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CS Wednesday Talks 2012/13

Fall 2012

October 17, 2012
David Mednicoff, Ph.D., director of Accelerated Programs for the Center for Public Policy and Administration; director of Middle Eastern Studies in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

October 11, 2012
The Future of Animal Communication: Do climate change and urbanization affect animal signaling behavior?
Sarah Partan, associate professor of of animal behavior, School of Cognitive Science

Biographical: Sarah received her Ph.D. in animal behavior from the University of California, Davis, and her B.A. in biopsychology from Wesleyan University. Her research interests are in the areas of animal social behavior and communication. She is particularly interested in multisensory signaling: how and why animals (including humans) combine signals from multiple sensory channels during communication. She has studied these and related questions in observational studies of wild African elephants; rhesus macaques; squirrels and lizards; and in controlled laboratory studies of birds and dolphins. Sarah is currently creating mechanized animals that simulate animal displays to use in field playback experiments that combine the rigor of laboratory experiments with the natural setting of the field environment.

October 3, 2012
Students present "Lightning Talks!" about their research funded by grants from the Ray and Lorna Coppinger Endowment.

Sara Berk:  Latitudinal variation in feather corticosterone levels and parental effort in four species of Tachycineta swallows
Abstract: Methanol extraction of corticosterone (stress hormone) from feathers is a new measure of stress physiology that provides insight into hormone levels during the period of feather growth. Previous research has shown that birds are less responsive to stress during molt, though it is unclear how this suppression of HPA activity varies with ecology. In collaboration with the Golondrinas project based out of Cornell University, I am extracting corticosterone from four different species of Tachycineta swallows from tropical and temperate latitudes. I will specifically focus on my work at the Beaverhill Bird Observatory in Alberta, Canada during summer 2012.
My work is supported by the Coppinger fund, the Justine Salton fund (from NS) and the Golondrinas project.

Jon Butler:  Sustainable Aquaponics
Abstract: Sometimes, solutions to human problems hide right in front of our noses, hidden in plain sight by the most prolific inventor known to man: nature herself. After being frustrated by plant burrs constantly sticking to his dog after walks, Swiss engineer George de Mestral came up with Velcro. Windmill turbine blades are now being designed with serrated edges that mimic the tubercles on humpback whale flippers; the new blades are quieter, and capture significantly more wind. Organisms have lived, died, coexisted, and cycled through our planet for millions of years, and nature has come up with some pretty incredible ways of keeping the ship running smoothly. By borrowing a few of these powerful innovations, there is potential to transform the industry we rely on most to survive: the industry of food production.

Emma Opitz: Cataloguing the grey squirrel vocalizations
Abstract: My research this summer was an attempt to catalogue and analyze all grey squirrel vocalizations. My findings suggest that previous work does not offer a complete understanding of the grey squirrel vocalization system and I suggest some new names and differentiations of calls.

September 29, 2012
From Death Threats to Islamophobia: Making Sense of Islamic Creationism in England
Salman Hameed, associate professor of integrated science and humanities

Abstract: The rise of Islamic creationism has been a serious concern in England, and Europe in general. There have been reports in the media of boycotts of university evolution lectures and, in one extreme case, even a threat of violence. How widespread is the rejection of evolution amongst Muslims and how do we make sense of these public spectacles of creationism in England? While religious/theological objections are indeed at play in some cases, it is likely that the broader narrative of Muslim rejection of evolution in UK may be bound up in reactions to the secular culture and in the formation of their own minority religious identity.

Biographical: Salman Hameed, associate professor of integrated science and humanities, holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from New Mexico State University at Las Cruces and a B.S. in physics and astronomy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His primary research interest focuses on understanding the rise of creationism in the Islamic world and how Muslims view the relationship between science and religion. He is currently the lead investigator of a three-year NSF-funded study on this topic, and heads the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies (SSiMS) at Hampshire College.  His other research interests include analyzing reconciliation efforts over sacred objects and places of astronomical importance and new-religious movements (NRM). His astronomy research is focused on understanding star formation processes in spiral galaxies. He teaches interdisciplinary courses on science and religion, including History and Philosophy of Science and Religion (with philosopher Dr. Laura Sizer); Science in the Islamic World, Evolution, Islam, and Modernity; Aliens: Close Encounters of a Multidisciplinary Kind; and co-organizes the Hampshire College Lecture Series on Science and Religion. Salman also runs IRTIQA, a science and religion blog with an emphasis on scientific debates taking place in the Muslim world.

