Event Calendar

February 2020

Tue, Feb 4, 2020

Protik K. Majumder, Williams College: "Heavy Metals, Cheap Lasers and Precision Measurements of Atomic Structure"

With important contributions from many Williams undergraduates over recent years, we have completed a series of high-precision spectroscopic measurements in Group III and IV atoms such as thallium, indium and lead. These results test state-of-the art theoretical models of these complicated atoms and guide further refinement. I will discuss some recent results including a new precision measurement of a “forbidden” transition in lead which makes use of a laser polarimetry technique capable of microradian optical rotation resolution. Improved models of these heavy atoms aid in the bigger goals of testing the Standard Model (and beyond) with table-top atomic and laser physics experiments.

Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni: "Islamic Law and Human Rights"

7:30 pm Fayerweather Hall, Pruyne Lecture Hall

Born in Iraq, Ibrahim Kazerooni was imprisoned under Saddam Hussein's regime and eventually fled the country in fear of Iraq's secret police. He completed theological studies in both Iran and Iraq, and also holds degrees in engineering, management and international relations, and a joint Ph.D. in religion and social change. He is the Imam of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich.

An Interfaith Harmony Week offering from the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life

Wed, Feb 5, 2020

CHI Salon: "Through Composed" with Kate Lilley

In both poetry and scholarship, Kate Lilley tarries with the problematic of queer historical transmission and the constitution of the queer early/modern. Her work on the genres of early modern women’s writing, sapphic modernism, the queer mid-century, and contemporary experiments with all these, turns on questions of intertextual, intermedia and interpersonal encounter as exemplary mis/alliance. Conjuring scenes of revisionist feminist critique and complaint, her critical-creative poetics of queer feminist assemblage takes shape as a practice of secondary revision and working through. In music theory, "through composition" describes a mode of invention which continuously introduces new material without repetition. Here, Lilley uses it to signify the labile multifariousness of queer citation and reference as ground or continuo, repetition without repeating. In her latest book of poems, Tilt (2018), tropism and remediation drive successive detours through the copia of material history and genre, the affects of lived experience and the archive of poetic forms, lighting on Greta Garbo, The Children’s Hour and her own #MeToo scandal.

Kate Lilley is an award-winning Australian poet, author of Versary (2002), Ladylike (2012) and Tilt (2018). She is also a well-known scholar of queer feminist literary history, editor of Margaret Cavendish: The Blazing World (Penguin Classics) and Dorothy Hewett: Selected Poems (UWAP), and director of creative writing at the University of Sydney.

This salon is co-sponsored by the CHI, Creative Writing Center, Department of English and Department of Sexuality, Women's & Gender Studies. A reception will follow.

Thu, Feb 6, 2020

Film still from "Girlfriends," showing two women facing each other and smiling as they sit on a couch in front of a fireplace

Helene Keyssar Lecture: "The Girlfriend Film: Affection and Affiliation" with Melissa Hardie

Long before the Bechdel Test codified and implicitly critiqued the failure of films to make female interaction the focal point of narrative activity, Fred Zinnemann’s 1977 Julia and Claudia Weill’s 1978 Girlfriends both described the difficulty of conceptualizing female affiliation in narrative as well as visual sequences. Within widely different industrial and political contexts, they each narrated the ways in which explicit interdiction and other forms of “sororophobia” arise as forms of plot advancement and affective dislocation in the lives of paired female friends. In Julia, the adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s memoir foreshadows as public historical and political allegory this separation or dislocation. In Girlfriends, the focus is personal and intimate, although the premise of the plot is also that this interdiction is a political and aesthetic matter. In both, an endeavor to separate affection from desire is gestured at as a condition of affection. This lecture will explore the ways in which women, in historical fact or imaginative revision, can be brought together as girlfriends.

Melissa Hardie is an associate professor in the English department at the University of Sydney. Much of her work considers “novel objects,” bridging modernist to contemporary textual practices to find unexpected areas of connection between what are usually thought of as discrete periods, practices or genres. Her recent essays have turned to Marielle Heller’s 2018 film Can You Ever Forgive Me?, about writer Lee Israel; texts by filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and novelist Djuna Barnes; and George Cukor’s last film, Rich and Famous, which narrates the friendship of two women writers. Her current book investigates how the closet is a critical vector in the remediation of forms of confession and disclosure, focusing on television, cinema, memoir and the starlet. She is also co-editing a book on Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls with Meaghan Morris and Kane Race. Hardie is driven by an ethos of inclusivity, which means she focuses on the underexplored and underrepresented edges of canons and how fields are transformed when inclusion and diversity are made central concerns.

