Monthly Archives: March 2010

Independent Filmmaker Series Thurdays in April

All through April, outstanding independent films and their filmmakers will be featured as part of Wesleyan’s 2010 Independent Filmmaker Series. The free-of-charge series is open to the public and begins April 1 and runs each Thursday night through April 29 at 8 p.m. at The Center for Film Studies’ Goldsmith Family Cinema. Noted independent directors, producers and writers will discuss their films then show them for the audience.

Basinger: Get Ready for More 3-D Movies

In a Hartford Courant story, Jeanine Basinger, Chair and Corwin Fuller Professor of Film Studies, says that with the success of Avatar, the film industry will be releasing more 3-D movies in the coming months and theaters are getting ready by installing 3-D projection equipment.

Roth on Richard Reeves ‘Daring Young Men’

In The San Francisco Chronicle, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth reviews Daring Young Men: The Triumph of the Berlin Airlift, June 1948-May 1949, a new book by Richard Reeves. The book details one of the seminal moments of the early Cold War chess match between The United States and The Soviet Union as Stalin sought to starve the Western sectors of Berlin into submission. The U.S. responded with an improbable plan to fly into Berlin everything the city’s residents needed to survive. Roth states: “Today, when the United States struggles with two wars only grudgingly supported by some of its citizens, Reeves’ account is a welcome reminder of the importance of a military willing to take risks to preserve freedom. ‘Daring Young Men’ brings to life a moment when altruism, guts and know-how inspired our country and saved a city.”

Greenwood Finds Water in Moon Rocks

Jim Greenwood, research assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, holds a slide with a moon rock sample that contains water. The water was found in the mineral apatite, which he and his team were able to identify in the sample. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett Drake)
Jim Greenwood, research assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, holds a slide with a moon rock sample that contains water. The water was found in the mineral apatite, which he and his team were able to identify in the sample. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

Soon after the Apollo spaceflights to the moon, experts examined the rocks brought back by the astronauts and declared with certainty that the moon was a dry, waterless place.

Forty years later, James Greenwood begs to differ. Not only does he have proof, his findings strongly suggest that some of the lunar water he found is not indigenous to the moon or earth but appears to have originated from somewhere else in space.

Greenwood, research associate professor, visiting assistant professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences, pioneered a new method of analyzing the rocks using a combination of light, electron and ion-beam microscopes. He and his international team of planetary geologists and geochemists, announced their findings at the 41st Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, in March.

It was a discovery almost didn’t happen, however. In fact, the only reason Greenwood found proof of water on the moon was because he was looking at a rock from Mars.

“I was in a lab at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, using an ion microscope to measure water in Martian meteorites,” Greenwood, who is a planetary geochemist, says. “We had pioneered this new technique to use two-dimensional ion imaging and were looking at this mineral in the meteorites called ‘apatite,’ which is a common phosphate mineral and holds water. Our analyses had been very good, probably better than ever before. So I thought, ‘What if we used this technique on moon rocks?’”

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Greenwood thought of moon rocks because a 2008 study from Brown University had found possible evidence of water in volcanic moon rocks. However, the study had been problematic and its results disputed. Still, Greenwood was intrigued that the possibility of water in the lunar rock samples had not been thoroughly vetted.

“The rocks were all declared devoid of water when they were first analyzed 40 years ago,” he said. “But I thought our new technique held some promise.”

Greenwood’s technique and the advanced instruments he gained access to, made it possible for him and the other scientists on his team to analyze the sample’s chemical composition over areas as small as 5 x 5 microns.

“In the past, they had actually ground up the analyzed samples. This created conditions that put the chemical analysis out of context,” he says. “Our method let us look at the samples as they are, in situ.”

The hardest part was getting permission to examine a sample. Less than 900 rocks were brought back from all the Apollo missions combined. Access is strictly limited.

