding poverty to be a larger indicator of childhood obesity than race, and Schwartz says this finding “helps fight against the bias” and helps shape our understanding of the attitudes surrounding childhood obesity.
Jelani Cobb, associate professor of history and the director of the Africana Studies Institute, spoke at Florida State University’s MLK day celebration, noting that “in American history, progress and regression are intimately tied together.” After talking about recent U.S. shootings, Cobb remained optimistic saying, “what gives me strength and inspiration is when King says, ‘I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land.” Cobb then talked about how the struggles we may yet face in fighting for universal human rights will not lead automatically to reward, “but we also have the committed will of people who say this is not the world we will bequeath to people who come in it.”
Regarding the recent resignation of Connecticut’s motor vehicles commissioner, Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Schurin said, “If I was in his position, I would ask to be allowed to leave” because “that kind of job is not one that wins you many friends.” Andres Ayala Jr.’s resignation has now sparked debate over whether or not the position should continue to go to those who are politically appointed, who are often not prepared for the demands of a customer service-oriented position, according to some critics.
Research conducted by Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago has found that the undocumented children of Latino parents who came into the U.S., having been granted amnesty by President Obama, are likely to become more politically active. Ventator-Santiago said “naturalized dreamers are more prone to participate in politics [and vote] than older, naturalized Latinos.” His research fits in with this year’s Pew Projects, which report that education rates are increasing amongst Latinos, and this will hopefully translate into more Latino youths voting than have historically been reported.
Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology Joseph S. Renzulli is launching an education program in China to help students increase their independence and maturity by working on projects with peers from around the world. Renzulli recently said in a statement that Chinese students excel in achievement tests but many of the nation’s forward-thinking educators recognize that improvements to their system are required to stimulate higher levels of innovation. He hopes to promote classroom creativity through Renzulli Creativity Programs both domestically and abroad.
Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator Santiago comments on the conditions in Puerto Rico as the $72 billion debt crisis in the U.S. territory continues to get worse. He recalled from a recent visit, “The buses no longer work because they haven’t been able to pay their fuel obligation.” It is apparent that there are major limits to what Lew and the Obama administration can do to address the issue.
Ronald Schurin, an associate professor of political science, said General Electric’s decision to move its headquarters from Fairfield to Boston gives Connecticut Republicans “good talking points for the upcoming legislative races.” Professor Schurin notes that even Governor Malloy acknowledges the importance of this decision, but believes it would play a much bigger role if 2016 was a gubernatorial election year.
Chris McCahill, a senior associate at the State Smart Transportation Initiative, is working with Associate Professor of Geography Carol Atkinson-Palombo, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Norman Garrick, and graduate student Adam Polinski at UConn to study why parking is a likely cause of increased driving.
On the heels of historic flooding during December 2015 in the Republic of Ireland, Professor of English Mary Burke writes about diary ad newspaper accounts of the worst storm in recorded Irish history, on Jan. 6, 1839, which flooded the island and decimated homes of the upper-class and peasants alike.
At a symposium in Washington, D.C., Alexis Dudden, professor of history, criticized an accord between the Japanese and South Korean government to resolve the issue of “comfort women.” The accord calls for the removal of a statue representing comfort women outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. “Neither the Japanese nor the South Korean government has the right to mess with this statue,” Dudden said.
A paper by Mark Urban, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is listed as #15 of the top 10 most influential science research paper of 2015 by Discover magazine. The meta-analysis showed that with each degree warmer the Earth gets, extinctions accelerate, and that by 2099, 1 in 6 species will be extinct if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current level.
Stephen Dyson, associate professor of political science, writes an opinion piece in which he examines the politics of Star Wars. Although, he says, he used to think that the lack of cohesive political thought in the franchise made it “unserious,” he now believe that the vagueness of politics in George Lucas’s universe makes it ripe for viewers to fill in their own narratives. “…It is such an empty vessel of political thought, dealing in grand principles and vague allusionsm,” he writes. “The emotions elicited by these epic tales are so strong that the saga commands our imagination, so we pour in the specifics for ourselves.”
Katharine Capshaw, associate professor of English and author of the book “Civil Rights Childhood,” comments in an article about the Radical Monarchs, a group similar to the Girl Scouts meant to empower young women of color. “Too often, adults underestimate children’s awareness of the world around them and their desire to contribute to society,” she says. “Young people are passionate about social change—this has been the case since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which in large part was propelled by college students and teenagers. The Radical Monarchs are walking in that tradition.” The article was written by Alysa Auriemma ’11 (MA).
