Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Kilgard Explains Why Scientists Are So Excited About Observing Merging Neutron Stars

The Van Vleck Observatory on Foss Hill.

Writing in The Conversation, Roy Kilgard, research associate professor of astronomy, explains the significance of an exciting new discovery in astronomy. For the first time, astrophysicists have observed merging neutron stars using LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and the Virgo interferometer.

Kilgard writes:

This news may confirm a longstanding theory: that some gamma-ray bursts (GRBs for short), which are among the most energetic, luminous events in the universe, are the result of merging neutron stars. And it is in the crucible of these mergers that most heavy elements may be forged. Researchers can’t produce anything like the temperatures or pressures of neutron stars in a laboratory, so observation of these exotic objects provides a way to test what happens to matter at such extremes.

Astronomers are excited because for the first time they have gravitational waves and light signals stemming from the same event. These truly independent measurements are separate avenues that together add to the physical understanding of the neutron star merger.

Dierker Authors Article on ‘Passion-Driven’ Approach to Teaching Statistics, Data Analysis

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology, is the author of a new article, “Falling in Love with Statistics: Shaping Students’ Relationships With Data.” It was published in October in Scientia, a site that seeks to open a dialogue between science and society.

Dierker writes about the novel approach, called Passion-Driven Statistics, that she and her team at Wesleyan developed to teach statistics and data analysis to students from diverse backgrounds. According to the article, it is a “multidisciplinary, project-based approach that is both supportive and engaging for students at all levels of statistical mastery and those coming from diverse educational backgrounds.”

Loui Co-Authors Article on Human Creativity and the Brain

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, co-authored a new article published in the December 2017 issue of Brain and Cognition.

The paper is titled, “Jazz Musicians Reveal Role of Expectancy in Human Creativity.” Loui and her colleagues found that within one second of hearing an unexpected chord, there is a world of differences in brain responses between classical and jazz musicians.

Assistant Professor of Music Sorey MA ’11 Wins MacArthur “Genius” Award

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo Credit: John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo Credit: John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, who joined Wesleyan’s faculty this fall as assistant professor of music, has been awarded a fellowship—better known as a “genius” grant—from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The announcement was made Oct. 11.

The fellowship is a “$625,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative and creative individuals as an investment in their potential,” according to the MacArthur website. Fellows are selected based on “exceptional creativity,” “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments” and “potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

Jacobsen Speaks at Event on the Economics of Misogyny

Joyce Jacobsen, third from left, with other economists at the Center for American Progress event.

Joyce Jacobsen, third from left, with other economists at the Center for American Progress event. (Photo courtesy of the Center for American Progress)

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen spoke at an event on Sept. 29 at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. The event was on the topic, The Economics of Misogyny. Jacobsen spoke on the topic of feminist economics in conversation with Judith Warner, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. A video recording of the event can be seen here.

Jacobsen also is the Andrews Professor of Economics.

Robinson Writes About the Real Reason Some People Become Addicted to Drugs

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Writing in The ConversationAssistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson looks to the brain to explain the real reason that some people become addicted to drugs.

Robinson, who also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, begins by debunking two popular explanations for drug addiction: that compulsive drug use is simply a “bad habit,” and that overcoming the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms is too hard for some addicts.

While pleasure, habits and withdrawal can play a role in drug use, Robinson says, the true reason for addiction can be explained by the psychological differences between “wanting” and “liking.”

Hornstein Authors New Article in ‘China Economic Review’

Abigail Hornstein

Abigail Hornstein

Associate Professor of Economics Abigail Hornstein’s article, “Words vs. actions: International variation in the propensity to fulfill investment pledges in China,” was published in the journal China Economic Review in July 2017.

Hornstein studied whether companies from certain countries were more likely than others to fulfill investment pledges. On average, she found that firms fulfilled about 59 percent of their pledges within two years. This number was lower for firms in countries with greater uncertainty avoidance, power distance, and egalitarianism; and higher for those in countries that are more traditional. She also found that popular attitudes toward China did not affect the likelihood of fulfilling investment pledges.

Smolkin Discusses Soviet Atheism on BBC

Victoria Smolkin

Assistant Professor of History Victoria Smolkin was recently a guest on BBC Radio 4’s “Beyond Belief” to discuss Soviet state atheism.

Smolkin said that Lenin’s conviction that banishing religion was necessary to create a revolutionary society was right ideologically, but wrong politically.

“If they wanted to stay in power, they needed to accommodate religion, and they understood that,” she said. “However, if they wanted to build a Communist society, ultimately religion had to go.”

Loui Co-Authors Article on Lack of Pleasure from Music

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, is the author of a new publication on musical anhedonia—the lack of pleasure from music. Together with others in her lab, Loui studied an individual with musical anhedonia and compared his brain against a group of controls. They found that his auditory cortex was differently connected to his reward system, a finding which gives further support for the role of brain connectivity in the musical experience.

The article, titled, “White Matter Correlates of Musical Anhedonia: Implications for Evolution of Music,” was published Sept. 25 in Frontiers in Psychology.  It was coauthored by Sean Patterson, BA ’17, MA ’18; Tima Zeng ’17; and Emily Przysinka, former lab manager in Loui’s lab.

Knee Co-Authors Article on Hydrogen-Bonding Interactions

Joseph Knee, the Beach Professor of Chemistry and Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, is the author of a new article published in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (PCCP). This “Perspectives” article, which was commissioned by the PCCP editorial board and editorial office, is a high-profile look at work by Knee and his collaborators that has been going on for nearly a decade. Perspectives articles are intended to present an authoritative state-of-the-art account of a particular research field.

The research by Knee and his collaborators, which is ongoing, uses experimental and computational methods to explore hydrogen bonding interactions, which are extremely important in the structure of water, various solutions, and in many key biochemical structures and processes.

Knee explains, “The most important aspect of our methodology is making careful experimental measurements of two single molecules forming hydrogen bonds and then modeling these bonds with modern quantum chemical calculations. The calculations allow us to decompose the various forces which contribute to the bond strength and structure. The larger goal is to generalizing this insight to more complex hydrogen bonded systems, particularly hydrogen bonding networks which exist in liquids and biological systems.”

The full article can be read here by those with subscriptions or institutional subscriptions, including those on Wesleyan’s campus.

Haddad Calls for Development of Volunteer Force to Respond to Natural Disasters

Mary Alice Haddad

Mary Alice Haddad

Amid the devastation wrought by recent storms, Professor of Government Mary Alice Haddad calls in The Hartford Courant for people everywhere to be better prepared to respond to natural disasters.

When the next storm hits our area, she writes, “It will not be professional first-responders but rather our neighbors who will be the ones handing our child to safety, lifting our dog from his perch atop the garage or helping our grandmother stay warm. America needs to build up its civil society infrastructure. We are known for our volunteerism, our generosity and our big hearts. We now need to organize that volunteer spirit a bit more thoughtfully in ways that can respond well when disaster strikes.”

Roth Argues Colleges Must Not Turn Back the Clock on Efforts to Combat Sexual Assault

President Michael S. Roth

President Michael S. Roth

In response to recent signals from the Trump administration that it plans to re-visit enforcement of Title IX on college campuses, President Michael S. Roth writes in The Washington Post to reaffirm Wesleyan’s commitment to support and protect the rights of survivors of sexual violence while also protecting the presumption of innocence and due process of the accused.

Roth writes: “At my university, we regularly review procedures to ensure that adjudication is supportive of those who come forward with reports of being attacked, and that the process is fair in assigning any responsibility to a particular individual. We will pay close attention to the reports filed with the Department of Education in the coming weeks, and we hope to learn from them.”