Event Calendar

November 2019

Fri, Nov 1, 2019

Vulnerabilities of Data Analysis: From Political Spin to Data Manipulation

"Vulnerabilities of Data Analysis: From Political Spin to Data Manipulation" presented by Scott Alfeld
The Faculty Colloquium Series for 2019-20 presents a lecture titled "Vulnerabilities of Data Analysis: From Political Spin to Data Manipulation" presented by Scott Alfeld, assistant professor of computer science.


Learn how to bypass a state-of-the-art security system with sugar cubes and a slingshot. New security vulnerabilities have arisen with the growing use of machine learning in decision-making systems. In this talk I discuss the field of Adversarial Learning — the study of using machine learning techniques when the input data may be corrupted by an attacker. I’ll cover various techniques hackers employ and defenses again them. We'll then get our hands dirty attacking a learner at training time and see what finesse is needed when manipulating even the simplest of learners.

Faculty Colloquium events are sponsored by a group of faculty colleagues who meet informally with the purpose of supporting and promoting the College’s commitment to faculty research. Colleagues interested in joining this endeavor are welcome and should contact us by email: adsarat@amherst.edu . Faculty, staff, and members of the administration are cordially invited to attend these presentations.

Event poster featuring triangular photos and images of Tchaikovsky, sheet music and Russian architecture

"Tchaikovsky in Context": Pre-Concert Conversation

Join us throughout the 2019-20 season of AMHERST SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, “RUSSIAN MASTERS,” for pre-concert talks at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture (ACRC), featuring performers as well as scholars of music and Russian cultural history.

Join the ASO’s Director of Instrumental Music and Senior Lecturer in Music Mark Lane Swanson and Associate Professor of Russian Boris Wolfson as they explore the cultural and musical contexts of Tchaikovsky’s life and art.

Stay for the ACRC Family Weekend reception at 4:30 p.m.

And then come to the ASO’s second concert in the series, featuring two works by Tchaikovsky—the First Piano Concerto and the Fifth Symphony—on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 8 p.m. in Buckley Recital Hall.

More information about the concert: https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/music/events/node/750253

Professor Russell Williams ’72 of Wheaton College: “Economics of Race and Racism: Reflections on the History and Future of Economic Thought”

The Department of Economics welcomes Professor Russell Williams ’72 of Wheaton College to speak at our annual economics presentation for Family Weekend. He will speak on “Economics of Race and Racism: Reflections on the History and Future of Economic Thought.”

This event is open to everyone. A reception with light refreshments will follow in Converse lobby.

Mon, Nov 4, 2019

Professor Lee Spector to Speak on “Evolutionary Computation”

In the same 1950 article in which Alan Turing described his “imitation game” test for artificial intelligence, he also described ways in which ideas from evolutionary biology might help us to develop AI. It took time for these ideas to be refined, and it took advances in computing infrastructure for them to bear fruit, but now “evolutionary computation” methods are solving scientific and engineering problems that are beyond the reach of other forms of AI.

In this talk, Spector will introduce the general concepts of evolutionary computation and illustrate some of its applications. He will also describe a contribution to the field that he and his students have recently made, demonstrating that the speed and success of adaptation can be boosted by using random sequences of challenges, rather than overall performance, as the basis for parent selection in evolving populations. This approach increases the problem-solving power of evolutionary computation, and it also raises broader questions about the role of specialists in communities and in evolution.

Bio: Lee Spector is a visiting professor of computer science at Amherst College, a professor of computer science at Hampshire College, and an adjunct professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He received a B.A. in philosophy from Oberlin College, a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and the highest honor bestowed by the National Science Foundation for excellence in both teaching and research, the NSF Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. His areas of teaching and research include evolutionary computation; quantum computation; and intersections of computer science, cognitive science and the arts. He is the editor-in-chief of the journal Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines (published by Springer).

