Flash[BACC] to bacc week

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A Forum flooded with puns and announcements, classes that are cancelled for three days and a tingle of stress in the air can only mean one thing: it’s BACC season at New College. Want a quick taste of this year’s thesis defenses? Check out these short BACC spotlights below.

Stephen Fleming

Title: “And he asked if I knew anything about the universe. And I told him no”: Alien Abductions in American Literature

Pun: Alien Att[BACC]K

AOC/Committee: English; Professor of English Andrea Dimino (sponsor), Professor of English Miriam Wallace and Professor of English Margaret Konkol

Snacks: Leftover cupcakes from Shelby Felder’s Bacc, grapes, mint and birthday cake Oreos, carrots and hummus.

“Tonight, aliens will abduct you.” Stephen opened his Bacc with a hypothetical story where the listener is abducted by aliens. He explains that as an abductee, you are probably a white woman. Various grey aliens will conduct medical experiments on you and ask you questions about human culture. When you are returned home, you will not have a clear memory of what happened to you. However, you will notice marks on your body and begin to remember certain details. More details will emerge through the help of a hypnotherapist. You might end up pregnant.

For his thesis, Stephen examined the role of aliens in American fiction, non-fiction and film. Alien literature presents aliens as a racialized other while furthermore dealing with topics of gender, human sexuality and pregnancy. With roots in genres such as Gothic literature and captivity narratives, alien literature often functions as an allegory of white supremacy. Stephen’s committee asked him questions including “What is literature?” and “How does alien literature reflect what it means to be human?” Notably, Professor Wallace asked Stephen to define what an egg was.

Shelby Felder

Title: Rave, Symbol, Ritual and Cyborgs: The Nature of Post-Technological Spiritual Experience

Pun: Get your [BACC] lights out, it’s a rave thesis

AOC/Committee: Religion; Professor of Judaic Studies Susan Marks (Sponsor), Professor of Humanities Gordon Michalson and Professor of Music Maribeth Clark

Snacks: Amazing cupcakes made by Shelby, decorated with little bracelets with the acronym “PLUR” on them and mini glow sticks, tortilla chips, cookies, chocolate pops and notably nice shimmery plates.

For her thesis, Shelby examined the religiosity of raves. Abiding by the rules of PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect), raves provide an empathetic experience through their emphasis on sharing and trade of “kandy” bracelets and other objects. This is bolstered by the spiritual experience of the music and often with the use of drugs. As Shelby explained, raves function as liminal spaces of symbol and ritual, where people often leave feeling transformed with an increased sense of love and compassion as well as an eagerness to enter the space again. Shelby’s committee did not seem otherwise familiar with raves, and asked questions about the definition of liminal spaces, the significance of religious experiences, and whether or not Mardi Gras could be considered a religious space as well.

Lisa Crawford

Title: Effects of Altered Laboratory Lighting Regimens on the Circadian Rhythms of Captive Nurse Sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Pun: Shark week is [BACC]

AOC/Committee: Marine Biology; Professor of Biology Jayne Gardiner (Sponsor), Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Emily Saarinen and Professor of Biology Alfred Beulig

Snacks: A shark-themed assortment of goldfish, “shark attack” cupcakes with raspberry filling, giant shark gummies and “fin” bugles dipped in white chocolate.

For her thesis, Lisa Crawford conducted an experiment at Mote Marine Laboratory that analyzed the daily activity of three nurse sharks (nocturnal, bottom-dwelling) that were in captivity for three years. She looked at their circadian rhythms, their endogenous rhythms and their photoreception location by altering lighting regimes (which included humanely placing the cutest little eye patches on each shark’s eyes). Crawford found that bright light and human interaction altered the sharks’ natural nocturnal rhythms. To avoid, and I quote, “thesis crisis galore!,” one of Crawford’s points of advice for forthcoming thesis students conducting experiments with animals was to make sure that you’re not working during late-night parties at Mote, which apparently didn’t happen to her on just one – but two – occasions.

Reed Meyerson

Title: The Heat Content of Triangles

Pun: Working [BACC]wards from Heat Content

AOC/Committee: Math; Professor of Mathematics Patrick McDonald (Sponsor), Professor of Mathematics David Mullins and Professor of Physics Don Colladay

Snacks: Even though it was 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon, McDonald required coffee, so there were coffee and bagels available.

The primary theorem to result from Reed Meyerson’s thesis was that heat content determines a triangle; therefore, his thesis deconstructed what it meant to determine a triangle, what is heat content, and how they can be connected. Math BACCs are traditionally open, which meant that the audience could stay during the exam portion during which his committee asked him questions that covered topics inside and outside of his thesis. When addressing the relevance of his thesis topic, Meyerson expressed that “it makes me happy just because I like math.”

Shane Caldwell

Title: Human Airway Epithelial Cells Homozygote for P53 Arg Variant Cause Increased Mucuous Production and Breakdown of Tight Junctions

Pun: So when I’m on vacay I need to kick [BACC]

AOC/Committee: Computer Science; Professor of Bioinformatics Tyrone Ryba (Sponsor), Professor of Computer Science David Gillman and Professor of Computer Science Gary Kalmanovich

Snacks: There were like 36 Bradenton Donuts in these massive boxes on a table in front of the room.

Shane Caldwell spent two summers in Albuquerque, New Mexico through the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute internship program. The work he conducted studying chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD, through a bioinformatics lense led to his thesis, which asked if gene expression explains the mucous secretory phenotype. The gene he focused on was P53, which is nicknamed the guardian of the genome. He also created a statistics interface for biologists to apply visualization, analysis and reproducibility to their data. Armed with an attractive, Hot Topic-themed presentation and palpable coolness, Caldwell passed his BACC with flying colors.

Nick Abboud

Title: Lorentz Violation in the Collective Excitations of Bose-Einstein Condensates

Pun: BEC stands for Bose-Einstein Condensate. BEC looks like [BACC]. That’s what I’ve got.*

AOC/Committee: Physics and Mathematics; Professor of Physics Don Colladay (Sponsor), Professor of Mathematics Patrick McDonald, Professor of Mathematics David Mullins and Professor of Physics Mariana Sendova

Snacks: Again, even though it was 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon, hot coffee and bagels were provided. However, a subtle feature that I think many missed out on was the fact that his bagels were from Einstein’s, and his title does in fact include the word Einstein.

At the start of Nick Abboud’s BACC, all I could wonder was whether the Math Reading Room had a capacity limit because the situation was definitely breaking fire code. Lots of people traversed the depths of Heiser’s math wing and snuck their way into the room, nabbing any feasible seating arrangement they could find. The attendee’s were subsequently treated to Abboud’s thesis presentation, which defined the three major terms in his title individually and then combined them together, which led to the result of his work. During the open BACC exam, his sponsor, Professor of Physics Don Colladay, had to turn his coffee mug around as per Professor of Mathematics Patrick McDonald’s suggestion. The mug displayed Maxwell’s equations, a very askable question in any physics student’s BACC exam.

*This is most certainly not a pun. He literally laid “the joke” out for us.

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