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Monthly Archive for August, 2011

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International students shout "Go Wes!" during a group photo shoot Aug. 30.

Wesleyan welcomed 87 international students to campus Aug. 28-31. International Student Orientation is held prior to new student orientation in order for international students to recover from travel, often from across the globe. ISO also offers sessions that address health and medical insurance issues, programs about cultural adaptation, weather adjustment, and liberal arts education, (more…)

Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, and his graduate student, Michelle Tipton, photograph an Eastern Blacknose Dace used in their current research. The photo of the fish will appear in an upcoming scientific journal.

There’s something fishy about one of Connecticut’s minnows, and the topic hooked researchers in the Department of Biology.

During the last ice age, Connecticut was covered by layers of snow and ice, forcing organisms to seek refuge elsewhere. After the glaciers retreated, recolonization of the fauna and flora resulted in the diversity of native species that inhabit the state today.

Graduate student Michelle Tipton holds an Eastern Blacknose Dace. Tipton captured the fish from Middletown's Coginchaug River Aug. 8. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

“But where did they come from? How did they come back to the Northeast to give us all the organisms we see today?” asks biology graduate student Michelle Tipton. ”These questions are of particular interest to the ichthyologists at Wesleyan with regards to fishes.”

In an upcoming issue of Ecology and Evolution, a scientific open access journal, faculty and students provide some of the first genetic evidence of what took place during the most recent post-glacial recolonization events, which provided Connecticut and the northeast with its native fish populations. To begin filling the void of information for this large biogeographic question, they started their research with this ubiquitous minnow. (more…)

Laura Grabel

Professor Laura Grabel has received a $750,000 grant from The State of Connecticut Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee for her study titled “Angiogenesis of Embryonic Stem Cell Derived Hippocampus Transplants.” It is her third grant from the Committee since Connecticut began its state-funded human stem cell research program in 2006, and second where she is the principal investigator (P.I); she was co-P.I. on the other.

Grabel, professor of biology and Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science in Society, is also a co-director of Connecticut’s Human Embryonic Core Facility, a research center in Farmington, Conn. that houses some human stem cell research performed by scientists from Wesleyan, The University of Connecticut, and The University of Connecticut Health Center.

The new grant will fund a study that builds on previous research (more…)

Emily Weitzman ’14 hugs one of her students at the Shining Hope for Communities Summer Institute. Weizman says many of the girls want to be teachers, pilots and doctors when they grow up.

Six Wesleyan students and one alumna spent part of their summer in Nairobi, Kenya as volunteers in Shining Hope for Communities Summer Institute. The institute brings college undergraduates and recent graduates together with students from the Kibera School for Girls.

Institute participants provided tutoring and mentoring during the mornings and helped run a summer camp at the school in the afternoon. The volunteers also worked on other Shining Hope projects, including the Johanna Justin-Jinich Community Clinic, a clean water project, toilet access project, community center, and a garden project.Shining Hope for Communities was founded three years ago by Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09.

Their inaugural project was the Kibera School for Girls (KSG), a day school set in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, (more…)

The Center for the Humanities advisory board awarded eight Wesleyan seniors with a Student Fellowship for 2011-12. These fellows will explore the themes “Fact and Artifact” and “Visceral States: Affect and Civic Life.”

Four Student Fellowships are awarded by the center’s advisory board each semester.

Alexandra Wang '12

During the fall semester, fellows Conan Cheong, Kevin Donohoe, Bridget Read and Alexandra Wang will will explore the theme “Fact and Artifact.” They will examine the career of the modern fact and its uncomfortable companion, the artifact. The fellows will question, “Under what conditions can facts be created?” “How do efforts to pin down empirical reality gain access to the material world?” “How do they depend upon symbolic or aesthetic logics of representation or produce such representations?” “What light can the study of artifacts shed on the status and function of facts in our world?”

Wang is using the “Fact and Artifact” theme as a springboard for her senior thesis on diabetes.

“I’m researching how the facts we now know of the manifestations, complications, and treatment of the disease can be considered artifacts of societal and cultural influences on scientific research,” she explains. “From the other student fellows, lectures and professors, I hope to develop existing ideas and gain new perspectives on my research.”

Read hopes to complete her honors thesis in English as a CHUM Fellow. During the fall semester, she will write a biography of the late Fred Millett, professor of English, emeritus, who taught at Wesleyan from 1937 to 1958. From childhood to his death in 1979, Millett kept meticulous written records, assembling his correspondence as well as self-publishing small books that chronicled different times in his life, including his years as a teacher and retiree. Read will use materials arrived at Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives as primary sources for her project.

“Throughout his life, Millett existed in a delicate balance between propriety and passion, restraint and expression, and his navigation of this tension provides valuable insight into mid 20th century social upheaval in the United States,” Read says.

Bridget Read '12

“Yet it is what Millett omitted in the recording of his life that intrigues me as much as what he did include, and what inextricably ties my project to the theme of ‘Fact and Artifact. According to those close to him, Fred Millett was gay, but he left no trace of his sexuality in the archive except for a collection of magazines that was destroyed by his family.”

