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Students Accelerate Their Research Skills through New Summer Bootcamp

poster

This summer, McNair Fellow Mohammed Ullah ’22, participated in a virtual McNair Bootcamp where he created a hypothetical study titled “One Drug for All RNA Viruses.” “My idea was to make a single drug for all RNA-based viruses, and based on my findings and all the online research I did on the drugs, techniques, etc., I was able to come up with a proposal based on my idea and expand it into something that can happen for several years,” Ullah said. “With the resources and knowledge from a biochemist and virologist, this idea/proposal is something that can happen in real life if people took an interest in it.”

This summer, 12 Wesleyan students who identify as first-generation/low-income learned more about research methods and proposal-writing through the first McNair Bootcamp.

Held in conjunction with Wesleyan’s Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program and the Wesleyan Mathematics and Science Scholars (WesMaSS) Program, the bootcamp provided a solution for summer research students who were unable to transition their in person research projects into remote research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You certainly don’t want students doing organic chemistry in their kitchens back home,” said bootcamp co-founder Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry. “Many types of research aren’t able to be translated to ‘virtual research’ in response to campus closing down, so we wanted to make sure these students didn’t have a ‘lost summer’ with respect to their growth as researchers.”

Taylor and Ronnie Hendrix, associate director of the McNair Program, focused their new program on teaching students how to conduct independent research. Students learned to brainstorm, build hypotheses, work collaboratively with peers, write a research proposal based on the criterion of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program application, peer-review a research proposal, edit and improve a research proposal, and ultimately craft and present a research poster.

Wesleyan Takes Safety Measures as Students Arrive on Campus

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesleyan is taking many measures to make the campus experience this fall as safe and healthy as possible for all students, faculty, and staff.

In addition to testing students twice weekly for COVID-19, Wesleyan is configuring classrooms, dining areas, and other locations to allow for a minimum of six feet of social distance; janitorial staff is frequently disinfecting and sanitizing areas; and many classes are being offered as a hybrid of in-classroom and online instruction.

Members of the campus community are expected to wear a mask or face covering at all times outside their individual residence or office; maintain a six-foot distance from one another to reduce the risk of infection; and avoid gathering in groups.

“It is critically important that every Wesleyan community member does their individual part for our methods to be effective,” said Wesleyan’s medical director, Dr. Tom McLarney. “Most in-person social events and parties will be prohibited. While this is difficult and contrary to the typical campus experience, these are difficult times. One super-spreader event can overwhelm the campus’s ability to care for our students, and could ultimately result in closure.”

For more information, visit the Reactivating Campus website. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

COVID testing

COVID-19 testing on campus is taking place in a large tent on Andrus Field, with six-foot distancing enforced at the testing site.

covid testing

Following arrival to campus, students will be tested twice weekly for COVID-19 to detect the disease in the pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic stage. In addition, in order to comply with the state’s latest guidance, Wesleyan is implementing a mandatory quarantine for all students on campus from Aug. 24 through Sept. 7. (Students arriving after Aug. 24 must expand their quarantine beyond Sept. 7.)

Potemkina Wins Orchestral Programming Award

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina. Photo by Pavel Terpelets.

Nadya Potemkina (Photo by Pavel Terpelets)

Nadya Potemkina, adjunct associate professor of music, placed third in The American Prize competition, in the category of orchestral programming.

The American Prize—Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award in Orchestral Programming—honors the memory of the great Lithuanian conductor Maestro Vytautas Marijosius, who served as the music director of the Lithuanian State Opera and the director of orchestral activities at the Hartt School of Music. The prize recognizes and rewards “the best achievement in the unique field of orchestral programming, where the selection of repertoire by knowledgeable, creative and courageous music directors builds orchestras and audiences, educates young people and adults, and enriches the community,” according to the prize’s website.

At Wesleyan, violist Potemkina directs the Wesleyan University Orchestra and Concert Choir, coaches chamber ensembles, teaches instrumental conducting and orchestral literature, and is the music director of FluteFest and AD HOC BACH, both performance and community engagement initiatives.

She’s also served as an assistant conductor of The University of Memphis Orchestras, as the music director of Mid-South Young People’s Orchestras in Memphis, Tenn., and was a founding conductor of Memphis Occasional Orchestra, an all-volunteer community outreach ensemble.

This fall, she’s teaching Materials and Design (MUSC 103), Wesleyan Concert Choir (MUSC 436), and Wesleyan Orchestra (MUSC 439).

Hot off the Press: Ellen Thomas Co-Authors 3 New Papers

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, is the co-author of:

Miocene evolution of North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature,” published in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 35, in April 2020.

