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Monthly Archive for February, 2011

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. (more…)

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 (more…)

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. (more…)

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 (more…)

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, (more…)

Student-run organizations have the opportunity to win cash prizes through the Dell Social Innovation Competition.

The University of Texas at Austin and Dell are looking for university students who are working to combat social problems worldwide. They’re giving away more than$100,000 in cash prizes to at least five winning teams. Shining Hope for Communities, directed by Jessica Posner ’09 and Kennedy Odede ’12, received the $50,000 Dell Social Innovation Competition grand prize award in 2010.

This year, three other student-groups at Wesleyan are competing for the awards. Vote tallies, along with the competition judges, determines the $50,000 grand prize winner (more…)

A Feast for the Senses will be held April 8 with a 5:30 p.m. auction preview.

Ray Hardman from WNPR’s “Morning Edition” will serve as emcee and master of ceremonies to Green Street Art Center‘s second annual fund-raising event and auction, A Feast for the Senses. This Caribbean themed event will feature music of The Fresh Men-toes with Bill Carbone (drums), Gabe Gordon (piano), Zac Rosen (bass) and Andrew Fogliano (sax/flute) performing songs from Jamaica, Trinidad and elsewhere in a calypso and mento style, and a steel pan duo featuring Deborah Fischer Teason and Sarah Sedgwick Heath.

A Feast for the Senses will be held April 8 at the Green Street Arts Center at 51 Green Street in Middletown, Conn. with a 5:30 p.m. auction preview.  Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased by calling (860)-685-7871 or at http://www.acteva.com/booking.cfm?bevaid=212786.

For more information visit gsac@wesleyan.edu or call 860-685-7871.

Amelia Kiddle

The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs has presented its annual award for best doctoral thesis on Mexican foreign relations to Amelia Kiddle, the Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow in Latin American Studies at Wesleyan’s Center for the Americas.

Kiddle is the first winner to have completed her doctorate outside Mexico.  The prize is worth about $8,000 and includes a commitment to publish the Spanish-language version of her dissertation, “La Política del Buen Amigo: Mexican–Latin American Relations during the Presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas, 1934-1940.”

Kiddle, now in the first year of her two-year fellowship, (more…)

James Kaplan ’73, author of “Frank: The Voice,” spoke at the Russell House Feb. 9. (Photo by NamAnh Ta)

Cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum, journalist Jane Eisner, poet Yusef Komunyakaa and novelist Amy Bloom are among the speakers featured in the Writing at Wesleyan 2011 Spring Russell House Series.

Author James Kaplan ’73, the Writing Programs’ 2011 Joan Jakobson Visiting Writer, kicked-off the series Feb. 9, followed by MacArthur award winner Sarah Ruhl on Feb. 10.

All events are free and open to the public.

The full list of speakers is below, or online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/writing/distinguished_writers/.

Wednesday, Feb. 16, Memorial Chapel 8 p.m.
The Writing Programs’ 2011 Annie Sonnenblick Lecturer Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award & Pulitzer Prize), and Specimen Days. His latest novel is By Nightfall. He lives in New York. (more…)

William Johnston

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of  William Johnston, professor of history, professor of science in society, professor of East Asian Studies. One of his areas of specialty is the history of disease and epidemics.

Q: How did you become interested in the history of diseases, and more specifically, flu outbreaks?

A: While in graduate school I examined a number of different fields of history, but was drawn to the history of medicine in Japan because it was in that field that the Japanese first absorbed European scientific ideas and methods.  My advisor suggested that I take courses in the History of Science Department, and one course I took was a history of tuberculosis in the Untied States.  It was an eye-opener because it made me realize the ways in which societies interpret and respond to disease tells us a lot about their most basic values and fundamental structures. Sometimes people get very excited about relatively minor diseases while accepting major causes of illness and death as somehow “normal.”

Q: What are among the more notable outbreaks over the last, say, 100 or so years?

A: The most important outbreak of flu in the past century was, of course, the one that occurred between 1917 and 1920. For that matter it was one of the deadliest pandemics of all time, killing about 2.5 percent of all infected, with a total mortality estimated between 20 and 50 million worldwide. Some estimates go even higher. It possibly was a swine flu, although it could have been an avian strain that infected swine and then mutated to infect people; its exact origins (more…)

Gina Ulysse introduces a panel discussion on “One Year later: Assessing Disaster and Community in Post Quake Haiti” Feb. 9 in Usdan University Center. Ulysse is associate professor of African American Studies, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.


Geoffrey Canada spoke on “Education Reform and Youth Empowerment” during the Martin Luther King Celebration on Jan. 21 in Memorial Chapel. Canada is president and CEO of Harlem Children's Zone, Inc., where he has become nationally recognized for his pioneering work helping children and as a passionate advocate for education reform.


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