It took several months, but Greenwood was able to get a few samples to analyze. The first were from the lunar highlands, which he thought might hold promise. But no water-holding apatite was found. Then he gained access to a sliver of rock brought back from the southwestern edge of the Mare Tranquillitatis – the “Sea of Tranquility” – where Apollo 11 had set down in 1969.

“So there we were in the lab at about 3 a.m. and the first sample we looked at, boom, there it was. Water. At first we couldn’t believe it. But we double-checked and we were just blown away. It was clearly there.”

The apatite, which is the same mineral that teeth are made of, was rife with water molecules. However, as Greenwood and his colleagues continued to analyze the samples they found that the water contained in the rocks was not from the earth or the moon.

“It was consistent in the water that comes from comets,” Greenwood says.

How could he tell? Water molecules found on earth – and those indigenous to the moon, since it was once part of the earth – contain a specific ratio of hydrogen to deuterium, which scientists use as a standard. The water Greenwood has found in some of the lunar samples has nearly twice the deuterium.

“The only things that falls into this range with any consistency are comets,” Greenwood says.

He adds that comets have long been known to hold frozen water and that perhaps as much as 10% of the earth’s water had come from comets, as well.

Microscopic water in minerals inside moon rocks is a tremendous find, but in a practical sense it does not open the door to, say, astronauts extracting this water to use on a lunar base or colony. Greenwood says that process would be too expensive and energy-exclusive with current methods. However, his discovery does open up another possibility.

“The level of water we found in the samples are consistent with the amount of water one would find from the mantle in the earth,” he says. “So there may be a reservoir of water within the mantle of the moon. Somewhat like groundwater here on earth.”

How far within the mantle, how deep below the surface is another challenge for another completely different type of study.

But Greenwood and his team have confirmed what many people have wondered for centuries, perhaps millennia. There is water on the moon.

Wesleyan Announces Promotions Incurring Tenure

During the academic year, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees maintains an ongoing process of tenure case consideration. During its most recent review, the Board awarded tenure to two faculty effective July 1, 2010.

Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, was appointed assistant professor of psychology at Wesleyan in 2007. Previously, he has held appointments at the Institute for Living in Hartford, Trinity College, Hartford Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania, the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. He has been awarded numerous grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, Hartford Hospital and NARSAD.

His research focuses on schizophrenia, specifically the neurocognitive and psychosocial deficits of individuals diagnosed with the disease. His work has important clinical applications through the development of rehabilitation and treatment strategies that can enhance the success of those individuals in everyday life. Significantly, his research approach isolates the different ways in which the range of learning potentials among schizophrenic patients are affected so that treatments can be more effectively targeted. Kurtz has published 29 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Kurtz earned his B.A. in psychology at Reed College; his M.A. and Ph.D. are from Princeton University, in psychology and neuroscience.

Typhaine Leservot, associate professor in the College of Letters and of Romance Languages and Literatures, was appointed instructor in the College of Letters and of Romance Languages and Literatures in 2003 before becoming assistant professor of both a semester later. She previously served as a teaching fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her research addresses issues of globalization, gender, and the post-colonial experience within the large framework of French-language literary fiction. Her book, Le Corps mondialisé: Marie Redonnet, Maryse Condé, Assia Djebar (Paris, Harmattan, 2007), analyzes the fiction of three authors from France, North Africa, and the Caribbean, engaging them together as a way of bridging French studies and francophone studies in the context of globalization. She is also author of several articles and book chapters.

Leservot completed her undergraduate studies in English literature at Caen University (France), and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

As the Board continues its practice of reviewing additional cases for tenure throughout this academic year, more announcements may be forthcoming.

5 Questions With . . . Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker, chair and professor of psychology.

Lisa Dierker, chair and professor of psychology.

This issue, we ask 5 Questions to…Lisa Dierker, chair and professor of psychology. Dierker provided us with some information on her research findings.

