Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • WHY WE SHOULD NOT BE UNHAPPY ABOUT HAPPINESS VIA ARISTOTLE

    Author:
    Irene Caesar
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Peter Simpson
    Abstract:

    The purpose of my dissertation is to resolve the ongoing argument in the modern Anglo-American interpretation of Aristotelianism regarding the principle of eudaimonia (happiness). Exlusivist interpretation argues that the principle of eudaimonia is one dominant or exclusive telos (end) consisting of the aretĂȘ (excellence or virtue) of the contemplation of the divine. Inclusivist interpretation argues that the principle of eudaimonia is an inclusive or compounded telos containing this and all other Aristote-lian virtues in a comprehensive or mixed life ruled by the practical wisdom. I offer the functionalist interpretation that goes beyond the dichotomy of inclusivism and exclusivism in arguing that (1) contrary to exclusivism, contemplation is functionally linked with all the other activities of the soul throughout the entire Aristotelian corpus and that (2) contrary to inclusivism, contemplation is functionally superior to each and all of the other activi-ties of the soul, making a compound model irrelevant in its incapacity to express the hier-archy within the soul. The soul and polis are both systematic wholes organized by the ruler nous (intuitive reason / active intellect) with its activity (energeia) of contemplation via formulating metron (measure). Metron in relation to us depends on metron within the object, and the latter is assumed a priori as a major premiss (the universal) in the practical and speculative syllogisms, while the practical reason is incapable of defining the universal. Eudaimonia is a perfect realization of the function of the ruler. Humans are functionally distinct from other animals precisely by this contemplative ability of a priori assuming the universal within the particular. Soul, as any systematic whole, is identified not with the hierarchy of its parts, but with its ruler, and the final virtue is identified with the virtue of the ruler. The passive intellect and the active intellect are accordingly the practical reason and the contemplative reason. The first principle and end (the cause) of action is leisure spent in the disinterested and useless contemplative activity of the ruler -- the active intellect. The moral action, which does not reach this end, is not ultimately good-in-itself though outright dutiful.

  • Adjustment and Change Among Bisexual Women: A Longitudinal Analysis

    Author:
    Jane Caflisch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Margaret Rosario
    Abstract:

    Higher levels of psychological distress have been found among representative samples of bisexual adults than among comparable samples of gay, lesbian, or heterosexual adults, yet significant variability in mental health outcomes has also been found between bisexual individuals. This longitudinal, mixed-methods study (Time 1 N=50, Time 2 N=40) aimed to examine why bisexual women may be at heightened risk for distress, and also to identify factors associated with psychological adjustment among this population. Theories that associate bisexuality with cognitive dissonance and identity diffusion were reviewed and critiqued, and an alternative model of identity integration for bisexuals, built around toleration of multiplicity and paradox within one's self and one's relationships with others, was proposed. It was hypothesized that the capacity to tolerate paradoxical aspects of bisexuality would be predicted by personality organization, differentiation-relatedness, and attachment. Further, it was hypothesized that mental health outcomes among this population would be predicted by the following factors: 1) capacity to tolerate paradoxical aspects of bisexuality, 2) experiences of internally- and externally-imposed pressure to "resolve" one's bisexuality into a binary model, 3) experiences of community support for and stigma against bisexuality, 4) experiences of emotional attachment and sexual excitement as integrated versus split in romantic relationships, and 5) need for cognitive closure. The interaction between capacity to tolerate paradoxical aspects of bisexuality and degree of change over time in sexual attractions, behaviors and/or self-identifications was also hypothesized to predict mental health outcomes. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to examine relations between hypothesized predictors and outcomes, controlling for socio-demographic covariates. Qualitative data were then revisited to elaborate on patterns identified through quantitative analyses, and to illuminate additional dynamics from the focused interviews. In particular, qualitative analyses were used to examine the ways in which change over time in sexual attractions and self-identifications were understood by participants and integrated into their self-concepts; to understand the extent to which different participants experienced emotional and erotic aspects of relationships as integrated or split with male versus female partners; and to consider the ways in which participants' attempts to negotiate these dynamics were shaped by internal, relational and environmental factors.

