Lisa Ubelaker Andrade (History) has won an ACLS Dissertation Completion Award to work on “Americas Mapped,” advised by Gilbert Joseph. In 1940, the United States’ Good Neighbor Policy towards Latin America proposed that the Americas were sovereign neighbor nations that “must be united against European war,” she says. To disseminate this idea, the United States created a mass-media initiative that included maps, radio programs, and magazines that became popular consumer products in South America. Lisa investigates how the concept of a united continent of the Americas expanded, specifically in Ecuador and Argentina, showing “how different states sought to alter popular conceptions of global geography in the twentieth century and how the diplomatic idea of 'the Americas' was created, contested, and altered as a part of local history.”
Mushegh Asatryan (Religious Studies) was awarded the Graduate Student Paper Prize by the Middle East Medievalists Association for his essay “Bankers and Politics: Eighth Century Kufan Moneychangers and Their Role in the Shi`a Community,” which he presented at the Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Mushegh is the first Yale student to win this prize since it was established in 1995. In the paper, he explores the role of the network of money-changers in the Shiite Muslim community of the Iraqi town of Kufa in the eighth century. “I argue that they were involved in much more than financial transactions,” he says. “I have discovered evidence suggesting that they were the agents of two of the Shiite Imams, operating on their behalf and using their financial power to regulate inner-Shiite affairs." His findings are based on Arabic historical chronicles, biographical dictionaries, and collections of hadith (short narrative accounts on religious and secular topics).
Mushegh is working on a dissertation advised by Gerhard Bowering and titled "Heresy and Rationalism in Early Islam: the Origins and Evolution of the Mufaddal-tradition." In it, he examines two little-known trends in Shiite thought in the ninth and tenth centuries: the opposition between those who believed in the divinity of the Shiite Imams and those who believed them to be merely human; and the emergence of rational theological thinking in Shiite thought. He received his undergraduate degree from Yerevan State University in Armenia.
Jenny Baker (Chemistry) has published both sections of her dissertation, "Unusual Riboswitches that Exhibit Allosteric Ribozyme Control and that Respond to Fluoride," in the journal Science. The first section was published in 2010 and the second in 2012. Working in Ron Breaker's lab, she studies the roles that RNA plays in nature. “A riboswitch is a type of RNA that controls whether a specific protein is ultimately created from the DNA that codes for it,” she explains. “Riboswitches do so by interacting with molecules or ions, their binding partners, which lead to an increase or decrease in protein expression.” Her research addresses two classes of riboswitches. The binding partner of the second class of riboswitches she studied was discovered to be the fluoride ion, commonly used in dental hygiene products for its antibacterial properties and ability to strengthen enamel. Fluoride riboswitches are only the second class in over twenty known classes that have been found in more than one domain of life, namely, bacteria and archaea – an unusual form of microbe that can live in extremely hot or salty environments, as well as under more common conditions.
Eric Weiskott (English) has had six articles accepted for publication in prestigious critical journals, including Modern Philology, Notes & Queries, and English Studies. His essay “Chaucer the Forester and Chaucer’s Foresters,” forthcoming in The Chaucer Review, argues that the devil/yeoman character in the “Friar’s Tale” from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a forester and then reads Chaucer's life and poetry in the context of medieval English forest law. His paper “Making Beowulf Scream: Exclamation and the Punctuation of Old English Poetry” in The Journal of English and Germanic Philology (2012) investigates the history of the exclamation point, particularly in editions of Beowulf. Eric contends that its use “has been erratic and its effect anachronistic, and calls for a reevaluation of editorial punctuation.” Three of Eric’s original poems, “the fifty thousand golden statues,” “The Mathematician Composes an Equation While Strolling Home in a Thunderstorm,” and “In the Early Days of Lexicography,” appeared in the inaugural issue of Paper Nautilus (2011). His dissertation, “The Durable Alliterative Tradition,” is advised by Roberta Frank (chair), Alastair Minnis, and Ian Cornelius. In it, Eric discusses the longest-lived poetic tradition in English, which flourished from ca. 650-1550 and includes Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. “The dissertation argues that the tradition is whole and continuous, and that its defining feature is a fascination with the distant past,” he says.