Q. How did you become interested in researching adolescents who smoke?

A: Early in my career, I was selected as a faculty scholar by the Tobacco Etiology Research Network. This network was a multidisciplinary initiative sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and was aimed at attracting junior scholars into the field in hopes of accelerating research into the causes and mechanisms by which experimentation with tobacco leads to chronic and dependent use.

At that time, as is the case today, smoking was the single largest preventable cause of illness and death in the United States. I was attracted to both the challenge and opportunity the field represented in terms of improving public health.

Q. Why is it critical to study adolescents and nicotine dependence/addiction?

A: The sheer toll of tobacco on the health and health care costs in the United States makes this an important area of inquiry. The fact that tobacco use begins almost exclusively during adolescence and often progresses to dependence even before adulthood means that smoking prevention can be best informed by research focused on this critical period of development.

Wesleyan Faculty Host “After Climategate” Presentation March 25

Faculty panelists will examine a variety of issues surrounding the recent reporting known as "Climategate," which impugned some of the findings of the IPPC's 4th Assessment Report.

Faculty panelists will examine a variety of issues surrounding the recent reporting known as "Climategate," which impugned some of the findings of the IPPC's 4th Assessment Report.

A presentation titled, “After Climategate: Rethinking Climate Science and Climate Policy” will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 25 in PAC 001. Admission is free and open to the public.

The panel discussion will feature Gary Yohe, Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics and senior member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Joe Rouse, chair of the Science in Society Program, Hedding Professor of Moral Science, professor of philosophy; Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental science, director of the Service Learning Center; and Paul Erickson, assistant professor of history, member of the Science in Society Program.

With Rouse moderating, the faculty panelists will examine a variety of issues surrounding the recent news media accounts known as “Climategate” which impugned some of the findings of the IPPC’s 4th Assessment Report.

Yohe’s presentation will include his first-hand experience with the Climategate story, from the initial leaking of private emails of key IPCC members on the Web a month before the U.N.’s Copenhagen conference, to the present. He will also offer quick glimpses

NSF Supports Holmes’ Gene Expression Research

At right, Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a three-year grant to support his research gene expression. His lab uses a budding yeast for the studies.

At right, Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a three-year grant to support his research gene expression. His lab uses a budding yeast for the studies.

For the next three years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will support gene expression research led by Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

On March 2, the NSF awarded Holmes a $599,832, three-year grant for his studies on “Epigenetic Silencing of Gene Expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.”

Scott Holmes

Scott Holmes incorporates his research into the spring semester course Advanced Laboratory in Genetics and Molecular Biology.

Gene expression refers to the observable characteristics generated on a molecular level by a particular sequence of DNA or gene; epigenetic controls are essential in maintaining the specific patterns of gene expression that distinguish hundreds of distinct cell types in skin, muscles and other types of tissue.

“I’m thrilled to get the funding,” Holmes says. “It’s very timely for us, and it’s a testament to the great work that graduate and undergraduate students have done in the lab over the last few years.”

Holmes, currently working with four graduate and four undergraduate students, uses a simple budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to study gene expression. Yeast uses an epigenetic gene repression mechanism, known as “silencing” to control the genes responsible for determining cell type.

“Two organisms, or two cells within the same organism, can have identical genetic information, or the same DNA sequence, but can have very different characteristics and functions,” Holmes explains. “We want to know how the gene expression patterns that determine cell type are first established, and then propagated as cells divide.”

The DNA in cells is organized into structures known as chromosomes. A key mechanism for controlling whether genes are on or off is by altering the structure of the chromosome. Once established, these alterations can become a stable, heritable part of the chromosome.

The nature of these structures and the manner in which they are inherited is not clear, Holmes says. Studies conducted on yeast will reveal the basic mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance.

This is the ninth year the NSF has supported Holmes’s research on yeast. He incorporates this research into the spring semester course MB&B 294, Advanced Laboratory in Genetics and Molecular Biology, which is required for undergraduate majors in the MB&B Department.

“This course is designed to familiarize undergraduates with the methods and approaches of the field in the context of pursuing novel research questions,” Holmes explains.

