Trinity College Undergraduate Research Conference

TCURC 2019

Saturday, March 9, 2019 

Message to Students: January 10, 2019

The deadline to submit an application for the 2019 Trinity College Undergraduate Research Conference (TCURC) has been extended to Friday, January 18, 2019. For details, please see below.

Message to Students: November 29, 2018

Trinity's Academic Dons are pleased to announce that this year we will be holding the fifth annual Trinity College Undergraduate Research Conference (TCURC). 

Trinity students are some of the brightest undergraduates in North America, and TCURC is a unique opportunity for Trinity students to learn how to participate and present their work at a conference. Learning how to contextualize your work and research, participating in active academic discussions, and networking with other scholars are crucial skills for any student considering graduate or professional schools. TCURC presents the perfect opportunity to introduce Trinity students to the conference atmosphere. Furthermore, participation will be a useful contribution to your resumé or graduate school application. 

TCURC will take place on March, 9, 2019. It is intended to be a forum for upper-year Trinity undergraduates to present and receive feedback on work they are completing for fourth-year seminars, individual research, or group research projects. Students from all areas of study are welcome to participate. 

Participating students will be grouped into panels of three or four related presentations. Each student will give a brief (15 minute) talk outlining the key ideas of their research. The panel facilitator (an Academic Don, Trinity Fellow, or other academic) will comment on each presentation individually or the panel as a whole.Thereafter, each panel member will have the chance to respond to questions from the facilitator and the audience. 

How to Take Part: 

Students should fill out the application form (emailed to students on November 29), which asks for basic details about the nature of their proposed presentation, and submit it in one PDF file by January 11 to Kristina Francescutti at We understand that you may have an ongoing project that is not yet completed or one that you have not started. The abstract is just a project description of 500 words, maximum. We are looking for a general description of a project you are currently pursuing. Please email if you have any questions or require a copy of the application form.

Decisions on acceptance will be made by the Academic Dons. The Dons will structure the various panels and announce a preliminary program by the end of January 2019.  Students whose presentations are accepted will be invited to a workshop on how to present a conference paper in February. 

Looking forward to your applications,
The Academic Dons


TCURC 2018

Saturday, March 3, 2018 

Event is free to all students!

The conference will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018. The day will begin at 10:00 AM with a coffee reception in the Trinity College Private Dining Room (PDR). Conference panels will then take place in the Combination Room (CR) and Divinity Common Room (DCR), with a lunch break. Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Alexandra Bolintineanu from the Digital Humanities Program at Woodsworth College.

TCURC, now in its’ fourth consecutive year, is an interdisciplinary conference which gives Trinity students the opportunity to present their research in an academic setting. This is also a unique opportunity for Trinity students and faculty of the university to meet and discuss related topics of interest outside of the classroom.

We would be appreciative if you could let us know whether or not you will be able to attend. Please register at:

Click here to view the full conference PROGRAM (PDF)

We kindly request that you please RSVP by Thursday, March 1. We certainly hope to see you there!

TCURC 2017

Saturday, March 18th, 2017 in the Larkin building, registration in the Buttery from 8-9AM

Event is free to all students!

Contact with any questions or concern


9:00 am - 10:20 am - Humanities Panel 1

Humanities Panel 1: NGOs, Human Rights and the Policy Future

Mehran Shamit - State Power and the Collapse of Human Rights in Bangladesh

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948 as a protective measure after the human rights atrocities of World War II. The Declaration was established to give international legal recognition to individual rights, challenging unjust state law or customary practices. The Declaration forms the foundation of international human rights law and establishes the parameters of human rights today. Although international human rights standards may seem to be embraced by states on the surface, they remain largely ineffective as they are not properly implemented on a national level by many states, including Bangladesh. The human rights situation in Bangladesh has quickly deteriorated under the highly repressive, authoritarian regime led by the Awami League (AL). The AL-led government has received widespread criticism from many international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, for committing countless human rights atrocities across the country through its security forces. I analyze the current political context in Bangladesh and articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and argue that the current Bangladeshi government is a gross violator of international human rights standards, in order to forcibly remain in power, through carrying out extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and restricting freedom of expression.


