Research in Gender Studies

‘Just Like Everyone Else’: Queer Representation in Post-Millennial Bollywood


By Nikki Sylvia

Portrait of Nikki (Paige) Silva


I am a Psychology major and member of the Psi Chi honor society. In Spring 2021, I took a course on “Gender and Sexuality in Bollywood Films,” with Professor Anupama Arora (English & Communication; Women’s and Gender Studies). In this course, we watched popular Hindi-language Indian films from the mid-twentieth century to the present. For my final research paper, I focused on two recent films that focused on same-sex love/desire, a subject rarely dealt with in classical Hindi/Indian cinema. I presented a version of this paper at the annual conference of the National Council of Undergraduate Research (NCUR) which was held virtually in April 2022; and I am grateful to the Office of Undergraduate Research at UMassDartmouth and the CAS Dean’s Office for supporting me. Furthermore, along with Prof. Arora, we have developed this paper into a longer co-authored journal-length article, which is currently under review at a scholarly academic journal.


The paper is titled “‘Just Like Everyone Else’: Queer Representation in Post-Millennial New Bollywood.” In a film industry where representations of heterosexual romance reign supreme and where explicit or sympathetic portrayals of non-normative desire or sexualities, while existent, have been marginal and few and far between, two recent films in particular stood out to me for their unapologetic expression of gay and lesbian struggles: Shelly Chopra Dhar’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (How I felt When I Saw That Girl, 2019) and Hitesh Kewalya’s Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan (Be Extra Wary of Marriage, 2020). These films followed in the wake of a historic legislation in India: on September 6, 2018, after decades of queer activism, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (the centuries-old law against sodomy) was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India.


The essay examines these two films as milestones of sorts in queer representations in post-millennial Bollywood. It shows how the films seek to disrupt the larger discourse around nonconforming gender/sexual subjects in popular Hindi cinema. Both films bring attention to, and contest, discourses around homosexuality in India that pathologize it – as unnatural, abnormal, filthy/dirty, disease/sickness, a crime, or as a Western import. The films make complex maneuvers to normalize same-sex love, and incorporate queer identity in ways that render it non-threatening to the heteronormative status quo. However, through their intertextual interventions (allusions to many other popular Hindi films and the conventions of this cinema), both these Bollywood “malltiplex” (mall + multiplex) films carry the potential of unsettling the dominant cis-heteropatriarchal order and imperatives of Hindu Indian society reflected in popular cinema. Thus, these recent films, even with some of their shortcomings, are refreshing for breaking the barriers of same-sex visibility in mainstream Indian cinema and can be seen as critical steps toward broader acceptance of queer identities and relationships.

Research in Biology

Determining relative growth rates of bacterial isolates from marine biofilms

This work was conducted in the lab of Dr. Moisander, Department of Biology

By Andrea Pires

Andrea Pires at work in Dr. Moisander’s lab



Biofilms of marine bacteria develop within hours of any surface submersed in seawater. Over the course of days and weeks these biofilms of bacteria mature to include protists, algae, cyanobacteria, and eventually unicellular and multicellular eukaryotes. Mature biofilms can interfere with marine operations such as boating and aquafarms, at which point they are referred to as biofouling. Antifouling methods have been developed to prevent biofouling, the most common of which involves coating the submersed surface with specialized toxic paint (de Carvalho, 2018). However, current antifouling methods are expensive and can be harmful to the environment. Potential targets for alternative antifouling methods could be found in the formation of biofilms at their early stages. There are many factors that are involved in early biofilm formation such as relative growth rates influencing bacterial fitness. This study focused on characterizing growth rates of 18 strains of marine bacteria recently isolated and identified from marine biofilms in Buzzards Bay. These cultures include bacteria from the Gammaproteobacterial genera Alteromonas, Pseudoalteromonas, Cobetia, Marinomonas, Salinimonas, Oceanobacter and Shewenella. The relative growth rates of the cultures were obtained through a series of 24-hour growth experiments. The estimated growth rates ranged from a minimum of 0.0847 h-1 to a maximum of 0.489 h-1. Significant differences in the growth rates among experiments were found for some strains. Significant differences were also found among the growth rates of strains within the genera Pseudoalteromonas, Salinimonas, and Shewenella but not among strains of Alteromonas sp.



Biofilms are communities of adhered cells formed by bacteria and other microorganisms that cooperate to increase their chances of survival. In the marine environment, any submersed surface will rapidly develop a biofilm of bacteria that eventually matures to include other microorganisms such as protists, cyanobacteria and algae (de Carvalho, 2018). Advanced biofilms develop into biofouling, whose growth on submersed surfaces such as ship hulls and pipes can interfere with marine operations. For instance, the development of biofouling on ship hulls increases fuel consumption and fossil fuel emissions (Schultz et al., 2011). Various actions have been taken to eliminate biofouling, known as antifouling methods. The most common of these antifouling methods includes specialized toxic paint, which have their own negative impacts through toxicity to surrounding biota (de Carvalho, 2018). However, the costs and environmental impact associated with the development of biofouling and its prevention are substantial. Therefore, it is of interest to investigate the early stages of biofouling for purposes of exploring new potential targets for more affordable and environmentally sustainable antifouling methods.

In the initial stages of biofilm formation marine bacterial organisms colonize the submersed surface allowing for the adherence of successive colonizers such as protists and algae (de Carvalho, 2018). Targeting these initial bacterial colonizers could be an effective way to stop the development of biofouling at the source. However, more knowledge is needed about the growth dynamics of the initial biofouling colonizers. To begin, the relative growth


rates of 18 culture isolates of marine bacteria established and identified recently from marine biofilms in Buzzards Bay were investigated. All cultures used are common community members during early colonization of local marine biofilms (Naik et al., 2022). The methods and data from this experiment will help develop model systems for examining growth of initial biofouling colonizers and for designing further studies on impacts of antifouling methods on these bacteria.




Experimental Design

Reviving glycerol stocks

All culturing was conducted in a biosafety hood treated beforehand with ultraviolet light for at least 15 minutes. Sterile 5-mL tubes were used to revive the cultures from the glycerol stocks. The tubes were filled with 2.5-mL of marine broth. The glycerol stocks of the cultures were stored at -80ºC. The glycerol stocks of the cultures were kept on ice and using sterile, single-use inoculating loops, a small amount of the stock was obtained and transferred into its corresponding sterile 5-mL tube in the biosafety hood. The inoculated tubes were grown overnight (~24 hours) in a dark incubator at ~25-28ºC on a stirring plate.


Measuring Optical Densities (OD)

The next day, the optical densities of the overnight growth cultures were measured, and each strain was streaked on a Marine Agar plate (Fig. 1). 200 µL of each culture were added onto three wells of a non-treated polystyrene plate and read at 600 nm with a plate reader. These optical densities were then used to calculate the dilution factor for an OD of 0.05 and a total volume of 1000 µL. Using the subsequent dilution factors, a specific amount of each culture and Marine Broth were added to 2-mL sterile tubes. The optical densities of these dilutions were then measured again and recorded.


24-hour Growth Experiment

To prepare for the 24-hour growth experiment a plate lid was treated with 0.05% Triton X-100 in 20% ethanol to alleviate condensation forming in the lid throughout the 24-hour incubation. Each culture, adjusted to the approximate OD 0.05, further diluted with media to 1:100, was


aseptically pipetted to six replicate wells of a 96-well polystyrene plate. Each plate also included six wells with media only, serving as a negative control. The treated plate lid was then placed on top of the plate. The plate was then placed inside the microplate reader and grown at 25ºC. The plate reader program was adjusted to record optical density at 600 nm every 20 minutes for 24 hours. These readings were saved and used to estimate the growth rates of the marine bacterial cultures.


Estimating Growth Rates

The optical density readings recorded from the 24h growth experiments were then used to estimate the maximum growth rates of each strain and replicate (each well). The Easy Linear function within the R growthrates package was used to fit a linear model to the log- transformed data to find the maximum growth rate separately for each well, resulting in six separately calculated growth rates per strain per experiment (Petzoldt, 2020).



