Olivia Drake

Garvey ’20, Abel ’65 Collaborate on Mind-Eye Connection Research

Zoe Garvey '20 and Dr. Abel

Zoe Garvey ’20 and Dr. Robert Abel ’65 connected through the Wesleyan Alumni Directory and have since collaborated on mind-eye studies.

After graduating from Wesleyan last May, Zoe Garvey ’20 had plans to conduct research at a local hospital, but the COVID-19 pandemic hindered that plan. As an aspiring physician who is taking a gap year before enrolling in medical school, Garvey began browsing the Wesleyan Alumni Directory, looking for any potential, comparable leads.

“I wanted to see if any Wesleyan alumni who were physicians would be able to offer me opportunities to work with them during my year off,” she said.

And that’s when she connected with Dr. Robert Abel Jr. from Wesleyan’s Class of 1965. Abel, Garvey learned, was a Delaware-based ophthalmologist, a former clinical professor of ophthalmology at Thomas Jefferson University, and is the author of The Eye Care Revolution, which teaches patients how to treat and manage common vision problems.

4 Seniors Receive NASA Undergraduate Research Fellowship Awards

space grantsFour members of the Class of 2021 are recipients of NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium awards.

Kimberly Paragas ’21, Ben Martinez ’21, Molly Watstein ’21, and Mason Tea ’21 each received a $5,000 Undergraduate Research Fellowship for their ongoing research. They’re among only seven students statewide to receive the honor.

“I have never seen an institution be so successful at these very competitive grants, and was so proud and impressed by the student applicants,” said Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy.

Paragras is working with Redfield on her project titled “Gas Giant Atmospheric Mass Loss.” According to the abstract, “Atmospheric mass loss is one of two aspects that influence the evolution of planets, making it essential for understanding their origin. The helium 1083 nm line offers insight into the atmospheric escape of close-in exoplanets, which significantly sculpts their population. This project aims to detect excess helium absorption in the atmosphere of the gas giant HAT-P-18b and estimate its present-day mass loss rate by using transit observations taken with an ultra-narrow band filter. The outcome of this project will provide valuable data for constraining mechanisms of mass loss, as helium outflows have only been detected in 5–6 planets to date.”

Martinez ’21 is working with Ed Moran, chair and professor of astronomy, on a project titled “An Unbiased Survey of Black Hole Activity in the Local Universe.” According to the abstract, “Cosmological simulations have shown that the fraction of low-mass galaxies in today’s universe that contain a nuclear black hole is directly related to the mechanism by which massive black hole seeds formed in the early universe. We have obtained optical emission-line measurements for an unbiased sample of local galaxies using a variety of instruments and will separate the objects into four distinct activity classes. We must remove continuum features from our spectra via the process of starlight subtraction, and examine X-ray and near-IR source catalogs for additional evidence of black-hole accretion to create a comprehensive picture of black hole activity in the nearby universe.”

Watstein ’21 also is working with Moran on a project titled “New Insights into AGN Unification from NuSTAR Observations of Nearby Seyfert 2 Galaxies.” According to the abstract, “Recent X-ray studies have reported a correlation between accretion rate and the presence of a hidden broad-line region in obscured active galactic nuclei (AGNs), suggesting that a substantial revision of the unified model for AGNs is needed. These investigations, however, were based on soft X-ray data, which are unreliable for determining intrinsic luminosities and accretion rates in such objects. Using NuSTAR data in the hard 3-80 keV band, I will determine the intrinsic X-ray luminosities of a large sample of obscured AGNs that have sensitive Keck spectropolarimetry observations, which will afford a definitive test of the accretion-rate hypothesis.”

Tea ’21 is working with Roy Kilgard, associate professor of the practice in astronomy, on a project titled “Analysis, Characterization and Variability of Local, Accreting X-ray Binaries with Archival Chandra Observations.” According to the abstract, “Compact objects are often found in binary systems, emitting X-ray radiation from plasma in their accretion disks as they siphon material from a donor star. Observations of these X-ray binaries (XRBs) in nearby galaxies provide the best opportunity to study the gravitational effects of compact objects on their environment and the high-energy physics powering their emission. In performing a detailed spectral and temporal analysis of the roughly 80 brightest X-ray sources within 15 Mpc, I hope to assess their spectral state and variability in order to more accurately constrain the parameter space and local population of XRBs and black hole binaries (BHBs).”

The NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) is a federally mandated grant, internship, and scholarship program that is funded as a part of NASA education. NASA CTSGC was formed in 1991 in an effort to encourage broader participation in NASA research programs.

