Filter Dissertations and Theses By:
Queer Environmentality: Thoreau, Melville, Cather, and Barnes
Year of Dissertation:
My chief objective in this project is to draw some connections between queer studies and environmental studies within the more general context of literary studies. I will propose an alternative understanding of literary environmentalism, rich in tropological abundance, poetic complexity, and hermeneutic indeterminacy, and I will magnify a queer sensibility, present in varying degrees, in this history, or what I call "queer environmentality." In order to develop this queer-environmental literary theory, I perform careful exegeses of four key figures in the American tradition: Thoreau, Melville, Cather, and Djuna Barnes. Each writer problematizes conventional notions of the strange matrix between the human, the natural, and the sexual, and thus challenges the assumption that the subject of American environmental literature is essentially and consubstantially heterosexual. Each brilliantly demonstrates the ways in which the queer project and the environmental project are always already connected, that is to say, in which the questions and politics of human sexuality are always entwined with the questions and politics of the other-than-human world. Like Charles Darwin, the four primary objects of my analysis--Thoreau, Melville, Cather, and Barnes--believe in reconsidering the human as a natural being, as a species, or type of being, that occupies a particular niche in the order of things, and, therefore, as subject to the explanatory gestures afforded to other species that also constitute and populate their particular biological kingdom. But figuring the human as natural does not provide a stable ontology, nor does it permit an escape from all kinds of epistemological problematics. Like Henri Bergson, each thinker takes seriously the profound connection between ontology and epistemology and offers long meditations on the super-saturation of life--human and otherwise--with desires and aims, with indeterminate geneses and inexplicably deferred endpoints. Thoreau's sinewy sense of "sensuality" within the animal-human-divine matrix, Melville's symbolic struggle with extra-human forces, Cather's cryptic musings on the singularity of organic composition, and Barnes's biologically inflected--perhaps infected--decadence all point to an environment as explosive with meaning, with "interlinked terrors and wonders" (Moby-Dick 139), as the creatures that dwell within.
"Young, Brown and Down:" Second-Generation Indo-Guyanese Americans Constructing their Ethnicity in New York
Year of Dissertation:
This study offers a new approach to understanding the role of nostalgic performances carried out by second-generation Indo-Guyanese Americans through ethnic institutions as a route into the American mainstream. The Indo-Guyanese are an Indian Diaspora group who arrived in the Caribbean during the Indian Indenture and who have been "twice removed from India." They have limited or no ability to speak Hindi, but their religious beliefs (Hinduism and Islam) have enabled them to maintain certain Indian traditions (e.g.. wearing saris). However, they have also adopted several Caribbean cultural practices, such as musical tastes, that have augmented their cultural hybridity. There has been a significant Indo-Guyanese migration to Queens, New York since the early 1990s, which has led to the creation of an Indo-Guyanese ethnic enclave which facilitates the provision of cultural goods, services and houses of worship. Taking Gans' (1979) concept of symbolic ethnicity a step further, my research shows how the American born children of this unique immigrant group carefully select traditions from their hybrid mix of Indian and Afro-Caribbean cultures to attain racial recognition in New York. Additionally gendered expectations significantly shape the Indo-Guyanese identity. Gendered pressures create and augment disparities between men and women in the second generation as they move towards negotiating their ethnicity within the American mainstream. Inter and intra-generational gendered expectations usually place women in the position of maintaining ethno-religious traditions, which may set limits on their ability to achieve an assimilation status similar to second-generation Indo-Guyanese men within the American mainstream. Therefore, I show how New York provides a space for ethnic navigation and negotiation with gendered constraints.
