Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Singer, Farkas, Skorik Published in American Naturalist

Mike Singer, associate professor of biology; Tim Farkas ’08, MA ’10 and Christian Skorik ’09, MA ’10 are the authors of “Tritrophic Interactions at a Community Level: Effects of Host Plant Species Quality on Bird Predation of Caterpillars,” published in the March issue of The American Naturalist. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine also contributed to the report.

Researchers report that a tree is not a tree is not a tree when it comes to birds foraging for tree-feeding caterpillars. With help from a small army of students, the scientists ran a field experiment in Connecticut forests over two years, involving hundreds of tree branches either bagged with garden variety, bird-proof netting or left open to foraging birds. They found that disparities in caterpillar growth between different tree species, such as black cherry and American beech, changed a caterpillar’s risk of becoming bird food. On balance, nutritious trees like black cherry can increase a caterpillar’s risk of being taken by foraging birds by 90%. This neat pest-control system works because the most nutritious tree species harbor the greatest numbers of caterpillars, offering up the easiest pickings for birds. For tree-feeding caterpillars, however, no tree is completely safe. Even without the risk of being in a crowd, nutritionally poor trees like American beech can slow down a caterpillar’s growth and prolong its exposure to bird predation.

Read more about the study in this past Wesleyan Connection article.

Wesleyan Leads Local Archaeological Dig

The Hartford Courant featured an archaeological dig of the “Beman Triangle” site by Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, along with Wesleyan students and community volunteers. The archaeologists hope to uncover household items that paint a picture of the day-to-day lives of the black families who owned property on the site–bordered by Vine Street, Cross Street and Knowles Ave.–in the mid-19th century.

Siry on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Only Synagogue

In an interview with the Tel Aviv newspaper, Haaretz, Professor of Art History Joseph Siry discusses his new book on Beth Sholom Synagogue, the only temple by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Siry describes the synagogue, located outside Philadelphia, as the climax of Wright’s lifelong work designing modern religious architecture. “Wright was conscious of the fact that he was nearing the end of his life, and it was vital to him to bring to fruition architectural ideas he considered essential,” Siry tells Haaretz. Siry and his book were also featured in a recent story in The Wesleyan Connection.

Adelstein Explores the History of Corporate Power in New Book

Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, presents an original theory of the rise of business firms in his new book.

The influence and power wielded by large corporations in our country has never been more pronounced than it is today. But how did we get here? In a new book published this month (March 27), Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics Richard Adelstein explores the remarkable transformation undergone by business in the U.S. over the half-century following the Civil War—from small sole proprietorships and partnerships to massive corporations possessing many of the same constitutional rights as living men and women. Approaching this story through historical, philosophical, legal and economic lenses, Adelstein presents an original, three-pronged theory of the rise of business firms.

In The Rise of Planning in Industrial America, 1865-1914 (Routledge), Adelstein traces the big business boom to three historic developments: a major managerial achievement within the firms themselves; an ill-conceived and ill-timed attempt by legislators to rein in rapidly expanding firms; and the Supreme Court’s understated—but immensely consequential—decision granting constitutional rights to corporations separate from those of their owners.

The first of the three developments refers to the unprecedented emergence following the Civil War of industrial giants demonstrating successful, consensual central planning at a large scale. For the first time in history, thousands of men and women were organized to work toward large-scale production for the common goal of profit maximization. Previously, only military generals and a few slave masters had succeeded in purposefully coordinating the efforts and interactions of hundreds or thousands of individuals toward a single purpose.

In the 1880s, as the efficiencies brought by large-scale production drove down prices, firms in dozens of industries organized in trade associations, cartels and trusts to keep prices up, output down and marketing territories protected. An anti-monopoly campaign was initiated, but by the time the federal Sherman Act was enacted in 1890, many of the trusts and cartels had already collapsed under their own weight, releasing their small member firms back into the competitive sea. Some of these firms continued to grow much larger by acquiring suppliers and distributors to ensure a steady flow of materials in and product out of their enormous facilities. Consequently, the Sherman Act was of little use in a fight against bigness, which Adelstein argues was the more important problem posed by the great firms, and which only began to become clear to Americans after 1890.

Justice Scalia Delivers Defense of Originalism at Hugo Black Lecture

Antonin Scalia, associate justice of the U.S Supreme Court, delivered the 21st Hugo Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression March 8 in Memorial Chapel.

An originalist approach to interpreting the Constitution may not be perfect, but it’s “the only game in town,” was the message from U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia when he delivered the annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression at Wesleyan on March 8.

“Do you think that judges—that is to say, lawyers—are better at the science of what ought to be than the science of history? I don’t think so,” Scalia told a packed crowd in Memorial Chapel. “The reality is that originalism is the only game in town; the only real verifiable criteria that can prevent judges from reading the Constitution to say whatever they think it should say. Show Scalia the original meaning, and he is prevented from imposing his nasty conservative views upon the people. […]

5 Questions With . . . Laura Stark on Human-Subject Regulations

Assistant Professor Laura Stark hopes her new book can inform scientists, scholars, students and research participants of new research regulations created by the Office of Human Research Protections.

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask 5 Questions of Laura Stark, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of environmental studies. Stark recently published a new book, Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research.

Q: Professor Stark, what inspired you to study institutional review boards (IRBs), which regulate research on human subjects?

A: I first became interested in this project in 2002 because of a great coincidence of scholarship. At the time, I was reading historical works that explained why the Nuremberg Code after World War II had so little effect on medical research in the U.S. I was also going through IRB training to conduct interviews as part of a research study, and found that the IRB training manuals attribute the modern origins of American research ethics to the Nuremberg Code. The two contradictory accounts intrigued me. I am generally interested in how new knowledge is produced in science and medicine, and I also think it’s important to use research methods appropriate to the question at hand (which is why I use both ethnographic and historical methods in the book). As a result, I started to explore how the ethics evaluation process developed historically and how it works today, and investigate the conflicting accounts of the importance of the Nuremberg Code.

I was excited at the prospect of exploring uncharted territory by observing IRB meetings and reconsidering the history of IRBs using new historical materials from the National Institutes of Health.

Q: What was most striking about the IRBs you observed?

A: As an ethnographer, I was struck by how similar these different IRB “field sites” felt to me. Each was a day’s drive from my home, each was composed of quite different individuals, and each used a lot of discretion in evaluating researchers’ proposal. Yet their methods for reaching decisions were remarkably similar. The three boards didn’t communicate with each other and they certainly weren’t trying to model on each other, and yet they use similar decision-making techniques.

As I argue in the book, these similarities are a function of the common configuration of IRBs all around the country. Since 1966, The U.S. surgeon general has required all universities, hospitals and other organizations that receive federal funding for research on people to get prior approval from a human-subjects

Stemler’s Book Offers Review of American Schools’ Mission Statements

Book co-authored by Steven Stemler.

Steven Stemler, assistant professor of psychology, is the co-author of a new book, The School Mission Statement: Values, Goals & Identities in American Education,” published by Eye on Education in March.

Co-authored with Damian J. Bebell of Boston College, the book contains an extensive review of mission statements from a diverse range of schools, including public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, vocational schools, parochial schools and Native American schools. Stemler and Bebell developed a coding rubric to classify the mission statements according to eleven broad themes (eg. Foster cognitive development; foster social development; foster emotional development; integrate into global community).

Based on their review of mission statements, Stemler and Bebell conclude that the purpose of American schools extends well beyond the cognitive domain. However, testing is limited almost exclusively to the cognitive, meaning schools are not being held accountable in the same way for these other, equally important, goals. If schools truly value developing these other competencies in students, then they should do so in a measurable way, they argue.

Dierker, Rose, Postdocs Author 2 Papers on Teens’ Nicotine Dependence

Lisa Dierker, chair and professor of psychology, Jennifer Rose, research associate professor of psychology and two postdoctoral fellows, together with researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, are the co-authors of two new papers examining nicotine dependence in teen smokers.

“The Natural Course of Nicotine Dependence Symptoms Among Adolescent Smokers,” was published March 15 in the peer-reviewed journal, Nicotine & Tobacco Research. Wesleyan Postdoctoral Fellows Weihai Zhan and Arielle Selya contributed to the paper. The researchers followed novice adolescent smokers, as well as those who had never smoked before, for four years. They found that, before smoking 100 cigarettes, 20 percent reported “smoking to relieve restlessness and irritability,” and “smoking a lot more now to be satisfied compared to when first smoked,” both considered symptoms of nicotine dependence. This is the first study to describe the natural course of nicotine dependence specifically among adolescent smokers who had not yet reached the 100-cigarette milestone.

The paper is available to read online here.

According to Dierker, “These findings add to a growing body of research showing that for some adolescents, nicotine dependence symptoms develop soon after smoking begins and at low levels of cigarette use. Because these early emerging symptoms represent a substantial risk for developing chronic smoking behavior, it is important that new adolescent smokers are not neglected in smoking prevention and cessation programs.”

A second study, “Risk Factors for Adolescent Smoking: Parental Smoking and the Mediating Role of Nicotine,” was published Feb. 24 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. It is available online here.

While it is well documented that having a parent who smokes increases a teen’s risk of smoking, this study sought to explain the pathways controlling this relationship. The researchers found that maternal smoking significantly increased the likelihood that teens would experience greater sensitivity to nicotine dependence symptoms at low levels of smoking. “This may be the result of shared genes between parent and child that promote sensitivity to the effects of nicotine or due to substantial second-hand smoke in the home that may prime children to develop dependence symptoms relatively quickly after they begin smoking, but in either case suggests that children with parents who smoke are an important group with whom to intervene.” To inform the design of effective interventions, research focusing on both potential genetic markers and environmental risk is ongoing with this high-risk sample.

