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Class of 2023 Presentations

Alexa Bartlett, Physics 

“Dark Matter - Dark Radiation Interactions May Alleviate Cosmic Tensions”

Two of the most puzzling and significant sources of controversy in modern cosmology revolve around two major tensions: the Hubble tension, which refers to discrepant measurements of the universe’s expansion rate today, and the S8 tension, which refers to discrepant measurements of the clumpiness of matter in the universe. These tensions may reflect that our current standard cosmological model is incomplete. The research project I have been working on since last summer has closely examined two alternative models of our universe. While similar, we have concluded that these two models differ in their abilities to resolve the Hubble and S8 tensions.

Alexis Metoyer, Biology and Dance

“Clothesline Ballet: A Danced Moment Depicting the Beauty of Everyday Life”

Clothesline Ballet is a work of original art, totaling 17 minutes and debuting in December of 2022, which encapsulates the relationship between two characters amid a moment of their daily life. As a ballet without a plotline, Clothesline Ballet is an attempt to combine classical ballet with contemporary movement to create a pedestrian dance dialect. While the process of choreographing the work was not always linear, it brought up important roadblocks in my dance career and exposed me to ways to interact with the performing arts that I did not have the chance to explore before. The choreographic process consisted of working with the two dancers in studio time along with a live student orchestra, who were performing an original piece of work, also written by a Swarthmore student. The audience is allowed to interpret the ballet and the relationship between the characters however they see fit. 

Alice Onyango-Opiyo, Neuroscience

“Validation of Non-Invasive Glucocorticoid Hormone Sampling in Spadefoot Toads (S. Couchii)”

Hormone sampling in amphibians can be a useful tool to indicate how physiology directly interacts with or is affected by an animal’s environment and behavior. However, commonly used methods to sample hormone levels in amphibians include invasive techniques such as blood sampling and whole body homogenization. Corticosterone is a steroid hormone within a larger class of hormones called glucocorticoids, which are known to be biomarkers of the stress response in amphibians and other vertebrates. In my study, I focus on validating a non-invasive water bath method of measuring the stress-indicative hormone, corticosterone, in Couch’s spadefoot toads (Scaphiopus couchii). My work examines how excreted amounts of corticosterone from 60-minute water baths compare to circulating concentrations of the hormone in plasma blood samples.

Callie Cho, Neuroscience

“Validation of Non-Invasive Water Borne Gonadal Hormone Sampling in Couch’s Spadefoot Toads (Scaphiopus couchii) ”

Current methods for measuring hormone concentrations such as blood sampling and whole body homogenates are highly invasive and only provide one measurement time point. Water borne hormone sampling provides an alternative, minimally invasive technique for measuring hormone levels that also allows for the repeated sampling of individuals. I examine the validity of the water borne hormone sampling for the gonadal steroids testosterone (T) and estradiol (E₂) in Couch’s Spadefoot Toads (Scaphiopus couchii). I found no significant effect of GnRH treatment on individuals, though HCG induced higher T and E₂ levels in male and female frogs as compared to baseline levels. Furthermore, I found a positive correlation between excreted and circulating T in frogs in the HCG experiment. Lastly, the GnRH and HCG Challenges both revealed a positive correlation between excreted T and E₂ levels, indicating that water borne hormones are excreted hormones in a consistent and predictive manner. In summary, this method validation provides the groundwork for using the minimally invasive water borne sampling technique to measure T and E₂ levels in S. couchii frogs. 

Cat Crochunis-Brown, English Literature with French & Francophone Studies minor

“Post-colonial Franco-Algerian Literature: Speaking in the Gulf of Memory”

​​Still lacking easily accessible archives, France faces a memorial gap in relation to its colonization of Algeria and the Algerian War of Independence. In my project, I ask: How do post-colonial works created by Franco-Algerian artists work to render audible the voices of the past?  What are their unique memorial strategies, innovations, and limits? Examining the novel La seine était rouge (1999) and the intimate photo-visual archive Mes Algéries en France (2004-2006) by Leïla Sebbar, as well as the popular war movie Indigènes (2006) by Rachid Bouchareb, I analyze how these artists’ negotiations of multiple memories highlight frictions, find moments of resonance, and “write against” the former colonial empire. 