Zarin Tasnim - Barriers Faced by NGOs in Implementing Safe Abortion Programs in Bangladesh 

Lorina Hoxha - “Never Again a Mexico Without Us”: Neo-Zapatismo as a Coming Politics

In the early hours of the first day of 1994, the day that NAFTA would officially become operational, a masked indigenous rebel army of thousands descended on seven cities in Chiapas in an armed insurgence. The uprising was an assertion of existence after centuries of colonial erasure and decades of neoliberal abandonment. It was a demand for dignity, voice, and autonomy in a historical moment in which the state had issued what was deemed a ‘death sentence’ against the peasant class of Mexico, ushering in what the Zapatistas considered to be a new era of imperialist globalization. More than twenty years later, the Zapatistas continue to galvanize global imaginaries about resistance in the 21st century. This paper will examine some of the central tenets of neo-Zapatismo, looking specifically at their unique approaches to identity formation and autonomous governance.


Nish Chankar - Basic Income – Ontario’s Pilot Project and the Stakeholder’s Perspective

10:30 am - 11:50 am - Parallel Science & Humanities Panels 2

Science Panel 2: Medical Epidemiology

Mary Debono - A multi-center, Prospective Investigation of the Efficacy and Safety of the Draeger Jaundice Meter (JM-105) in Providing Transcutaneous Bilirubin Measurements

Hyperbilirubinemia is a potentially detrimental condition among neonates if not detected and treated properly. When detected, it can be very effectively treated by Phototherapy. Bilirubin is a neurotoxin (Srinivas et al. 2016) that, when it crosses the blood brain barrier, causes acute bilirubin encephalopathy, which manifests as progressive mental abnormalities and muscle tone changes and, ultimately, chronic sequelae, known as kernicterus (Jain et al. 2016).

It is commonly diagnosed in neonates, with fifty percent of term infants developing jaundice, a form of hyperbilirubinemia in which the skin appears yellow (Murli et al. 2016). Bilirubin levels in term neonates peak in the third to fifth day post-natally (Jain et al. 2016), so infants are often most susceptible to hyperbilirubinemia after discharge. Jaundice susceptibility is especially a concern given early discharges, so prior risk screening is crucia.

Hyperbilirubinemia is most commonly detected visually (Rafar et al. 2016), though blood tests are conducted to confirm. While blood tests are a gold standard of measurement (Alsaedi et al. 2016), they are problematic in terms of excess invasiveness in blood drawn from infants who have little blood volume to begin with (Jenke, 2016), also causing parental anxiety, and becoming economically costly. Transcutaneous Bilirubin measurements (TCB) have been created in order to decrease the instances of invasive blood withdrawal in neonates, the most significant question being whether or not they are accurate enough to use in place of blood total serum bilirubin measures (TSB).

 The study aims to implement a program of care with a new method of measuring subcutaneous bilirubin levels, one which is far less invasive than the alternative blood work. The study compares the bilirubin values of the standard blood test to those of the JM-105 in order to test the accuracy of the machine.


Erin Gaudette - The Effects of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) on Smoking Behaviour and Cognition in Smokers with Schizophrenia versus Non-psychiatric Control Smokers

Rates of tobacco smoking and smoking cessation failure in schizophrenia (SZ) are consistently higher than in the general population. While first-line cessation aids such as bupropion, varenicline, and nicotine replacement therapies have shown promise, better treatments are needed. Our preliminary studies have shown high frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) applied to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) suppresses tobacco craving in smokers with SZ. As such, we sought to determine the effects of active versus placebo-sham rTMS on smoking behavior and cognition in smokers with and without SZ. We studied fourteen smokers with SZ and fourteen healthy controls at baseline (smoking satiated), after 16 hours of smoking abstinence, and after reinstatement of smoking using a 3-day human laboratory paradigm. 20Hz active and sham rTMS treatments were administered bilaterally to the DLPFC. Treatment conditions were counterbalanced across subjects, and outcome measures included a cognitive battery, tobacco craving, and psychiatric symptoms.

