Monthly Archives: February 2011

Basinger: Movies Not Often Historically Accurate

In a piece for The Washington Post titled “And the Oscar for most historically accurate film goes to…all of them!” Jeanine Basinger, chair and Corwin Fuller Professor of Film Studies, discusses how movies are rarely, if ever, historically accurate. From Braveheart, Chariots of Fire, Lawrence of Arabia, and A Beautiful Mind to the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech, writers and directors have taken liberties with the facts for dramatic reasons. However, Basinger says, movies are, after all, entertainment, and the onus for knowing these inaccuracies also lies as much with audiences as the filmmakers. “Just as filmmakers must take responsibility for how they portray history, audiences have to take responsibility for what they believe, asking themselves how seriously a film wants them to trust its accuracy, and why,” she says.

Stark On Unethical Past Medical Experiments

Commenting in a story posted by ABC News, Laura Stark, assistant professor science in society, assistant professor sociology, assistant professor environmental studies, discussed unethical medical experiments performed on prisoners, the disabled and others during the last century. Discovery of the shocking procedures led to the crafting today’s informed consent procedures.

Olin Unferth Recalls Search for Revolution and Love

In a story in The Kansas City Star, Deb Olin Unferth, assistant professor of English, recounts going on road trip in the 1980s that became a journey to Central America to help sow the seeds of socialist revolution – and along the way she found love. The recollections are the basis for her book Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, which includes her experiences in El Salvador and Nicaragua working in an orphanage, engaging with communist rebels and converting to Christianity.

New Dinosaur Named for Emeritus Professor McIntosh

The Telegraph (UK) is reporting that a recently-discovered dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period (about 110 million years ago) has been named Brontomerus Mcintoshi for John S. “Jack” McIntosh, Foss Professor of Physics, Emeritus. The fossil, discovered in Utah, is marked by its large, powerful thighs which may have been used to kick predators and travel over rough terrain. The American-British team of scientists who discovered the remains named the dinosaur for McIntosh, “a life long avocational paleontologist.”

Gottschalk: Poll Results Reflect Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

Commenting in a story for USA Today, Peter Gottschalk, chair and professor of religion and co-author of Islamophobia, says a recent poll showing more than 50 percent of Americans surveyed are favor of Congressional hearings on Muslim radicalization is a product of on-going anti-Muslim rhetoric. The poll precedes hearings that will be held by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King in March. Gottschalk points to the double-standard that Muslims face in America, saying they are blamed for all the actions of extremists “who happen to be Muslim, but all Christians aren’t responsible for abortion clinic bombers or the KKK.”

Peters: Don’t Increase Democracy Aid to Egypt Now

In an opinion piece for Foreign Policy, Anne M. Peters, assistant professor of government, says that though the Obama administration has cut democracy aid during the last two years, this is decidedly not the time to increase it. “If nothing else, the past three weeks demonstrate that Egyptians do not need foreign money, consultants, or democracy and governance programs to collectively organize and exert their demands; they simply needed a pooled set of grievances, digital and print media for communication purposes, and a big push from the ‘Tunisia effect.’ ” Her piece expands on the rationale behind these points.

Burke: ‘Finger’ Links Birds and Dinosaurs

In recent articles in Live Science and Science Ann Burke, chair and professor of biology, comments on a new study links the “wing fingers” of baby chicks with the digits of a particular group of dinosaurs. The study lends evidence to the theory that birds evolved from a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that roamed the earth 150 million years ago. Burke had been co-author of a previous study in 1997 that established the hypothesis and provided early evidence to support it.

Paul Farmer, M.D., Ph.D., 2011 Commencement Speaker

Paul Farmer is one of the founders of Partners In Health, an international health and social justice organization.

Dr. Paul Farmer, known worldwide for co-founding Partners In Health to serve the world’s poor, will receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address at Wesleyan University’s 179th Commencement in May.

Wesleyan’s other honorary degree recipients at Commencement include a legendary singer of the American Songbook, an alumnus envisioning the future of online journalism, and two local friends of the institution long dedicated to serving the Middletown community.

