Alissa’s paper, “Legal Heterogeneity in Ptolemaic Egypt,” is part of her dissertation, advised by Joseph Manning. In the essay, she explores the variety of courts and bodies of law available to litigants under the Ptolemies, a dynastic family that ruled Egypt from 323 BCE to 30 CE — from the death of Alexander the Great to the death of Cleopatra.
“Ptolemaic Egypt is exceptional for the wealth of documentary material that survives, primarily in the form of papyri,” she says. “Reconstruction and analysis of the Ptolemaic legal system therefore has the potential to provide an important case study for legal historians and for historians of the Graeco-Roman world more generally.”
Alissa earned her undergraduate degree from Columbia University in Classical Studies and her JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She plans to have a career in academia that combines her interests in history and law.
François will present a paper that examines the “stipulation clause” in papyri that predate 212 CE. His sources are a bill of divorce between two provincials of the Middle Euphrates region, a marriage contract from Egypt, and three other documents from the archives of a Jewish widow, Babatha, who lived at the beginning of the 2nd century CE in the Roman province of Arabia, part of modern-day Jordan. Written in ancient Greek, these documents show elements of the law of Roman citizens, the ius civile, which was adopted by non-Roman citizens. They provide striking examples of the legal and cultural interactions among different cultures in the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.
François graduated from Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, with a major in history and earned a master’s degree in ancient history from Paris Panthéon Sorbonne University before coming to Yale last fall.
Andy will present research demonstrating that bilingual officials were more prevalent in the Ptolemaic bureaucracy than previously thought. By comparing the vocabulary of some texts in an archive of Demotic trial documents from the ancient Egyptian city of Asiut to Greek legal texts of the same period, he shows that there were a number of functional equivalences. Demotic was a version of the ancient Egyptian language used at the time of the Ptolemies with a writing style distinct from hieroglyphic and hieratic script.
“Traditional, prima facie stances on the Ptolemaic bureaucracy have long considered the two systems as disparate entities, but mediation between the two must have existed,” he says. “These mediators, who operated between the Greek and Egyptian spheres, functioned to form the Ptolemaic legal system over time.” His paper grew out of a working group in Demotic organized by Manning in conjunction with the NELC department.
Andy is finishing his first year at Yale and expects to do a dissertation on economic and societal interactions in Ptolemaic Egypt, advised by Manning. He earned a BA in Classics from the University of Southern California and an MPhil in Egyptology from Oxford.
Valeria Yartseva (Genetics) has won the Edward L. Tatum Fellowship, which will fund her third year of graduate studies. The fellowship is given by Applera, the parent company of Applied Biosystems, a manufacturer of scientific equipment; and Celera, which played a major role in sequencing the human genome. The award supports a student of Yale’s Combined Program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) and honors the memory of Edward L. Tatum (1909–1975), the American biochemist whose research – partly done at Yale – helped create the field of molecular genetics and earned him (with two others) the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1958.
Valeria’s research will address one of the most fundamental questions in biology: How does a single-cell embryo develops into a mature animal? Using zebrafish as a model organism, she is performing a genetic screen and high throughput sequencing experiments to identify the molecules involved during the earliest stages of embryonic development. “Through uncovering genes regulating early development in zebrafish, we hope to better understand how embryonic development occurs in humans,” she says. Her adviser is Antonio Giraldez. Valeria earned her undergraduate degree in neurobiology from UC Berkeley.
Kasey Christopher (Genetics) is one of 85 doctoral students nationwide selected to receive a $15,000 Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood. Founded in 1869, the P.E.O. Sisterhood is a philanthropic organization that promotes opportunities for higher education to women. There are approximately 6,000 local chapters in the United States and Canada with nearly a quarter of a million active members.
Kasey’s research, carried out in Scott Weatherbee’s lab, seeks to understand the role of a novel gene, Tmem107, in the formation and function of cilia. Cilia are small cellular projections that have recently been discovered to act as sensory antennae. Kasey is especially interested in their role in the Sonic Hedgehog pathway, a signaling cascade that is crucial for normal development of the limbs, brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of the embryo in mice and humans. Because Sonic Hedgehog has so many critical roles in development, mutations in this gene can cause a variety of dramatic birth defects in humans and mice, including cyclopia and brain abnormalities.
Work over the past two decades has demonstrated that embryonic cilia, originally thought to be vestigial, are actually crucial for many aspects of development, such as regulating signaling pathways like Sonic Hedgehog, sensing fluid flow in the kidney, and establishing the asymmetrical placement of internal organs. As such, defects in cilia have been linked to a wide variety of human diseases, including polycystic kidney disease, congenital heart defects, obesity, and mental retardation. Although much research has been done on the ways in which cilia function in development, there are many lingering questions regarding what components are responsible for building and maintaining their structure, and thus which genes, when mutated in humans, may give rise to the so-called “ciliopathy” class of diseases. By employing a combination of rapidly advancing genetic sequencing approaches with traditional developmental biology techniques, Kasey has sought to address this issue through her dissertation research. “My work on a newly identified mutant mouse, schlei, has demonstrated that a novel gene Tmem107 is necessary to regulate the protein composition of cilia, ultimately affecting ciliary function and Sonic Hedgehog-mediated patterning in the digits, spinal cord, and other tissues,” she says. Her research was published last year in the journal Developmental Biology, and for the past three years has been supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.