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Personick Honored with Young Investigator Program Award from Army Research Office

Michelle Personick joined the faculty this fall, and is teaching courses in Chemistry of Materials and Nanomaterials and an Integrated Chemistry Lab. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Michelle Personick

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, is the recipient of a three-year, $339,000 Young Investigator Program grant funded by the U.S. Army Research Office. Personick will use the funds to support her nanoparticle research, which ultimately may protect military soldiers from hazardous chemicals and materials.

The Army’s Young Investigator Program is designed to identify and support talented scientists and engineers who show exceptional promise for doing creative research, in order to encourage their teaching and research careers. The program is open to U.S. citizens, Nationals, and resident aliens holding tenure-track positions at U.S. universities and colleges, who have held their graduate degrees for fewer than five years at the time of application.

De Visé ’89 on the Tour de France, Greg LeMond, and Heroes

In The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France (Atlantic Monthly Press, June 2018), journalist Daniel De Visé ’89 has written “a sprint through a big swatch of cycling history, focusing on racer Greg LeMond’s triumphant return from disaster,” according to Kirkus Review. In this Q&A below, he traces his path from a childhood love of the sport to Wesleyan, and through the journey of this book. Read an excerpt from his book online.

Q:  Tell us about your time at Wesleyan. What was your major?

A:  It was as much fun as I’ve ever had in my life. I had grown up in Chicago, in the city, and when I arrived on that picture-postcard campus, it felt like some kind of academic Disneyland. I lived in West College, where, on certain occasions, an entire dormitory room would be assembled upside-down on a basement ceiling. I lived on the same first-year hall as Stephen Trask ’89, cocreator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and This Ain’t No Disco. Another friend and I created a ’60s show for WESU. I majored in philosophy, but I took so many classes in history and religion that I almost ended up short of actual philosophy credits. I met my enchanting future wife, Sophie Yarborough ’88, in a history classroom. I took an extra course here and there and finished in three years (very much in the spirit of President Roth’s degree-in-three program). I used the extra cash to pay for journalism school at Northwestern.

Q:  You’ve written several biographies. What sparked your interest in the genre—and what are your favorites (authors or actual titles)?

A:  I’ve written or cowritten three books, and all have extensive biographical content, but none is pure biography. The first, I Forgot to Remember (Simon & Schuster, 2014), was the memoir of an amnesiac I’d profiled in the Washington Post as a reporter. The second, Andy & Don (Simon & Schuster, 2015), was a dual biography, chronicling the lifelong friendship of actors Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. I wrote that really for Don, who was my brother-in-law. The Comeback is more a work of narrative nonfiction, similar in structure to The Boys in the Boat or Seabiscuit—both personal favorites. It chronicles the rise of Greg LeMond, an American outsider, to the top of the European cycling sport; his near-death, in 1987, in a hunting accident; his incredible return to the top of cycling and victory in the greatest Tour de France ever staged, in 1989; and, lastly, his epic feud with Lance Armstrong, whom LeMond accused of doping, a battle that ended with LeMond’s vindication a few years ago. The book encompasses the first comprehensive biography of LeMond, and also a somewhat shorter bio of Laurent Fignon, the Frenchman whom LeMond defeated in ’89. The narrative lingers for several chapters on the spellbinding ’89 Tour.

Excerpt: De Visé ’89’s The Comeback: Greg LeMond, The True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France

As the Tour de France continues, we hope you enjoy this excerpt from the book by Daniel De Visé ’89, which chronicles Greg LeMond’s 1989 victory. Kirkus Review writes, “It’s a pleasure to ride in the peloton alongside LeMond, who emerges from this account as America’s once-and-future cycling great.” Also see our exclusive Q&A with the author.

Sundial Sculpture Installed on Van Vleck Observatory

Seth Redfield, chair and associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, and artist Robert Adzema observe a sundial's installation July 16 at the Van Vleck Observatory. Adzema, a maker of site-specific sundials, designed the sculpture to be placed at its exact location on the telescope's wall.

Seth Redfield, chair and associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, along with artist Robert Adzema observed the sundial’s installation July 16 at the Van Vleck Observatory. Adzema, a maker of site-specific sundials, designed the sculpture for this exact location below the telescope’s dome.

The campus community now has the ability to tell time the way Egyptians did more than 3.500 years ago—by using light and shadows.

A modern-day sundial, which mimics those used throughout history, now hangs on the south side of the Van Vleck Observatory’s 24-inch Perkin telescope. The six-foot-square structure is fabricated from 3/16-inch thick Muntz metal bronze with stainless steel reinforcing.