The 24h growth overnight experiment was performed for each of the bacterial cultures at least once and up to seven separate times. The untransformed growth curves obtained by the 24h experiments were plotted for each experiment using the R growthrates package (Fig. 2). The estimated maximum growth rates ranged from a minimum of 0.0847 h-1 to a maximum of 0.489 h-1 across all strains and replicates (Table 1).

One of the aims of the experiments was to assess the methodological repeatability of the growth rate measurements across experiments. The variability in maximum growth rates of strains among experiments was analyzed using a series of one-way ANOVAs (Fig. 3). Growth rates of strains 9214 and 9273 were significantly different across experiments (one-way ANOVA, p < 0.05). Strains 9213, 9212, 9243 and 9275 were tested only once and the remaining strains showed no significant differences across experiments (one-way ANOVA, p>0.05). The growth rates of strains within the same genus were also compared using a series of one-way ANOVA tests. The Pseudoalteromonas genus included strains 9206, 9207 and 9274. There was a significant difference in the growth rates of strains 9206 and 9274 but other strains showed no differences. The Alteromonas genus included strains 9211, 9215, 9239, 9243, 9273, 9282, and 9283, and had no significant differences in their growth rates (p >0.05, Fig. 4). The Shewanella genus included strains 9242 and UMD1 with significantly different growth rates (p<0.05). The Salinimonas strains included strains 9275 and 9278 that also differed significantly in their growth rates.




This study characterized growth rates of 18 recent marine biofilm bacterial isolates in the form of growth curves under standardized conditions. Calculated growth rates were used to examine any differences among the strains with respect to their growth patterns in monocultures. Variability across experiments is indicative of the reproducability and reliability of the growth rates obtained using this method. The data obtained from the growth experiments showed there was variability among experiments and strains within the same genus. However, only a few strains showed significant differences among experiments. For instance, strain 9213 showed significant differences in growth rates among experiments. This could have been influenced by the fact that it was later found to be a mixture of two different bacteria. Sources of variation within a single strain across experiments appear to have stemmed from periodically poor success in initial revival from glycerol or possibly experimental error.

Increasing the number of replicates per strain could help assess sources of variation among experiments.

There were significantly different growth rates among strains of the Pseudoalteromonas, Shewanella and Salinimonas genera but none were seen in the Alteromonas genus. These identified differences are likely due to slight functional differences among the strains but also could indicate more consistent differences among genera. Such differences may play a role in individual strain fitness in marine biofilms and will be of interest in future studies. Alteromonas spp. form a dominant component of early biofilms in local waters, while Shewanella spp. form a more subdominant group (Naik et al. 2022). A generally lower growth rate of Alteromonas was observed compared to Shewanella under the nutrient enriched conditions in these experiments and appears not to support the idea that representatives of Alteromonadaceae win during early biofilm colonization due to their superior growth rates.

Ultimately, these results will inform the growth curve methods and strains used in future experiments investigating biofilm formation along with competition and facilitation in co-cultures.



de Carvalho, C. C. C. R. (2018). Marine Biofilms: A Successful Microbial Strategy With Economic Implications. Frontiers in Marine Science, 5.

Naik, A., Smithers, M., & Moisander, P. H. (2022). Impacts of UV-C Irradiation on Marine Biofilm Community Succession. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 88(4), e02298-21.

Petzoldt, T. (2020). Estimation of Growth Rates with Package growthrates.

Schultz, M. P., Bendick, J. A., Holm, E. R., & Hertel, W. M. (2011). Economic impact of biofouling on a naval surface ship. Biofouling, 27(1), 87–98.

Research in History of Art & Architecture


Architecture and Morality in Antebellum New Bedford


By Kayla Rausch

Does architecture manifest social and moral principles? Can we equate ethics with aesthetics? How can historical architectural styles reveal the values of societies in which they were built? My name is Kayla Rausch, a third-year Art History major, and I am the Fall 2021/Spring 2022 recipient of the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks! Student Fellowship. Under the supervision of my advisor, Dr. Pamela Karimi, I have been developing my research project entitled Architecture and Morality in Antebellum New Bedford. Because it was home to some of the most affluent in antebellum America, New Bedford, MA, is an ideal location for studying the moral and ethical dimensions of stylistic preferences in American architecture.

My project examines how local architecture was emblematic of the esteemed values upheld by influential and affluent citizens of New Bedford during its Whaling boom in the pre-Civil War era. Amidst such prosperous conditions, the Society of Friends or Quakers—who had fled England to escape religious persecution during the 1600s— embraced simplicity and rejected excess ornamentation in their architecture. Contrasting the opulent Greek and Gothic-revival or the Second Empire styles, which were built and owned by other prosperous New Bedford whaling captions and businesspeople, New Bedford Quakers’ preference for modesty demonstrated that, even within the same society, there were differing ideas of morality and taste.

Examining how the Quakers’ values (which are visually depicted through their architecture) starkly contrasted the elitist ideals promoted through the surrounding structures, I embarked on a tour of the New Bedford Friends Meetinghouse and conducted interviews with experts and members of the Society of Friends. I learned from them how simplicity and transparency are at the heart of their values. Additionally, I have studied how Quakers have long been strong advocates of social activism and committed to racial equality as quintessential components of their faith. Specifically, Quakers played a major role in the abolitionist movement in New England. Though not all Quakers publicly participated in the abolitionist movement, they helped create a safe haven for runaway slaves who came to Massachusetts from the southern states. Quakers also advocated for gender equality, encouraging women to participate in businesses while their men were away and busy with whaling. My research aims to demonstrate how many of these values were manifested in both public and private buildings built and owned by Quakers.

In addition to extensive fieldwork, I have made numerous visits to the New Bedford Free Public Library to investigate nineteenth century society and Quaker history. The library has also afforded me an examination of mainstream nineteenth-century materials, such as architectural pattern books, popular magazines, and early twentieth century New Bedford city atlases. In order to foster a society centered upon the distinguished tastes of the wealthy, many nineteenth century publications worked to promote sophisticated European tastes. These included popular periodicals, such as Godey’s Lady’s Book and architectural pattern books, such as Asher Benjamin’s The Architect. These materials were all popular in antebellum New England and largely accessible to the New Bedford population.


By comparing and contrasting a wide range of published materials, I have examined which moral values were predominantly promoted and to what end. Given the significant role the Quakers played in all aspects of life in Antebellum New Bedford, I have further explored the reasons behind the marginalization of the Quaker aesthetic preferences in the mainstream and canonical discourse of American architecture.

I have presented my work to the fellowship committee and have been invited by the Director of Fine Arts at the New Bedford Public Schools to deliver a talk about my work to younger students.

As mentioned above, this project was awarded the 2022 New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks! Fellowship. In addition, I was a recipient of the Winter/Spring 2022 Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) award. This grant has provided me the opportunity to conduct research about domestic and Quaker architecture of greater New England at the Boston Public Library as an extension of my project through the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks! Fellowship. According to my mentor, Professor Karimi, “Kayla’s project is a great example of the high quality of research that undergraduate students at UMass Dartmouth undertake.” I soon plan to publish my work to an undergraduate journal. I also hope to go to graduate school to further study architectural and art history.


Research In Biology


Risk-Induced Behavioral Changes Increase Survival When Exposed to Predators

By Isabella Mancini 


     Portrait of Isabella Mancini, her colleagues, and mentor,

Prof. Michael Sheriff, at Benthic Ecology Society’s annual meeting

in Portsmouth New Hampshire



Predation risk is a pervasive force in ecology, shaping species interactions and community dynamics. When prey are exposed to predators they may alter their behavior, physiology, or morphology. Risk-induced behavioral changes can include changes to prey refuge use and risk aversion behavior. I hypothesized that the strength of these non-consumptive effects and prey behavioral decisions may depend on resource availability or prey state. I tested this by either exposing the dogwhelk, Nucella lapillus, to non-lethal green crabs, Carcinus maenas (rendered non-lethal by gluing their claws together) or not, for 28 days while varying food availability using the basal resource, Mytilus edulis. We measured individual behavior of Nucella every 3 days throughout the experiment. We also measured initial and final tissue weights, shell weights, and shell lengths of each Nucella in order to track growth. We found that risk-exposed Nucella were more risk averse. We also found that food availability increased risk aversion regardless of risk treatment. Food availability also significantly increased individual growth compared to non-food treatments. I found that there was a cost of predation risk on individual growth when compared to non-risk treatments, however initial prey state did not significantly impact risk aversion, nor did growth. These findings support the hypothesis that resources increase prey state enough to decrease risky behavior when faced with predation risk.



The influence of predation risk on prey species and communities has become an emerging topic of study in the field of ecology. The risk of predation alone (not including consumption or killing) can alter prey phenotype, fitness, and influence species interactions within entire trophic chains (Peacor et al. 2020). These risk-induced responses may also be impacted by the environment in which they occur and may vary based on individual prey state or condition (Matassa et al. 2016). Learning the nuances of these prey responses is important to understanding the trophic relations and population dynamics in these systems.

Using a notable set of predator-prey interactions in the New England intertidal ecosystem, green crabs (Carcinus maenas) and dog whelk snails (Nucella lapillus), we investigate a novel area of this research: how prey decide to allocate their energy to either foraging or antipredator behaviors. Literature on how resource availability may impact refuge use behavior is lacking in its investigation into the decision a prey would make if the resources are outside of the refuge.

A 2016 study on Nucella, using barnacles as a resource, concluded that food outside of the refuge was enticing prey to engage in more risky behavior in the presence of risk and found that prey state did not dramatically affect this result (Matassa et al. 2016). The impact that food quality and handling time could have on this result is still in question. The alternative hypothesis that available resources could increase prey state, allowing them to stay in the refuge more often, has also not been thoroughly explored.  Here we expand upon the Matassa et al. (2016) study to examine individual level risk aversion behavior and growth when prey are exposed to predation risk or not across two different resource levels during a 4-week mesocosm experiment. We considered both resource availability hypotheses and made predictions that would support each.



Experimental design

We tested the influence of resource availability on prey refuge use behavior using a mesocosm laboratory experiment at the UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology campus in New Bedford, MA. 15 Nucella, 10 of which were tagged and used for this experiment, (15.6 ± 1.3 mm, mean shell length ± SD) were placed in each of 24 clear-plastic mesocosms (44.45 cm. L x 30.48 cm W x 17.78 cm H) with independent flowthrough sea water (Buzzards Bay, ~ 18℃) and a 20.32cm2 tile refuge elevated 2cm from the mesocosm floor by PCV pipe. The refuge could be accessed by Nucella but was too low for Carcinus to fit under. Snails could also access the top of the wall and underside lid of the mesocosm for refuge, as crabs could not attack them there (tested, but data not shown). 12 of the mesocosms had a single non-lethal green crab (52.2 ± 0.8 mm, mean carapace width ± SD with its claws banded and super glued shut to ensure they could not consume snails) and 12 mesocosms had blue mussels added as a resource (ad libitum) for a fully crossed 2×2 experiment, including: 6 food plus predation risk (FPR), 6 food no risk (FNR), 6 no-food plus predation risk (NFPR), and 6 no food no risk (NFNR) treatments. The experiment was conducted for 28 days from 7/19/21 to 8/18/21

We recorded snail location every 3 days for all tagged snails. Our designation of in a refuge or in the open was based upon those from Matassa et al. 2016, however, we also conducted preliminary feeding trials with crabs to determine where they could access and consume prey by attaching food (fish) to various locations on the wall and underside of the mesocosm lid. Snail location observations were scored as a -1 if snails were on the tile, in the open or low on the wall where they could be eaten, a 0 if snails were mid-way on the wall where crabs had difficulty accessing them, or a 1 if snails were under the tile, at the very top of the wall or the underside of the lid where crabs could not access them. The sum of the scores was used to estimate individual risk aversion scores for each tagged snail over the 28 days of the experiment. Shell and tissue weights of each tagged snail were taken using a non-destructive buoyant weighing technique (Palmer, 1982) and shell length was recorded using digital calipers. The weights and shell lengths were taken at the beginning and end of the experiment, and growth was calculated as the final-initial measurements.



Pairwise comparisons were made between treatment groups and risk aversion score averages (Fig1). There was a significant difference between the FR and non-food treatments (FR|NFC p<0.001, FR|NFR p<0.01, Fig1). There was also a significant difference between our food with risk and food with no-risk groups (FR|FC p<0.001, Fig1). Risk and food both independently and combined increased risk aversion score.  Pairwise comparisons were also made between each treatment and each of our growth metrics across the experiment, tissue weight, shell weight, and shell length (Fig2). Food availability significantly increased all growth metrics when comparing each food treatment to it’s corresponding no-food treatment (FC|NFC and FC|NFR p< 0.001, FR|NFC and FR|NFR p=0.003 Fig 2). Predation risk caused a significant cost in growth when comparing the food control and food risk treatments (FR|FR; tissue and shell weight growth p<0.001, shell length growth p=0.002, Fig2). Risk aversion averages were then compared to the initial state of individual based on each growth metric (Fig3). Risk aversion averages were also compared to overall growth across the experiment using each metric (Fig3). Although there appears to be a negative correlation between risk aversion and each metric in both cases, almost all of these trends were not statistically significant (p>0.05, Fig3) and no correlation was found between risk aversion and initial or overall growth (R2 ~0.33).



Fig 1. Risk Aversion vs Treatment. This graph shows comparisons of each of the four treatment groups to the average risk aversion score of individual snails within that treatment. Asterisks indicate significance (**** p<0.001). Bars show Mean +/- SD.




Fig 2. Growth Metrics vs Treatment. These graphs show comparisons of each of the four treatments groups to the average growth for each growth metric (tissue weight, shell length, shell weight). Bars show Mean +/- SD.


Fig 3. Risk Aversion vs Initial State & Growth. These graphs show trends in risk aversion behavior in comparison to trends in individual initial body condition and in each growth metric. None of these comparisons were statistically significant. Lines show Mean +/- SE.



We found that food availability increases growth across all metrics. This means prey that have higher resources are able to grow more. This result occurred as expected, however by comparing the food treatment groups to each other, we are also able to show that predation risk causes a cost to growth. That is, the prey in the FR treatment grew less than the prey in the FNR treatment. This finding could easily be attributed to the negative impacts that predation risk is assumed to have on a prey’s ability to forage, however our remaining findings show that this assumption is not as simple as it seems.

A prey’s ability to prioritize and allocate energy between both foraging and antipredator behaviors has major implications for it’s ability to grow and increase it’s fitness. We found that both food and risk being present increase refuge use both independently and together. These results support the hypothesis that food availability increases prey state enough that they do not need to leave the refuge to forage as often. This is contradictory to the hypothesis (supported by the Matassa et al. 2016) that food availability would increase foraging and entice prey out of the refuge therefore decreasing risk aversion. If this was the case in our study, the lowest risk aversion score should’ve been seen in the FC treatment, but that was not the case. Instead we found that the lowest risk aversion behavior and least refuge use occurred in the NFC group.  There are many possible explanations for why our results support this alternative hypothesis in compared to the previous research. More investigation needs to be done into how the quantity and quality of resources available to prey impact their behavioral decisions. Studies considering the natural and baseline levels of refuge use or fear of predation within prey could also help give insight into these types of contradicting behaviors seen across studies and taxa.



My Experience at the Benthic Ecology Meeting

      Isabella Mancini at the Benthic Ecology Society’s annual meeting in

Portsmouth, New Hampshire


I was lucky enough to attend the Benthic Ecology Meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire as part of the Sheriff lab this semester and it was a very unique experience. As an undergraduate, being able to attend a conference like this was incredibly valuable. I got to see tons of presentations of other scientists’ work in the field of ecology and network with professionals. Along with presenting my own work as a poster, I was able to discuss my work with others, including the very people I had cited in my paper, which was amazing. This experience helped me to learn how the world of academia really works and allowed me to talk with people at all stages of their careers, which was extremely beneficial to my understanding of the steps it takes to build a career in the field of biology.