  • Dynamics and Manipulation of Nanomagnets

    Author:
    Liufei Cai
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Physics
    Advisor:
    Eugene Chudnovsky
    Abstract:

    This thesis presents my work on the spin dynamics of nanomagnets and investigates the possibility of manipulating nanomagnets by various means. Most of the work has been published\cite{LC-PRB2010,LC-PRB2012,LC-PRB2013,LC-EPL2014}. Some has been submitted for publication\cite{LC-arxiv2014}. The structure of this thesis is as follows. In Chapter 1, I present the theory of manipulation of a nanomagnet by rotating ac fields whose frequency is time dependent. Theory has been developed that maps the problem onto Landau-Zener problem. For the linear frequency sweep the switching phase diagrams are obtained on the amplitude of the ac field and the frequency sweep rate. Switching conditions have been obtained numerically and analytically. For the nonlinear frequency sweep, the optimal time dependence of the frequency is obtained analytically with account of damping that gives the fastest controllable switching of the magnetization. In Chapter 2, interaction between a nanomagnet and a Josephson junction has been studied. The I-V curve of the Josephson junction in the proximity of a nanomagnet shows Shapiro-like steps due to the ac field generated by the precessing magnetic moment. Possibility of switching of the magnetic moment by a time-linear voltage in the Josephson junction is demonstrated. Realization of the optimal switching is suggested that employs two perpendicular Josephson junctions with time-dependent voltage signals. The result is shown to be robust against voltage noises. Quantum-mechanical coupling between the nanomagnet considered as a two-level system and a Josephson junction has been studied and quantum oscillations of the populations of the spin states have been computed. In Chapter 3, the switching dynamics of a nanomagnet embedded in a torsional oscillator that serves as a conducting wire for a spin current has been investigated. Generalized Slonczewski's equation is derived. The coupling of the nanomagnet, the torsional oscillator and the spin current generates a number of interesting phenomena. The mechanically-assisted magnetization switching is studied, in which the magnetization can be reversed by tilting the torsional oscillator. The effect of the torsional oscillator on the switching of the magnetization in the presence of spin-polarized current is computed. Combined effects of the spin current and a mechanical kick of the torsional oscillator have been studied. In Chapter 4, skyrmion dynamics and interaction of the skyrmion with an electron have been studied. Corrections to the spin texture of the skyrmion due to the crystal lattice have been computed. Due to the lattice effects the skyrmion collapses in clean ferromagnetic and anti-ferromagnetic materials. The lifetime of the skyrmion has been computed numerically and compared with analytical theory. In doped anti-ferromagnetic materials the weak attraction between a skyrmion and an electron may generate a bound state. In Chapter 5, experimental results of the NIST group on magnetic multilayer microcantilevers have been analyzed. Theoretical framework has been suggested that explains the observed strong damping effect of the platinum layer on the mechanical oscillations of Py-Pt bilayer cantilevers. The strong spin-orbit coupling of platinum is shown to impede the motion of the domain wall in permalloy and to dramatically increase the damping of the cantilever motion.