Carbohydrates as Scaffolds for Bioactive Agents
Year of Dissertation:
ABSTRACT Carbohydrates as Scaffolds for Bioactive Agents By Stewart Bachan Mentor: Professor David. R. Mootoo Carbohydrates are attractive templates for drug design because of their accessibility, highly functionalized structures and rich synthetic chemistry. The goal of this research was to design mimetics of two classes of biologically interesting molecules using carbohydrate scaffolds. These are beta-D-galactosylceramide (GalCer) and the tetrahydrofuran (THF) containing AAs. The emergence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) strains of HIV-1 has created a need for new therapeutic agents. The glycolipid GalCer has been shown to be a cofactor in HIV-1 infection as it mediates the binding of the HIV envelope protein gp120 in CD4+ cells. Mimics of GalCer can serve as potential entry inhibitors of HIV-1. 1,1-Linked galactose-mannose (Gal-Man) and glucose-mannose (Glu-Man) disaccharides with an ester on the Man subunit were found to bind to the V3 loop peptide of gp120 and inhibit HIV infectivity in single round infection assays with the TZM-b1 cell line (a derivative of the HeLa cell line that express CD4, CXCR4, and CCR5). IC50 values were in the 50 micromolar range with no toxicity to the cells at concentrations up to 200 micromolar. These compounds appear to inhibit virus entry at early steps in viral infection since they were inactive if added post viral entry. Although these compounds were found to bind to the V3 loop peptide of gp120, it is not clear that this interaction is responsible for their anti-HIV activity because the binding affinity of closely related analogs did not correlate with their antiviral behavior. The low cytotoxicity of these 1,1-linked disaccharide fatty acid esters, combined with their easy accessibility to structurally diverse analogs, make these molecules attractive leads for new anti-viral agents. The THF-containing AAs have drawn much attention because of their potent antitumor activities. Their mode of action involves the inhibition of the NADH: ubiquinone oxidoreductase, Complex 1, of the mitochondrial electron transport chain. Their generally high cytotoxicity to both normal and tumor cells has hampered their development as anti-cancer agents. Thus acetogenin analogs that show increased specificity towards cancer cells are of interest as new therapeutic agents. Acetogenin analogs in which the THF core was replaced with either a monosaccharide or disaccharide framework were synthesized and evaluated against various cancer cell lines. The monosaccharide analogs showed antitumor activity in the low micromolar range and were generally more active than their disaccharide counterparts. It is also noteworthy that varying the degree of oxygenation on the monosaccharide ring did not show any significant effect on cytotoxicity. These structure activity observations open up possibilities for the design of tumor selective monosaccharide analogs that target carbohydrate receptors that are overexpressed on tumor cells.
AN EQUINE-FACILITATED PRISON-BASED PROGRAM: HUMAN-HORSE RELATIONS AND EFFECTS ON INMATE EMOTIONS AND BEHAVIORS
Year of Dissertation:
Policy makers and correctional authorities are seeking ways to enhance effectiveness of incarceration and reduce recidivism. Equine-facilitated prison-based vocational programs aim to rehabilitate inmates. Informed by the theories of attachment and desistance, this study evaluates the emotional and behavioral effects of such an intervention utilizing a quasi-experimental methodological triangulation design. Recidivism and disciplinary misconduct are examined by clinical data-mining of institutional records. Propensity Score Matching, binary and multinomial logistic regressions are applied in a discrete-time event history analysis. Semi-structured interviews revealing the subjective experiences of participants are analyzed via the Listening Guide methodology. Quantitative questionnaires, exploring attachment and closeness to horses as compared to humans, are analyzed by linear regressions. Quantitative findings suggest that program participants have a statistically lower chance to recidivate as compared with the control group. Otherwise, a reduction in the severity of disciplinary misconduct was not found. Findings of the questionnaires suggest that horses are approached as attachment figures, including all four features, while higher levels of attachment and closeness to horses were evident among older participants with stronger attachments to their mothers. Qualitative findings show the roles of human-horse relations within prison-context. Emotional features highlight the importance of providing alternative opportunities to experience companionship, which may help inmates process their relational issues and improve competencies. Additionally, the program helps inmates to cope with psychological impact of imprisonment. Behavioral features demonstrate how the program allows inmates to perform as mature individuals while being involved in meaningful activities, which can generate pro-social skills. Social learning exhibit how participants interpreted herd dynamics by projecting human interactions on horses. These could be further discussed to enhance social awareness and develop alternative approaches toward social situations. Furthermore, participants' evaluation of the program and vocational features reveal vocational skills that may be transferable to other settings. Adding an intervention that would help bridge between experiences in the program and other vocations after release could enhance the program's broad impact. Knowledge gleaned from this inquiry has practical implications for the program, and suggests that rehabilitative approaches toward corrections can contribute to a more humane treatment of this population while also benefiting society.
