University Research Postdoctoral Fellows
Jessica Brzyski (Biology) studies the causes and consequences of asexual reproduction. Many species are capable of both sexual and asexual reproduction (many plants, protists, fungi and some animals). Theoretically, asexuality should be favored because sexually reproducing females contribute less genetically to the next generation. However, most species reproduce in some combination of asexual and sexual reproduction. Environmental variables may influence which mode of reproduction is utilized, but there may also be genetic mechanisms controlling the switch between asexual and sexual reproduction. Therefore, the goal of her research is to examine the interaction of the environment and genetics and identify their role in reproductive phenotypic plasticity and fitness. This research will be addressed by developing a new model for predicting genotype diversity at the metapopulation level where subpopulations differ in connectivity and reproductive mode, and parameterize the model by assaying phenotypic plasticity of field collected individuals across known environmental gradients. Determining the roles of environment, genetics, and their interactions within the context of focus simulations, and field and experimental approaches will provide a deeper understanding of the processes that control reproductive mode and its potential to evolve.
Deanna Morris (Biochemistry) studies the process of mammalian autophagy using the mouse model, cell biology and proteomics to provide insight into autophagy’s role in neurodegeneration and other human diseases. Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating disease and based on recent data in the Wang and Geddes labs, Deanna hypothesizes that impairment in autophagy contributes to the neuropathology observed after SCI. Thus, to better understand the role of neuronal autophagy in SCI, her project tests the central hypothesis that clathrin coated vesicle (CCV) trafficking contributes to autophagosome formation in neurons and it is the alterations in CCV-mediated autophagosome biogenesis that contribute to the detrimental effects of autophagy impairment following SCI. This project is also aimed at identifying effective therapeutics for SCI and extends to generating knock-in and conditional knock-out mouse models to understand the function of a novel autophagy player in human development and disease including neurodegeneration and cancer.
Bonnie Smith (Mathematics) works in Commutative Algebra. Specifically, she studies the algebraic and combinatorial properties of the core of an ideal. This object has received much attention lately because of its surprising connection to multiplier ideals--fundamental objects that measure singularities in Geometry. Currently, Bonnie is focusing on ideals that arise from graphs or have some other combinatorial significance. Ideals are often studied via their reductions, which are simplifications of the original ideals, yet carry most of the information. In turn, the core is the intersection of infinitely many reductions, and thus is rather difficult to describe despite its geometric significance. As a postdoctoral fellow, Bonnie will collaborate with UK faculty members and continue her investigation on cores and related objects.
Susan Romero (Entomology) proposes to elucidate the potential of spiders as natural enemies of invasive agricultural pests, such as soybean aphid (Aphis glycines), during early season crop colonization. Spiders are among the most abundant and ubiquitous generalist predators in agricultural systems, provide valuable ecosystem services, and readily consume many insect pests in the field. The concept of “early-season” predation is crucial in biodiversity-based integrated pest management (IPM) because generalist predators (such as spiders) are unlikely to closely track their prey during periods of high density. However, spiders are available to attack pests during the crop colonization phase and early season regulation is imperative if spider communities are to be utilized in biological control. It is therefore important to understand the dynamics of foraging, the availability and suitability of food resources, and habitat management tactics to enhance spider populations before pest colonization.
Kelly Rae Brown (Animal and Food Sciences) studies the effect of age on hepatic and skeletal muscle expression of amino acid metabolizing enzymes in the mature beef cow. Coincident with aging is a decrease in protein synthesis and loss of muscle protein. Identifying the cellular mechanisms responsible for this loss of anabolic capacity will enable nutritionists develop feeding regimes that maximize retention, and minimize excretion of metabolic nitrogen. Furthermore, correlating the loss of amino acid metabolic capacity to readily obtained bio-markers will allow producers to know metabolic capacity has been lost and make appropriate management decisions.
Cornelia Yuen (Mathematics) studies jet schemes and wedge schemes of combinatorially defined varieties in algebraic geometry. A "jet" defines the way a point might move within an abstract mathematical space, and the set of all jets forms the jet scheme, which itself has interesting geometric structure. Studying the geometry of the collection of all "infinitesimal motions" within a space helps us understand its singularities. As a postdoctoral fellow, Cornelia will continue her work on monomial ideals, with the hope of finding a precise description of the jet scheme of an arbitrary monomial ideal, and also to develop applications of jet schemes to other branches of mathematics.
