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Fall Semester: A Wednesday Abroad on the Grinnell-In- London Program

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

7:30 a.m.: Roommate’s alarm goes off. Some vague memories of her getting up, and then I’m unconscious.

8:58 a.m.: Other roommate’s alarm goes off. Grr …

9 a.m.: My alarm goes off. Shower.

9:40 a.m.: First cup of tea of the day. Catch up on all of the American blogs.

10:30 a.m.: Walk to class. I close my eyes when I walk past the bakery with the Technicolor icing cupcakes so I won’t stop and buy one.

11 a.m.: Intro to Shakespeare. We continue discussing last weekend’s all-expense-paid fieldtrip to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Patrick Stewart and David Tennant perform in Hamlet. Mostly we girls discuss how attractive David Tennant is. The guy next to me keeps nodding off, and I want to smack him with my book. I debate whether I could compose myself once again before he had a chance to look around.

1 p.m.: Walk home.

1:30 p.m.: Turn on the wrong burner of our electric stove. Wait for a long time for my skillet not to heat up.

1:48 p.m.: Move skillet to correct burner. Make lunch. Watch a rerun of Doctor Who while eating lunch. Mmmm … David Tennant.

2:30 p.m.: Second cup of tea of the day in the basement of a Starbucks-esque coffeehouse. Edit umpteenth draft of a screenplay I’ve been working on in my free time.

4:30 p.m.: Head out for our History of London walking tour of the East End. Do homework while sitting on the Tube.

5 p.m.: Class meets at Old Street Station. We explore the remnants of the 19th-century furniture factories and learn how the working class was exploited. All of us end the walk disappointed that we didn’t live in that era. Just kidding.

6:30 p.m.: My five flatmates and I fight over who gets to make their dinner first in our two-person kitchen.

7:25 p.m.: All six of us head out to the Duke of York Theatre where we join the rest of the program to see Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, starring Michael Gambon and David Williams. I’ve never heard of the second name, which reveals my ignorance of British pop culture.

10 p.m.: We all leave the play very confused.

10:05 p.m.: One of my flatmates and I wait at the stage door to get Michael Gambon’s autograph. We get David Williams’ too, although we still don’t know who he is.

10:40 p.m.: I look up David Williams on Wikipedia.

11:30 p.m.: Start going to bed. One roommate and I whisper for a long time while the other roommate who has to get up at 7:30 again tomorrow throws pillows at us.

Molly Rideout '10 is an English major from Madison, Wisconsin.

Lovin’ the Loggias

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Loggia: n. (loh-JA) A roofed outdoor walkway attached to the side of a building. Sometimes described as an outdoor hallway. See Grinnell College campus.

 As you walk around the clusters of dorms on Grinnell campus, you notice that they all have one thing in common: loggias. Like many students, before I came to Grinnell I had no idea what a loggia was. When I saw the word written I pronounced it “log-ee-UH.” But now I realize just what a brilliant piece of architecture a loggia is, a structure not only useful for keeping the snow off your head during those cold Iowa winters and for serving as a pretty addition to campus buildings, but one that is simply essential to campus culture.

Each dorm cluster — north, south, and east — has its own loggia, but the loggias are each a bit different. North Campus dorms have a traditional loggia, with open sides and a fl at roof, right up against the building. South Campus has what is sometimes referred to as an “enclo-ggia” because the loggia is an enclosed corridor with windows instead of open sides. Traditionally, South Campus was home to women, and the enclosed loggia allowed for girls to move between each other’s rooms after the loggia doors were closed to all male visitors. East Campus has what I call a “faux-ggia,” because parts of it aren’t attached to the side of a building at all.

If you ever want to know what’s going on around Grinnell on any given weekend, you only have to check out the loggias. At any given time, the loggias are plastered with fl yers advertising parties, activity clubs, used textbooks for sale, campus speakers, and student performances. So staying up to date with campus activities is as easy as glancing at the pillars and walls of the loggias while walking back to your dorm.

The roofs of the loggias are as important to Grinnell as the walkways. Warmer weekends aren’t complete without a party or get-together on the roof of a loggia, with music, dancing, and sometimes even a grill-out. During the week, people will sit out on the loggia roofs to talk, do homework, and get some sun. Unfortunately, loggias can only be accessed by climbing through certain second-fl oor windows, but hanging out on the loggias is so fun and pleasant, it’s worth the scrambling around. Consequently, rooms with loggia access go quickly during room draw each spring.

