Frederic Wills '19

Slobin Donates Afghani Instruments to The Met

Mark Slobin, professor of music, professor of American studies, emeritus, recently donated his collection of Afghani musical instruments to The Met museum.

From 1967 to 1972, Slobin traveled to Afghanistan to complete dissertation fieldwork on local folk music of the northern region. Along the way he collected, what are now, extremely rare instruments including, polished river stones, sometimes used as castanets; end-blown shepherds’ flutes; two large fretted lutes known as dutar; both Uzbek and Tajik damburas; and a plethora of other instruments.

His time in Afghanistan was marked by many memorable encounters, such as the “rare, hidden tradition of pre-Islamic shamanism, in which the healer went into a trance, summoning and voicing spirits with the qobuz, a fiddle related to Kazakh and Kyrygyz shamanism.”

Slobin’s full journey with multimedia documentation can be found on the Wesleyan Website and The Met’s blog summarizing the donation is online here.

slobininstruments

Robinson Lab Researches the Effects of Junk Food Diets

Michael Robinson, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience and behavior at Wesleyan University. (Photo by Olivia Drake/Wesleyan University)

Michael Robinson

Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, is a co-author of a paper titled “The impact of junk-food diet during development on ‘wanting’ and ‘liking’.” The paper was recently published in The Behavioral Brain Research Journal. His co-authors include Wesleyan alumni Ellen Nacha Lesser ’15, Aime Arroyo-Ramirez ‘16, and Sarah Jingyi Mi ’16.

The research looked at the developmental impacts of a chronic junk-food diet throughout development and how it blunts pleasure and affects motivation. The study found that chronic exposure to a junk-food diet resulted in large individual differences in weight gain (gainers and non-gainers) despite resulting in stunted growth as compared to chow-fed controls. Behaviorally, junk food exposure attenuated conditioned approach (autoshaping) in females, particularly in non-gainers. In contrast, junk-food exposed rats that gained the most weight were willing to work harder for access to a food cue (conditioned reinforcement), and were more attracted to a junk-food context (conditioned place preference) than non-gainers.

Read the full article here.

Gross Uses Detective Notes, Archival Documents to Write Disembodied Torso

Kali Gross, professor of African American studies, details the 1887 crime of the disembodied torso found near a pond outside Philadelphia, and the subsequent, scandal-driven trial of Hannah Mary Tabbs and George Wilson, in her most recent book Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America, published February 2, 2016.

Gross explains in an editorial published on her website, her use of “detectives’ notes, trial and prison records, local newspapers, and other archival documents to reconstruct this ghastly who-done-it true crime in all its scandalous detail and in doing so, gives the crime context by analyzing it against broader evidence of police treatment of black suspects and violence within the black community.”

Copies of Gross’ Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Oxford University Press.   

Khamis Participates in Informality, Development Conference

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis, assistant professor of economics, assistant professor of Latin American studies, attended the Informality and Development Conference in Honor of Elinor Ostrom held at Indiana University on Oct. 22-23.

Khamis, co-authored two papers presented at the conference including “Migration and the Informal Sector,” and “Risk Attitudes, Informal Employment and Wages: Evidence from a Transition Country.”

The conference was organized by faculty from Cornell University and Indiana University. It centered around the study of informality, the part of an economy that is neither taxed not monitored by any form of government—a subject area where Professor Ostrom, the first and only woman to have won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, has had a major influence. The goal of the conference was to honor the memory and the legacy of Ostrom by exploring informality from both economic and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Taylor Co-Authors Study on Knotted Protein Configurations

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, is a co-author of a paper titled, “Methyl transfer by substrate signaling from a knotted protein fold,” published in the August 2016 issue of the Nature Structural & Molecular Biology newsletter.

The paper describes the protein TrmD, an enzyme that catalyzes tRNA modification, but unlike most proteins, TrmD has an “interesting knotted configuration, which is not common,” Taylor said.

The paper demonstrates that even in proteins with knotted configurations, the internal protein movements and dynamics are important for binding, signaling and catalysis.

“This is exciting because one might expect knotted proteins to be more static in their structure due to the knot, where the amino acids wrap in on themselves, but the evidence suggests that protein dynamics are just as important in these types (knotted configurations) of proteins,” she said.