Tue, Nov 5, 2019

Michael Lubell, City College of New York: "Navigating the Maze: How Science and Technology Policy Shape America and the World"

Science and the technologies it has spawned have been the principal drivers of the American economy since the end of World War II. Today, economists estimate that a whopping 85 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) growth traces its origin to science and technology. The size of the impact should not be a surprise, considering the ubiquity of modern technologies.

Innovation has brought us the consumer products we take for granted: smartphones and tablets, CD and DVD players, cars that are loaded with electronics and GPS navigating tools and that rarely break down, search engines like Google and Yahoo, the Internet and the Web, money-saving LED lights, microwave ovens and much more. Technology has also made our military stronger and kept our nation safer. It has made food more affordable and plentiful. It has provided medical diagnostic tools, such as MRIs, CT scanners and genomic tests; treatments for disease and illness, such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation; minimally invasive procedures, such as laparoscopy, coronary stent insertion and video-assisted thoracoscopy; and artificial joint and heart valve replacements.

None of those technological developments were birthed miraculously. They owe a significant part of their realization to public and private strategies and public and private investments. Collectively the strategies and investments form the kernel of science and technology policy. "Navigating the Maze" is a narrative covering more than 230 years of American science and technology history. It contains stories with many unexpected twists and turns, illustrating how we got to where we are today and how we can shape the world of tomorrow.

"Job Rebuked by His Friends": illustration of Job kneeling near his wife while three other men point at him angrily

Edward L. Greenstein: "Translating 'Job' to Make a Difference"

4:30 pm - 6:00 pm Fayerweather Hall, Pruyne Lecture Hall (Room 115)

The Book of Job, regarded by some as the greatest poem ever written, has been misunderstood in many details and in some of its major themes and thrusts. E.L. Greenstein’s new translation of Job draws on decades of painstaking work on the language, argument and poetics of the book. In this lecture, Greenstein will explain how he has sought to change our understanding of Job on both the micro and the macro levels. Edward L. Greenstein is professor emeritus of biblical studies at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and a prolific, world-renowned scholar in many areas of biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies.

This event is free and open to the public. Special thanks to the Smith College Department of Religion, Amherst College Department of Religion and Willis Wood Fund for sponsoring this event.

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Point/Counterpoint: "Is Progress in Our Genes?" with Stephen Carter and Nicholas Christakis

The Point/Counterpoint conversation series features an Amherst College professor and guests engaging in thoughtful discussion and attempting to bridge the growing ideological divide in our nation. Series information is available on the Amherst College website.

Join Professor of Philosophy Nishi Shah for a discussion on "Is Progress in Our Genes?" A Q&A will follow, with books available for purchase through Amherst Books.

Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1982. Among his recent courses are "Contracts," "Evidence," "Law and Religion," "The Ethics of War," "Slavery and the Law" and "Libertarian Legal Theory." He is the author of 15 books, including, among others, The Violence of Peace: America’s Wars in the Age of Obama (2010); God’s Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics (2000); Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy (1998); The Dissent of the Governed: A Meditation on Law, Religion, and Loyalty (1998); The Confirmation Mess: Cleaning up the Federal Appointments Process (1994); and The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion (1993). His most recent volume, published in 2018, is Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer who Took Down America’s Biggest Mobster. He recently delivered the W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures at Harvard, which he is writing up for publication.

Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., is a sociologist and physician who conducts research in the areas of social networks and biosocial science. He directs the Human Nature Lab. His current research is mainly focused on two topics: (1) the social, mathematical and biological rules governing how social networks form (“connection”), and (2) the social and biological implications of how they operate to influence thoughts, feelings and behaviors (“contagion”). His lab uses both observational and experimental methods to study these phenomena, exploiting techniques from sociology, computer science, biosocial science, demography, statistics, behavior genetics, evolutionary biology, epidemiology and other fields.

The Point/Counterpoint series is based on a course of the same name. The course and associated event series received special funding through a generous gift from 36 members of the 50th Reunion Class of 1970.

