Zebrafish research has exciting implications for human cell regeneration
Students working with biology professor Jason Meyers have been looking for the answer to why stem cells in certain parts of zebrafish, the same fish you might find at a local aquarium shop, regenerate when their sensory cells are damaged. Because similar human cells do not regenerate, and their loss leads to permanent deafness, this work could help scientists understand how they might some day be able to promote regeneration in humans. Humans and zebrafish share many biological traits, making the freshwater fish a common model for research on finding cures for diseases and developmental defects.

Photo by Napat Polchoke

    A study of the lateral line sensory system in zebrafish by Meyers, Jeffery Head ’12, Leah Gacioch ’08, and Matthew Pennisi ’09, showed that one particular signaling pathway was able to stimulate the related stem cells to divide too many times. The result was sensory organs that were much larger than normal, and had an excessive number of sensory cells. It suggests that this pathway is a critical regulator of stem cell divisions and may be one of the gatekeepers that maintains appropriate cell numbers.
    “By learning more about what triggers the fish cells to divide, we may learn about strategies for stimulating regeneration of our cells,” Meyers explained. The group published their findings in Developmental Dynamics in July.
    Work by Meyers, Jessica Planamento ’12, Pierson Ebrom ’10, and Neil Krulewitz ’12 explored the role that an enzyme called sulfatase 1 had on the development of zebrafish. Their article appeared in Developmental Biology in June. Current students have begun follow-up work on both articles with Meyers. He recently received a grant from the National Organization of Hearing Research to expand the lateral line work.
— Omar Aquije

NSF grant will give students access to high-level instrumentation
A major National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will allow for interdisciplinary cooperation between the Department of Psychology and the Neuroscience Program as well as provide students access to equipment usually not found in undergraduate research facilities.

Students manipulate an older model of the electroencephalography (EEG) system. (Photo by Andrew Daddio)
    Professors Bruce Hansen, Arnold Ho, Spencer Kelly, Carrie Keating, and Doug Johnson jointly applied for an NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant to obtain a state-of-the-art electroencephalography (EEG) system for use in psychology and neuroscience. The EEG system, which consists of electrodes that are placed on a person’s scalp, records brain waves. The system will integrate existing lines of behavioral research with neuroscience research measuring neuroelectric brain activation.
    “Having a shared EEG system will provide a common tool connecting a diverse range of department members and will facilitate both intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary work among researchers at Colgate who may not otherwise collaborate,” said Hansen, who spearheaded the grant proposal.
    Hansen, associate professor of psychology, said this integrated approach will allow professors to directly engage students with equipment and laboratory techniques that unite psychology and neuroscience into one field of study. He believes that this method will, in turn, foster nontraditional research connections that should spark fresh insights and create new areas of study. “Students in our labs will actually be using the EEG system, as opposed to only observing the system when in use,” he added.
    Ho, an assistant professor of psychology, is interested in connecting patterns of brain activity to behavioral tendencies. One of his main areas of research concerns the psychology of inequality and prejudice — how we categorize and perceive individuals belonging to multiple groups, such as biracial individuals.
    “The EEG system will enable me to explore the neural underpinnings of such patterns of categorization,” he said, “and promises to reveal why we may exhibit biases in our perception.”
— Natalie Sportelli ’15

Professor Soja recognized for fossil reef research
Geology professor Connie Soja has led field expeditions to Alaska’s North Pacific coast, the Australian outback, and Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Her work has yielded new insights into novel ecologic relationships in ancient reefs and how past environmental transformations help predict global change in reef communities today. In recognition of her work, Soja, a member of the Denison University Class of 1979, was recently honored with an alumni citation, the highest honor bestowed upon graduates and friends by her alma mater.

Geology professor Connie Soja has received her alma mater’s highest honor. (Photo by Basil Childers)

    Soja’s global research on fossil reefs has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Keck Geology Consortium.
    In the Ural Mountains and Siberia, she and her American and Russian colleagues established the first-ever documented links between the geology of Russia and southeastern Alaska. With Colgate students, she has published research on dinosaur eggs and the conditions that favored their preservation in the fossil record. She is completing a book titled The Last Good Buy: Evolution in the New Age of Extinction to focus attention on endangered species around the world.
    Soja teaches courses on evolution; paleontology; Darwin (with field trips in the United Kingdom); a seminar on ocean reefs that includes a field course in the Bahamas or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; and a first-year seminar on “The Sixth Extinction,” or modern biodiversity crisis. She offers science education workshops on biomimicry to high school teachers and on dinosaurs to elementary school teachers and their students. She also has directed Colgate’s study abroad programs in England, Wales, and Australia and has conducted research with nearly 50 students from Colgate and other schools. Soja’s findings have appeared in dozens of publications and shared in many professional conference talks.