Finally, loggias are the stage for some pretty entertaining activities. Last winter the modern dance troupe held their performance in the East Campus loggia, dancing up and down the walkway, with the audience seated at the entrance. Over the semesters, I’ve witnessed mud fi ghts, impromptu guitar performances, and rap battles in the campus loggias.

Without the loggias, the Grinnell campus wouldn’t be what it is. It wouldn’t look like it does, or have the social activities that the loggias enhance. And, oh yeah, it’s a lot easier to get around in the winter without having to trudge through the snow.

Kat Atcheson ’12 is undeclared and from Overland, Kansas.

Hands-On Learning

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

“Culture is hard to study because it is so huge.” OK, I get that. But it’s one thing to read it, to hear it. But Professor Kesho Scott doesn’t just say it — she shows it.

“Put your hands in front of your face,” she commanded us at the class’s first meeting. “Culture is in your face.” We’re so close to it, our view is dominated by the tiny fraction we can see, making it impossible to study it with any perspective. The goal of American studies, as Professor Scott explained it to my Intro to American Studies class (25 students with their hands covering their faces), is to pull that culture away from your face. Up close, we may only be able to see the details — the wrinkly lines crossing our palms, the small portion of the world we inhabit. But as you pull your hands away, the larger picture becomes clearer.

Professor Scott’s “hands-on” approach to teaching seemed awkward and silly at first. But concretizing this abstraction made an impossible concept manageable. Within a week of the start of class, we were trained: “Because class, what is culture?” she would ask. “It’s in your face!” we’d respond.

But we weren’t done acting out the abstract yet. To illustrate the social pressures inhibiting rebellion, she instructed three guys to lie down side by side on the floor. “Now, stand up, rebel!” she ordered. They stood up, a bit confused.

As soon as they were up, she told them to get back on the floor, and then told six of us, C myself included, to sit on the three men. We were understandably hesitant, but she insisted. Once we were in place, she told the students on the bottom to rebel again. With six people on top of them, this was a no easy task. Eventually they gave up, unable to dislodge us.

As we made our way back to our seats, Professor Scott explained what this exercise had to do with social change. It isn’t some nebulous force (“The Man”) that squashes rebellion. It’s us — the omnipotent weight of the expectations of society dictating compliance and obedience.

It’s one thing to be told that society works collectively to ensure that its norms and mores are observed. It’s another thing entirely to experience it, to be the one holding down your classmates. Throughout the semester, Professor Scott’s interactive method — she calls is “guerrilla teaching” because it has a way of bypassing your defenses — explained this and many other key concepts of American studies. As a senior, I can now observe and analyze abstract concepts in my higher-level classes without getting too caught up in the fingers and the fingerprints of culture and learning.

Katie Pimlott '10 is an English major and American Studies concentrator from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Random Acts of Music

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Grinnell College is not a music school, and does not have a large music department. But someone forgot to tell the students.

Last semester, I had the treat of working with Simone Fontanelli, an Italian conductor, composer, and classical guitarist — and one of the best clinicians in Europe. The Grinnell Symphony Orchestra flew him in for a week of guestconducting. The week culminated in one of the best concerts I can remember from our ensemble. Playing a program of all Italian music (Rossini, Boccherini, Cherubini, Puccini, and other rhyming names) under the baton of a native Italian was quite an experience.

The College recently finished restoring the historic Aeolian Skinner organ in Herrick Chapel. I’ve heard it in a few concerts now, and it sounds amazing! For me, the highlight of the organ’s Rededication Weekend was a concert by Kevin Bowyer, an organist from Scotland who specializes in “impossible music” — music previously considered impossible for a human to perform. The College somehow commissioned a work by American composer John Zorn (who no longer accepts commissions); the piece is so weird, radical, and near-impossible to play that Mr. Bowyer said he was afraid he might break the College’s organ. I had the daunting task of turning pages for Mr. Bowyer during the show. You know it was an impressive performance when the guy turning pages gets compliments for surviving the ordeal and simply being able to follow along! As it happened, the instrument was not damaged.

Separate from the official Department of Music, music at Grinnell can be unofficial and is always cooperative. Campus bands work with the Freesound student group to coordinate equipment and practice space, which is now being soundproofed. Sometimes they even open for bigger bands hired by the Concerts Committee for some weekend entertainment, and there’s always the Freesound compilation CD that magically appears every year.