Overnight abstinence produced a significant increase in tobacco craving and withdrawal in both groups (p’s<0.05) and these effects were reversed with smoking reinstatement (p’s<0.05); however, active rTMS did not modify this pattern of results. Compared to sham, active rTMS had no significant effects on any cognitive outcomes. Given these results, administration of short-term high-frequency rTMS treatment did not modify smoking abstinence-induced changes in cognition and tobacco craving in smokers with SZ. Compared to our previous findings, which used a 5-week rTMS treatment paradigm, short-term administration of rTMS may not be sufficient to modify cognition, craving and withdrawal outcomes in smokers with SZ. Further research on effects of rTMS on smoking behaviors and cognition in SZ using longer-term duration of treatment is warranted.


Humanities Panel 2: Reading and Writing the Body

Madelin Burt D’Agnillo - Body Size Activism and Policy Creation in Canada

Weight-discrimination has been called the “last acceptable form of prejudice” in modern society; the solution to mitigate this prevalent form of discrimination is entangled in a discussion of moral panics, lived consequences of discrimination, feminist theory, disability studies, and legal rights discourse. My research investigates the role of body size activism in the proposal and creation of anti-size discrimination policy. In the mix of factors contributing to change in legislation, I isolate the role of body size activists in protesting norms and challenging status quo size discrimination. Although scholars have documented the progress of anti-size discrimination policy in the United States owing to body size activism, there is a noticeable gap in the literature about similar efforts in Canada. My work will highlight efforts that are currently underway in Canada to change policy, spearheaded by body size activists and their allies including politicians, lawyers, and medical professionals.

Anti-discrimination policy targets discrimination against non-normative body sizes, fat bodies, and “obese” bodies as the most marginalized and disadvantaged cohorts; but it must be clear that any change to anti-size discrimination legislation can benefit people of all body sizes. Fat-phobic practices and attitudes are a prevalent form of discrimination that impacts the lives of people living in fat or non-normative bodies. Beginning in the 1960s and extending to the present, this form of discrimination has been resisted by organizations of body size activists.

I use the term “body size activism” to refer to several different interest groups which play a role in resisting or challenging weight-based, appearance-based, and size-based discrimination. Their varied forms of activism work primarily in two ways: first, to influence the way that individuals relate to their own bodies, to change the culture around dieting, body size, and ability to one that is accepting of different bodies, and second, to eliminate acts of discrimination by creating policy that is intolerant of institutionalized size discrimination. In other words, one level of body size social activism takes place at the individual and community basis—self-love, self-acceptance, body respect and safety. I investigate a second stated goal of body size activists, to impact social policy related to discrimination. I use an international interjurisdictional scan to locate places where size is a prohibited ground for discrimination and I look at the role that various body size activist groups played in contributing to those policy changes. Drawing from the successful and unsuccessful instances of “body size” obtaining status as a protected class in multiple jurisdictions’ anti-discrimination policy, I trace the pattern of activism which contributed or did not contribute in impacting policy creation.

Learning from these examples, I offer a projection of the role of body size activism in influencing policy decisions in Canada, both provincially and federally. These analyses help to understand the role of body positivity as it intervenes in policy making. Finally, I consider the ethical implications and importance of this type of activism, who it includes and who it alienates. 


