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  • Norwich professor a finalist for the Vermont's ATHENA Leadership Award

    Norwich professor a finalist for the Vermont's ATHENA Leadership Award

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    Amrutaa Vibho is literally shooting for the stars

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  • Cadet Gabriel Gaetz wins at the OCR World Championship

    Cadet Gabriel Gaetz wins at the OCR World Championship

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    Cadet Joseph Marsh learns from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Walla Walla, Washington.

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    Norwich to hold 28th Annual Military Writers’ Symposium

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    Norwich welcomes 650 new students to begin the 22–23 school year

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BY JACQUE E. DAY AND JANE DUNBAR
The Norwich Record | Winter 2018

“Have you heard of Luis Barragán?”

That was the first question Cara Armstrong, director of NU’s School of Architecture + Art, asked Armando Barragán ’19 when he entered her Fundamentals of Architecture I class as a freshman.

He hadn’t.

In the two years since discovering he shares a surname with renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragán, Armando Barragán has immersed himself in research that he ultimately hopes to parlay into a master’s thesis.

Growing up as a first-generation Mexican-American in Boston with a father who helped construct dozens of prominent buildings there, Armando had always been intrigued by structural design. But it wasn’t until he worked as a community organizer in high school—and observed what he felt to be the intrusive effects of generic architecture on neighborhood identity—that he decided to pursue a degree in it. Now, under Armstrong’s mentorship, he has discovered resonances with Barragán that extend far beyond their shared name or heritage.

“When I first saw photos of Barragán’s work, I could see he avoided the International Style,” Armando says—an approach he describes as a “cut-and-paste aesthetic” that strips all sense of place or cultural context from a building: exactly what had bristled him back in Boston. “But I didn’t know how he did it; how he created modern structures that evoked Mexico’s past without being cliché.”

Structures, in other words, that fit.

This past summer, funded by a coveted NU summer research fellowship, Armando spent four weeks exploring Mexico City to understand the how. Armed with British architect and historian Kenneth Frampton’s Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance, Armando observed that Barragán’s own resistance to contemporary norms comprised natural, locally available materials and colors, as well as the use of texture and light.

“Barragán said, ‘Don’t ask me about this or that building; don’t try to do what I do: see what I saw,’” Armando explains. “I saw the history, culture, and natural environment that drove his designs.”

Looking forward, Armando hopes his research into Barragán will inform his own designs, and those of his peers, “to better reflect individualism and local culture, and help us replicate those strategies around the world.”

“Plus, every architecture professor I’ve had asks the same question Professor Armstrong did,” he laughs. “I had to find out more about this guy.”

BY JACQUE E. DAY AND JANE DUNBAR
The Norwich Record | Winter 2018

Mathematics Professor Jocelyn “Joe” Latulippe is passionate about solving difficult biological problems. And now, he stands at the vanguard of research into a universally devastating disease.

A mathematical neuroscientist, Professor Joe Latulippe uses computational models to advance the understanding of the human nervous system and the mechanisms of neuronal activity. Such models are useful in simulating long-term conditions, as well as in vivo-like environments, and carry clear research benefits.

“Because of the limitations of experimental procedures, quantitative tools can provide critical information that human trials can’t,” Latulippe explains. “Freed from the constraints of time or bureaucracy, such simulations provide reams of data in the few short minutes—or seconds—it takes to run them.”

Latulippe recently developed one such tool himself. Called a synaptic transmission model, he originally intended it to help researchers better understand the concept of “plasticity”: what variables might strengthen or weaken a synapse over time. But he has now broadened his investigation into how neurons communicate under the influence of specific organic diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“Alzheimer’s is the manifestation of breakdowns in memory, learning, and cognition,” Latulippe says. “In other words, patients experience a progressive loss of synaptic plasticity. We know that one of the hallmarks of the disease is the development of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles; what we don’t know is what triggers their development in the first place.”

Latulippe’s model simulates exactly what happens to neural pathways and synaptic transmission at the very onset of Alzheimer’s disease—before the imminent proliferation of plaques and fibrils occurs. Now, researchers can change the conditions of an experiment by controlling for individual mechanisms—such as the effect of amyloid-beta on calcium—at will.

“Although the literature on Alzheimer’s is vast, we have yet to find a cure,” Latulippe says. “Because examining individual neurons at the molecular level is exceptionally difficult, mathematical models enable us to approximate the environmental conditions of an Alzheimer’s brain—which can then help us more clearly understand how it develops, and how we can treat it.”

BY JACQUE E. DAY AND JANE DUNBAR
The Norwich Record | Winter 2018

There is a passage in the famous book by Dr. Seuss, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” that describes fish like this: “Some are sad. Some are glad. And some are very, very bad. Why are they sad and glad and bad? I do not know. Go ask your dad.” Or, ask biology Professor Simon Pearish.

