Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • IMPROVING THE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF SCIENCE IN A SUBURBAN JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL:ACHIEVING PARITY THROUGH COGENERATIVE DIALOGUES

    Author:
    Eileen Baker
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    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.

  • Women in Foreclosure: Social Reproduction & Mortgage Strain in the Subprime Era

    Author:
    Amy Baker
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Mimi Abramovitz
    Abstract:

    Advisor: Professor Mimi Abramovitz This research captures the experiences of 31 single female homeowners with risky lending markets and mortgage foreclosure in the city of Philadelphia. In-depth, semi-structured interviewing was employed to build knowledge about single women's experiences with seeking a loan, buying a home, entering default and attempting to stall foreclosure. Thematic analysis of the data demonstrated that risky lending and foreclosure did not mark the onset of financial instability among study participants. Instead, it functioned as a tipping point for single women unable to access upward mobility and asset accrual throughout the lifespan. Women's status as the strongest members of a financially fragile network interacted with holes in the social safety net, lack of protective legislation and lending policies that placed them at risk of foreclosure. The research also indicates that the privatization of social reproduction acted as an amplifier and conduit of market risk that extends the responsibility for unpaid care work well into older adulthood. As a result, social reproduction revisited the homeowners either exacerbating or contributing to foreclosure and the early onset of disease and disability before women were eligible for Medicare and Social Security. When homeowners experienced mortgage strain they all negotiated with their lenders, increased hours at work, employed strict household budgeting and sought aid from social services to offset mortgage costs. Black homeowners (n=15) immediately searched for assistance, while White homeowners (n=15) were comparatively slower to contact housing counselors and service agencies. Despite these variations, when and how a homeowner searched for aid did not meaningfully alter the onset of default. To date, foreclosure policy and practice interventions have been predicated on an assumption that the onset of foreclosure is an isolated market event. In contrast, the women's lived experiences within risky markets and their personal encounters with the threat of default are tied to a larger context shaped by the prevailing gender division of labor, the erosion of assets and health within the context of a poorly resourced network, the failing safety net and the resulting shift of market risk onto female homeowners.

  • Attention shapes our expectations and perceptions: The neural mechanisms of top-down attention during adulthood and development

    Author:
    Snigdha Banerjee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    John Foxe
    Abstract:

    Top-down attention is the focusing of attention at one's will through knowledge regarding a current task. There is evidence that top-down attention involves the modulation of sensory cortices by higher order regions. However, the mechanisms of top-down attention across sensory modalities, its influence on early sensory inputs, as well as interactions with motivational systems remain unclear. We performed the following set of electrophysiological experiments in typically developed adults and adolescents to examine these areas. 1) The supramodal attentional theory holds that parietally-based attentional mechanisms are shared across sensory modalities. We tested the supramodal theory by examining if lateralized parieto-occipital alpha-band activity, an established metric of top-down spatial attention, was observed in an audiospatial and visuospatial task. In support of the supramodal theory, we observed similar anticipatory alpha-band processes across auditory and visual tasks, but we also found an interaction of supramodal and sensory-specific attentional control processes. 2) There is evidence that top-down attention influences information immediately upon its arrival to sensory cortices, although there is debate in this area. In the current work, volitionally-driven top-down attention was engaged toward one of several overlapping surfaces in an illusion, in which the perceived brightness of the attended surface was enhanced. We observed the attentional enhancement of early visual evoked potentials, indicating that top-down attention shapes the earliest activations in visual cortices. 3) It is well known that motivation impacts attention, but the neural bases of these interactions remain unclear. We examined how level of interest in stimuli influenced top-down spatial attention mechanisms in typically-developing adolescents. Motivation enhanced established attentional processes during the anticipation of high vs. low interest stimuli, but also independently influenced frontal and parieto-occipital activations. These findings provide potential implications to inform clinical measures to improve impaired attentional processes in clinical populations (e.g. individuals with autism spectrum disorders). In sum, these studies revealed the powerful influence of top-down attentional control and its interacting systems on neural activations through several stages of anticipatory and post-stimulus processing during development and adulthood.