Extensive morphological variability in asexually produced planktic foraminifera,” published in Science Advances, 6, in July 2020.

Origin of a global carbonate layer deposited in the aftermath of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary impact,” published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 548, in October 2020.

Films, Shows by Ristov ’21, Heliczer ’93, Stone ’05 and Stone ’05, Okun ’22, Zosherafatain ’10 Released, Screened at Festivals

calling fatherA film directed by Leon Ristov ’21 was selected to be screened on demand during the Sarajevo Film Festival Aug. 14–21. The 12-minute piece, titled I’m Calling Your Father, is among only 10 films selected for the festival’s TeenArena program.

The film tells the story of Damjan, a 16-year-old who gets jumped by neighborhood hooligans. Damjan’s hard-headed mother comes up with a plan to protect him.

Ristov’s film was supported through a Gordon Career Center Summer Grant. Rent the film online here.

invisiblefatherA film directed by Thérèse Heliczer ’93 will make its world debut at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival Aug. 22–23. Titled The Invisible Father, the feature-length documentary focuses on beat poet and experimental filmmaker Piero Heliczer, who helped shape “new American cinema” in the 1960s.

Through interviews with family and friends, found photos, and archival footage, Thérèse Heliczer explores her father’s artistic legacy and the creative life of a man she never knew.

Tickets are available online here.

stone and stone '06A web series created by twin comedians Todd ’05 and Adam Stone ’05 (also known as Stone and Stone) was accepted into the Chain Film Festival and The Big Apple Film Festival in New York City Aug. 18-31.

The show, titled Going Both Ways, features Adam, who recently married and had a child, and Todd, who recently came out as gay. Going Both Ways explores their two worlds–of new parenthood and new sexual identification–and the joys, challenges, and humor that come with both lifestyles.

Watch episodes online here.

cookie cutterA screenplay excerpt by Stephanie Okun ’22 is featured as part of the virtual Irvington Arts Incubator Series this month.

Cookie Cutter follows Debbie, a 40-something who recently left a fulfilling, flourishing career in journalism to take care of her children and now must navigate the consequences of that choice. Debbie got married straight out of college, but she’s a different woman now.

Okun wrote the play last semester at Wesleyan while taking the Advanced Playwriting course taught by Assistant Professor of the Practice in Theater Edwin Sanchez. Sanchez narrates the film, and Alex O’Shea ’19, Bryce Jenkins ‘21, and six others act in the play.

trans in trumpIn addition, Tony Zosherafatain ’10 is the director of a forthcoming documentary series called Trans in Trumpland.

Trans in Trumpland investigates the impact of anti-trans policies on the lives of four transgender Americans navigating life under President Donald Trump’s administration. Told through a road trip narrative across remote parts of the United States, the film explores the transgender experience in politically hostile states.

Production was completed in 2019, and the film will premiere on streaming platforms next fall.

Zosherafatain is the co-founder of TransWave Films, a New York City-based production company.

The series was recently featured in Variety and on NBC News after signing actress Trace Lysette as an executive producer. The film also received coverage in The Daily Beast.

3 Students Win Scientific Imaging Contest

Images depicting star collisions, atom movement in yeast ribosomes, and herbaceous plant root scans were the winning entries of the 2020 Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest.

The Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest, held annually in August, recognizes student-submitted images—from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member—that are scientifically intriguing, as well as aesthetically pleasing. The contest is organized by the College of Integrative Sciences as part of the summer research program.

The winners included Osama Elgabori ’22, Carol Dalgarno ’21, and Jolie Villegas ’21. Elgabori’s advisor is Brian Stewart, professor of physics; Dalgarno’s advisor is Michael Weir, professor of biology; and Villegas’ advisor is Sonia Sultan, professor of biology.

Documents by Hamilton, Washington Explored during “Hidden Treasures” WESeminar

hidden treasures

On Aug. 18, Wesleyan faculty, staff, and alumni gathered via Zoom to present a WESeminar titled “Hidden Treasures.” Pictured, from top, left, is H. Richard Dietrich III ’92, president of the Dietrich American Foundation; Molly McGonigle, assistant director of alumni and parent relations; and Demetrius Eudell, professor of history and dean of Wesleyan’s Social Sciences Division. Pictured from bottom, left, is Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives, and Morrie Heckscher ’62, curator emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Taraba served as the event’s moderator.

On Aug. 18, Wesleyan faculty, staff, and alumni presented a WESeminar titled “Hidden Treasures.”