Emmi de Vries -  Cripping the Romance: An Analysis of the Portrayal of Disability in Contemporary Male/Male Romance Novels

18.7% of people in the US and 13.7% of adults in Canada live with a disability. The way these people are viewed and treated by others and perceive themselves is influenced by the representation of disabled characters in popular culture. Audiences are informed (consciously and unconsciously) about disabilities and what it means to live with them via portrayals in the media. One aspect that is often conspicuously absent around disabled characters is sex and sexuality. Even though sex is considered to be an essential part of human life, disabled people are overwhelmingly thought to be asexual, sexually deviant, or unfit as sexual partners. In light of this, it becomes crucial to understand the images of disabled sexuality and the intimate relationships of disabled people presented in the popular genres where they occur and investigate how they are connected to existing myths around sex and disability. However, the popular fiction genre that made up 29% of all fiction literature in 2015 has, so far, garnered little academic interest with regards to disability.

The romance genre is a billion-dollar-a-year industry that is characterised by narratives that focus on a central love story with an uplifting ending and, increasingly, explicit sex. Yet the portrayal of disability in those novels has been studied by few scholars. This is even more evident for different romance subgenres. The sales growth in LGBT romances, for example, was 225% between the years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 and more and more novels with disabled main characters are published. My research project is a first step to building up knowledge about disability in this genre by exploring the portrayal of disabled characters and their sexuality in contemporary male/male romance novels, which constitute the large majority of LGBT romances.

For my research, I analysed 22 male/male romance books published in 2015 and 2016 with permanently disabled main characters to see how these characters, their lives, and especially their (sexual) relationships are presented in the stories. Firstly, I looked at how the disabilities, as well as the issues around them, are described and dealt with throughout the narratives. Secondly, I tried to discern the purpose and place of the disabilities within the stories’ plots.

Some of the questions that guided my analysis and that I will try to address in my talk are: What kinds of disabilities are portrayed in these novels? How much diversity can be observed among the disabled characters? Which stereotypes of disability representation or myths about disabled sexuality are challenged or perpetuated? Are there common themes in the representation of the characters in this subgenre? Is the disability central to the plot of these romances? And, how are the sexual lives of the disabled characters described?

By answering these and other questions, I want to discover what picture of disability is painted in male/male romance fiction and what overall message this creates about living (and having sex) with a disability.


Anneliese Mills - Marriage and Sexuality in the European Reformation: A Comparative Analysis

The Protestant Reformation was a series of religious movements and schisms that occurred in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This paper investigates the relationship between Reformation-era Christianity and marriage and sexuality by comparing the policies of four specific religions: Catholicism (particularly following the Council of Trent), Lutheranism, Calvinism, and the Church of England (from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I). It examines their overall conceptualisations of marriage and argues for several characterisations. Catholicism primarily viewed marriage as a sacrament, but preferentially valued celibacy. Lutheranism and Calvinism both viewed marriage as a social institution, but Calvin placed a greater emphasis on marriage as a tool for social order within a community. The Church of England’s view can be described by the term ‘functionality’ – that is to say, decisions were made primarily for pragmatic or practical reasons. To exemplify these conceptualisations, this paper considers three specific topics: clerical marriage, monastic houses, and divorce. While these Christian religions had similar positions toward marriage in general, these particular issues were especially divisive, with different churches allowing or disavowing each of these practices. Finally, this paper examines the impact of these various stances on women during the Renaissance. It entertains three particular case studies: wives of English clergymen, who became a vulnerable population; nuns in convents that were dissolved under Protestantism, often with varied effects; and women seeking divorce in Calvin’s Geneva. These examples do not paint any one denomination as better for women in this time. Instead, they indicate that any progress made in this regard was typically measured. Overall, this investigation demonstrates that subtle theological debates throughout the European Reformation greatly impacted the general public, and women in particular. 

