Olivia Drake

Students Present Research Projects during Virtual Summer Poster Session

boone

Tyler Boone ’21 shared his poster titled “Probing the Effects of YTA7 on Genetic Silencing in S. cerevisiae” during the virtual Summer 2020 Research Poster Session.

On June 30, Wesleyan hosted a virtual Summer 2020 Research Poster Session to celebrate the accomplishments of more than 150 student researchers.

To emulate the excitement and camaraderie of the live poster session, students hosted their own individual presentations on Zoom and answered questions live. To access the poster session and view individual projects, visit the Summer Research Poster Session website and enter the password “summer20.” Navigation to the individual poster sites is done either by name or by department. Each student’s “poster site” has their photo, a short biography, abstract, and poster.

Examples of student research projects are below:

tyler boone

Tyler Boone ’21

Tyler Boone ’21 shared his poster titled “Probing the Effects of YTA7 on Genetic Silencing in S. cerevisiae.” Boone is double majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry and biology with a minor in chemistry. In order to better understand how the structure of chromatin, a complex of DNA and protein found in eukaryotic cells, affects gene silencing specifically, Boone studied the gene YTA7 in a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Boone’s advisor is Scott Holmes, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Sydney Lodge '21

Sydney Lodge ’21

Sydney Lodge ’21, who is double majoring in psychology and African American studies with a concentration in cultural psychology, presented “An Analysis of the Impact of History and Sociological Factors on the Future of Affordable Housing.” Her project offers various perspectives on the past, present, and future of affordable housing in Texas and California and explores the attitudes of women of color who advocate for affordable housing and whose work centers around anti-gentrification and anti-displacement efforts. Her advisor was H. Shellae Versey, a former assistant professor of psychology.

Shusterman Awarded $1.8M NSF Grant to Design and Test Preschool Math Games

Anna Shusterman

Anna Shusterman

Before children enter Kindergarten, they’re often interested in mathematical concepts like patterns, numbers, and logic. However, math remains under-supported in most preschool settings in the United States.

As a recipient of a $1.8 million grant by the National Science Foundation, Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman hopes to address this educational need by providing preschool settings with a research-based, developmentally appropriate, conceptually rich, flexible, and fun collection of math games that can be incorporated into any classroom.

“The preschool years have long been recognized as an opportune time to engage children in mathematical thinking, bootstrapping their natural curiosity and laying a foundation for future academic success and lifelong numeracy,” Shusterman said.

Her project, titled “Implementation and Efficacy Study of the Wesleyan Preschool Math Games,” has the potential to provide evidence for the benefits of incorporating a simple, playful set of materials into early childhood settings to increase children’s foundation for STEM learning.

Harun ’20 Receives Governor’s Innovation Fellowship

Eunes Harun '20

Eunes Harun ’20

On July 20, recent alumnus Eunes Harun ’20 was chosen to join the first cohort of the Governor’s Innovation Fellowship (CTGIF) team.

CTGIF offers ambitious, high-achieving recent college graduates the opportunity to work at top, innovative companies developing their career while working together as a community of fellows, growing together professionally and personally to create a cohort of talent, camaraderie, and growth in the State of Connecticut. The fellowship comes with a $5,000 award.

Harun, a government and economics double major, will be joining McKinsey & Company in Stamford, Conn., as a business analyst and will be participating in the CTGIF program simultaneously. As a fellow, he will gain access to mentorship, curated professional development, and a community of similarly-driven peers.

“I’m most looking forward to the opportunity to dive right into the greater Stamford community and build connections with business leaders,” Harun said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harun’s start date with McKinsey has been pushed back to December, though the CTGIF programming will begin in August.

For Harun, staying in the State of Connecticut following college was a top priority.

“I’ve grown up all my life in Hamden, Conn., and after going through the Hamden public school system, I was on the college search and it was a priority of mine to study in a state that would open the door to many career opportunities. I realized that Connecticut and Wesleyan would provide exactly that,” he said. “Over the last few years, I’ve come to love Connecticut and the community, opportunities, and climate it affords its residents.”

