Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Graduate School News and Events


Madeleine Saraceni (English, Medieval Studies) won the Charity Cannon Willard Scholarship, which enabled her to present a paper at the Eighth International Christine de Pizan Colloquium, held at the Universite Adam Mickiewicz in Poznan, Poland, in July. The conference focused on the late-medieval poet, Christine de Pizan (1364-1431), author of Le Livre de la Cité des Dames and some 40 other works. She is widely considered to have been Europe’s first female professional writer.

Madeleine’s paper, “Moy, leur servante: Christine de Pizan’s Iconography of Authority and the Authority of Passivity in Le Livre des Trois Vertus,” explored the poet’s “personal iconography in both text and image,” she explains. “While Christine typically portrays herself in the seat of traditionally masculine authority – at her desk, in her study surrounded by books – in the Livre des Trois Vertus (the sequel to the Cité des Dames), she takes on a pose of physical weakness and intellectual exhaustion. I argue that Christine’s abject posture performs a paradoxically legitimizing function by associating her with a posture typically used to depict prophets or seers, such as Nebuchadnezzar, thus casting her as a vehicle of divine intervention and mouthpiece of heavenly wisdom.” Madeleine’s essay suggests Christine’s willingness to use “differently gendered roles to lend authority to herself and her works, recognizing the authority that can come from traditionally feminine characteristics such as frailty and weakness.”

Madeleine’s dissertation, provisionally titled “Audience, Intercessor, Surrogate: The Role of Woman in the Conceptualization of Vernacular Authorship in the Middle Ages” is advised by Jessica Brantley, Ardis Butterfield, and Alastair Minnis. The project will argue that male authors used women as “a powerful surrogate that captured both their perceived marginality from literary tradition and authority and the paradoxical empowerment that might come from that marginal position.”

She earned her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College.


An article by Erinn Staley (Religious Studies) was published in the July 2012 issue of the scholarly journal Modern Theology. Titled “Intellectual Disability and Mystical Unknowing: Contemporary Insights from Medieval Sources,” the essay contributes to an emerging body of literature on theology and disability by offering a reading of historical texts in light of contemporary disability theory. “People who experience cognitive impairments often encounter discrimination in social spaces, including churches,” Erinn says. “Christian theology only recently has begun to address the topic of intellectual disability and to promote the well-being of disabled people.” Her article evaluates medieval resources, in particular, the Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, by thirteenth century Franciscan philosopher Bonaventure. Erinn argues that Bonaventure’s text provides a model for “imagining intellectually disabled and nondisabled people sharing the journey into God.” She also argues that the writings of early fourteenth centry German mystic Meister Eckhart present a “view of intellect as the uncreated element in the soul that includes people who are intellectually disabled among those who may be united with God.”

The essay relates to themes that will appear in her dissertation, tentatively titled “Many Minds, One Body: Intellectual Disability, Humanity, and the Church.” Erinn’s advisor is Kathryn Tanner.

She earned her BA from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2002 and a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School in 2007.


Jenna Sullivan (Engineering & Applied Sciences), Jill Goldstein (MCDB), and post-doctoral fellow Sorin Fedeles (PhD 2010, Genetics) have won three of the ten awards given by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) at the Biotechnology Industry Organization Conference in June. Their participation was made possible through the Career Network for Science PhDs at Yale (CNSPY).

Jenna was recognized for her work in Evan Morris’s lab. Using positron emission tomography (PET), she studies images of the brain for dopamine released as a result of smoking. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter tied to reward and addiction. “Our lab has developed advanced analysis methods to estimate, from PET data, how dopamine levels change when a person takes a drug or completes a task which causes dopamine release,” she explains. “We’re using these advanced analysis methods along with a novel experimental design (our subjects smoke a cigarette in the PET scanner while they’re being scanned) to study smoking. We hope this will help us better understand nicotine addiction, and we’d ultimately like to use these methods to determine why some smoking cessation treatments work better than others.” This project is part of her dissertation, tentatively titled "Development of PET Methods for Imaging Addiction." Jenna earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Connecticut.

Jill studies how stem cells become activated to maintain adult tissues, with a primary focus on skin and hair. “Mammalian skin is an excellent model to study stem cell biology, because the epidermis and its appendages are in a constant state of regeneration, which is actively sustained by tissue stem cells,” explains her advisor Valerie Horsley.

The immunosuppressant drug Cyclosporine is known to stimulate hair growth in patients who take the drug to prevent organ rejection following transplants. Jill’s project seeks to identify which genes are altered by Cyclosporine treatment to induce hair growth. After treating mice with the drug or a control substance, she isolates and purifies the hair follicle stem cells using a technique called fluorescence activated cell sorting. She was then able to isolate “the messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules, which serve as a readout for which genes are turned on in the cells.” Using a microarray, she was able to scan and identify the levels of mRNA molecules in the two samples and “analyze how the levels of all expressed genes were changed between Cyclosporine and control-treated hair follicle stem cells. I am now in the process of confirming these findings and testing if any of these differentially regulated genes play a functional role in regulating hair growth. We hypothesize that Cyclosporine treatment either turns on genes required for hair growth, turns off genes that inhibit hair growth, or a combination of the two.” Jill graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a degree in biochemistry and German studies.

Sorin was recognized for his work in Stefan Somlo’s lab in the Nephrology Department at Yale, where he studies the genetic and molecular interrelationship between the Ire1-Xbp1 branch of the unfolded protein response (UPR, a cellular “housekeeping mechanism” activated when unfolded proteins accumulate in the endoplasmic reticulum) and cyst formation in Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD) and Liver Disease (ADPLD). ADPKD affects between one in 400 and one in 1000 live births in all ethnic populations worldwide and is the most common single gene disorder that can lead to premature death due to renal insufficiency and associated complications. Sorin’s studies will help achieve a molecular and genetic understanding of the connection between UPR and ADPKD-based cyst formation and provide ways of converting that understanding into strategies for effective therapy. He is also studying the impact of novel classes of pharmacological agents on the progression of ADPKD.

Sorin grew up in Romania and came to the U.S. to study biochemistry and genetics at Hampshire College. He earned his Ph.D. in genetics in 2010 in Dr. Stefan Somlo’s lab (Nephrology), where he continues his research.


Madeleine Saraceni,
Erinn Staley, Jenna Sullivan, Jill Goldstein, Sorin Fedeles