Student Projects

Deconstructing Butter

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Can a fiction based upon a hoax tell us anything about who we are? “Spinning Into Butter” is a controversial and award-winning play, inspired by a racial incident that occurred while playwright Rebecca Gilman was a student at Middlebury in the early ’80s. On April 9th a multi-racial cast presented scenes from “Spinning Into Butter,” interspersed with audience reactions, to explore the script, its source material, and how we experience and respond to race at Middlebury in 2010.

Sophia Wang ‘13: The Splendor of Europe: Art Markets in Antwerp, Amsterdam, and London

The Global Market- MBH 216 at 6:00 p.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Pieter Broucke, History of Art & Architecture
Major: International Studies

This research endeavor will bring us to the art markets of Antwerp, Amsterdam and London from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries—a time of great intellectual ferment across Europe, birthed by a burgeoning interest in the cradles of Western civilization. We shall explore these markets from cultural, geographic, political and economic angles, concentrating on an aspect peculiar to each city. Thanks in part to its strategic crossroads location, the Antwerp market developed earliest, nurturing a dynamic, cosmopolitan scene. Amsterdam, which inherited the role of international art center in the wake of political upheaval, boasted a democratic system, luring many a middle-class collector and artist. We shall also discuss financial difficulties that artists, notably Rembrandt, may have faced. Lastly, we shall leave the continent, venturing across the English Channel to roost in London, which itself came to showcase a glittering auction and art market, dominated by the royalty and aristocracy.

Doug Shultz ‘10: The Changing Landscape of Migrant Labor Markets in China: Differences in Compensation Across Space

Session: The Global Market- MBH 216 at 5:40 p.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Anne Knowles, Geography
Major: Geography/Economics

Chinese household registration policy classifies each citizen as either an urban or rural dweller. Based upon factors such as birthplace and parents’ birthplace, this classification can generally be changed only by graduates of higher education, wealthy people, or government employees. As China’s coastal urban economies began to rapidly develop in the late 1970s and 1980s, many rural dwellers migrated to cities in search of higher wages. These migrant laborers were not able to receive the services (e.g., child education, health care, job protection) provided to urban dwellers by local city governments. Over the last decade, however, some migrant laborers began to receive services such as medical insurance, unemployment insurance, or pension funds. This paper uses data from the 2002 Chinese Household Income Project Survey to analyze the economic, social, and spatial attributes of the group of laborers receiving these forms of compensation. Preliminary results show that employers are more likely to offer these types of increased compensation when they are located in more mature job markets where the supply of jobs exceeds demand.

Emily Gullickson ‘10: Gastronomic Hierarchies of Value: A Case Study of the Market for French AOC Wines

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Session: The Global Market- MBH 216 at 5:20 p.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Thierry Warin, International Studies; Linus Owens, Sociology & Anthropology
Major: International Studies

The business model of the food industry, as it stands today, is unsustainable. Dominated by fast food and international agribusinesses, the industry increasingly wreaks havoc on traditional agricultural processes, nutrition, and the distance between producer and consumer. To counter these negative trends, organizations like Slow Food International have begun to champion the importance of “quality” for health, the environment, and the art of gastronomy. But what does quality mean and what will be its impact on the global food industry? An analysis of wines produced in France and labeled with the government-sponsored quality certification system, Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, reveals that an emphasis on quality and geography, rather than brand, makes the food market more monopolistically competitive, more inclusive yet hierarchical. Furthermore, quality changes the values of the food industry from efficiency and low-prices to diversity and people’s fundamental right food that is “good, clean and fair.”

J.P. Allen ‘11: Made in Tianguis: Informal Commerce in Guadalajara, Mexico

Session: The Global Market- MBH 216 at 5:00 p.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Nicole Chance, International Programs & Off Campus Study
Major: Political Science

Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, has grown and thrived primarily through commerce. Often the most important kind of commerce in the city is informal buying and selling at unfixed prices in unfixed or temporary locations. Important aspects of Tapatían (Guadalajaran) culture are represented in the day-to-day activity of street vendors and tianguis (open-air markets): the mixture of the sacred and the mundane, attitudes toward piracy and images, and above all, a focus on customs rather than rules. This project gathers information from maps, photographs, the historical record, interviews, and personal experiences to tell a brief story of Tapatían culture as revealed through the tianguis tent. This presentation is adapted from a long-form essay (in Spanish), written during a semester on Middlebury’s program in Guadalajara.