Hot off the Press: New Papers by Hingorani, Tucker, Case PhD ’19

Manju Hingorani, visiting scholar in molecular biology and biochemistry, and Brandon Case PhD ’19 are co-authors of a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA in July 2020. The paper, titled “Recurrent mismatch binding by MutS mobile clamps on DNA localizes repair complexes nearby,” reports novel findings about the mechanism whereby MutS protein triggers initiation of DNA repair. The research at Wesleyan was supported by NIH grant R15 GM114743 awarded to Manju Hingorani. Case is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School.

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, discusses the role of material culture and visual media in shaping how museums communicate histories of science and technology in an article titled “Guns, Germs, and Public History: A Conversation with Jennifer Tucker,” published July 8, 2020 in the Journal of The History of the Behavioral Sciences.

Artist Gittes ’10 Donates 1,800 Paintings to NYC Hospital Staff

Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes wanted to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, so he created paintings for every single person working at Interfaith Medical Center in New York.

Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes ’10 wanted to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, so he created paintings for all employees working at Interfaith Medical Center in New York. (Image courtesy of NBC Nightly News)

Gittes

Gittes holds up a sampling of the “Strangers to No One” project.

On July 26, Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes ’10 was featured on NBC Nightly News in a “There’s Good News Tonight” segment.

For an entire month, Gittes worked on a project titled “Strangers to No One,” which involved painting 1,800 flowers. He donated the works to every employee at the Interfaith Medical Center in New York City, a nonprofit community hospital, to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you love somebody, you give them a flower,” Gittes said in the interview.

Donning a Wesleyan University sweatshirt on the show, Gittes demonstrated how he painted the flowers using a syringe as opposed to a paint brush.

“I … felt powerless and frustrated,” Gittes said. “I can’t paint one for everyone and everywhere, but I could paint one for everyone at one hospital.”

New 24″ Telescope to Provide Better Research Opportunities for Astronomy Students, Faculty

On July 20, the Astronomy Department’s Van Vleck Observatory acquired a state-of-the-art 24-inch telescope that can view galactic objects remotely and autonomously.

“When fully operational, the system will be able to determine if the weather is favorable for observing, open the dome, take calibration observations from a queue, and close down in the morning, all on its own,” explained Roy Kilgard, associate professor of the practice in astronomy. “We’ll be able to conduct remote observations in real time, with a human operator at home or in their office, and make those images available to our students or researchers immediately.”

The new 24-inch PlaneWave CDK24 system replaces a 20-year-old 16-inch Meade LX200GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain in the rooftop dome of the observatory and will allow for student and faculty research and public observation nights. The department hopes to have the telescope fully operational by the start of the fall semester.

At 8 a.m., crews began the installation, which included using a crane to hoist a steel pier, mounting device, and the telescope through the slit in the dome. Photos of the installation are below: (Photos courtesy of Roy Kilgard and Patrick Bohan)

telescope

telescope

Flowers from Foss, Wildlife from WestCo

Although human activity on campus is sparse during the summer and during the COVID-19 pandemic, birds, butterflies, bees, and the occasional groundhog are enjoying the plethora of pollen, nectar, berries, and fruits the campus grounds have to offer.

Pictured are summery scenes taken from the Foss Hill and West College areas of campus on July 20: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

west co garden

Thousands of woodland sunflowers line the upper path behind West College. Ten years ago, the University offered the student organization WILD Wes a .75-acre parcel of sloping land behind the West College complex to build a permaculture site. The courtyard is now home to hundreds of species of perennials, native grasses, ground covers, fruit trees, berry bushes, and other wildlife.

A monarch butterfly drinks nectar from a thistle flower.

A monarch butterfly drinks nectar from a thistle flower in the West College courtyard.

Chong ‘21 Rallies against ICE Policy, Speaks at Capitol Press Conference

chong

Bryan Chong ’21 spoke during a press conference at the state Capitol, where Attorney General William Tong announced a lawsuit filed by Connecticut, 16 other states, and the District of Columbia against the government’s proposal to revoke student visas for international students should their universities choose to move classes online due to COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Mark Mirko @markmirko/Hartford Courant @hartfordcourant)

On July 6, when the U.S. government made a federal ruling that international students would be deported should their studies be held exclusively online, Bryan Chong ’21 took immediate action to fight back.

