Olivia Drake

Kottos Awarded Simons Collaborative Grant to Advance Wave Transport Research


Professor Tsampikos Kottos is one of 11 researchers worldwide to receive funding from the Simons Collaborations in Mathematics and the Physical Sciences Initiative. Simons is awarding $16 million total in funding over the next eight years.

With support from the Simons Foundation, Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of physics, will work on groundbreaking wave transport research, ultimately benefiting a broad range of technologies ranging from wireless communications
and efficient energy harvesting, to biomedical and avionics sensing technologies.

Kottos is one of 11 principal investigators (PIs) from 12 universities and research institutions across the globe to receive funding from the Simons Collaborations in Mathematics and the Physical Sciences Initiative. The group’s project, “Harnessing Universal Symmetry Concepts for Extreme Wave Phenomena,” is based at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. (Read Kottos’ ASRC bio online here.)

During the first four years, Simons is awarding ASRC $8 million, out of which Wesleyan is receiving $600,000. In the second phase, Simons will award an additional $8 million.

The grant aims to stimulate progress on fundamental scientific questions of major importance in mathematics, theoretical physics, and theoretical computer science. This research aims to further the fundamental understanding of and ability to manipulate light and sound waves in order to facilitate the development of novel wave-based technologies.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Wesleyan to be part of this international coalition, which hopefully will address the next generation’s needs of classical wave-based technologies,” Kottos said.

Kottos’s research interests include linear, nonlinear, and non-Hermitian wave transport, mesoscopic transport, and mathematical physics. He has published more than 140 papers. During the 2020–21 academic year, Kottos is teaching PHYS 324: Electricity and Magnetism; PHYS 521: Physics Colloquium; PHYS 214: Quantum Mechanics; and PHYS 510: Theoretical Physics Seminar II.

In addition to participating in the research, Kottos also is serving on the Simons Collaboration Initiative steering committee.

Tan ’20 Honored by Geological Society of America for Poster Presentation

GSAOn Nov. 23, the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) Geobiology and Geomicrobiology Division awarded earth and environmental sciences graduate student Yu Kai Tan ’20 with a student presentation award.

Tan presented his poster, “Freshwater Mussels in North America: Museum Collections and Pre-Industrial Biogeography,” on Oct. 29 during the GSA’s annual (virtual) meeting. Andy (Dick Yee) Tan ’21 collaborated with Tan ’20 on the poster. Their advisors are Ann Burke, professor of biology, and Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History, and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences.

Judges commended Tan’s poster for being “beautifully organized” and having a “terrific use of time and space.” They also noted that “the digitalization and processing of these collections is incredibly important to maintaining them and making them accessible for future research,” and the work “plays a vital role in understanding past and present biodiversity.”


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South Asia’s Caste System Discussed by Scholars, Students

In South Asia, particularly in India, people are born into a caste system that determines their social status, career, and access to resources and opportunities. Under Brahmins (priests, intellectuals), Kshatriyas (military, warriors), Vaishyas (merchants, farmers), and Shudras (laborers, servants) are Dalits, also known as the “untouchables.” Those in the Dalit caste group struggle with oppression and discrimination and are considered “dirty” and spiritually polluting.

On Nov. 21, Wesleyan’s South Asian students’ association Shakti presented a conversation titled “Caste Conundrum and Identity Politics.” Panelists included Hari Krishnan, professor of dance; Indira Karamcheti, associate professor of American studies; Manjula Pradeep, a human rights lawyer and former director of the Navsarjan Trust; and Meena Varma, director of the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

Shakti members Sushraya Jay and Darshana Banka moderated the discussion, which explored gender, privilege and their corresponding impacts on a day to day basis.

Shakti members Sushraya Jay ’21, top left, and Darshana Banka ’22, top right, moderated the discussion, which explored the caste system, gender, and privilege, and their corresponding impacts on a day-to-day basis.

"The caste system is so ingrained into society so people have adjusted life ... It doesn't bother everyone in India. There's millions of people who support this system because they have benefits associated with a caste," Pradeep said. 

“The caste system is so ingrained into society, so people have adjusted life. . . . It doesn’t bother everyone in India. People don’t want to talk about it. There are millions of people who support this system because they have benefits associated with a caste,” Pradeep said. “But the lower you are in the caste, and you’re born in the (Dalit) community, you have to do degrading work. If you’re born an untouchable, you live and die an untouchable.”

"We all need to be hyper-aware of the circulation of caste discrimination, even in daily life. If you see something, say something. Being a silent observer; it's not enough anymore," Krishnan said. Everyone needs to be an activist, everyone needs to be in solidarity ... and be aware of the social political problems that continue to promote and propagate violence."