Research in Animation & Game Arts

Reconstructing the History of the Hoover Dam for Cutting-Edge Pedagogical Purposes

By James Ristaino


James Ristaino is shown here helping users with the VR experience he helped

create along with a team of faculty and other student researchers.




My name is James Ristaino. I am a junior majoring in Animation & Game Arts here at the College of Visual and Performinf Arts at UMassD. For the past couple of years I have been a member of an interdisciplinary research team of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students on a virtual reality (VR) educational game, which we like to call VR “serious game.” This team, which is consisted of a variety of experts from science, arts, humanities, and computer science, focuses on creating an immersive VR environment for Hoover Dam ( Our immersive environment tells the story of the dam’s construction from the viewpoint of photographer Winthrop A. Davis, who moved to Las Vegas in the early 1930s to capture the dam’s construction process. A “serious” educational game, the project is focused on the history of the construction of what my group believes to be “one of the most iconic structures in the world.” We combine cutting edge-technologies with scholarship in the field of history to create what my group describes as “an interactive, 4-dimensional game that takes place within the landscape of the 1930s Black Canyon site where Hoover Dam was built.” The project is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is headed by lead researcher and UMassd Professor of English & Communication, Dr. Anthony Arrigo, as well as Professor Scott Ahrens from UMassD’s Art & Design, Dr. Shakhnoza Kayumova from UMassD’s STEM Education, and Dr. Michelle Turk from the Department of History at UNLV. There are also students in our team, including Matthew Cormier who is a Ph.D. Candidate in Mathematics, Mya Ramirez, who is an Undergraduate Student in Animation & Game Arts, and myself.


Work produced by James Ristaino for the NEH-funded, collaborative, and

interdisciplinary research project on the Hoover Dam.


I have spent my time on this team as a 3D artist. I was given historic images as reference and was asked to replicate them in 3D. This process consists of importing references into the workspace, selecting a basic shape to begin with(like a cube, cylinder, or sphere), and working simply for as long as possible. Meaning, working in low-detail, then adding high-detail later on. Once the model is complete, then it will need to be UV mapped, which means creating a surface mesh for the textures to be placed. The models are then brought into programs like Substance painter and materials are assigned to those UV maps to achieve the desired texture. An example of my work is the 1930’s Sixty Dozer, with 3 different texture options so that they don’t all look the same throughout the Canyon. I also worked on the Rope and Chair Hoisting system that the High-Scalers used during construction of the Dam, the Wrench that the workers used, and also the employment badge. I used a combination of materials on these models, like rust or metal, and photos to make the items look realistic, like the employment badge.


I have enjoyed my experience with the research team so far. I believe that this extracurricular activity has shaped my current career in the arts as well as possibly the future direction of my career in the field. I am grateful for this NEH-funded research opportunity! It is also wonderful to be guided by professors and researchers in learning environments outside the classroom context. I am particularly thankful to professors Arrigo, Ahrens, and Kayumova.


Research in Psychology

Self-Care Behaviors as a Mediator of Health Anxiety for Nurses during COVID-19 Pandemic

By Christopher McGuire


                      Chris McGuire at the Eastern Psychological 
                            Association’s Research Conference


The COVID-19 pandemic has lead to many adverse psychological outcomes, especially in healthcare workers. For example, nurses working with COVID patients report higher symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and insomnia (Li, 2021; Schierber-Scherr et al., 2021). Health anxiety, another negative outcome, is defined as the preoccupation or obsession with thinking an individual has a serious physiological disease when there are no apparent physical symptoms (Weck & Höfling, 2015). This can develop into a serious mental disorder that overtakes one’s thoughts and emotions if symptoms get out of control, thus interrupting their daily life. To mitigate such adverse outcomes, self-care behaviors are essential to maintain physiological health (Riegel, et al., 2009). In this study, differences in health anxiety levels will be measured in nurses who have worked with COVID-19 patients and nurses who have not, and self-care behaviors will be tested as a moderator of those two variables.



For four weeks in October and November, 2021, nurses were invited to participate in our study by taking online surveys promoted through social media and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Participate in Research Studies webpage. A total of 271 responses were recorded, but only 148 responses were used in the analysis due to missing data. Participants were asked demographic information, including number of years worked as a nurse, age, average number of hours worked per week, and whether or not they have worked directly with patients who had contracted COVID-19.


Health Anxiety: Participants were asked to complete the Health Anxiety Questionnaire (HAQ) (Lucock & Morley 1996) to measure their levels of health anxiety. The survey consists of 21 questions asking participants about their attitudes towards their own physical health, and health symptomologies. The items can be categorized into four subscales (health worry & preoccupation, fear of illness & death, reassurance seeking behavior, and interference with life) or scored as a full scale. The HAQ uses a 4-point Likert scale (scored 0-3) ranging from “not at all or rarely” to “most of the time” to measure how often the participants feel concern, anxiety, or stress about their own physical health. The average scores were used in the current analyses, with higher scores indicating higher health anxiety.

Self-care: A self-care measure was developed by the researchers for the study to assess  15 self-care activities, including sleep, exercise, diet, stress management, and body monitoring. Items on the self-care measure were loosely based off the Self-care of Heart Failure Index (SCHFI) (Riegel, et al., 2009) which asks a variety of self-care questions using various Likert scales. Higher scores indicate an increased frequency in engaging these behaviors.


Data were analyzed in two steps. The first step was to examine differences in health anxiety. Specifically, a t-test found that nurses who reported treating patients with COVID-19 had significantly higher health anxiety scores (M = 2.77, SD = 0.67) than nurses who did not (M = 2.39, SD = 0.50), t(147) = 3.04, p = .003). The second step was to examine if self-care behaviors moderated the relationship between treating patients with COVID-19 and health anxiety. We tested this using a hierarchical regression controlling for age, number of years working as a nurse, and education. The first step, which included the control variables, if they treated patients with COVID-19, and scores on the self-care scale, accounted for 21.7% of the variance, F(5, 142) = 7.88, p < .001. The second step, which included the interaction term of if they treated patients with COVID-19 and self-care, accounted for an additional 2.2% of the variance, ΔF(1, 141) = 4.07, p = .04. Overall, the model accounted for 23.9% of the variance in health anxiety, F(6, 141) = 7.83, p < .001. Follow-up analyses of the interaction found that the difference in health anxiety between nurses who treated patients with COVID-19 and those who did not decreased as self-care behaviors increased.


Working closely with patients with COVID-19 during a national pandemic is significantly related to increased levels of health anxiety in nurses. This finding emphasizes the vulnerability of nurses working with COVID patients to adverse psychological outcomes. Self-care behaviors may be an effective way to lower these levels of health anxiety. Self-care behaviors accounted for a significant amount of variance of health anxiety in nurses that worked with COVID patients. This suggests that engaging in healthy self-care acts can help reduce feelings of health anxiety in nurses working with COVID patients. Lastly, as self-care behaviors increased, the differences in health anxiety decreased between nurses who treated COVID patients and nurses who did not. This suggests self-care behaviors are essential to maintain lower health anxiety levels for all nurses, but that they might be particularly important for nurses who treat patients with COVID-19.

The current study emphasizes the need for nurses to engage in self-care behaviors, especially those working with patients with COVID-19. Limitations of this study include the use of self-report, that the sample is not representative (e.g., geographical area, sample was overwhelmingly White and female), and that it is possible that nurses who were more affected by the COVID-19 pandemic may have been more likely to respond. Future research is needed for more in-depth knowledge of the adverse effects of health anxiety on nurses working with COVID patients.