12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Parallel Science & Humanties Panels 3

Science Panel 3: Animal Models

Karolina Szlapa - Synergic Drug Action with an Electron Transport Chain Inhibitor in C. elegans: Antifungal Imidazole Activity in the Nematode Worm

A major challenge in the discovery of novel pesticides and drug therapies is the toxicity, cost or unavailability of the dosage required for the desired effect. Where we desire to reduce the necessary dosage of a compound active against a pest or disease, we may seek to find synergic behavior with another compound. Drug synergy is defined as two drugs acting together with a greater-than-additive effect; that is, when the effect of two substances together is greater than the additive effect expected if they were working independently. A common example is when two drugs are administered, both in sublethal doses, to induce lethality of a disease- causing agent despite the combined dose being too small to have any effect with either drug alone. This suggests that the compounds are targeting the same pathway or component of the organism in question, and in addition to being practically useful can also inform us about the biology of the species.

My project focuses on the nematode worm C. elegans as a model for lethal drug interactions in the nematode, many of which are common agricultural pests. Screens for synergy were undertaken by combining sublethal amounts of drugs from the Spectrum molecule library with two different known worm-active compounds. An interesting class of synergizing molecules emerged from the antifungal imidazoles, which synergized with the electron transport chain inhibitor wact-11. I explored the extent of the synergic interaction with analogs of one especially potent imidazole, as well as its effects on wact-11 resistant mutant strains to see if they are more sensitive to the imidazole’s effects.


David Oliver - Understanding Sex Specific Differences in a Mouse Model of Depression

Sylvia Almeida - Characterizing the Genetic Nature of lrn-3(mm20)

Learning is a complex process in which past experiences are stored as memories, and subsequently shape behaviour. There are large gaps in our knowledge of how information from the outside world is stored as memories, and how these are recalled at the appropriate time. The van der Kooy lab in the Department of Molecular Genetics investigates the molecular basis of learning and memory by studying these phenomena in model systems. The ~1mm long nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, commonly referred to as the “worm”, is an ideal model organism to study the mechanisms of behavioural plasticity in animals. This is due to the ease by which it can be genetically manipulated, its sequenced genome, fully mapped neural connectome, and simple nervous system consisting of only 302 neurons in the adult hermaphrodite.

C. elegans is capable of forming associative memories, meaning it can learn a pairing between an unconditioned stimulus (US), something that is inherently attractive or aversive, and a conditioned stimulus (CS). For example, worms can learn a starvation-benzaldehyde association if these two cues are presented at the same time. When worms are placed on a plate lacking food and a spot of the innately attractive odorant benzaldehyde on the lid, they learn that benzaldehyde (the CS) predicts starvation (the US) and will avoid the odorant in the future. Much is still unknown about how the memory of an association is stored and retrieved during testing, which is the basis of this project.

The lab has previously isolated a novel mutant C. elegans strain based on its associative learning deficit. The implication is that there is an unknown gene – lrn-3(mm200) – that is not functioning properly in this mutant, therefore the functional version of this gene must be involved in associative learning. The goals of this project are to identify the causal gene, and then characterize its role in the worm through mapping its expression patterns and how the gene product interacts with other proteins. By figuring out the identity of this gene and how it works in a non-mutant worm, we can add to our knowledge of the associative learning molecular pathway in C. elegans.

Society is utterly fascinated by the concept of memory. Historically, it has been the topic of not only scientific research, but also of literature and philosophy because of how integral it is to the human experience. By first bettering our knowledge of how memory works in model organisms like C. elegans, we may be able to begin to understand the mystery that is human memory. 


Humanties Panel 3: Writing History, Literature and Culture

Calahan Janik-Jones - Writing History: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in its Sociohistorical Context 

Old English, the period of the English language between 540 and 1066, was almost unrecognizably different from what we speak today. Previous analyses of the major changes that occurred between Old English and Middle English offer little detailed information on dates or the actual timeframe of the change, often due to the fact that the manuscripts we have today are copied and the time of creation is entirely uncertain.