“Campus doesn’t have enough outside art,” said Joyce Jacobsen, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “A sundial is a perfect piece because it’s not only aesthetically pleasing but it’s functional too.”

Bill Herbst, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, along with Jacobsen, had been pitching the idea of a sundial to the Wesleyan administration for many years. In 2016, the plan was approved by all involved parties, including the President’s Office and Physical Plant-Facilities. Jacobsen and Herbst commissioned sundial creator and artist Robert Adzema of New York to design and build a sundial for Wesleyan’s campus. After visiting campus six times and crafting multiple paper and wooden models, Adzema completed the time-telling sculpture in 18 months.

“Sundials can be designed for almost any fixed surface that receives sunlight,” Adzema said. “The most precise dials, as is this dial, here at Wesleyan, are made to the exact longitude and latitude of the site.”

On July 16, crews from New Jersey traveled to campus and began installing the 650-pound sundial. Adzema also attended to offer guidance and direction.

“It’s a great location in terms of being visible without being intrusive,” Jacobsen said. “We will also have an entry now in the online listing for sundials around the world, so now maybe we will have yet more people visit campus, drawn here by the sundial!”

Photos of the sundial’s installation are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Crews used a scissor lift to lift and install the 650-pound sundial.

Fresh Organic Produce Grown, Sold by Wesleyan Students

This month, students tending Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm are harvesting a bounty of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, and duck eggs. From 3 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday, members of the Wesleyan and local community can purchase these organic garden goodies at an on-site farmer’s market, located at 243 Long Lane.

Long Lane Farm is Wesleyan’s own student-run organic farm devoted to allowing students a place to experiment and learn about sustainable agriculture. The produce also is sold at local farmer’s markets, donated to Amazing Grace Food Pantry, or served to students in Usdan. Long Lane Farm was founded in 2003 by a group of students seeking to provide a practical solution to local hunger problems and build a strong connection with the Wesleyan and Middletown communities.

At the July 10 and July 31 markets, students sold squash, green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, carrots, garlic, collard greens, kale, chard, duck eggs, mint, lemon balm, sage, thyme, oregano, and mugwort. Photos are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Paik ’16 Wins Goldman Sachs Funds for 3D-Printed Housing Nonprofit

Ellen Paik ’16 (right) speaks to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the Partnership Committee on behalf of New Story, a nonprofit organization that seeks to address global homelessness through the development and application of 3D printing technology.

Ellen Paik ’16, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, teamed up with three colleagues to pitch New Story, an organization working on developing low-cost housing solutions via 3D printing technology, to Goldman Sachs’ CEO and Partnership Committee as part of the Analyst Impact Fund, a global firmwide competition. The prize: a grant to the finalist teams’ selected nonprofits. The event was broadcasted live online on Yahoo Finance (see Paik’s team come in around 38 minutes).

Paik’s group placed second in the global finals and earned New Story $75,000 in support of the organization’s 3D printing initiative. The grant will go towards building the very first complex of 3D printed homes constructed by a nonprofit, in El Salvador by 2019.

“The four of us were attracted to the idea of promoting a scalable technology solution that addresses a global issue,” explains Paik. “We came across New Story, an organization that we really admired because they involve the local community and government in every step of the home-building process—planning, design, and construction—in ways that many existing organizations do not. New Story has helped over a thousand families in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia that used to live in life-threatening conditions and that have been affected by natural disaster. Now, these families are empowered homeowners and able to better secure economic opportunity, safety, access to education, and a sense of community.”

Alumni Gather in London for Artists Reception, Honoring Gittes ’10

Artist Michael Gittes ’10, at right, speaks to fellow alumni and guests about his recent work during a gathering in London.

Forty-three Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends gathered in London on July 3 for a reception featuring artist Michael Gittes ’10.

Gittes, an American studies major, discussed his work, which is being displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall. For the exhibit, Gittes created an experimental video.

In addition, alumni Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 also have works exhibited in the gallery.

Rothschild ’20 Youngest Woman to Complete American Ninja Warrior Course

Casey Rothschild ’20, pictured here on the “Philadelphia Qualifiers” episode of American Ninja Warrior, completed the obstacle course in 4:57. (Photo by Bill McCay/NBC)

Casey Rothschild

Casey Rothschild

On June 25, American studies major Casey Rothschild ’20 became the youngest woman, and only the third woman this season, to complete the course on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.

The 20-year-old, who hails from Holliston, Mass., is a former member of Wesleyan’s women’s track and field team, where she holds the triple jump record. She trains three times a week at Real Life Ninja Academy in Windsor, Conn., and New Era Ninjas in Hamden, Conn. For the summer, she is working as a gymnastics and circus aerial arts coach at a camp in Massachusetts.