Millett’s archive, including the undocumented story of his sexual orientation, call into question the very nature of “fact” inherent in the dissection and study of an “artifact,” and begs a question of what can we actually learn from artifacts of the past, when the indisputable or objective “facts” they point to may or may not exist at all, Read explains.

“I hope to challenge conventions about the materiality of a human life that posit a single, unidirectional line between ‘artifact’ and ‘fact,’ the written word and the objective reality it explains,” she says. (more…)

The Center for African-American Studies (CAAS) is hosting a First Book series during the Fall 2011 semester. The series features trailblazing junior scholar-authors whose projects are and will make significant contributions to the field of African-American Studies.

Gina Athena Ulysse, the new director of the Center for African American Studies, associate professor of African American Studies, associate professor of anthropology, created the series as the main initiative of her directorship to coincide with the AFAM junior colloquium that she is teaching.

Ulysse’s interests and concerns were to economically achieve three goals: 1) give AFAM incoming majors the opportunity to engage directly with scholars who are impacting the field of study; 2) revive CAAS’s old tradition of excellent programming; and 3) expose the broader Wesleyan and Middletown community to works and projects that are not only adding new knowledge to African-American Studies but are doing so in original and nuanced ways. “In recent years, there have been so many developments in the field that ask us to rethink historiography, seriously engage with queer studies and unpack both the racialization and geopolitics of religions, criminality and consumer cultures within the U.S. and broader black diaspora. The projects selected to inaugurate the series specifically reflect on these intersections,” Ulysse says. “I was also adamant that the series includes a Wes alumna whom we would bring back to celebrate her achievement. We have a solid line up!”

Book by Kate Ramsey.

On Oct. 4, Jafari Sinclaire Allen, assistant professor of anthropology and African-American studies at Yale University, will speak about his book, iVenceremos? The Erotics of Black Self-Making in Cuba (Duke University Press 2011). In Venceremos, Allen marshals a combination of historical, literary, and cultural analysis– most centrally, ethnographic rendering of the everyday experiences and reflections of Black Cubans to show how Black men and women strategically deploy, re-interpret, transgress and potentially transform racialized and sexualized interpellations of their identities, through “erotic self-making.” Venceremos argues that mutually constituting scenes in Havana and Santiago de Cuba– like semi-private, extra-legal parties of men who have sex with men; HIV education activism; lesbian performance and incipient organizing of women who have sex with women; hip-hop and la monia (US R&B/soul music) parties and concerts; sex labor; cigar “hustling” and informal Black consciousness raising networks– represent a gravid space for becoming new revolutionary men and women, with new racial, gender and sexual subjectivities.

On Oct. 18, Kate Ramsey, assistant professor of history at the University of Miami, will speak about her book, The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti (University of Chicago Press 2011). Vodou has often served as a scapegoat for Haiti’s problems, from political upheavals to natural disasters. This tradition of scapegoating stretches back to the nation’s founding and forms part of a contest over the legitimacy of the religion, both beyond and within Haiti’s borders. The Spirits and the Law examines that vexed history, asking why, from 1835 to 1987, Haiti banned many popular ritual practices.

Book by Khalil Gibran Mohammed.

On Nov. 8, Khalil Gibran Mohammed, the new director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, N.Y., will speak on The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard University Press 2010). In Condemnation, Mohammed writes about ways black criminality was crucial to the making of modern urban America, as were African Americans’ own ideas about race and crime. Chronicling the emergence of deeply embedded notions of black people as a dangerous race of criminals by explicit contrast to working-class whites and European immigrants, this fascinating book reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies. Read more about Mohammed in this New York Times article.

On Nov. 29, anthropology major Oneka LaBennett ’94, assistant professor of African and African American studies at Fordham University, will speak about her book, She’s Mad Real: Popular Culture and West Indian Girls in Brooklyn (New York University Press 2011). In She’s Mad Real, LaBennett draws on more than a decade of researching teenage West Indian girls in the Flatbush and Crown Heights sections of Brooklyn to argue that Black youth are strategic consumers of popular culture and through this consumption they assert far more agency in defining race, ethnicity and gender than academic and popular discourses tend to acknowledge. Importantly, LaBennett also studies West Indian girls’ consumer and leisure culture within public spaces in order to analyze how teens like China are marginalized and policed as they attempt to carve out places for themselves within New York’s contested terrains.

For more information about the series visit the African American Studies Program web site online here.

Katie McConnell '13 and the student group WILD Wes received a $50,000 grant from the University’s Green Fund to transform a 2/3 acre plot on campus into a sustainable landscape. Planting will begin this fall.

An article by Katie McConnell ’13 and Emma Leonard ’13 was featured in a recent Permaculture Institute of the Northeast newsletter. McConnell and Leonard are members of the new student group WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design). They’ve been vying for permacultural principles to be adopted into the University’s landscaping practices.

In the past year, the group hosted its first annual Sustainable Landscaping Design Charrette, where Wesleyan faculty, administrative members, permaculturists, landscaping experts, and students from Wesleyan and nearby Northeastern colleges converged.

In the newsletter, McConnell and Leonard explain how at the conference, groups collaborated to develop permacultural and sustainable landscape designs for over a half dozen sites on the Wesleyan campus. (more…)

Wesleyan has been devoted to liberal learning since its founding in 1831. The Wesleyan Institute for Lifelong Learning is the latest extension of this mission — a dedication to the improvement of human well-being by means of education throughout the course of life.

Enrollment for the Wesleyan Institute for Lifelong Learning (WILL) Fall 2011 semester is open.

WILL is chartered to provide educational opportunities outside of formal degree-granting programs to members of the broader community. WILL classes are taken for interest, not for credit. Classes are small with an informal atmosphere.

Faculty include Wesleyan faculty, emeriti faculty, and similarly qualified members of the community. The courses are short, intellectually-stimulating and lively.

The course offerings cover the arts, social sciences, literature, science and mathematics. (more…)

Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, looks at a set of protein gels with his students.

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. He received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his research on epigenetic silencing of gene expression. 

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. Epigenetic mechanisms also explain how humans can have more than 200 distinct cell types.

Q: Professor Holmes, you are an expert on genetics, molecular biology and chromosome structure. What led you to an interest in genetics and what does your lab research?

A: I had a strong affinity to genetics both as a field of study and as an experimental approach. Our DNA is present in our cells in structures known as chromosomes. My lab is addressing fundamental questions about how these structures are organized, and how that organization influences the function of genes present on the DNA. To accomplish this we primarily use genetic tools. In a directed manner we manipulate genes that we know or suspect will influence the structure of chromosomes, then assess the consequences of these changes.

Associate Professor Scott Holmes uses budding yeast to study chromosome structure and gene expression.

Q: Last year, you received a three-year grant worth $599,832 from the National Science Foundation to support your research titled “Epigenetic Silencing of Gene Expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.” Please explain what epigenetic controls are and what role do they play in gene expression.

A: Most people are familiar with the basics of genetics: the DNA sequence of any two individuals varies by about 0.1 percent (about 1 in 1,000 positions in the DNA sequence), and some of that variation is manifested in measurable ways in our biochemistry, physiology, and outward appearance. Epigenetics refers to situations in which two cells or organisms have identical DNA sequences, yet establish distinct patterns of gene expression and exhibit different characteristics. Epigenetic mechanisms explain how humans can have over 200 distinct cell types despite the fact that all our cells have exactly the same DNA. The distinct gene expression patterns in these different cell types are dictated by their unique chromosome structures; we’d like to know how these structures are initially established, and then how they are inherited as cells grow and divide.

Q: What is the advantage of using Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a budding yeast, for studying gene expression?

A: Budding yeast has been used for centuries for baking and brewing; (more…)

Wesleyan's Physical Plant-Facilities staff has been busy this summer with several construction projects. The Public Affairs Center's restoration includes exterior carpentry repairs, gutter repairs, minor roofing repairs and chimney repointing. Painters also removed lead paint from the roof balustrade. The perimeter balustrade, soffits and metal railings around the building were prepped and painted. Inside, several classrooms received refinished tables, new seating and millwork. Next summer, the PAC's patio and stairs will be repaired.

Contractors repaired the PAC's chimney, applied liquid waterproofing material, and repaired the slate shingle roof.

(more…)

Incoming frosh John DiCandeloro, pictured at top, right, is currently studying the Persian language Farsi in Dushanbe, Tajikistan through the State Department's National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). NSLI-Y provides merit-based scholarships to U.S. high school students and recent graduates interested in learning less-commonly studied foreign languages. DiCandeloro is pictured with his peers and Ken Gross, the U.S. Ambassador to to the Republic of Tajikistan. The Ambassador spoke about the United States' political and economic relationship with Tajikistan and opportunities to work with the State Department in the future.

DiCandeloro and his peers participated in a national cuisine cooking class. Here, volunteers made "manta" (dumplings) by filling flattened dough-squares with a mixture of meat/onion or potato/onions. The students are living with local families and studying their language. They're also learning the culture, touring cities, meeting dignitaries and volunteering in the city. At Wesleyan, DiCandeloro plans to study international relations.

Becky Lee '10 and Professor David Beveridge at the Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India.

David Beveridge, the Joshua Boger University Professor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of chemistry, was on sabbatical last spring at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India. He was visiting and working on research projects with Professor B. Jayaram, director of the Supercomputer Center for Bioinformatics, SCFBIO.

Beveridge’s former student, Becky Lee ’10, was spending a year doing research in Jayaram’s SCFBIO research group on a project in computational biophysics.

Beveridge presented one of the thematic lectures on “Dynamic Allosterism” in a lecture series celebrating the 50th anniversary of IIT-Delhi.

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