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Mark Urban comments on a new research study showing that poaching of large mammals and birds in tropical forests could reduce carbon storage in these forests. “This study reminds us that ecosystems are made up of a complex web of species interactions,” Urban says. “Messing with ecosystem connections can have profound implications for the services that they provide to humans, including cleaning up after our carbon mess.”
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Jill Wegrzyn is a co-author on a study that sequenced the genome of the west-coast conifer, the sugar pine. This sequence has implications for saving the threatened species.
In an article about why political scientists are beginning again to analyze the presidency, Professor of History Frank Costigliola‘s assertion that the death of Franklin Roosevelt started the cold war is mentioned.
David Garvey, director of the department of public policy’s Nonprofit Leadership Program and co-director of Encore!Hartford, commentds in a story about volunteering during retirement. “Volunteering is critical to making the transition,” he says.
Professor of History Alexis Dudden comments on the unfolding dispute between the Japanese government and a group of 50 Japanese scholars; and the textbook author McGraw-Hill and a group of 20 American scholars. The Japanese government has demanded “correction” to a McGraw-Hill textbook that it claims makes false statements about “comfort women,” females who were forced to work in brothels in Japan during World War II. Dudden represents the 20 American scholars defending the publisher. “We do not make claims about the content of the textbook,” she said. “Our concern was and remains with two basic features of historical research in an open society such as Japan.”
Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb was selected to receive the 2016 Justice Trailblazer award from the John Hay College of Criminal Justice and The Crime Report. The award honors individuals who have advanced national understanding of the challenges of crininal justice. “Jelani’s career embodies the high quality of public service journalism that brings the insights of scholarship and research to a wider national audience on the continuing challenge of fulfilling our national ideal of equal justice for all,” said Stephen Handelman, director of John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice.
Work by Associate Professor Mark Urban that predicts extinction risks for future species under various climate change scenarios was used in an infographic on climate change by Inside Climate News. The infographic encapsulates many of the debates feeding into the COP21 Conference on Climate Change.
A new study by Dartmouth and University of Connecticut researchers shows that the concentrations of mercury in the sediment of estuaries does not always correlate with the concentration of mercury in the water column. This is significant, says coauthor Robert Mason, professor of marine sciences, because many policy decisions about mercury contamination are made solely on the basis of its concentration in sediments. “Many earlier studies assumed that sediments were the most important source as this is the largest reservoir for methylmercury within an estuary,” he says.
Many African-American activists against racism and oppression have suggested that social activists and academics use words that don’t scare away whites, such as the term “white supremacy.”
According to Professor of Sociology Noel Cazenave, “Any system of oppression is typically held together by words. African-Americans have been told what words we can use, and how to express our concerns in order to be listened to, but now is the time for people who are racially oppressed to insist we have a right to express our concerns about our condition in the terms we want.”
Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb debated with his critic Conor Friedersdorf, who writes for The Atlantic, about the surge of protests on college campuses during an event at Connecticut College. Friedersdorf sees these protests as going beyond freedom of speech and, consequently, being counterproductive. On the other hand, Cobb sees critics of these protests as having a “presumptuousness on the part of people who have never faced a particular problem.”
“It is the logic that says I, as a man, am in a position to tell women, ‘You’re overreacting to sexism.’ It is the argument that says a person who is in the majority understands the implications of what it means to be a minority,” says Cobb.
Many right-wing Japanese scholars are demanding that the U.S. textbook publisher McGraw-Hill should correct its factual errors about Japan’s wartime sexual slavery. Professor of History Alexis Dudden, who has been at the forefront of the opposition against the Japanese scholars, claims that the Japanese government is wrong and that the history is correct. “It’s not natural that a government intervenes in academic publication. Imagine if Ambassador Caroline Kennedy sent three people from the American Embassy in Tokyo to various publishers of school textbooks to examine how Japanese textbooks portray the attack on Pearl Harbor,” says Dudden.
The art exhibit curated by Professor of Anthropology Françoise Dussart, called “Lifelines: Indigenous Contemporary Art From Australia,” is currently on display at the Quebec City’s Musee de la civilisation.
Dussart’s exhibit is also featured in the Winnipeg Free Press, Radio Canada, TVA Canada, and many other news outlets.
Connecticut’s Audubon Society predicts significant drops in vulnerable nesting birds due to climate change. Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Chris Elphick also agrees. According to Elphick, the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow “is likely to be among the first birds to go extinct due to sea level rise.”
Professor of History Alexis Dudden wrote to the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History journal opposing the Japanese government’s efforts “to suppress statements in history textbooks both in Japan.” Dudden and many other scholars have written against these textbook changes.