  • Reclaiming Space: Buildings in Modernist Literature and Film

    Author:
    Sreenjaya Banerjee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Nico Israel
    Abstract:

    This dissertation argues that modernists like Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, and Alain Resnais construct literary and filmic works that rely on interruptions and elliptical narration to gesture towards an aesthetics of modernity that counters the interest in monoliths concurrently shown by architectural modernism. This is particularly evident in the context of the war memorial, where regimented public memory is countered by the artistic works discussed through their emphasis on private memorials that are changeable, contingent, and mutable. This is a fundamentally altered vision of twentieth century modernity than that embraced by the architectural mode.

  • INTERACTIONS OF EUKARYOTIC TRANSLATION INITIATION FACTORS AND 3' UNTRANSLATED REGION OF BARLEY YELLOW DWARF VIRUS mRNA DURING PROTEIN SYNTHESIS: A STUDY OF EQUILIBRIUM BINDING, KINETICS AND THERMODYNAMICS

    Author:
    Bidisha Banerjee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Chemistry
    Advisor:
    Dixie Goss
    Abstract:

    Eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4F binding to mRNA is the first committed step in cap-dependent protein synthesis. Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) employs a cap-independent mechanism of translation initiation which is mediated by a structural element BTE (BYDV translation element) located in the 3' UTR of its mRNA. eIF4F bound the BTE and a translational inactive mutant with high affinity; thus questioning the role of eIF4F in translation of BYDV. To examine the effects of eIF4F in BYDV translation initiation, BTE mutants with widely different in vitro translation efficiencies ranging from 5-164% compared to WT were studied. Using fluorescence anisotropy to obtain quantitative data, we show 1) the equilibrium binding affinity (complex stability) correlated well with translation efficiency, whereas the "on" rate of binding did not. 2) other unidentified proteins or small molecules in wheat germ extract (WGE) prevented eIF4F binding to mutant BTE but not WT BTE. 3) BTE mutants-eIF4F interactions were found to be both enthalpically and entropically favorable with an enthalpic contribution of 52-90% to delta G° at 25°C suggesting hydrogen bonding contributes to stability and 4) in contrast to cap-dependent and tobacco etch virus (TEV) Internal Ribosome Entry Site (IRES) interaction with eIF4F, PABP did not increase eIF4F binding. Further, the eIF4F bound to the 3' BTE with higher affinity than for either m7G cap or TEV IRES, suggesting that the 3' BTE may play a role in sequestering host cell initiation factors and possibly regulating the switch from replication to translation. In another project, we studied the interaction of a deletion mutant of wheat eukaryotic initiation factor 4B (eIF4B320-527) with zinc using the biophysical technique of circular dichroism. eIF4B is suspected to be a metalloprotein and it is known that zinc stimulates eIF4B self-association at physiological concentrations . It was found that in the presence of zinc there is significant change in the secondary structure of eIF4B320-527. There was approximately a 70% change in the presence of 500 &muM zinc and around 38% change in the presence of 500 &muM magnesium in alpha content as compared to native protein. There was a change observed in beta sheet content. The changes in secondary structure caused by zinc may be the one of the causes for the eIF4B self-association or enhanced eIF4B-PABP interaction. These results enhance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which cell controls translation initiation which is the rate limiting step of cellular protein synthesis.

  • Dissecting the role of human PPR motif proteins in mitochondrial gene expression

    Author:
    Catherine Bangeranye
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Biochemistry
    Advisor:
    Serafin Piñol-Roma
    Abstract:

    Pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) motif proteins constitute a growing superfamily of proteins that are broadly defined by the presence of one or more copies of a conserved 35 amino acid sequence, the PPR motif. They are particularly abundant in plants, and those whose function has been characterized have been implicated in several aspects of RNA metabolism in mitochondria and chloroplasts. In humans, PPR motif proteins are fewer in number. They include LRPPRC (Leucine-Rich PPR-motif -Containing protein), an RNA-binding protein that is a component of nuclear ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes that contain spliced mRNAs. Most of the LRPPRC, however, localizes predominantly to mitochondria, where it binds polyadenylated RNAs. Mutations in the lrpprc gene cause cytochrome c oxidase deficiency in Leigh Syndrome (LSFC), which is accompanied by a decrease in COXI and COXIII mitochondrial mRNAs. Our hypothesis is that LRPPRC is an essential trans-acting factor in mitochondrial mRNA metabolism. In order to address the function of LRPPRC in mitochondria, we isolated LRPPRC-associated mitochondrial RNP complexes (mtRNPs). Analysis of isolated mtRNPs shows that the mitochondrially-encoded mRNAs associate with LRPPRC. A reduction in LRPPRC levels using RNAi causes a parallel reduction in steady-state levels of mitochondrially-encoded mRNAs, but not of nuclear-encoded mRNAs. Thus, LRPPRC is an important factor for mitochondrial gene expression and is necessary for the accumulation of the mitochondrial mRNAs to which it binds. Using LRPPRC as a paradigm, we sought and analyzed other members of the PPR motif family in humans. Four other human PPR-motif proteins, PTCD1, PTCD2, PTCD3 and PTCD4, also localize in mitochondria. Moreover, some of these proteins also bind RNA and exist in the same complexes as LRPPRC. This indicates that the human PTCD proteins, as is the case with LRPPRC, are also involved in mitochondrial RNA metabolism, pointing to PPR motif proteins in humans as a novel family of trans-acting factors in mitochondrial gene expression. These findings open the way for an expanded and more detailed understanding of human mitochondrial gene expression, and for an exploration of the potential involvement of human PPR motif proteins in mitochondrial diseases, as has already been determined for LRPPRC.

  • Continuum and Molecular Dynamics Simulations of the Growth of a Vapor Bubble on a Heating Surface: Exploring the Mechanism of Nucleate Boiling Heat Transfer

    Author:
    Jinyong Bao
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Engineering
    Advisor:
    David Rumschitzki
    Abstract:

    Starting with a completely rewritten code for the conductively-driven quasi-static vapor bubble growth in an axisymmetric, cylindrical cell comprised of solid and liquid phase of finite thicknesses under small Reynolds, Peclet, Capillary and Bond numbers to verify L. Huang's (our prior Ph.D. student) earlier results, we couple the solution of the quasi-static problem with three simple, somewhat ad hoc models of contact line motion and relax the assumption of small Bond number to simulate the growth of an incipient bubble until gravity begins to slowly deform the vapor bubble and then to detach it from the solid heater surface. A simple physical theory is developed to explain that when the bubble density is not too high, the bubble volume vs time approaches a 3/2 power before gravity begins to deform its shape, independent of contact line motion models and system parameters such as the conductivity ratio of the liquid to solid and degree of wall superheat. On the other hand, contact line motion does have a significant effect on bubble deformation and detachment. Molecular dynamics (MD) is employed to determine the contact line motion in a nano-scale version of our three-phase system because MD not only includes heat transfer, but also fluid flow, which can remove many restrictions of the earlier continuum calculation in our nano-size system. Instead of nucleating a bubble by cavitation, we nucleate a vapor bubble by heating the bottom of the solid upon which the fluid sits at constant pressure. Under a uniform body force that, due to the scale of MD is far larger than terrestrial gravity, we then track the bubble's growth driven by heat transfer from the conducting heated solid until detachment. Its contact line motion is monitored and the effects of wettability of solid surface, temperature-slip of fluid-solid interface and the choice of the interaction between the solid and the fluid have also been discussed. Unfortunately, this temperature slip mitigates some of the effects of the contact line that the continuum modeling (without temperature slip) finds so crucial at macroscopic scales.

  • Continuum and Molecular Dynamics Simulations of the Growth of a Vapor Bubble on a Heating Surface: Exploring the Mechanism of Nucleate Boiling Heat Transfer

    Author:
    Jinyong Bao
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Engineering
    Advisor:
    David Rumschitzki
    Abstract:

    Starting with a completely rewritten code for the conductively-driven quasi-static vapor bubble growth in an axisymmetric, cylindrical cell comprised of solid and liquid phase of finite thicknesses under small Reynolds, Peclet, Capillary and Bond numbers to verify L. Huang's (our prior Ph.D. student) earlier results, we couple the solution of the quasi-static problem with three simple, somewhat ad hoc models of contact line motion and relax the assumption of small Bond number to simulate the growth of an incipient bubble until gravity begins to slowly deform the vapor bubble and then to detach it from the solid heater surface. A simple physical theory is developed to explain that when the bubble density is not too high, the bubble volume vs time approaches a 3/2 power before gravity begins to deform its shape, independent of contact line motion models and system parameters such as the conductivity ratio of the liquid to solid and degree of wall superheat. On the other hand, contact line motion does have a significant effect on bubble deformation and detachment. Molecular dynamics (MD) is employed to determine the contact line motion in a nano-scale version of our three-phase system because MD not only includes heat transfer, but also fluid flow, which can remove many restrictions of the earlier continuum calculation in our nano-size system. Instead of nucleating a bubble by cavitation, we nucleate a vapor bubble by heating the bottom of the solid upon which the fluid sits at constant pressure. Under a uniform body force that, due to the scale of MD is far larger than terrestrial gravity, we then track the bubble's growth driven by heat transfer from the conducting heated solid until detachment. Its contact line motion is monitored and the effects of wettability of solid surface, temperature-slip of fluid-solid interface and the choice of the interaction between the solid and the fluid have also been discussed. Unfortunately, this temperature slip mitigates some of the effects of the contact line that the continuum modeling (without temperature slip) finds so crucial at macroscopic scales.