September 12, 2012
Locating events in time and place: Developmental changes in episodic memory
Melissa Burch, assistant professor of cognitive developmen

Abstract: The ability to recall the time and place that events occurred is central to episodic memory. I will present two studies exploring age-related changes in children's ability to remember these specific details of past events. To examine children's memory for time, my collaborators and I asked 4-, 6-, and 8-year-old children to make judgments about the relative recency of two naturally occurring personal events and to estimate the time of the events according to conventional time scales, such as time of day and month. We found developmental differences in the ability to make judgments about relative recency of the events and to place the event on conventional time scales. To examine children's ability to recall place information, we tested 4-, 6-, and 8-year-olds' ability to recall the location of specific laboratory events. Older children were better able to recall the events and their locations after a one-week delay. This research provides insight into some of the component processes that support autobiographical memory.

Biographical: Melissa's research interests center on memory development, particularly memory for personal experiences. She has been exploring how parental verbal support may contribute to children's ability to recall the past. In addition, she is interested in how emotion may affect reports of past experiences and how parents and children talk about these events. She is currently examining autobiographical memory from a cross-cultural perspective to study how different socialization experiences may relate to the detail included in memory reports. She received her B.A. in psychology from Franklin and Marshall College and her Ph.D. in child development with a minor in interpersonal relationships from the University of Minnesota.

September 5, 2012
Welcome to the first day of classes! Come meet faculty in the School of  Cognitive Science, connect with old friends, and make new ones.

Spring 2013

May 1, 2013
Talks by Cognitive Science Students

Hampshire Learning Project

Elana Brown, Sage Campbell, Laila Copperansky, Jonathan Gardner, Mitchell Krieger, Colin Quirk, Austin Retzlaff, Luke Richardson, Eliza Spalding, Mai Templeton, Garrett van Horne, Miranda Wiley, and Anna Yoors
Abstract: The Hampshire Learning Project is an ongoing study that investigates the impact of a Hampshire education on its graduates as they make their way in the world. As a part of that project, students in CS 283 Learning at Hampshire have been looking at the experience of current Hampshire students. They have interviewed graduating Division III students and examined student responses to the academic satisfaction survey administered this spring. Students will present their findings to date.
This work is funded in part by the John Watts Non Satis Scire Learning Project Fund

Early Exposure to Novelty and its Effect on Fearful and Avoidant Behavior in the Domestic Dog
Sonya Greenberg
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to determine whether early exposure to specific novelties would effectively decrease the display of fearful behavior in reaction to those novelties later in life in the domestic dog. Three litters of pups were used. Throughout their fourth week of life, two litters were introduced to three categories of novelty: unfamiliar surfaces, unusual dress, and animated toys. The remaining litter was not exposed to those novelties at this time, serving as a control. Once the pups reached eight weeks old, each pup (including those from the control litter) was reintroduced to the aforementioned novelties during a behavioral test. Through observational and statistical analysis, results indicate that pups who were not exposed to novelty during their fourth week withdrew from novelty and ignored their handler during their behavioral test (taken at eight weeks old) significantly more often than pups who were exposed at four weeks. This outcome supports the idea that early introduction to certain novelty may diminish fearful or avoidant responses to such novelty later in life.
This research was supported by The Ray and Lorna Coppinger Endowment.

April 24, 2013
Evolution in Middle Eastern Education Policy: The View from Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia
Elise K Burton, Ph.D. candidate in Middle Eastern Studies and History at Harvard University

Abstract: To date, much research on the reception and teaching of evolutionary theory in Muslim societies has assumed that religious attitudes take precedence in determining whether and how evolution is publicly accepted, rejected, or taught in schools. A corollary of these assumptions has been that countries governed on Islamic theocracy models would be more averse than "secular democracies" to including evolution within their national curricula. But are Islam and secularism always the right categories of analysis? A comparative study of science education policy in Middle Eastern states found that neither Islam as a state religion, nor the level of state religiosity, was sufficient to predict the treatment of evolution within national science curricula. These results call for a nuanced understanding of the position of science in Muslim-majority states today, and understanding that incorporates historical, political, and sociological contexts alongside theology, belief, and culture.

Biography: Elise K. Burton is a Ph.D. candidate in Middle Eastern Studies and History at Harvard University. Her dissertation research examines the history of human biology research and its relationship to ethnic nationalist politics in 20th century Iran, Turkey, and Israel.

April 17, 2013
Acquisition of Zero Relatives in African American English
Walter Sistrunk, adjunct assistant professor of linguistics

Abstract: In this study, I investigated the development of zero relatives in African American English (AAE) speaking children. The aim of this study is to discover the acquisition paths and the age at which AAE speaking children both comprehend and produce zero subject relatives found in adult AAE. Zero relatives, like other relatives, are embedded clauses that modify a noun phrase, where the relative clause 'who went to the store' modifies the noun phrase 'man' in the sentence: "The man who went to the store is John." Zero relatives differ in that there is no relative marker "who," "which," or "that" to introduce the relative clause: The man 0 went to the store is John. The aim of this study was not only to establish the acquisition paths and the age at which zero relatives occur in AAE-speaking children, but to also put to the test theoretical analysis of zero relatives through scientific experimentation.