Johnson ’11 Honored for Exoplanet Research

Marshall Johnson '11 presented his research poster at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting, Jan. 10-13 in Seattle, Wash. The AAS awarded Johnson with the Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award.

Marshall Johnson '11 presented his research poster at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting, Jan. 10-13 in Seattle, Wash. The AAS awarded Johnson with the Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award.

Marshall Johnson’s research is out of this world.

For the past two years, the senior astronomy major used the Van Vleck Observatory’s 24-inch Perkin Telescope to study the transits of “exoplanets,” or planets outside our solar system, that orbit another star.

His study, titled “First Results from the Wesleyan Transiting Exoplanet Program,” explains a refined orbital period of a newly-discovered planet named WASP-33b (Wide Angle Search for Planets). Ultimately, Johnson may prove that he’s discovered another planet, WASP-33c.

“Here in Connecticut, with clouds and haze, we don’t have the best observing conditions, but I was still able to obtain high-quality data using our modest-sized telescope,” Johnson says. “The most interesting result, which is still tentative, is that I am seeing transit timing variations in one target. This could be due to an additional planet in the system.”

For his efforts, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) awarded Johnson a Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award, which “recognizes exemplary research by undergraduate and graduate students.” Awardees are honored with a Chambliss medal

Ph.D Candidate Kopac to Study Bacterial Evolution with NASA Award

Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac samples soil that contains a bacterium that can endure extreme conditions.

Sarah Kopac, a Ph.D student in Professor of Biology Fred Cohan’s lab, has won a $20,000 NASA grant for research on ecological aspects of bacterial evolution in Death Valley National Park.

The grant, announced Jan. 11 by the Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium, will support Kopac’s study of Bacillus subtilis, a bacterium commonly found in soils that can endure extreme conditions, such as high heat levels.

Kopac, a third-year Ph.D candidate, is focused on identifying bacterial species that evolved within a gradient of salty soils – part of a broader effort to understand how ecological factors influence the spawning of new species.

First Sex, Gender, Species Conference Drawing Strong Interest

Sixteen speakers from a range of disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts will focus on a variety of topics addressing human-animal relations and their representations.

Sex, Gender, Species is the title of an international conference being hosted by Wesleyan Animal Studies and The Center for the Study of Public Life on Feb. 25-26.

The conference will explore the intersections between feminist and animal studies and the practical and theoretical problems central to both fields. Speakers from a range of disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts will focus on a variety of topics addressing human-animal relations and their representations.

“The growing field of animal studies has turned critical attention to the real conditions and stakes of human relationships with other animals,” says Lori Gruen, conference co-organizer and associate professor, philosophy, associate professor, feminist, gender and sexuality studies. “We were overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of the response to our call for papers and are looking forward to an intellectually rich conference.”

The conference has five sessions. Friday, Feb. 25, will feature presentations

Cottier ’12 Experiences Cities Across the Globe

Charlotte Cottier ’12, at right, bikes through rice paddies in Mai Chau, Vietnam during the Cities in the 21st Century Program in December. Cottier spent 17 weeks studying the development of the world’s cities.

During the fall semester, Charlotte Cottier ’12 set a lofty goal: “I wanted to pop the Wesleyan bubble and become a citizen of the world,” she says. “I wasn’t quite sure what this meant, but I knew that growth, challenge, and change would be necessary.”

Cottier applied for the Cities in the 21st Century Program, coordinated through the International Honors Program (IHP). For 17 weeks, she and fellow student scholars had the opportunity to examine how the structure of a city enhances or impedes growth on a world-wide tour. She observed the effects of urban sprawl in Brazil, witnessed revitalization in Detroit and studied how wealth has influenced society in Vietnam.

“Students on the program examine the intentional and natural forces that guide the development of the world’s cities,” explains Erin Deegan, university relations manager at IHP. “It combines an innovative urban studies academic curriculum with fieldwork involving public agencies, planners, elected officials, NGOs and grassroots groups in important world cities where exciting changes are taking place.”

Cottier’s journey began last August with a two-week stint in Detroit, Mich., a city known for its devastation and rebirth. She observed how “incredible” community organizing and social entrepreneurship can thrive amongst inefficient leadership,