A reception will follow.

Statistics Colloquium: "Tackling Disparities in Genetics Research: Building the Research and Researchers Together" - Lori Chibnik

Since the sequencing of the first human genome, over 30,000 disease-associated variants have been identified, the majority through genome-wide association studies. While these advances in our understanding of how genetics contribute to disease risk are now being used to inform translational research, including development of therapeutics and genetic risk screening, large-scale genetic studies have primarily used only genomes with European ancestry. If this pattern continues, advances in genetics will be limited, with the ensuing risk that therapeutic innovations leave out large segments of the global population. In addition, genetic risk scores, having been developed primarily on European genomes, do not translate to other populations, thus leading to many false positives and negatives. Expanding study collections to other populations will help alleviate some of these disparities, however without engaging scientists and physicians on all levels and providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform these studies in their populations, there is a significant risk that the findings will again result in a widening of the massive research and treatment gaps with the rest of the world.

Using research on major mental health disorders, including schizophrenia and psychosis as examples, this talk will discuss work being done in the Neuropsychiatric Genetics of African Populations-Psychosis (NeuroGAP-Psychosis), a study which began collection in 2018 and aims to collect DNA and phenotypic data from over 17,000 cases (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) and 17,000 controls from Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. I will present preliminary findings and highlight the development and implementation of a partner-training and capacity-building program, the Global Initiative for Neuropsychiatric Education in Research (GINGER), which focuses on building the next generation of computational genetics researchers in East and South Africa.

Lori Chibnik, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a biostatistician and assistant professor with an appointment in the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Math Colloquium: "Unsupervised Clustering, Harmonic Analysis and Applications" - James Murphy

Machine learning is revolutionizing the sciences, but most existing methods require large amounts of human-generated training data to succeed. In this talk, we will introduce the unsupervised clustering problem, which requires an algorithm to make predictions without training data. We will discuss some classical methods for clustering before introducing a couple of new approaches. Throughout, connections with graph theory, Fourier analysis and probability theory will be developed. We will also demonstrate
applications to image processing and remote sensing.

James M. Murphy is an assistant professor of mathematics at Tufts University. His research interests include theoretical machine learning and applied harmonic analysis. He works on problems in unsupervised and semi-supervised learning, high-dimensional probability theory, image and signal processing, graph theory and frame theory.

Event poster featuring photos of Westover and Jack and their respective book covers

"What Would Equality in Education Look Like?": A Conversation with Tara Westover and Tony Jack ’07

Tara Westover and Anthony Jack ’07 will discuss “What Would Equality in Education Look Like?” in a conversation moderated by Professor Leah Schmalzbauer. A book signing will follow this event.

Tara Westover is an American historian and writer known for her unique and courageous education journey. She was born to Mormon survivalist parents opposed to public education. Tara never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother... until Tara decided to get an education and experience the world outside of her community. Tara taught herself enough mathematics, grammar and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. She was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom and continued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from BYU in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an M.Phil. from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a Ph.D. in history in 2014. Her new book, Educated, is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a story that gets to the heart of what education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it. Tara argues that education is not just about job training, but a powerful tool of self-invention. Educated was long-listed for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and has spent 32 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Former U.S. President Barack Obama named Educated as one of the books on his summer reading list of 2018.

Anthony Jack ’07, sociologist and assistant professor of education at Harvard University, is transforming the way we address diversity and inclusion in education. His new book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students, reframes the conversation surrounding poverty and higher education. In it, he explains the paths of two uniquely segregated groups. First, the “privileged poor”: students from low-income, diverse backgrounds who attended elite prep or boarding school before attending college. The second are what Jack calls the “doubly disadvantaged”—students who arrive from underprivileged backgrounds without prep or boarding school to soften their college transition. Although both groups come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the privileged poor have more cultural capital to navigate and succeed—in the college environment and beyond.

This event is funded by the Croxton Lecture Fund.

Tue, Feb 11, 2020

David Hall ’91, Amherst College: “Tying Knots in a Quantum Fluid”

Knots are familiar entities that appear at a captivating nexus of art, technology, mathematics and science. They have recently attracted significant experimental interest in contexts ranging from knotted DNA and nanostructures to nontrivial vortex knots in classical fluids. In this talk, I will discuss the first controlled
experimental creation and detection of knot solitons, which are particle-like topological excitations possessing a knotted field character. The superfluid medium within which they exist is a Bose-Einstein condensate with a temperature some tens of billionths of a degree above absolute zero. In addition to enabling future experimental studies of their properties and dynamics, these knot solitons provide a striking demonstration of the celebrated Hopf fibration, which mathematically tie together many seemingly unrelated physical phenomena.