  • TRANSFORMATIVE SCIENCE EDUCATION THROUGH ACTION RESEARCH AND SELF-STUDY PRACTICES

    Author:
    Olga Calderon
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    The research studies human emotions through diverse methods and theoretical lenses. My intention in using this approach is to provide alternative ways of perceiving and interpreting emotions being experienced in the moment of arousal. Emotions are fundamental in human interactions because they are essential in the development of effective relationships of any kind and they can also mediate hostility towards others. I begin by presenting an impressionist auto-ethnography, which narrates a personal account of how science and scientific inquiry has been entrenched in me since childhood. I describe how emotions are an important part of how I perceive and respond to the world around me. I describe science in my life in terms of natural environments, which were the initial source of scientific wonder and bafflement for me. In this auto-ethnography, I recount how social interactions shaped my perceptions about people, the world, and my education trajectory. Furthermore, I illustrate how sociocultural structures are used in different contexts to mediate several life decisions that enable me to pursue a career in science and science education. I also reflect on how some of those sociocultural aspects mediated my emotional wellness. I reveal how my life and science are interconnected and I present my story as a segue to the remainder of the dissertation. In chapters 2 and 3, I address a methodology and associated methods for research on facial expression of emotion. I use a facial action coding system developed by Paul Ekman in the 1970s (Ekman, 2002) to study facial representation of emotions. In chapters 4 and 5, I review the history of oximetry and ways in which an oximeter can be used to obtain information on the physiological expression of emotions. I examine oximetry data in relation to emotional physiology in three different aspects; pulse rate, oxygenation of the blood, and plethysmography (i.e., strength of pulse). In chapters 3 and 5, I include data and observations collected in a science education course for science teachers at Brooklyn College. These observations are only a small part on a larger study of emotions and mindfulness in the science classroom by a group of researchers of the City University of New York. In this context, I explore how, while teaching and learning science, emotions are represented facially and physiologically in terms of oxygenation of the blood and pulse rate and strength.

  • NEURAL SUBSTRATES OF VISUAL PROCESSING AND OBJECT RECOGNITION DEFICITS IN SCHIZOPHRENIA

    Author:
    Daniel Calderone
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Pamela Butler
    Abstract:

    Mounting evidence has shown that patients with schizophrenia have preferential deficits of the magnocellular versus the parvocellular visual system. Experiment 1 examined this deficit in schizophrenia patients utilizing an electrophysiological paradigm. Patients showed preferential magnocellular deficits in electrophysiological response indicative of impaired contrast gain (response amplification at low contrast) and contrast gain control (inhibition of responses at high contrast), which are used preferentially by this pathway to optimize responses. Patients also displayed deficits in psychophysical contrast sensitivity, further showing deficient contrast gain in the magnocellular pathway. These electrophysiological and psychophysical deficits were associated with neuropsychological and emotion processing deficits, which predicted functional outcome. Experiment 2 utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural underpinnings of the paradigms used in Experiment 1. fMRI responses to magnocellular- and parvocellular-biased contrast stimuli from the electrophysiological paradigm showed that contrast gain (i.e., signal amplification) was related to increases in volume of relatively weak occipital activation, while contrast gain control (i.e., signal inhibition) was related to strong a occipital activation over a smaller volume. Inhibitory contrast gain control was also linked to negative parafoveal activation, which was less apparent for patients. fMRI responses to a contrast sensitivity procedure showed reduced volume of occipital activation to low spatial frequency (LSF), but not high spatial frequency (HSF), stimuli for patients, indicating a general deficit in activation volume for LSF stimuli which are preferentially processed by the magnocellular system. Experiment 3 examined consequences of magnocellular dysfunction for object recognition in schizophrenia. Patients showed deficits in fMRI activation to LSF object stimuli over a widespread cortical network, indicating a loss of early-stage low resolution object information. Patients instead showed an increase in activation to HSF object stimuli in some areas, suggesting compensation for LSF deficits with HSF information. Together, these three experiments further elucidated the neural substrates of preferential magnocellular deficits in schizophrenia, and demonstrated that such deficits may propagate to higher cognitive processes such as object recognition.