The College’s Public Events Committee brings in groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo from South Africa, Inti-Illimani from South America, or the Tallis Scholars from Britain. For jazz fans, this year brought saxophonist Sonny Fortune. Even he couldn’t compare to legendary trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Not only did they put on a great show, but Marsalis and a few band members also jammed with student musicians afterward in Lyle’s, our campus pub.

Often it’s the unscheduled and unrehearsed performances — the random acts of music — that make my day. A few weeks ago, when the weather started getting nice, I left Bucksbaum Center for the Arts to find a harpist practicing in the courtyard. This in turn reminded me of one of my first days at Grinnell, when I finished practicing and walked outside to find a group of students playing bluegrass under a streetlamp after 11:30 p.m.

A couple of weeks ago after I left a (music) class and headed to lunch, I entered the campus center to find a large crowd gathered in the E-mail Lounge. String musicians were setting up for what appeared to be a spontaneous concert, and I found myself a little sad that I wasn’t joining them in the cello section, but I still enjoyed listening. As they were playing the Mendelssohn Octet, others in the crowd will remember me as the complete nerd yelling the request: “Fourth movement! Play the fourth movement!”

Matthew Imber '11 is a Music major from Overland Park, Kansas.

The Lovable, Loquacious Residents of Lazier Fourth

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Until I came to Grinnell, I had lived with my parents in Kansas City. Living in a dorm in the middle of rural Iowa has been quite a change for me. College was the first time I had to share a room and the first time I lived among my peers for any extended period. I was a bit nervous the day I moved in, knowing my living space would be drastically different from what I was used to. My floor would be my home for the next year. And what a home it has become!

Welcome to Lazier Fourth, inhabited by my best friends on campus. My floor, though technically coed and including students from every year, somehow ended up with a large percentage of first-year girls. There are six of us: Annie, Grace, Zoë, Maria-Elena, Briel, and me, Kat. The six of us bonded almost immediately at New Student Orientation and we soon began to spend mealtimes and weekends with each other. We go to movies, Harris parties, and out to eat in town together. We have sleepovers in each other’s rooms, and we went stargazing one warm fall night. And we provide support for each other when things get a little rocky in our lives, from drama with significant others to bombing an exam.

We all want to major in different things; in terms of extracurriculars, we run the gamut — theatre performances, dance groups, the Feminist Action Coalition, the Grinnell College Quidditch Club, Vox, and the softball team. As for our potential majors, they range from anthropology to theatre to the sciences to English. Variety is the spice of life, and here on Lazier Fourth, we’re as spicy as chili peppers!

Of course, other people live on our floor as well. Caroline, a senior, is a biology major now applying to graduate schools. Lizzy and Liza are best friends on the tennis team who also room together. Jarrett, a first-year boy, lives across the hall from me and volunteers at the Stonewall Resource Center. His roommate, Sam, is a second-year on the debate team. And Ryan, who lives down the hall, is an international student from Indonesia. Together we have study breaks as a floor, ranging from baking cakes to painting henna designs on our hands.

And what floor at Grinnell would be complete without an SA (student adviser)? On Lazier Fourth, our SA is Mairéad. She has taken the time to get to know us, not just as fellow students at Grinnell, but also as friends. She often visits with us in the evenings, swapping stories and offering advice. Mairéad also arranges study breaks —fun ones (decorating T-shirts), and educational ones (learning about the benefits of adequate sleep). In short, our SA is a vital part of the Lazier Fourth family.

While I know that no place can replace my childhood home in Kansas City, I’ve come to think of my floor as my second home, with a whole slew of amazing siblings living here with me. Having such a floor family here at Grinnell has made leaving my own family easier, and I know that in the years to come, I will look back on the friendships I shared with my floormates quite fondly.

Kat Atcheson '12 is undeclared and from Outland Park, Kansas.

Learning about Learning

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Change often happens without notice. One day, I’m just a student, taking classes, thinking about ideas — and suddenly the school year is nearly over, and it hits me just how much I’ve learned, grown, and changed in the last nine months. One of the courses that influenced me the most was Education 101. It challenged my ideas about what knowledge is and how it’s acquired, and revitalized my desire to work in public education.

One of my favorite lessons from EDU 101 was learning how to think about my own learning process. Our professor asked us to observe our own learning in one of our other classes for several weeks (recording everything in a journal, of course). We were also asked to interview the professor of that class, and write a few short essays about our findings in the meantime. I chose my introductory English class, Literary Analysis.