From cartoons to crystallography
Approximately 150 students conducted summer research on campus, spanning a wide range of disciplines. Here’s a sampling:
    There are about 3.3 million users of the burgeoning online currency Bitcoin — about half of what Bitcoin has reported, according to computer science major Mike McConville ’16. While all of Bitcoin’s data is public, McConville said, it isn’t shared in a format that is readable to humans, and it also masks the identity of users. Working with computer science professor Vijay Ramachandran, McConville developed an algorithm to determine the actual number of Bitcoin users, translating the code and weeding out multiple accounts. “The total market cap is more than $1 billion, spurred largely by speculation and illicit activity,” he explained.
    Three neuroscience majors were able to demonstrate reversal learning in crayfish — something they say has never been done before. Jodi Forward ’15, Clara Slight ’15, and Alyssa Devine ’15 gathered their test subjects from Payne Creek on campus. After training the crayfish to exit a simple maze in one direction, the students then took the same creatures and taught them to go in the opposite direction. “We found they were successfully able to do so,” explained Forward.
    History major Caitlin Sackrison ’15 studied 19th-century French political cartoons that she found in the Colgate archives. Advised by Professor Jill Harsin, Sackrison translated, identified, and analyzed more than 75 cartoons. 

Caitlin Sackrison ’15 studied 19th-century French political cartoons like this one from the Colgate archives over the summer.

    “In 1871, shortly after the Second Empire in France fell and the Commune took over, the common women of Paris (the pétroleuses) were blamed for the burning of France. Thus, I was interested in how women were illustrated in the cartoons,” explained Sackrison. “I not only learned more French, but I also learned more about specific characters during the Second Empire.”
    Emily Rundlet ’14, a biochemistry major, used robots to help determine the 3-D structure of different enzymatic proteins using X-ray crystallography. “This research will provide a foundation of information on these proteins that will allow for further investigation into their hypothesized industrial applications,” she explained. Working with Professor Roger Rowlett, Rundlet tested a slew of different solutions to grow crystals with improved quality. She was able to create a computer model of one particular protein using Colgate’s dual-beam X-ray diffractometer and computational lab. “The instrumentation and resources available for protein research of this caliber are unmatched for a school of its size,” she said. “Because we are one of the only undergraduate institutions in the country with this type of X-ray diffractometer, the work I have done at Colgate is comparable to graduate-level research.”


Religion 331: The Problem of Evil
Clarice Martin, Jean Picker Professor of Philosophy and Religion
TTh 1:20–2:35 p.m., 320 Lawrence Hall

Course description: The issues posed by the “problem of evil” have vexed philosophers, theologians, and the curious for centuries, while fueling atheistic objections to the very existence of God. This course examines Western responses to the problem of evil, including perspectives on the causes, functions, and effects of human suffering and evil within discrete communities. Particular attention is given to the challenges evil poses to faith, reason, and practice from the Enlightenment period through modernity.

On the reading list:

Deconstructing Theodicy: Why Job Has Nothing to Say to the Puzzle of Suffering, David B. Burrell
Amidst Mass Atrocity and The Rubble of Theology: Searching for a Viable Theodicy, Peter Admirand
The Social Psychology of Good and Evil, Arthur G. Miller, ed.
Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy, Susan Neiman

Course format:
Part I Theorizing Evil: Religious Perspectives
Part II Theorizing Evil: Philosophical Perspectives
Part III The Cultural Production of Evil: Social-Scientific Perspectives
Part IV The Quest for Viable Theodicies

The professor says: “I take my students through a rigorous interdisciplinary analysis of the problem of evil, with a sustained and spirited interrogation of primary and secondary sources from antiquity to the present. We conclude with a fascinating analysis of strategic human responses to personal and mass atrocity, and human suffering and evil.”