 

Ulysse Contributes #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus Article to Online Anthropology Journal

Gina Athena UlysseGina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, recently contributed to the #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus, a new project by The Anthropoliteia, an online anthropology journal. Ulysse also is professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

One of the main goals of the project is to “mobilize anthropological work as a pedagogical exercise addressing the confluence of race, policing, and justice.” In this vein, Ulysse uses her entries to analyze the film series “Race: The Power of Illusion.” As part of the Race: Are We So Different? Project created by the American Anthropological Association, the film serves as a teaching tool for Ulysse in her own classroom at Wesleyan. Ulysse enters with the aim of unpacking the notion of “race is a social construct,” by paying attention to “1) the making of this narrative and the rise of academic disciplines; 2) changes in social structure and the language of racial classifications in relation to power; and 3) the multiple meanings/ significations of racial difference concomitant to capital signs.”

Throughout her entry, Ulysse talks of the importance of filling in the partial truths of the U.S. and its relations that students have been taught in history classes for their entire lives. She recounts the numerous times she has heard the exclamations, “I had no idea”; “This wasn’t even a sidebar in my textbook”; “Never thought of all these connections. Oh my God! It is all one big story.” For Ulysse, after years of teaching, she is “only too aware of what it means to make this intervention in their thinking given the body of students that she is in.”

Ulysse’s entry is online here.

Siry Details the History of Center for the Arts in Architectural History Journal

Joe Siry

Joe Siry

The Wesleyan Center for the Arts was featured in The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH), the main U.S. peer-reviewed scholarly journal for architectural history, in an article written by Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history. The article, titled “Roche and Dinkeloo’s Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University: Classical, Vernacular, and Modernist Architecture in the 1960s,” detailed the extensive history and creative motives behind the impressive 11-building complex.

From 1962, under the presidency of Victor Butterfield (in office 1943–67), Wesleyan’s trustees committed the college to develop into a small university, and in 1964 they commissioned a master plan that identified the eventual site of the Center for the Arts as an integral part of the expansion. The overall goal, in the words of the trustees, was to “reaffirm the relevance of liberal arts in a world of
increased specialization.”

The $11.8 million Center for the Arts was designed in the fall of 1965, at a time when Wesleyan had an endowment of $151 million for a student body of about 1,240.

Officially opening in the fall of 1973, the Wesleyan CFA’s “minimal aesthetic has invoked a sense of timelessness.” From the faculty committee tasked with choosing an architectural firm that met specific guidelines outlined by President Butterfield, to the subsequent hiring of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, and then the eventual construction of the CFA, the buildings were created as a “clear and impressive formal statement of what they would be used for, but at the same time, expresses what they stand for and represent,” Siry writes. “As modernist architecture, what these buildings lack in handcrafted ornament they compensate for in material and spatial effects.”

This bird’s-eye view photograph shows the of the 1966 Center for the Arts model.

This bird’s-eye view photograph shows the of the 1966 Center for the Arts model.

 

Sumarsam, McGraw PhD ’05 Edit Performing Indonesia for Smithsonian

Sumarsam

Sumarsam

Sumarsam, University Professor of Music, and Andy McGraw PhD ’05 served as co-editors for Performing Indonesia, a Smithsonian Freer Sackler online publication of 16 articles on Indonesian music, dance and drama.

Topics include choral singing of Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo; learning from American schoolchildren playing Balinese gamelan; the challenges of music sustainability in Lombok, Indonesia; gong evolution and practices, “the dancing goddess;” the acoustic concept of an American gamelan; musical kinship in the transnational Balinese gamelan community; and more.

In addition to serving as an editor, Sumarsam co-authored the introduction to the publication, and delivered the keynote address titled, “Dualisms in the Formative and Transformational Processes of Javanese Performing Arts.” His address was delivered at the Performing Indonesia Conference held at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 2013.

The paper examines the “formative and transformational processes of gamelan and wayang, Javanese performing art forms, and the ways in which these art forms impacted the arts as they were exposed by and introduced to the West.” Sumarsam and McGraw also analyzed some of the dualisms that accompany traditions, such as stasis/motion, sacred/secular, good/evil, traditional/contemporary and ethnicity/nationality.

Williams ’15 Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

LaNell-374x249

LaNell Williams ’15

LaNell Williams ’15, currently enrolled in the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s to PhD Bridge Program, was named a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow for 2016. This fellowship program not only recognizes but also supports outstanding  students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. With more than 17,000 applicants, Williams was one of 2,000 selected for the three-year stipend, with its professional development and international research opportunities.

At the Fisk-Vanderbilt program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students engaged in PhD-level STEM research, Williams is focusing her research on the development of an innovative medical imaging radiation detector, examining new types of crystalline materials that will improve the resolution of Gamma ray detection.

A physics major as an undergraduate at Wesleyan, Williams was an integral member of that community. Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics, was Williams’ advisor.

“LaNell was a vital mentor and friend to many of our students in the sciences, and she went out of her way to support her fellow students by fostering networks, support systems, and a sense of community,” Othon said. “Even today, she continues to mentor undergraduates at Wesleyan, despite undertaking the challenges of starting her own graduate career in physics. Her success is well deserved.”

Class Dean Renee Johnson Thornton praises William’s work ethic and scientific mind.

“When I think about the impressive young woman in a Memphis, Tennessee high school that Cliff Thornton, associate dean of admission, was determined to enroll at Wesleyan so many years ago, I am reminded that LaNell was always destined for greatness. We, at Wesleyan, are lucky that she chose us. Her commitment to breaking barriers and encouraging others to pursue science is the standard we should all emulate.”

Kail ’99, Miranda ’02 Honored at the National Archives Foundation

The National Archives Foundation presented its 2016 Records of Achievement Awards to Wesleyan alumni, Tony and Emmy Award-winning film and theater director, Thomas Kail ’99, and Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, lyricist, and performer, Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, at its annual Gala on Sept. 25.

According to the National Archives Foundation, “The Records of Achievement Award is an annual award given to individuals whose work has cultivated a broader national awareness of the history and identity of the United States through the use of original records.” Kail and Miranda were honored for their collective work on the Tony, Grammy, and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton.

In an article published by The Washington Post, Miranda credited the National Archives for offering the raw material and documents that laid the foundation for the Hamilton story, saying, “without these gems and genuine artifacts, there’s no story to tell.” Kail, on the other hand, was happy to share this moment with his mother, an archivist at Tudor Place: “I think the most excited I’ve been, was calling my mom and telling her that we had a chance to come to the Archives.” The duo, as part of the program, treated audience members to a full explanation of their creative process, using primary source documents to expand upon and flesh out parts of Hamilton’s life story.

More information is online here.

Brown University Provost Locke ’81 Receives Society for Progress Medal

Brown University Provost Richard Locke received one of five inaugural Progress Medals from the Society for Progress. (Nick Dentamaro/Brown University)

Brown University Provost Richard Locke ’81 received one of five inaugural Progress Medals from the Society for Progress. (Photo by Nick Dentamaro/Brown University)

Richard Locke ’81, Brown University provost and professor of political science and international and public affairs, was recently awarded one of only five inaugural Progress Medals from the Society for Progress. The Society, a group of scholars and leaders both independent and academically diverse, selected an international cohort to receive the four medals in scholarship and one in leadership with the “hope and hypothesis…that these medals will help attract and accelerate intellectual and practical attention to the moral dilemmas emergent in our modern economy.”

Locke, a scholar and authority on international labor relations and worker rights, and comparative political economy, was recognized “for work on labor justice in global supply chains and the influence and limits of private standards in integrating equity and efficiency,” as the Society stated in their announcement.

“I am both honored and humbled to be a recipient of this award,” Locke said in a news release from Brown University.

“Throughout my career, I have been challenged and inspired by issues of fairness, justice and human rights, and I have had the great privilege of engaging in research focused on understanding and improving working conditions and labor rights. It is particularly gratifying that, through this new award, the Society for Progress is emphasizing the role and value of university-based research in addressing some of society’s most pressing issues.”

Others who received these awards included Klaus Schwab, former professor of business policy at the University of Geneva and founder of the World Economic Forum, as well as Indra Nooyi, chair and CEO of PepsiCo, who received the leadership award.

In addition to the gold Progress Medal, each award winner received $100,000 from the Society. Locke used the funds to contribute to endowed scholarships he had established at Brown and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Locke, who holds a doctorate from MIT, served on the faculty for 25 years. He joined the faculty of Brown University in 2013, serving as the Howard R. Swearer Director of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and he was appointed provost in July 2015.

 

Hughes, Leiman-Sifry Research Published in Astrophysical Journal, Nature

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, is the co-author of “Debris Disks in the Scorpius-Centaurus OB Association Resolved by Alma,” published in The Astrophysical Journal, Vo. 828, No. 1. Jesse Lieman-Sifry ’15 also is a co-author of the article.

In addition, the international weekly journal of science Nature mentioned the article in a Sept. 8 publication.

The co-authors explored the idea of carbon-monoxide potentially being in large-star disks. As explained in her abstract, “Stars twice the size of the sun can feature carbon-monoxide-rich gas disks around them, contrary to the expectation that ultraviolet radiation would have stripped away the gas.”

Hughes used the “Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in northern Chile to probe the regions around 24 young star systems, only about 5 million to 10 million years old. They chose stars surrounded by a disk of dust debris—resembling a scaled-up version of the Solar System’s Kuiper belt—this leftover material could form new planets, including gas giants.

In conclusion, the researchers noted that three of the larger stars in the sample had strong carbon monoxide emissions.