 

 

 

 

Future Stem Cell-based Therapies for Treating Epilepsy Explored in 3 Biology Labs

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, and her lab manager, Stephanie Tagliatela, review the brain activity of four mice that are currently being treated for epilepsy using therapies developed and tested in the lab. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

For the roughly one-third of temporal lobe epilepsy patients for whom drugs are not an option, researchers at Wesleyan are paving the way for alternative therapies using stem cells.

Biology Department faculty members Gloster Aaron, Janice Naegele and Laura Grabel work together to create novel cell replacement therapies for temporal lobe epilepsy.

Faculty members Janice Naegele, Gloster Aaron and Laura Grabel, together with Xu Maisano, Ph.D. ’11, Elizabeth Litvina, B.A. ’10/M.A. ’11, and Stephanie Tagliatela, the lab manager in the Naegele lab, recently published a landmark study in the Journal of Neuroscience on the use of embryonic stem cells to treat temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). The researchers derived neural “parent cells” in culture from mouse embryonic stem cells, and transplanted them into the brains of epileptic mice. There, the transplanted cells differentiated into mature inhibitory neurons and successfully integrated and formed connections in the host brain over the course of several months.

The paper, published Jan. 4, is available to read online.

“In these experiments, we are attempting to repair an important region called the dentate gyrus, located deep inside the temporal lobe in the hippocampus. The structures affected in temporal lobe epilepsy are important for forming memories and controlling the spread of seizures throughout the brain. When inhibitory neurons in the hippocampus are injured or die off, seizures are able to spread into other brain regions, causing more severe seizures,” explains Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

5 Questions With . . . Sociology’s Daniel Long on Education Reform

Daniel Long, assistant professor of sociology, studies education in the U.S. and abroad. In February, he was invited to testify before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee about education reform plans.

In this issue of  The Wesleyan Connection we ask 5 Questions of Daniel Long, assistant professor of sociology.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has made education reform a major priority this year. He has proposed a sweeping package of reforms, including overhauling teacher tenure, increasing Education Cost Sharing grants to struggling districts, funding more preschool slots for low-income children, and requiring districts to contribute additional money for students to attend charter schools.

Q: Connecticut suffers from the highest black/white and poor/non-poor achievement gap in the country. What can be done to address this?

A: In Connecticut—as well as nationwide—longitudinal studies have shown that the achievement gap is constant or decreases during the months that children are enrolled in school, meaning black and white and poor and non-poor students learn at the same rate while in school. But the gaps are quite large before students enter school, and expand during the summer. To address this, many have suggested increasing the time kids spend in school, and offering academic enrichment activities to poor and minority students during the summer. Experimental studies have also shown that really high-quality early childhood education—which includes small class sizes, great teachers, social workers who support parents, and adequate health services—can make a big difference. Unfortunately, many early childhood education programs, such as Head Start, don’t meet these standards. The Perry Preschool Project in Michigan and the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York are examples of really effective programs.

Q: Governor Malloy seeks to boost funding for charter schools, requiring municipalities to provide an additional $1,000 per student. Do you think this is a good use of taxpayer money?

A: No, I don’t. On average, students perform equal or worse in charter schools than in public schools. Connecticut’s charter schools do a little better than the national average—in part,

Khan ’12 to Present Research Poster at Psychological Convention

Tasmiha Khan ’12 will present the poster “Responses to Group Devaluation among American-Muslims” at the 2012 Association for Psychological Science Annual Convention, May 24 – 27 in Chicago, Ill. In this poster, Khan will present results with her ongoing research with Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera, assistant professor of psychology, on how American Muslims feel about negative societal images of their group. Khan has been working in Rodriguez Mosquera’s Culture and Emotion Lab since 2009 where she is also involved in another research project on the meaning of honor among South Asian women.

Aaron, 4 Students Publish New Epilepsy Research

Gloster Aaron, assistant professor of biology and assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, has published a new study in PLoS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed online publication. The study is co-authored by four Wesleyan students: Jeffrey Walker BA ’08/ MA ’09, Greg Storch BA ’10/MA ’11, Bonnie Quach-Wong ’12 and Julian Sonnenfeld ’11.
In this study, the researchers were able to produce a cortical slice preparation that allows activity to propagate from neurons in one cortical hemisphere to the other hemisphere through the corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is the largest structure that connects the right and left halves of our brain. By examining this activity in slices, the neurons can be studied and manipulated under a microscope while activity is ongoing. The slices will stay “alive” for many hours, if handled correctly. The researchers used this method to study seizure-like events, particularly their ability to propagate across the callosum in these slices.