“We all need to be hyperaware of the circulation of caste discrimination, even in daily life. If you see something, say something. Being a silent observer; it’s not enough anymore,” Krishnan said. “Everyone needs to be an activist, everyone needs to be in solidarity . . . and be aware of the social-political problems that continue to promote and propagate violence.”


Karamcheti discussed the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965, which opened up worldwide immigration to the United States. Since the 1917 Immigration Act, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zones Act, immigration from various non-white countries had been restricted to around 100 persons per year. The Hart-Celler Act raised that cap to 20,000 per year, prioritizing highly skilled, highly educated individuals and family reunification. Consequently, those migrants joined the U.S. as members of the upper and middle classes. “They had professions in the public sphere, often highly prestigious, and incorporated into the U.S. into a flattening out of caste. In a sense, that first wave of immigration comes in, not caste-less, but as upper-caste. As those numbers increased into the 2000s, what you get is the community of South Asians, putting caste-ism into practice.”
As long as the South Asian community was small in number, the dominant culture saw them as all belonging to the model minority. “In this sense, ignorance about their internal differences was in a sense protection; people could pass in terms of their caste identity. South Asians, as their numbers increased, put caste-ism into practice against each other. As the dominant culture gained knowledge about South Asians, knowledge in this case led to more caste discrimination,” she said.

"If you have to ask what caste privilege is, you're probably privileged," Varma said. We need to bring caste into the open, bring discrimination out into the open. We need to be caste aware and that's why solidarity networks are so important."

“If you have to ask what caste privilege is, you’re probably privileged,” Varma said. “We need to bring caste into the open, bring discrimination out into the open. We need to be caste aware and that’s why solidarity networks are so important. One thing we can do, as when we talk about COVID, is to stop using the word ‘social distancing.’ Even though this is now global terminology, this is what has happened to Dalits for 3,000 years. We are now being social, and being distant for reasons of health, but it is because we need safe distancing, not social distancing.” Varma also described the work of Dalits. “Dalits are manual scavengers; they are cleaning human [feces] with their hands,” Varma said. “Cleaning of dry latrines is mostly done by women, and sanitation workers, mostly men, die every day because they are lowered into a manhole without protection. Here is a country that can send satellites into space, but can’t automate its sanitation.”

Gamelan Ensemble Provides Virtual Mini-Concerts, Demonstrations During Pandemic

On Nov. 19, students from the Javanese Gamelan Ensemble presented their work-in-progress, a number of compositions in different tuning systems, and formal musical structures.

On Nov. 19, students from the MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners class presented their work-in-progress as part of a virtual mini-concert series. Both the beginning and advanced classes are allowed to perform in person as long as they remain six feet apart and wear masks and disposable gloves.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of Wesleyan’s musical activities and classes were canceled, drastically adjusted, or moved to virtual platforms. Fortunately, for Wesleyan’s Javanese gamelan classes, students were still allowed to meet in-person as long as they followed strict guidelines: wear a mask and disposable gloves, social distance, and frequently use hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

“The university made all of these available to the students in the World Music Hall, where the gamelan meets,” explained Winslow-Kaplain Professor of Music Sumarsam. “The gamelan instruments were set up six feet apart, and the students were required to maintain that distance while playing or sitting in the audience area for discussion, and when lining up to enter or exit the hall. We also planned to have occasional online lectures and discussions, so the group did not have to meet in person as often.”

In the process of planning their hybrid MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners and MUSC 452: Javanese Gamelan-Advanced courses, Sumarsam and fellow gamelan instructor I.M. Harjito, University Professor of Music, decided to create a biweekly series of virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations, each one showcasing a different theme or style in 30-minute formats. “The production staff of CFA has worked tirelessly to publicize and produce these virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations,” Sumarsam noted.

Kurtz Speaks on Improving Thinking Skills in Schizophrenia


On Nov. 18 as part of the Wesleyan Faculty Lunch Talk series, Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology, spoke about “Thinking Skills in Schizophrenia: Can They Be Improved, and If So, How?” Kurtz said people with schizophrenia have cognitive deficits in attention and memory, which seem to predict the degree to which they are able to participate in community activities, make friends, attend a work skills or social skills program, or have stronger performance-based functions such as making phone calls, organizing, or making a doctor’s appointment. “This suggests that if we were to elevate cognition, we might be able to elevate function.”