  • Neocontradictions: The Politics and Ideology of American Welfare State Decline

    Author:
    Darren Barany
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stanley Aronowitz
    Abstract:

    This study historically investigates the circumstances - economic, political, and ideological - out of which the American political culture would shift to the right and become hostile to welfare. It is in part a genealogy of contemporary welfare reform discourse, which is comprised by the synthesis of varied and contradictory components of conservative philosophy about family, work, responsibility, and the role of government. This study also contextualizes that discourse within the development of a conservative politico-ideological apparatus. Today's conservative movement in the United States is the fusion of other sub-strands of conservatism and has successfully defined the parameters of acceptable discourse around the issue of welfare. It has developed a large pool of resources, become adept in the arena of activist and electoral politics, built a vast infrastructure for the production and deployment of ideas, and established a resilient presence in the everyday lives of Americans. Therefore a study of the erosion of the American welfare state must trace the development of these ideas and the means by which they became policy orthodoxy. Argued here is that the conservative movement's success in affecting welfare reform can be attributed to two factors. Firstly, it can be attributed to the consolidation and organization of libertarian and traditionalist conservatism and to the mastery of ideological production by a conservative politico-ideological apparatus or policy planning network. Secondly, it can be attributed to the emergence of varied conservative ideas on work, family, equality, and personal responsibility as a new policy consensus which was itself a consequence of important transformations in social and economic conditions. The post-war conservative movement has been dynamic and has managed its own ideological tensions by continually refining its argument and perfecting its methods of framing issues. It has contributed to altering the political culture in relation to the welfare state and related issues The subjection of welfare state programs to ongoing critique has enabled the social safety net to become vulnerable to reforms which have gradually altered them to be more consistent with the shifting requirements of the economic system and elite preferences.

  • Neocontradictions: The Politics and Ideology of American Welfare State Decline

    Author:
    Darren Barany
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stanley Aronowitz
    Abstract:

    This study historically investigates the circumstances - economic, political, and ideological - out of which the American political culture would shift to the right and become hostile to welfare. It is in part a genealogy of contemporary welfare reform discourse, which is comprised by the synthesis of varied and contradictory components of conservative philosophy about family, work, responsibility, and the role of government. This study also contextualizes that discourse within the development of a conservative politico-ideological apparatus. Today's conservative movement in the United States is the fusion of other sub-strands of conservatism and has successfully defined the parameters of acceptable discourse around the issue of welfare. It has developed a large pool of resources, become adept in the arena of activist and electoral politics, built a vast infrastructure for the production and deployment of ideas, and established a resilient presence in the everyday lives of Americans. Therefore a study of the erosion of the American welfare state must trace the development of these ideas and the means by which they became policy orthodoxy. Argued here is that the conservative movement's success in affecting welfare reform can be attributed to two factors. Firstly, it can be attributed to the consolidation and organization of libertarian and traditionalist conservatism and to the mastery of ideological production by a conservative politico-ideological apparatus or policy planning network. Secondly, it can be attributed to the emergence of varied conservative ideas on work, family, equality, and personal responsibility as a new policy consensus which was itself a consequence of important transformations in social and economic conditions. The post-war conservative movement has been dynamic and has managed its own ideological tensions by continually refining its argument and perfecting its methods of framing issues. It has contributed to altering the political culture in relation to the welfare state and related issues The subjection of welfare state programs to ongoing critique has enabled the social safety net to become vulnerable to reforms which have gradually altered them to be more consistent with the shifting requirements of the economic system and elite preferences.