He also has partnered with a local high school biology teacher to devise and implement lesson plans, focusing on key concepts in genetics. Advanced students from this high school also visit the research lab to shadow graduate students.

Lawrence Lessig: “Wrongs of Corporate Speech” Topic of Annual Hugo L. Black Lecture

Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig is the 19th Annual Hugo L. Black Lecturer.  His current work addresses “institutional corruption”—relationships which are legal, even ethical, but which weaken public trust in an institution.

Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig is the 19th Annual Hugo L. Black Lecturer. His current work addresses “institutional corruption”—relationships which are legal, even ethical, but which weaken public trust in an institution.

Ethics leader and law professor Lawrence Lessig will speak on “Speech and Independence: The Wrongs of Corporate Speech,” during the 19th Annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression. The event is at 8 p.m. April 7 in Memorial Chapel.

Lessig is professor of law at Harvard Law School and the director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics. As director, Lessig is leading a five-year project studying “institutional corruption” relationships which are legal, even ethical, but which weaken public trust in an institution.

Prior to Harvard, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school’s Center for Internet and Society, and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.

For much of his career, Lessig has focused his work on law and technology,

Allbritton Center Honored with Gold Certification for Sustainable Practices

The Allbritton Center, formerly the Davenport Campus Center, was a renovation project completed in August 2009. Wesleyan considered sustainable measures throughout the redesign and construction, earning a Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

The Allbritton Center, formerly the Davenport Campus Center, was a renovation project completed in August 2009. Wesleyan considered sustainable measures throughout the redesign and construction, earning a Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

Wesleyan has reached the gold standard in sustainable structures.

On March 15, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded Wesleyan’s newly-renovated Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life building a Gold Certification based on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

LEED is an internationally-recognized green building certification system that verifies that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

“The Gold Certification demonstrates Wesleyan’s commitment to sustainable design, operation and maintenance of its buildings,” says Alan Rubacha, construction services consultant for the center. “From the salvage and reuse of existing materials, to the design and specification of new materials and even into the site design, LEED was consulted for every decision.”

The Allbritton Center, formerly the Davenport Campus Center, was a nine-month renovation project completed in August 2009.

LEED awards points based

Panel Discussion to Focus on Health Care Reform

The Usdan Common Connections Committee will host “Critical Condition,” a panel discussion focusing on the current efforts to reform the health care system in the United States, at 7 p.m. March 24 in the Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center.

Much of President Obama’s first year in office and the first year of the Democrat-controlled Congress has been focused on changes to the health care system aimed at expanding care to the uninsured and lowering costs. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed their own bills and on Sunday, March 21, the House of Representatives approved the Senate bill. A reconciliation of the Senate bill has also been approved by the House and sent to the Senate.

The state of Connecticut

Crazy Eights: 3 Wesleyan Spring Sport Teams get off to 8-0 Starts

Casey Simchik '10. (Photo by Brian Katten)

Casey Simchik '10. (Photo by Brian Katten)

Wesleyan women’s tennis posted a 4-0 mark during its fall dual-match schedule, then added four victories in Orlando, Fla. during its spring training trip in March to head into the meat of its schedule with an 8-0 record. The rest of the season features matches against nine consecutive NESCAC rivals. The outcomes of this part of the schedule will dictate qualification for the NESCAC tournament.

Women’s tennis is one of three Cardinal squads to inaugurate the season with an 8-0 start. Both the baseball and softball teams also have started 8-0.

The 8-0 record is the best ever season opening records for both softball and tennis. Each, however, is shy of the all-time program record for consecutive victories: women’s tennis won nine matches in a row during a 15-4 season in 2000-01; softball won 12 straight during its 21-15 season just three years ago in 2007. Baseball, which extended its streak to 10 games this year before dropping a game in California, began the 1988 season 13-0 and had a string of 15 consecutive victories in 1983.

Genevieve Aniello ’13