AU’s Brown Bag Seminar highlights CURS scholars

Skyler Mitchell |
Staff writer

The Brown Bag seminar, sponsored by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship was held in the JSAC on Friday, Feb. 23.

Undergraduate students had the opportunity to present their research in front students and faculty during the Brown Bag Seminar held on Friday, Feb. 23 in the JSAC.

The Brown Bag Seminar, an event sponsored by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURS) is held almost once a month each semester. The seminar gives individual researchers and research groups valuable experience in presenting research to colleagues.

While you can bring your own lunch, free drinks and pizza are offered to those that attend the seminar.

The presenters for February 2018 were Georgie Latremouille, Nancy Jhanji, and Kristie Liao. Latremouille presented her topic on the conflict in Myanmar involving the Rohingya, while Jhanji and Liao did their topic on alcoholism in relation to pancreatic cancer.

Latremouille was represented by Dr. Craig Albert, while Jhanji and Liao were represented by Dr. Maria Sabbatini.

Georgie Latremouille begins her Brown Bag seminar presentation over the current ethnic conflicts in Myanmar. (photo by Skyler Mitchell)

Latremouille began her presentation by talking about the possible origins of ethnic conflict and how it relates to the cause of the conflict between the Rohingya people and the dominant groups of Myanmar.

She talked about the old theories of primordialism, where scientists used to believe that conflict between groups was due to biological differences. She also presented institutionalism, where conflict is created by the structure of a system, and instrumentalism, where ethnicity is considered a tool used by the system. She also brought up identity theory, where ethnic conflicts arise due to struggles rooted in identity insecurities.

Latremouille claimed that many of these theories, except for primordialism, may have been the reason why the Rohingya, a minority ethnic group that didn’t have citizenship according to Myanmar law, formed militant groups to kill political leaders. They had attacked because they thought the government wasn’t giving them proper rights, something that Latremouille believes threatened their sense of identity. That threat to their identity apparently led to military action on their part.

She believes in beginning fixing and preventing this from happening again; it would be best for the groups to communicate in the future, establishing power-sharing agreements and giving equal rights to the Rohingya.

“I would personally like to thank Dr. Tim Sandenwasser for running the honors programs and encouraging students to do research, even when it’s scary,” Latremouille said in her closing statements.

Nancy Jhanji and Kristie Liao began presenting their research over the connections of alcohol abuse and pancreatic cancer. (photo by Skyler Mitchell)

Jhanji and Liao presented their project next, which focused more on biological science. They focused on the relation between ethanol abuse, better known as alcoholism, and the rise in pancreatic cancer.

Using rats as their test subjects, they gave one group of rats a high dose of ethanol while the other group received a tenth of the dosage, to observe the effects it had on the histone modifications and DNA methylation.

They also tested on certain human histones obtained by the University of Chicago, examining the differences of phosphorylation, which is the attachment of a phosphoryl group to a molecule, between healthy, adjacent, and tumorous histones.

They found that while ethanol doesn’t affect methylation, it does have an effect on phosphorylation in the rat pancreas, which could be a cause of pancreatic cancer. Since phosphorylation is linked to transcription and mitosis, the disruption to both could lead to cancer cells being formed.

Jhanji and Liao would like to thank Dr. Piotr Witkowski University of Chicago, Dr. Caterina Hernandez of the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department at AU, and Dr. Tadd Patton of the Psychological Sciences Department for help on the project and for providing samples.

The next CURS Brown Bag Seminar is being held on Friday, March 23.

Contact Skyler Mitchell at

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