Wed, Feb 12, 2020

Dr. Theodore S. Gonzalves to Present “Smithsonian’s Years of Music”

Dr. Gonzalves will discuss the Smithsonian Institution’s ambitious programming challenge—to present tie-based music-related events every day in 2019. It’s also the planet’s largest music museum. You will hear an insider’s take on the state of research, collections and exhibition work at an institution tasked with the "increase and diffusion" of knowledge.

Steven Dunn

Fiction Reading: Steven Dunn

Steven Dunn, aka Pothole (because he’s deep in these streets), is the author of two novels from Tarpaulin Sky Press—Potted Meat (2016) and water & power (2018)—and a chapbook, Our Migrations (Business Bear Press, 2018). Potted Meat, which Laird Hunt described as “full of wonder and silence and beauty and strangeness and ugliness and sadness and truth and hope,” has been adapted to film by Foothills Productions. Dunn was born and raised in West Virginia, and is currently an MFA student at Stetson University, and an MFA instructor at Regis University.

The reading will be followed by refreshments.

Thu, Feb 13, 2020

RLadies Amherst: A Conversation with Professor Amy Nussbaum

Come learn how to visualize data using maps taught by Professor Nussbaum, a lecturer at Mount Holyoke College. In addition to academia and research, she promotes the use of statistics in government and industry by advocating for evidence-based policymaking and the federal statistical agencies. Everyone is welcome! RLadies hopes to encourage, inspire and support women in the R community.

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Refreshments will be served at 4:15 p.m. in SMUD 208.

Grit - Grace - & Glow: A Night with Nikki Giovanni

Join us as we welcome Nikki Giovanni, poet and University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. Ms. Giovanni will be this year's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr./Black History Month Symposium keynote speaker.

A brief biography in Ms. Giovanni's own words:
"I was asked to do a biography, so this is it. I am 71 years old. I highly recommend old age; it’s fun. I have been awarded an unprecedented seven NAACP Image Awards, which makes me very very proud. I have been nominated for a Grammy; been a finalist for the National Book Award. I am very proud to have authored three New York Times and Los Angeles Times best-sellers, highly unusual for a poet. I am a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. I don’t have a lot of friends, but I have good ones. I have a son and a granddaughter. My father, mother, sister and middle aunt are all deceased literarily making me go from being the baby in the family to being an elder. I like to cook, travel and dream. I’m a writer. I’m happy."

Nikki Giovanni is one of America’s most celebrated poets. Her work, which has both drawn from and influenced the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements, has been central to the cultural conversation since Giovanni first rose to prominence in the 1960s. Her literary contributions include books for children and adults, creative nonfiction and spoken-word albums. She has been awarded 25 honorary doctorates, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, numerous NAACP Image Awards, the Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award, the Langston Hughes Award and the Maya Angelou Lifetime Achievement Award. Since 1987 she has been a member of the faculty at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor.

Fri, Feb 14, 2020

Hyper Education: When Good Grades, Good Schools and Good Behavior are Not Enough

The Faculty Colloquium Series for 2019-20 presents a lecture titled “Hyper Education: When Good Grades, Good Schools, and Good Behavior are Not Enough” presented by Pawan Dhingra, professor of American studies.
“A recent truth in middle-class parenting is the over-scheduling of young children in extracurricular activities. Hyper-education refers to a growing trend of young children already performing well in school and yet participating in privatized, extracurricular education. After-school math learning centers and academic competitions (e.g. spelling bees) are two main types. This trend is normally associated with Asian Americans (e.g. “Tiger moms”) but is growing among whites as well. Based on ethnographic research on Asian Americans and others, I explain the motivations of this seemingly foreign practice and demonstrate that it is in line with contemporary education reforms, and as such should be expected to grow. The rise of hyper education has implications for educational inequality."
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 or visit https://www.amherst.edu/mm/33214. Faculty, staff, and members of the administration are cordially invited to attend these presentations.