United Way Creates Fellowship Honoring Cooney ’81

J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. '81

J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. ’81

The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) is honoring Wesleyan alumnus Gordon Cooney ’81 by establishing the J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. Fellowship in Criminal Justice.

Cooney, a government major at Wesleyan, works as a senior partner for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, where he oversees the firm’s litigation operations across the globe and has a long history of fighting for social justice. He served as regional board chair for UWGPSNJ from 2017–2020, and the fellowship was made in recognition of his significant leadership to United Way.

The J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. Fellowship in Criminal Justice is a six-month fellowship presented to people who have lived experience with the criminal justice system in Philadelphia, aspire to a career in criminal justice or community organizing, and who have shown a commitment to social equity. The Cooney Fellowship is coordinated with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE), a UWGPSNJ-supported nonprofit agency that, since its founding in 2011, helps low-income Philadelphians clean up their criminal records.

Several Wesleyan Faculty, Students Participate in Annual American Astronomical Society Meeting

Four Wesleyan faculty, nine undergraduate students, one graduate student, and one postdoctoral researcher attended the 237th American Astronomical Society meeting virtually Jan. 10–15.

Wesleyan faculty attendees included Ed Moran, chair and professor of astronomy; Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy; Meredith Hughes, associate professor of astronomy; and Roy Kilgard, associate professor of the practice in astronomy.

Poster presentations included:
Kimberly Paragas ’21, who is working with Redfield, presented “Metastable Helium Reveals Ongoing Mass Loss for the Gas Giant HAT-P-18b.”

Molly Watstein ’21, who is working with Moran, presented “New Insights into AGN Unification from NuSTAR Observations of Nearby Seyfert 2 Galaxies.”

Hannah Lewis ’23, who is working with Hughes, presented “A Search for Kinematic Signatures of Planets in the Debris Disk Around 49 Ceti.”

Graduate student Megan Delamer, who is working with Hughes, presented “A High-Resolution Study of Spatial and Spectral Variations of Dust Properties in the 49 Ceti Debris Disk.”

Anthony Santini ’18, MA ’19, who is working with Kilgard, presented “An Analysis of X-ray Binary Populations Outside the Visible Extent of Nearby Galaxies.”

Mason Tea ’21, who is working with Kilgard, presented “Circling the Cosmic Drain: Analysis, Characterization and Variability of Local, Accreting X-ray Binaries with Archival Chandra Observations.”

David Vizgan ’21, who is working with Hughes, presented “Tensile Strengths of Bodies in the Collisional Cascade: A Dual-Wavelength Study of the Vertical Structure of the AU Mic Debris Disk.”

Ilaria Carleo, a postdoctoral researcher working with Redfield, presented “TOI-421: A Multiplanet System with a Super-Puffy Mini Neptune.” Carleo’s talk was based on her research cited in AAS Nova.

Ava Nederlander ’22, who is working with Hughes, presented “Resolving Structure in the Debris Disk around HD 206893 with ALMA.”

Seth Larner ’21, who is working with Kilgard, presented “Investigating Transition States in Bright Chandra ACIS X-ray Binaries Exhibiting Intra-Observational Variation.”

Ben Martinez ’21, who is working with Moran, presented “An Unbiased Survey of Black Hole Activity in the Local Universe.”

Anna Fehr ’23, who is working with Hughes, presented “Planet Configurations Carving Gapped Debris Disks.”

Also, Emma Goulet from St. Anselm College, presented “Fitting the Local Interstellar Medium Toward EK Draconis.” Goulet worked under Redfield during the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium’s  Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.

C-CERT Assists with Student Arrival Period

During the spring semester arrival period, Feb 5–8, volunteers from Wesleyan’s Campus-Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT) assisted with welcoming students to campus, checking them in, and ensuring they had a COVID-19 test within five days of arriving on campus.

Members also shoveled snow to keep paths clear and delivered students’ suitcases, via an ATV, to their residences. Joe Fountain, director of athletic injury care, loaned the Athletics Department ATV to C-CERT for this purpose.

Wesleyan’s C-CERT group consists of staff, faculty, and student volunteers.

(Photos by Olivia Drake and Roseann Sillasen)



Students Return to Campus for Spring Semester (with Photo Gallery)

Wesleyan’s 2021 spring semester officially began Tuesday, Feb. 9, with 2,148 students residing on campus.

During the arrival period, held Feb. 5–8, approximately 1,950 students returned to campus after the winter recess. All students were required to prepare for a safe return, which included testing and quarantining before arrival. Once on campus, students must wear masks at all times in shared spaces and practice social distancing.

Volunteers from Wesleyan’s Campus-Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT) assisted with welcoming students to campus, checking them in, and ensuring they had a COVID-19 test within five days of arriving on campus. (See photos here.)

All students were immediately tested for COVID-19 prior to receiving a key to their student residence. Three students tested positive for the virus, and are being quarantined off-campus.

Classes began virtually on Feb. 9, while students are in the initial quarantine. Classes scheduled to be delivered in-person or through a hybrid approach are expected to switch to that modality on Feb. 22, after the quarantine lifts.

For COVID-19-related resources, visit the Keep Wes Safe website.

Photos of the spring arrival period are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

arrival day spring 2021

arrival day spring 2021

Blizzard Engulfs Campus on Feb. 7

During the 2021 spring semester arrival period, a heavy winter blizzard engulfed campus on Feb. 7. More than 6 inches of snow fell within a few hours. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

snowstorm 2021

A student walks across the McKelvey Green during the winter storm.

snowstorm 2021

Davison Health Center.

Films Created by 9 Alumni Screened at 2021 Sundance Film Festival


A film titled Bruiser was presented at the Sundance Film Festival 2021. Eight recent Wesleyan graduates created the film.

A film featuring the works of eight Wesleyan alumni was presented at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Titled Bruiser, the film focuses on a boy named Darious who begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood after his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley. Bruiser was presented in Sundance’s Short Films category.

The film was directed by Miles Warren ’19; assistant directed by Eliza McKenna ’20; written by Warren and Ben Medina ’19; produced by Gustavo René ’19, Albert Tholen ’15, and Lauren Goetzman ’19; and designed by Emma Cantor ’19. Costumes were designed by Regina Melady ’18.

Former classmates René and Warren began collaborating on projects during their freshman year at Wesleyan. “We switch off producing each other’s work,” René said.

During their sophomore year, René and Warren wrote a film called Huntress, which René produced and Warren directed. And during their senior year, Warren produced René’s senior thesis film, which ended up winning the Steven J. Ross Prize for best undergraduate film. Bruiser is their latest collaboration.

In addition, Richie Starzec ’14 worked as the assistant to director Edgar Wright, of the film The Sparks Brothers, which also screened at Sundance. The film illuminates Ron and Russell Sparks’ music journey that has so far spawned 25 studio albums.

The Sundance Film Festival, founded in 1978, is the largest independent film festival in the United States. It includes competitive categories, featuring documentary and dramatic films, both feature-length and short films, and out-of-competition categories for showcasing new films.

Trans in Trumpland by Zosherafatain ’10 to Stream Feb. 25 on Major Networks

Zosherafatain filmA four-part documentary film series directed by Tony Zosherafatain ’10 will stream on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Topic starting Feb. 25.

Titled Trans in Trumpland, the series investigates the impact of anti-trans policies on the lives of four transgender Americans during the Trump administration era. The series was featured in VarietyNBC NewsDeadline, and The Daily Beast.

“We’re at a crucial moment in our country, and Trans in Trumpland encapsulates the past four years, not just for trans people, but for a wide variety of groups,” Zosherafatain said. “There is a lot of intersectionality in the series, including race, immigration, income inequality, and other structural issues.”

Zosherafatain, a trans-Iranian-American and co-founder of TransWave Films, began directing and producing films in 2012 after realizing that there weren’t many movies exclusively about trans people. He previously directed I am the T, a documentary series about trans experiences around the world.

“I was moved to create the series the first week that Trump took office. Within that first week, he removed any mention of LGBTQ rights from The White House website, creating a sense of urgency in me. I knew I had to do something to shed a light on the plight of transgender Americans,” Zosherafatain said.

With Trump now out of the White House, Zosherafatain credits President Joe Biden for passing executive orders that protect the LGBTQ community within a few days after the inauguration.

“I definitely think that things will improve drastically with Biden now in office. He has made other promises to advance trans rights. I’m very optimistic about his presidency. However, trans equality has a long way to go on the state level, which is an issue that Trans in Trumpland heavily investigates,” Zosherafatain said. “The next four years will be incredibly crucial for the transgender community.”

Zosherafatain and his work also have been featured in The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, BBC News, The Advocate, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine.

3 Works of Poetry Nominated for NAACP Images Awards


Three titles affiliated with Wesleyan were nominated for the 2021 NAACP Images Awards in the Outstanding Literary Work — Poetry category.

According to the NAACP, Image Awards celebrate “the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts and those who promote social justice through their creative work.”

Among the five nominees is Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books, 2020) written by John Murillo, assistant professor of English; The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press, 2020) by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers; and Un-American (Wesleyan University Press, 2020) by Hafizah Geter.

The collections by Murillo, Jeffers, and Geter also are longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. The PEN Open Book Award honors a work of fiction, literary nonfiction, biography/memoir, or poetry written by an author of color. The award was created by PEN America’s Open Book Committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

The 52nd NAACP Image Awards will air at 8 p.m. March 27 on BET. Non-televised award categories will livestream over five nights March 22–26.

The virtual ceremonies will recognize winners in more than 60 non-televised award categories in the fields of television and streaming, music, literature, film, and activism.

Single-Tusked Walrus Skull Settles into Olin Library


On Jan. 20, crews installed a walrus exhibit in Olin Library. Pictured, from left back row, are Katherine Brunson, assistant professor of archaeology and East Asian studies; Wendi Field Murray, Archaeology Collections manager and adjunct assistant professor of East Asian studies; Andrew White, Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian; Ann Burke, professor of biology; Bruce Strickland, instrument maker specialist; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; David Strickland, instrument maker; and Vivian Gu ’23. Pictured, kneeling, from left, are Yu Kai Tan ’20 and Andy (Dick Yee) Tan ’21.

Olin Library’s newest resident is looking for a good book to sink his tusk into.

The skull of a one-toothed walrus, which was installed in the Campbell Reading Room on Jan. 20, is the University’s latest exhibit on display from the former Museum of Wesleyan University (1871–1957). The piece was donated to Wesleyan 145 years ago by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History but has spent about half of its university life in storage.

The 26-pound skull, which is missing its right tusk, belonged to a Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) living along the Ugashik River in Alaska in 1876. The aquatic mammal would use its tusks to climb onto ice flows, attract mates, establish social structure, or for combat.

“We’re not exactly sure what happened to its other tusk,” said Professor of Biology Ann Campbell Burke. “In the wild, they don’t naturally shed their tusks, but they do get broken. This one was removed after death.”

Wesleyan Prepares for Students’ Return to Campus This Spring

Between Feb. 5–8, Wesleyan will welcome the majority of students back to Middletown for the spring semester.

Students must follow a series of steps to prepare for a safe return to campus, which includes testing and quarantine before and upon arrival, and wearing masks at all times in shared spaces.

Faculty and staff are expected to follow the guidance of the Community Agreement and act in a manner that demonstrates respect and consideration for the health and safety of others.

keep wes safe“After a successful reactivation of campus last fall, we are confident that we’ll be able to offer a vital Wesleyan experience to students this spring while limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78. “We recognize that there is real anxiety about the pandemic, and we will continue to promote safety, care, and community. Those things will all go together in the service of education.”

Speaking at a Virtual All-Staff and Faculty Forum on Jan. 28, Roth and Dean of Students and Associate Vice President Rick Culliton, who chairs Wesleyan’s Pandemic Planning Committee, acknowledged that the current public health situation looks quite different compared to the start of the fall 2020 semester. COVID positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths are all at much higher levels now, and new variants of the virus create much uncertainty, while the rollout of several highly effective vaccines are providing glimmers of hope.

Culliton described minor differences between the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. As in the fall, anyone on campus must wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Visitors will continue to be restricted from campus, and students will be required to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week, and faculty and staff once or twice per week, depending on the nature of their jobs. Due to the critical role of testing in preventing the spread of COVID, this semester students who miss more than three tests will be immediately required to leave campus and study remotely for the rest of the semester. Quarantine of close contacts is reduced from 14 to 10 days per CDC guidelines, and Wesleyan may further restrict off-campus travel.

Classes will begin virtually on Tuesday, Feb. 9, while students are in the initial quarantine. Classes scheduled to be delivered in-person or through a hybrid approach are expected to switch to that modality on Feb. 22, after the quarantine lifts.

President Roth, who is teaching COL 228: Virtue and Vice in History, Literature, and Philosophy this spring, is choosing to hold classes in person.

“We’ll be in a huge room, spread out, and be wearing masks. It’s hard to teach that way because I can’t gauge student reactions very easily, but there’s a very strong desire to hold classes in person,” Roth said. “Our goal should be to offer our students the best experience given our current conditions so students can thrive.”

Additional information on returning to campus and health and safety protocols is posted on the University’s Keep Wes Safe website.