However, the Anglo­Saxon Chronicle is a series of 5 manuscripts, written in different places across England from around 850 to 1100. The goal of this project was to employ knowledge from Medieval Studies, especially Susan Irvine's collected work on the hands of the Chronicle (Irvine 1983), to pinpoint the tangible progress of change in Old English. Because the annals of the Chronicle are dated and span such a long period, the document is perfect to analyze both dialectical and temporal variation in Old English.

I primarily look at the OV to VO Shift, a change wherein the language moved from a primarily object-verb sentence structure, as in Modern Icelandic, to the verb-object order that we have in Modern English. Because this is an element of the mostly sub-conscious grammatical framework of language as opposed to the more salient lexical changes that occurred with the invasion of William the Conqueror in particular, the data from the Chronicle offers an insight to surprisingly clean and consistent data across real time. Using this, I highlight some interesting features between the various manuscripts and scribes using approaches from sociohistorical linguistics. In light of Shayna Gardiner’s approach with Ancient Egyptian writing, I use the provided subconscious linguistic data to reflect on the sociological positions of scribes in Old English. Lastly, I discuss whether the change in reference was the cause of random underlying linguistic variation, or a part of a socially-driven shift.


Michael Ralphs - Language, Politics & Trump: An Investigation in Political Theory

With the American election behind us, we are confronted by the question of how a candidate everyone thought unelectable nonetheless became president.  Given Trump’s penchant for saying things both untrue and highly offensive, either of which would easily ruin any other candidate, it is clear that there must be something about the way that Trump communicates that permitted him to win.

Rather than break down in a more immediate or limited way the manner in which Donald Trump speaks, I undertake to examine the challenges posed to political theory in the interplay between language and politics.  Drawing upon titans of the philosophy of language and communities such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Richard Rorty, and their work upon the essentially contextual and contingent nature of language, I develop a model through which to understand, in a general sense, the manner in which language conventions shape political discourse.  From there, I apply this model to Trump’s very particular political dialect to see if this can help us better understand how he was elected.


Christina Chung - Colour Analysis in 19th Century English Literature

This project approaches literature from a computational standpoint. Our main research question is whether the use of complex colors, like ochre, are found in more complex contexts, and whether, analogously, simple colors like red are found in more simple contexts. Of course, complexity can have multiple meanings, so we've collected 100+ features of sentences (e.g. vocabulary richness, periodicity, avg word length, etc.) that are all facets of complexity. There are also simpler trends that we are looking at – such as whether mentions of colors with the base color red (e.g. crimson, scarlet, etc.) increased over the course of the 19th century? Has the part-of-speech of colors changed over time (e.g. are they more frequently present as adjectives than nouns)?


Katya Mizrokhi - The Affective Geographies of Temporal Distortions in Post-Soviet Moscow

1:30 pm - 2:30 pm - Lunch served in the Buttery


2:30 pm - 3:30 pm - Keynote talk given by Dr. Mark Kingwell


3:40 pm - 5:00 pm - Parallel Science and Humanities Panels 4

Science Panel 4: Health

Valerie Steckle - How exercise alters cytokine profiles in asymptomatic pregnant women and the impact on relative risk for spontaneous preterm birth

Preterm birth (PTB) is the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. Spontaneous preterm births (SPTB) account for 50-60% of all PTB, and the rest.

The etiological origins behind the unanticipated cases of SPTB are an enigma in the field of obstetrics.

Current research suggests that a high amount of maternal systemic or local inflammation leads to the induction of preterm labor (PTL). Cytokine proteins are key components of the innate and adaptive immune systems, and thus, cytokine plasma concentrations are biomarkers of inflammation. Multiple factors influence the amount of inflammation in an individual, and many of these have been studied effectively in the context of pregnancy and PTB. Exercise has not been one of such factors. The results of the few studies regarding prenatal exercise physiology, inflammation and birth outcome have been inconclusive due to poor study design that did not study pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines simultaneously, or failed to consider the intensity of exercise on cytokine expression. Categorization of exercise intensity in general population studies has demonstrated that exercise cannot be treated as one all-encompassing variable because the physiological effects at different intensities are inherently distinct. Thus, our study aimed to effectively investigate antenatal exercise patterns, systemic inflammation and their relationship to PTL.