“It’s not natural that a government intervenes in academic publication,” says Dudden.
Emeritus Professor of Physics Ronald Mallett is building a time machine based on Albert Einstein’s theories. “The machine is responsible for the twisting of space and time, so you can’t go earlier than that. Once the first time machine is turned on, our descendants would be able to communicate with us, but we won’t be able to communicate with our ancestors,” says Mallet.
Professor of Psychology Edward Large, and colleagues, studied a captive bonobo at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida. Their research, which involved the bonobo matching the drumbeat of a human drummer, provides solid evidence that bonobos can match tempo and synchronise with human rhythms.
Despite Hilary Clinton’s opposition for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, who are in support of the pipeline, announced their endorsement for her presidential run. Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Political Science Mark Boyer said, “First, such endorsements are generally made more because of a candidate’s overall orientation and less for a stand on a particular issue. Second, especially compared with the pack of Republican candidates, Secretary Clinton is much more inclined to pro-union policies than others in the mix.
Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb recently moderated the screening of the HBO film “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets” at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. The film depicts the life and death of Jordan Davis three years after he was killed by a white man at a gas station.
A new study called, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” says that greater income inequality makes the rich less generous. Professor of Political Science Lyle Scruggs poses this question, “If the people in charge are even richer, are they less likely to care about those less fortunate, and therefore be less generous, as a mindset?”
Prior to the recent mending of the U.S. and Cuban relationship, Russian was language of choice being taught in Cuban schools and influenced a lot of the Cuban culture. Professor of Literatures, Cultures and Languages Jacqueline Loss, who has written extensively on Russian’s influence on Cuban arts, said, “There’s a joke that the only place where the Soviet Union still exists is in Cuba.”
In response to the recent terrorist attacks on Paris many U.S. governors said they will close their doors to Syrian refugees. Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work and Director of the Human Rights Institute Kathryn Libal said, “I was concerned, even before last week, about the way Syrian refugees are being politicized in very dangerous, xenophobic ways.”
The Korean government announced that it will “reintroduce state-authored history textbooks for middle and high schools in 2017.” Those who oppose this claim a single government-issued textbook would not provide a balanced narrative. Professor of History Alexis Dudden said, “There is not such thing as a single, correct history.”
Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb spoke with Jonathan Holloway, the first African-American dean of Yale College. When asked to describe the climate on campus Holloway said, “The students, for them it’s not about free speech. They aren’t questioning the rights of free speech. You’re hearing this incredible pain and frustration related to the issue of being constantly marginalized, feeling that their speech and their existence simply doesn’t matter.”
In his op-ed piece, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb said that recent race incidents at the University of Missouri and Yale share “themes of racial obtuseness, arthritic institutional responses to it, and the feeling, among students of color, that they are tenants rather than stakeholders in their universities.”
Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb participated in a panel discussing how much speech is too much? “Of course, there is such a thing as hate speech and I think that there’s such a thing as free speech…but I don’t think that we should go to the kind of absurdist argument, where — that anything that someone says that is remotely, possibly offensive can be deployed against actual, like, legitimately, objectively things that are happening on college campuses,” Cobb said.
A study led by Associate Professor of Sociology Bradley Wright sent 3,000 churches across America emails from made up people who had recently moved into the area and were looking to join their congregation. The researchers found that churches were more likely to respond to a “potential new member with a white-sounding name” rather than black, Hispanic- or Asian-sounding names.
Recently, the University of Missouri’s president resigned after not taking the concerns of black and minority students seriously about racist acts on-campus. Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb said, “The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered.”
Research out of the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity did a study to see how the media and societal shame of affect overweight women. According to the study, “The overweight participants who viewed the stigma video ate more than three times as many calories as overweight women who saw the neutral video.”
Deputy Director of the Rudd Center, Rebecca Puhl, said, “Research shows that the opposite is true,” Dr. Puhl said. “Messages that shame, blame and stigmatize people about their weight have a negative impact and interfere with efforts to improve health.”
A new study out of Indiana University found that most journalists identify themselves as democrats and claims that this is results in biased reporting. Assistant Professor of Communications David D’Alessio agrees that there is bias in the press, but claims that “it all evens out in the end.”
Part of an Environmental Protection Agency grant for Martha’s Vineyard will fund the research of Assistant Research Professor of Marine Sciences Jamie Vaudrey to “study how phragmites ingest and store nitrogen, so the amount of nitrogen removed by a harvest can be effectively measured.”
Associate Professor of Communications David D’Alessio argues that for every liberal news outlet, like MSNBC, there is a Fox News counterpoint that the market creates. “If you stop to think about media as larger than just reporters and owners they’re business entities and their job is to make money. If you look at where people’s opinions are, they are in the middle, so that’s where a lot of reporting goes because that’s where the eyeballs go,” D’Alessio said.
Emeritus Professor of Physics Ronald Mallett is using Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity to prove that time travel is possible. Mallet hypothesizes “that if gravity could change time and light, then light can create gravity and also alter time.”Mallet has already designed “a machine that would use lasers to twist time and bend it back on itself to form a loop” to test this theory.
Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Chris Elphick helps to conserve the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area through the use of sea level monitoring tools.
At the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting on November first Visiting Assistant Professor in Integrated Geoscience Patrick Getty proposed that ancient larvae created mazelike structures out of their mazelike layout of these subterranean passageways to frustrate unwanted intruders.
Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey said that sororities and fraternizes are “more racially segregated than the societies in which they exist in and much more segregated that the campuses on which they reside.” To solve this problem Hughey said that diversification is the first step to solving the ongoing problems of segregation in Greek life.
The study “Her Support, His Support: Money, Masculinity, and Marital Infidelity,” headed by Associate Professor of Sociology Christin Munsch, found that a man or woman who is economically dependent on his or her partner are more likely to cheat. The study also found taht men are three times more likely to cheat than women.
A black student at the Southern Methodist University confronted the fact that minorities at SMU have a tougher time going through sorority recruitment and are usually rejected. When she put this information online she was confronted with a hateful backlash, which included a list of 10 reasons why white sororities don’t offer bids to black women. According to Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey, “American fraternity and sorority life is one of both deep racial segregation and inequality…Approximately 96 percent of the membership of traditional white Greek-letter organizations are composed of white members today.”
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Steven Wisensale‘s course “Baseball and Society: Politics, Economics, Race and Gender,” is not as easy as students would expect. Before even being accepted into the course, Wisensale requires that students write an essay about why they want to be in the class. Afterward he chooses 50 or so students out of 180 or so students who get to take the course. “In the end, I save unsuspecting students lots of trouble, and of course I save myself lots of trouble,” Wisensale said.
In an article called “From Rich Port to Bridgeport: Puerto Ricans in Connecticut,”Assistant Professor-in-Residence of the Urban Studies Program Ruth Glasser writes that many Puerto Ricans in the 1920s moved to Connecticut because they saw that their friends and families members were getting paid better at instate factories.
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Charles Yarish and co-owner of Ocean Approved, a sugar kelp farm that sell its product to the public, suggests that if you’re going to grow seaweed make sure the species is native to the water you’re growing it in. This is because some seaweeds are extremely invasive.
In Monroe, Connecticut there aren’t enough candidates to fill seats, which leads voters to have little choice at all in who is elected. Associate Professor-in-Residence in the Department of Political Science Ronald Schurin said, “In towns like Monroe, which have ‘minority representation’ rules, very often the minority party will only put up the minimum number of candidates to prevent them from running against each other…So that’s a tactical decision.”
Through his research Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and seaweed expert Charles Yarish has found that despite a drop in sea water temperatures kelp can survive. “It [kelp] wasn’t just adding another species…It was the beginning of adding another ten thousand species,” Yarish said.
In an article discussing the HIV denialist movement, Professor of Psychology Seth Kalichman and author of “Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy” said, “[In the 1980s] any theory of what was causing young people to die from these rare diseases was fair game.”
Emeritus Professor of Physics Ronald Mallett and author of “Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality” believes that “time travel could, in fact, become a reality, though perhaps on a very limited scale.” Mallet discussed his interest and revelations in this article with the Huffington Post. “My breakthrough was to realize that if gravity can alter time, and light can create gravity, then light can alter time. This leads to the possibility of a time machine based on laser light,” Mallet said.
In CT Jeb Bush is trailing Hilary Clinton in fundraising, but nationally he has raised less money than expected. Associate Professor-in-Residence of Political Science Ronald Schurin said, “I’m hearing that Bush’s supporters are wondering if their money is going down a rat hole…He was the comfortable establishment candidate that everybody thought would blow every other (Republican) candidate out of the water, and Donald Trump made that go away.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s approval rating has dropped to 32 percent, only a year after his re-election, partially due to public concern over his ability to get his agenda through the General Assembly. Associate Professor-in-Residence of Political Science Ronald Schurin notes, “Second terms tend to be more difficult as governors can no longer convincingly blame their predecessor for their problems.”
A new study in cell metabolism found that eating junk food can cause changes to your bone marrow, which could over or under produce immune cell’s for you body. This change is due to microbial species, but researchers are still working to figure out what bacterial species are causing these diseases. Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Nichole Broderick said, “It really is a part of our physiology…It’s not just a local effect; it’s having a systemic effect on multiple organs.”
