Abstracts: Tuesday, February 14th


Lyuba Bolkhovitinov | Biology
Anterior-Posterior Neural Axis Plasticity in the Developing Central Nervous System of Xenopus laevis
Advisor: Margaret Saha
The establishment of the anterior-posterior axis is an essential step in the development of the central nervous system. The molecular mechanisms of this process have been extensively studied, but less is known about its plasticity in response to perturbations. The present study explores how Xenopus laevis embryos respond to a 180-degree rotation of their developing anterior-posterior neural axis. During either the mid- or late gastrula stage, a square of presumptive neural tissue was transplanted from a fluorescently-labeled donor embryo to the corresponding region on an unlabeled host embryo, and the orientation of the transplant was either maintained or rotated 180 degrees. The extent of recovery was assessed through the expression of regional marker genes at either the late-neurula or hatching stage. Differential gene expression among groups was further analyzed using RNA sequencing. This study identifies a window of time during which neural tissue loses its ability to re-pattern after rotation.   

Daniel Rosenberg | Biology
Modulating Intra-Nuclear LC3 with Small Molecules Rescues Cells from an Aneuploidogen-Induced Phenotype 
Advisor: William Buchser
Nuclear autophagy (nucleophagy) has been described as a cellular metabolic response by which nuclear material is actively degraded after stress, such as nuclear damage or the onset of tumorigenesis. Here we describe nucleophagy as a process distinct from other forms of selective autophagy in human cell lines. We found that although nuclear localization of LC3 is not dependent on particular nuclear importins, knockdown of nuclear importins (causing nuclear stress) can induce a nuclear autophagic response. Our characterization of nucleophagy was facilitated by chemical modulation of the process via two compounds discovered previously in a high content analysis. These small molecules bidirectionally regulate nuclear autophagy in human renal, pancreatic, and bladder cell lines. One molecule (NSC31762 or DTEP) enhances nuclear autophagic puncta and increases lysosomal targeting of LC3. Another molecule (NSC279895 or DIHI) reduces the nuclear localization of LC3. Finally, we applied these chemical tools in the setting of aneuploidy driven nuclear stress. The compound DIHI, shown to reduce nuclear autophagic puncta, was able to revert cells from aneuploidogen-induced phenotypes, possibly restoring homeostasis. These new tools will allow for deeper exploration of nucleophagy, and could serve as proof-of-principle in guiding new therapies for diseases involving nuclear stress. 


Hannah Bunting | Psychology
A Cross-cultural Study of Holistic Cognition and Social Ecology
Advisor: Joanna Schug
This study examines whether cultural variation in the tendency for holistic cognition, and in particular attributional styles, can be explained as adaptations to the the social environments in which individuals in different cultural contexts are embedded. Previous research has shown that individuals from East Asian countries tend to make external attributions for the causes of behavior in comparison with North American participants, who make more internal. This study seeks to examine whether this cultural difference can be explained by relational mobility, i.e., the ease of voluntarily entering and exiting relationships in one's society. As behaviors in low-mobility contexts (such as East Asia) are more likely to be constrained by situational factors than individuals in North American societies, cultural differences in attributional style may be the result of an ecologically rational adaptation to the social reality of one's cultural contexts.

Meghan Downey | Religious Studies
The Discourses on Sex during New Student Orientation 
Advisor: Annie Blazer
I am studying the discourses about sex and sexual health that occur during William & Mary's New Student Orientation using a lens derived from the work of Michel Foucault. Foucault questioned assumptions about society and how power functioned within it, and considered how institutions of authority used sexuality to create relationships of power, and specifically the importance of discourse in creating these relationships. During the five-day New Student Orientation, Orientation Aides (OAs) help acclimate new students to the College's environment. Orientation Aides are incredibly important to the transition experience, as they guide new students onto campus and into the William & Mary community. In order to study the discourse surrounding sexual health created during this time, I surveyed and interviewed the Fall 2016 OAs. I asked about the conversations they had about sexual health, what those conversations consisted of, and how they were facilitated.     


Hali Czosnek | Government
Responding to International Pandemics: A Comparative Case Study of the World Health Organization Response to Ebola and Zika 
Advisor: Susan Peterson
My thesis develops three approaches for understanding why the World Health Organization's (WHO) response differed so greatly in the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and in the ongoing Zika crisis. Ebola initially received a slow response, but once the WHO declared it to be a public health emergency, the response garnered huge financial and military support. In contrast, the WHO declared Zika a public health emergency soon after cases of microcephaly were reported in newborns in Brazil and Colombia, even though at the time there was no demonstrated causal linkage between Zika virus and microcephaly. The financial response, however pales in comparison to the Ebola response in 2014. How can one explain these outcomes in each case?   The two cases present an empirical puzzle that cannot be answered by a single, straightforward explanation. By analyzing the lethality and transmissibility of each virus, how each virus was securitized (or not) and the WHO's and regional offices bureaucratic budgets and cultures, I develop a more complete explanation as to why the WHO responded to each case in the way that it did.   

Emily Wasek | Government
A Woman's Place in the State House: Exploring the Legislative Backlash Effects on Women's Increased Descriptive Representation
Advisor: Jamie Settle
Historically, marginalized groups such as racial minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, and women have sought to obtain policy gains by electing officials with similar demographic qualities. Yet, this increased descriptive representation may threaten dominant groups and result in a legislative backlash, wherein opposition legislators introduce proposals counterproductive to the marginalized group's progress. While this offensive backlash oftentimes occurs in response to the increased presence of Black and queer legislators, scholarship suggests such a backlash towards female legislators may adopt a more defensive form of backlash, wherein opponents block bills beneficial to women. This study will analyze women's issue bills in six state legislatures to explore whether women's increased representation results in a legislative backlash and, if so, how such a backlash may occur. I predict that increased female representation will result in a legislative backlash counterproductive to women's interests, which will primarily occur in a defensive form.