All data used for this study was collected through the Ontario Birth Study (OBS): a platform for research on pregnancy complications, and maternal and infant health. Out of 1375 pregnant participants, 40 experienced SPTB (delivery at <37 weeks) and 28 of these subjects completed the questionnaires containing exercise information and gave blood samples during the relevant periods (gestational age (GA) 16.2 and 27.1 weeks). Utilizing a case-control study design, this group was compared to 52 healthy pregnant controls that delivered at term (>37 weeks) and also provided blood samples at 16.2 and 27.1 weeks. Subjects were matched on age (<3 years difference) and parity (via dichotomization as nulliparous or multiparous). Luminex bead-based assays were used to simultaneously measure the concentration of 19 cytokines in maternal blood samples. Physical activity was assessed using the validated International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ).


Rebecca Ng - Vitamin D hydroxylation by probiotic Bacillus clausii strains

Ariana Youm - Categorical Perception and Pattern Separation in the Medial Temporal Lobe

Everyday tasks such as discriminating between faces, telling apart scenes, and distinguishing sounds require the ability to separate components of similar experiences into distinct representations. This ability may be dependent upon a neural mechanism called pattern separation. Pattern separation is defined as the process whereby similar representations are orthogonalized and stored in a distinct, non-overlapping manner so that interference does not occur between them (Yassa & Stark, 2011). Based on computational models, electrophysiological recordings, lesion studies, transgenic mouse models, as well as human functional neuroimaging, it has been suggested that pattern separation relies on a circuit in the hippocampus, particularly involving the entorhinal cortex, the dentate gyrus, and CA3 (Kirwan & Stark, 2007; Motley & Kirwan, 2012; Huffman & Stark, 2014). The circuit necessary for pattern separation (EC à DG à CA3), however, becomes compromised with age. To examine this phenomenon, we will compare the performance of younger adults, older adults, and patients with damage to the medial temporal lobe in the categorical perception of faces and scenes, a behavioral paradigm that reflects pattern separation. To create the stimuli, we will morph pairs of famous and nonfamous faces as well as scenes linearly from Image 1 to Image 2 in increments of 10%. We predict that older adults will show poorer discrimination compared with younger adults due to their impaired ability to pattern separate, and MTL patients will show an even poorer discrimination compared to older adults. 


Humanities Panel 4: American Foreign Policy: Outside Perceptions

Maria Layarda - David V. Goliath Battles at the WTO: The Political Economy of U.S. Non-Compliance with Adverse WTO Rulings involving a Developing Country Complainant

Instances of U.S. non-compliance with international law are often presented as a monolithic narrative of a great power flouting international law when the system rules against its interests. Such realist critique is most pronounced when the U.S. fails to comply with adverse WTO rulings when challenged legally by developing country complainants. Nonetheless, the U.S.’s mixed record of past compliance involving developed and developing countries alike suggests that compliance is more than functional power politics. This research seeks to investigate the political and economic determinants of U.S. non-compliance by examining three case studies with stark power asymmetry: U.S.-Cotton dispute against Brazil, US-Clove cigarettes against Indonesia, and US-Gambling against Antigua. It makes an original suggestion that compliance is best understood theoretically as a two-staged process. First, compliance decisions are made and negotiated domestically. Here, the institutional source of compliance (the executive vs. legislative) and domestic politics emerge as the primary determinants of compliance. Second, even when compliance proves domestically impossible and the U.S. fails to correct its trade policies, non-compliance may still entail divergent policy “outcomes”, i.e. whether the U.S. offers political or economic compensation to the respondent. These final outcomes depend on the relative power dynamics between the disputing states. While the WTO compliance literature is predominantly statistical, this research pursues an alternative historical approach with the hope of potentially offering new insights to resolve the current inconclusiveness of the quantitative literature while exploring the subtleties in compliance, most primarily the different shades of non-compliance. The findings of this research shows that while the WTO’s quasi-judicial dispute settlement system is indeed the “crown jewel” of today’s multilateral trading system, we have yet to realize a system that truly preserves right over might.