A pumpkin patch in Centreville, Virginia had a Black Lives Matter sign posted on its farm window that spurred a local police officer to boycott patrons from going to this farm to enjoy their fall activities. The officer perceives the movement to be anti-law enforcement and promote the destruction of police officials.
This incident became a bigger issue about what exactly is the message behind the Black Lives Matter movement. Professor of Sociology Noel Cazenave participated in a panel discussing this issue stating that there needs to be a change in the power relations between police officers and black Americans before these killings of blacks will stop.
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Pressman has extensively researched Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. In an interview with Vox, Pressman weighs in on the recent conflicts that have arisen in Jerusalem that have resulted in numerous deaths. “If you’re not willing to engage in that process and make fundamental compromises, then you’re kind of stuck in this situation. Now, it could quiet down for a while. Remember, last year things got pretty bad in Jerusalem, and then it quieted down for a few months. That could happen again,” Pressman said.
Many people are questioning whether The Cosby Show will be remembered for its cultural importance now that Bill Cosby, who played the father Heathcliff Huxtable, has been accused of numerous accounts of sexual assault. Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb said, “The Cosby Show debuted during the Reagan era, when the plagues of crack, AIDS and spiraling homicide were ravaging African-Americans…[The show was] huge among Black people because it was a counterpoint to the stream of negativity that we heard and saw about ourselves so frequently during those years.”
Professor of Chemistry Robert Birge is researching proteins from a halophile called Halobacterium salinarum that uses a pigment to store light for energy. Some scientists believe that this organism is what life of Mars would look like if it does exist.
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Sara Harkness examines cultural beliefs of childcare. Her research has found that American parents place a “high priority on cognitive processing and stimulation of cognitive development.”
“The kindergarten curriculum, in turn, looks more like first or even second grade used to look…In short, it’s a lot easier to be developmentally ‘behind’ in today’s world of early childhood education. No wonder parents are advised to start reading to their child before it’s born,” Harkness said.
Professor of English
A UConn biology class discovered an invasive plant species, called Hydrilla, in the Coventry Lake, which is concerning DEEP officials. Action is already being taken to stop the plant from spreading to other bodies on water.
Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey co-wrote an article with W. Carson Byrd of the University of Lousiville about scientific racism, which claims that race is a biological reality with particular traits and behaviors. The discussion spurred from a woman sued because she “claimed that the sperm used to inseminate her came from the wrong donor, leading to a biracial child, which she had not wanted.”
“Recent controversies illustrate how such beliefs about race, difference and inequality can influence discussions of societal development and policies,” Hughey and Byrd said.
There is a growing desire in parents that their child develop emotional intelligence. Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Sara Harkness said, “Although traditional IQ is important for learning new information and thinking analytically, people with high emotional intelligence have an easier time making and keeping friends, and they are also more likely to be successful in school and at work.”
US News, September 17, 2015
Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey, who’s research is focused on Greek life in the U.S., found that rural schools that have less access to a variety of off-campus activities tend to have high student involvement with Greek life.
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal,who is Jewish, recently voted in support on the Iran Deal, but many groups such as the local American Israel Public Affair Committee (AIPAC) have lobbied Blumenthal to vote against the deal. Associate Professor-in-Residence of Political Science Ronald Schurin said, “I get the sense that the AIPAC leadership is not representative of its members…They are not universally opposed to the deal.”
Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Mark Urban‘s recent study shows that if the Earth warms by two degrees celsius that five percent of the world’s species will become extinct.
Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey and Ph.D. student Devon Goss co-wrote an article about the existence of racism in today’s sports world. “For instance, some research has found that many athletes believe that white sporting success is attributable to intelligence, while nonwhite success is accredited to genetically predisposed bodies…,” Hughey and Goss said.
In a meeting at the Avery Point campus discussing how to deal with dredge spoils in the Long Island Sound, Professor and Director of Marine Sciences James O’Donnell suggested that Connecticut officials should inform officials in the Army Corps and New York that the state is “actively looking to reduce the amount of material dumped at offshore sites through reuse.”
Professor of History Peter Zarrow, who is also an adjunct research fellow at the Institute of Modern History in Taipei, discusses how the emergence of the Chinese magazine New Youth in the early 1900s sparked an intellectual awakening throughout China.
The Boston Globe, September, 2015
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Charles Yarish developed, alongside his colleagues, nursery technology to cultivate kelp in areas along the Long Island Sound to help increase kelp production.
