Adina Cazacu-De Luca

Student , Columbia University
  • Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Scholar

Area of Expertise

Biomedical Sciences Environment Health Science

Research Topic

Biochemistry Chemistry Earth Sciences & Geography Environmental Geoscience Epidemiology Population Health Urban Planning

Laidlaw Cohort Year

2021

University

Columbia University

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English Spanish

My hobbies/interests are:

Houseplants/gardening Music Nature & environment Reading Volleyball Volunteering Yoga

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes

Yes

Influencer Of

Topics

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jun 03, 2021
Replying to Joanne Park
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

I've run into a lot more pushback on the value of teaching philosophy than I expected I would. Initially, I was thinking that the majority of those opposed to philosophical pedagogy would be so because of its lack of direct applicability to a particular career (e.g. those working in technical fields who think philosophy is less portable). However, I realized many critiques were much more nuances—such as Charles Mills's critique of ideal theory as under-analyzing (especially racial) structures of oppression. As such, my project has shifted to be less of a defense of "how" to teach philosophy, and more of an exploration of why it might still be valuable to teach ideal theory, despite its shortcomings in considering systems of oppression. In a way, the scope of my project has narrowed down, especially as I observe the teaching of philosophy in my work transcribing Prof. Mercer's lectures.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I've mostly relied on CLIO's research tools and peer-reviewed papers to do research. I've found that it's useful to take some of the basic papers available on CLIO to narrow down search terms, and, if I don't see the precise thing I'm looking for on that database, using other databases or search engines like Google Scholar. I've also gotten a lot of insight on what bodies of literature may be helpful to me from both my graduate mentor and my professor. 

Joanne, the idea of under-analyzing stuck out to me. My lit hum professor this past year (Dennis can confirm) would always push back whenever we tried to "define" a character's traits or a trend in the novel. He believed that trying to hold anything (an idea, a person, etc) within the scope of a definition intrinsically removed nuance from it. In a way, philosophical theories are extended definitions...I'd love to hear more about why you think ideal theory is valuable regardless. Additionally, as someone outside the discipline, I'm curious of what counts as ideal theory. How do authors who identify more as activists than theorists (Davis, Spillers, etc) fit in relation to this term?

Jun 03, 2021
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Challenge: the samples I work with are small. As in, pack 20 milligrams of a lead compound into a 1 inch tube with a 1.6 millimeter diameter. My mom and I joke that although my name means "the delicate one" in Hebrew, I am painfully clumsy. So, having both the fine motor skills and patience to prepare samples has been challenging for me. I am practicing breath-work and affirmations. In all seriousness, I am developing a level of focus that a year on zoom deteriorated. 

Idea: In preparing for our discussion with Professor Spivak tomorrow, I have questioned why it is we are motivated to learn, and how our desire to "do good," if not critically examined, can perpetuate colonial ideas about aid and philanthropy. While this may appear disjointed from my work in chemistry, the end goal of the project is to understand lead exposure and help the communities most affected by contamination. To take action, one must understand; to understand, one must measure. I found Spivak's words on education and philanthropy applicable to this goal, despite her own efforts being focused on the other side of the globe (https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/342588). 

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

The other researchers around me! I greatly appreciate Kirk, the grad student who has spent hours explaining NMR theory to me (a sophomore who has yet to take a college physics class). I am also grateful for Ben, the Earth Institute PI who explained why lead contamination and heavy metals work matters to him and gave more suggestions for project ideas and paths of analysis than I can pursue in a summer (or a PhD). 

May 28, 2021
Replying to Eva Brander Blackhawk

I'm planning to create a collection of creative essays and illustrations and try to integrate some of the cultural knowledge and words I've learned. I'm hoping to create the image of what I hope the language and future will look like for my communities. A lot of my work this summer is also getting background and context for next summer when I plan to be actually in the community and hopefully able to learn more of the language. I don't yet have enough language to do something like an illustrated children's book but I would like to make something like that next summer. The project has already been so rewarding personally and I've learned a lot about how my family history connects to the larger context of the tribe/region and nation. 

I think the most beautiful thing about my research is seeing the resiliency of culture and language and the people attached to it. A big part of the genocide and assimilation was removal from family and language and so reconnecting to that feels very important. 

Eva, I love your children's book idea. It's outside the traditional academic paper in the best way...it'll reach perhaps the most important audience (new language learners!). I know it's still far in the future, but have you thought about a story for the book? Would it be a primer for any child to learn basic words in Shoshone/Shoshone culture, or would it be more focused for kids with Shoshone heritage to start reconnecting, or maybe something else entirely? Which book appeals to you more? More generally, what are your thoughts on who should revive a language? How do you balance keeping the language alive by reaching as many people as possible vs. preserving a cultural tradition? I would love to talk more about what you've discovered so far in your research!

May 28, 2021
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper you hope to get published? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

For the next few weeks, I'll continue working on taking NMR spectra of lead compounds (and hopefully soil compounds as well). Lead NMR is not commonly used in environmental analysis, so the project (hopefully) could be helpful to other environmental chemists. For this reason, I'd like to write a paper for publication summarizing my findings. That said, we began running samples this week, and sample analysis will likely not end by mid-June. So, I hope to continue with this work until the project reaches a natural stopping point. That said, towards my original goal of creating a lead exposure map, I will be working with high school students to collect samples and map lead concentrations, leaf absorption of lead, and air pollution in New York City Parks in the second half of the summer. Understanding the value of green spaces quantitatively has not been extensively researched in urban environments, so while we hope to collect as much valuable data as possible, just establishing a protocol for future years to follow would be a success. In this way, the second project for this summer will be part of a larger scientific study. Additionally, we hope to use the data we collect to inform policy recommendations for City Hall. This process will likely last into the school year. I'm not sure which (if either) of these projects I will continue throughout the year, but next summer I would like to ask the same questions about environmental contaminants in an international setting. 

  • Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

A third of the world's children have lead blood levels that exceed health effect limits. In NYC, the number is around 10%. Environmental contaminants, despite their adverse health impacts, aren't understood as well as other risk factors (smoking, diet, etc). Moreover, even though lead paint and gasoline were phased out decades ago, they linger in the atmosphere in soil, making contamination far from a problem of the past. In order to reduce the number of children exposed to lead, we first must understand 1) where exposure is happening, 2) the underlying environmental and biological mechanisms of exposure, and 3) who is most affected. My work hopes to build new understanding in these areas. By using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to understand the structure of lead compounds in soil, we can better predict the bioavailability of lead-contaminated soil in parks. By systematically sampling NYC parks for both lead and air pollution, we can understand how parks protect us from or enhance our risk of exposure, and consequently advocate for measures that minimize risk.

May 25, 2021
Replying to Dennis Zhang
  • What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

My research team will soon be interviewing individuals who are categorized as "biomedically underrepresented" according to precision medicine research guidelines. Within these communities, there are many layers of history and social dynamics that have engendered a general distrust of academic/research institutions. As such, my team and I are constantly grappling with the tension between our own positioning as academics (and the associated connotations) and the necessary trust-building we'll need in order to facilitate open (and thereby insightful) conversations. Towards ethical trust-building, I think it is very important to acknowledge these connotations (and the historical precedents that have given rise to them) rather than ignore or try to erase them.

  • As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

Qualitative research like mine tends to be an iterative process. As such, I'm in regular conversation with my research team to go over findings thus far and consider alternative viewpoints / directions to take. At the end of the day, we do these exercises in good faith that alternative viewpoints will either strengthen our arguments or show us different research directions that strengthen our project overall.

Hi Dennis, 

Thank you for sharing about your research process! I'm curious, which groups count as "biomedically underrepresented"? Does the definition include socioeconomic status as well as race and ethnicity? I've been reading an interesting book on the intersection of race and class disparities in medicine, Infections and Inequalities by Paul Farmer, that covers the impacts of poverty on healthcare quality in the global AIDs crisis. The book takes a medical anthropology approach, and I'm curious about your team's methods. What will interviews look like? Do you have a standard questionnaire where each participant will be asked the same questions, or are you taking more of an oral history approach? What has your team discussed in terms of the benefits/limitations of either approach in answering your research questions? I'm interested in continuing to follow your project in the coming weeks!!! Good luck!

Best,

Adina

May 25, 2021
  • What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

My research is pretty standard chem lab work, so I haven't come across ethical issues yet. Later in the summer, as we begin sampling parks, we'll have to decide on locations. Since one end goal of the project is to summarize findings in a report to City Hall, we have to be mindful of which areas we sample and thus can directly advocate for increased green space. The high school students who will be helping to collect samples are from across New York City, and so we also want to consider co-production in the research design process. Which parks did they play in as kids? What areas are they worried about?

  • As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

The relaxation mechanism of lead in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is debated, so most of the alternative viewpoints I've considered have been from conflicting opinions in the literature. Speaking with different professors with expertise on lead contamination has also helped me form a list of model compounds!

May 14, 2021

Hi y'all, my first submission didn't go through: 

  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

After hearing about other archival projects and working with librarians, I began thinking more on how more humanities-based, archival work could help inform hypotheses on my more traditional STEM project. For example, I was looking through databases with park properties to see the date of park construction and found that important contextual information with regards to possible lead contamination sources was missing: what buildings used to be where the park now stands? What is the park's proximity to an older major roadway, and when the park was created, what measures were put into place to prevent lead/other heavy metals exposure? I've found myself doing a bit of history work, right now solely for the sake of better understanding the research system. 

  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

I've been fighting a non-COVID head cold, so staying focused has been tough. If I can catch-up on time spent resting the past few days over this weekend, we should still be able to start experiments next week. At the same time (and I was talking to Sarika about this), I want to develop a consistent 9-5 ish schedule. I have trouble putting work away at times, which can be problematic since there's always more research to do. I want to grow a healthier mindset around work which I can carry throughout my academic career in order to (as Sarika put it) "keep me from falling out of love with my work/academia." 

May 13, 2021
Replying to Evan Li
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

My research project involves mathematical and computational tools to model informal logical fallacies in language. This requires well-annotated data on informal logical fallacies, so I also need to be knowledgeable on certain linguistic and philosophical concepts. Because my project involves "teaching" computers how to recognize fallacies, I am very interested in other scholar's projects involving education and philosophical reasoning. 

  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

I am having trouble finding the best point to transition from surveying the literature to conducting experiments. If I start experiments too early, then there might be algorithms/methods that I missed. At the same time, I do not want to push off experiments indefinitely.

Evan, I'm also hesitant to start experiments too early/afraid of pushing too late. Luckily, my mentor has laid out deadlines for literature review and scheduled time to use the instrumentation necessary for the experiment. What has your mentor suggested in terms of timeline?