Oral Presentations: Session II

1:00 – 2:15 PM | Merten Hall, Rooms 2500 & 3300

Presentation instructions: Presenters have 15 minutes each to present their work. After everyone has taken turns presenting, the discussant will use 5 minutes to give general feedback to the presenters. Then the last 10 minutes will be used for Q&A with the audience led by either the moderator or the discussant.

Social Identities and Idioms
Merten Hall, Room 2500

Gender and Foodways on Eating Disorder Twitter

Kathryn Casey, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

This project takes an interdisciplinary approach—adopting methods and theory from folklore, cultural studies, gender studies and nutrition studies—to investigate the characteristic foodways of online eating disorder (ED) communities, analyzing the function of food symbolism in the formation of a culturally-distinct ED identity. Across disciplines, recent scholarship has added ethnographic research on pro-ED online communities to existing explanatory models of ED. Foodways examines how food takes on symbolic meaning tied to identity through informal group practice. Within a global network, embodied identities are supplemented, displaced, and/or altered in online communities. Folklorist Michael Owen Jones argues that foodways research often downplays individuals’ varied and conflicting identities by overemphasizing commensality, forgoing nuanced analyses of food-related disorders. He thus urges folklorists to produce scholarship with clinical implications about how food meanings across identities affect individual dietary practice. In an ethnographic investigation of the ED community on Twitter I distantly observed public ED-based accounts, checking in daily over a four-week period, collecting over 650 screen-captured tweets. Content analysis of this data in a discursive-psychoanalytic framework finds that ED communities use social media to negotiate abject relations between food and the gendered self. Food represents a gendering technology where gender is practiced, in groups and individually, through rituals around restrictive eating. Abject threats of food, body, and self are contained within ambivalent online spaces which simultaneously encourage ED and support recovery. Ethnographic research into the foodways of online ED communities brings folklore and nutrition studies in conversation to provide insight into culturally-informed ED treatment models.


“Emotion and Narrative in Sport Games?” An analysis of Kris Bowers score for Madden 21

Calvin Evans Jr., College of Visual and Performing Arts

Topic theory has aided ludomusicologists in describing and understanding the sweeping, sweet melodies heard when flying over the kingdom of Hyrule, or the militaristic percussion accompanying a mission in Call of the Duty. However, what topics support a head coach meeting or a training camp practice? The Madden franchise has been popular since the 1980s, yet virtually no ludomusicology scholarship discusses it, perhaps because historically, the franchise relied heavily on licensed music. However, in 2019, African American film composer Kris Bowers was brought on to compose original music for Madden 20 and 21. This presentation will use topic theory relate this score to those composed for open-world video games, discussing the “Face of the Franchise” mode of Madden 21. Madden’s recent games distinguish themselves from earlier editions by making the off-field experience more realistic, especially in the career modes. In Madden 21, the player is a high school quarterback encountering struggles and triumphs as they advance to college and finally the NFL. Cutscenes illustrate not only career-related events like the player choosing their college team or the experience of draft night, but also personal struggles: whether to speak up about a sick player, tension with a rival teammate, and transferring schools. In the original music used in these scenes, I define and show how musical topics like the hero, the villain, personal growth are used in Bowers’ score. It’s time to break the huddle and discover the meaning of music in Madden.


Shadows & Solid Things: The History of Religion and Archaeology

Kristofer Stinson, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

My research examines the relationship between religion and archaeology in Anglo-Atlantic world in the 18th and 19th centuries. I explore the implications of excavations on ancient historical and religious sites: in Italy, Egypt, Iraq, and Palestine. By examining the written accounts and archaeological discoveries of these early excavations, I show how archaeology influenced textual interpretation and religious beliefs. From the Bible to the classics, readers throughout the Atlantic approached ancient stories with a posture of trust that reflected a pervasive literalism which shaped notions of religion and history. Specifically, it formed a sense that the places people read about existed beyond their libraries, armchairs, and sanctuaries, in the real world. These ancient, often sacred books came to matter so much as history that devout readers went looking for the places they read about in their own world. With the Bible, Herodotus, and Homer in one hand and a shovel in the other, many set off to prove that these works were history in the most real sense. Yet what they found often left them with more disturbing question than comforting answers. I argue that the rise of archaeology challenged the literal interpretation of ancient texts, including the Bible, even as it formed a new kind of “empirical literalism,” for both religion and other fields. Archaeology became the ultimate mediator between myth and history – between shadows and solid things – in a way that had previously been the function of sacred texts like the Bible.


Merten Hall, Room 3300

The Undersea Balance in the Pacific: Understanding the Current State of Play and the Role of Geography

Michael Sweeney, Schar School of Policy and Government

This presentation has two parts. First, it relays the findings of my forthcoming paper on the importance of the submarine in the military balance between China and the United States. The paper explores how trends in modern warfare have increased lethality to surface ships thereby placing renewed emphasis on the importance of undersea forces. China and the United States each face challenges in this area. For China it is a question of mastering advanced acoustic quieting technologies to develop better quality submarines; for the United States the issue is quantity – can it field enough submarines to meet operational requirements. This discussion, in turn, serves as an introduction to my broader study of undersea warfare and geography. In the second half of my presentation, I lay out the taxonomy on which I am basing my approach: the interrelationship between surface features, oceanic topography, and proximity to land-based air forces, which collectively help define “undersea geography” from the operational standpoint of submarines. In general, undersea warfare is an under-discussed aspect of maritime power theory, perhaps due to the immaturity of the submarine at the time several foundational texts (Mahan, Corbett) were written. My research aims to help address that gap by explicating the domain in which submarines operate, or the “gameboard” on which the modern undersea competition plays out. I am not presenting final results, but rather seek to illuminate the Mason community regarding the nature of my research and receive feedback on my conceptualization of the issue.


Subsurface Migration and Transport of Per-polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Aamir Ahmad & Dr. Kuo Tian, College of Science

This study is aimed to understand the transport of Per-polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) across the typical landfill liner systems. PFAS are highly recalcitrant and carcinogenic chemicals that are found in household and industrial products such as food packaging materials, carpets, non-stick cookware, water-repellent paints, and firefighting foams. Landfills are the end destination of various household and industrial wastes that contain PFAS. Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills in the US exhibit an alarmingly high abundance of PFAS compounds. The motivation of this research is to investigate and determine whether the existing landfill liners are providing safe containment of these environmental contaminants or not, and if leakage is, occurring then what is the transport phenomenon governing flow? To achieve these objectives the landfill liner components including geomembranes (GM) and compacted clay liner (CCL) are being thoroughly investigated. The sorption and diffusion of multiple PFAS compounds with varying physiochemical properties (chain length, functional group, degree of fluorine saturation) have been measured with two types of GM, CCL, and three types of pure clay minerals. These parameters are being incorporated into a transport model to predict the mass flux of PFAS across landfill liners.


Where Was That Whale? Paleobiogeography of the Early Baleen Whales

Nickolas A. Brand, Jess Miller-Camp, & Mark D. Uhen, College of Science

Two previously published phylogenetic datasets of fossil baleen whales (mysticetes) were combined into a single dataset and downsampled to only include 61 specimens, mostly from outside the crown group Mysticeti. A phylogenetic analysis resulted in 48,918 most parsimonious trees, and a 50% majority rule consensus tree was produced. Location data from the Paleobiology Database was used to bin taxa into eight oceanic geographic regions based on fossil mysticete clusters. Two analyses were performed in RASP 4, which calculate ancestral ranges for common ancestors of clades using the recovered phylogenetic trees. Bayesian Binary Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) analysis was capable of handling polytomies recovered in the consensus tree. This analysis was limited to reporting only a single region for each nodal taxon. Statistical Dispersal-Vicariance Analysis (S-DIVA) was utilized with an altered formula that better handles datasets with unstable groupings. These results were limited to three regions per nodal taxon. Results from both analyses generally agreed with each other. Neoceti and Mysticeti were recovered as most likely originating on the Atlantic Coast of North America. The last common ancestor of the Mammalodontidae and Llanocetidae most likely originated the South Pacific, while the Aetiocetidae most likely originated off the Pacific coast of North America. The Eomysticetidae likely arose from either the Pacific coast of North America or the Atlantic coast of North America. The last common ancestor of all baleen whales crownward of Eomysticetidae most like originated in the South Pacific.


Analyzing the phase-change of water molecules at the nanoscale using molecular dynamics

Sajad Kargar & Jeffrey Lawrence Moran, College of Engineering and Computing

Phase-change heat transfer processes involving water are widely used in various societal applications, such as power generation, heat exchangers, cooling microelectronics, and desalination. Molecular dynamics (MD) is increasingly used to simulate these processes, especially when they occur on nanostructured surfaces and in nanoparticle suspensions. These studies must use water molecule models that accurately predict water’s thermophysical properties, particularly its enthalpy of vaporization (h_fg). Our work uses MD to derive the h_fg for four common water models with four different cutoff radius values. The analysis reveals several important insights. First, a longer cutoff radius generally resulted in more accurate predictions, but artifacts occurred if the radius exceeded 12 Å. Second, the most accurate prediction of h_fg (within 2% of the tabulated ASHRAE value) is made by the TIP3P-Original model with a cutoff radius of 12 Å. Third, if the effective charge on the hydrogen and oxygen atoms (and thus the electrical dipole moment magnitude of the water molecule) is increased, the predicted value for h_fg increases because of the increased electrostatic attraction among water molecules (mimicking stronger hydrogen bonding). Additionally, we conducted a preliminary study of the variation of the h_fg with pressure, and found reasonable agreement with tabulated ASHRAE data (<7% error). Physical insights into how changes in atomic-level properties affect the predicted macrophysical properties of water are provided in this work, which will be useful for future MD-based studies of phase change processes in water, particularly in nanostructured surfaces and nanoconfined geometries at elevated pressures.