In an article about the recent Ashley Madison data breach, a website facilitating extramarital affairs, Assistant Professor of Sociology Christin Munsch discusses why partners who are economically dependent on their partner are more likely to cheat. “It suggests that we don’t like coming up on the losing end of this comparison, and we’re going to seek alternative partners,” Munsch said.
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe has recently won a second term as prime minister, but many Japanese citizens aren’t happy and are protesting his re-election. Professor of History Alexis Dudden discusses with a panel of speakers about what this could mean for Japan.
Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator Santiago believes that Puerto Rico will be treated more like a state than a territory if legislation to eliminate that cap on the grant for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid is passed. “There would have to be local reforms in the island, because the public healthcare system we have there is fairly corrupt…There has to be a lot more accountability, and it can be done. It can be done quickly if the federal government would move forward, but I don’t see that impetus right now, ” Santiago said.
Research Specialist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Alejandro Rico-Guevara recently published his report entitled, “Proceedings of the Royal Society B,” describing how hummingbird’s use their tongues to draw up nectar.
A study included in the report, “Lifecycle Events and Their Consequences: Job Loss, Family Change and Decline in Health,” which was co-edited by Professor of Economics Kenneth Couch ,found that staying married or remarrying after a divorce “translates into greater economic security.”
A recently published study concluded that there is approximately a net loss of 10 billion trees per year on Earth. Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Robin Chazdon comments on the study stating, “Tree size, species identity, and tree qualities matter hugely in accounting for the importance of forests and trees outside of forests…This study does not take those attributes into account.”
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Sara Harkness said that children raised in poverty often have lasting negative consequences that affect their adult life. To solve local poverty Harkness suggests, “Community-based services, bringing larger programs down to scale in local neighborhoods and integrating them such that families do not need to go from one service to another would be very helpful for families in poverty.”
Researchers have been trying to solve the mystery of why and how people around the world came to believe in moralizing gods by using the many scientific methods. Professor of Anthropology Richard Sosis “They’ve [religious studies experts] done a great service by bringing together a lot of important findings in the field,”
Associate Professor of Anthropology Daniel Adler will be giving a lecture of Sept. 27, 2015 at 8 p.m. in the Bruce Museum located in Greenwich, called “Excavations in Armenia: Transitions from lower to middle Paleolithic (425,000 to 130,000 years ago).”
Forex Report Daily, August 20, 2015
The Iran Nuclear Deal is still up for much debate in the White House. Associate Professor-In-Residence of Political Science Ron Schurin said “the White House would find it hard to justify military action against Iran for a violation of the nuclear agreement without congressional approval.”
Science Codex, August 24, 2015
A study by Associate Professor of Sociology Mary Fischer and co-author Jacob Rugh found that military veterans tend to live in more diverse neighborhoods than their civilian counterparts of the same race. “According to the social contact hypothesis, racial attitudes are improved and stereotypes are broken when diverse groups come together under circumstances that promote meaningful cross-group interaction, such as in the military,” Fischer said.
Recently, many sororities and fraternities around the country have been criticized for showing a lack of diversity in their members. Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey notes that modern-day segregation that exists in Greek life is a problem rooted from the inception of the Greek system. “When Greek life organizations were first founded they mirrored in their campus demographics, and that was when campuses were for elite white men,” Hughey said.
A recent break-through study conducted by Research Associate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Alejandro Rico-Guevara and colleagues revealed that hummingbirds use their tongues as pumps to suck up liquid.
Study also featured in Christian Science Monitor and other publications.
A study by University of Connecticut researchers found that people feel the most spiritually connected in the morning time and that their spiritual connectedness can fluctuate throughout the day.
Professor of Chemistry Challa V. Kumar and colleagues have achieved a breakthrough in solar cell technology with their development of a “green antenna,” which could potentially double the efficiencies of certain solar cells and make solar cells more affordable. “Most of the light from the sun is emitted over a very broad window of wavelengths..If you want to use solar energy to produce (an) electric current, you want to harvest as much of that spectrum as possible,” Kumar said. This work was also featured in numerous other publications, including Energy Business Review, Hacked.com, Techradar, The Statesman, C&E News, and the American Chemical Society as a news item, symposium and videocast.
Last week Connecticut’s highest court ruled that capital punishment goes against the State’s Constitution. The work of Professor of History Lawrence Goodheart, who has studied the death penalty extensively, was cited by Justice Palmer during the court ruling.
Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Jessie Rack talks about her research into a scientific tradition of scientists eating the organism that they’ve studied. Rack decided to reach out to scientists over social media and found out that they’ve eaten many plant and animals like, “bluegill, sea urchin, ants, bees, beetles, weeds, maggots, blackberries, abalone, pink cusk-eel, cicadas, roe deer, woodcocks, crayfish and seabird.”