The Hong Kong native and visa holder had already spent six years in Connecticut, attending high school in Kent before enrolling at Wesleyan. If the COVID-19 pandemic moved Wesleyan to return to an all-online format again, the policy would have forced Chong to return to China for his senior year of college. But he wasn’t worried about himself as much as his international peers.

“I couldn’t imagine the mental toll this would have on international students who don’t necessarily have a secure home to go home to. There are many international students who see colleges and universities as a safe haven from their hometowns, or maybe from income insecurity, housing insecurity, and food insecurity,” Chong said.

After receiving blowback from universities and colleges across the country, on July 14 the government abruptly rescinded the proposal, easing the minds of the more than 400 international students at Wesleyan.

Faculty, Alumni, Students Publish Books, Journal Articles

Several faculty have recently authored or co-authored books, book chapters, and articles that appear in prestigious academic journals.

BOOKS AND BOOK CHAPTERS

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Eric Charry, professor of music, is the author of A New and Concise History of Rock and R&B through the Early 1990s (Wesleyan University Press, 2020).

Robert “Bo” Conn, professor of Spanish, is the author of Bolívar’s Afterlife in the Americas: Biography, Ideology, and the Public Sphere (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).

Anthony Ryan Hatch, associate professor of science in society, is the author of three book chapters:
“The Artificial Pancreas in Cyborg Bodies,” published in The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of the Body and Embodiment (Oxford University Press, 2020.) Sonya Sternlieb ’18 and Julia Gordon ’18 are co-authors.

“Against Diabetic Numerology in a Black Body, or Why I Cannot Live by the Numbers,” published in Body Battlegrounds: Transgressions, Tensions, and Transformations (Vanderbilt University Press, 2019).

“Food Sovereignty and Wellness in Urban African American Communities,” published in Well-Being as a Multi-Dimensional Concept: Understanding Connections between Culture, Community, and Health (Lexington Books, 2019). Deja Knight ’18 is a co-author.

James McGuire, professor of government, is the author of Democracy and Population Health (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

JOURNAL ARTICLES 
Three Wesleyan faculty, three recent alumni, and one undergraduate collaborated on an interdisciplinary study titled “A Ribosome Interaction Surface Sensitive to mRNA GCN Periodicity,” published in the journal Biomolecules, June 2020.

The co-authors include Michael Weir, professor of biology; Danny Krizanc, Edward Burr Van Vleck Professor of Computer Science; and Kelly Thayer, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences; William Barr ’18 MA ’19; Kristen Scopino ’19; Elliot Williams ’18, MA ’19; and Abdelrahman Elsayed ’21.

Barr and Williams worked on the project as a part of their BA/MA program.

Anthony Ryan Hatch is the author of three journal articles:
Du Boisian Propaganda, Foucauldian Genealogy, and Antiracism in STS Research,” published in Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, 2020.

Sugar Ecologies: Their Metabolic and Racial Effects,” published in 22 Food, Culture, and Society, 2019. Sonya Sternlieb ’18 and Julia Gordon ’18 are co-authors.

Two Meditations in Coronatime,” published by the Section on Science, Knowledge, and Technology of the American Sociological Association, May 2020.

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, is featured in the article “Guns, Germs, and Public History: A Conversation with Jennifer Tucker,” published by the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, July 2020.

Margot Weiss, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of American studies, is the author of “Intimate Encounters: Queer Entanglements in Ethnographic Fieldwork,” published in Anthropological Quarterly, Volume 93, June 2020, and “Hope and Despair in the Queer Nonprofit Industrial Complex,” published in the GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Volume 26, April 2020.

2 Students of Color Receive Tokita Prize for Literature

Jade Tate '22 and Jake Kwon '21

Jake Kwon ’21, top, and Jade Tate ’22 are recipients of the Shu Tokita Memorial Prize.