Hot Off the Press: Meere, Tulchin ’20 Explore Identity, Exile in Kacimi’s Plays

AFLMichael Meere, assistant professor of French, and Sophie Dora Tulchin ’20 are the co-authors of “Filling In the Gaps: Identity, Exile, and Performance in 1962 and Babel Taxi by Mohamed Kacimi,” published in the Journal of the African Literature Association, Vol. 14, Issue 3, on Nov. 12, 2020.

This article explores issues of identity, exile, and performance in 1962 (1998) and Babel Taxi (2004), two foundational plays by the Algerian-born author Mohamed Kacimi. 1962 is an autobiographical play written during Algeria’s “black decade” about the effects of Algeria’s independence on two particular characters, while Babel Taxi allegorically retells the legend of the Tower of Babel in modern-day Iraq at the start of the Iraq War. In these plays, the characters’ pasts and memories are full of gaps (trous). The article argues that the characters’ attempts to fill in these trous with performance illuminate their experience of exile as a permanent psychological state. This endeavor not only applies to Arabic-speaking, Islamic characters, but also to those from Argentina, Israel, France, China, India, and beyond. Further, both plays highlight the transformative power of performance. However, whereas the characters in 1962 use performance to elevate their personal narratives of the past and resist the domination of official history, the resurrection of biblical legend through performance in Babel Taxi ends in violence and disunity. Performing the past can facilitate connection and offer solace from the confusion of exile, but it can just as easily sow discord in the present.

Campus Urged to Stay Vigilant; COVID-19 Testing Site Moved Indoors

covid testing

Wesleyan’s COVID-19 testing site moved to Beckham Hall for the winter season. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

With the holiday season approaching, Wesleyan’s Pandemic Planning Committee (PPC) reminds students, faculty, and staff to remain vigilant and safe.

“We have made it past the election and the Thanksgiving holiday is in sight,” wrote Wesleyan’s Medical Director and PCC member Dr. Tom McLarney in an email to the campus community on November 16. “As you are undoubtedly aware, the coronavirus pandemic has entered an alarming new phase, with cases rising sharply in most parts of the country and moderate increases in Connecticut. Despite the rigorous testing and safety protocols the University put in place, we are not immune from these trends, as we have also seen an increase in cases recently, though our positivity rate remains quite low.”

Earlier this month, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont rolled the state back to “phase 2.1,” reinstating many restrictions on both indoor and outdoor gatherings. Wesleyan continues to follow state and federal guidance closely. Wesleyan’s own campus alert level is currently YELLOW, and students are advised against any unnecessary travel off campus. In addition, the Freeman Athletic Center remains closed.

To keep campus as safe as possible, Dr. McLarney urges everyone to continue to follow COVID safety guidelines, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and practicing careful hand washing. “The current evidence supports that face coverings—whether surgical masks or multilayered cloth masks—protect both the person wearing them along with those around them,” he wrote.

Otake on “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries”

As a dancer and choreographer, Wesleyan’s Visiting Dance Artist-in-Residence Eiko Otake spent the past 45-plus years of her career presenting her work in theaters, universities, museums, galleries, outdoor sites, and festivals worldwide. But like other artists navigating through the crisis, Otake was forced to find creative ways to re-focus, re-imagine, and share her work during the ongoing pandemic.

In March 2020, the Center for the Arts invited Otake to begin a Virtual Creative Residency, during which she began shifting her performance-based art to an online venue named Eiko Otake’s Virtual Studio. Here, Otake posts her new creations, dialogues, and reflections.

On Nov. 15, Otake led a virtual tour and conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” She was joined by two of her collaborators, DonChristian Jones ’12 and Iris McCloughan ’10. McCloughan also moderated the discussion.

The group shared works such as Your Morning Is My Night, Fish House, Visit, Attending, A Body in a Cemetery, Saving, and others.


On Nov. 15, Eiko Otake, DonChristian Jones ’12, and Iris McCloughan ’10 presented a live, virtual conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” McCloughan also moderated the discussion. In 2020, Otake was invited by Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts (CFA) to its first Virtual Creative Residency. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Otake created Virtual Studio, a space to share newly created and newly edited video works, written reflections, the voices of her collaborators, dialogues with artists and writers, and response from viewers.

Wesleyan Community Gathers for Thanksgiving Service, Offers Reflections

thanksgiving service

On Nov. 14, the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life hosted a non-denominational Thanksgiving service for the Wesleyan community. Curated by students and Wesleyan staff, the event blended secular and spiritual elements. Wesleyan Protestant Chaplain Jami Carlacio and her student assistant Lourdes Fitzgerald ’23 welcomed the audience to the service. Fitzgerald also led the “Mi’Kmaq Prayer” and Carlacio read a reflection from Yaje Nshanji ’22, who was unable to attend.

thanksgiving service

Dean of Student Affairs Mike Whaley provided a reading from the Gospel According to John.