The seminar focused on the holdings of the Dietrich American Foundation on long-term loan at Wesleyan, which includes letters, writings, and manuscripts by Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, among others. All documents are available to Wesleyan students and faculty through Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives.

“One of the hallmarks of the experience of studying at a liberal arts college is the opportunity to interact directly with material objects of the past—documents, rare books, artworks, cultural objects—in ways that are often only reserved for graduate students and faculty at other institutions,” said the event’s moderator Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives.

Guest speakers included H. Richard Dietrich III ’92, president of the Dietrich American Foundation; Morrie Heckscher ’62, curator emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Demetrius Eudell, professor of history and dean of Wesleyan’s Social Sciences Division. Richard Dietrich’s father, H. Richard Dietrich II ’60, was the founder of the Dietrich American Foundation and initiated the loan to Wesleyan.

The WESeminar concluded with a Q&A session with participants.

View of Wesleyan University, Middletown, 1830s sperm whale tooth, engraved. Points to his love of Wesleyan , collecting at a young age.

Richard Dietrich ’92 spoke about this engraved sperm whale tooth, which depicts a scene of Wesleyan University in the 1830s. The object is part of the Dietrich American Foundation collection.

Dietrich shared a letter written in 1796 by Alexander Hamilton to Connecticut Delegate Jeremiah Wadsworth. The letter urges Wadsworth to rally against Thomas Jefferson.

banner music

Dietrich also showcased the collection’s copy of Francis Scott Key’s sheet music for the “Star Spangled Banner” written in 1815. It is among only four known copies to exist in the country and is housed at Wesleyan. “It’s visually appealing and in great shape for something this old,” Dietrich said.

Demetrius Eudell showed examples of Dietrich Foundation documents that he's used in teaching seminars on war and race relations. This 1796 document written and signed by George Washington and James McHenry titled "Talk of the President of the United States, to His Beloved Men of the Cherokee Nation" "provides a really interesting insight into George Washington's relations to indigenous peoples," Eudell said. 

Demetrius Eudell showed examples of Dietrich Foundation documents that he’s used while teaching seminars. This 1796 document written and signed by George Washington and James McHenry titled Talk of the President of the United States, to His Beloved Men of the Cherokee Nation “provides a really interesting insight into George Washington’s relations to Indigenous peoples,” Eudell said.

diary

Eudell explained how he worked with undergraduates to transcribe an unpublished diary of Grace Growden Galloway, a notable Revolutionary War-era Philadelphia woman. The diary is dated May 4 to Aug. 31, 1780.

Morrie Heckscher '62, a lifelong friend of Richard Dietrich Sr, and collection board member, talked about Wesleyan's Davison Art Center and how his former Wesleyan professors Sam Green and Heinrich Schwartz inspired him to pursue a career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Morrie Heckscher ’62, a lifelong friend of Richard Dietrich Sr., and collection board member, talked about Wesleyan’s Davison Art Center and how his former Wesleyan professors Sam Green and Heinrich Schwarz inspired him to pursue a career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bergmann ’76 Designs Monumental Women Statue for Central Park

Bergmann

Artist Meredith Bergmann ’76 sculpted a Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, pictured here as a clay model, that will be debuted to the public on Aug. 26. (Photo by Michael Bergmann)

In honor of the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, when women won the right to vote, New York City will welcome a Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument to its grounds on Aug. 26.

Designed and sculpted by nationally-known artist Meredith Bergmann ’76, the statue depicts and honors women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Meredith Bergmann '76

Meredith Bergmann ’76

The statue will be located in Central Park and will be the first statue depicting real women in the park’s 166-year history. Currently, there are 23 statues of real men in Central Park; women are “represented” through fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, and Juliet (with Romeo).

“Like the women I’m portraying, my work is meant to raise questions and to provoke thought,” Bergmann said. “My hope is that all people, but especially young people, will be inspired by this image of women of different races, different religious backgrounds, and different economic statuses working together to change the world.”

Bergmann, who also created the Boston Women’s Memorial and the September 11th Memorial at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, depicts the women working together at a table, each representing an essential element of activism: Sojourner Truth is speaking, Susan B. Anthony is organizing, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is writing.

Students Present Research Projects during Virtual Summer Poster Session

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

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

To emulate the excitement and camaraderie of the live poster session, students hosted their own individual presentations on Zoom and answered questions live.

Examples of student research projects are below:

tyler boone

Tyler Boone ’21

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

Sydney Lodge '21

Sydney Lodge ’21

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

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

Anna Shusterman

Anna Shusterman

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

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

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

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

Harun ’20 Receives Governor’s Innovation Fellowship

Eunes Harun '20

Eunes Harun ’20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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