Mon, Feb 17, 2020

Apfeld research image: black-and-white photo of a microscope and other laboratory equipment on a table

Biology Monday Seminar

4:00 pm Science Center, Kirkpatrick Lecture Hall A011

Seminar with Javier Apfeld, Ph.D., assistant professor in the biology department at Northeastern University

C. elegans processes sensory information to choose between freeloading and self-defense strategies

My lab’s goal is to elucidate how the brain regulates aging and resilience to oxidants, using the nematode C. elegans as a tractable model organism. Our work combines molecular genetics, quantitative microscopy, mathematical modeling and engineering. During my Ph.D., I pioneered using genetics to study aging in Professor Cynthia Kenyon’s lab, and discovered that intercellular communication regulates lifespan in the nematode C. elegans. I then translated this new science of aging in biotech. Returning to academia, I help develop enabling technologies for studying C. elegans aging in collaboration with Professor Walter Fontana, a theorist and computational scientist.

Event flyer featuring a dark and blurry photograph of a group of people holding candles

"Ghosts from Fukushima"

Professor Isomae Jun’ichi from the International Research Center for Japanese Studies will address the experience of prayer and despair in Japan following the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. A prominent scholar of religion, Professor Isomae explores the challenges of capturing the unseen world of hope and despair in contemporary Japan. There will be a response by Professor Marion Eggert of the Ruhr-University Bochum.

“Of Monsters and Women: Collecting Japanese Art in 19th-Century Paris”: A Talk by Professor Elizabeth Emery (Montclair State University)

The Paris Musée d’Ennery owes its existence to a young woman who, in the 1840s, had an interest in acquiring the Chinese and Japanese “monsters” hidden in antique shops. Fifty years later, Clémence Lecarpentier d’Ennery bequeathed her collection of nearly 7,000 objects to the French state. Although she assembled these pieces and built a house and galleries to curate and display them, museum conservators posthumously erased her life’s work, presenting it instead as her husband’s achievement.

This lavishly illustrated talk will present the museum, its collections and its history before teasing out some of the complicated social factors—among them class, gender, religion and nationalism—that led to the museum’s marginalization as a cultural institution.

Tue, Feb 18, 2020

Sanam Nader-Esfahani, Amherst College: “Literature and the Eye in the Age of Kepler”

“I shall describe the means of vision, which no one at all to my knowledge has yet examined and understood in such detail. I therefore beg the mathematicians to consider these carefully, so that thereby at last there might exist in philosophy something certain concerning this most noble function.” It is with these words in his Optical Part of Astronomy (1604) that the German mathematician Johannes Kepler credits himself with inaugurating a new chapter in the history of vision. Kepler does indeed fulfill his promise by advancing knowledge about the eye, vision and the use of lenses in the correction of vision. His conclusions, however, bring anything but certainty on a philosophical level, especially with regard to the relationship between an object and its image. Reading Kepler in dialogue with a selection of nonscientific texts, this presentation experiments with the affinities between Kepler’s scientific findings and literature as a form of knowledge and representation in the 17th century.

Picture of hand grasping microphone, framed by words "JUSTICE: Amherst College's Speaking Competition 2020" and "PERSUADE. INSPIRE. SPEAK OUT."

JUSTICE! Amherst College’s Speaking Competition

Students compete with five- to seven-minute speeches using this year’s theme: Justice.

Winners receive cash prizes and recognition in the College award ceremonies.

"Recognition of American Judgment in Japan"

Each country’s judgment is valid only in that country, as making a judgment is a sovereign act of the country. However, if a judgment ordered in a foreign country can be given the same effect as a judgment in one’s own country, the burden on one’s country will be reduced. For that reason, modern nations are actively adopting a system to recognize foreign judgments. But unconditional recognition can put your country’s judicial system at risk. Therefore, when certain conditions are met, a system is adopted to recognize the effect of the judgment of a foreign court.

The most remarkable of these conditions is “do not violate public order and morals.” If the contents ordered by a foreign court do not conform to the legal consciousness and legal system of one’s own country, it cannot be recognized. In fact, there are cases in which the judgment of the United States has been denied recognition in Japan. One is a judgment ordering punitive damages, and the other is a judgment that allows a child born by a surrogate mother to have a parental relationship with her genetic mother. Neither of these was recognized, because each violated Japanese public order and morals.

In this lecture, apart from the legal system of each country, I would like to consider why these conclusions are different between Japan and the United States.

—Yukihiro Okada, Professor of Law at Doshisha University

Presented by the Doshisha University and Amherst College Faculty Exchange Program. Please note that this lecture will be in Japanese.

"Vaping Debunked: Schooling the JUUL & Beyond"

Want to learn more about vaping? Curious about recent studies and the various health effects? Christine Johnston, M.P.H., assistant director of alcohol and other drug education and health promotion at Springfield College, is a prominent lecturer on the social and health impacts of vaping. Join us and demystify vaping for yourself!