Using Institutional Data to Identify Students at Risk for Leaving Community College: An Event History Approach
Year of Dissertation:
Community colleges have been criticized for having lower graduation rates than four year colleges, but few studies have looked at non-graduation transfer, in which a student leaves the community college for a four-year college without taking an associate degree. The current study utilizes institutional data and a discrete-time event history model to predict non-transfer attrition in community colleges. The data utilized include five years of institutional data from 21,724 first-time freshmen from the six community colleges of the City University of New York. The study includes students who resided in New York City and its two adjacent suburban counties and who matriculated in the fall of the 2004 and 2005 academic years. Multinomial logistic regression was employed in an event history model of student absence and transfer; models were developed for both the first and second spells. Data on students who transferred were obtained from the National Student Loan Clearinghouse (NSLC). Continuation or type of leaving following each semester constituted the dependent variable. Many of the risk factors for leaving were related to academic performance. Students who were writing proficient and who had higher GPAs and more credit completion were more likely to remain enrolled or to transfer; students who failed were more likely to leave. Notably, course withdrawal was a greater risk factor for leaving than course failure. Financial aid in the form of grants and loans was associated with a decreased risk for attrition, and weekly travel was associated with an increased risk for leaving as well as an increased risk for transfer. Smaller class size and time spent on campus and especially in class was associated with lower risks for attrition. Three models were employed, two of these modeled transfer as separate form of leaving; one included transfer together with graduation and continuation as a successful semester outcome. Parameters obtained from the 2004 cohort were applied to the 2005 cohort to assess each model's predictive validity in a naïve dataset. The most successful model for the first spell correctly identified 34.6 percent of the leavers in the semester in which they left, with a 35 percent false positive rate. The most successful model for the second spell identified 49.6 percent of leavers with a 30.8 percent false positive rate. If a false positive rate of 50 percent is allowed, about 60 percent of leavers in the first spell and about 80 percent of the leavers in second spell can be detected. Remedial study does not present a risk, but the data suggest that remedial education may be using too much of a student's grant money. It is suggested that additional study may be needed to determine how to effectively remediate students in math and writing, and that a model for course withdrawal and failure using interim grades be developed. Since withdrawal and failure present acute risks, it is suggested that a student's fitness and prerequisite skills for courses be assessed prior to course enrollment. Since many of the risk factors are interrelated, it is suggested that a structural model may be needed to assess each predictor's relevance.
Conformational features of the human U2-U6 snRNA complex
Year of Dissertation:
The splicing of precursor messenger (pre-m) RNA, during which noncoding intervening sequences are excised and flanking coding regions ligated, is an integral reaction of gene expression. In eukaryotes, it is carried out by a dynamic RNA-protein complex called the spliceosome, in which five small nuclear (sn) RNA components are actively involved in recognition and chemical aspects of the process. A complex formed between U2 and U6 snRNAs is implicated in the chemistry of pre-mRNA splicing. The catalytic activity of the U2-U6 snRNA complex is dependent on the presence of Mg2+ ions, and the complex has been shown to have several specifically bound Mg2+ binding sites in vitro. The overall goal of this research is to characterize the conformational changes of the human U2-U6 snRNA complex upon addition of Mg2+. In order to pursue this question, we attempted to characterize the lowest energy structure of the complex in the absence of spliceosomal proteins using a combination of biophysical and biochemical techniques in the solution state. We first used enzymatic structure probing to evaluate the secondary structural fold of protein-free human U2-U6 snRNA complex. Cleavage patterns resulting from probing reactions were consistent with formation of four stem regions surrounding the junction, therefore favoring the four-helix model consistent with previous results of in vivo studies of the human U2-U6 snRNA complex. However, 19F NMR studies from our laboratory also identified a lesser fraction (up to 14%) of a three- helix conformation. Upon addition of up to 100 mM Mg2+, a slight increase in cleavage by enzymes specific for both single-stranded and double-stranded regions was observed at the junction region, suggesting that this region is becoming more accessible, perhaps because of an increase in the fraction of the three-helix conformation. Analytical ultracentrifugation studies revealed that the Stokes radius of the RNA complex decreased slightly from 31.3 Å to 27.9 Å in the presence of 100 mM Mg2+, suggesting a slight compaction of the tertiary structure in the presence of divalent metal ions. Hydroxyl radical footprinting experiments on this complex showed signs of increased protection in some areas near and more distant from the junction upon addition of Mg2+, suggesting a change in three-dimensional conformation. Therefore, it appears that Mg2+ induces a small three-dimensional conformational change on human U2-U6 snRNA complex. In order to build a three-dimensional model for the four-helix conformation, we designed a mutant that favors the formation of four-helix conformation and performed SAXS experiments on it. The preliminary SAXS studies suggest that the human U2-U6 snRNA complex and the mutant complex may also be amenable to further study by SAXS. These results act as a good starting point to characterize further the overall global conformation of human U2-U6 snRNA complex and effects of spliceosomal proteins on it.