Wed, Nov 6, 2019

Event poster showing a spiral design in various shades of blue

Math Colloquium: “Turán’s Problem and an Introduction to Sums of Squares” by Annie Raymond

What is the maximum number of edges in a graph on n vertices without triangles? Mantel’s answer in 1907—that at most half of the edges can be present—started a new field: extremal combinatorics. More generally, what is the maximum number of edges in an n-vertex graph that does not contain any subgraph isomorphic to H? What about if you consider hypergraphs instead of graphs? I will introduce the technique of sums of squares and discuss how it can be used to attack such problems.

Thu, Nov 7, 2019

Cover of Holly Jackson's book "American Radicals"

“American Radicals: How Nineteenth-Century Protest Shaped the Nation” with Holly Jackson

4:30 pm - 6:00 pm Frost Library, Center for Humanistic Inquiry

Holly Jackson, associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston, will read from her new book, American Radicals: How Nineteenth-Century Protest Shaped the Nation (Crown, 2019).
On July 4, 1826, as Americans lit firecrackers to celebrate the country’s 50th birthday, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were on their deathbeds. They would leave behind a groundbreaking political system and a growing economy—as well as the glaring inequalities that had undermined the American experiment from its beginning. The young nation had outlived the men who made it, but could it survive intensifying divisions over the very meaning of the land of the free?
“In the tradition of Howard Zinn’s people’s histories, American Radicals reveals a forgotten yet inspiring past.” —Megan Marshall, Pulitzer-Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast

Event banner featuring a headshot of Professor Jason G. Irizarry of the University of Connecticut

“From Silencing to Survivance: LatxinxEducation in Shifting Cultural Contexts”

Fueled significantly by a growing Latinx population, the racial/ethnic and linguistic texture of the United States continues to change. Despite their increased presence, Latinx students from K-12 through college continue to be underserved by schools. Foregrounding the oft-silenced perspectives of Latinx students, this presentation critically examines the challenges they face navigating educational institutions that rarely, if ever, affirm and more often ignore or malign their identities. It highlights students’ struggles for survivance—ways of recovering, bolstering and sustaining their cultural identities—and pursuit of equitable educational opportunities, concluding with empirically based strategies for improving the educational experiences and outcomes for Latinx students.

Fri, Nov 8, 2019

Professor Suzanne Bart standing outdoors

Cheminar: “Utilization of Redox-Active Ligands in the F-Block: From Lanthanides to Uranium and Beyond”

Professor Suzanne Bart of Purdue University's Department of Chemistry will give a seminar titled “Utilization of Redox-Active Ligands in the F-Block: From Lanthanides to Uranium and Beyond.”

Sun, Nov 10, 2019

Secular Chapel: What Greta Thunberg Means to Me

Secular Chapel: What Greta Thunberg Means to Me

“Secular Chapel: What Greta Thunberg Means to Me” is a gathering for Amherst College students, faculty and staff hosted by Professors Jen Manion and Michael Kunichika and choir director, Professor Martha Umphrey. There will be a light reception. For inspiration and more information, see link below.

Mon, Nov 11, 2019


M@A Parallels Masterclass: yMusic

yMusic’s performers work with Amherst College students on new compositions. The masterclass is free and open to the public.

Tue, Nov 12, 2019

Eduardo H Da Silva Neto

Despite three decades studying superconductivity in cuprate-based materials, we are still left with an incomplete understanding of how their superconducting state at unexpectedly high temperatures emerges from a “soup” of multiple broken-symmetry phases (i.e. ordered states). Although states of broken translational symmetry (i.e. charge order) were known to exist in some cuprates, only recently have we realized [1,2] that charge order could be the missing piece of the high-Tc puzzle. To understand how charge order fits in the puzzle, we require a suite of new measurements to specifically address: What does the charge order ‘look’ like? Is the charge order, like superconductivity, ubiquitous to all cuprates or just a material-specific accident? Is it helpful or harmful to superconductivity? Which electronic orbitals form the ordered patterns? Is it related to the mysterious pseudogap phase? Do the electron spins participate in the charge order phenomenon?
In this talk, I will discuss how we pushed the limits of scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy (STM/S) and resonant (inelastic) x-ray scattering (R(I)XS) to address some of these questions [2-5]. In particular, I will focus on how STS can be used to ‘take pictures’ of charge order patterns with atomic resolution in solids and how soft RXS has emerged as an extremely sensitive technique to detect charge order in quantum materials.
[1] G. Ghiringhelli, et al. Science 337, 821 (2012).
[2] E. H. da Silva Neto, et al. Science 343, 393 (2014).
[3] E. H. da Silva Neto, et al. Science 347, 282 (2015).
[4] E. H. da Silva Neto, et al. Science Advances 2 (8), e1600782 (2016).
[5] E. H. da Silva Neto, et al. PRB, Rapid Comm. 98, 161114(R) (2018).

