Olivia Drake

Administrative Assistant Keeps Things Running Smoothly in South College


Janice Watson, administrative assistant in the President’s Office, enjoys meeting and greeting alumni and other visitors who have questions about the university.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Q: Janice, when were you hired as the administrative assistant in the President’s Office?

A: I came to Wesleyan in May 2001.

Q: What were you doing before you came to Wesleyan?

A: I was a Medicare Durable Medical Equipment Regional Carrier (DMERC) fraud investigator.

Q: What are some of your job duties as administrative assistant?

A: I handle and direct telephone calls, greet visitors, type correspondences, order office supplies, maintain office equipment, schedule meetings and handle meeting logistics.

Q: Who do you report to?

A: Jane McKernan, special assistant to the president and Michael Benn, who is interim director of Affirmative Action and director of Legal Projects.

Q: What is your work load typically like?

A: My day to day work load varies. Sometimes I’m typing the majority of the day, but on other days, I’m mostly on the phone, and on others I’m scheduling meeting and training sessions. I like my schedule, because it doesn’t allow for my job to become monotonous.

Q: Do you answer general questions about the university?

A: Yes, I get inquires for outside visitors as well as people within the Wesleyan community. Questions range from building information, such as history and physical locations, to various events that are being held on campus, to parental concerns.

Q: What is your favorite part about working in the President’s Office?

A: I enjoy meeting and greeting all the alumni, especially the older members during Reunion & Commencement and other Wesleyan community celebrations. I enjoy being able to assist them in finding areas of the campus. Many of them remember this place as being different and share some of their fondest memories with me.

Q: Tell me about your hobbies and interests outside of work.

A: I enjoy cooking, especially desserts. I also like to take long walks. And music and singing. I, as well as most of my immediate family, are members of Cross Street AME Zion Church where we are active members of the choirs and many other ministries with in the church.

Q: What would you say it the most unique thing about you?

A: I’m not sure if this is unique or not, but I try to always be cheerful and always to help everyone that is in need regardless of what it is they may need help doing. I think we are here on earth to be interdependent not independent.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: I am married to Robin Watson Sr. I have three children. My daughter Leta is 20-years-old and is a third-year student at Southern Connecticut State University in Hamden. I have two sons, Robin Jr., who is 18 and a first-year student at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass. and Jordan, who is 15, and a sophomore at Middletown High School.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Professor has Historical Interest in Flu Epidemics


Bill Johnston, professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, professor of science in society and tutor of the College of Social Studies, studies the avian flu.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Q: Bill, your areas of study include the history of disease. What do you think about the speculation about avian influenza – or bird flu – that’s making recent headlines?

A: I find it fascinating that people are sitting up and taking a hard look at the flu again. Maybe it is because recent natural disasters have brought people’s attention in that direction. On the other hand, it is hardly something new. Epidemiologists have been saying for years that another pandemic is possible, just as the hydrologists and meteorologists were saying for years that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen.

Q: Should Americans be wary of the virus spreading to the U.S.?

A: People tend to get very nervous quickly, sometimes too quickly. We do need to watch it, as we watched SARS very closely. But I wouldn’t hit the panic button just yet.

Q: The World Health Organization has reported that more than 65 people have died in Asia from the bird flu.

A: Influenza viruses that infect birds, which are called “avian influenza viruses,” come in several varieties. The H5N1 strand of the influenza virus appeared in migratory birds in Vietnam and south China, and spread to domestic birds. It exists primarily in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia but has been spreading through migratory fowl. I think that the first human cases were seen in Hong Kong eight years ago. Humans catch the disease from infected birds, through aerial transmission or indirect contact.

Q: What would happen if the virus could be spread from human to human? Could it become a global outbreak?

A: It could become a pandemic, and potentially become very deadly. Look at the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. During this pandemic, known as the “Spanish flu,” the disease spread across the world, killing more than 25 million people over six months. But these days, people are exposed much more frequently to various influenza viruses, which means that we have some immunity to a potential pandemic. So it is quite possible that a future pandemic could be much less dangerous.

Q: What are other notable pandemics of the past century?

A: They seem to be on a 30-year cycle. There was the Asian Flu pandemic in 1957 that started in China and spread to the United States. It caused about 1 million deaths. A flu vaccine was developed to stop the outbreak. The 1968 pandemic wasn’t as deadly. It started in Hong Kong and spread to America, killing about 750,000 people worldwide.

In 1976, an Army recruit caught the swine flu, and the government thought this could be a big outbreak. President Ford thought it might be a revival of the 1918 influenza, and wanted to immunize all 220 million Americans at the cost of $135 million. The flu never came, and hundreds of Americans who were inoculated filed suits against the government in cases where side effects of the vaccine proved fatal.

Q: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the absence of any vaccination or drugs, it has been estimated that in the United States a “medium–level” pandemic could cause 89,000 to 207,000 deaths, and another 20 to 47 million people to be sick. How should we go about containing diseases?

A: Controlling a disease like this is not a sexy thing. When disease control works, we see nothing, there is nothing to show other than the absence of disease, and that is hard to point to. On the other hand, when it fails, all hell breaks lose. That is a tension in public health. Do we mandate vaccinations and put the common good of all above individual rights? This tension is perennial in American society and will never be resolved.

Practically speaking, I would especially recommend that anybody whose immune system is in any compromised, such as in the case of older people, persons with HIV, and those prone to infection should definitely get a vaccine. It is also a good idea for people who come into contact with lots of individuals from disparate locations—which is to say most students and teachers.

Q: What is your personal interest in the history of disease?

A: I did my dissertation on the history of tuberculosis, and teach courses called Disease and Epidemics in a Historical Perspective and Introduction to the History of Disease and Medicine. I’m also the author of a book called “The Modern Epidemic: A History of Tuberculosis in Japan.”

Q: Is the history of disease somewhat esoteric?

A: It sounds esoteric. People leave that topic in the corner until they start getting sick. It’s a real common attitude to have about the history of disease.

Q: Students in what majors are attracted to this class?

A: I get a lot of history and pre-med majors. But there are other students in art and theater who magically seem to come out of the woodwork. They’re realizing all of a sudden that diseases play a huge role and they want to understand them better.

Q: Where are your degrees from?

A: My bachelor’s of art is from Elmira College, my master’s and Ph.D are from Harvard University.

Q: In addition to the history of disease, what are your other research interests and areas of expertise?

A: I’m interested in the history of syphilis in early modern Japan, warfare and state formation in 16th century Japan, the historiography of Amino Yoshihiko, an important historian of medieval Japan, the history of medicine in Japan and the history of sexuality in modern Japan. I’m also interested in photography in history, women’s issues and cultural change.

Q: What are some classes that you commonly teach?

A: Japanese History, History of War, Society and State, Issues in Contemporary Historiography. I’m starting a seminar on the history of the atomic bomb and its use on Japan.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Psychology Department Welcomes New Assistant Professor


Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology, studies cognitive development.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Hilary Barth has joined the Psychology Department as an assistant professor.

Barth received her bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College in psychology, concentrating in neural and behavioral sciences in 1996. She received her Ph.D from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in cognitive neuroscience in 2002. Her research involved behavioral and brain imaging studies of numerical cognition – the study of how humans think about numbers and quantities.

She currently studies cognitive development, specifically the development of number and quantity understanding.

“Even before they receive formal math training in school, young children have some impressive quantitative abilities,” Barth explains. “In fact, even babies and nonhuman animals have a rough sort of quantitative understanding. For example, they both can discriminate between two sets of objects based on number.”

Barth examines adults’ and children’s performance in lab-based experiments to investigate what humans can do with these basic abilities, how they develop throughout life, and how they may serve as building blocks to more sophisticated math learning.

Barth teaches Sensation and Perception this fall and will teach developmental psychology and a seminar in cognitive neuroscience in spring. In the future, she would like to teach a specialized cognitive development seminar.

Barth is the lead author on two publications this year. They are “Abstract number and arithmetic in preschool children,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2005 and “Non-symbolic arithmetic in adults and young children,” which is in press in Cognition.

Before coming to Wesleyan, Barth worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Lab for Developmental Studies at Harvard University since graduating from MIT. She also taught as a visiting professor at Wellesley College.

Coming to Wesleyan was a perfect fit for her interests, she says.

“I wanted to work at a school that combined the best of both worlds of a small college and larger university, and I think Wesleyan is one of the few places that can honestly say it does have a liberal arts atmosphere and a serious research emphasis.”

Barth lives in Middletown with her husband. She enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, skiing and cooking.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

World Ecosystems, Energy Policy Discussed at Symposium


Professor Dianna Wall of Colorado State University speaks with Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy and co-chair and associate professor of feminism, gender and sexuality studies during the 2005 Robert Schumann Environmental Studies Symposium held Oct. 8.

Below, Professor Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate program speaks with the symposium’s attendees. Chernoff organized the day-long symposium.

Posted 10/18/05
“Where on Earth are We Going? II” was the topic of the 2005 Robert Schumann Environmental Studies Symposium held Oct. 8. in Exley Science Center. More than 100 people from across the country attended the event.

The discussion explored issues on global warming and climate change; world ecosystems in peril; energy policy; regional initiatives; ethics, environmental issues and the poor; and earth charter principles.

Panelists included Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy and co-chair and associate professor of feminism, gender and sexuality studies; Gary Yohe, the John E. Andrus Professor of Economics; James Hansen of NASA; Richard Morgenstern of Resources for the Future; Roger Smith ’01, coordinator of the Connecticut Climate Coalition; Diana Wall of Colorado State University; and Timothy Weiskel of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. William Blakemore of ABC News was symposium’s moderator.

The event was organized by Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate program.

Gruen, one of the featured presenters, spoke on “Ethical Issues: Environmental Justice and the Poor.” In her presentation, Gruen explained that the poor are disproportionately burdened by environmental problems such as extreme climate events, exposure to toxics in our environments and the wider context of global warming. She used Hurricane Katrina as an example.

“Aiding those who are exposed to toxics or those who suffered worse from the recent hurricanes along the Gulf Coast is a matter of justice, not charity, given the systemic structure of racism and injustice in the U.S.,” she said. “Ignoring the unequal position that individuals and/or communities and/or nations are situated in will hinder cooperative environmental protection efforts.”

“Where on Earth are We Going?” was held Sept. 11, 2004. Highlights of that event included identifying the ‘smoking gun’ of global warming in Artic climate changes, exploration of options for environmentally benign sources of energy, and human values, attitudes and behavior that influence the future of humanity.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Long Lane Farming Club Hosts Pumpkin Fest


Long Lane Farming Club member Rachel Ostlund ’08 will welcome the community to the club’s annual Pumpkin Fest Oct. 29. At left, a flower garden still blooms at the farm, located south of Physical Plant and Wesleyan University Press.
Posted 10/18/05
Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farming Club will hold its second annual Pumpkin Fest from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 29 and people from the campus and the local community are welcome to attend. But while the freshly-grown pumpkins available the fest will be locally-grown, they won’t be a product of the students’ land.

“We had some problems this year with our primitive watering system and squash beetles,” says Long Lane Farm Club member Rachel Ostlund ’08, an earth and environmental sciences major. “Sometimes you have a good crop, sometimes not. It is all part of learning how to farm.”

These problems left the student-farmers with less than two dozen pumpkins. But the fest had to go on, so the students carved-out a deal with a local orchard, which will deliver 300 pumpkins for the festival.

The Middletown community is welcome to attend the fest. Attendees can participate in pumpkin carving, face painting, a Halloween costume contest, bobbing for apples, as well as learn about agriculture. The farm is located on the corner of Long Lane and Wadsworth Street, south of Physical Plant and Wesleyan University Press.

Student and faculty bands will provide entertainment.

Pumpkins are among 80 varieties of vegetables and herbs grown in the two-year-old organic garden. In 2004, Rachel Lindsay ’05 planted the first crops in a circular-shaped 50-ft-wide plot. Local residents rounded out the corners with garlic and potato gardens, among several flower beds. A few flower species are still blooming this month in the farm yard.

Lindsay, Ostlund and other Wesleyan students later planted a tomato and broccoli garden, among rows of Swiss chard, pumpkins and squash. Much of the one-acre plot of old farmland was hand-tilled by the students.

Long Lane Farm, Ostlund explains, was created so students would have a place to come together and learn about food security issues. It’s used as an educational tool and will be adapted to meet the requests of the community.

This summer, the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, the Rockfall Foundation and area shareholders paid for Lindsay and Ostlund to work full-time at the farm. Students from local high schools helped out four days a week and dozens of community members volunteered. The projects they undertook included the installation of an underground woodchuck fence and an above ground deer and critter fence.

The garden flourished, producing more vegetables than the student workers and the garden’s shareholders could consume. They sold some produce to local restaurants and grocers, and donated other crops to a local soup kitchen. Any left-overs are tossed into the farm’s chicken coop.

“Those chickens will eat just about anything,” Ostlund says, peering into student-maintained coop that houses a dozen hens. “Nothing goes to waste.”

Ostlund, of Ithaca, N.Y., says she’s never tended a garden before, but grew a green thumb after working in an organic farm with AmeriCorps. She also seeks advice from local residents who volunteer at the farm. The garden’s guests have donated compost, manure, mulch and two greenhouses, which will be useful this winter. For the last two years, the students started plants in their dorm rooms and planted the seedlings into the garden when the weather conditions allowed.

Several Wesleyan staff and faculty also work at the farm. Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology, got involved in the Long Lane Farm as a way to help sustain the environment and human health.

“The students are cultivating not only the land, but a deep relationship with nature,” Singer says. “In addition, building and running the farm requires that the students work cooperatively, understand the details of food production, and make difficult and consequential decisions. In essence, it is a chance for these students to test and live up to their ideals, a tremendously valuable experience.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Building Houses and Dreams: Wesleyan Participates in Habitat for Humanity


Habitat for Humanity recipient Titeana McNeil, 11, plays with a caulk gun while Habitat volunteers Ted Paquette and Manny Cunard, site supervisor and director of Auxiliary Operations and Campus Services work on the family’s new kitchen. Below, mother Jennifer McNeil and her children, Jamarea, 3; Tyquan, 14; Titeana, 11; and Taquana, 15 stop by their future home to check the progress on Oct. 13. (Photos by Olivia Drake)
Posted 10/18/05

Jennifer McNeil had no idea that watching television would one day help her own a home. But, thanks to that and a partnership between Wesleyan University and Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity, Inc. (NMHFH) – a local affiliate for Habitat for Humanity International – McNeil, a single mother of five, is a first time homeowner.

In McNeil’s mind, home ownership had always seemed like a dream. But then, one night last summer, she was watching TV when she saw a commercial for Habitat for Humanity. It got McNeil thinking, and soon after she contacted the local Habitat office. She learned how she could apply to become a homeowner. She filled out an application and in October was notified she and her family homeowners of a home on 34 Fairfield Avenue  – a home that had been donated by Wesleyan to Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity.

“I read the first sentence of the letter and started jumping up and down and running around with my kids!” shouts McNeil.

The four bedroom, light grey colonial, located along the edge of Wesleyan’s campus had been refurbished by Habit for Humanity volunteers.

McNeil admits she is pleased that their new home is near Wesleyan.

“There is always something going on,” she says. “After school programs, events, and there are very friendly people here.”

It turns out many of them are pretty good with construction tools, too.

Many of the volunteers who worked on the house were Wesleyan faculty, staff and student volunteers from Wesleyan’s Habitat for Humanity student chapter, WesShelter.

“During the past year, over 250 students, faculty and staff have given of their time and energy along with a countless number of community volunteers,” says Manny Cunard, director of auxiliary operations and campus services and site supervisor for the Wesleyan-Habitat for Humanity partnership “We have created connections with the Middletown community that will serve to enhance the important relationship between Middletown and Wesleyan.”

McNeil and her children also helped work on their house-to-be every Saturday morning. Currently, the house is receiving its finishing touches and the family is set to move in before Thanksgiving.

“I’m having a lot of my family here for Thanksgiving,” says McNeil. “I want to cook five turkeys in my new kitchen! I never thought anything like this could happen to me in a million years.”

McNeil, a department manager at Wal-Mart in Wallingford who grew up in the Long River Village Projects in Middletown, is looking forward to improving her family life by owning her own home. She and her children, ages 18, 15, 14, 11 and 3 have been living at her sister’s Middletown home for the past two years.

“This is definitely going to bring my kids and I closer, just knowing that we now own a home.

On Sunday, Nov. 13 Wesleyan University and NMHFH will host a welcoming and celebratory event for the McNeil family at 34 Fairview Avenue in Middletown.

Recently, Wesleyan donated a second house at 15 Hubert Street to Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity. A groundbreaking is set for Hubert Street later this fall and applications to select a family are currently under review.

In June, 2006, Wesleyan expects to participate in a national Habitat “blitz-build,” in which an entire house is erected and made livable in seven days. This house will be one of 1,000 built simultaneously around the country.

By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Economics Department, Latin American Studies Welcomes New Assistant Professor


Francisco Rodriguez, assistant professor of economics and Latin American Studies is still getting settled into his new office. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
 
Posted 10/01/05

Francisco Rodriguez has joined the Economics Department and Latin American Studies Department as an assistant professor.

He accepted the position because of the “intellectual freedom and environment of a liberal arts institution, as well as the high quality and openness of both the Economics and Latin American Studies departments,” he says.

Rodriguez’s research examines economic growth in developing countries and the interaction between inequality, distributive conflict and economic performance.

He’ll be teaching classes on international trade, economics of Latin America and economic and societal collapses.

Rodriguez received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas, Venezuela and his master’s in economics from Harvard University. He earned his Ph.D from Harvard with a thesis titled “Essays on the Political Economy of Redistribution and Growth.”

Rodriguez most recently completed a visiting fellowship at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Between 2000 and 2004, Rodriguez was the chief economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly. Before that, he had worked as an assistant professor in the Economics Department of the University of Maryland, College Park.

Rodriguez is the co-author of “The Political Economy of Investment in Human Capital,” which is forthcoming in the Economics of Governance and “Inequality, Redistribution and Rent-Seeking,” published in Economics and Politics, November 2004.

His wife, María Eugenia, is a Ph.D candidate in marketing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has a step-daughter, Celeste, 12, and a Siamese cat named Shalimar.

Rodriguez’s interests include reading narrative literature. Among his favorite authors are Gunter Grass of Germany, Alejo Carpentier of Cuba, Alberto Fuguet of Chile and Gao Xingjian of China.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Director of Physical Plant Responsible for Building Trades, Utilities, Facilities, Grounds


Cliff Ashton, director of Physical Plant, oversees 75 full-time employees and 50 contract employees from the department’s new home on Long Lane.
 
Posted 10/01/05
Q: Cliff, when did you become the new director of Physical Plant and what do you think of it so far?

A: I came to Wesleyan in the middle of June 2005. The people here have been so nice and helpful getting me acclimated to the place. I look forward to a long career here.

Q: What are your responsibilities?

A: I’m responsible for overall operations and maintenance of the “physical plant” in other words most of the universities’ buildings including the central power plant but excluding rental properties, and the grounds and landscaping. We manage the contractors who mow the lawns in the warm weather and move the snow and spread the sand when it gets cold. Management of our utility consumption and related energy conservation initiatives are also within my scope of responsibility. To do this work, we have facility managers who monitor condition of our buildings, coordinate repair and improvement projects, and serve as our liaison with building users. We have a staff of skilled tradespersons and technicians who operate and monitor the various heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems and perform repairs as needed. Our operation is staffed 24×7 round the clock.

Q: How many people work in Physical Plant?

A: We have 75 full-time employees and 59 contract employees.

Q: What is the mission of Physical Plant?

A: We’re responsible for the construction, renovation, repair, maintenance and operation of all buildings and grounds. We have 370 buildings that need to be operated in a safe, environmental manner. These buildings are valuable assets so, just like your home, we try to keep them in as good a shape as possible in view of their age with the resources we have.”

Q: I imagine that can be pretty challenging.

A: The challenge is what attracted me to working here. Wesleyan has several old buildings and maintaining them can be difficult due to age, historic nature and associated restrictions, obsolete systems and availability of replacement parts.

Q: What do Wesleyan’s power bills look like?

A: Our gas, oil and electric budget is $5.6 million. Of that $2.8 million is spent on electricity alone, so conserving energy is one of our biggest priorities that we keep an eye on.

Q: If my office has a flickering fluorescent bulb, what do I do?

A: You would call our customer service office at 685-3400. We have two operators here from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. During off hours, calls are routed to the Power Plant. The operators fill out a work request and that goes into our computer system. The forepersons see the requests and assign a technician to fix the problem. We’ll get someone out there as soon as possible. If situation is not an emergency, it may take a few days to complete any repair.

Q: What are the most common reasons Wesleyan employees call Physical Plant?

A: It runs the gamut – hot, cold complaints in offices and conference rooms, plumbing repairs, lights out, broken windows, doors sticking, fire alarms. Keys are a big one. Keys break or get stuck in a lock or people lose them.

Q: Is one part of the year busier than another?

A: Right now when students and faculty return is one of the busiest. Reunion/commencement is another. Summer and break periods are very busy as those are our short windows of opportunity to get in to student residence areas to make repairs and do preventive maintenance. We are pretty busy throughout the year.

Q: What would happen if Physical Plant closed down for just one day?

A: Well, the power plant would be unattended and that would not be very safe. Repairs would not get done, an overflowing toilet would not get fixed very quickly, students who locked themselves out of their rooms would need to be let in by public safety each time.

Q: How does the new Physical Plant facility on Long Lane benefit your department?

A: Before we moved into the Cady School on Long Lane, Physical Plant was split into different locations on campus. The shop facilities were poor and not conducive to morale. By being consolidated under one roof, we can foster teamwork and employees have a sense of belonging. We can all think under one roof. The new shop facilities should help to improve our service delivery.

Q: What were you doing before you came to Wesleyan?

A: I was working at Middlesex Hospital as a director of engineering. I was managing projects, facilities, clinical engineers, the buildings, physical plant and grounds. Before that, I worked at Northeast Utilities for 18 year in various power plant facility engineering and management roles.

Q: What did you study in college?

A: I have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s of business administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I’m also a registered professional engineer in the state of Connecticut.

Q: Do you consider yourself to be a handy-man?

A: Yes. I’m always fixing things around the house. My first house in New Britain was a three-family house and I worked on that quite a bit. Many years ago I worked in a machine shop.

Q: What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?

A: I enjoy sailing, snow and water skiing, and working on my model railroad. I‘ve been doing that project for about 15 years. My wife, Teri, and I have a 7-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, and I’m busy coaching my daughter’s soccer team and my son’s basketball team.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Nobel Laureate Speaks to Classes, Leads Symposium


Posted 10/01/05
First-year chemistry students will have the opportunity to spend some time with a Nobel Laureate at Wesleyan.

Sir Harry Kroto, professor of chemistry at Florida State University, will lecture to chemistry classes at 9 a.m. Oct. 31 in room 84 of Hall-Atwater. Kroto shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 for discovering C60, a new form of carbon.

In addition, Kroto will present a chemistry symposium titled “Architecture in Nanospace,” at 4 p.m. Oct. 31, also in HA 84, or Exley Science Center 150 if attendance requires it. This symposium will be open to the public.

Formerly a professor at the University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom, Sir Harry has studied carbon chains in space, was a pioneer in the spectroscopic study of molecules with multiple bonds between carbon and phosphorus, and, in his Nobel Prize winning work, discovered and new form of elemental carbon.

“I never dreamed of winning the Nobel Prize,” Kroto wrote in his Nobel-related biography. “Indeed I was very happy with my scientific work prior to the discovery of C60 … and even if I did not do anything else as significant I would have felt quite successful as a scientist.”

Stewart Novick, professor of chemistry, invited Kroto to speak at Wesleyan. They first met at Wesleyan’s annual Leermakers Symposium in 1992. Novick and David Westmoreland, associate professor of chemistry, are combining their CHEM 143 and CHEM 141 classes on Oct. 31 so Kroto can lecture to both introductory chemistry classes at once.

Novick considers Kroto to be a world class researcher who is deeply committed to science education.

“It is characteristic of him that, in addition to the cutting-edge research lecture he is presenting in the afternoon, he will take time in the morning to present a more generally accessible talk to some of the newest members of the scientific community, the students in our introductory courses,” Novick says. “Harry is a spellbinding speaker and we are certain that everyone will enjoy his perspectives on one of the most important and astounding chemical discoveries of the last 50 years.”

Krotto shares the Nobel with Robert Curl Jr. and Richard Smalley, both of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The trio made their discovery during a period of eleven days in 1985. When fine-tuning their experiment, they produced clusters with 60 carbon atoms or C60. This symmetrical molecular structure resembled a geodetic dome designed by American architect R. Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 Montreal World Exhibition. Hence, the scholars named their structure ‘buckminsterfullerene’ or ‘fullerene’, for short.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Chances Are, the Future of History Comes from Wesleyan


Posted 10/01/05
The September, 2005 issue of Perspectives, the monthly publication of the American Historical Association, included a study of history Ph.D.s earned between 1989 and 2002 and showed that the leader in the field was in fact Wesleyan University – even though Wesleyan doesn’t have a Ph.D. program in history.

Though the results may sound incongruous at first, the data is actually quite solid. The study’s author, Robert Townsend, found that a higher percentage of Wesleyan students who earned bachelor’s degrees during the surveyed period went on to earn Ph.D.s in history than undergraduates from any other institution in the United States.

Townsend’s data showed that Wesleyan students earned 607 B.A.s in history from 1987-2002. This aggregate number ranked 13th overall nationwide. However, Wesleyan students went on to earn 100 history Ph.D.s from 1989 to 2002, giving the university a rate of 16 history Ph.D.s earned for every 100 history B.A.s earned within the survey period. This rate was the highest measured and tied Wesleyan with the University of Chicago for best overall ratio. The ratio also exceeded the ratios of all other liberal arts institutions in the country, as well as those of Yale, Harvard, Brown, U.C. Berkeley and Stanford.

It should be noted that though most history Ph.D.s are earned by people who received history B.A.s, this is not always the case, a point that, when considered within the context of the study, further highlights the quality of Wesleyan’s bachelor program in general.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Information Commons Houses Reference, Technology Support for Students


Olin Library’s new Information Commons features a library reference desk, an Information Technology Services desk and a SARN information and referral desk.
Posted 10/01/05
A new information lab in Olin Memorial Library has merged three services into one.

Information Commons provides library reference, information technology and access to the Student Academic Resources Network (SARN). The facility is located in the Campbell Reference Center on the first floor of the library.

“Students are relying on the Internet more and more to get information, but there’s still a demand for the library’s material, reference services and workspace,” says Dale Lee, information service technician and coordinator of the Information Commons. “Our coordinated services, in-person and online, make it easy to find information.”

The Commons was created by the library staff and Information Technology Services to meet the intellectual needs of students and faculty in the 21st century.

The Commons features a library reference desk, an Information Technology Services desk and a SARN information and referral desk. Each desk is staffed by a trained specialist. While the first two desks provide services familiar to most library users, SARN combines a variety of on campus resources in one area. These include Class Deans, Writing Programs, Math Workshop, Career Resource Center, Language Resource Center, Life Sciences Mentored Study Groups, Dean’s Tutoring Program, Health Professions Partnership Initiative and Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

“We looked at different ways we can collaborate and cooperate, and now students can get reference or technological help all in one place,” Lee says.

Equipment in the Commons includes 18 multi-use computers including 15 personal computers and three Macintosh; four computers for research and Web access; and five stand-up computers for quick look-ups. Standard office programs are provided.

The computers are linked to three black and white printers, one color printer and one scanner. In addition, the space has improved wireless access. The working space arrangements were designed to facilitate group as well as individual work.

This area is only phase one of the Information Commons. Additional group study and instruction rooms will be constructed in the future and will include computer and multi-media equipment.

For more information or comments, e-mail infocommons@wesleyan.edu or contact Lee at dtlee@wesleyan.edu. Information Commons is online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/infocommons/.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Biophysics Retreat Focuses on Research, Information Exchange


At top, Mark Flory, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, lectures to a group during the Sixth Annual Biophysics Retreat for the Molecular Biophysics Program Sept. 15. At left, Maggie Chen, a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Chemistry explains her research titled “Site-Resolved Dynamics and Energetics of a Ribosomal RNA” during the Fall Retreat Poster Session, part of the biophysics program.

Posted 10/01/05
The Sixth Annual Biophysics Retreat was held at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown on Sept. 15.

Organized by David Beveridge, professor of chemistry, Manju Hingorami, assistant professor of molecular biology and Ishita Mikerji, associate professor of molecular biology, the event was supported by the Edward W. Snowdon lecture fund.

The retreat was designed to bring together students and faculty in the molecular biophysics and biological chemistry programs and provide them an opportunity to discuss their current research, explore new ideas and possible collaborative work. About 60 people attended this year’s retreat.

One of the featured speakers was Mark Flory, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

A newly-appointed member of the molecular biology and biochemistry department, Flory spoke about his research which included studying the process by which cancer cells are formed in yeast. By relying on mass spectrometry, an analytical technique used to identify complex compounds, to study yeast cells, Flory hopes that he can gain further insight into why such cells become abnormal during tumors and cancer.

“We are currently looking at the systems in yeast using genetics,” Flory says. “At some point, we can then make the jump and connection to human cells.”

Other presentations by Wesleyan faculty included “Time resolved fluorescence studies of U1A protein dynamics,” presented by Joseph Knee, professor of chemistry and “Controlling the effects of stereochemistry on biological activity” by Michael Calter, associate professor of chemistry.

In addition, Wesleyan post doctorate fellow Bethany L. Kormos presented “U1A-RNA Complex Formation: Insights from Molecular Dynamics Simulations.”

Brian T. Chait, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Professor at The Rockefeller University, delivered the keynote address titled “Proteomic tools for dissecting cellular function.”

The event also featured posters by several Wesleyan students, including “Spectroscopic and Molecular Dynamics Evidence for a Sequential Mechanism for the DNA B-A Transition,” by sixth-year molecular biology and biochemistry Ph.D. candidate Kelly Knee. Knee’s research examines the transition of certain proteins on DNA, which may potentially help with drug design in the future.

Another highlight was a poster by Congju (Maggie) Chen, a sixth-year Chemistry Ph.D. candidate, which detailed her research about how a specific strand of RNA could be attacked and broken down by Ricin, a toxin that has been linked to terrorist attacks in the past.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations