Spring 2016 Provost’s Grad Student Lecture Series Schedule

The Graduate School is pleased to announce the schedule for the Spring 2016 Provost's Graduate Student Lecture Series.

The format of the series has changed slightly and will now feature two symposia with three lectures a piece. Each lecture will be 20 minutes, allowing 10 minutes for a question-and-answer period; each symposium will be followed by a reception. 

The Provost's Graduate Student Lecture Series seeks to provide a mechanism for graduate students across Stony Brook University and at associated institutions to present their work in a public forum, to formally recognize excellence in graduate student research, and to expand communication among disciplines across campus and associated institutions.

Wednesday, April 13 | 2:00 PM
Wang Center, Lecture Hall 1

Opportunities and Challenges in Human DNA Sequencing for Rare Disease Research
Jason O'Rawe, Genetics

Jason O‘Rawe is a PhD candidate in the Genetics program at Stony Brook University studying human genetic variation with Dr. Gholson Lyon at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Jason received his BA from Stony Brook University and MA in Biology, also from Stony Brook University. Jason tries to better understand the genetic bases of rare human diseases using high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies. He is interested in statistical uncertainty, and he investigates new ways to analyze DNA sequence data.</>

Presence, Kinesic Description, and Literary Reading
Daniel Irving, English

Embodied cognition, or the idea that cognitive processes are not a brain-bound phenomenon but involve the brain, body, and environment, is central to the second wave of cognitive humanities and has been influential in recent scholarship on literature and art. I utilize insights from embodied cognitive science to examine the experience of presence in a range of under-studied, charmingly problematic contemporary texts that tend to not fit traditional notions of “narrative.” I argue that these texts, so-called weak narratives, afford fundamentally different reading experiences: while not imparting much by way of meaning, weak narratives are remarkably adept at affording an experience of presence, or the sense of “being there,” due to their ability to tap into readers’ embodied knowledge. Using Lydia Davis’s “The Cows” as an example, I will show how re-situating weak narratives from meaning-based (aiming to convey information) to presence-based (aiming to move the reader) allows us to better understand these otherwise strange narrative projects.

Dan Irving is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English, working at the intersection of narrative theory, contemporary fiction, and cognitive science. His dissertation examines reading as a situated, embodied activity, specifically looking into the experience of presence in plotless and dialogue-based narratives. He has articles forthcoming in Poetics Today and CounterText.

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In Search of the Dynamics of Time-Varying Phenomena
Iñigo Urteaga, Electrical Engineering

In the era of information-sensing mobile devices, sensor networks, the Internet-of-Things and Big Data, research on advanced methods for extracting information from data has gained even more relevance. One important area of work is the analysis of time-varying phenomena, observed sequentially in time. This is critical in many applications, including weather sciences, the study of time-evolution of stocks and goods prices in econometrics, biomedical signal processing, or concentrations of pollutants in the environment. The goal is to infer the dynamics of events of interest that the data describe, as soon as they are acquired, so that practitioners can classify the events, predict the future and make informed decisions.

The talk is on novel methods for inference and prediction of latent time-series. More precisely, we assume that a sequence of observations are functions of a hidden process of interest. Our goal is to estimate the process from the observed data. We use flexible models that capture the dynamics of real phenomena and can deal with many practical burdens. We will present new solutions for estimation and prediction in the most challenging scenarios. Our methodology is based on Bayesian Theory and Monte Carlo algorithms.

Iñigo Urteaga graduated from the ETSI Bilbao UPV/EHU (Spain) with a MS degree in Telecommunications Engineering in 2008. He was a Research Assistant in the Computer Science Department of the Colorado School of Mines, USA, (2007–2008), and then Research Associate with Tecnalia Research and Innovation, Spain (2009-2011). He is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Stony Brook University and is supervised by Professor Petar M. Djurić. He has specialized in statistical signal processing and machine learning, and is interested in the science of data inference, modeling and prediction.

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Lectures from the March 24, 2016 Symposia

Making Your Own Niche: Form and Function in the Developing Brain
Himanshu Sharma, Pharmacology

One significant hurdle to fully realizing the promise of stem-cell-based therapies is a lack of understanding about how extracellular factors influence stem cell function. Particularly in the developing postnatal brain, the role of local microenvironmental signals in tuning stem cell activity is poorly understood. Using the developing mouse brain as a model, we show how an extracellular matrix receptor, dystroglycan, is critical for sensing environmental signals to regulate the proliferation, maturation, and differentiation of neural stem cells. Dystroglycan-mediated signals are highly context dependent, and not only help govern stem cell function, but allow the stem cells to create an appropriate tissue microenvironment important for their long-term survival and function. These insights may help harness endogenous neural stem cells for regenerative purposes as well as highlight new avenues for ex vivo strategies for developing stem cell therapies.