Aesthetic Autobiography and The Poetics of Despair in Post-War American Literature
Year of Dissertation:
This dissertation repositions "aesthetic" in its ancient Greek context, meaning to apprehend by the senses. The project is framed around my idea of the aesthetic autobiography, a creative work that phenomenologically conveys the embodied experience of its author. I do not use "aesthetic" as a transcendentalist term of critical assessment, as defined by Kant; instead, the term denotes the immanent realm of the senses. This move allows me to connect the aesthetic to affect, whose etymology I trace from the mid 18th Century to contemporary affect theory. I theorize the aesthetic as a dynamic and relational biophysical force. I aim to extend the boundaries of autobiographical "truth" in order to accommodate the feeling body, which exists in excess and often beyond the reach of conceptual language. Specifically, I examine how five post-war authors formally confront the challenge of conveying the sensation of depression. By focusing on formal experiments in rhythm, syntax, structure, imagery, and genre, I look at texts by Allen Ginsberg, Joan Didion, Tim O'Brien, Art Spiegelman, and Darryl Cunningham. Grounding the project in mid-twentieth century America, chapter 1 begins with Edmund Wilson's "The Wound and the Bow" (1941), which situates the psychologically wounded artist as a vital and connective social force. In chapters 2 and 3, I juxtapose the respective approaches of Ginsberg and Didion in articulating the physiological experience of a depressive breakdown. Chapter 4 focuses on The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien, as a self-consciously constructed aesthetic autobiography: I show how "postmodernism" responds to representing the sensational body after the "death of the subject" and I argue for its affective possibilities. Finally, in chapter 5, I turn to graphic memoir, with Art Spiegelman's "Prisoner on the Hell Planet" and Darryl Cunningham's Psychiatric Tales: 11 Graphic Narratives of Mental Illness. I explore the formal strategies available to cartoonists in conveying the bodily affect of despair
Genetically Modified Collagen-like Triple helix Protein as Biomimetic Template to Fabricate Metal/Semiconductor Nanowires
Year of Dissertation:
Various metal and semiconductor nanowires have been developed as building blocks for electronics, optics, and sensors devices. Among these, new nanowires developed on biomolecular templates got more attention since the molecular recognition functions of these biomolecules with specific ligands can be employed to immobilize nanowires onto specific locations to establish desired device geometries. In order for their application in electronics, optics, and sensors device fabrications, after configuring device geometries with nanowires by the biomolecular recognition, we focused upon the biomineralization function of peptides on the nanotemplate sidewall to develop various material coatings such as metals and semiconductors for electronics and sensor applications. It should be noted that the coating morphology such as particle-domain size and inter-particle distance on the nanotemplates could be tuned by peptide sequences and conformations. We launched the genetically modified recombinant collagen-like triple helix proteins as a biorecognition, size-controlling and rigid biotemplate. This collagen-like triple helix is the genetically engineered polypeptide assembly that contains a fragment from the natural collagen sequence and has attractive features in hybrid nanomaterials. The length of the protein nanowire is uniform since it is determined by the number of amino acids. The length can be flexible if we genetically modify the sequence, which can also add chemical functionality by the genetic engineering procedure. Genetic engineering is more advantageous than the chemical synthesis for the functionalization /deritivization of peptide nanowire because only the desired specific residue of the peptide is functionalized by the genetic approach. The specific sequence can also increase stability so that the mechanical property can be tuned to be suitable for device application in harsh environment. By using the recombinant technology, it is possible to design and amplify a collagen-like triple helix that is monodisperse, easily mineralized with metal/ semiconductor precursors, and therefore can be applied as a rigid biomolecular template for metal/semiconductor nanowire fabrications. Moreover the production of triple helix can be large scaled up by means of the cell multiplication. As continued work based on previous study of the application of C7 glycylglycine bolaamphiphilic peptide, the self-assembly of doughnut-shaped nanoreactors from monomer peptides with silica precursors was studied, and uniform size silica (SiO2) nanoparticles were obtained. Possible mechanism in terms of chelating and catalysis functions of the peptide was formulated.