  • A Parent at War and the "Invisible Wounds" They Carry Home: PTSD in Military Veterans and A Review of Psychosocial Family System Challenges

    Author:
    Melina Calle
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Liberal Studies
    Advisor:
    Colette Daiute
    Abstract:

    Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom have created a new generation of military veterans and military families, many of which must manage and cope with psychosocial challenges such as posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse induced by the psychological trauma(s) faced during war. Risk factors, buffering factors, and war zone stressors influencing the development of PTSD following military-related trauma will be reviewed. As many of these affected veterans return to living with spouses and children, these psychosocial issues show to bring forth tension, stress, and friction to the family system. This thesis explores the literature of family system challenges faced by male and female U.S. veterans, and child outcomes. Through a review of empirical literature, a case will be made that not only does the veteran affect his/her spouse and child(ren) while enduring difficult psychological conditions, but the spouses and child(ren) also have a reciprocal effect on the veteran's coping efficacy and recovery process. Therefore, this text will contend that there is a need to view these mental health challenges as a family systems issue, with implications for a need to develop family system interventions for successful management and recovery for veterans, spouses, and children combined.

  • HOUSEHOLD DENSITY AND ACADEMIC STANDING AMONG COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS: THE EFFECTS OF TIME ORIENTATION AND SPATIAL SELF-REGULATION

    Author:
    Grace Campagna
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Gary Winkel
    Abstract:

    The purpose of the study was to develop a multifactorial model tracing paths from housing affordances to academic outcomes in higher education. The study sought to connect two areas of psychological research: on one side, the adverse effects of environmental stressors and inadequate self-regulation upon life course prospects and, on the other, the affective, behavioral, and cognitive elements of purposive self-regulation used by college students toward long-term goal attainment. The study design was cross-sectional and used self-reported survey data as well as official academic records for 490 student participants. Three new measures were developed. The first, Housing Inadequacy, gave a subjective assessment of domestic environments by comparing availability of household features with their rated importance to individual students. The second, Perceived Housing Stress, was adapted from the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen & Williamson, 1988), an existing validated measure of global appraised stress, to identify stressors specific to the home setting. The third, Spatial Self-Regulation, introduced a new construct with two components: the ability to recognize whether a setting is conducive to one's goals and the ability to engage or change that setting in order to move toward those goals. In the current study, the affective, behavioral, and cognitive aspects of Spatial Self-Regulation were measured in both home and campus settings. Two existing measures were used. Temporal factors from the Zimbardo Time Perspectives Inventory (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999) were hypothesized to attenuate or amplify adverse effects of Housing Inadequacy and Perceived Housing Stress in predicting academic motivations and strategies. These motivations and strategies were measured using components of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, and McKeachie, 1993), an instrument widely used in higher education assessment. Structural equation modeling was used to refine, integrate, and confirm linkages among the above variables. A statistically significant model linked sub-factors for Housing Inadequacy, Perceived Housing Stress, Spatial Self-Regulation, and Time Orientation with Motivated Strategies for Learning. Since the model reliably predicted GPA, the study presented a new approach to explaining college student academic standing as an outcome of the interaction of person-level variables with environmental factors.

  • The Role of the Dorsal Hippocampus in the Contextual Control of Appetitive Responding

    Author:
    Vincent Campese
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Andrew Delamater
    Abstract:

    Four experiments were run using rat subjects in order to assess the impact of manipulations to the dorsal hippocampus (DH) on the contextual and temporal control of extinguished appetitive learning (e.g., magazine approach). Subjects were trained to associate discrete stimuli with food in specific locations or at specific times. The subjects then had these associations extinguished by means of omitting the food reinforcers following stimulus presentations. In order to assess contextual and temporal modulation of learning the stimuli were tested within as well as outside of the contexts or times where/when they were extinguished. Control subjects showed reduced responding when stimuli were presented within their extinction contexts (physical and temporal) whereas responding recovered outside of these extinction contexts (i.e., renewal and spontaneous recovery). In order to assess DH function in these different instances of response recovery, neurotoxic lesions of the DH prior to tests or temporary muscimol-induced inactivation of the structure were used. The results of these studies indicate that while DH manipulations fail to affect conditional control of appetitive extinction learning by physical contexts, they do impair control when temporal contexts are used as a conditional cue.

