Katie Aberbach

Startup Led by Dhanda ’95 Developing COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests

Rahul Dhanda

Rahul Dhanda ’95

A lack of fast, reliable diagnostic testing has played a major role in the rapid proliferation of cases of COVID-19. Rahul Dhanda ’95 and his team at Sherlock Biosciences are working furiously to change that, potentially shortening the testing’s time horizon to a matter of minutes.

Dhanda is co-founder, CEO, and president of the engineering biology startup based in Cambridge, Mass., which is creating two different diagnostic tests for COVID-19—one rooted in CRISPR technology, the other in synthetic biology. The hope is that the tests can be released during the course of the current pandemic, Dhanda said, each with its own different applications and utility.

A history major who also took premed classes at Wesleyan, Dhanda earned his MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before forging a successful career in the biotech field, with a specialty in diagnostics.

Roth, Whaley, McLarney Host Video Forum for Students Remaining on Campus

Spring semester courses resumed on March 23 after the two-week spring break. Faculty contacted students in each of their classes to update them on how the classes would continue to meet. In many cases, classes will continue to meet via Zoom and Moodle, regardless of students' physical locations.

A student works in Usdan University Center on March 23. Approximately 300 students are staying on campus during the coronavirus pandemic. All students are completing their classes remotely due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), regardless of their physical locations. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

remote

Another student works inside Usdan University Center on March 23.

On Sunday evening, President Michael S. Roth ’78, Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley, and Medical Director Tom McLarney invited the approximately 300 students who will be remaining on Wesleyan’s campus for the spring semester to participate in a video forum hosted by the University’s virtual Zoom platform. The event was aimed at communicating important information about on-campus resources during the remainder of the semester and answering participants’ questions.

Although the University has temporarily transitioned to distance learning in efforts to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, students who are housing-insecure, who were unable to return to their homes, or who had extenuating circumstances were allowed to petition to continue to live on campus in Middletown.

“It’s a crazy moment at Wesleyan and around the world,” Roth said during the video forum. “There’s a lot we don’t know about what will happen in this country and around the world over the next several weeks. We do know that the best way to defeat this virus is to prevent it from passing from one person to another.”

Roth, McLarney, and Whaley stressed the importance of practicing the best advice of medical professionals for combatting the virus’s spread: washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, using hand sanitizer when necessary, and, most importantly, maintaining a physical distance from others.

“Whether you’re sitting on Foss Hill…or exercising outside, maintaining a physical distance from one another is really important over these next few weeks,” Roth said.

Spring semester courses resumed on March 23 after the two-week spring break. Faculty contacted students in each of their classes to update them on how the classes would continue to meet. In many cases, classes will continue to meet via Zoom and Moodle, regardless of students’ physical locations. Classes are “not going to be the same [as they had been when held in person], but we’re going to do our best,” Roth said. “The faculty is taking this very seriously.”

Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 Discusses Espionage Novel at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

Paul Vidich

Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 spoke about his new book, The Coldest Warrior, on Feb. 24 at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. The espionage novel, published by Pegasus Crime in February 2020, explores the dark side of intelligence that is exposed when a CIA officer delves into a cold case from the 1950s―with fatal consequences.

Paul Vidich

Many of those who attended Vidich’s talk were friends and fellow members of Wesleyan’s Class of 1972. Vidich, a College of Social Studies (CSS) major, said, “What I learned at CSS was critical thinking and healthy skepticism, but not cynicism. I think I’m a skeptical person, but I also think that every generation goes through periods in which government disappoints. … Skepticism, to me, is a healthy way of looking at the world, and my characters in the novel are intentionally skeptical.”

grown Ends Operations in Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

growngrown, the café inside the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore at 413 Main Street in Middletown, has announced that it will end its operations in that space.

The Middletown location was the only Connecticut outpost of the USDA-certified organic fast-food chain. grown has operated inside the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore since the bookstore opened in May 2017. The franchise is owned by Shannon Allen, a Middletown native.

At Wesleyan, as at all of its locations, grown prides itself on catering to all diets and food sensitivities, and on serving inclusive, wholesome options for everyone. Its menu includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, and espresso drinks. At the Wesleyan location, students were able to use their dining points to make purchases.

“While we will no longer be operating grown at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, bringing grown ‘home’ to Middletown has been a proud moment during our journey to reinvent fast food,” the franchise said in a statement. “We have thoroughly enjoyed our time serving students, faculty, and staff, working alongside the Wesleyan University and bookstore teams, and have loved being a part of the bridge between Wesleyan and the entire Middlesex County community. Thank you for continuing to support our mission to bring delicious, nutrient-dense meals made with 100% USDA-certified organic ingredients to busy people everywhere.”

Students, Faculty, Community Observe Rare Complete Transit of Mercury

Visitors use telescopes outside observatory

Individuals gathered outside Van Vleck Observatory to view the transit of Mercury on Nov. 11.

For only the seventh time since Wesleyan’s founding, the planet Mercury passed directly in front of the sun, from the perspective of Earth—and Wesleyan served as a gathering place from which to learn about and observe the event. Faculty and students from Wesleyan’s astronomy department, as well as others from the University and the greater Middletown community, gathered outside the Van Vleck Observatory on Nov. 11 to witness the transit through three telescopes.

The mild weather and partly cloudy conditions—particularly at the beginning and end of the transit (which lasted from 7:35 a.m. to 1:04 p.m.)—made for good viewings through the University’s general-purpose 8-inch telescope, as well as its hydrogen alpha solar telescope, which allows users to observe solar prominences. A second solar telescope, owned by John Sillasen, MALS’07, a local amateur astronomer and member of the Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford, was also available to use as part of the event.

Gilberto Garcia ’20, an astronomy and physics major, was assisting with one of the solar telescopes. “Just seeing Mercury in general is a pretty rare occurrence, so I was pretty excited about it,” Garcia said. Viewed from a telescope, Mercury appeared as a small dot on the sun’s surface.

Angle Guest-Edits Special Issue of Contemporary Chinese Thought

Stephen Angle

Stephen Angle

Stephen Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy, has had a number of recent publications.

Angle is the editor of “The Adolescence of Mainland New Confucianism,” special issue 49:2 of Contemporary Chinese Thought (2018). The issue is devoted to recent mainland Chinese Confucian philosophizing, and particularly to arguments about what “Mainland New Confucianism” signifies, which were prompted by noted Taiwanese scholar Li Minghui’s 2015 remarks about Mainland New Confucianism.

Angle also wrote an introduction to the issue, which explores how Mainland New Confucianism has entered a somewhat more diverse and mature stage than previously. The introduction also reflects on the place of Confucianism within contemporary East Asia.

Earlier this year, Angle authored the article “Does Confuscian Public Reason Depend on Confucian Civil Religion?”, which was published in the Journal of Social Philosophy. The article focuses on a dimension of the increasingly pluralist field of political philosophy, in which Western and non‐Western theories and experiences are reevaluated in light of one another.

In addition to these publications, Angle is a contributor to and co-administrator of Neo-Confucianism, a companion website for Angle’s book, co-authored with Justin Tiwald, Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction (2017); and Warp, Weft, and Way, a group blog focused on on Chinese and comparative philosophy.

Besides his research and teaching responsibilities, Angle also serves as the director of the Fries Center for Global Studies. He is a principal investigator on the “Wesleyan South Asia Initiative,” a grant awarded by the US Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language program (2018–2020).

Grimmer-Solem Authors Learning Empire

Learning EmpireErik Grimmer-Solem, professor of history and German studies, is the author of a new book, Learning Empire: Globalization and the German Quest for World Status, 1875-1919published by Cambridge University Press.

The book “reconstructs the complex entanglements of a small but highly influential group of German scholars who worked and travelled extensively in North and South America, Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Ottoman Turkey, and Russia,” during the period of German imperialism, before the First World War, Grimmer-Solem said. “These experiences, enabled by new transcontinental railways, intercontinental steamship lines, and global telegraph networks, shaped a German liberal imperialist ideology that they helped popularize around 1900 and that influenced German naval and colonial policy.”

The book also looks at how the rise of the German far right was closely tied to this attempt at reconciling globalization with nationhood and empire. From that perspective, Grimmer-Solem said, “the development of Nazism can be seen as a metastasis of liberal imperialism, mutated as it was by war, de-globalization, and unilateral decolonization.” Learning Empire invites reflection upon modern-day challenges; as Grimmer-Solem suggests, the resurgence of the far right today “is linked to parallel processes that highlight the risks and instabilities created by global trade, travel, and communications.”

Grimmer-Solem is also the author of The Rise of Historical Economics and Social Reform in Germany, 1864-1894 (Oxford University Press, 2003), along with more than 30 other publications.

Fusso Translates Gandlevsky’s Illegible

IllegibleSusanne Fusso, Marcus L. Taft Professor of Modern Languages, professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is the translator of the first English-language version of Sergey Gandlevsky’s novel Illegible, published by Northern Illinois University Press.

Gandlevsky (b. 1952) is widely recognized as one of the most important living Russian poets and prose writers, and has received numerous literary prizes. Illegible, published in 2002, is his only work of prose fiction to date.

The novel has a double time focus, with both the immediate experiences and retrospective meditations of Lev Krivorotov, a 20-year-old poet living in Moscow in the 1970s. As the work begins, Lev is involved in a tortured affair with an older woman and envious of his more privileged friend and fellow novice poet Nikita, one of the children of high Soviet functionaries who were known as “golden youth.” Both narratives see Lev recounting with regret and self-castigation the failure of a double infatuation-turned-love triangle. Illegible provides unparalleled access to the atmosphere of Moscow and the ethos of the late Soviet and post-Soviet era, while simultaneously demonstrating the universality of human emotion.

Illegible is the second work of Gandlevsky’s that Fusso has translated. In 2014, she published an English-language translation of his autobiographical novel, Trepanation of the Skull.

Derry and Puffin D’Oench ’73 Film Award Open to Submissions

Community Health Center logo

The Community Health Center of Middletown is a sponsor of the film contest.

A new annual contest for budding filmmakers is now welcoming submissions. The Derry and Puffin D’Oench Film Award, sponsored by Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC), of Middletown, is open to Wesleyan University and Middlesex Community College students and alumni.

The contest’s name honors Derry and Ellen “Puffin” D’Oench ’73, community members who contributed to the local arts and cultural community. At Wesleyan, Puffin served as curator of the Davison Art Center, adjunct professor of art history, and a trustee. Russell “Derry” D’Oench was editor-in-chief of the Middletown Press from 1959 to 1991. The couple was involved in many organizations, including the Middlesex County Community Foundation, Middlesex Hospital, Community Health Center, and the NAACP.

The film contest, accepting submissions from Nov. 1, 2019, until May 1, 2020, seeks “to find talented, emerging filmmakers who are getting their start or have roots in our Middletown community,” said Mark Masselli, Hon. ’09, P’16, CHC’s founder and president/CEO. “We’re looking forward to screening the submissions, and giving a new generation of filmmakers a launching pad.”

What’s the Buzz About Pollinators? Class Visits Local Apiary to Find Out

bees

Drew Burnett, kneeling, at right, gave Wesleyan students a tour of a local apiary, where they learned about the centrality of honeybees to our industrialized agricultural system. The students are pictured holding Drew’s Honeybees lip balm.

Students in a Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems class recently stepped out of the classroom … and into beekeeping suits. The buzzworthy hands-on experience was part of a field trip to an apiary in Norwich, Conn.

“The course explores strategies to create a sustainable agriculture and food system,” said Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies, who teaches the class. Her students have already been gaining an understanding of some of the key environmental impacts associated with our agricultural system, and read Rachel Carson’s seminal Silent Spring. The purpose of the field trip on Sept. 18 “was to learn more about pollinators—specifically honeybees—and some of the reasons their populations have been declining in recent years,” Ostfeld said.

Hosting the students were beekeeper Drew Burnett and his assistant Curtis Witt. Burnett is the founder of Drew’s Honeybees, a honeybee-centric, all-natural, USDA organic skincare company. Drew’s Honeybees donates 20 percent of its profits to the State of Connecticut’s Agricultural Experiment Station to fund pioneering research into the causes of and solutions to Colony Collapse Disorder.