The Geometry of Gauss' Composition Law
Year of Dissertation:
Gauss' identification of a composition law for primitive integral binary quadratic forms of given discriminant D--which provides the set FD<\sub> of SL2<\sub>(Z) equivalence classes of such forms with a group structure--essentially amounts to the discovery of the class group of an order in a quadratic number field. We consider quadratic extensions of the field of rational functions k(u), where k is an algebraically closed field, and seek an analogue of Gauss composition in this context. A quadratic extension of k(u) corresponds to the function field of a curve C with affine model t2<\super> = D(u) for some polynomial D = D(u) in k[u], which is of odd degree if and only if C has a smooth ramified point at infinity. Focusing on this case--the analogue of quadratic number fields with one complex place at infinity--we extend the notion of the degree of a Weil divisor on a curve to Cartier divisors on C, and find a bijection between the set of SL2<\sub>(k[u])-equivalence classes of primitive forms with coefficients in k[u] of discriminant D, and the group Pic0<\super>(C) of isomorphism classes of degree zero lines bundles on C. In parallel fashion, we reinterpret the arithmetic case using Arakelov's invention of metrics associated to the infinite places of a number field. Given an invertible R-module L for R a quadratic ring of discriminant D and fraction field K, we have for each infinite place v of K a corresponding one-dimensional C-vector space Lv<\sub>, with a positive non-degenerate hermitian metric. Using a notion of degree of an invertible metrized module--which mirrors the notion of degree used in the geometric case, yielding in both cases a "product formula" deg(f) = 0 for a principal divisor (f)--we establish for D < 0 a bijection between FD<\sub> and the compactified Picard group Picc<\sub>0<\super>(R) of isometry classes of degree zero invertible R-modules.