Derek Matus ‘12: Architecture and Identity: Moshe Safdie’s Ben Gurion Airport

Session: Jewish Identity: Influences and Reflections- MBH 216 at 3:30 p.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Jennifer Hock, History of Art & Architecture
Major: History of Art & Architecture/Studio Art

My presentation will discuss the construction of cultural identity in contemporary architecture through the work of Moshe Safdie in his native Israel. I will examine the various influences on his practice, from the tradition of vernacular, Islamic architecture that has developed in Palestine for centuries, to European Modernism introduced by 20th century Jewish immigrants, as exemplified by the Bauhaus movement in Tel Aviv, and relate them to the contemporary discourse of critical regionalism. Specifically, I will refer to Safdie’s theoretical work and his project at Terminal 3 at Ben Gurion, Israel’s principal international airport, to analyze how the architect has constructed an experience that approaches the complex issue of a unified Israeli identity.

Lauren Sanchez ‘11: Changes in Leaf Area Index (LAI) due to Ice Storm Damage at Harvard Forest

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Session: Slow Growth- MBH 216 at 10:45 a.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Steve Trombulak, Biology
Major: Enviromental Studies and Biology
Research Support: US Department of Energy

Terrestrial ecosystems play an integral role in the global carbon balance, potentially functioning as carbon sinks that fluctuate through time and seasonal changes. The net ecosystem exchange of these ecosystems has been heavily studied at the Harvard Forest Environmental Measurements Site (HFEMS) and has shown an increase in carbon sequestration over the past two decades. My study was conducted to analyze various impacts of the ice storm that struck New England in December 2008 with respect to the forest carbon flux. Several methods, including the eddy covariance technique, measuring downed woody biomass, and determining leaf area index (LAI) values, were used to evaluate and quantify the ice storm impacts. Several significant relationships were found in changes in LAI values, highlighting the importance of these measurements and analyses. The implications of these results also emphasize the importance of these forest measurements, given their role in the global carbon cycle.

Anne Runkel ‘11: Environmentally Caused Chemical Constituent and Nutritional Variation in the Oilseed Crop Camelina sativa

Session: Slow Growth- MBH 216 at 10:25 am from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Helen Young, Biology
Major: Biology
Research Support: Priscilla (Kay) Beck ’52 Botany Fellowship

It is important to understand how crops will respond to climate change. Temperature, water availability, and insect predation influence crop yield and may also affect crop nutrients. Camelina sativa (camelina), an oilseed crop high in omega-3 fatty acids (FAs), grows best in cold climates of southwestern Canada and northwestern US. In this study, camelina seeds and leaf tissue were grown at different temperatures and analyzed for FAs; glucosinolate levels were also studied in leaf tissue. This study’s findings suggest that higher temperatures significantly reduce omega-3 FAs and glucosinolates in camelina. Humans evolved with a 1:1 dietary ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s; however, the average ratio today is 15:1 to 25:1 and contributes to health disorders around the world. Will higher temperatures imbalance the FA ratio further? Based on these findings in camelina, further research must determine if the nutritive value of major crops will also be altered by climate change. This research was conducted at Montana State University with assistance from Dr. David Sands and Dr. Alice Pilgeram.

Darcy Mullen ‘10: A New Way of Eating: Slow Food’s Contribution to a Shift in American Food Culture

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Session: Slow Growth- MBH 216 at 10:05 a.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Sandra Carletti, Italian
Major: Italian

My research looks at the success of the Slow Food movement in the United States, and how it was a contributing factor to a mental shift from fast unhealthy food to local healthy ones in a portion of the population. The movement was started in Italy, and while support for the movement has grown at the grass roots level, new pro-fast food elements have become present in Italian politics. Since its arrival in 2000 to the United States, the movement encouraged a process of education that promotes an understanding of the food industry. This study focuses on the changes in the food culture that were spurred by the Slow Food movement and have led to educational programs across the country and how this compares to Italy’s current situation.

Chris Free ‘10: The Population-level Impact of Density-dependent Seedling Mortality of Big-leaf Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)

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Session: Slow Growth- MBH 216 at 9:45 a.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Matt Landis, Biology
Major: Environmental Studies/Biology
Research Support: Senior Work Fund

A high mortality of seeds and seedlings has been documented in areas of high conspecific adult density as a result of increased predation and disease. Although this phenomenon has received significant attention in the scientific literature, the long-term evolutionary and ecological impact of density-dependent seedling mortality remains poorly understood. The purpose of the present study is to determine the population-level impact of density-dependent seedling mortality on heavily exploited big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). The study was conducted by developing a spatially explicit individual-based model to examine the population size and distribution differences in mahogany populations grown with and without density-dependent seedling mortality. The heavy exploitation and threatened status of big-leaf mahogany highlight the importance of understanding density-dependent interactions in the develo p.m.ent of more robust predictive models and management plans.