Undergraduates receive Steinbrecher Fellowships to pursue creative research projects for 2019-20 academic year
Topics range from defining DNA modifications to studying the evolution of folk music traditions
April 24, 2019
Clark News & Media Relations
Eight Clark University undergraduates have been awarded Steinbrecher Fellowships to pursue creative research projects in the sciences and humanities. The projects will begin this summer and continue through the 2019-20 academic year.
The Steinbrecher Fellowship Program encourages and supports Clark undergraduates’ pursuit of original ideas, creative research, and community service projects.
This year’s Steinbrecher Fellows and their projects are:
Tobey Chase ’20 Majors: Geography (GIS track) and global environmental science Faculty sponsor: Florencia Sangermano, geography
Chase will investigate the role of fences in human-elephant conflict in the Dinokeng Game Reserve in South Africa. The project integrates field work in the reserve (in collaboration with Operation Wallacea scientists) with GIS-based habitat suitability analyses. The project has the potential to contribute to future conservation efforts in the Dinokeng Game Reserve.
Eugenia Cojocaru ’20 Major: Biology Faculty sponsor: Justin Thackeray, biology
Approximately half of human prostate and breast cancer tumors have abnormally high levels of a protein (phospholipase C- γ) that is a key regulator of cell growth and division. Cojocaru will use the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) to screen for novel compounds that inhibit phospholipase C-γ activity. These novel compounds may provide pathways for the development of new anti-cancer treatments for humans.
Tayla Cormier ’20 Major: Biology; minor: studio art; concentration: mathematical biology and bioinformatics Faculty Sponsor: Robert Drewell, biology
DNA, the information hub in all cells, is chemically modified in response to developmental and environmental signals. Cormier will explore the role of one type of chemical modification, DNA methylation, in the slime mold Dictyosteliumdiscoideum (affectionately known as Dicty). Dicty is a model experimental organism used to explore and understand many cellular processes that are shared among eukaryotes (e.g. humans, flies, fungi, plants, algae). Cormier will combine experimental and bioinformatic approaches to examine the importance of DNA methylation in Dicty.
Evelin Diaz Araque ’22 Major: Undeclared, but looking for ways to integrate photography and computer science Faculty sponsor: Frank Armstrong, visual and performing arts
Inspired by the work of Robert Frank (“The Americans”), Diaz Araque will work on a photographic documentary as she travels from Worcester to Austin, Texas, with renowned photographer and Clark faculty member Frank Armstrong and other Clark students. Using two different camera formats, Diaz Araque seeks to capture images and impressions of a country she has yet to explore.
Michael (Mikey) Ippolito ’21 Major: History Faculty sponsor: Valerie Sperling, political science
Ippolito will head to Austin, Texas, to examine how folk music traditions have changed from the “outlaw country” movement of the 1970s to today. The project combines his core interests in history and music, and the results of his work will be presented both as an academic paper and a live talk/performance in the fall.
Juliana Lugg ’21 Major: Media, culture, and the arts Faculty Sponsor: Hugh Manon, visual and performing arts
Lugg will travel, with camera in hand, to the smallest towns in each of the six New England states to share their unique stories. She is drawn to improvisatory and experimental nonfiction filmmaking and plans to produce a series of six short documentaries, “Small Town Stories.” One of Lugg’s early films, “Uncommon Threads: Fashioning Confidence,” was screened at the 2019 Chelmsford Film Festival.
Jake Sullivan ’20 Major: Psychology Faculty sponsor: Abbie Goldberg, psychology
The ubiquity of social media is unmistaken, and for today’s youth, the line between “online” and “offline” identifies has become blurred. Sullivan will examine how social media shapes the sexual and gender identity development of queer adolescents, and interview queer youth and young adults to better understand how social media has shaped their LGBTQ+ identities and how people can be supported in today’s connected world.
Mariah Torcivia ’20 Major: Biology; concentration: health, science, and society Faculty sponsor: Tovah Day, biology
The human genome contains over 3 billion base pairs of DNA divided into 46 chromosomes (for cells with 2 copies of the genome). Placed end to end, the human genome would be about 5 feet long, yet it is tightly packaged to fit into the cell’s 6 micron (0.0002 inch) nucleus. To achieve this tight packaging, DNA is most often found as a helix wrapped around proteins in a complex called chromatin. The chromatin structure can be modified, sometimes allowing for the formation of structures (G4 DNA) that can form roadblocks and potential breaks in the DNA. The goal of Torcivia’s project is to define chromatin modifications that allow for the formation of G4 DNA. Understanding the regulation of G4 DNA formation will contribute to our understanding of how genome instability contributes to the regulation of gene expression and the formation of oncogenes.
“I love meeting the new fellows each spring; they bring such passion to their work. I am pleased to be part of a program that is able to support these creative and innovative projects,” says Deb Robertson, professor of biology and acting director of the Steinbrecher Fellows Program. “I look forward to seeing them again in the fall and learning about their summer experiences,”
The Steinbrecher Fellowship Program was established in 2006 to in memory of David C. Steinbrecher ’81, by his parents, Phyllis and Stephen Steinbrecher ’55, and is funded by generous gifts from the Steinbrecher family and friends of David.