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January 28, 2015

Approaching music via philosophy and neuroscience

An article by Carmel Raz (Music) was published in the November issue of the journal 19th-Century Music. “‘The Expressive Organ Within Us’: Ether, Ethereality, and Early Romantic Ideas about Music and the Nerves,” argues that the early Romantic obsession with ethereal sounds drew not only from fantasies of heavenly timbres, but also from the idea of the ether as a medium through which vibrations traveled to affect the body and the nerves. Carmel is working on a dissertation, advised by Patrick McCreless, that combines music, philosophy, and the history of science. Her work reveals in new and unexpected ways how music and music cognition are intertwined with important intellectual and scientific thought of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, ranging from the influence of early 18th century philosophy of cognition on music theory to the impact of French medicine on the music of Hector Berlioz. 

She has recently presented her research at conferences both in musicology and in the history of science, including “Boneflute to Autotune” at UC Berkeley (April 2014), the 18th Biennial International Conference on 19th-Century Music, University of Toronto (June 2014), and at meetings of the International Society for the History of Neuroscience in Brussels (June 2014) and the History of Science Society in Chicago (November 2014).

Carmel’s other interests include contemporary music, music and technology, and the modern revival of Jewish liturgical song. She has published on the early electronic music of Weimar Republic composer Ernst Toch, steampunk and opera staging, and Israeli music.

Originally from Tel-Aviv, Carmel earned her undergraduate degree in violin performance at the Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler” in Berlin, Germany, and a master’s degree in composition from the University of Chicago. While at Yale she has continued to compose and perform; this past semester, her music was featured at festivals in Germany, Cyprus, and Israel.

Former soldier honored for military service and scientific research

The National Science Foundation honored James Gutierrez (Engineering and Applied Science), along with ten other military veterans who have received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. The event took place in November at NSF headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and included group discussions with programs officers and agency officials on what it means to be a veteran, followed by a formal ceremony highlighting veterans and their contributions to STEM fields. After the ceremony, James presented his research at a poster session and spoke of his personal reasons for pursuing a graduate degree in chemical and environmental engineering.

Born in Whittier, California, James moved with his family all over southern California before settling in Moreno Valley. He joined the Army Reserves right after high school. 

In fact, the first day of basic training was actually my 18th birthday,” he recalls. “In the Army I was trained as a generator mechanic: a combination of diesel engine mechanic and electrician, but most of the time I worked on, maintained or trained other people to use light wheeled vehicles like the HMMWV (High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle), often called a ‘hummer.’”

When he returned from his deployment to Iraq in 2003-2004, James studied automotive technology and welding along with core courses at the local two-year institution, Riverside Community College, but after visiting the College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology at the University of California, Riverside campus, he says, “I knew I needed to return to my first love, SCIENCE!” He transferred to UCR in 2008 and worked in the lab of a Yale alumna, Professor Sharon Walker (PhD 2005, Engineering and Applied Science). “I wanted to stay connected to research and basically do what she did. Being on the front lines of research is great.”

James studies microalgae (“green slime,” he calls it), in Jordan Peccia’s lab. Microalgae are the single-cell cousins of kelp and seaweed (aka macroalgae). His research explores ways of reducing the amount of energy needed in cultivating microalgae for biofuel production. Microalgae “can actually produce many things we find useful: those omega-3 fatty acids the doctors want you to take? They don’t only come from fish,” he says.  He is looking for ways “to incorporate waste streams into cultivation and their physiological effects on the microalgae. This includes learning how they react when grown in ammonia, which is where the much needed nitrogen will come from.  This is important because it’s well known that ammonia can interfere with photosynthetic marine life, but no studies have looked into how it affects biofuel-relevant microalgae.” He is also investigating microalgae ecology in ponds and reactors. 

After all, even pure cultures aren’t entirely ‘pure.’ They come with, and even coevolved to need, some microbes. If this is the case, maybe the norm of single strain reactors is not the best method for production.”

Graduate student honored as senior faculty member

Angela Onwuachi-Willig (Sociology, African-American Studies) is a graduate student at Yale, but also the Charles M. and Marion J. Kierscht Professor of Law at the University of Iowa. Last month, she won the Clyde Ferguson, Jr. Award, the highest honor given to a senior faculty member by the Association of American Law Schools’ Minority Groups Section. The prize, named in honor of the second tenured African American on the Harvard Law School faculty, is granted to an outstanding legal educator who has worked in the field for at least seven years and excelled in public service, teaching, mentoring, and scholarship.

Angela came to Yale last year to master quantitative research methods and hone her skills in qualitative research. “Getting a PhD in sociology has been in the back of my mind since I graduated from law school in 1997,” she says. In recent years, she found herself “engaging in much more quantitative and qualitative empirical research” and working on projects and scholarly articles with colleagues in both sociology and public health. “Over the past decade, empirical investigation has become a crucial component of legal scholarship. My research with scholars in other departments made me realize that I wanted to have a formal relationship as an academic in a sociology department, an African American Studies department, or both.”

She plans to write her dissertation on the patterns of behavior that occur in reaction to killings, grand jury proceedings, trials, and verdicts or decisions like those involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. Her study will begin with Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered in 1955, and examine the period before the killing to the subsequent judicial decisions. Her advisers will be Ron Eyerman and Elijah Anderson.

Being a student is a dramatic change of pace for Angela after eleven years as a professor, first at the University of California, Davis, School of Law and since 2006, at the University of Iowa Law School.

What I find most challenging is having no control over my schedule or over what I read or study — at least in my courses,” she says. “I love having the opportunity to be introduced to research and methods in two other fields and having the opportunity to really immerse myself in those fields. I already see the impact on my thinking and the ways in which I scope or plan a project. It’s exciting.”

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Angela is a second-generation Nigerian-American. She graduated from Grinnell College with a BA in American Studies and earned her JD at the University of Michigan Law School, where she was a Clarence Darrow Scholar, a Note Editor on the Michigan Law Review, and an Associate Editor of the founding issue of the Michigan Journal of Race and Law.

After law school, she clerked for Judge Solomon Oliver, now Chief US District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, and Judge Karen Nelson Moore, US Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit. She also worked as a labor and employment associate at Jones Day in Cleveland, Ohio, and Foley Hoag in Boston, Massachusetts. She served as the Scholar-in-Residence at the Thelton Henderson Center for Social Justice at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

In 2006, Angela won the AALS’s Derrick A. Bell, Jr. Award, which is given to a junior faculty member who has made an extraordinary contribution to legal education, the legal system, or social justice. In December of 2010, she was elected to the American Law Institute and was selected as a finalist for the Iowa Supreme Court. In 2011, she was named one of America’s top young legal professionals by the National Law Journal, which placed her on its “Minority 40 under 40” list.

Her articles have appeared in many prestigious law journals, including the Yale Law Journal. Her book, According to Our Hearts: Rhinelander v. Rhinelander and the Law of the Multiracial Family (Yale University Press), was published in the spring of 2013.

Angela is married to ‪Jacob Willig-Onwuachi, associate professor of physics at Grinnell College. Last year, he was a visiting associate professor at Yale Medical School. Their children are Elijah, 16; Bethany, 12; and Solomon, 6.