As a prospective English major, I was enthusiastic about certain aspects of literary analysis and hypocritically frustrated by other elements, skilled at writing but not-so-skilled at critical reading, and alternately irritated and inspired by my professor’s ideas and teaching style — I made a good case study for myself.

At first, I simply took notes on what the professor did and what happened in class. Thinking about my own learning, in the moment, was more difficult than it sounded. What was I supposed to notice, anyway? If the teacher was talking, I was probably learning something, right? Eventually, I learned to notice not only what was going on in class, but also my immediate responses to class events. I also learned to evaluate the situation as a whole.

Suddenly, my education took on a whole new level of personal meaning. Whether I was comparing stories to hurricanes in English, figuring out how vectors work in physics, or relating McDonaldization to my own life in sociology, I knew how to think not just about the subject at hand, but also how to think about how I was thinking about it.

This is exciting — why? Is it the material itself, or the way it’s being presented? Usually, I am most excited by ideas that are directly relevant to my experiences; does this fall into that category? How can I make sure I stay excited about this subject? Or, I just don’t get this. Am I thinking about it the wrong way? Maybe a more visual approach would work better? Or something more mathematical? How do I usually understand math? Would that approach work here, too?

One of the ideals I hold dear is that education should be personal. EDU 101 changed my worldview of learning forever by providing me with a clear sense of self-perception and agency in my education.

Sara Woolery '11 is an English major getting an Education certification from Malvern, Iowa.

How to Fall in Love in 30 Days

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


All it took was 30 days for me to be swept off my feet. Grinnell took my breath away from day one, and as I walked dazedly around campus, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. From the beaming smiles of everyone I passed, to the crisp and refreshingly unpolluted Iowa air, to my awesome Nepali roommate, everything finally seemed comfortable.

However, it wasn’t until mid-September that I realized just how at home I felt at Grinnell, and just how much I loved this place. I felt completely refreshed by being around these amazing Grinnellians, engaging in their random bouts of fun, just because. Here is a brief look at nine signs I was falling in love with Grinnell College:

  1. One rainy night, my friend Sarah ran into our room and commanded us to put on our dirtiest clothes, most of which need to be laundered, that instant. We agreed, needing a study break, and proceeded downstairs and outside, where it was pouring. As we walked down the loggia, we passed more people and invited them to join us. The result? A magnificent mud fight with 15 girls in the freezing cold rain, followed by loud and off-key rain-related songs — I’m amazed we didn’t get pneumonia, but I’m not going to forget that night anytime soon.
  2. I learned how to climb a tree at 10 o’clock at night. A few friends and I were passing a giant tree, and I mentioned how I’d never actually climbed a tree. It took me 15 and I clung to it for another half an hour. Finally, I moved up a branch or two, still very freaked out. The next day I tried climbing a smaller tree on my own. Satisfied with the height I had reached and with the bright sunshine, I took my books and sat in a tree and studied there for an hour and a half.
  3. I made my very first s’more over a bonfire. That night, I also learned also how to burn eight marshmallows in a row.
  4. I went stargazing from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m., lying on Mac Field talking about politics, Eastern philosophy, and the merits and demerits of dining hall food. We fell asleep in a random lounge that night, too tired to walk up three floors to our room.
  5. One night when the observatory was open, I saw Saturn. Also that night, my friends and I rolled down a grassy hill in the dark. Got bruised. Did it again the night Barack Obama got elected.
  6. I organized a midweek Mulan sing-along study break on a Wednesday afternoon, inviting everyone I saw that day — my efforts resulted in plenty of loud singing to “Be A Man.”
  7. My favorite floor-bonding study break: finger-painting. Lots of paint, chips and dip, rolls of white paper, and a wide variety of artistic abilities. A wide variety.
  8. Staying up until 4:30 a.m. the night before my sociology midsem, highly caffeinated and eating cup noodles, pondering the meaning of life with my roommate.
  9. One evening, I came out of a rehearsal of my a capella group, only to stumble upon DAG practice. DAG, the medieval foam sword– fighting club, is a well-recognized campus organization and pretty hard to miss. Until then, I’d always been a little too intimidated to try out the whole jabbing-people-with-swords thing, but that night, stumbling upon this practice outside Bucksbaum, my friends and I ignored the teeming piles of homework that awaited us and played DAG for an hour in the dark.