Presentation at the Eastern Psychological Association’s research conference: A Fulfilling Experience

Walking into the Eastern Psychological Association’s research conference, I was unsure what to expect as this was my first time ever at a conference. I was walking through Times Square to my hotel in Manhattan, a city I have never been before, wondering what kind of experience I would have. Outside, the typical hustle and bustle of New York City was going on in the streets, but on the inside, a solemn sharing of knowledge was taking place. It was a very unique sight, as students, professors, and researchers from around the US met in this somewhat chaotic city to share research, ask questions, and speak with like-minded people.

I had the pleasure of listening to some great speakers and speaking with dedicated students during the two full days of the conference before my own presentation. I particularly enjoyed walking around the poster presentations and seeing what other students were researching. I was truly amazed at the number of undergraduates who were attending their first conference, like myself. Listening to keynote speakers with decades of experience was also fascinating as these researchers are at the top of their field and show me what I can become with dedication and hard work. The highlight of my conference experience was presenting. I was a bit concerned while setting up my poster, but once I started speaking to the viewers, the nerves melted away and it truly felt like having a conversation rather than a “presentation.” Overall, my first conference was a memorable experience and something I will take with me the rest of my career. I learned a lot, was amazed by the environment and amount of knowledge, and was very proud to show my project I have been working on for over a year to viewers. I thank my mentor, Dr. Brian Ayotte, my committee members, Dr. Anna Shierberl Scherr and Dr. Marni Kellogg, the Office of Undergraduate Research, and my family for their support to make this experience happen.

Research in Fine Arts

Picturing the Defiance of Street Vendors Against the Rise of Industrialization and Corporatization in the Philippines

By Bhen Alan


Portrait of Bhen Alan at work in the Philippines

I am a Senior Art and Design Major with a Painting concentration in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at UMass Dartmouth. My passion for painting is not just for aesthetic reasons. I want to use art to give a voice to the voiceless. I also want to address current socio-political events. Last spring I was a recipient of a (2018) summer stipend from the Office of Undergraduate Research. The goal of the research was to create a body of work about the rising tension between different classes due to rapid corporatization and industrialization in the Philippines. This topic has become a politicized issue since I moved away from the Philippines. Until I was a teenager, I lived in the Philippines and then moved to Canada before settling in the United States. I feel fortunate, because immigration has given me the opportunity to skip the economic crisis that has affected my hometown. However, the culture of the people who make a living in the Philippines is something that I have always loved and respected.

I conducted my research in Tuguegarao City, located in the province of Cagayan. The region is a 12-hour-drive from Manila. This is the city where I was born and raised by my grandmother who is a vendor. Although, Tuguegarao City is not a big municipality in terms of geographical area, the rise of industrialization, corporatization, and globalization is affecting its economy. During the administration of the former mayor, Delfin Ting in 2011, he re-built the old public market in downtown Tuguegarao. He named it the “Mall of the Valley.” This establishment was meant to organize all of Tuguegarao City’s street vendors. It was meant to provide protection and to fix the problem of traffic congestion. Unfortunately, in order for the street vendors to have access to a retail space in the building they had to pay a monthly retail space, provide a business permit, and register at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for business taxes. However, the street vendors who sell seafood, meat, produce, flowers, and other goods are incapable of paying these high taxes. Moreover, they cannot afford to own a retail space. For these reasons, street vendors still gather on the sidewalks of the streets of Tuguegarao City. As a result, most retail spaces in the “Mall of the Valley” are now abandoned, and street congestion still remains a big issue because of this situation.


Street vendors flock beside the Mall of the Valley building


As of 2017, large mall operators have emerged throughout the city proper. SM Supermalls and Robinsons Malls, which are the largest malls in the Philippines and Southeast Asia have also entered Tuguegarao City’s territory. The rise of corporatization, industrialization, and globalization in the city is very important for the economy because the city is becoming the center for commerce, industry and service for the Cagayanos. Globalization and industrialization is largely a good thing since it lifts both actual and imaginary boundaries. It brings us closer to each other. However, globalization also makes it hard for a culture to maintain its identity. So, how does a culture maintain its identity while keeping up with the advancement of the modern world?

Robinsons Place Mall under construction for a 60,000 sq. m. floor area making the biggest mall in Tuguegarao City


That is the question I kept asking during the course of my painting research, which involved ethnographic work. The body of work I produced focuses on the city’s lively and energetic streets because of hardworking locals who work from dusk to dawn to bring liveliness and dynamism to the city. My paintings showcase the street vendors who sell their locally grown goods, thus competing with the rise of globalization and corporatization in Tuguegarao City. The local vendors are able to maintain our tradition and practices through local marketing while the city is able to keep up with the modern advancements. The duality our city is offering is very important for the economy. Despite this idyllic description, Tuguegarao faces many multi-dimensional challenges of poverty. During my first excursion to the public market, I unexpectedly met Elsid Natividad who is a Capitol officer who gives “arkabala” or a cash ticket that serves as a market fee to the street vendors. Since a new mayor, Jefferson Soriano, is now running the city, one of his policies is allowing vendors to sell their goods and products in certain areas. They do not need to have a business permit or apply to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, they just need to clean up their spaces at the end of the day and pay “arkabala” which costs 10 pesos or .20 cents (USD). This serves as their daily tax for using a 1×1 meter space. The tax goes to the government for public funds. If they exceed a 1×1 meter retail space, their “arkabala” will be doubled or tripled. Unfortunately, since large malls and big supermarkets are  competition, some street vendors are unable to pay the market fee because of lack of customers. Their last resort is to pack up their products and leave the space before the officer gives them a ticket. But some street vendors are also successful as the informal sector of the society.

Cash Ticket or Arkabala serves as the daily taxes of street vendors. It cost 10 Philippine pesos of .20 cents U.S. dollars


Products like garments, accessories, and even appliances may not sell well in the streets, but any kind of edible material is a big hit. Filipino customers bargain their prices to get a product cheaper, which is why they prefer to buy their meat, seafood, and produce outside supermarkets according to Alice Rioja, a seafood vendor in the street of Tuguegarao. She proudly claimed that customers buy more of her seafood products and reject the supermarkets because of their fixed and expensive prices. In their street space, which is one of the biggest spaces in downtown, customers can bargain the prices even lower and  get the fish almost for free. The process may not look as clean as the supermarket’s but the quality of the product is the same. Filipinos generally gravitate to a greater quantity that fits the budget rather than buying expensive products that is packaged cleanly and safely yet have a smaller quantity.

Bhen Alan during a work in progress of 4×5 feet painting

Alice Rioja posing in front of her seafood products in Downtown Tuguegarao

Unlike Alice Rioja who is a successful seafood street vendor, Filomena Iquin, an 84-year-old produce vendor, struggles to sell her vegetables. By her own account, she harvests some of the vegetables in her backyard and brings them to the market to sell. She sometimes buy vegetables from another vendor then sells them at a higher price. Unfortunately, she is not always able to sell everything because of her competitors, and then she is unable to pay the market fee. She said if she couldn’t pay the market fee the day I interviewed her, she will be temporarily banned for three days to sell her products.

How can we maintain our cultural identity | oil on canvas| 4 feet by 5 feet

I also met a lone bamboo shoot (rabung) vendor who refused to give her identity. She struggles to sells her product. The drama of her posture and the colorful background against the greyness of the drugstore building is the reason why I chose to paint the scene. A family of mango vendor accepted my request to take their pictures amidst the busiest street in the Philippines, Edsa. By their own account, they are not allowed to place their cart in the streets but they have to do it to earn a living. This is a good contrast between conformity versus rebellion. I love how they bring color to the crowded and dullness of the street even though they know the consequences if they get raided.

Left image: Drugstore at Del Rosario Street. Right image: Fresh Harvest | oil on canvas | 3feet by 4 feet


Industrialization, globalization and modernization may be happening around the city but these street vendors bring visual vibrancy and maintain the cultural practice that the Filipino people has been practicing. The flow of traffic might be congested under the brisk bare light of Tuguegarao, but people are getting used to it. The government is still fixing the traffic problem as vendors are taking over some parts of the streets, but at least there is now a law that protects these vendors. Street Vending is legalized under the Executive Order 452 as part of the Social Reform Agenda of Government.