Keynote: Professor Dick Goldsby: “The Nature and Biology of Race”

7:30 pm - 9:00 pm Science Center, Lipton Lecture Hall, E110

Join us for a keynote lecture from Dick Goldsby, Amherst's Thomas B. Walton Jr. Memorial Professor of Biology, Emeritus, on “The Nature and Biology of Race.” The talk will be followed by a moderated question-and-answer session.

Professor Goldsby is the author of the 2019 book Thinking Race: Social Myths and Biological Realities.

Co-sponsors for this lecture are:
Being Human in STEM
Departments of Biology, Sociology, Anthropology and Black Studies
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Center for Humanistic Inquiry
Science Center

Wed, Feb 19, 2020

RLadies Amherst: A Conversation with Professors Brittney Bailey and Katharine Correia

Learn how two Amherst College statistics professors got to where they are now in their careers in data science. Everyone is welcome! RLadies hopes to encourage, inspire and support women in the R community.

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Refreshments will be served.

Thu, Feb 20, 2020

Reflections on Teaching with Rhonda Cobham-Sander

4:30 pm Frost Library, CHI Think Tank

Rhonda Cobham-Sander, the Emily C. Jordan Folger Professor of Black Studies and English, will reflect with us about her teaching now and how her teaching has evolved throughout her career at Amherst College.

RSVP through the Center for Teaching and Learning website.

Law’s Infamy: Ashker v. Brown and the Failures of Solitary Confinement Reform

Keramet Reiter, Associate Professor of Criminology, Law & Society in the School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine, will present a paper entitled “Law’s Infamy: Ashker v. Brown and the Failures of Solitary Confinement Reform.” This is the fifth presentation in a series of seminars that will take place this year on the theme “Law’s Infamy.”
Keramet Reiter studies prisons, prisoners’ rights, and the impact of prison and punishment policy on individuals, communities, and legal systems.

"The Court System of Japan"

"After giving an overview of the Japanese court system, I would like to talk about the mediation system, which has been evaluated as characteristic in the Japanese court system. Of course, there is a mediation system in the United States, but mediation in Japan is performed in a court building and involves nonlegal professionals as mediators, which is completely different from mediation in the United States. I would like to think about how disputes are resolved in Japanese court through this characteristic system and what kind of image the Japanese have of the court."

—Yukihiro Okada, Professor of Law at Doshisha University

Presented by the Doshisha University and Amherst College Faculty Exchange Program

Please note that this lecture will be in Japanese.

Math Colloquium: Amanda Folsom, “Symmetry, Almost”

Some definitions of the word symmetry include “correct or pleasing proportion of the parts of a thing,” “balanced proportions” and “the property of remaining invariant under certain changes, as of orientation in space.” One might think of snowflakes, butterflies and our own faces as naturally symmetric objects—or at least close to it. Mathematically, one can also conjure up many symmetric objects: even and odd functions, fractals, certain matrices and modular forms, a type of symmetric complex function. All of these things exhibit a kind of beauty in their symmetries, so would they lose some of their innate beauty if their symmetries were altered? Alternatively, could some measure of beauty be gained with slight symmetric imperfections? We will explore these questions, guided by the topic of modular forms and their variants. What can be gained by perturbing modular symmetries in particular? We will discuss this theme from past to present: the origins of these questions have their roots in the first half of the 20th century, dating back to Ramanujan and Gauss, while some fascinating and surprising answers come from just the last 15 years.

Cover of Sarah Knott's book "Mother Is a Verb," with an illustration of a woman with her body underwater and her face and hand sticking out above the surface

"Feminist Theory? Queer Studies? Memoir? How to Write the History of Pregnancy and Birth in Changing Times"

Sarah Knott is a writer, feminist and professor of history. She is the author, most recently, of Mother Is a Verb: An Unconventional History, which The New York Times described as “a joy to read.” She is currently an associate professor of history at Indiana University and a research fellow of the Kinsey Institute.

Sponsored by the Department of History, the Lamont Lecture Fund, and the Eastman Lecture Fund

Fri, Feb 21, 2020

Headshot of Sherrie Tucker

"Improvising Across Abilities: Pauline Oliveros and the Adaptive-Use Musical Instrument": A Talk by Professor Sherrie Tucker (University of Kansas)

The music department presents a special talk by jazz historian and professor of American studies Sherrie Tucker. All are invited.

Professor Tucker’s talk focuses on the work of composer, musician and humanitarian Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016), who is renowned for her innovations in composition, sound technology, research, philosophy and practices of listening, as well as feminist and environmental humanitarian projects. Less known is her work on all-ability improvisation through the Adaptive-Use Musical Instrument (AUMI), a free download/app that transforms any laptop, desktop, iPad or iPhone into a musical instrument that uses motion tracking to adapt to every body. Oliveros considered the AUMI a continuation of, not a departure from, her life’s work, listing it as her major research project with her department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in her final years. From 2007 until her passing, she spoke of the AUMI as interconnected with her other projects and collaborations intended to expand our abilities to listen, and thus to expand consciousness—such as the Sonic Meditations, Expanded Instrument System and Deep Listening® practice. 

In this lecture/demonstration, jazz studies scholar Sherrie Tucker shares what she has learned as a member of the ongoing collaborative AUMI Research Project, including how it challenged her exclusive relationship with jazz as an object of study, and pivoted her jazz studies questions and methods toward explorations of inclusive mixed-ability listening, sounding and sociality. Participants are invited to bring laptops, iPads or iPhones (sorry, Android users), if they wish. Those who want to try the AUMI in advance may download it free of charge at http://aumiapp.com/download.php.

Sherrie Tucker (professor, American studies, University of Kansas) is the author of Dance Floor Democracy: The Social Geography of Memory at the Hollywood Canteen (Duke, 2014) and Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s (Duke, 2000) and co-editor, with Nichole T. Rustin, of Big Ears:  Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies (Duke, 2008). She is a member of the AUMI Editorial Collective, whose collaborative volume, Improvising Across Abilities: Pauline Oliveros and the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI) is currently under review at University of Michigan Press. She is a member of two major collaborative research initiatives: the International Institute of Critical Improvisation Studies and Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (for which she served as facilitator for the Improvisation, Gender and the Body research area), both funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is a founding member of the Melba Liston Research Collective, a member of the AUMI (Adaptive Use Musical Instrument) Project and founding member of AUMI-KU InterArts, one of six member institutions of the AUMI Research Consortium. She was the Louis Armstrong Visiting Professor at the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University in 2004-2005, where she was a member of the Columbia Jazz Study Group. With Randal M. Jelks, she co-edits the journal American Studies. She serves with Deborah Wong and Jeremy Wallach as series editors for the Music/Culture Series at Wesleyan University Press. She is the proud holder of a Deep Listening® Ear-tificate.

For more information, contact Professor Jason Robinson (jrobinson@amherst.edu).

Mon, Feb 24, 2020

Kiessling Research Image: a colorful, geometrical illustration of molecules

Biology Monday Seminar: “Carbohydrates at the Host–Microbe Interface”

4:00 pm Science Center, Kirkpatrick Lecture Hall A011

Laura L. Kiessling, Ph.D., the Novartis Professor of Chemistry in Department of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will give a talk titled “Carbohydrates at the Host–Microbe Interface.”

Our health depends on maintaining a functional microbiome and avoiding the propagation of pathogenic microbes. Our group seeks to understand the mechanisms of microbial control by focusing on a prominent feature of the cell’s exterior—the carbohydrate coat. From humans to fungi to bacteria, all cells on Earth possess a carbohydrate coat. A critical role of this coat is to serve as an identification card. Our group has been examining the role of carbohydrate-binding proteins, called lectins, in influencing our microbiota and in immune defense. This seminar will focus on understanding the basis of carbohydrate-protein interactions and how they are used to control microbes. We envision that our findings can lead to alternative means to combat pathogens, methods for rapid approaches to ID microbiota, and the development of new strategies to regulate microbiome composition to promote human health.

Tue, Feb 25, 2020

Chris Faesi, UMass: “The Forest AND the Trees: Bridging the Multi-Scale Physics of Star Formation”

The conversion of interstellar gas into stars provides the energy, momentum and chemical enrichment that help drive the evolution of galaxies across cosmic time. Observational limitations have previously made it difficult to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the star formation process (and its role on environment) due to the large dynamic range in scales over which it is relevant. However, pioneering new observational facilities are now moving the field from case studies to big data, enabling measurements across statistically significant samples of galaxies at very high resolution. This allows us for the first time to directly investigate how the small-scale (< 100 pc) physics of star formation couples to large-scale (1-10 kpc) galactic dynamics and environment.

In this presentation, I will highlight recent and current progress toward a more complete picture of star formation in the local Universe. I will show how new population synthesis models for young stellar populations can bridge the gap from Milky Way to extragalactic star formation studies. I will also present the results of the first molecular cloud-scale study of molecular clouds beyond the Local Group of galaxies. Finally, I will review some first results from two large observational campaigns through which we are tracking molecular gas and young stars at the cloud scale across dozens of nearby galaxies. This includes the systematic investigation of important physical quantities including gas conversion efficiency, molecular cloud densities and dynamics, and star formation timescales across multiple galactic environments.

Statistics Colloquium: “Are We Not Doing Phrasing Anymore?”: Mining Narrative Texts for Meaning with John Laudun

The rise of algorithmic analysis has been met by a rise in the interest in storytelling, suggesting that we are most human in the stories we tell, and that the stories we tell cannot be readily rendered into numbers. And so data scientists and digital humanities scholars have turned their attention to narrative forms in hopes of at least sketching out a computational model of narrative which might reveal how narratives work, at least as texts, if not also as vehicles for the delivery of meaning. Much of this work has, however, focused on texts like novels, skipping over the kinds of texts that most of us produce each and every day, both online and off.

This presentation surveys recent work in corpus stylistics, digital humanities, and information and data sciences, and then sketches out what might be a way to discern the shape of small stories. Examples are drawn from local legends about treasure, the clown legend cascade of 2016 and select literary works, among other things.

Dr. John Laudun, professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is “fascinated by how humans create their world with relatively simple resources.” His current work in culture analytics has brought collaborations with physicists and other scientists seeking to understand how texts can be modeled computationally in order to better describe their functions and features.

Turkey, Syria and the Future of Kurdish Movements

Fri, Feb 28, 2020

Cheminar: "Ghost Proteins"

3:15 pm - 4:30 pm Science Center, Kirkpatrick Lecture Hall - #A011

Professor Ronald T. Raines, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Chemistry

ABSTRACT: The lipid bilayer that encases human cells has evolved to keep the outside out, and the inside in. This barrier is not, however, impenetrable. Some small molecules, including many drugs, can burrow through and manifest therapeutic activities. Others can be “cloaked” to endow membrane permeability, and then uncloaked inside cells. We have learned how to beneficially cloak proteins, which are typically 100-fold larger than small-molecule drugs. Specifically, the conversion of protein carboxyl groups into esters enables a protein to traverse the lipid bilayer. The nascent esters are substrates for endogenous esterases that regenerate native proteins within cells. The ability to deliver native proteins directly into cells opens a new frontier for molecular medicine.

View from below of the Parker Quartet standing behind a curved railing and smiling at each other

M@A Masterclass: Parker Quartet Feb. 28

Please join us for a public masterclass as M@A Chamber artists the Parker Quartet work with students on their craft.

Crafting a Career in Food Writing

The foodie media universe offers storytellers with a passion for the culinary the opportunity to share in and define new culinary traditions. Explore the possibilities for your own work—across print, digital, and television—with this behind the scenes look at Crafting a Career in Food Writing. This in-depth discussion will feature three distinguished Amherst community members who will share the details of their trajectories into careers as food writer, cookbook authors, recipe developers and personal chefs.
They are:
Lizzy Briskin ’15 is a personal chef, cooking instructor, food writer and recipe developer specializing in healthy, vegetable-forward food.
Dana Cowin P ’22, best known for her two decades as the Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine, is a tastemaker, talent scout, consultant, author, lecturer and radio show host.
Ted Lee ’93 is co-founder of The Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue, an award winning cookbook author, and host/executive producer of Southern Uncovered with The Lee Bros. on Ovation.

Collage of protests, marches, and news programs

"Shusenjo—The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue"

4:30 pm Keefe Campus Center, Keefe Theater Auditorium

Miki Dezaki, a YouTuber who was threatened and harassed by Japan’s notorious netouyo (cyber neo-nationalists) for his video on racism in Japan, is not shying away from controversial topics with his debut feature-length documentary on the comfort women issue. The film dives deep into the most contentious dispute between Japan and Korea and finds answers to hotly debated questions, such as: Were the comfort women “sexual slaves” or prostitutes? Were they coercively recruited? Were there really 200,000 comfort women? And does Japan have a legal responsibility to apologize?

Dezaki masterfully interweaves footage from demonstrations, man-on-the-street interviews, news and archival clips with in-depth interviews with the most prominent scholars and influencers from both sides of the debate, including Yoshiko Sakurai (journalist), Kent Gilbert (lawyer/celebrity), Mina Watanabe (secretary-general of the Women's Active Museum), Koichi Nakano (political science professor) and Yoshiaki Yoshimi (historian).

Shusenjo includes surprising confessions and revelations that uncover the hidden intentions of both supporters and detractors while deconstructing the dominant narratives. That Dezaki has managed to bring nuance to a sensationalized and often oversimplified issue is just one of the many reasons that Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue is a must-see work.