Grinnell is where everything makes sense, where your strangest dreams come to fruition, and where you discover that others share your secret love for mixing hummus with chocolate sauce. My fellow Grinnellians led me to fall in love with this haven of liberal arts splendor. This kind of unconditional love is one for the record books.

Sunanda Vaidheesh '12 is undeclared and from Mumbai, India.

J.B. Grinnell

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

J.B. Grinnell is a towering figure in the history of Grinnell, Iowa. Josiah Bushnell Grinnell -- better known as J.B. -- was born in Vermont in 1821. He grew up a farm boy, working in the fields in the spring and summer and attending school only in the winter. He learned quickly and began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse by the age of 16. After spending a few years teaching, he left Vermont to attend Oneida Institute in New York, a radical institution that opposed slavery. It was there that Grinnell became a staunch abolitionist. He would remain vocally opposed to slavery for his whole life -- even founding the town of Grinnell based on this tenet. He once hosted abolitionist John Brown in Grinnell as Brown was bringing several freed slaves along the Underground Railroad to Canada. After leaving Oneida, Grinnell cycled through many jobs. He studied with a physician and considered a medical career, but then decided to head into the Wisconsin Territory to discover and survey new tracts of land. He went west with the American Tract Society, a religious organization, and while working with this group, he decided to go into the ministry. Returning east, Grinnell settled in Washington, D.C., after being ordained in New York. He started the First Congregationalist Church there and gave the first anti-slavery sermon the city had ever heard. Most people in Washington were strong supporters of slavery at the time, and Grinnell was forced to leave the city because of his opinions. Although the story may be apocryphal, it is said that Grinnell heeded the famous advice to "Go west young man," delivered to him by politician and friend Horace Greeley. At any rate, Grinnell did set out again for uncharted territory. He enlisted the help of Homer Hamlin, a minister; Henry Hamilton, a surveyor; and Dr. Thomas Holyoke to find a location for a new settlement. They looked at different locations in the Midwest, including Minnesota and Missouri, but decided on the divide between the Iowa and Skunk rivers, where the east/west and north/south Rock Island railways were set to cross. On this site, the city of Grinnell was founded. J.B. Grinnell and his three companions commenced building the settlement in 1854 with three temporary log cabins. They began to sell land for $1.62 an acre, and the town quickly grew. The one stipulation on all the deeds sold was that alcohol could never be sold or consumed on any of the properties, as Grinnell strongly opposed the use of alcohol. This rule was upheld for many years, until a court overruled it. With the founding of the town, Grinnell also founded "Grinnell University," although it was a university only in name. He created a board of trustees and listed all the members of town as professors. No buildings were ever built, nor classes held, but after J.B. Grinnell persuaded Iowa College to move to Grinnell from Davenport, Iowa, all of Grinnell University was signed over to the Trustees of Iowa College. Grinnell went on to serve in Congress, where his abolitionist stance often put his life in danger. After winning re-election twice, he lost a third bid and moved back to Grinnell. He remained there until his death in 1891 from bronchitis and asthma after a trip through Texas into Mexico.

Nitric Oxide Mediates the Effect of DF2 on EPSP Amplitude

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


View this article as PDF: Morley, Shriver, and Zhang


This experiment looked at the role of nitric oxide in the mechanism by which the peptide DF2 increases neurotransmitter release at the crayfish neuromuscular junction. We hypothesized that if DF2 increases neurotransmitter release through a pathway involving nitric oxide as a retrograde signal, then when L-NAME, an inhibitor of nitric oxide synthesis, was applied, DF2 will not increase neurotransmitter release. To test this we exposed crayfish superficial dorsal extensor muscles to DF2, which was amplified with IBMX. We then submerged the preparation into saline solution that contained DF2, IBMX, and L-NAME. Neurotransmitter release was measured by the amplitude of EPSP traces recorded from the postsynaptic muscle cells via intracellular recording. Our data shows an increase in neurotransmitter release after exposure to DF2 and IBMX, as well as a decrease in neurotransmitter release after the addition of L-NAME, a trend that supports our hypothesis. Further testing is needed to draw conclusions about our hypothesis.