GOP presidential contender Carly Fiorina has come out against a proposed federal law that would require companies to provide paid maturity leave. In 2014 only nine percent of companies offer fully paid maternity leave benefits.
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Steven Wisensale said,”I don’t think we can afford to wait for corporations, out of the goodness of their hearts, to come up with a policy…We want everybody to have a fair shake, and one way to do that is to have mandated leave by the government.”
A new study out of UConn’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that the largest food and beverage companies in the U.S. disproportionately market to black and Hispanic youths. Associate Professor-in-Residence at the Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention, Jennifer Harris, said, “”It wasn’t surprising that there was more unhealthy stuff targeted to black and Hispanic consumers…What was surprising was the lack of healthy stuff. Almost all the advertising was for fast food, candy and sugary drinks.”
Donald Trump, a Republican presidential candidate for 2016, has offended many people with his comments about women that he’s made during debates and tv appearances. Trump has sparked controversy for the Republican party as a whole and other candidates in the running. Associate Professor-in-Residence of Political Science Ronald Schurin said, “What hurts the Republicans is that nobody jumped on him of the other nine candidates on the stage…Trump is defined correctly as at best a provocateur and more like a clown.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Dyson discusses the events in the first book of the trilogy called “Three-Body,” written by the popular Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin. Dyson said, “In 2014’s “The Three-Body Problem,” Liu establishes an alternate history in which Mao’s China, concerned about other powers monopolizing communications with aliens, builds Red Coast Base, a station designed to broadcast into space and listen for responses.”
Connecticut plans to construct a highway along Route 8 east of the Naugatuck River near where the city of Waterbury wants to create a green-way for the town. Assistant Professor-in-Residence of the Urban Studies Program Phil Birge-Liberman said, “This has the potential to add valuable real estate to the tax rolls, but it also has the possibility of gentrifying the community by raising property values and rents…Is it a viable option, yes; but we need to be sure that the local residents benefit as well.”
Associate Professor of English Mary Bercaw-Edwards is a Herman Melville scholar who says that attending the annual marathon reading of Moby Dick on the Charles W. Morgan makes you feel like you’re in the story. “You lie on the deck of the ship at night and you look up and you see the stars, and the creaking of the rig, and then you can hear the words of Moby Dick sort of flowing over you and it’s absolutely wonderful and magical,” Bercaw-Edwards said.
Associate Professor-in-Residence of Political Science Ronald Schurin says he won’t be surprised if U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont does well in Democratic primaries. “He will push Hillary to the left or at the very least force her to address issues she might not otherwise address…The big example right now is the trade agreement,” Schurin said.
Associate Professor of Psychology Diane Quinn talks on The Matt Townsend show focusing on issues related to gender stereotypes, self-objectification, and the stigma of overweight in China.
Professor and Department Head of Political Science David Yalof says that for the 2016 Presidential race that reshaping the Supreme Court won’t be a major campaign issue. “There’s often a building up of expectations that this will be the presidential election where court issues and constitutional issues will matter…But modern history says the opposite. Rarely do constitutional issues come up,” Yalof said.
Professor-in-Residence of Human Development and Family Studies and Deputy Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Rebecca Puhl writes about the troubles that obese people have legally claiming their obesity as a disability. “Many instances of weight discrimination occur against people who are not disabled or perceived as disabled, and the A.D.A. does not extend coverage for individuals at lower levels of obesity. For these people who experience weight discrimination, few, if any, legal options exist,” Puhl said.
Graduate student in the Department of Anthropology, Martin Lang, and his colleagues conducted a study to see if there is a link between anxiety and ritualization. The researchers evaluated 62 students from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, who were required to give a public speech, to see how they would respond to their stress and anxiety over public speaking. “If ritualization is a natural response to anxiety, then we might be able to develop effective techniques to help people deal with chronic and acute stress,” Lang said.
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Charles Yarish, a longtime seaweed farmer, thinks seaweed is a particularly exciting crop because of its ability to extract nutrients from aquatic ecosystems. Yarish said, “If you use the right seaweeds, you can actually start extracting nutrients…In areas where you have excess nutrients, that’s an opportunity. We’re doing an ecosystem service, and creating crops.”
Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute and staff writer at The New Yorker Jelani Cobb accepted the 2015 Hillman Prize for opinion and analysis at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford for his writings on racism. Cobb said, ““I hope that I will never have to write another story like the stories that I’ve written about Ferguson and Baltimore…The past is said to be prologue, and sometimes it should be said that it is just as often indistinguishable from the present. In writing, I’ve hoped to make some small contribution toward that not always being the case.”
Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb spoke to WBAI radio about the distortion of the Confederate Flag saying, “…We have engaged in what I called a translucent lie. We know what the symbol [the Confederate Flag] is and we know the circumstances under which the symbol came into existence. When people would say this is heritage, not hate I would always respond by saying what makes you think those two things are mutually exclusive?”
In Harper Lee’s new novel “Go Set a Watchman,” the hero of her classic novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,” named Atticus Finch, turns out to be racist. Associate Professor of Sociology Matthew Hughey said, “Now that Atticus Finch has been removed from that pedestal of this benevolent, messianic character, people seem to be reacting as if they’ve been told, ‘No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus…But a lot of critical social scientists or literary scholars aren’t upset, because we already saw white supremacy and white paternalism in the form of Atticus Finch. It was just the palatable kind.”
Scientists are working to gather more information on bees in Connecticut and create a “bee database.” Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Jason Wagner, who is part of the project, has made many trips with his colleagues to both public and private bee collections around the state looking for documentation on native bees.
A recent survey conducted by UConn’s Deputy Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Rebecca Puhl, found that the number one identified reason children claimed to be bullied was for being overweight.
In an article about anti-bullying laws regarding overweight children, Professor in Residence for UConn’s Center For Health, Intervention and Prevention, Rebecca Puhl, said, “[Currently] It is actually legal to discriminate on the basis of weight, and that sends a message that bias, unfair treatment or bullying of overweight children is tolerable.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Matthew Singer gives WPR an exclusive interview discussing the domestic politics in the Dominican Republic.
Scientists are now trying to figure out how to create ethical robots. One often cited experiment is “a commercial toy robot called Nao was programmed to remind people to take medicine.” Emeritus Professor of Philosophy Susan Anderson comments, “But even in this kind of limited task, there are nontrivial ethics questions involved.”
Recent studies have found that autistic children can lower their anxiety levels by playing with animals, namely guinea pigs. Distinguished Professor of Psychology Deborah Fein, who researches autism, notes that, “People might think that if you lower the anxiety of these children, they’ll pick up social skills incidentally.” Fein says that autistic children still need to be directly taught social skills, but sees human-animal interaction as “a great ancillary treatment to practice those skills.”
Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb joins a panel discussing the recent Charleston massacre and why many Southerners justify the use of the Confederate flag.
The U.S. House of Representatives will hold a hearing to consider making Puerto Rico a state. Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Venator-Santiago said that the hearing is likely to “produce more smoke than fire.”“It doesn’t make sense from a congressional standpoint…Can you imagine a Republican Congress granting Puerto Rico statehood status?” said Venator-Santiago.
Professor of History Alexis Dudden spoke in Soeul, Korea about Japan’s denial of its involvement in the recruitment of South Korean sex slaves, called “comfort women,” during World War II. She says, “You can make it temporarily impossible to tell a story, but you can never silence the story.”
The first businesses in Connecticut have earned approval from the FAA to employ drones, writes Assistant Professor of Journalism Marie Shanahan, but she notes these “federal approvals come with severe restrictions.”
Assistant Professor of Philosophy Daniel Silvermint discusses “passing” as something you’re not, as in the case of Rachel Dolezal, and what it means to a philosopher.
Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb writes about the Charleston shooting massacre that happened on June 17, 2015. He raises the questions, “Who did this? Was it the act of an individual or was it an organized effort? What motivates someone to commit such monstrous acts and how do they rationalize such evil? How much longer can we live like this?
Recently, nine black churchgoers were murdered at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb points out that police were quick to label this act as a hate crime, but says it’s much more. “We should, for all the worst reasons, be adept by now at recognizing terrorism when we see it, and what happened in Charleston was nothing less than an act of terror,” Cobb said.
Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb joins a discussion about the Charleston South Carolina church massacre on “Now With Alex Wagner” show. Cobb said that he sees this massacre as a hate crime, but also as an act of terrorism.
Professor of Physics Robin Cote are colleagues are exploring the density ripples that BEC ponds would exhibit in the presence of a few highly excited atoms. This research could be used to engineer molecules.
There is growing national debate over racial identity sparked by the story of Rachel Dolezal. Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute Jelani Cobb joined a round table with Democracy now discussing the issues of race.
Science has shown that positive influence from both parents is essential to raising children. Emeritus Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Ronald Rohner said, “We’re now finding that not only are fathers influential, sometimes they have more influence on kids…Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better prediction of…well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction.”