  • "Small Village/Large Hell": Cocaine & Incarceration in Lima, Peru

    Author:
    Stephanie Campos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Leith Mullings
    Abstract:

    The Establecimiento Penitenciario de Mujueres de Chorrillos (commonly referred to by its previous name, Santa Monica) in Lima, Peru was built in 1952 as a reformatory to hold 300 women but by June 2012 it held over 3,500, many of them serving sentences for drug trafficking. This is the largest female prison in this Andean nation. An intersectional analysis of prisoners' narratives collected during fieldwork conducted from 2008 to 2009 demonstrates two inter-related processes. First, inequality was produced and reproduced inside this prison through the interconnections of race, gender, class and citizenship. Prisoners' daily lives and access to resources were constrained by the same inequalities that led to their incarceration. Multiple divisions among women mirrored national and globalized structural inequalities and citizenship in particular emerged as a dividing force. Santa Monica's stratification system was continuously reproduced as prisoners competed for life dependent resources. Secondly, I show the ways in which women's labor was the linchpin between the transnational cocaine commodity chain and the prison. Santa Monica transformed into a place to "dispose of" low-level workers of the transnational cocaine commodity chain. Because the majority of these workers were women, their labor became the bond between illegal cocaine and the prison. Those who worked as drug couriers and minor retailers were laboring at the riskiest and most visible jobs to police surveillance. They were arrested when they were no longer needed or once they become a threat to the day-to-day operation of trafficking drugs while the (mostly male) middle managers above them remained in the background. Women's labor therefore created a symbiotic relationship between the prison and this chain where each side helped the other grow and expand. Once incarcerated, these women faced a hierarchy that shaped options for survival as they served their sentences.

  • The role of apoptosis and mitosis in LDL transport across endothelial cell monolayers

    Author:
    Limary Cancel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Engineering
    Advisor:
    John Tarbell
    Abstract:

    We have previously shown that leaky junctions associated with dying or dividing cells are the dominant pathway for LDL transport under convective conditions in vitro, accounting for more than 90% of the transport. To explore the role of apoptosis in the leaky junction pathway, TNFα and cycloheximide (TNFα/CHX) were used to induce an elevated rate of apoptosis in cultured bovine aortic endothelial cell (BAEC) monolayers and the convective fluxes of LDL and water were measured. Control monolayers had an average apoptosis rate of 0.30%. Treatment with TNFα/CHX induced a 18.3-fold increase in apoptosis and a 4.4-fold increase in LDL permeability (Pe). Increases in apoptosis and permeability were attenuated by treatment with the caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK. Water flux (Jv) increased by 2.7-fold after treatment with TNFα/CHX, and this increase was not attenuated by treatment with Z-VAD-FMK. Immunostaining of the tight junction protein ZO-1 showed that TNFα/CHX treatment disrupts the tight junction in addition to inducing apoptosis. This disruption is present even when Z-VAD-FMK is used to inhibit apoptosis, and likely accounts for the increase in water flux. We found a strong correlation between the rate of apoptosis and the permeability of BAEC monolayers to LDL. To explore the role of mitosis in the leaky junction pathway, the microtubule stabilizing agent paclitaxel was used to alter the rate of mitosis and the fluxes of LDL and water were measured. Control monolayers had an average mitosis rate of 0.029%. Treatment with paclitaxel (2.5μM) for 1.5, 3, 4.5 or 6 hours yielded increasing rates of mitosis ranging from 0.099% to 1.03%. Pe increased up to 5-fold, while Jv increased up to 3-fold over this range of mitosis rates. We found a strong correlation between the mitosis rate and both the convective LDL permeability and the water flux. These results demonstrate the potential of manipulating endothelial monolayer permeability by altering the rates of apoptosis and mitosis pharmacollogicaly. This has implications for the treatment of atherosclerosis.