Casimir Legrand - Hijacking’ the US Foreign Policy Decision-Making Process (FPDM)

Since it declared its independence on July 4, 1776, the United States (U.S.) has conducted its foreign policy decision-making (FPDM) according to a set of sound moral principles under which it secured its own liberty. These values and democratic ideals were subsequently enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Remaining accountable to the American public through steadfast adherence to these principles, while simultaneously jockeying to conduct diplomatic relations with other states to strengthen the nation’s geopolitical position, has proved challenging over time.

Modern security imperatives brought about by world wars, nuclear proliferation, and transnational terrorism threaten to disrupt economic, political, and environmental dimensions of world order. Continued stability will require more flexible responses than what traditional actors still loyal to democratic ideals can currently deliver. In the meantime, in the absence of innovative ideas and a more agile bureaucracy, individual diplomatic actors who are prepared to prioritize their own interests above those of the democratic mandate are eagerly poised to fill the void. Therein lies the risk of undermining the intrinsic, democratic fabric of FPDM processes.

The paper traces the roots of FPDM back to the work of the American Founding Fathers, following its evolution through to modern times. The paper suggests that, particularly during the Cold War era, responses by various presidential administrations to certain foreign policy crises has left FPDM susceptible to becoming ‘hijacked’ by unconventional actors, both internal and external to government. Through case studies, such as that of the Watergate scandal, the Johnson-Nixon Administration’s response to the Vietnam War, and the Kennedy Administration’s handling of the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the paper attempts to examine how FDPM methodology is gradually being compromised. By relying on Graham T. Allison’s Organizational Process model and Janis Irving’s psychological theory of groupthink, the paper portrays these historical events as critical assessments that test the integrity of FPDM processes and, more importantly, the resolve of respective presidential administrations. Review of these events under this lens sheds light on what appears to be an ethical erosion responsible for recent foreign policy decision-making ‘failures.’ There is evidence that this systemic manipulation may cause FPDM processes to dissolve into aggressive power politics, thereby leading to the undermining of the development of progressive foreign policy initiatives.

If we are to reclaim a democratic FPDM that is in line with the thinking of the American Founding Fathers, there needs to be a reinforcing of the checks and balances within existing FPDM mechanisms to ensure that all decisions strictly prioritize the interests of the American people. As the U.S. inevitably continues to encounter newly emerging threats that transcend preconceived understandings of state borders, presidential administrations will need to align the power, expertise, and technological capacity of government with a democratic foreign-policy decision-making apparatus that responds adequately and appropriately to the interests of the American public.


Eimi Harris - Perception of American Surveillance in Senegal

In 2014, the Pew Poll’s Global Attitudes Survey measured foreign public opinions of American surveillance on their countries’ citizens. While surveillance has been condemned by many in the West, on the international level there is greater variation on whether citizens in other countries deem American surveillance to be ‘acceptable’ or ‘unacceptable.’ One particular country of interest is Senegal: where Sub-Saharan African countries generally have a lower rate of ‘unacceptable’ responses, Senegal had a relatively high response rate against American surveillance. Using data from the Global Attitudes Survey and a series of logistic regressions, this thesis seeks to determine whether certain demographic and behavioural factors influence how foreign individuals respond to American surveillance. The importance of this research lies in further understanding the relationship between the individuals and global digitalization. How bodies of people respond to surveillance can be indicative of how people perceive their existence digitally, a notion that should be integrated into further normative development and rule-making in cyberspace.  

5:00 pm - Farewells!