After tackling six obstacles, including foam steps, spinning bow ties, a broken bridge, wingnuts, lightning bolts, and a 14.5-foot tall wall, she hit the final buzzer in under five minutes.

Read more in this Hartford Courant article.

Watch the episode below:

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Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. NBC’s American Ninja Warrior: Youngest Woman to Hit Buzzer: Casey Rothschild

Rothschild ’20 competed in the NBC television show’s Philadelphia qualifiers, becoming the youngest woman to ever finish a course when she hit the buzzer at 4:57. Rothschild has been training for years and uses the moniker Circus Ninja because of her background in circus arts. Read Rothschild’s interview with The Hartford Courant.

2. The Washington Post: This Is What It Feels Like to Be Separated at the Border

Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history, associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies, shares her own heartbreaking experience of being separated from family at the border as she left the U.S.S.R. as a child refugee in 1988.

Duvvuri ’17 Awarded Chambliss Award for Astronomy Research

Girish Duvvuri ’17 presented his research titled “Necroplanetology: Disrupted Planetary Material Transiting WDII45+017.” His advisor is Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy.

Girish Duvvuri ’17 presented his research titled “Necroplanetology: Disrupted Planetary Material Transiting WDII45+017″ at a poster session in 2017.

In recognition of his exemplary research at Wesleyan, astronomy major Girish Duvvuri ’17 has been awarded a Chambliss medal from the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

Duvvuri, who majored in astronomy, physics, and English, received the award during the 232nd AAS Meeting June 3–7 in Denver, Colo.

There, he presented a study that formed much of his senior thesis at Wesleyan. Seth Redfield, associate professor and chair of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, and co-coordinator of planetary science, served as Duvvuri’s advisor.

To be eligible for an award, work featured on a poster must have been done within the past year and while the presenter was an undergraduate or graduate student.

Duvvuri is currently a PhD student in astronomy at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Tucker Speaks at Arsenals of History Symposium

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

On May 21, Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, spoke at the Arsenals of History Symposium held at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyo., May 21–23. The theme of the second annual symposium was “Ethics of Firearms in Museums.”

The symposium brought together authorities in the field to discuss practical guidelines for museums with firearms. Other presenters came from the Autry Museum of the American West, the Art Institute of Chicago, Colonial Williamsburg, Dutch National Military Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NRA Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Marshals Museum, Springfield Armory National Historic Site, and the Royal Armouries Museum. Representatives discussed teaching firearms in universities, reconversion and restoration of flintlocks, how a museum gets a gun, and collecting objects with dubious pasts.

Tucker spoke specifically about the role of public collections in the gun debate and her new research that looks at the historical coevolution of cameras and firearm technology.

“We know that people talk about shooting pictures and shooting guns, and we know the language is similar, but one of the things that I am interested in is how the technology for cameras and guns evolved together,” she said.

The conference garnered much media attention. In the May 28 issue of the Billings Gazette, Tucker discussed how the interest in firearms is the “charisma” of guns, whether it’s addressed in museum displays or not.

“Museum collections of firearms can engage with contentious issues,” said Tucker, who is serving on the first Board of Directors of the Association of Firearms History and Museums.

On June 20, The Firearms Blog, which covered the workshop for the museum, featured Tucker and other curators speaking about their presentations.

Tucker is the author of “Display of Arms: A round-table discussion about the public exhibition of firearms and their history,” forthcoming in the July 2018 issue of Technology and Culture, Volume 59, Number 3.

The Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press also has accepted Tucker’s book manuscript on “Firearms and the Common Law” for publication next year.

Tucker also will be speaking on “The Role of Gun Collections in Museums in Today’s Debate over Firearms,” Sept. 29 at a conference on Guns and Museums: A Workshop for Museum Educators, to be held at Fairfield University. The event is open to the public and registration is online.

Robinson Lab Awarded Grant from National Institute on Drug Abuse

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and integrative sciences, is the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The grant will be awarded over two years, starting on July 1, and will support a study titled “Dissecting Cortical Contributions to Risky Decision-Making.”

Robinson and his research students will use optogenetics in rats to inhibit parts of the brain’s prefrontal cortex during the decision-making process.

“The aim would be to see how we make decisions when faced with risk,” Robinson explained. “Are certain areas of the prefrontal cortex involved in tracking the outcomes of previous choices in order to influence future decisions? Or, do they simply promote more or less risky behavior when a choice presents itself?”

The Robinson Lab focuses on the brain mechanisms underlying motivation and reward and how they come together to produce desire and risky decision-making. These findings would be relevant to various forms of addiction such as drug abuse and gambling disorders.