Campus News & Events

Wesleyan-Led Astronomy Consortium Joins Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), which operates the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), and other major astronomical research facilities in the United States, has elected the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC)—led by Wesleyan University—as a new member. This historic development represents the first time that liberal arts institutions have been invited to join the association and serves as an important recognition of the value of such programs, not just to education, but also to frontier research in astronomy.

Seth Redfield, campus director of the NASA CT Space Grant Consortium, reports that several students and faculty have recently been awarded grants for their research in astronomy. Photo c/o Redfield

Seth Redfield

“This is a tremendous recognition of the important impact that the Keck Consortium and our individual institutions have on the astronomy research landscape, and it literally gives us a seat at the table in terms of influencing the future of astronomy in the United States,” says Seth Redfield, associate professor and chair of astronomy at Wesleyan. “This is a validation of our impact in research and preparing future generations of astronomers (many of whom go on to PhD programs or postdocs or faculty positions at the large research institutions already on the board of AURA),” Redfield adds. “We are thrilled to have a voice from smaller institutions in shaping the future of our field.”

Students Honored with Academic Scholarships, Fellowships, Prizes

Xhonia Robinson ’18 won the Jessup Prize; Shardonay Pagett ’18 won the Butterfield Prize, Heideman Award. and the Senior Legacy Award; Owen Christoph ’18 won the Jessup Prize; Caroline Liu ’18 won the Carol B. Ohmann Memorial Prize

Xhonia Robinson ’18 won the Jessup Prize; Shardonay Pagett ’18 won the Butterfield Prize, the Heideman Award, and the Senior Legacy Award; Owen Christoph ’18 won the Jessup Prize; and Caroline Liu ’18 won the Carol B. Ohmann Memorial Prize during a prize reception for students May 9 in Daniel Family Commons.

On May 9, more than 300 Wesleyan students received University prizes and awards during a reception. The honors, which include scholarships, fellowships, and leadership prizes, are granted to students and student organizations based on criteria established for each prize or award. Certain University prizes are administered by the Student Affairs/Deans’ Office, while others are administered by the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD).

In addition, SALD hosted a Leadership Awards Banquet in Beckham Hall on April 27.

SALD hosted a Leadership Awards Banquet in Beckham Hall on April 27.

In addition, SALD hosted a Leadership Awards Banquet in Beckham Hall on April 27.

Wesleyan University’s awards, prizes, and scholarships program connects recipients to the legacies of alumni, administrators, faculty, and friends whose lives and work are honored through endowed gifts. Recipients of academic scholarships, fellowships, and prizes represent the highest ideals of Wesleyan University—intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, creative expression, leadership, and service. While celebrating these recipients of awards, prizes, and scholarships, we also honor and thank alumni and friends for their generous contributions and gifts.

The awards and recipients are listed below: (Photos by Rich Marinelli)

George H. Acheson and Grass Foundation Prize in Neuroscience

Established in 1992 by a gift from the Grass Foundation, this prize is awarded to an outstanding undergraduate in the Neuroscience and Behavior Program who demonstrates excellence in the program and who also shows promise for future contributions in the field of neuroscience.

  • Lila Levinson ’18
  • Carli Poisson ’18
ohn Vasant ’18 won the Trench Prize; Charlotte Pitts ’18 won the Alumni Prize in the History of Art

John Vansant ’18 won the Trench Prize and Charlotte Pitts ’18 won the Alumni Prize in the History of Art.

Alumni Prize in the History of Art

Established by Wesleyan alumni and awarded to a senior who has demonstrated special aptitude in the history of art and who has made a substantive contribution to the major.

  • Nicole Boyd ’18
  • Lily Landau ’18
  • Charlotte Pitts ’18

American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry

Awarded for excellence in analytical chemistry.

  • Maya Marshall ’18

American Chemical Society Connecticut Valley Section Award

Awarded for outstanding achievement to a graduating chemistry major.

  • Aaron Stone ’18

American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry

Awarded to an undergraduate student in inorganic chemistry to recognize achievement and encourage further study in the field.