Jake Kwon ’21 and Jade Tate ’22 are the recipients of the 2020 Shu Tokita Memorial Prize, which is awarded annually to a student of color majoring in literature or language with a focus on literature, who demonstrates financial need.

The award, which comes with a $1,500 prize, was established 20 years ago by the friends and relatives of Shu Tokita ’84, who passed away in 1989 from leukemia. He had received a BA in English literature from Wesleyan and an MA in Japanese literature from Tsukuba University. The prize seeks to reflect Tokita’s interest in literature and is focused on supporting students of color, for whom the study of literature, Tokita’s family and friends felt, is often considered a “luxury.”

Applicants may be affiliated with the following departments: English, College of Letters, other language/literature departments, or related studies in East Asian studies concentrating on Chinese or Japanese literature.

Tate and Kwon received the prize during a virtual awards ceremony on June 30. The selection is based on the submitted 750-word essay and on financial need, and not on academic standing.

Kwon, a biology and English double major, had a lifelong struggle with literature as a person of color. POC voices, he says, were undermined in the American education system.

Geology Class Maps Local State Park for Geological Survey

geology class

Members of the Geologic Field Mapping course explore a gneiss and schist outcrop at Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, Conn.

geology class on zoom

The class met with members of the Connecticut Geological Survey staff through Zoom. Pictured, top row, from left: Caroline Murphy ’20, Professor Phil Resor, and Oliver Benson ’22. Middle row, from left: Emmy Hughes ’20, Alexa Trujillo ’22, and graduate student Donald Koepp. Bottom row, from left: state geologist Margaret Thomas, geoscience resource assistant and graduate student Zach Kläng, and geoscience resource assistant Taryn Isenburg.

This spring, a group of five students enrolled in Wesleyan’s Geologic Field Mapping service-learning class undertook a project to map the geology of Gillette Castle State Park and develop educational materials for the general public based on this map.

The 184-acre park, which was purchased by the State of Connecticut in 1943, sits atop a hill overlooking the Connecticut River. Here American actor and playwright William Hooker Gillette, known for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage, built and lived on this estate from 1919–1937. His 14,000-square-foot, fieldstone-faced mansion resembles a medieval castle, hence the park’s namesake, Gillette Castle.

The ‘castle’ is surrounded by woodlands, trails, ponds, cliffs, and massive rock outcrops.

“In order to make educational materials that are approachable and useful, we needed to make it of interest to anyone—whether they were a Connecticut geologist or a family looking for a place to picnic,” said Alexa Trujillo ’22. “We found joy in toeing the line between too scientific and not scientific enough. All of us coming from different experiences with geology, writing for an audience, and education made us the perfect team to create something like this.”

geology class

The class’s report was made using the ArcGIS StoryMaps software.

On May 15, Trujillo, Caroline Murphy ’20, Oliver Benson ’22, Emmy Hughes ’20, and graduate student Donald Koepp presented their work to their “clients” at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) State Geological Survey. The project was supervised by course instructor Phillip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences and education studies.

“Even after we moved to distance learning, the students rose to the occasion and did a great job synthesizing their fieldwork along with other material to create GIS and interactive maps,” Resor said.

The class first met in person at the Connecticut DEEP headquarters in early February, where staff introduced students to the park and provided examples of geologic maps and story maps from other parks. After learning basic GIS skills, students created base maps and spent three afternoons on site, conducting fieldwork in February and early March.

While in the park, the students looked for outcrops of rock.

“These were crucial in the geologic story because they are pieces of what was once under the ground, but came up through the surface. They can tell us the story of what went on underneath where we were standing,” said Trujillo, a sociology and education studies double major. “We looked for folds, banding, mineral types, strike, dip, and much more. Basically, we wanted to know everything. We cataloged everything we found because any piece could be the missing connection to the geologic story.”

The class ultimately produced an interactive map through the software ArcGIS that shows the park’s trails, unique locations, benches, parking, and “all of the outcrops we found, some cool locations to check out, bathrooms, and anything else you would normally find on a map,” Trujillo said.

They also created a “StoryMap” that includes sections on Gillette himself and his castle, the geology, and hidden gems located within the state park. The maps will be published online by DEEP at a future date.