Himeka Curiel

Imee is a copy editor/writer in the Office of University Communications.

Olson Lab Explores How Cholera Infection Spreads

Rich Olson

Rich Olson

Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Rich Olson and members of his lab have uncovered the structural basis for how the bacterial pathogen responsible for cholera targets carbohydrate receptors on host cells—an important finding for the future development of treatment strategies against infectious bacteria.

In their paper “Structural basis of mammalian glycan targeting by Vibrio cholerae cytolysin and biofilm proteins,” published in the Feb. 12 issue of PLoS Pathogens, Olson and his team—Swastik De PhD ’16; graduate students Katherine Kaus and Brandon Case; and Shada Sinclair ’16—looked at Vibrio cholerae, an aquatic microbe responsible for cholera, a potentially life-threatening disease for populations with limited access to health care.

The team studied two of the virulence factors that this particular bacterial pathogen uses to help spread infection: a toxin that creates pores in the membranes of target cells (such as immune cells) and a protein that helps form a protective sheath around the bacterial colonies as they grow.

Study results showed that both of these factors use similar carbohydrate receptors to recognize and target cell surfaces, suggesting that strategically disrupting carbohydrate interactions could affect how V. cholerae and other organisms like it are able to infect human hosts and spread disease.

“Understanding how pathogens specifically recognize targets on human cells is essential for the development of effective drugs and vaccines to fight pathogenic bacteria and prevent outbreaks,” Olson explained.

Read the full paper here.

Fusso Honored with AATSEEL Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching

Susanne Fusso received the 2017 AATSEEL Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching.

Professor Susanne Fusso received the 2017 AATSEEL Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching.

Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, has been awarded the 2017 AATSEEL Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching from the American Association for Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages.

Fusso, who teaches 19th- and 20th-century Russian prose and poetry as well as Russian language, was nominated for the award by her former students.

The honor was presented as part of the President’s Awards Ceremony at the AATSEEL conference held on Feb. 2 in Washington, D.C. The annual conference focuses on “the aesthetic, creative and communicative aspects of Slavic cultures” and features workshops and panel discussions with experts from around the globe.

In addition, three Wesleyan alumnae — Elizabeth Papazian ’91, Lindsay Ceballos ’07 and Emily Wang ’08 — presented scholarly papers at the conference.

AATSEEL is a major professional organization for Slavic studies in the United States. The association’s mission is “to advance the study and promote the teaching of Slavic and East European languages, literatures, and cultures on all educational levels, elementary through graduate school.”

Nominate Faculty for the 2018 Binswanger Prize

John Finn, Mary-Jane Rubenstein and Andrea Roberts and are the recipients of the 2017 Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Last year Wesleyan President Michael Roth honored (from left) John Finn, professor of government; Mary-Jane Rubenstein, professor of religion; and Andrea Roberts, associate professor of the practice, chemistry, with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching during the 185th Commencement Ceremony on May 28, 2017.
Nominations are now open for 2018 recipients.


Recognize the Wesleyan faculty who have had a lasting impact on your academic and personal development by nominating them for the 2018 Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching!

Juniors, seniors, graduate students and Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) are invited to nominate up to three professors for 2018 Binswanger Prizes, which will be awarded during Wesleyan’s Commencement Ceremony on May 27.

The deadline for nominations is Feb. 12, 2018. NOMINATE NOW.

The Binswanger Prize is made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank Binswanger Sr. Hon. ’85 and underscores Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers who are responsible for the university’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Current faculty who have taught at Wesleyan for at least 10 years are eligible. Previous recipients are excluded for a period of 12 years after which they become eligible once again. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

The criteria for selecting the recipients is excellence in teaching, as exemplified by commitment to the classroom and student accomplishment, intellectual demands placed on students, lucidity and passion. Recommendations may be based on any of the types of teaching that are done at the university including, but not limited to, teaching in lecture courses, seminars, laboratories, creative and performance-based courses, research tutorials and other individual and group tutorials at the undergraduate and graduate level.


Kauanui Presents “Politics of Occupy Wall Street” Research in Qatar

J. Kehaulani Kauanui

J. Kehaulani Kauanui in Qatar.

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies and anthropology, chair of American studies and director of the Center of the Americas, spent part of winter break in Qatar. She was there to present her research on “Settler Colonialism and the Politics of Occupy Wall Street: Indigeneity and the ‘Other’ 1%” for a panel on “Against Exceptionalism.”

Kauanui joined a global roster of leading scholars in American studies, Middle Eastern studies and other closely related fields who were invited to speak as part of a conference held Jan. 8–11 at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies with support from the Qatar National Research Fund.

The conference, titled “From Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park: The Arab Spring and the De-Centering of American Studies,” was co-organized by Eid Mohamed, assistant professor of American studies and comparative literature at the Doha Institute, and Melani McAlister, associate professor of American studies and international affairs at George Washington University. Its aim was to “internationalize the study of America to enable critical consideration of where and what is America—particularly in relation to the Arab uprisings and developments in the global map of power.”

Presentations from the conference are slated to be included in an edited volume available in late 2018.

For more information on the conference program and participants, visit https://de-centeringamericanstudies.weebly.com.


Bello Balances CAAS Support and Mayoral Responsibilities

In this Q&A, we speak with Amy Bello, administrative assistant for the Center for African American Studies and newly elected mayor of the Town of Wethersfield.

Q: How long have you been at Wesleyan?

A: Five years. I started in November 2012 as a temp at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty.

Q: What do you do here now?

A: I work as an administrative assistant for the Center for African American Studies (CAAS), the African American Studies Program (AFAM) and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF). I have a beautiful office on High Street and am lucky to be working with vibrant, engaging faculty, staff and students.

Q: What do you like best about working at Wesleyan? 

A: I love the energetic, intelligent people I work with—both students and faculty. Their breadth and depth of knowledge is amazing. I also enjoy seeing the world from another perspective, which only enhances my vision.

Khamis Co-Authors Article on Effects of Historical Labor Policies on Women

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis, assistant professor of economics and assistant professor of Latin American studies, has co-authored a new paper published in the December 2017 issue of Labour Economics. The paper, titled “Women make houses, women make homes,” examines the effects of historical labor market institutions and policies on women’s labor market outcomes.

To conduct the research, Khamis and her colleagues studied the “rubble women” of post–World War II Germany, who were subject to a 1946 Allied Control Council command that required women between the ages of 15 and 50 to register with a labor office and to participate in postwar cleanup and reconstruction.

The study showed that this mandatory employment had persistent longstanding adverse effects on German women’s overall participation in the labor market. Possible reasons for this include physical and mental exhaustion associated with the demanding manual labor involved in removing war debris; an increase in postwar marriage and fertility rates; and a reversion to traditional gender roles as men returned from war.

The findings highlight how important it is for countries—especially those recovering from conflict—to develop labor market institutions and policies that support women’s participation in the workforce. In addition, the paper concludes, “Our results also provide suggestive evidence that work-contingent income support programs may have limited positive effects on female future labor market outcomes and welfare dependency unless such policies are further backed up by the provision of quality child care and labor market institutions at large.”

Thayer, Galganov ’17, Stein ’17 Publish Article on Allosteric Signaling

A new article by Visiting Assistant Professor in Computer Science Kelly Thayer and students in her Spring 2017 Scientific Computing class is challenging conventional metrics used in allosteric signaling—the regulation of an enzyme by a binding molecule at a site other than the enzyme’s active site.

“What’s special about allostery is that a molecule called an allosteric effector binds at one location, and the change happens somewhere else,” Thayer explained. “What we were trying to understand was: How does that signal get across?”

2017–18 Employee Campaign Raises More Money Than in Previous Five Years

Wesleyan’s 2017–18 United Way Campaign capped off another successful year, posting the highest numbers—both in participation and in amount pledged—since 2012.

According to Campus Coordinator Paul Turenne, more than 400 Wesleyan employees, retired faculty and authorized vendors (including 38 “Leadership Givers” pledging $1,000 or more) participated. Together they donated a total of $122,150 in support of United Way programs in Middlesex County and throughout the state.

Contributing to this year’s increased giving was the implementation of lessons learned from previous years, including moving campaign dates earlier (Oct.1–31) in order to avoid competing with other fundraising initiatives and streamlining the donation process to ensure donors were being reached through the channels that made the most sense for them.

E&ES Faculty, Alumni Author Article on New Method for Saharan Dust Collection in the Caribbean

Earth and Environmental Sciences faculty and senior seminar students have identified a potentially fast and inexpensive method for collecting and measuring Saharan dust in the Caribbean.

E&ES faculty members Dana Royer, Tim Ku, Suzanne O’Connell, and Phil Resor, and students Kylen Moynihan ’17, Carolyn Ariori ’09, Gavin Bodkin ’09, Gabriela Doria MA’09, Katherine Enright ’15, Rémy Hatfield-Gardner ’17, Emma Kravet ’09, C. Miller Nuttle ’09, and Lisa Shepard ’17 have coauthored an article published in the January 2018 issue of Atmospheric Environment. The paper, titled “Tank Bromeliads capture Saharan dust in El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico,” summarizes student research performed in three senior seminar capstone projects conducted over an eight-year period starting in January 2009.

Saharan Africa produces approximately 800 billion kilograms of dust each year, a significant portion of which is carried via wind across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. These dust particles provide critical components for Caribbean ecosystems, including viable fungi and bacteria, but current methods for measuring the dust can be either expensive or limited in the amount and purity of samples collected.

Royer and his team sought to test whether Saharan dust could be detected within the bromeliad tanks of the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, and “to test how well tank bromeliads serve as a natural vessel for distinguishing the regional sources of atmospheric deposition.”

The team theorized that the overlapping structure of the bromeliad’s leaves, which is used to capture rainwater and nutrient-rich debris, could provide a feasible way to measure and trace Saharan dust in the Caribbean. Over the course of three field campaigns, the team sampled the bromeliad tanks, soil, and bedrock at three different sites in the El Yunque dwarf forest. Their findings confirmed that the contents of the tested tanks could be analyzed to identify the source of atmospheric dust inputs, thus providing a potentially simpler and lower-cost alternative to existing methods of collection and measurement.