Biographical Information: Walter Sistrunk is adjunct assistant professor of linguistics here at Hampshire College this term, teaching "Introduction to Linguistics."

April 10, 2013
Failures of Collective Action: New Evidence from Peer Production
Benjamin Mako Hill 99F, Media Lab, MIT

Abstract: Although new communication technologies have opened the door to large scale collaborative production--such as Wikipedia and Linux--they have also created digital records that bring previously invisible failures of collective action into view. I will suggest that this shift has offered scholars of communication a new opportunity to understand fundamental social outcomes with broad theoretical and practical implications, such as the decision to join a community or contribute to a public good. I will present research that seeks to answer why some attempts at collaborative production online build large volunteer communities while the vast majority never attract even a second contributor. In particular, I will look at how incentive design in communication technologies shapes volunteer contributions. Using large datasets from the Scratch online community and Wikipedia, I will present new evidence that widespread incentives to collective action introduce persistent trade-offs between more contributions and high quality contributions from a range of participants.

Biographical Information: Benjamin Mako Hill is a Hampshire alumnus. He earned a master's at the Media Lab and is finishing a joint Sloan-Media Lab Ph.D.

March 27, 2013
Sound and Vision/Word and Image: Islamic Portraiture and its Many Forms
Yael Rice, Ph.D., Five College Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Islamic art at Amherst College

Abstract: It is a widespread misconception that the medieval and early modern arts of the Islamic lands lacked a tradition of figural depiction. In fact, illustrated manuscripts from Mosul (Iraq) to Agra (India) provide clear evidence of a rich practice of figuration, including painted portraits of authors, patrons, and other important figures. With several notable exceptions, manuscripts of histories, poetic works, biographies, and other texts nevertheless evidence a pronounced reliance upon verbal, rather than pictorial, representations of likeness. This talk will address the complex relationship between textual and pictorial portrait imagery in the book arts of Greater Iran and South Asia from the 13th through the 17th centuries, focusing in particular on the Mughal court of northern India, which saw a marked shift towards a practice of mimetic portraiture rooted in optical, sensate experiences. 

Biographical Information: Yael Rice (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) specializes in the art and architecture of greater Iran and south Asia, with a particular focus on manuscripts and other portable arts of the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries. Currently the Five College Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Islamic Art at Amherst College, she previously held the position of assistant curator of Indian and Himalayan Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 2009 till 2012. Her publications include studies of European engravings and Persian calligraphic specimens in Mughal royal albums, the 1598-99 MughalRazmnama (Book of war), and an early fifteenth century Khamsa (Quintet) of Nizami copied and illustrated in the region of Fars, Iran. 
Rice's current research concerns physiognomic analysis as a courtly and artistic practice, Mughal depictions of imperial dreams, paintings made for the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707), and the cultural and material history of jade in early modern Central and South Asia. 

March 6, 2013
CS Student Collaboration Meet and Greet
Interested in collaborating with other CS students? Unsure of how to find out what amazing things CS students are studying? This special edition of the Wednesday Lunch will be a relaxed version of creativity center-style speed dating so that we can make those collaborations happen. Eat pizza and talk to a peer you've never talked to before, maybe make some new friends or find some people you want to work with, or catch up on a friend's work now that it's progressed a little.

February 27, 2013
Sexual Conflict and Genital Evolution in Waterfowl
Patricia L.R. Brennan, adjunct assistant professor of animal behavior

Abstract: Sexual conflict is expected to be widespread in nature as males and females do not fully share their evolutionary interests. Waterfowl provide a unique model system to study conflict in a system where female choice and resistance are distinct. In waterfowl sexual conflict over forced copulations has led to the evolution of unique functional morphology of male genitalia and coevolution between males and females that result from an evolutionary arms race as males try to bypass female choice and females resist male coercion. Male genitalia show remarkable phenotypic plasticity mediated by social interactions, in particular male-male competition. I will describe how my research is helping us better understand sexual conflict and the potentially important role of plasticity in genital evolution.

Biographical Information: Patty L. R. Brennan is adjunct assistant professor of animal behavior here at Hampshire College, teaching "Research in Avian Behavior" this term.

January 30, 2013
Division II Concentrations in Cognitive Science: Meeting Faculty, Getting Ideas
Are you looking for faculty to work with in Division II? Do you want some help turning your ideas into a Div II concentration? CS faculty and several students will talk about the journey. Are you interested in psychology, philosophy, animal behavior, computer science, animation, linguistics, neuroscience, communications, education, or science and religion? You will learn about CS faculty and hear from students about their Div II concentrations in CS.


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