DRNFLRFamide, AspArgAsnPheLeuArgPhe-NH2, (DF2), is a peptide that enhances synaptic transmission at neuromuscular junctions. However, the mechanism by which DF2 accomplishes this is still unclear (Friedrich et al. 1998; Badhwar et al 2006). Badhwar et al (2006) suggest that protein kinase A (PKA) and protein kinase G (PKG) are involved in the pathway by which DF2 increases EPSP amplitude. Friedrich et al. (1998) claim that protein kinase C (PKC) is needed in this process. Calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinases, such as CaMKII, also have apparent roles in mediating the effects of DF2 in the presynaptic terminal (Noronha and Mercier 1995). According to Badhwar et al. (2006), it is plausible that nitric oxide is required in the DF2 signaling pathway as a retrograde signal because of its small molecular size, high membrane permeability, and the presence of membrane-bound guanylyl cyclase in crustaceans. Badhwar et al. (2006) hypothesized that nitric oxide increases cGMP levels, which is involved in the DF2 pathway, via soluble guanylyl cyclase. Our study explores the role of nitric oxide as a possible retrograde messenger in the mechanism by which DF2 increases neurotransmitter release.

The antagonist L-NAME was utilized in this study because of its ability to block nitric oxide production. L-NAME blocks nitric oxide production because the structure is similar to that of the amino acid L-Arginine. This similarity in structure allows L-NAME to act like L-Arginine and bind with nitric oxide synthase, the nitric oxide production enzyme, to stop nitric oxide production. We hypothesized that if DF2 increases neurotransmitter release through a pathway involving nitric oxide as a retrograde signal, then when L-NAME is applied to inhibit nitric oxide synthesis, there will be a decrease in neurotransmitter release.

To test this hypothesis we exposed crayfish superficial dorsal extensor muscles to L-NAME to block nitric oxide production. We expected DF2 to increase the neurotransmitter release, and that L-NAME would cause a decrease in neurotransmitter release. Our results show that DF2, when enhanced with IBMX, causes an increase in neurotransmitter release. Our results also suggest that exposure to L-NAME prevents this increase in neurotransmitter release.


Crayfish Specimen

We used crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), which were stored at 20 °C, and put on ice before the experiment. We cut the tail off a crayfish and then cut along the sides of the tail, cutting as close to the ventral part of the tail as possible. The cephalothorax and surrounding tissues and muscle cells were removed so that only the exoskeleton of the dorsal surface and the superficial extensor muscles along the dorsal surface remained. The tail was placed into the dissection dish, pinned, and covered with 25mL of crayfish saline solution.

Saline Solutions

Ringer solutions were prepared with three different chemicals by dilution with a low calcium crayfish ringer solution (Table 1). This control solution had a pH of 7.4 and consisted of 5.4mM KCl, 200.7mM NaCl, 12.3mM MgCl2 • 6H2O, 5mM Sodium Hepes Buffer and 5mM CaCl2 • 2H2O. We used a lower calcium solution to inhibit cells from triggering action potentials.

Table 1. Composition of Saline Solutions

Saline DF2 (mM) IBMX (mM) L-NAME (mM)
Control  0  0  0
 A  2.0  -  -
 B  2.0  .01  -
 C  2.0  .01  0.


The first preparation was exposed to the control saline followed by saline A. The second preparation was exposed to the control, then saline B, followed by saline C. Each preparation was submerged into 25mL of saline solution, which was replaced with new solution every 15-30 minutes. Tests involving DF2 were completed without changing the saline solution until a new chemical was added because we had such a small amount of DF2 to work with. These tests were completed as quickly as possible to protect against fatigue and cell death.


We used two kinds of electrodes, suction electrodes for nerve stimulation and microelectrodes for recording. Both electrodes were fitted to manipulators and their respective reference electrodes were submerged in the saline solution. The suction electrode was put into an electrode holder that allowed saline to be drawn through the holder by a syringe. Recording electrodes were pulled from glass capillary tubes with 1.2mm diameter, filled with 3M KCl, and inserted into an electrode holder, which was also filled with 3M KCl. Recording electrodes had resistances ranging from 4MΩ to more than 10MΩ.

Nerve Stimulation and Recording

The suction electrode was attached to a stimulator, which stimulated the pre-synaptic nerve that was sucked into the electrode. The nerve was stimulated with single pulses at a frequency of 0.5Hz, and at the lowest voltage possible to measure an EPSP.

Using a microscope and micromanipulator, we inserted the microelectrode into a muscle cell in the same segment and on the same side as the nerve that was being stimulated. The recording microelectrode recorded the signals in the post-synaptic muscle cells. The signals passed through an amplifier and the membrane potentials and EPSP traces were viewed using the Scope program.