IMPROVING THE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF SCIENCE IN A SUBURBAN JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL:ACHIEVING PARITY THROUGH COGENERATIVE DIALOGUES
Year of Dissertation:
The research in this dissertation focuses on ways to improve the teaching and learning of science in a suburban junior high school on Long Island, New York. The study is my attempt to find ways to achieve parity in my classroom in terms of success in science. The goal of parity is for all students to have equal opportunity to enjoy a basic education of high quality, achieve at high levels, and enjoy equal benefits from education. I was specifically looking for ways to encourage Black female students in my classroom and in other classrooms to continue their science education into the upper grades. The participants were the 27 students in the class, a friend of one of the students, and I, as the teacher-researcher. In order to examine the ways in which structure mediates the social and historical contexts of experiences in relation to teacher and student practices in the classroom, I used collaborative research; autobiographical reflection; the sociology of emotions; immigration, racialization, and ethnicity, and cogenerative dialogues (hereinafter, cogens, singular cogen) as tools. Cogenerative dialogues are a way for students and teachers to accept shared responsibility for teaching and learning. This study is of importance because of my school's very diverse student body. The school has a large minority population and therefore shares many of the characteristics of urban schools. In my study I look at why there are so few Black female students in the advanced science course offered by our district and how this problem can be addressed. I used a variety of qualitative approaches including critical ethnography and micro analysis to study the teaching and learning of science. In addition to the usual observational, methodological, and theoretical field notes, I videotaped and audiotaped lessons and had discussions with students and teachers, one-on-one and in groups. In the first year the cogenerative group consisted of two Black female students. In the second year of the study there were four Black and one White-Hispanic female students in the cogen group. Below, I discuss my journey toward a career in science education and explain how I became a teacher-researcher. In my research I studied the interactions of the students between lessons and during laboratory activities as well as the cogens themselves in order to get the data needed to identify the role of science cogens in the learning and teaching of science. The students both in my cogen and in my science class collaborated with me as we worked to create new culture through conversations. I also used cogens to examine the influence of immigration, race, ethnicity, and gender in my science class. The students in the cogen were native-born children of immigrants, known as the second generation and/or 1.5 generation. In the first year one of these students was the daughter of Jamaican-born parents and the other native Black. The students in the second year included one each of Haitian and Jamaican descent, one with Dominican parents, and two native Blacks. Interestingly enough, if I had not conducted the cogenerative dialogues, I might never have become aware of their ethnicities. The cogens helped me to become a better teacher by allowing me to understand what racialization was and how it impacted students as well as teachers. The cogens helped students voice their opinions in a manner and in a place that supported their understanding of both the similarities and differences among students in the class in addition to contradictions in their science class as well as in other nested fields. Contradictions are differences between people and groups that arise as a normal part of social life in the classroom (and elsewhere, of course), and I looked for ways to retain these differences as we learned to deal with them. I looked especially for contradictions that were evident between the larger culture of the school and that of the students in the cogen. I studied the dialectical relationship between agency and structure in my science class and within the cogenerative dialogue group. I found that as students gained agency, they were more successful in obtaining entry into accelerated science classes and succeeded in those classes. I found that some marginalized students were shut down in their classrooms. During the common planning time within the science department, we discussed the lack of minority students in our advanced science classes. I introduced the idea of cogens and described how they could encourage more students to become involved in the process of learning. Although my colleagues did not institute cogens with their students, they did listen to the ideas about culturally relevant teaching which I communicated, and, although I have not witnessed it myself, I was told by some of my colleagues that they were trying to address the cultural mismatch found in their classrooms. The science faculty and I spoke to administrative personnel, and they saw how their goals and ours were aligned. Soon, all stakeholders were on board: my chairperson, the science department, and the administration. For many Black female students in our district, access to advanced science classes was largely unavailable because students had not learned to communicate scientific literacy in ways that were recognized and acknowledged in our school district. My research supports the theory and research that point to the desirability of building positive emotional energy through chains of interactions and transactions that produce success among most, if not all, participants. This study increases the understanding of the structure of interactions in a science class by building understanding of the face-to-face encounters associated with organizing, establishing, and maintaining conversations. As a teacher-researcher, I found that cogenerative dialogues also helped to create emotional energy and student engagement as well as synchrony and entrainment among students in the cogen and in the classroom. A community of learners formed, and this contributed to a positive learning environment. This environment in turn produced positive emotional energy and community. Cogenerative dialogues became a tool to build community in my science class. It also became a tool to introduce a new way of teaching and learning to me as well as to my colleagues. I began discussing the use of cogens in my science department meetings so that, by understanding different ways of thinking and being, my colleagues and I might find ways to transform science education at our school. Becoming aware is an important step for teachers and students to use their cultural capital to eliminate practices that prevent students from connecting with science. In cogens teachers and students can identify important shared classroom experiences and together fashion new roles for each of them. Teacher-researchers can effect change in their classrooms and, by letting others in the school and academic community become aware of their research, effect change in other schools as well. The results of the latest Regents exam have convinced the administration, the math, and the science departments as well as other faculty members of my junior high school that, when all stakeholders are involved, change can happen. The students who had been marginalized were as successful in the advanced science classes as those who were not. My school district took note of this and proudly continues the program.