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Olson Lab Explores How Cholera Infection Spreads

Rich Olson

Rich Olson

Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Rich Olson and members of his lab have uncovered the structural basis for how the bacterial pathogen responsible for cholera targets carbohydrate receptors on host cells—an important finding for the future development of treatment strategies against infectious bacteria.

In their paper “Structural basis of mammalian glycan targeting by Vibrio cholerae cytolysin and biofilm proteins,” published in the Feb. 12 issue of PLoS Pathogens, Olson and his team—Swastik De PhD ’16; graduate students Katherine Kaus and Brandon Case; and Shada Sinclair ’16—looked at Vibrio cholerae, an aquatic microbe responsible for cholera, a potentially life-threatening disease for populations with limited access to health care.

The team studied two of the virulence factors that this particular bacterial pathogen uses to help spread infection: a toxin that creates pores in the membranes of target cells (such as immune cells) and a protein that helps form a protective sheath around the bacterial colonies as they grow.

Study results showed that both of these factors use similar carbohydrate receptors to recognize and target cell surfaces, suggesting that strategically disrupting carbohydrate interactions could affect how V. cholerae and other organisms like it are able to infect human hosts and spread disease.

“Understanding how pathogens specifically recognize targets on human cells is essential for the development of effective drugs and vaccines to fight pathogenic bacteria and prevent outbreaks,” Olson explained.

Read the full paper here.

Wesleyan Athletics Hosts Competitive Fundraising Initiative Feb. 21-28

Wesleyan Athletics Giving Days (WAGD) is a competitive fundraising initiative bringing together donors and volunteers in support of Wesleyan Athletics. For a week, athletic teams compete for the greatest percentage of donor participation for their sport. At the end of the week, the highest scoring teams—one men’s and one women’s—each win $5,000 for their most critical needs.

The program runs Feb. 21–28, 2018. Donors making a gift online or over the phone at 860-685-2110 increase their team’s overall participation percentage, moving them up the leaderboard. The WAGD website will be updated each day.

In addition to the winning men’s and women’s teams scoring $5,000 for their individual sport, if the number of participating donors exceeds 1,500, an extra $5,000 will be unlocked for Sports Medicine enhancements.

“Sports medicine is an essential part of the overall athletic experience for all Cardinal student-athletes, said Director of Athletics Mike Whalen. “Strengthening the Athletic Injury Care program to meet the needs of our athletes is one of many non-sport-specific reinvestment opportunities planned for Wesleyan Athletics.”

Campus Honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Commemoration

On Feb. 15, the campus community gathered in Crowell Concert Hall to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, 2018, also marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death. The commemoration included a keynote address, a vocal transcript of King's baccalaureate address at Wesleyan in 1965, songs, and a reception at Malcolm X House.

On Feb. 15, the campus community gathered in Crowell Concert Hall to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. HON ’64. This year, 2018, also marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. The commemoration included a keynote address, an audio recording of King’s baccalaureate address at Wesleyan in 1965, songs and a reception at Malcolm X House.

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. Rolling Stone: “Bethesda Founder Christopher Weaver on the Past, Present and Future of Video Games”

Christopher Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76, the Distinguished Professor of Computational Media in the College of Integrative Sciences, is profiled.

2. Transitions Online: “The Search for a New World Order, Then and Now”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, writes that a century after President Woodrow Wilson promulgated his “14 points” to guarantee world peace and prosperity, we are “still not that much closer to a stable world order.”

3. Medium: “Gabriel Snashall—Navy Submariner to Wesleyan!”

Gabriel Snashall ’21 discusses his path from serving as a cryptographic communications supervisor aboard the USS Pittsburgh to studying at Wesleyan through the Posse Veteran Scholars program. He plans to pursue a career in bioethics law.

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan University Class Research Published in Archaeological Society Bulletin”

Four Class of 2017 graduates who completed the service-learning course “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People,” are co-authors of articles published in the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut.

5. CTNow: “Amy Bloom to Give Talks on ‘White Houses'”

Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, will discuss her new book, White Houses, at several public events around Connecticut this month.

Recent Alumni News

  1. RollingStone: “Review: MGMT Rediscover the Electric Feel for ‘Little Dark Age’

The duo who began playing together as MGMT when they were Wesleyan undergraduates, Andrew Van Wyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, released a new album to favorable reviews: “MGMT are back to their roots on Little Dark Age, with concise tunes built from cushy keyboard beats and cute, kiting melodies,” wrote Jon Dolan in Rolling Stone.

[Also: Entertainment Voice,, Interview Magazine and others]

2. TBR Newsmedia: “SBU’s Lerner Uses the Theater for Autism Therapy

Matthew Lerner ’03, an assistant professor of psychology, psychiatry and pediatrics in the department of psychology at Stony Brook University is part of a team—with scientists from Vanderbilt and University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa—that received $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health to study how participation in a theater production can help people with autism spectrum disorders. “The process of putting on a play with others and being able to successfully produce and perform that has key benefits to learn and practice,” said Lerner.

3. Huffington Post: “10 Years Ago, Screenwriters Went On Strike and Changed Television Forever”

Craig Thomas ’97 and Carter Bays ’97 recall the 100-day battle between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers when their creation, “How I Met Your Mother,” was in only its third season and all filming was to be done without any writers on the set.

4. Scripps College News: ”Ulysses J. Sofia [’88]: Weinberg Family Dean of Science of the W.M. Keck Science Department

Called “a scientist and an adventurer” who enjoys the liberal arts environment at Scripps, “U. J. began his own college career at a large research university before transferring to Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college, during his junior year. ‘It was like the angels singing—I thought, this is where I belong, this feels right. I learned all of my physics, all of my astronomy in those two years.’”

5. BroadwayWorld:The Wheel Theatre Company Presents Owen Panettieri’s [’01] A Burial Place

This production of A Burial Place by award-winning playwright Owen Panettieri ’01 at the DC Arts Center in Washington, D.C., runs March 8-17, 2018. The plot features Emmett, Colby and Marcus reuniting in their hometown after sophomore year at college, gathering for their annual summer sleepover. “Instead, they come back to find their town at the epicenter of a major police investigation. A gruesome discovery out in the woods where they used to play has resulted in public outrage and a growing list of unanswered questions.”



Kus’s Article Explores the Myths about Immigration’s Negative Impact on the Economy

Basak Kus

Basak Kus

Basak Kus, associate professor of sociology, is the author of “Blaming Immigrants for Economic Troubles,” published in Social Europe on Feb. 6.

In her article, Kus provides evidence that the inflow of immigrants contributes to U.S. economic growth and is not the cause of American workers’ plight. She discusses the arguments that immigration has suppressed wages, discouraged unions, and exerted fiscal pressure on the welfare state.

“It is argued immigrants make demands on the welfare state, while not paying enough taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive. This is not accurate,” she writes. “America’s welfare system is facing pressure; there is no dispute about that. However, immigration is not the cause. Non-citizens’ use of welfare benefits has declined significantly since the 1996 Welfare Reform…. At the same time, there is evidence that, in urban areas, immigrant households are paying taxes at nearly the same rate as native households.”

Minimum wage, she says, hasn’t changed since 2009.

“As of writing, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. According to EPI’s estimations, had the federal minimum wage kept pace with productivity it would be over $18 today. Tackling this issue alone would help improve the economic fortunes of working class folks…. If a country’s laws allow for a race to the bottom, then a race to the bottom there will be. Instead of reforming the policies that make this possible, instead of making use of distributive and redistributive channels to improve the lives of workers, some find it easier to blame the immigrants.”

Kus serves on the editorial boards of Socio-Economic Review and International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Updated: Wesleyan’s 2018 Honorary Degree Recipients Announced

Wesleyan will present two honorary doctorates at the University’s 186th Commencement on May 27, 2018. Anita Hill, who for decades has fought against discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, will present the Commencement address, and Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09 founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals and chair emeritus of Wesleyan’s board of trustees, will also be honored.

Anita Hill

Anita Hill

Anita Hill

Anita Hill is University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University and a faculty member of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis.

In 1991, her name became indelibly stamped on the national consciousness when she accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment while he was her supervisor. Her courage in speaking out and her dignity in the face of vituperative attacks remain inspirational, and over the years she has provided frequent commentary in the national media on gender and race issues. She recently was selected to head the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, intended to address sexual abuse and harassment in the media and entertainment industries. She also served as chair of the Human Rights Committee of the International Bar Association.

Hill is a scholar of contract jurisprudence, commercial law, and education policy. She is a prolific author, publishing numerous law review articles, essays, editorials, and books. Her most recent book, focused on housing and the 2008 foreclosure crisis, is Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home.

She previously co-edited Race, Gender, and Power in America: The Legacy of the Hill-Thomas Hearings with Emma Coleman Jordan. In 1997 she published her autobiography, Speaking Truth to Power, in which she discusses her role in the confirmation hearings.

Among her many honors, she received the UC Merced Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance in 2016 and the Ford Hall Forum First Amendment Award in 2008. Hill holds a BS degree from Oklahoma State University and a JD from Yale University.


Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Joshua Boger is an outstanding scientist whose vision transcends the lab. As the founder and former chief executive officer of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, he led the discovery and development of new pharmaceuticals for treating some of medicine’s most daunting challenges, including HIV, hepatitis C infection, and cystic fibrosis. At Wesleyan, where he served as chair of the board of trustees, he helped ensure the success of Wesleyan’s $482 million THIS IS WHY campaign and consistently urged the board to anticipate challenges years ahead. He continues to contribute his skills and wisdom to various scientific, cultural, educational, and political ventures.

Boger is the author of over 50 scientific publications, holds 32 U.S. patents in pharmaceutical discovery and development, and has delivered over 100 invited lectures—in the United States, in Europe, and in Asia—on various aspects of drug discovery and development. Prior to founding Vertex in 1989, he headed the departments of Biophysical Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry of Immunology & Inflammation at Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories. He holds masters and doctoral degrees in chemistry from Harvard University.

Currently, he is chair of the campaign for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren, vice chair of Boston’s Museum of Science, chair of the board of the Celebrity Series (Boston’s premier performing arts presenter) and chair of the fundraising campaign for Harvard Medical School, where he is chair emeritus. Among many other present and former volunteer activities, he was the founding chair of the board of the nonprofit MassChallenge (the world’s largest start-up business incubator), and, while a member of the board of the ACLU of Massachusetts Foundation, co-founded their ongoing Technology for Liberty and Justice for All Projects.

A list of past honorary degree recipients and Commencement speakers is available here. Suggestions for future recipients of honorary degrees are welcome. Contact

NSF Grant Supports Field-Emission Scanning Electron Microscope Purchase

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, examines nanoparticles viewed from a new field emission scanning electron microscope.

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, examines palladium nanoparticles viewed from a new field-emission scanning electron microscope.

The monitor on the left displays a backscattered electron image of a meteorite at 100x; the colored version, on the right and top monitor, is an elemental map of the same area of the sample. The new FE-SEM has the ability to magnify samples at up to 300,000x, whereas Wesleyan’s former SEM could only reliably magnify samples at 40,000x.

By using a newly acquired electron microscope, the E&ES 368 Meteorites and Cosmochemistry class was able to classify a meteorite discovered in Morocco.

“We were able to determine that it was an H4 ordinary chondrite, and the chemical information being collected today will be used to document these findings and submit this meteorite to the Meteorite Nomenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society for official classification,” said class instructor Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.

On Feb. 8, several faculty, students and staff from Academic Affairs gathered in Exley Science Center to celebrate the arrival of the instrument and the opening of the newly-renovated lab that it is housed in. The lab is in the basement connector between Exley and Hall-Atwater.

On Feb. 8, several faculty, students and staff from Academic Affairs gathered in Exley Science Center to celebrate the arrival of the instrument and the opening of the newly renovated lab that it is housed in. The microscope is housed in the basement pathway between Hall-Atwater Laboratory and Shanklin and is part of the Advanced Instrumentation Center’s Scientific Imaging Laboratory.

Wesleyan acquired the field-emission scanning electron microscope (FE-SEM) with support from a $202,300 National Science Foundation grant awarded in August 2017. Greenwood and Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, applied for the grant through the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation and Chemistry Research Instrumentation Programs. Wesleyan faculty Renee Sher, Martha Gilmore, Dana Royer, Ellen Thomas, Phil Resor, Suzanne O’Connell, Tim Ku, Johan “Joop” Varekamp and Ruth Johnson also contributed to the grant application.

“The SEM is a versatile tool that enables researchers to simultaneously obtain a wealth of different information about a sample, including topography, composition and fine structure,” Personick said. “At Wesleyan, the research enabled by the microscope addresses broad-ranging fundamental questions with significant societal relevance, including the sustainable production of chemicals and energy, the origin of the Earth’s oceans, and the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperature in ancient environments.”

Hughes Named 2018 Cottrell Scholar

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, assistant professor of integrative sciences, has been named a Cottrell Scholar for 2018 by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA).

Hughes is one of two dozen early career academic scientists to receive this honor, which comes with a $100,000 award for research and teaching.

“The Cottrell Scholar (CS) program champions the very best early career teacher-scholars in chemistry, physics and astronomy by providing these significant discretionary awards,” said RCSA President and CEO Daniel Linzer.

The Rooks’ Taylor ’12 Releases Single, Collaborates with Dancers

Garth Taylor ’12, a member of The Rooks, is also starting a solo career with “Human Nature.” In the video for the song, he collaborates with alumni he knew as talented artists when they were undergraduates. (Photo by Bennett Taren ’12)

Garth Taylor ’12 is branching out. Over the past five years he has witnessed his Wesleyan band, The Rooks, expand beyond raucous campus concerts. Since graduation, they’ve relocated to New York City and to shows at larger and more established venues. His confidence and skills have grown in tandem with his band’s. And now he feels ready for a new challenge—a solo career, with the song “Human Nature.”

“It was a slow decision. In fact, I don’t even know if it was a decision,” he says. At first he didn’t feel very confident. But the city, so full of creative energy and collaboration, seemed to push him to expand his artistic limits. After arriving, he began to pursue background singing to broaden his skills and to adapt to the music industry.

But of course, he also sang out of necessity: “I’m an artist and I live in New York City—you have to pay some bills, here!”

In 2014, around the same time he took up background singing, he also began to collaborate with a friend from Toronto who had stayed with him in the city. “It was with him that I wrote my first solo song,” he recalls. The two traded tracks and Taylor began to find his own style, drawing upon the R&B and Neo Soul sounds. Some inspirations include D’Angelo, Frank Ocean and Solange.

Fusso Honored with AATSEEL Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching

Susanne Fusso received the 2017 AATSEEL Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching.

Professor Susanne Fusso received the 2017 AATSEEL Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching.

Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, has been awarded the 2017 AATSEEL Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching from the American Association for Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages.

Fusso, who teaches 19th- and 20th-century Russian prose and poetry as well as Russian language, was nominated for the award by her former students.

The honor was presented as part of the President’s Awards Ceremony at the AATSEEL conference held on Feb. 2 in Washington, D.C. The annual conference focuses on “the aesthetic, creative and communicative aspects of Slavic cultures” and features workshops and panel discussions with experts from around the globe.

In addition, three Wesleyan alumnae — Elizabeth Papazian ’91, Lindsay Ceballos ’07 and Emily Wang ’08 — presented scholarly papers at the conference.

AATSEEL is a major professional organization for Slavic studies in the United States. The association’s mission is “to advance the study and promote the teaching of Slavic and East European languages, literatures, and cultures on all educational levels, elementary through graduate school.”

Rothschild ’94 Speaks to Students about His Entrepreneurial Path

On Feb. 8, Tomer Rothschild '94 returned to campus to speak to students at the Gordon Career Center about his entrepreneurial path. Rothschild, who graduated from Wesleyan with a degree in philosophy, is the co-founder of Elite Scholars of China (ESC), an agency that aims to educate China's top high school students about their undergraduate options in the United States.

On Feb. 8, Tomer Rothschild ’94 returned to campus to speak to students at the Gordon Career Center about his entrepreneurial path. Rothschild, who graduated from Wesleyan with a degree in philosophy, is the co-founder of Elite Scholars of China (ESC), an agency that aims to educate China’s top high school students about their undergraduate options in the United States. He previously worked on Wall Street and as a China country manager of a publicly traded U.S. company, among other jobs. “Fumbling is necessary to find your path,” Rothschild said to the students. “Follow your passion—even if you don’t know what it is immediately. It took me seven years of working in different fields and jobs to finally figure out what I really wanted to do.”

Ashraf Rushdy in The Conversation: The Art of the Public Apology

In his new book, Professor Ashraf Rushdy explains how lynching became a form of spectacle in the late 19th century until the 1930s.

Ashraf Rushdy

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” Amid a flood of accusations against public figures for sexual misconduct and other improprieties, Ashraf Rushdy, the Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language, writes a piece exploring “the art of the public apology.” Rushdy is also professor of English, professor of African American studies, and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. Read his bio in The Conversation.

The art of the public apology

Ashraf Rushdy, Wesleyan University

Just prior to his sentencing, former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar formally apologized to the more than 160 women whom he’d sexually abused. He joins a growing list. Over the past few months, many public personalities accused of sexual assault have apologized in public.

Many of us at this point are wondering what these apologies mean. Indeed, like others before him, Nassar said that an adequate apology was impossible. He stated,

“There are no words that can describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred. An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey.”

What, then, is it that he and other public figures are doing when they say sorry publicly?

In a forthcoming book, I look at different kinds of public apologies, including the kind of celebrity apologies we’ve witnessed in the past few months. What I argue is that public apologies are a type of performance and therefore should be understood as being different from private.