A dual MD-PhD candidate in the Medical Scientist Training Program, Himanshu Sharma is working on understanding how various extracellular factors regulate neural stem cell function in the developing brain. He was recently awarded a PhRMA foundation predoctoral fellowship to translate some of his basic science advances to clinically relevant models of multiple sclerosis and other white matter disorders. He expects to defend his dissertation and return to medical school in 2017.

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Infection by Injection: How Pathogenic Yersinia Activate and Subvert Immune Responses
Lawton Chung, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

The increase in infections caused by emerging and antibiotic resistant bacterial pathogens presents a growing public health concern. An understanding of host-pathogen interactions can aid in the creation of new vaccines or therapeutics to combat these infections. However, the way our immune cells respond to bacterial infection remains vastly understudied. Research in the Bliska Laboratory focuses on understanding not only how bacteria themselves cause disease, but also how our immune cells recognize foreign invaders to stave off infection. In particular, we study the interactions between the pathogenic Yersinia species and host immune cells.

Within the Yersinia species is the etiological agent of plague, a major cause of human morbidity and mortality, largely because these pathogens prevent recognition by our immune system. My work has uncovered a novel function of a host protein that is important for recognition of Yersinia. After host recognition, this protein generates signals to adjacent cells to limit the spread of infection. In turn, Yersinia counteract these responses by injecting a virulence effector which targets the host protein. Understanding the mechanisms by which pathogens activate and subvert immune responses will assist in the development of vaccines and therapeutics against bacterial infections.

Lawton Chung graduated from the University of California, Irvine, in 2010 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. While at UCI, Lawton worked in Dr. Naomi Morrissette’s laboratory, elucidating the function of novel cytoskeletal-associated proteins in the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Following a brief stint in industry working on platforms for allergy diagnostics (2010-2011), Lawton joined the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology as a PhD candidate in Dr. James Bliska's laboratory in 2012. His dissertation research is focused on host-pathogen interactions, with an emphasis on Yersinia subversion of innate immune responses.

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Dissection of Usher-Chaperone-Subunit Interactions during Pilus Biogenesis in Escherichia coli
Glenn Werneburg, Medical Scientist Training Program, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

To facilitate infection, bacteria assemble adhesive organelles termed pili onto their surfaces. Pili bind to receptors on host cells, allowing the bacteria to gain a foothold for colonization, a critical step in disease pathogenesis. Traditional treatments for bacterial diseases utilize antibiotics that work by killing bacteria or preventing their proliferation. These drugs apply a selective pressure that promotes bacterial resistance.

Novel antibiotic alternatives that target specific disease-associated processes, such as pilus formation, are promising future treatments that will not encourage bacterial resistance. My research focuses on generating a detailed understanding of the pilus formation mechanism. A better understanding of pilus assembly will allow for the identification of specific steps that can be therapeutically disrupted.

I have identified a ‘domain masking’ strategy used by bacteria to ensure that all pili assembled have adhesive properties, and thus the ability to promote infection. I have also found that identical copies of the pilus assembly machinery work together in an asymmetric manner, which likely increases the rate of pilus assembly, and thus the efficiency of bacterial infection. These findings provide new insights into mechanisms by which bacteria assemble virulence-associated organelles, and present exciting opportunities for the design of novel therapeutics to combat infections.

Glenn Werneburg is dual MD-PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, working in Dr. David Thanassi’s laboratory. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which bacteria cause disease. Glenn is interested in both basic science and clinical medicine and believes that his formal training in both will allow him to translate scientific discoveries into improvements in diagnosis and treatment of human disease.

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Early English Feminism and the re-Disappearance of the Virgin Mary Nicole Garret, English Humanities room 1008

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Tsai Ming-liang at the Museum: Cinephilia, the French Connection, and Cinema in the Gallery Beth Tsai, Cultural Analysis & Theory Humanities room 1008 Watch Lecture
Bayesian Models of Social Learning with Random Decision Making Yunlong Wang, Electrical and Computer Engineering Humanities room 1008 Watch Lecture

E pluribus unum: From Many (Signals), One (Action) Zach Foda, Molecular and Cellular Biology Humanities room 1008

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Heterotopias in the Magellan space: From Armas to the Utopia of the Antarctic and the Kawésqar Flag Christian Formoso, Hispanic Languages Humanities room 1008

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Hitting the Bullseye in Cancer Therapy George Georghiou Pharmacology Watch Lecture
Lousy Credit as Banks Compete More: Theory and Evidence of Bank Competition and Lending Practice over Business Cycles Yan Liu Economics Watch Lecture
Using RNA interference screens to discover new drug targets in cancer Junwei Shi Molecular and Cell Biology Watch Lecture
Inferring ancient human physical activity from fossilized skeletal remains: insights from experiments with mice Ian Wallace Anthropology Watch Lecture
Homo Omnivorous: The Inclusion of Popular Culture and the Class Borders of University of Texas David Blake Music History Watch Lecture
Understanding How and For Whom Sexual Orientation-Related Discrimination Contributes to Mental Health Problems Brian Feinstein Clinical Psychology Watch Lecture