  • David Solti ’18

American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry

Awarded to a senior who has displayed a significant aptitude for organic chemistry

  • Theo Prachyathipsakul ’19

Badr ’20 Guides Upward Bound Students to Write about Their Experiences

A 100-person choir performed “Identities,” which included a poem written by Wesleyan Upward Bound student Chelsea Anthony. Chelsea is pictured front and center with Ahmed Badr ’20, who led a storytelling workshop that resulted in Chelsea’s poem being published.

How did a young refugee from Iraq inspire a high school student from New Britain, Conn., to write a poem that went on to be performed by a 100-person choir made up of high schoolers from around the East Coast?

It all began at Wesleyan.

Ahmed Badr ’20 was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, after his family’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops. As he struggled to adjust to life in the U.S., he started a personal blog to write about his experiences, and “found it incredibly empowering” to share his story.

“I soon began to realize the power of storytelling to inspire and bring people together,” he wrote on his website, Narratio. Determined to empower other youth, he created Narratio to publish written work by young people around the globe. It has been recognized by the United Nations, We are Family Foundation, and featured on NPR and Instagram. Today, Badr is a sophomore at Wesleyan, studying anthropology and pursuing independent projects as an Allbritton Fellow and Patricelli Center Fellow, while continuing to run Narratio, which includes leading creative storytelling workshops for youth around the country.

Students Celebrate End of Semester at Spring Fling

Wesleyan students celebrated the end of the 2017–18 academic year during the annual Spring Fling, held May 10 on Foss Hill. Music acts included Girltype Behaviors, Gus Dapperton, Injury Reserve, and Kamaiyah. Italian ice and caramel corn vendors provided snacks during the event.

The event is organized by Wesleyan’s Spring Fling Committee and the Office of Student Activities. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Students Inducted into Honor Society, Present Research at American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Meeting

Undergraduates from the Biology, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From Left, Alex Shames '18 (MacQueen Lab), BA/MA student Arden Feil (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr '18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little '18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht '18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler '18 (Hingorani Lab).

Undergraduates from the biology, chemistry, and molecular biology and biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From left, Alex Shames ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Arden Feil BA/MA ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr ’18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little ’18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht ’18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler ’18 (Hingorani Lab).

Seven Wesleyan students recently were inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Honor Society, and many of them presented research posters at the ASBMB annual meeting in San Diego, April 21–25.

The ASBMB Honor Society recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors who are pursuing a degree in the molecular life sciences for their scholarly achievement, research accomplishments, and outreach activities. The Wesleyan students inducted were Will Barr ’18, Alexa Strauss ’19, Emily Kessler ’18, Christine Little ’18, Julie McDonald ’18, Rubye Peyser ’18, and Alexander Shames ’18.

The following students attended the annual meeting:

• Kessler, whose poster was titled, “Investigating the Mechanistic Basis of Mutant MutS DNA Repair Protein Malfunction in Lynch Syndrome”
• Barr, “An mRNA-rRNA base pairing model for efficient protein translation”
• Little, “Investigation into the Binding Interactions of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Histone H1 with Holliday Junction”
• Shames, “The Long and Short of Synaptonemal Complex Assembly: Investigating the genesis and functional relevance of a smaller Zip1 isoform”
• Cody Hecht ’18, “Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I: Examining Protein Dynamics with Pyrene Excimer Fluorescence and Tryptophan-Induced Quenching”
• Arden Feil BA/MA ’18, “Scraping the Tip of Zip1’s Role in Meiotic Chromosome Dynamics: Using lacO/LacI corecruitment to identify crossover promoting factors that interface with the N-terminus of a synaptonemal complex protein”

“It was a joy to present the research that I’ve been working on for the past two years as a part of Wesleyan’s Beckman Scholars Program,” said Barr. “Science research can seem like a roller coaster at times, and presenting my research in the company of scientists at all levels of their careers helped me remember just how thrilling this process has been.”

The mission of ASBMB is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, promotion of the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce, and publication of a number of scientific and educational journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research.

Cassidy in The Conversation: No, the War in Afghanistan Isn’t a Hopeless Stalemate

Col. Robert Cassidy, Retired Officer Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan.

Col. Robert Cassidy, Retired Officer Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan.

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.”  In a new article, Col. Robert Cassidy, Retired Officer Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan, writes about both the apparent stalemate in the war in Afghanistan, as well as why he harbors hope of an eventual resolution. Cassidy is a scholar of Afghanistan and strategy, as well as a soldier who served four tours in the country.

No, the war in Afghanistan isn’t a hopeless stalemate

The war in Afghanistan has become so protracted that it warrants the epithet the “Groundhog Day War.”

Fighting has gone on for nearly 17 years, with U.S. troops in Afghanistan seven years longer than the Soviets were.

The U.S. leadership claims to have a strategy for victory even as warm weather brings in yet another “fighting season” and new rounds of deadly violence in Kabul.

Sixteen years and seven months of violence, loss, sacrifice and significant investment, without victory, is alarming – but is it without hope?

As a scholar of Afghanistan and strategy and a soldier who has served four tours in the country, I’d like to explore both the apparent stalemate and the reasons for harboring hope of an eventual resolution.

The ‘Groundhog War’

In terms of fighting battles and taking ground, momentum in the war in Afghanistan has ebbed back and forth from the coalition formed by the U.S., NATO and Afghan troops to the Islamist insurgents who call themselves the Taliban, or “the students.”

Haddad, Cho in The Conversation: The Goal in Korea Should Be Peace and Trade–Not Unification

Mary Alice Haddad

Mary Alice Haddad

Joan Cho

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Mary Alice Haddad, professor and chair of the College of East Asian Studies; Joan Cho, assistant professor of government, assistant professor of East Asian studies; and Alexis Dudden, professor of history at the University of Connecticut provide historical context to the negotiations happening between North and South Korea, and argue that the focus now should be on peace and trade. Haddad also is professor of government, professor of environmental studies.

This article emerged as a direct result of Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Jin Hi Kim’s One Sky II project. Haddad, Cho, and Dudden spoke on a panel April 17 at a Music Department Colloquium on the current political conflict, and U.S. and North Korean policy, as well as Korean urban culture.

The goal in Korea should be peace and trade – not unification

Last week, the world witnessed a first tangible step toward a peaceful, prosperous Korean peninsula.

On April 27, 2018, Kim Jong-Un became the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea – where he was welcomed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

A few days later, the South Korean government reported that Kim had promised to give up his nuclear arsenal under certain conditions.

While some viewed the summit with skepticism and issued reminders about Kim’s villainous past, others began talking of a unified Korea – a reasonable reaction considering that the leaders signed a document called the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula.

The intentions of these two leaders is key. For while Donald Trump and Xi Zinping and Vladimir Putin may tweet and hold meetings, it is the nearly 80 million Koreans who will determine the future of how they will share their peninsula.

Taylor in The Conversation: Why Are Some E. coli Deadly?

Erika Taylor

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.”  In a new article, Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, explains why some E. coli live peacefully in our bodies while others make us very sick. Taylor also is associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of integrative sciences.

Why are some E. coli deadly while others live peacefully within our bodies?

E. coli outbreaks hospitalize people and cause food recalls pretty much annually in the United States. This year is no different.Obviously some E. coli can be deadly for people. But not all strains of these bacteria make you sick. In fact, you have a variety of strains of E. coli in your intestines right now – including one that’s busy making the antioxidant vitamin K, crucial for your and its survival.Scientists like me often characterize E. coli by the sugar coat they display on their cell surface. A molecule called a lipopolysaccharide is the anchor that displays a collection of sugars to their environment.These sugars help the bacteria stick to surfaces and reveal their identity to your immune system. Human cells do this, too – your blood type is defined by sugars displayed on your blood cells, for instance.

The sugars E. coli display vary from strain to strain. Some sugar coats are associated with strains living symbiotically in your stomach – E. coli HS, UTI89 and CFT073 are some of the most commonly found to be helpful. Others are associated with illness – like E. coli O104:H4, also called enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), which caused a major outbreak in Europe in 2011. According to the CDC, this latest outbreak is due to E. coli O157:H7 – a strain that’s caused at least one food-borne outbreak in the U.S. each year since 2006.

The letters and numbers that name a strain serve as a code for which sugars are present. While the sugars bacteria display aren’t what makes you sick, they’re quickly and easily detectable and help scientists and doctors differentiate whether a present strain will generate toxins that can make you ill.

File 20180424 94157 1hsgfxd.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

From a human perspective, some strains are good, some are evil. (Photo by fusebulb/Shutterstock.com)

Bacteria rely on what researchers term virulence factors: molecules that aid their survival while undermining your immune system. Both the EHEC and O157 strains of E. coli are able to make a virulence factor called a Shiga toxin. Shiga toxins were discovered first in Shigella dysenteriae, the bacterium that causes dysentery. Later researchers discovered that the EHEC and O157 strains of E. coli had gained the gene for Shiga toxins from the dysentery bacterium through a process called horizontal gene transfer.

When bacteria reach a critical mass in your body after you eat a contaminated food, they secrete these toxins as part of their strategy for finding a new host. The toxins enter the cells of your intestines, causing symptoms including low-grade fever, stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting.

It’s virulence factors like these that are to blame for human illnesses and that give E. coli a bad name – even if all strains don’t deserve it.

 

This article was originally published on The Conversation, and also appeared in Scientific American and Newsweek, among other news outlets. Read the original article.

2017–18 Winter Athletic Season Ends with Historical Victories

The 2017–18 winter season was a historic one for the Wesleyan athletic programs, highlighted by the men’s basketball team winning its first-ever NCAA Tournament game, while Laila Samy ’18 of women’s squash, Caroline Murphy ’20 of women’s swimming and diving, and Isaiah Bellamy ’18 and Devon Carrillo ’17 of wrestling all earned All-American honors.

Here is a team-by-team breakdown:

Men's basketball team guard Jordan Bonner '19 earned Second Team All-NESCAC honors and was named NESCAC Player of the Week twice.

Men’s basketball team guard Jordan Bonner ’19 earned Second Team All-NESCAC honors and was named NESCAC Player of the Week twice.

Men’s Basketball (22–7, 7–3 NESCAC) * NCAA Second Round / NESCAC Finals

  • Set a program record in overall wins (22) and tied a program record with seven NESCAC victories.
    Hosted first- and second-round games in the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in program history.
    Won the Little Three title outright for the second consecutive season and the third straight year overall, with a 3–1 regular-season record against Amherst (2–0) and Williams (1–1).
  • Earned a second consecutive NCAA at-large bid and third tournament appearance in the past four years.
    Defeated Southern Vermont in the first round, 101–71, for the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
    Head Coach Joe Reilly won his 300th career game on Feb. 9, 2018.
  • Jordan Bonner ’19 earned Second Team All-NESCAC honors and was named NESCAC Player of the Week twice. He was also a CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team selection.
  • Jordan Sears ’18 was named the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year and Austin Hutcherson ’21 was named the Rookie of the Year. Hutcherson was also named the D3hoops.com Northeast Co-Rookie of the Year.
  • Wesleyan led the country in total blocks (169) and ranked second in Division III in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a 37.2 shooting percentage.

Women’s Basketball (17–8, 5–5 NESCAC) * NESCAC Semifinals

    • After going 7–15 overall a year ago, the Cardinals turned things around in 2017–18 and finished with a 17–8 overall mark and 5–5 NESCAC record to earn the No. 5 seed in the NESCAC Tournament.
    • Defeated fourth-seeded Middlebury on the road in the quarterfinals, 63–62, before falling to top-seeded and eventual national champion Amherst in the semifinals.

Mixed-Race, Interfaith Identities Explored through Performative Conversations

Middletown-based ARTFARM artistic director Marcella Trowbridge, center, works with Lola Makombo ’20 on crafting a performative conversation based on interviews with a family member.

Students in the Mixed in America: Race, Religion, and Memoir course explored mixed-race identities not only through reading, writing, and classroom discussion, but through performative art.

Matt Kleppner ’18 created a short performance based on an interview with his uncle.

Throughout the semester, students used the genre of the memoir as a focusing lens to look at ways that Americans of mixed heritage have found a place, crafted an identity, and made meaning out of being considered “mixed.”

