2019-2020 Senior Fellows

Janice Chen

Hometown: Hong Kong

Project title: organic dairyland: pastoral dreams & the geography of milk

Project description: Dairy farms have been hallmarks of the Vermont and New Hampshire landscapes for centuries — and not just in the archetypal red barns and towering silos that are scattered all over the Northeast. The cows, living lawn mowers, return the rolling green pastures we are so familiar with, in an area that would otherwise be densely carpeted with ash and spruce trees. This landscape is balancing on the cusp of erasure. In the last fifty years, small New England dairy farms have shuttered at a precipitous rate due to changing dynamics of food production in the western United States. Meanwhile, farms are growing. The Upper Valley itself is home to some of the largest dairy farms in the two states. In the place of pasture, corn is growing along the Connecticut River to feed hundreds of cows housed in closed quarters.

However, although factory farms in California create downward pressure on milk prices across the country, they supply little to none of the milk we drink; in fact, milk remains one of the most local supermarket staples to date. Through an interdisciplinary mapping and journalism project, I hope to explore these points of disjuncture, or the ways in which our relationships with food at a local scale are hinged upon national or global factors that are often out of our control. I am particularly interested in examining how seemingly non-spatial agents such as food policy and social conventions crystallize into visible spatial patterns like the milksheds in each region of the United States, and more recently, the extinction of small dairy farms in New England. 

In addition to revealing how macro-processes imprint themselves on local landscapes, I take this project as an opportunity to navigate the representational possibilities of cartography. How can mapping, a historically powerful tool for defining fixed territorial boundaries, be used to show how landscapes are always in flux? What are the social implications of telling stories with data? What stories are left out and how can writing come in where mapping falls short? 

Extracurricular interests: On campus, I am a '82 Upper Valley Community Impact Fellow at the Center for Social Impact, working with local non-profits to support this region's food production systems. When I'm not meeting with farmers and regional stakeholders, I build boats, carve spoons and fix things in the campus woodshop as a Hopkins Center Fellow. The rest of my week is spent fishing in nearby lakes, serving tea in Sanborn Library, and helping out on a Vermont dairy farm. 

Future plans: After graduation, I hope to continue exploring how social and economic forces shape the places in which we live. Whether this is through working as a geospatial analyst or by pursuing a graduate degree in computational spatial science, unpacking the history of landscapes reminds me to engage more meaningfully with people and places, something I wish to carry with me when I leave Hanover. But regardless of where I end up after Dartmouth, I first look forward to unearthing the many stories that make up the New Hampshire/Vermont landscape and to further immerse myself in local communities off-campus. 

Jessica Kobsa

Hometown: Wilton, Connecticut

Project title: Piloting an At-home Sustained Attention Training to Reduce Attention to Peripheral Food Cues 

Project description: Exposure to environmental food cues increases the likelihood of cued eating, even in absence of hunger, likely contributing to obesity. Cued eating is mediated by the amount of attention paid to food cues. This project will evaluate the effectiveness of attention modification training for sustained attention (AMT-S) to reduce attention to environmental food cues. Attention modification training has been shown to reduce attention to food cues, but previous studies have used training that may not generalize to everyday food cues. AMT-S more robustly alters attention by targeting neural attention networks, but it has not been tested with food cues. We will ask adolescents to complete eight sessions of at-home AMT-S and test their attention to food cues before and after the training. We will also evaluate whether a brief AMT-S flash task immediately before testing reduces attention to food cues over and above the effect of the home intervention. We expect that at-home AMT-S intervention will significantly reduce attention to environmental food cues and that a brief AMT-S flash task will further reduce attention to food cues. This research has implications in addressing a cognitive contributor to obesity. 

Extracurricular interests: When I'm not in class, doing research, or running participants through study visits, you can find me working as an EMT with Dartmouth EMS, being a Resident Expert in chemistry, learning about dementia and cognitive decline with Dementia Scholars, being a Pre-Health Peer Mentor, or volunteering with Volunteers for Cancer Patients!