Gabrielle Curinga (Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC) studies the ability of specialized glia cells from the olfactory system, olfactory ensheathing glia (OEG), to support neuronal regeneration following spinal cord injury. Transplantation of OEG into injured spinal cord in animal models results in regrowth of sensory and motor axons. Based on recent data from the Snow and Roskams labs, she hypothesized that such regrowth may be due to changes in reactive astrocytes of the glial scar, in particular to altered expression patterns of inhibitory proteoglycans and/or growth-promoting laminin. To test this hypothesis, she is using a novel cell culture paradigm to examine the expression of these molecules during interactions between reactive astrocytes and LP-OEG, and to analyze astrocyte organization. Specifically, we are investigating changes in the: 1) levels of CSPG expression, 2) specific types of CSPGs expressed, 3) CSPG sulfation patterns and density of sulfation, 4) ratio between CSPG and laminin expression, and 5) spatial organization of reactive astryocytes, CSPGs, and laminin.
Meg Haist (UK Center for Poverty Research) studies the impact of social welfare policy reforms on families with children. Recent projects have examined the relationship between subsidies and services available to maintain foster children under different household arrangements and permanency outcomes including reunification, legal guardianship, and adoption. Her current research focuses on placement patterns and disruptions among children placed in substitute care with relatives in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Under a research agreement with the Division for Community Based Services, Dr. Haist is comparing placement patterns and child well-being outcomes between children living with relatives who are either unpaid or provided with monthly kinship care subsidies.
Amy Mills (Geography) studies the urban landscape of Istanbul, Turkey, and its creation through cultural practice and imagination. Her research takes place in a neighborhood which was once a minority neighborhood of Greeks, Jews and Armenians. These groups were economically and politically pressured to leave Istanbul, just as rural migrants began to arrive in the city in significant numbers. Today this neighborhood is predominantly Muslim. In spite of this tumultuous history, the neighborhood's history is the subject of much popular nostalgia. It is remembered as a place of tolerant cosmopolitanism, and its landscape of churches, synagogues and mosques is cited as evidence of its harmonious multi-ethnic culture. Recently a new Muslim elite has moved to this neighborhood to restore the old Ottoman homes. This group desires to preserve its history and participate in old-fashioned neighborhood life. Paradoxically, the nostalgic narratives of the neighborhood's past obscure the traumatic history experienced by the minorities, and the gentrification of its landscape is altering its social character. These contradictions form the basis of the postdoctoral research Mills is performing with Anna Secor (Geography). As a postdoctoral fellow, Mills will return to Istanbul to expand her work with its minority residents and bring her research to Greece and Israel where she will interview former Istanbul residents in diaspora.
Victoria Mundy Bhavsar (Agronomy) studies the microbiology of soils in organic farming systems. The departments of Horticulture and Agronomy are collaborating to create an organic farm research site at the university's South Farm. Victoria will study changes in the soil microbiological community at the molecular and genetic level as the land transitions from fallow to full-scale organic vegetable production. She will also help to develop and coordinate the team of researchers, students, and farmers who will work together for this long-term research project. Her other research interests include investigating the functions of different fractions of soil organic matter in nutrient cycling and in finding ways to make organic farming technologies easier for farmers to adopt.2003 Recipients:
Kathleen O'Reilly (Geography) focuses on ways that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) create and negotiate conflicts as an inherent part of development interventions. In 1997, she became acquainted with a drinking water supply project in northern Rajasthan. She was struck by contradictions between women's stated importance to the project and their obvious marginalization. This contradiction forms the basis of the postdoctoral research she is pursuing with Susan Roberts (Geography). As a postdoctoral fellow, she will travel to India to conduct research on women field workers' experiences with development up to, and beyond, their employment with the NGO. In India, she will be give presentations to local scholars and NGO staff about her research findings.
Dana Patton (Political Science) studies the adoption, implementation and impact of morality policies in the American states. Her current research focuses on the effect of U.S. Supreme Court intervention on the adoption of state abortion policies from 1973-2000. She is currently expanding this study and working on two new projects regarding abortion policy. The first one is a longitudinal study that examines the impact of abortion policies on abortion rates in the states. The second project focuses on the adoption and implementation of unconstitutional abortion policies. In addition, she is working on a study with Rick Waterman (Political Science) that examines the implementation of hate crime legislation with an emphasis on intergovernmental (federal-state) relations.