Three Umbrellas | oil on canvas | 2 feet by 3 feet

A cultural forum was held during my stay in the Philippines. It was a whole day program held in Tuguegarao City to talk about the preservation of the culture of Ybanag (people of Tuguegarao) while modernization is taking over. I was invited as a guest speaker to talk about how my paintings maintain the culture of Ybanags, how it touches industrialization, and how it promotes the Filipino culture in the United States. Other guest speakers talked about the roles of indigenous people, the significance of local cultural heritage, issues and concerns about tangible and intangible heritage, and promotion of local heritage. All the themes were very relevant to my research. The event gave me an opportunity to dig deeper in my culture. Sadly, my culture, Ybanag and Itawes, is slowly vanishing because of rapid industrialization. The cultural forum did not only give me resources to finish my research, but it also allowed me to use it as a platform to present my paintings and promote my heritage.

Left image: coordinators, guest speakers, teacher of Linao National High School after the cultural forum. Right image: Bhen Alan during his art talk about promoting culture through visual arts


My project was divided into two parts: the first part was to accomplish my research about the rising tension between classes due to industrialization, and the second was to visit local schools to introduce the exciting possibilities of contemporary arts. I chose schools that lack resources necessary to teach a hands-on based studio project. Also, because of poverty, most students do not have opportunities to see an art show or to listen to a local artist. A lot of students are really talented in art, they have potential, but being an artist in the province is not considered a serious profession.

Students of Linao National High School during their 2-day art workshop


Art offered me a platform to give students the experience and information about our cultural heritage. The Philippines is very rich in visual arts but not everyone can access it. People living in the barrio do not have a chance to experience visual arts or even use any artistic materials because of poverty. Food is prioritized over expensive art supplies. Given this, I provided all the materials needed – paints, brushes and hand stretched canvas – so that students would not spend any of their allowances. The first school that I visited was at Linao National High School in Tuguegarao City; it was my 2009 Alma Matter. Going back to conduct a workshop is my way of giving back to the school and the community. A 2-day workshop was held to grade 12 TVL (technical-vocational-livelihood) students. I chose this group because they specialize in hands-on based activities.  It was an all-day workshop from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. During the first half of day one, a power point presentation about my life abroad, my purpose on going back to the Philippines, being a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a slide-show of my portfolio and examples of contemporary artworks and artist were presented. Mr. Alejo Cambri, Art and Design Teacher, divided the class into 4 groups since there were 40 students. Each group had their own painting category to create: still life, plein air, silhouette painting, and illustration focusing on tropical designs about localization. The students started gathering their ideas, photographing, sketching and started painting on the second half of day one. The morning of the second day was intense because we only had the half day to finish the works. We even made it more intense when we decided to make it a competition to motivate students to take the workshop more seriously. I saw how they were collaborating to mix colors, they were helping each other to render shapes and forms and to finish their projects. It was challenging for them because it was their first time using acrylic paint on a canvas. It was also their first time to collaborate. I had to roam around the room and help each one with how to apply paints; some students have their own techniques and styles, but others did not know the proper use of the materials. It was challenging but rewarding when we finished the projects. A fun program was made as we concluded the workshop. I provided snacks to the kids and we set up the room as if it was a gallery. We invited teachers to judge the paintings, the principal and the head teacher were also present, and other students were also invited to observe the program and they interviewed me for their school paper. My objective for the closing program was to teach students how to critic: how to present their artworks and critic their peers in basic yet artistic and an academic way. Each group had a representative to present their artworks as the judges and other students gave their insights and opinions. I also displayed my paintings beside the students’ outputs. I had the chance to present my research and answer a few questions about it. To close the program, a certificate of participation was given to all participants, a certificate of recognition and a print of my artworks were given to the winners, and a certificate of appreciation was given to Mr. Alejo Cambri and to all judges. Their final paintings went on display throughout the campus to serve as public art.


Plein Air group and Still-Life group with their final paintings

Tropical Illustration group and Silhouette group with their final paintings


The second school that I visited is Cagayan National High School in Tuguegarao City. There were 61 art and design students who participated. Unfortunately, I ran out of funds to provide materials but the art and design department helped me. We created a simplified self-portrait using black and white acrylic paint. I was inspired by my design class projects and decided to pass the knowledge onto the students. My objective in this workshop was to teach them how to control their use of shading and gradation. Also I aimed to introduce portraiture on a simplified form where details aren’t the important part of the portrait but the general shape and plane are what  makes a portrait sophisticated. Also to show them a different approach to teaching art and to reciprocate our knowledge with each other. A certificate of appreciation was given to me by the department during the closing program.

Cagayan National High School Students during their art workshop working on a simplified self-portrait


Subsequently, I traveled a 12-hour-bus ride from Tuguegarao City to Manila, then a 2-hour-plane ride from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol where the third school that I visited is located. Another 4-hour-bus ride from Tagbilaran to Talibon City was needed to reach the school San Isidro Elementary School. My colleagues and I decided to visit this school because of their lack of art classes and poverty. They were very hospitable despite their poverty. We coordinated with Ms. Frozen Abedejos, a grade 4 teacher to accomplish the workshop. She gathered 20 students from kindergarten to grade 6 to participate in the program. Later on, most of the population of the school joined us to experience our watercolor lesson. I decided to teach watercolor to the students because they did not know what the material was; they had not touched a watercolor set before. My objective for this workshop was to introduce the possibilities of the medium and let students experience the watercolor itself. There weren’t any rules that they needed to follow, I just showed a few techniques and let them enjoy the workshop. Later, I learned that the schools wanted to join an art contest. So I taught the competitors the proper use of watercolor; the techniques and styles that can be used to prepare the students for the competition were employed. Because of poverty, an outreach program was also made for the kids. Since we do not have enough fund to provide school supplies, we solicited Procter and Gamble employees in Manila. We bought papers, notebooks and pencils to give to the students. They thought they had to pay for these materials, but when their teacher explained that it was a donation, they were all excited and grateful.

Students of San Isidro Elementary School during their watercolor workshop


During the process of my research, I was invited for a solo art exhibition that took place in conjunction with the celebration of Aggao Nac Cagayan, the annual province’s festival. Since there are no galleries in the Tuguegarao City, it was held in a mall; at SM Tuguegarao Downtown. It was ironic how my paintings dealt with the rise of the corporatization, and then they were exhibited at one of the largest malls in the Philippines. However, the exhibition gave me the opportunity to display and talk about my artworks to a larger audience – to show the millennial audiences how this culture is battling for its sense of identity. The show was exhibited at the center of the mall so that everyone would see it. It was displayed for a day during the festival. I used this pop-up exhibition as a platform to interact with the people and communicate with them about the issues that I am concerned about. Most people told me that industrialization and corporatization is a good thing for the city because it provides a lot of resources for the people. They are able to use transportation that is easy to access like Uber and Grab and there are also increasing business profits that are happening in the city. I also asked people how to maintain our culture since industrialization and corporatization is rising to ensure our values, practices, heritage and sense of continuity is preserved. Most answers that I received were related to the theme of keeping customs alive and helping organizational methods that protect the culture. It was heartwarming when most people appreciated the visual presentation of the street vendors in my paintings because it is a valuable asset for the city.

Bhen Alan’s Artworks in the center of the SM mall in during a pop up exhibition


My research allowed me to explore a different style of painting. Before this research I used to paint only photo-realist works. I romanticized overly detailed paintings as I meticulously rendered every single micro detail of a subject. The paintings that produced for my research is a huge leap from photo-realism. I allowed myself to be free, loose and painterly. I show my underlying structures, my brush strokes are visible and uncontrolled. I even moved my body as I painted on a large sized canvas. These paintings are very spontaneous. This research improved my skills as an artist as well as a researcher. I am grateful to the OUR and to my advisor, Professor Suzanne Schireson, for helping me throughout the course of this research.