Co-sponsored by the Departments of Asian Languages & Civilizations; History; Sexuality, Women’s & Gender Studies; and Film & Media Studies

LitFest 2020

A Conversation with 2019 National Book Award Winner Susan Choi and Finalist Laila Lalami

Join Professor Judith Frank, in conversation with National Book Award recipient Susan Choi and finalist Laila Lalami. This event free an open to the public, to be followed by audience Q&A and book signing. Hosted in partnership with the National Book Foundation.

Susan Choi’s first novel, The Foreign Student, won the Asian American Literary Award for fiction. Her second novel, American Woman, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a film. Her third novel, A Person of Interest, was a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. In 2010 she was named the inaugural recipient of the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award. Her fourth novel, My Education, received a 2014 Lambda Literary Award. Her fifth novel, Trust Exercise, and her first book for children, Camp Tiger, came out in 2019. Trust Exercise won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2019. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, Choi teaches fiction writing at Yale and lives in Brooklyn.

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain and the United States. She is author of the novels Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize longlist; and The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, Arab American Book Award and Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, was on the Man Booker Prize longlist and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in Harper’s, The Guardian, The New York Times and elsewhere. A recipient of British Council, Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships, she teaches creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a Los Angeles Times best-seller, a best-of-2019 selection from NPR and Time and a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction.

Judith Frank is author of a book of criticism, Common Ground: Eighteenth-Century English Satiric Fiction and the Poor, and two novels, Crybaby Butch, which won a 2004 Lambda Literary Award, and All I Love and Know. In 2008, Frank received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. They have been a resident at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony and have published short fiction in The Massachusetts Review, Other Voices and Best Lesbian Love Stories 2005. They teach English and creative writing at Amherst College and are currently working on a novel about race, reproduction and queerness.

Sat, Feb 29, 2020

Photo text: "LitFest 2020: Illuminating great writing & Amherst College's literary life"

Poets of Amherst: A Conversation with Karen Skolfield

11:00 am - 12:30 pm Frost Library, Center for Humanistic Inquiry (2nd floor

Join host J. Riley Caldwell-O'Keefe, director of Amherst College’s Center for Teaching and Learning, in conversation with Northampton's own poet laureate, Karen Skolfield.

This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Karen Skolfield’s book Battle Dress won the 2018 Barnard Women Poets Prize. Frost in the Low Areas won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry and the First Book Award from Zone 3 Press. The poet laureate for Northampton, Mass., for 2019–2021, Skolfield has won the 2016 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in poetry from The Missouri Review, 2015 Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America and 2015 Arts & Humanities Award from New England Public Radio, among other awards and fellowships. Her poems can be found in dozens of journals and magazines. Skolfield is a U.S. Army veteran and teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she earned her M.F.A.

J. Riley Caldwell-O’Keefe directs Amherst College’s Center for Teaching and Learning. She was recently elected to the Core Committee of the Professional and Organizational Development Network. Previously, Caldwell-O’Keefe was a faculty member in the Boise State University theater department and associate director of the general education program. She served 10 years in the U.S. Air Force and traveled the world as stage manager for Air Force Entertainment’s Tops in Blue, then drew on this experience for her master’s and doctoral work, which she completed at UC Santa Barbara with a feminist studies emphasis. Her current research focuses on implicit bias in course evaluations, students as pedagogical partners, and teaching and learning at small liberal arts colleges.

Photo text: "LitFest 2020: Illuminating great writing & Amherst College's literary life"

An Afternoon with Jesmyn Ward

Join host Jennifer Acker '00, founder and editor-in-chief of The Common literary magazine, with special guest Jesmyn Ward, the first woman and first person of color to win the National Book Award for Fiction twice, for the novels Salvage the Bones (2011) and Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017).

This event is free and open to the public, to be followed by audience Q&A and book signing.

Ward's memoir, Men We Reaped, deals with the loss of five young men in her life. Ward edited the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, a New York Times best-seller. In 2020, she will release Navigate Your Stars, an adaptation of her 2018 Tulane University commencement speech. A professor of creative writing at Tulane, Ward received the 2016 Strauss Living award and a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship, and was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2018.

Jennifer Acker ’00 is founder and editor-in-chief of The Common and author of the debut novel The Limits of the World. Her short stories, essays, translations and reviews have appeared in Amazon Original Stories, The Washington Post, Literary Hub, n+1, Guernica, The Yale Review and Ploughshares, among other places. Acker has an M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches writing and editing at Amherst College, where she directs the Literary Publishing Internship and LitFest.