Event poster featuring a photo of a crowd of people standing on the Berlin Wall, and four small photos of Amherst faculty panelists

Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

4:30 pm - 6:00 pm Fayerweather Hall, Pruyne Lecture Hall (Room 115)

The Departments of Political Science and German at Amherst College will host a panel discussion commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This event is free and open to the public.

The panel members are as follows:
William Taubman, Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science, Emeritus
Catherine Epstein, provost and dean of the faculty and Winkley Professor of History
Christian Rogowski, G. Armour Craig Professor in Language and Literature in the Department of German
Gustavo Salcedo, Karl Loewenstein Fellow and visiting assistant professor of political science

This panel will be moderated by Javier Corrales, Dwight W. Morrow 1895 Professor of Political Science.

Ill Erotics: The Politics of Care and Self-Making Among HIV-Positive Black Caribbean Women

Ill Erotics: The Politics of Care and Self-Making Among HIV-Positive Black Caribbean Women

Wed, Nov 13, 2019

Event poster featuring photos of Angelina Aspuac and a crowd of women and babies, all wearing brightly colored traditional clothing and blankets

“Art as Territory: The Story of Maya Weavers Advocating for Collective Intellectual Property Rights in Guatemala”

Angelina Aspuac will give a talk titled “Art as Territory: The Story of Maya Weavers Advocating for Collective Intellectual Property Rights in Guatemala.” This talk, sponsored by the Department of Political Science at Amherst College along with funding from the Lamont Funds, is free and open to the public.

Black-and-white headshot of Joseph O'Neill

CHI Salon: Joseph O'Neill Reading and Book Talk

4:30 pm Frost Library, Center for Humanistic Inquiry

Ploughshares at Emerson College called Good Trouble, Joseph O’Neill’s new book of short stories, “[f]unny and fierce ... [a]n essential book, full of unexpected bursts of meaning and beauty.” O’Neill also wrote the novels The Breezes, This Is the Life, The Dog and Netherland, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. He has also written a family history, Blood-Dark Track. He lives in New York City and teaches at Bard College.
Childcare and refreshments will be provided at the reading.

TEDx Amherst College

TEDx Amherst College

Amherst College plays host to TEDx on the theme “changing worlds.” TEDx brings the spirit of TED’s mission of ideas worth spreading to local communities around the globe and provides the opportunity to be a part of the narrative. Our lineup includes two Amherst College students and two Amherst College professors.

Tickets Required
Registration Required

Thu, Nov 14, 2019

Event poster showing the two hosts of "Still Processing" sitting outdoors

“Still Processing” at Amherst College

Join the Black Student Union for a special live edition of The New York Times’ award-winning culture podcast Still Processing. Hosted by Jenna Wortham, a spectacular culture writer at the NYT Magazine, and Wesley Morris, the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning critic at large, Still Processing is, in the words of The Atlantic, “vital, mandatory listening.”

Always compelling and sometimes goofy, the podcast is a discussion between two ridiculously intelligent people about culture, pop culture and current events.

We’re looking forward to what will surely be an incredible evening.

Fri, Nov 15, 2019

Headshot of Professor Jason Sello

Cheminar: “Illuminating Protein Homeostasis and New Pathways for Anti-Bacterial Development with Small Molecules”

Professor Jason Sello of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Pharmacy and Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, will hold a seminar titled “Illuminating Protein Homeostasis and New Pathways for Anti-Bacterial Development with Small Molecules.”