Pearish, behavioral ecologist and assistant professor of biology, is Norwich University’s resident expert on the personalities of fish.

In the classroom, Pearish and his students study the personality traits of the brook stickleback.

The study of fish personalities sounds more like play than work, a question formed in a young mind on a leisurely Saturday afternoon, ambling along a brook, looking down into the water, noticing how a school of fish interacts with its environment. In fact “school” is derived from the Greek scholē, meaning leisure.

The word has since evolved to denote a group moving together in unison. Imagine a school of fish, its elegant dance, how it seems to manifest as one body. Outwardly, the motion could appear leisurely. But we know that within—from abstracts like schools of thought to institutions like Norwich — schools involve complex mechanisms, a diverse range of roles and, yes, personalities.

Pearish is involved in an ongoing collaboration with Alison Bell of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and Bronwyn Bleakley of Stonehill College. Their question: why individual animals behave differently from one another. In their study of the Gasterosteus aculeatus, commonly known as the three-spined stickleback, they have observed that the “bold” sticklebacks — those more apt to take risks — tend to be more social. Conversely, the “shy” sticklebacks tend to be loners, more likely to go off on their own. Moreover, the alternative social preferences of both bold and shy fish appear to be adaptive, leading to increased survival in the wild.

A Darwinian question, “What role has evolution played in generating personality?,” lies at the crux of Pearish’s inquiry.

“I study fish personality because I want to uncover clues about human behavior that are buried deep in our evolutionary past,” he said.

On a frigid day in February 2014, Laurie Grigg stood on the frozen surface of Twin Ponds, Vt., with two Norwich students and a collaborator from the University of Wyoming. At first glance it could appear that they were enjoying an afternoon of ice fishing. Instead, they were drilling through the ice into the deep, to collect core samples from the lake sediment. On September 23, 2017, the professor returned to the same lake with another group of students to collect more core samples. The temps topped 80 degrees, and the crew donned shorts.

A professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Laurie Grigg is not only used to working in extreme climates, but also studies climate change, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken notice. In 2017, the agency awarded her a $132,000 grant to study the impacts of climate change on Vermont’s lakes.

Grigg’s research involves a search for variations in fossils in the sediment cores, as well as changes in the geochemistry of the sediment throughout the past 10,000 years. She will use data collected from the samples to reconstruct how the climate has changed over time, and to examine how the lake ecosystem has responded. “The goal is to use this long-term perspective, called paleoecology, to better understand the stresses facing lakes today and in the future,” she offers.

The grant supports, in part, Grigg’s collaboration with the University of Wyoming, where she and her research assistant, Irene Magdon ’18, will take advantage of the analytical equipment and expertise of a nationally recognized lab. Her work, which aligns with the mission of the Norwich University Center for Global Resilience and Security, will eventually inform future decisions concerning the conservation of Vermont’s lakes, as changes in the lake ecosystem are an important indicator of water quality. It was one of only 30 grants of its kind awarded in 2017, nationwide.

The Norwich Record | Winter 2018

BY SEAN MARKEY | NU Office of Communications

September 27, 2017

In 2012, American journalist and author Theo Padnos was captured by Al Qaeda forces in Syria, where he was tortured and imprisoned for two years. Following his unlikely release, he recounted his experience for the New York Times Sunday Magazine and later in the 2016 documentary film, Theo Who Lived.

A fluent Arabic speaker, Padnos had previously reported on Jihadi and Islamist radicalization in Yemen in the book, Undercover Muslim. An insightful thinker and writer, Padnos was invited to kick off the 2017-18 Norwich University Writers Series lecture series. He visited campus on September 26 to speak with students and give a public presentation on his work.

Norwich News

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  • Norwich professor a finalist for the Vermont's ATHENA Leadership Award

    Norwich professor a finalist for the Vermont's ATHENA Leadership Award

    • Faculty News
  • Amrutaa Vibho is literally shooting for the stars

    Amrutaa Vibho is literally shooting for the stars

    • Norwich In The News
  • Cadet Gabriel Gaetz wins at the OCR World Championship

    Cadet Gabriel Gaetz wins at the OCR World Championship

    • Student Success
  • Cadet Joseph Marsh learns from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Walla Walla, Washington.

    Cadet Joseph Marsh learns from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Walla Walla, Washington.

    • Norwich In The News
  • Norwich to hold 28th Annual Military Writers’ Symposium

    Norwich to hold 28th Annual Military Writers’ Symposium

    • Special Events
  • Norwich welcomes 650 new students to begin the 22–23 school year

    Norwich welcomes 650 new students to begin the 22–23 school year

    • Campus Life
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