Future plans: Passionate about having a role in improving health at the individual level, I plan to apply to medical school and pursue a career as a physician. Because of my interest in understanding and improving health at the population level, I also plan to pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) and am interested in conducting public health research. I am using this project to better understand a cognitive contributor to a maladaptive behavior with health implications. Therefore, this project represents to me a unique opportunity to investigate a possible contributor to a disease that I will surely see as a physician.

Armin Tavakkoli

Hometown: New York, NY

Project title: Characterizing the neural circuitry of fear renewal in rats 

Project description: The aim of this project is to determine, evaluate, and characterize the brain region responsible for renewal of extinguished fear. Anxiety disorders are extremely common, with lifetime prevalence of up to 25% in developed countries. Pharmaceutical treatments for these disorders are complicated by many side effects, and hence exposure therapy remains the first-line treatment. Exposure therapy gradually exposes patients to anxiety inducing stimuli to reduce their fear/anxiety response. The challenge here is that fear reduction (i.e., extinction) tends to be specific to the context where it occurred. This means that although fear/anxiety responses to triggering stimuli may effectively be reduced in a certain context (the therapist's office), fear will tend to return if the patient experiences the triggering stimuli in a different context (the zoo). The goals of this project are to (1) identify the brain region responsible for fear renewal using a c-fos activity assay, (2) evaluate the necessary role of this region by performing a lesion study, and (3) characterize the function of the region using fiber photometry technology. It is expected that this will help shed light on a way forward toward a potential treatment approach for anxiety and trauma related disorders.

Extracurricular interests: On campus I am a board member for Dartmouth ManyMentors, where our mission is to share our passion for STEM with underprivileged middle and high school students through mentoring. Prior to the Senior Fellowship, being an undergraduate researcher was my most significant extracurricular activity, but thanks to the fellowship, my research is now a part of my curriculum. Off-campus, I'm *slowly* hiking New Hampshire's 5,000-footers.

Future plans: Medical School

Seamus Walsh

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Project title: Fighting for You: Boards of Directors and the Principle-Agent Problem 

Project description: This project seeks to analyze econometrically and through interviews how different corporate board structures affect the performance of publicly-traded companies. Econometric work will be performed in STATA using datasets downloaded from the Wharton Research Data Services; this will be paired with evidence and anecdotes from 20-25 hour-long interviews with current and former public-company CEOs and board members. The current research literature into board governance is remarkably inconclusive and frequently lacking in depth. This is disappointing, given the great influence corporate boards have on the success and failure of major public companies (and how this affects their customers and employees). Professor Levin and I will soon contribute to this literature; we have analyzed a specific aspect of board governance' whether or not the CEO should also be chair of the board' and are publishing our findings later this spring. My proposed project greatly expands upon this previous project's scope and methods. The final product will be a 250-300 page book, targeted towards a well-educated but non-academic audience, that synthesizes the proposed project's key analytical and anecdotal findings.

Extracurricular interests: On campus I am a teaching assistant for Econ 22 and 32 and a resident expert in economics for the South, West, and North Park Houses. I also am treasurer of Beta Alpha Omega fraternity and a member of the Council on Student Organizations (COSO), which grants college recognition and funding to student groups. When not working, I love to golf and play basketball—and given my Minnesota roots enjoy spending Dartmouth winters outside skiing, skating, and hiking. However, most people know me as a hopeless Ohio State Buckeyes fan.

Future plans: After graduation I have accepted a full-time job at a Boston-based private equity firm. I find governance and incentive-related problems fascinating, and hope to further explore them both in my job and my free time. I ultimately would like to publish my research work in a book for general consumption, which will likely entail some post-graduation work. In the longer-term I want to continue to work with and try to address governance and incentive-related problems that the world faces; I am open  to doing this work from the perspective of an operator, investor, or government official. Ultimately I want to do work that meaningfully shapes the world I live in, and I want to use this research experience and my early career experiences to better identify how and where I can do such meaningful work.