Faith and the Environment with Rabbi Ellen Bernstein

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm Ford Hall, Ford Hall Event Space

Environmental Rabbi Ellen Bernstein will be coming to help lead Hillel’s Shabbat dinner this Friday through a discussion on the connections between faith and the environment. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and will be followed by dinner from Oriental Flavor. Come bring friends and learn about how faith can inform our understanding of the climate crisis! All faiths and environmental backgrounds welcome!

Mon, Nov 18, 2019

Conrad Kuklinsky ’21 and Matteo Riondato: “Learning Intersections of Halfspaces: Novel VC-Dimension Bounds”

Abstract: A key question in machine learning research is understanding the trade-off between the size of the training set and the accuracy of the classification function learned by the algorithm. This trade-off can be fully characterized by a single quantity: the VC-dimension of the family of functions that the algorithm may learn. Beautifully combinatorial in nature, the VC-dimension is elusive to compute exactly, but upper bounds to it are sufficient to understand the trade-off. In this talk, we report on our recent results on improved upper bounds to the VC-dimension of intersections of half-spaces in high dimensions, a very popular class of functions. We show a novel connection with convex polytopes and with planar graphs. All the terms and results will be explained without assuming any specific background in the audience.

Refreshments will be served at 3 p.m. in Science Center C209.

Theodosiou research image: depictions of spiral intestines and other tissues and organs in a fish's body

CANCELLED: Biology Monday Seminar

4:00 pm Science Center, Kirkpatrick Lecture Hall A011

This lecture has been cancelled.
Nicole Theodosiou, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Co-Director of Biochemistry Program
Union College

The digestive tracts of sharks and skates provide a fascinating model for studying the evolution of morphological asymmetries. Unique to all basal fishes is the spiral intestine, which may represent an intermediate morphology in evolution from the straight gut of lamprey to the elongated coils of higher vertebrates. The short spiral allows for a large absorptive surface area that can fit into a restrictive abdominal cavity. My lab is exploring how the spiral intestine forms during development of the little skate and the radial constraints that propagate spiraling.

"Artful Activism: Why the How of What We Do Matters"

4:30 pm - 6:30 pm Frost Library, Center for Humanistic Inquiry

How might we move beyond the conventional frame of the NGO model to re-envision community building and reclaim personal narrative? Hear what rhizomes, poetry and oil paint animation might say about this as David James Savarese discusses the making of the Peabody Award-winning documentary Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery and his artful activism project Listen2Us.

David James Savarese (Oberlin College ’17) is an artful activist who works to make literacy-based education, communication and inclusive lives a reality for all nontraditionally speaking people. A 2017-19 OSF Human Rights Initiative Youth Fellow, he is a published poet, essayist and co-producer of Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery.

This event is sponsored by the Language & Literature Fund and the Eastman Fund at Amherst College. It is free and open to the public. Please contact prangan@amherst.edu with any accessibility concerns.

Tue, Nov 19, 2019

Andrew A Geraci, Northwestern: “Hunting for Fifth-Forces and Dark Matter with AMO-Based Sensors”

We normally think of large accelerators and massive detectors when we consider the frontiers of elementary particle physics, pushing to understand the universe at higher and higher energy scales. However, several tabletop low-energy experiments are positioned to discover a wide range of new physics beyond the Standard model, where feeble interactions require precision measurements rather than high energies. In high vacuum, optically levitated dielectric nanospheres achieve excellent decoupling from their environment, making force sensing at the zeptonewton level (10-21 N) achievable.

In this talk, I will describe our progress towards using these sensors for tests of the Newtonian gravitational inverse square law at micron-length scales. Optically levitated dielectric objects and optical cavities show promise for a variety of other applications, including searches for gravitational waves and dark matter. Finally, I will discuss the Axion Resonant InterAction Detection Experiment (ARIADNE), a precision magnetometry experiment using laser-polarized 3-He gas to search for a notable dark-matter candidate: the QCD axion.