To learn more about my work, click on the following images to see footage made during my OUR funded fieldwork in the Philippines:


Research in History

To Counterfeit is Death: Exploring Benjamin Franklin’s Methods

By Daniel W. Everton


Portrait of Dan Everton, historian and artist

My OUR project focused on Benjamin Franklin and the methods he helped develop in the creation of anti-counterfeit measures as he and his colleagues were commissioned for printing paper money. In 2012, the Delaware County Institute of Science discovered in its collections a set of metal blocks that appeared to be used for printing currency. They approached Jessica Linker, who was working on her dissertation at the time and a long-time fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia, who has been studying them since. Upon seeing the blocks, I immediately thought of 3D printing a copy. While I was initially going to venture off by myself to attempt to 3D print the blocks, I was approached by Jessica Linker and readily pulled into her team of undergrads to work on their Digital Scholarship Summer Fellows project from Bryn Mawr College. The Fellows are Umma Tanjuma Haque, Shuang Li, Linda Zhu, and Eleftheria Anagnostou. My focus was to learn photogrammetry from the students, assist in the project, as well as document the process through photography and film.


Figure 1 – Photo of the sage leaf block, Photo by Daniel W. Everton



What is photogrammetry? Specifically, it is the ability to take measurements from series of photographs. These measurements allow one to measure a surface. A non-profit named Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) trained individuals at Bryn Mawr College, in which they trained the Digital Scholarship undergraduate students how to do the process. The sage leaf block, pictured above, has a very shallow or “low” relief. The image on top of the leaves is hard to see. This proved to be the hardest thing to photogrammetry since the photographs could not provide the software enough surface points. It wasn’t until Matthew Jameson, PhD candidate in Classical Archaeology, suggested putting the leaf block at a tilted angle with the assistance of an ingenious piece of Styrofoam. After that, our team was able to successfully capture the surface points. While there were two other blocks with the sage leaf block, the sage leaf block is fundamentally the one I am most interested in as it relates to my argument which I will explain later.

Figure 2 – The sage leaf block positioned on a Styrofoam wedge, within a lightbox. Photo by Daniel W. Everton


The software we used to compile all our images and put them on the XYZ planes is Agisoft. Within Agisoft and the work between all the students, we were able to capture up over 120,000 points within 184 pictures. Pictured below shows how the pictures are “situated” in space and reflected onto the anchor which is the ball. The Fellows taught me how to use Agisoft, take the circuits of photos, and how to follow the workflow.


Figure 3 – Screenshot of Agisoft with Leaf Block photos, totaling 184 photos and 126,586 points. Screenshot taken by Digital Scholarship Students and Jessica Linker


The result of all these, leads into a stunning 3D rendering of the blocks with a successful mesh that shows the details of the sage leaves on the block.

Figure 4 – Mesh showing the detail captured through the rendering. Screenshot taken by Digital Scholarship Fellows and Jessica Linker.


Figure 5 – Final 3D render of the sage leaf block. Screenshot taken by Digital Scholarship Fellows and Jessica Linker.



As part of Bryn Mawr College Digital Scholarship Fellowship, Jessica Linker developed a project with the Library Company of Philadelphia where they would create a digital exhibit about the blocks. Using the Unity software, the rendering made in Agisoft can be put into a digital “landscape” where individuals can visit the website and explore the blocks. The mesh for the blocks will eventually be open sourced, and a 3D print of it will be attempted later.


My Argument/Thesis

While I am a Historian, I am also an artist. I fell into printmaking and printing, which are understood currently as two separate disciplines but seem to have been very enmeshed during the time of colonial printing. I argue that Benjamin Franklin and his team used printmaking methods and other very innovative technologies that I feel should classify Benjamin Franklin as an artist. I think his prints should be taken into consideration amongst fine artists, and his subsequent bills printed by himself and those within his printing company to be examples of art. To make his bills anti-counterfeit, Franklin had to innovate on current technologies and create new ones.  The colonial bills I encountered at the Library Company have utilized monotype printing, intaglio plate processes, and of course, the nature-leaf print blocks that were custom made. I hope to explore the process further in the fall, where I try to recreate the theorized methods of how the leaf blocks were made to make my own print editions.

My documentation of the project will be within a “vlogumentary”, utilizing a YouTube and traditional documentary style methodology to discuss what I learned, some history about colonial printing, and the process of photogrammetry. I hope to release it in late Summer.


Figure 4 – Two Dollar Bill for Massachusetts-Bay, March 1780, Printed by Hall and Sellers for a “Peter Boyer”. The bill uses intaglio, monotype printmaking, unique registration, and a nature/leaf print block.



A special thanks to Bryn Mawr College and their Digital Scholarship team on campus, Jessica Linker, Umma Tanjuma Haque, Shuang Li, Linda Zhu, Eleftheria Anagnostou, Matthew Jameson, Anne McShane and Jim Green and other staff at the Library Company of Philadelphia, Dr. Amy Shapiro of UMass Dartmouth, Professor Len Travers of UMass Dartmouth and Dr. Paula Rioux for igniting my love of public history again, Professor Elena Peteva for answering all my weird questions about printmaking and teaching me printmaking, and to UMass Dartmouth’s OUR Grant program and the review committee for the opportunity and their work and allowing me to do this.

Research in Bioengineering

An Investigation into the Effects of Inverted Growing on Development and Strength of Basil

By Megan Scribner

My OUR research project was entitled ‘An Investigation into the Effects of Inverted Growing on Development and Strength of Basil’. The objective of the research is to determine if growing basil upside down influences the plant’s development and the mechanical strength of the stems. The initial plan to grow basil plants from seeds was modified for the sake of time; instead, adult plants were purchased and used for experimentation.

Portrait of Megan Scribner

Fifteen mature basil plants were purchased, numbered, and transplanted into larger pots. Plants 1-7 were planted traditionally, upright (displayed in Figure 1a), and plants 8-15 were planted in pots fashioned so that the plant would hang upside down (displayed in Figure 1b). Stalks that had a second set of true leaves, and sufficient space between the pairs to make a cut, were pruned.

Figure 1a (left): The upright basil plants
Figure 1b (right): Some of the upside down basil plants on a garment rack


After four weeks of growth, it was observed that stems of upright plants that had been pruned on Day 1 had established pairs of offshoot stems with two or three sets of leaves. Stems of upside-down plants that had been pruned on Day 1 had established pairs of offshoot stems with only one or two sets of leaves. This suggests that the upright plants experienced increased growth compared to the upside-down plants. Figures 2 and 3 display this growth difference.

Figure 2: Pruned stem of plant 6 (upright) with 3 sets of new leaves. The black circle on the left highlights the location of the pruning cut. The red circle highlights where the new offshoot stems and leaves grew from the main stem. The sets of leaves are numbered on the right.


Figure 3: Two pruned stems from plant 11 (upside-down), each with 2 pairs of new leaves.


Several obstacles were encountered in trying to maintain healthy plants. Challenges included: growing basil during the late winter/early spring months (which is not basil’s typical growing season for this region), securing an indoor location that met the environmental needs of basil, and the presence of insects.

Due to the complications with maintaining consistently healthy plants, no formal measurements with the experimental plants have been taken at this time, but there have been several practice measurements including extracting chlorophyll and measuring the wavelengths with a spectrophotometer, staining stem cross sections with toluidine blue and observing the plant vasculature under a microscope, and experimenting with different grip set ups for tensile testing. Images of the practice stained samples have been included below in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Two basil stem cross sections stained with toluidine blue and examined under a microscope



Chlorophyll wavelength measurements were taken using a spectrophotometer. I am currently reviewing published literature for additional information about the effect of a plant’s health on its chlorophyll production.