We tested the involvement of nitric oxide in the DF2 signaling pathway, through which DF2 increases EPSP amplitude. First, we exposed one preparation to DF2 to see if DF2 affects EPSP amplitude. We then applied DF2 and IBMX, followed by L-NAME to another preparation to see if blocking nitric oxide production alters the effect of DF2 on EPSP amplitude.

We compared the EPSP amplitudes recorded before and after we applied DF2. Our data shows that DF2 does not increase EPSP amplitude when applied alone. DF2 decreased the EPSP amplitude by 28.4% (Figure 1).

Figure 1, bar graph

Figure 1. Average EPSP Amplitude Before and After Exposure to DF2

The average control amplitude was 8.4 mV (n=4) and the average DF2amplitude was 6.4mV (n=3). After exposure to DF2, the amplitude dropped 24% (p>.05, student t-Test). Error bars indiciate standard error of 2.72 for the contrl and 0.66 for DF2.

We compared the change in EPSP amplitude before and after we applied both DF2 and IBMX on another crayfish preparation. The average EPSP amplitude for the control was 5.61 mV, and the average EPSP amplitude for DF2 and IBMX was 6.58 mV. The average EPSP amplitude increased 17.3%, which demonstrates the effect of DF2 and IBMX on EPSP amplitude. We then compared the EPSP amplitudes before and after L-NAME was added. Our results showed that the average EPSP amplitude after the sample was exposed to L-NAME was 3.22 mV, 51% lower than the average amplitude for DF2 and IBMX (Figure 2). The average amplitude for L-NAME was also 42.5% lower than the average for the control (Figure 2).

Figure 2, bar graph

Figure 2. Average EPSP Amplitudes.

The average EPSP amplitude for DF2 and IBMX trials (n=5) is higher than the control average (n=4, p>.05), and the L-NAME trials (n=5) have a lower average than both DF2 and control trials (p>.05 for both comparisons). Error bars show standard errors, control: 3.06, DF2 and IBMX: 2.21, and L-NAME: 1.51.


In our experiment, we observed that DF2 did not increase neurotransmitter release when applied alone. Although we do not have much data to support this result, these results are contrary to the results presented by Badhwar et al. (2006). This data could suggest a flaw in our assumptions that DF2 should increase EPSP amplitude per Badhwar et al (2006), but more data is needed for such a conclusion to be drawn from these results.

As suggested by Badhwar et al (2006), when a significant increase in EPSP amplitude was not observed after adding DF2, we added IBMX, which should have enhanced the effects of DF2. When DF2 and IBMX were both added to the preparation the EPSP amplitude increased, which indicates an increase in neurotransmitter release. Although we do not have a significant amount of data to draw conclusions, this result is consistent with the findings of Badhwar et al (2006).

Our data shows that the EPSP decreases when L-NAME is added to a preparation that contains DF2. This preliminary data suggests that nitric oxide is involved in the pathway by which DF2 increases neurotransmitter release. Further study is needed to support or refute this trend. This data would support our hypothesis that nitric oxide is involved in the mechanism by which DF2 increases EPSP, as the necessary nitric oxide should be unavailable because L-NAME blocks the synthesis (Newman et al, 2007).

The average EPSP amplitude for L-NAME was also lower than the average control amplitude. This could be due to a few reasons. One possibility is that inhibiting nitric oxide production with L-NAME may affected mechanisms other than the DF2 mechanism. Our design did not allow for targeted application of chemicals, so it is possible that the application of L-NAME affected more than just the effect of DF2 and IBMX. The other very plausible option is that the amplitudes were generally lower because the cells were fatigued and beginning to die. Although saline solutions were replaced at relatively regular intervals, it is possible after about one and a half hours, the crayfish muscle cells were beginning to die.

Future research on this topic would include more trials using L-NAME and DF2 to see if more data supports our hypothesis the way our preliminary data suggests. If our hypothesis is supported, the next step would be to test the role of nitric oxide as a retrograde signal using carboxy-PTIO. This would also support the suggestion that nitric oxide is involved in a retrograde signaling pathway that Badwar et al. (2006) present in their paper. More tests should be done to measure nitric oxide levels, and to test if the DF2 receptors are located on the post-synaptic membrane using fluorescent markers.


We thank Clark Lindgren, our professor, Sue Kolbe and Abby Griffith, our lab assistants, and Adhiti Kannan, our mentor, for their assistance with this project. We would also like to thank our willing crayfish friends, Joe, Bob, Sally, and Snuffleupagus.


Badhwar, A., Weston, A., Murray, J., & Mercier, A. J. (2006). A role for cyclic nucleotide monophosphates in synaptic modulation by a crayfish neuropeptide. Peptides, 27, 1281-90.

Friedrich, R., Molnar, G. F., Schiebe, M., & Mercier, A. J. (1998). Protein Kinase C Is Required for Long-Lasting Synaptic Enhancement by the Neuropeptide DRNFLRFamide in Crayfish. The Journal of Neurophysiology, 79(2), 1127-1131.

Newman, Z., Malik, P., Wu, T., Ochoa, C., Watsa, N., & Lindgren, C. (2007). Endocannabinoids mediate muscarine-induced synaptic depression at the vertebrate neuromuscular junction. European Journal of Neuroscience, 25, 1619-30.

Noronha, K.F. and Mercier, A.J. (1995). A role for calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase in mediating synaptic modulation by a neuropeptide. Brain Research, 673 (1), 70.

Skerrett, M., Peaire, A., Quigley, P., Mercier, A.J. (1994). Physiological Effects of Two FMRFamide-Related Peptides from the CrayfishProcambarus Clarkii. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 198, 109–116.

Mary's Ghost

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


It’s around 2 a.m. The library has already closed, and you have four more pages to go on a paper about sentimentality in the fiction of Mary Wollstonecraft. So you set up your laptop and a veritable tower of books in

the living room of Mears Cottage on the south side of campus. The Victorian-style, English and history house has a comfortable feeling, with glowing incandescent lights and couches for when four o’clock rolls around and sleep becomes nothing short of inevitable.

“I really should have started this essay sooner,” you think to yourself, right before the elevator doors in the hallway open of their own accord.

And there’s no one inside.

Of course there’s no one inside. There’s no one in the building. Only the emergency lights had been on when you pulled open the door, slouched down the hall, and plopped your backpack down in the living room. Of course there’s no one in the building. Some wires must have tripped.

You go back to your paper.

A noise makes you stop.

Even a building this old shouldn’t creak that loud in the wind.

Named after Mary Grinnell Mears, Grinnell class of 1881 and daughter of J.B. Grinnell, Mears Cottage housed the College’s female students back when it was originally built in 1888. Within these walls, the women lived and learned and walked — yes, those are definitely footsteps above you. Quiet creaks, but definitely footsteps. The glass doors to the academic support office begin rattling and then the elevator door opens again.


“If I were Mary Mears,” you decide, staring determinedly at your computer screen and trying hard not to look into the bright compact-fluorescent emptiness glaring from that spot in the hallway as the doors ding closed, “and if an elevator were installed in my cottage years after I died, I’d probably let my ghost play with it, too.” At least, late at night after all the professors went home.

Somehow that thought doesn’t help you focus on your paper. You flip idly through the Mary Wollstonecraft biography on the top of your book pile, but that’s not the Mary you’re thinking about. J.B. Grinnell is buried in the town’s cemetery, but what about his daughter? You don’t know anything about how his daughter died.

Is that the sound of fabric swishing? Like, petticoat fabric?

Maybe you should go upstairs, just walk around, you know, to check it out. As a study break. Stretch your legs. See if anyone’s studying in that classroom above you. Maybe they turned the lights off to take a quick nap.

The creaking and the swishing falls into an oppressive silence as you climb the stairs, clicking your pen nervously to create some sort of sound. Click (silence) click-click (silence) click (silence). As you pass the elevator shaft on the second floor landing, it dings open once again. You could have touched the ceiling, you jumped so high. It takes you a while to retrieve your pen from where it flew behind the chair outside of Professor Lobban-Viravong’s office.

The door to the classroom is locked, and when you knock, no one answers. Even when you pound on the door and yell something about this not being funny. But let’s admit, it kind of is. As you descend the steps once more, your hands are shaking, probably from the frappachinos you drank around 11 p.m. Definitely not from anything else.

When you return to the living room, all of your books have been spread out around your chair, the covers systematically opened to the title page. Someone’s underlined the same word on each of the white pages: Mary … Mary … Mary …

Your computer’s crashed — the blue screen of death.

Molly Rideout '10 is an English major and Gender and Women's Studies concentrator from Madison, Wisconsin.