The course is part of Wesleyan’s Creative Campus Initiative, which pairs non-arts faculty with artists for collaborative teaching and research. Professor Liza McAlister teamed up with the local professional theater organization ARTFARM to offer students a module of four classes under the instruction of artistic director Marcella Trowbridge.

In the students’ exploration of memoir, Trowbridge asked them to interview a family member and craft a short performative piece based on their interviews–or–their responses to their interviews.

“We spoke about ‘brass tack’ strategies for interviewing and documentation, but then left the linear procedural work for a process-based inquiry,” Trowbridge explained.

The class collaboratively brainstormed and worked physically with mark-making, personal items, architecture, kinesthetic response, and the use of space. Students also learned about using text, gestures, movement, sound, repetition, and props in a performance.

On April 18 and 19, the students shared their compositions with their classmates.

Paterson’s Senior Thesis Explores Urban Farming, Communal Activity, Performance

Theater and earth and environmental studies major Katherine Paterson ’18 moves a bin of radishes into a greenhouse she constructed on the Center for the Arts green on April 16. The greenhouse build was part of her senior thesis, which was accompanied by a performance and harvest on Earth Day. Paterson also is minoring in German studies.

Senior Katherine Paterson’s passion for theater and environmental studies has grown over the past two months while she constructed a greenhouse for an honors thesis that explores and links together urban farming, communal activity, and theater.

On Earth Day, April 22, Paterson presented (at)tend, a durational performance of song, poetry, and spoken word, which unfolded over the course of the spring semester. The project involved the collective construction, seeding, and tending of a greenhouse by students and community members, and culminated with a spring harvest.

“The goal of the project was to serve as an experiment in creative place-making—in creating a space that the larger Wesleyan community helps to build and maintain,” she said. “A greenhouse containing living plants brings people together and links them with one another and their environment.”

The thesis also explored the questions, “Where does our food come from? How does it grow? How does changing our relationship to food affect our interactions with one another and with our environments?”

Paterson’s advisor is Katherine Brewer Ball, assistant professor of theater. The project was sponsored by the Wesleyan Green Fund, the Department of Theater and the College of the Environment.

A photo essay of the thesis project is below (photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08):

Feb. 29: Paterson kicked off the project inside a cold frame at Long Lane Farm. Cold-frame structures allow gardeners to get a head start on the growing season. Students broke up compacted soil and filled large bins. Paterson taught fellow students how to plant seeds and mark containers.

During the summer of 2017, Paterson conducted field research in New York City (funded by a College of the Environment grant). She interned at Harlem Grown, an urban farm, and visited Swale, a floating food forest. The experiences helped shape and inform her thesis project.

Weissman Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Ruth Striegel Weissman

Ruth Weissman

Ruth Striegel Weissman, the Walter A. Crowell University Professor of the Social Sciences, Emerita, was presented with the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) Lifetime Achievement Award during a ceremony in Chicago on April 21. The award honors senior AED members for their lifetime of contributions to the field of eating disorders.

In presenting the award, Marsha Marcus, professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, spoke of Weissman’s “impressive history of NIH-supported research, [which] has led to findings that have elucidated eating disorders risk, epidemiology, classification, psychopathology, treatment, health care policy, and cost-effectiveness.” This scholarship “has had a major and enduring influence on the field,” Marcus said.

Weissman taught in Wesleyan’s Department of Psychology for nearly three decades, serving twice as chair of the department. She also served the University as vice president for academic affairs and provost.

In addition, Weissman was a member of the Working Group of the Eating Disorders Task Force of the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). She has served on numerous grant review committees and editorial boards. She is a member or fellow of numerous scientific societies, and has served as president of both the Academy for Eating Disorders and the Eating Disorders Research Society (EDRS). According to Marcus, Weissman was essential to the establishment and growth of both organizations, and has been recognized previously for her scholarly and organizational contributions. In 2005, Weissman was given the AED Leadership Award in Research, and in 2008 she gave the James E. Mitchell Lecture at EDRS.

Weissman currently serves as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the leading scientific journal in the field, and as chair of the Board of Directors of the Livingston HealthCare Foundation.