Apart from the plants being used for experimentation, an additional basil plant was purchased in order to conduct practice tensile tests and find the most effective grip set up for successful testing. Due to the available pieces of testing apparatus not having fixtures suitable for botanical samples, there were no successful practice tensile tests. In the majority of the practice tests, the stem sample slipped through the grips. Examples of this are shown in Figures 5 and 6. In Figure 5, the stem slips from the start of testing. In Figure 6, the stem starts to deform as desired, but the sample begins to slip in the middle of testing. A successful tensile testing graph would look more like Figure 7. This graph was the result of one of the practice tests; however, the sample broke right at the bottom grip (displayed in Figure 8) which is not desirable. The sample should break more towards the center of the gage length. Breaking at the grips occurs due to improper stress concentrations through the sample; the grips are exerting too much force on the sample and weakening it at the grip points. Various materials such as sand paper and rubber were used to try to create more friction between the sample and the grips without applying too much force but these attempts were not successful.

Figure 5: Load vs extension graph of a stem tensile testing sample that slips throughout testing


Figure 6: Load vs extension graph of a stem tensile testing sample that starts to deform and then begins to slip around 2mm


Figure 7: Load vs extension graph of a stem tensile testing sample. The sample deforms until breaks at about 1.9 mm


Figure 8: A stem tensile test sample that broke at the bottom grip


An alternative idea for tensile testing has been investigated but not yet tested. It involves wrapping the ends of the stem sample around hooks instead of compressing the ends in grips. This is a method commonly used for testing the tensile strength of string samples. This set up does not have all the necessary components, but the available components have been gathered as seen in Figure 9. There may be some need for manufacturing in order to complete the testing set up. This will be explored further during the fall 2018 semester.

Figure 9: Top hook for future tensile tests. A bottom hook needs to be properly fashioned for this testing set up



The current plans for the continuation of this project consist of obtaining and maintaining a new set of plants over the summer months in order to establish a healthier set of samples. Measurements from this healthier set of plants will be collected in the fall 2018 semester.
The research grant provided to me by the Office of Undergraduate Research allowed me to obtain many necessary materials including the plants and the various materials needed to care for them. While no conclusive measurements have been collected, these funds and materials provided me the opportunity to conduct valuable troubleshooting for this project. I would not have been able to pursue researching this unique application of mechanical engineering without the support of the grant. I would like to acknowledge my advisor Dr. Tracie Ferreira for her support and guidance with this project.

Research in Phychology

The Effect of Race-Related Words on Categorical Perception of Race

By Anna Sullivan


Categorical perception (CP) refers to the psychological phenomenon that occurs when we perceive a stimulus existing along a continuum as a set of discrete categories (for a review, see Fugate, 2013). One way to conceptualize CP is to think of a rainbow and the colors it produces. While we see a range of different colors, the physical composition of the rainbow is in fact a continuous range of visible wavelengths of light (Goldstone & Hendrickson, 2009). Due to the fact that we are unable perceive these wavelengths as they are, we counteract this by forming discrete categories in order to divide such objects, or in this case colors, occurring on a spectrum. From there, we can then differentiate the colors we see based on how we perceive their differences (e.g. Bornsten, Kessen, & Weiskopf, 1976). When this happens, the differences of colors in separate categories become more prominent while the differences of colors in the same category are less pronounced (Goldstone & Hendrickson, 2009).


Portrait of Anna Sullivan

Early psychological empirical research studied how speech sounds were perceived categorically (Liberman, Harris, Hoffman, & Griffith, 1957). Due to advancing technology and computer software, work on CP has also been extended to the human face. CP has been found to be present in the perception of facial expressions (Etcoff & Magee, 1992), familiar facial identities (Beale & Keil, 1995), gender information (Campanella, Chrysochoos, & Bruyer, 2001), and emotion (Fugate, Gouzoules, & Barrett, 2010). CP has also been studied in terms of race. For example, Levin and Angelone (2002) found that similar to gender, CP was stronger for different race facial morphs than for facial morphs of the same racial group.

In addition, categorical perception of social constructs, including emotion and race, are affected by a perceiver’s conceptual knowledge, including his/her language (see Barrett, 2006; Fugate, 2013). Specifically, when the meaning of a word is activated, people show more willingness to accept non-target emotional stimuli as a category member (Fugate, Gendron, Nakashima, & Barrett, 2017). Said another way, they are less “accurate” at matching images because their categories for that item have increased to include more instances. In this manner, people are becoming more “open-minded” and flexible with what constitutes a category member.  Directly related to the current project, Tskhay & Rule (2015) showed participants perceived racially ambiguous faces as belonging to different categories when they are preceded with either the words “Black” or “White”. Therefore, semantic information (i.e. top-down information) can interact with the stimulus characteristics (i.e. bottom-up information) to create differentiated judgments.

Poster of Anna Sullivan’s research project


The research question for this project was: how do different race-related words affect the categorical perception of race? This study sought to further expand what is known of CP of race as it is affected by race-related words. To date, no research has directly studied the categorical perception of race and language (for a review, see Timeo, Farroni, & Maass, 2017). This type of research is important because it can provide more knowledge of how race-related words (and language more broadly) can affect our perceptions of important social categories, such as race.

The objectives of this project were to examine the ways in which certain race-related words affect an individual’s processing in categorizing racially ambiguous faces. This study examined how these cognitive processes are influenced by top-down information, such as language, and work to establish an individual’s perception of race within individuals. This work can lead to a better understanding of how people “see” race in the world and how the words used to describe race can shift perception and ultimately change biases. We are all affected by external sources of information, and therefore need to continue to explore the ways in which they affect our categorization of others into social and racial groups.

Categorical perception was tested through a typical two-stage paradigm (reviewed by Fugate, 2013). The first paradigm, classification (or identification), defined a participant’s categorical boundary (i.e. the point at which an individual distinguishes an image as either one race or another). The second paradigm, discrimination, was used to test for the hallmark of CP which is an increase in the ability to discriminate between pictures previously assigned to different categories compared with pictures previously assigned to the same category, even though the physical difference between the pictures is always held constant.

Detail from Anna Sullivan’s study


During the classification stage of this research, participants were presented with an array of racially ambiguous face stimuli that have been created using computer software (FantaMorph). These faces were created from combining two photos of different race individuals and creating systematic blends (known as morphs) which depict iterations between the two pictures Participants were then be asked to identify each stimulus as belonging to one of two categories, anchored by the picture endpoints or race-related words in different trials. We used several different race-related words to see whether a person’s threshold changes when evoking different race-related words and from when no words are evoked (match to picture condition).

During the discrimination stage of this research, participants were presented with two sequential morphs, which either span the threshold (established in part 1) or do not span the threshold (but constitute the same structural difference between the faces). The former trials were the “between-category” trials. Participants’ increased accuracy to discriminate better the “between-category” trials from the within-category is the hallmark of CP.   We predicted that when participants match to race-related words (compared to pictured endpoints), they will show increased thresholds (steeper category transitions). Moreover, the steeper transitions translated into enhanced CP, as demonstrated by participants having increased accuracy to the “between-category” pairs compared to the “within-category” pairs.


Although similar types of studies and experiments have been performed, this project is unique in several key ways. First, no one has performed the full CP task (both identification and discrimination) on racial morphs. Second, the facial morphs are unique and were created specifically for this study from professional face sets. Third, no one has varied how (that is to what endpoint) participants match their choices. Words are almost always used as anchors. However, in a related CP study of emotion in the lab, Dr. Fugate and her students showed that matching to pictured endpoints (rather than words) increased the transition between categories but did not change CP. In addition, we will vary the type of race-related words (e.g. “African American” and “Black” and “not White” vs. “European American” and “White” vs. “Not Black”) to see if specific identifiers affect race perception differently.

Results from the identification portion of this research showed that language produces significant effects on race perception. Data analysis is still underway for the discrimination task, as well as the survey participants completed. This project was presented at both the UMass Amherst Undergraduate Research Conference and the PSI CHI Research Conference. It was also awarded second place at the 2018 OUR Undergraduate 3 Minute Thesis competition. I am grateful to my advisor Dr. Jennifer Fugate for her guidance and to the OUR for the financial support needed for this research.



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