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Faculty Scholarship Reception: From cell connections to charcoal drawings

Last updated February 18, 2022

By Sarita Chourey

What is it like to share a stage with John Mellencamp? Only another rock star could say for sure.

And yet, Gerry Wubben can still tell you what it’s like to share an audience with the “Jack & Diane” singer.

Wubben, an adjunct professor of art at Furman, and Mellencamp were the two artists selected to have solo art shows to mark the inaugural opening of the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center in Jasper, Indiana, from mid-December 2019 through February 2021. Wubben exhibited 24 monumental charcoal drawings measuring 5 feet-by-8 feet and 8 feet-by-15 feet. The drawings are realistic and based on a range of subjects such as the figure, landscape, architecture and science.

Wubben was among the five professors to give four-minute speed talks during the annual Faculty Scholarship Reception held at Duke Library on Feb. 12. The event celebrated 195 scholarship submissions and 30 awarded grants totaling $8.7 million.

The reception also featured Adi D. Dubash, the Henry Keith and Ellen Hard Townes Assistant Professor of Biology, who presented his research on how disrupting the connections of a protein called cadherin affects how cells spread, which is analogous to what happens during cancer progression.

“When individual cancer cells within a tumor lose connections to each other because of mutations, they start to spread or metastasize to other parts of your body,” Dubash said. “In our study, we further showed that cadherins talk or signal to a protein called Rap, and if we used a drug to disrupt Rap, then cells lacking cadherin didn’t spread as much anymore.”

Alyson Farzad-Phillips, assistant professor of communication studies, spoke about evaluating how a map, published on the Women’s March website to publicize a gathering called a “huddle” either encouraged or discouraged intersectional feminist coalitions. “Overall,” she said, her research “is a strong anti-racist feminist critique of the Women’s March huddle map and the potential to engage in mapping as a form of rhetorical criticism.”

Veronica L. Flores, assistant professor of psychology, explained her recently published neuroscience research into “how taste experiences, specifically those that we deem inconsequential, impact taste learning and the neural mechanisms that underlie it.” Her lab analyzed electrophysiological recordings of brain activity in rodents, “which revealed that these seemingly benign taste experiences actually impact how the brain processes new tastes.”

Alexander Francis-Ratte, assistant professor of Asian studies, spoke about his paper which “attempts to show conclusively that the Japanese language was first spoken on the Asian continent before it was spoken in the Japanese archipelago, having been brought to Japan by the wave of migration (ca. 800-400 BCE) of people known in the literature as the Yayoi.” He said the research offers a better understanding of East Asian prehistory, while also helping “to counter racist narratives in Japanese society that Japanese language and culture are ontologically different and qualitatively superior to other East Asians.”



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