Cynthia Shi,  Special major in Environmental Anthropology

“Love for the Land: Ecological Restoration as Multispecies Care Labor of the Hawaiian Fishpond-scape”

In the last two decades, environmental NGOs on the islands of Hawaii have been leading efforts to restore traditional land practices and foodways, among them fishpond, or loko i’a, which are traditional aquaculture infrastructure that ensured a stable production of fish protein. My thesis addresses the ethics of care and Indigenous worldmaking emerging from ecological and cultural restoration of Loko I’a or fishponds that have been neglected and disrepaired due to colonialism and climate disasters. The project explores fishpond restoration at He’eia to understand their centraility for multispecies community building, Indigenous food sovereignty and activism as well as creating more expansive frameworks of environmental justice. By investigating the role and contradictions of environmental “care” practices, I illuminate multispecies collaborative survival, resistance, and Indigenous world-making practices in the age of the Anthropocene.

Fenja Tramsen, History and Political Science

“What is a Homeland? Building a German Heimat in Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries”

German empire building in Africa relied upon the implementation of a distinctly German Heimat (Home; Homeland) in the colonial hinterlands. This project traces the German Heimat in Africa from the foundations laid by German explorers in the 19th century through to the establishment of livestock farms in German Southwest Africa (1884-1915), and finally through Weimar Germany’s period of colonial loss (1919-1933). German settlers establishing a Heimat in Africa experienced significant challenges caused by the African climate, landscape, and resistance of indigenous people while simultaneously advancing German science, brutal racial hierarchies, and attempting to produce profit. This shaped practical implementations of Heimat upon the colonial space through the 19th and 20th centuries, while conceptualizations of Deutschtum (Germaness) and Heimat also expanded and adapted to fit the German agenda. 

Gabriel Straus, Sociology & Anthropology and Biology

“Dancing with [Philly’s] Ghosts”: Recycled Materials and Meanings at an Artist Residency

What’s at stake in people’s relationships with objects? I examine this question based on ethnographic fieldwork at RAIR, an artist residency at a Philadelphia dump, where artists make work out of the discarded material fabric of a gentrifying, deindustrializing city. Building on the work of physicist-turned-philosopher Karen Barad, I explore how people, objects, and ghosts “intra-act” at RAIR to refigure time, reshape space, and redefine the human. I demonstrate how a Baradian reading captures dynamics missed by both existing anthropologies of waste and other “new materialisms.” My thesis, therefore, argues for a stronger ethic of accountability than Barad’s framework implies, because these artists have real power: as I show, their practices with these objects materially remake Philadelphia’s urban fabric.

Grace Sewell, Russian and Spanish

“New Women Grow Here: Nature as Future in Alexandra Kollontai and Yente Serdatzky's Post-Revolutionary Fiction”

In his essay “Attractive Labor,” the French utopian socialist Charles Fourier writes, “God has provided [bees] with a social mechanism which . . . causes happiness to be found in industry,” thereby framing nature as a model for labor and love. In the generations following Fourier, intellectuals in imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, writing from diverse linguistic and political backgrounds, inherited this question – how might imitation of the environment engender social transformation? This comparative project studies how Alexandra Kollontai’s Russian novel Vasilisa Malygina (1923) and Yente Serdatzky’s Yiddish short stories “Di yunge almone” (1921) and “Zi vart” (1922) turn to the natural world to interrogate what revolution asks of and promises women. In Vasilisa Malygina, observing nature guides the growth – aesthetic and political – of Kollontai's "new woman". Serdatzky, writing for an audience of Jewish immigrants in New York, rejects this solution: nature is a site of violent alienation that reflects – without repairing – women's realities.

Jonathan Lehr, History

“A ‘Necessary’ Sacrifice?: Victorian Culture, Catholic Belief, and Remembering the Fallen in World War I Philadelphia”

When trying to understand and explain the deaths of their young men during the Great War, Philadelphia’s Irish-Catholic community employed two frameworks of rhetoric. On the one hand, Victorian understandings of duty, patriotism, comradery, and masculinity were sold to the community through condolence letters and state propaganda. Additionally, the Philadelphia Irish also emphasized Catholic beliefs and the need to prove themselves loyal to their country as more community-specific arguments for the necessity of the soldiers’ sacrifice. By merging national and community explanations, Philadelphia’s Irish-Catholics were, in most cases, able to rationalize the deaths of their sons and view American participation in the war as a necessary, even joyful and glorious, experience.

Patricia Bautista Tiburcio, Sociology with Black Studies and Educational Studies minors

“De Manhattan Pa El Bronx:” Dembow as the Sound of dominicanidad Ausente”

This research project begins with the question, what is the role of music in the lives and identities of contemporary Dominicanyorkers? As a Dominicanyorker and a student of sociology, this project begins from the embodied knowledge that Dembow music is actively doing something important in relation to how Dominican migrants and their descendants navigate their Dominican identity and belonging in present-day New York City. I claim that Dembow is the sound of a particular urban condition of diasporic identities, what I call following Dominican studies, “dominicanidad ausente.”  To fully understand the role of music in identity development, I use ethnographic research, including interviews, and media content analysis to analyze how urban Dominican sonic practices reconstruct and expand dominicanidad as worldmaking separate from the Dominican Republic. I build upon Lorgia García Peña’s conceptual work to show that dominicanidad ausente is the historical condition of Dominican diasporic identity/identification defined at once by the position of both (1) experiencing one's Dominican identity always in relation with the yearning to return to the Dominican Republic, while (2) actively asserting one’s belonging to a diasporic community in the present and future.

Raya Tuffaha, Theater with Peace & Conflict Studies minor

“Fight Scenes Night”

Swarthmore's first project in fight direction, the art of crafting staged violence, ran for one oversold weekend in February. With a student creative team, as well as professional mentorship from Philly-based fight director Eli Lynn, Raya staged major fights from six different plays, spanning across weapons styles: Treasure Island (inflatable cutlasses), Taming of the Shrew (found weapons), The River Bride (unarmed/modern fabric dance), Macbeth (unarmed), One Man, Two Guv’nors (solo unarmed), and West Side Story (unarmed/knife, with music). The rehearsal process took about four months, featuring ten actors, most of whom played multiple roles.

Shaadiin King, Special major in Educational Studies & English Literature

“Rooting ELA Classrooms in Navajo Literacy: Developing Student Understanding Towards Co-conspiratorship for Indigenous Sovereignty and LandBack”

There is a lack of Indigeneity in ELA, and K-12 education in general. Classrooms are predominantly Western-centric, especially with literary canon created by, mainly, white male authors. How can Navajo (Diné) literacy de-center Western literacy practice to create ELA classrooms as a space for students to start learning and grappling with Indigenous issues? The goal of this reimagined classroom would be developing students’ understanding that works toward solidarity for Indigenous sovereignty and LandBack.

Virginia Moscetti, Philosophy and English Literature

“Meaning and Apocalypse: Investigating The Implications of RoboPoetry”

The rapid sophistication of A.I. has yielded a proliferation of poetry and fiction generating platforms. These platforms, including ChatGPT and Poem Generator among others, produce pieces of literature that appear qualitatively identical to literature affiliated with human authors. However, just because A.I.-literature looks like a regular literary object, does not mean that it is one. Instead, attributing literary-objectness to A.I. literature involves identifying whether it is capable of meaning things at a thematic and linguistic level. Through my paper, I examine whether our frameworks for literary meaning- New Criticism and Literary Intentionalism- can accommodate A.I.-generated literature. However, in doing so, I discover that these frameworks are critically flawed and, therefore, unable to adequately define literary meaning. Lacking such a definition, we can neither confer or deny meaning to A.I.-generated literature nor can we articulate how and why literary objects mean. My research thus culminates in a two-fold open question: how do we justify our axiomatic assumption that literary objects mean? If we cannot do so, is meaning simply not a qualifying condition for literary objectness?