2 Wesleyan University Press Books Win 4 Awards

booksTwo Wesleyan University Press music titles garnered four awards, from the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) and the American Musicological Society (AMS) this month.

Wild Music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine, by Maria Sonevytsky, received the 2020 Lewis Lockwood Award from the AMS. The Lockwood Award honors a musicological book of exceptional merit published during the previous year in any language and in any country by a scholar in the early stages of his or her career who is a member of the AMS or a citizen or permanent resident of Canada or the United States.

Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America, edited by Victoria Lindsay Levine and Dylan Robinson, received the 2020 Ellen Koskoff Edited Volume Prize from the SEM, which annually honors a book collection of ethnomusicological essays of exceptional merit edited by a scholar or scholars. Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America also received the 2020 Ruth A. Solie Award for edited collections from the American Musicological Society (AMS), which annually honors a collection of musicological essays of exceptional merit published during the previous year in any language and in any country and edited by a scholar or scholars.

In addition, co-editor Dylan Robinson received the SEM’s Helen Roberts Prize for his chapter contributed to Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America, “Speaking to Water, Singing to Stone: Peter Morin, Rebecca Belmore, and the Ontologies of Indigenous Modernity.” The prize recognizes the most significant article in ethnomusicology written by members of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Hot off the Press: Papers by Psychology Faculty, Alumni Published in Journals

Hilary Barth, professor of psychology; Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology; Liana Mathias ’17; and former lab coordinators Alexandra Zax and Katherine Williams are the co-authors of an article titled “Intuitive symbolic magnitude judgments and decision making under risk in adults,” published in Cognitive Psychology, 118, in May 2020.

Barth; Williams; postdoctoral fellow Chenmu Xing; Jamie Hom ’17, MA ’18, Meghana Kandlur ’18, Praise Owoyemi ’18, Joanna Paul ’18, Elizabeth Shackney ’17, and Ray Alexander ’18 are the co-authors of “Partition dependence in financial aid distribution to income categories,” published in PLoS ONE 15, in April 2020.

Barth; Patalano; Williams; Zax; and Sheri Reichelson ’16, MA ’17 are the co-authors of “Developmental change in partition dependent resource allocation behavior,” published in Memory & Cognition 48, March 2020.

Barth; Patalano; Williams; Zax; Paul; and Williams are the co-authors of “Number line estimation and standardized test performance: The left digit effect does not predict SAT math score,” published online in Brain and Behavior, October 2020.

Psychological Scavenger Hunt Helps Alleviate Zoom Fatigue

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. 

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. One group walked more than 2.5 miles during the scavenger hunt.

This fall, the introductory-level course PSYC 105: Foundations of Contemporary Psychology is being taught entirely online to 200 students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After six weeks of remote lectures and interactive breakout sections via Zoom, Professors Steve Stemler and Sarah Carney who are team-teaching the course, hoped to break the “Zoom fatigue” routine and get their students physically interacting. So working together with the eight course TAs, they created a campus-wide psychological scavenger hunt.

With the first wave of students participating on Oct 27, and other waves participating subsequently, more than 110 students participated in the activity in person, while others joined in virtually.

“This was a fun way of doing some course-relevant activities while getting students out and about and interacting with each other,” Stemler said.

The instructors and TAs worked hard to ensure the scavenger hunt adhered to all COVID-19 protocols by keeping team sizes small, start times staggered, and locations spread out across campus and outside.

During the hunt, students worked in groups of four and looked for clues at various campus locations. The clues led them to a station run by a teaching assistant, who asked the undergraduates to complete a task relevant to the course content.

At an “intelligence station,” for example, the groups engaged in a word recognition test that relies on past experiences to prime their perceptions. At a “consciousness station,” students were asked to write down five things about themselves, and then the TA shuffled around their cards. After the cards were revealed, students had to categorize the notes as belonging to the social self, spiritual self, or material self in accordance with William James’ theory of the empirical self. And at a “methods station,” students read a description of a fictional research study and were allowed to ask 10 follow-up questions. The goal of that activity was to get students thinking about what information they wanted to know and why in order to evaluate the validity of the study rather than simply recalling the correct answers about the study design.

The scavenger hunt also led students to stations on memory, cognition, and bystander intervention.

The Teaching Apprentices for the course are Nolan Collins ’23, Maya Verghese ’23, Sarah Hammond ’22, Charity Russell ’21, Will Ratner ’22, Christian Quinones ’22, Arianna Jackson ’22, and Ezra Levy ’21.

Photos of the scavenger hunt on Oct. 27 are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt