Achievements

Coach McKenna Selected Members of USA Hockey National U22 Squad

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Wesleyan women’s ice hockey coach Jodi McKenna.

Wesleyan women’s ice hockey coach Jodi McKenna was among the coaches charged with selecting the team members for the USA Hockey National U22 squad that competed in a three-game series with Canada Aug. 21-24. The U.S. team won all three contests. The games were considered a friendly series that begins the next ramp up to the 2018 Olympics, which will be held in South Korea in February of that year.

McKenna has been involved in Team USA coaching since the first call came in 2008.

“It’s an honor to be chosen and tremendous for my professional development but it can’t be at the expense of my commitment to Wesleyan and my family,” McKenna explained. She and her husband, Kevin Cunningham, an assistant men’s ice hockey coach at Connecticut College, have an infant son, Brayden. “I was quite surprised and extremely proud to be chosen.”

McKenna with the 2010 Olympic ice hockey team

McKenna with the 2010 Olympic ice hockey team

McKenna was an assistant coach for the 2010 Olympics under Mark Johnson, the legendary head coach at the University of Wisconsin who played in the National Hockey League for 10 years and was part of the U.S. gold-medal winning men’s ice hockey team during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. The 2010 U.S. women’s ice hockey team secured a silver medal. McKenna had served as an assistant for the World Championships, also under Johnson, in 2009, and was part of the Team USA selection group in both 2008 and 2011. She took a leave-of-absence during the 2009-10 season for her Olympic assignment.

McKenna had worked some junior development camps prior to 2008 and had been an assistant coach at St. Lawrence University before taking over the reins at Wesleyan for the 2007-08 season. Her 2013-14 squad posted an overall record of 8-11-6, the team’s best mark in 11 seasons. With a 5-6-5 record in NESCAC play, the team’s best ever winning percentage in conference action, Wesleyan earned the fifth seed in the NESCAC tournament.

While it can be a bit demanding juggling all her responsibilities as a head coach and mother, McKenna sees her opportunities with Team USA as a positive.

“I always come away from the experience with some new ideas, a fresh perspective that allows me to apply what I’ve learned to my own players.”

For the future, McKenna has the Cardinals ready to become a force in the NESCAC. Last year, Wesleyan had at least a win or tie against every NESCAC rival.

“What I’m looking for in 2014-15 are some more complete weekends and for us to be more of a threat in the later stages of the NESCAC tournament,” she said. “We need to build on our success and make it a habit, not just a flash.”

Graduate Students, Faculty Attend American Chemical Society Meeting

Chemistry graduate student Duminda Ranasinghe spoke about his research on "Density functional for core-valence correlation energy."

Chemistry graduate student Duminda Ranasinghe spoke about his research on “Density functional for core-valence correlation energy.”

Two graduate students and two faculty attended the 248th national meeting of the American Chemical Society Aug. 10-14 in San Francisco, Calif.

Chemistry graduate students Duminda Ranasinghe delivered a poster presentation on her research titled “Efficient extrapolation to the (T)/CBS limit” and an oral presentation on “Density functional for core-valence correlation energy.”

"Assessing weak interactions in small dimer systems with PM7."

Chemistry graduate student Kyle Throssell presented a poster titled “Assessing weak interactions in small dimer systems with PM7.”

Chemistry graduate student Kyle Throssell presented two poster presentations on “Potential curves of selected radical thiol double additions to alkynes” and “Assessing weak interactions in small dimer systems with PM7.”

The students were accompanied by George Petersson, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of chemistry; and Michael Frisch, research professor in chemistry.

Ph.D. Candidate Marino Attends Workshop on Computational Number Theory

Mathematics Ph.D. candidate Alicia Marino, pictured top, left, joined 11 other women studying mathematics and computer science for a four-day workshop this summer.

Mathematics Ph.D. candidate Alicia Marino, pictured top, left, joined 11 other women studying mathematics and computer science at a four-day workshop this summer.

Mathematics Ph.D. candidate Alicia Marino recently attended a four-day workshop in Portland, Ore. studying various aspects of computational number theory. The workshop focused on Sage, a mathematics software package, developed by and for the mathematical community.

The event included talks, tutorials, and time spent in small project groups developing Sage code. Participants worked to enhance the Sage library and discussed ways to increase the number of women in Sage development. The workshop ran July 28-Aug. 1.

Alicia Marino works on coding at the Sage workshop. 

Alicia Marino works on coding at the Sage workshop.

Marino, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science, attended the conference to sharpen her programming skills.

“My initial desire to attend the workshop was to throw myself back into that kind of an environment,” she said. “With the knowledge I gained at the workshop, I can continue to develop Sage on my own relative to what I do at Wesleyan.”

Marino learned about the workshop from event organizer Anna Haensch, who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Wesleyan in 2013. Haensch is now on the faculty at Duquesne University.

Professor of Mathematics Wai Kiu “Billy” Chan served as advisor to Marino and Haensch.

“It was definitely an empowering experience to spend a week in a beautiful environment with intelligent women dedicating our time to a merge of math and computer science,” Marino said.

Grad Student’s Graphic to Appear on Journal’s Cover

Katherine Kaus's story and figure will appear in the September 2014 Journal of Molecular Biology. The figure depicts the structure of a domain of the Vibrio vulnificus hemolysin that binds cell-surface glycans allowing the toxin to attack target cells. The structure was determined using a technique called X-ray crystallography.

Katherine Kaus’s figure, based on an article she co-authored, will appear on the cover of the Sept. 9 Journal of Molecular Biology. The figure depicts the structure of a domain of the Vibrio vulnificus hemolysin that binds cell-surface glycans allowing the toxin to attack target cells. The structure was determined using a technique called X-ray crystallography.

A figure created by Katherine Kaus, graduate student in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department, was selected to run as the featured cover graphic in the Sept. 9 Journal of Molecular Biology.

The graphic is related to her article, titled “Glycan Specificity of the Vibrio vulnificus Hemolysin Lectin Outlines Evolutionary History of Membrane Targeting by a Toxin Family,” which was published in the journal on July 29. It is co-authored by Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and researchers at the University of Connecticut. The abstract appears online here.

Vibrio vulnificus is an emerging human pathogen that causes severe food poisoning and opportunistic infections with a mortality rate exceeding 50 percent.

The aquatic pathogen secretes a pore-forming toxin (PFT) called V. vulnificus hemolysin (VVH) which form transmembrane channels in cellular membranes. “Determining the mechanism for how PFTs bind membranes is important in understanding their role in disease and for developing possible ways to block their action,” Kaus explained in the paper’s abstract. Sequence analysis in light of the authors structural and functional data suggests that V. vulnificus hemolysin may represent an earlier step in the evolution of Vibrio PFTs.

NSF Grant Supports Shusterman’s Study on Number Word Learning

Anna Shusterman

Anna Shusterman

Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman has received a major grant from the National Science Foundation to study language structure and number word learning in children. The research is a collaboration with David Barner at the University of California-San Diego. The total grant is $1,496,636, of which $724,128 will go to Wesleyan.

According to Shusterman, the project explores how the structure of a language affects children’s acquisition of word meanings for abstract concepts. Specifically, they will consider how the pace of children’s number acquisition is affected by the presence of a “dual marker” — that is, grammatical marking to specify a precise quantity of two, rather than simply singular versus plural—in their native language. The researchers will study dialects of  Slovenian and Saudi Arabic. The study has broader implications related to understanding how aspects of language, such as syntax, facilitate conceptual development, such as mathematics.

At Wesleyan, the grant will fund a full-time project manager and post-doc, who will mentor and interact with students, for all three years of the study. Students working on the study will get exposure to cross-cultural and cross-linguistic research.

Gruen Elected Fellow of Hastings Center

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen is chair and professor of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Lori Gruen, chair and professor of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, has been elected a fellow of the prestigious Hastings Center.

The 45-year-old center, an independent bioethics research institute, addresses ethics in the areas of health, medicine and the environment.

“I’m delighted to be elected a fellow of the Hastings Center,” Gruen said. “The research publications (from Hastings) are cutting edge, and have been an integral part of my teaching.”

Gruen is coordinator of Wesleyan Animal Studies and director of the university’s Ethics in Society project, which aims to develop and foster teaching, scholarship, and institutional reflection on the ethical challenges facing individuals and society. Her work lies at the intersection of ethical theory and ethical practice, with a particular focus on ethical issues that impact those often overlooked in traditional ethical investigations, including women, people of color, and non-human animals.

Lensing Writes Cover Story in Times Literary Supplement

Leo Lensing, professor and chair of German Studies, professor of film studies, wrote the cover article in this week’s issue of the Times Literary Supplement. The article, titled, “Pillar of Fire,” is about a new biography of the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann. The Times Literary Supplement describes the story as “How to assess the ‘stations’ of Ingeborg Bachmann’s self-destructive life from childhood constant reader to modernist ‘Fräuleinwonder’… Lensing counsels caution when dealing with Bachmann’s own accounts of her experiences, including those of her childhood which ‘ended when Hitler troops marched into her hometown’ of Klagenfurt. Sometimes the ‘primal scene’ can ‘look more like a scenario.’”

The article, available to subscribers, can be found here.

Rushdy to Serve as Wesleyan’s Academic Secretary

Ashraf Rushdy

Ashraf Rushdy (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Ashraf Rushdy, professor of English, professor of African American Studies, has agreed to serve as academic secretary for a two-year appointment beginning July 1. The academic secretary facilitates academic decision-making and supports faculty governance, provides advice and support to the Executive Committee of the faculty, the Academic Council and its committees, and the standing committees of the faculty. He also provides parliamentary advice, helps to administer faculty elections, and informs the faculty on matters related to the academic program and faculty responsibilities.

Rushdy will be replacing Tom Morgan, professor of physics, who has served as academic secretary since 2003. Rushdy previously served as academic secretary in 2010-2011 (while Morgan was on sabbatical).

Read a Q&A with Professor Rusdy in this past News @ Wesleyan article.

Starr, Hanakata ’14 Co-Author Paper on Polymer Films, Published in Nature Communications

Francis Starr and Paul Hanakata '14 study the mobility gradient on a thin, polymer film.

Francis Starr and Paul Hanakata ’14 study the interfacial mobility in a thin, polymer film.

Francis Starr, professor of physics, and Paul Hanakata ’14 are the co-authors of a new article published in the journal Nature Communications on June 16. The article, titled “Interfacial Mobility Scale Determines the Scale of Collective Motion and Relaxation Rate in Polymer Films,” is based off Hanakata’s senior thesis research at Wesleyan.

Thin polymer films are ubiquitous in manufacturing and medical applications. Their chemical and mechanical properties make them suitable as artificial soft biological tissue and there has been intense interest in how film thickness and substrate interactions influence film dynamics.

The nature of polymer rearrangements within these films determines their potential applications.  However, up to now, there has been no way to readily assess how design choices of the film affect these dynamic rearrangements.

“Paul’s paper is novel because it demonstrates how an experimental measurement of the surface properties can be used to infer the changes to collective motions within the film,” Starr explained. “These results offer a practical metrology that might be used for the design of new advanced materials.”

Hanakata, who graduated in May, will begin his graduate studies at Boston University next fall.

Resor Delivering 6 Lectures to Petroleum Geoscientists in Australia

Associate Professor Phil Resor is delivering six lectures in Australia this June.

Associate Professor Phil Resor is delivering six lectures in Australia this June. He is the 2014 AAPG Distinguished Lecturer.

Philip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, is taking his knowledge of petroleum down under.

Between June 18-26, Resor, a Distinguished Lecturer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), is delivering six lectures in Australia. The talks are geared toward members of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA) and a general petroleum industry audience.

Phil Resor at a talk in Melbourne.

Phil Resor at a talk in Melbourne.

While abroad, Resor will speak on “Syndepositional Faulting of Carbonate Platforms” and “Revisiting the Origin of Reverse Drag.”

He’ll be lecturing in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.

A specialist in structural geology, Resor’s work integrates field mapping, remote sensing, and numerical modeling to better understand the mechanics of faulting. Recent projects have focused on the causes of syndepositional faulting in carbonate platforms, deformation around normal faults, folding on Venus, and the effects of fault zone geometry on earthquake slip.

Prior to joining the faculty at Wesleyan, Resor worked for several years as an exploration geologist in the oil and gas industry.

sydney

Phil Resor in Sydney.

Kilgard Presents Stunning New Image of ‘Whirlpool Galaxy’

m51_w11Roy Kilgard, support astronomer and research assistant professor of astronomy, together with Trevor Dorn-Wallstein ’15 and Tyler Desjardin MA ’11, recently presented stunning new images of a spiral galaxy produced by combining data from more than 232 hours of observing time with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Similar to the Milky Way, the galaxy is officially known as Messier 51 (M51) or NGC 5194, but nicknamed “the Whirlpool Galaxy.” Located about 30 million light years from Earth, its face-on orientation to Earth offers a perspective astronomers can never get of our own galaxy.

The image showing a vibrant purple swirl was presented June 3 at the 224th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Boston, Mass. K.D. Kuntz of Johns Hopkins University was also a co-author.

The image also appeared as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day on June 10.

Kilgard told Universe Today, “This is the deepest, high-resolution exposure of the full disk of any spiral galaxy that’s ever been taken in the X-ray.”

Chandra allowed the astronomers to uncover things that can only be detected in X-rays. According to the website for the Chandra observatory: “Most of the X-ray sources are X-ray binaries (XRBs). These systems consist of pairs of objects where a compact star, either a neutron star or, more rarely, a black hole, is capturing material from an orbiting companion star. The infalling material is accelerated by the intense gravitational field of the compact star and heated to millions of degrees, producing a luminous X-ray source. The Chandra observations reveal that at least ten of the XRBs in M51 are bright enough to contain black holes. In eight of these systems the black holes are likely capturing material from companion stars that are much more massive than the Sun.”

Observations have revealed that the Whirlpool Galaxy is in the process of merging with a smaller companion galaxy, visible in the upper left of the composite image. Researchers believe this is triggering waves of rapid star formation.

Read more coverage of the presentation on NBC News and Space.

Also at the American Astronomical Society meeting, Nicole Arulanantham, a second-year graduate student in the Astronomy MA program, was awarded a Chambliss Medal, and astronomy major Ben Tweed ’13 presented a paper. Read more about it here.

Grossman’s Paper on Irish Stock Market Prices is Published

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman’s paper, “A Monthly Stock Exchange Index for Ireland, 1864-1930,” was published June 5 in the European Review of Economic History. Co-authored by professors at Trinity College Dublin, All Souls College (Oxford, UK), and Greater London Authority, the paper  constructs new monthly Irish stock market price indices for 1864-1930. According to the abstract: “In addition to a total market index covering 118 equity securities issued by ninety-four companies, sectoral indices are presented for railways, financial services companies, and “other” companies. Nominal equity prices doubled between 1864 and 1898. Between the turn of the century and 1914, prices fell by 25 percent, in contrast to the price increases experienced on the London exchange. Overall, the average annual gain in equity prices over the period was just 0.9 percent. We speculate about the respective roles of Irish politics and international shocks in driving these trends.”

Read the full paper here.