|Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a UV resonance Raman spectrometer in her research at Wesleyan. Mukerji recently attended a conference in California, judging presentations on biomedical sciences.|
| Encouraging underrepresented minority students to pursue advanced training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences was the purpose of a recent conference in Anaheim, Calif. And the chair of Wesleyans Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department was there to help guide these students down that path.
Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, was among 220 scientists around the country who attended the 2006 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), held Nov. 8-11.
The scientists volunteered their time and energy in judging the 1,048 poster presentations and 72 oral presentations.
The number of minority students in biomedical research is very small, Mukerji explains. I and my colleagues are committed to improving diversity in the sciences and this is a great opportunity to meet and interact with minority students. We would like to have more under-represented students at all levels in the sciences at Wesleyan and this is one way to interact with minority students and potentially recruit them to come to Wesleyan University.
Now in its seventh year, ABRCMS is the largest professional conference for biomedical and behavioral students. Over 2,500 people attended the 2006 conference including 1,633 students, 421 faculty and program directors and 418 exhibitors. ABRCMS is supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and managed by the American Society for Microbiology.
By volunteering as a judge, Mukerji served in one of the most important roles at the conference, explains Ronica Rodela, spokesperson for the ABRCMS.
The judge’s role in providing constructive feedback to student presenters positively enhances the professional development and advancement of students in their scientific research, Rodela says.
These presentations were given by undergraduate, graduate, post-baccalaureate students as well as postdoctoral scientists in nine sub-disciplines in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. The top 120 undergraduates received monetary awards of $250 for their outstanding research.
Mukerji says some of the research she judged was comparable to the research being done by Wesleyan undergraduates. On the other hand, there is a wide range of science presented at the conference, and some of the students are coming from two-year institutions that don’t have a lot of resources for doing science.
The judging process is an interactive one in which I usually talk to the students about their research project, their scientific interests and what their future plans are, Mukerji explains. Many of them are very enthusiastic about their projects and that makes the judging a lot of fun. On the whole I find it to be a very rewarding experience.
Mukerji is currently the chairperson of the Minority Affairs Committee for the Biophysical Society. For their annual meeting in March, she has arranged a panel discussion on “Recruitment, Retention and Mentoring of Under-represented Students.” Featured panelists will be representatives from MentorNet and Venture Scholars. Both of these organizations are committed to increasing diversity at all levels in the sciences.
For more information on the conference, visit www.abrcms.org. The 2007 ABRCMS is scheduled for Nov. 7-10 in Austin, Texas.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
Campus News & Events
by Olivia Drake •
|David Bodznick, the new dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, researches neuron signals in skate brains when he’s not busy with administrative duties.|
| When David Bodznick took on the role as dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics in July 2006, he became, in essence, a part-time mediator. In his new position, the professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, works as the liaison between the Wesleyans science and mathematics faculty and the administration.
For example, I have the chance to present the needs and aspirations of the Division III faculty to the rest of the administration, Bodznick explains from his office in Shanklin, and the responsibility of presenting the wider perspective and long range planning goals of the Administration back to the faculty.
Bodznick was nominated to the four-year position by former Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean Joseph Bruno, who is the current vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, and professor of chemistry. Brunos nomination came after hearing input from colleagues. They cited Bodznicks expertise and experience working as the director of Graduate Studies and chairing the Biology Department.
The position encompasses the departments of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physics and Psychology, and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program.
What really attracted me to the dean position was that it involves a lot of problem solving, he says. I enjoy trying to find the best solution that works most effectively toward the goal that needs to be met.
Bodznick has already set short and long term goals for himself.
For one, he wants to continue where Bruno left off, raising awareness and the visibility of the sciences at Wesleyan to the larger Wesleyan community and to the outside world. He looks for ways to support the continued successes of the science and math faculty in both teaching and research, and he encourages them to share their research with their students and the media.
He mentions the outstanding research on stem-cells and neuron replacement that are part of the recent Connecticut Stem Cell Initiative as a great example of the important work going on throughout the sciences at Wesleyan.
Bodznicks own research is on neuron signaling in the brains of vertebrates including marine fishes. In fact, every summer, Bodznick and his students move their lab equipment to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. There, the group is among 300 neurobiologists from all over the world working on research.
As dean, Bodznick will also work with the Science Advisory Council, which comprises several Wesleyan alumni and Board of Trustee members, to find ways to increase outside funding for undergraduate and graduate science programs. He hopes to increase the applicant pool for science majors and offer additional courses for non-science majors.
Too many Wesleyan students graduate without taking science courses, despite the fact that now, more than ever before, science literacy is a critical part of a liberal arts education, Bodznick says. We need to continue offering a large number of attractive, palatable classes for non-science majors so theyll want to include science courses in their curriculum.
The deans heaviest workload falls on the new science centers planning. This facility will house three departments and will likely replace Hall-Atwater, which has exceeded its useful lifespan. Bodznick, Wesleyans own facilities experts and a building committee of faculty, students and trustees, are meeting with architects. They are discussing the new buildings feasibility options from the size and location to program planning, and a renovation of Shanklin. Groundbreaking is expected by the end of 2009.
The at-home handyman says the new science center is one project hes very excited about.
To work on this from the beginning to end and see the ground breaking will be a major accomplishment, he says. Theres a lot to be decided and a lot of problem solving to do.
With his plate full of administrative duties, Bodznick has to devote less time to teaching, however it hasnt affected his research or interaction with Wesleyan students. He offers to present lectures in other classes, attends biology and neuroscience graduate student meetings and meets regularly with his four lab students. Next year, he expects new undergraduates to join his research group, and he looks forward to teaching them the methods of the lab.
Ask anyone and theyll tell you the best thing about working at Wesleyan is the students, Bodznick says. Id never want to lose contact with the students, so I do what I can to interact with them, even when Im not teaching as much.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
|The Anderson Fitness Center will be open for tours during the 2007 Family Health Fair Feb. 3.|
| Yoga, skin analysis, blood pressure screenings and massages are all part of the 2007 Family Health Fair for Wesleyans faculty, staff and their families.
The free event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Freeman Athletic Center. It is sponsored by the Employee Benefits Office.
All of us could use a little inspiration now and then when it comes to staying healthy and fit, explains Pat Melley, director of Employee Benefits. The Wesleyan Health Fair provides the opportunity for all of us to start or continue building healthy lives. It will be fun and informative for people of all ages to learn about fitness and well-being.
Events of note include balance and rowing demonstrations; glucose, body-mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings; a How to Get Reliable Medical Information on the Web presentation; and information on childrens health, skin analysis, nutrition, fire safety and more.
In addition, the Anderson Fitness Center will be open and tours will be offered. Demonstrations will be presented on how to use the athletic facilitys equipment. Attendees may go to open swimming, ice skating or squash.
The first 100 employees will receive a free T-shirt. Participants can also enter their name in a raffle. Prizes include a $60 gift certificate at Yoga at Middletown; bike helmets and tune ups from Pedal Power; a $40 gift certificate for Broad Street Books; a $25 gift certificate for It’s Only Natural Market; a golf basket from The Hartford Insurance Company; and a $50 cash certificate from WesCard.
Lisa Currie, director of the Health Education Program, says the health fair will highlight the various ways that the university and community organizations can support employees in being healthier individuals and families. This ultimately contributes to a healthier university, she says.
There is great truth in the old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure Currie says. Research has shown that employees who participate in prevention-oriented wellness programs in the workplace are more productive and enjoy their jobs more. Given how much of our lives we spend at work, it makes sense to make the most of it, especially given the great facilities and programs Wesleyan offers.
Face painting will be offered for children. Parking is available in Q Lot behind the Freeman Athletic Center. Participants are encouraged to enter through the back lobby.
Some sessions will have limited space and will be filled on a first-come, first served basis. Some vendors will have items for sale.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860-685-4889.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
|A new learning objects tool, designed by Associate Professor Elizabeth McAlister, features multimedia tools to help teach the story of Rara.|
| In Haiti, the people celebrate their African ancestry and religion with a Rara festival, a culturally rich musical and dance event.
Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor of Religion and chair of the Religion Department, associate professor of African American studies, and associate professor of American studies, has studied this tradition for 15 years. Through a newly-created teaching tool, she hopes people can gain new insights on the Rara festival.
Designed by Wesleyans Learning Objects Studio staff, the Web site, http://rara.wesleyan.edu/ is available for academic and public use. The site is already being used at classes at New York University and Swarthmore.
“My hope is that people interested in Rara, students, musicians, artists, travelers and other researchers, will be able to use this Web site as an interactive study guide, McAlister says.
McAlisters interest in Rara dates back to 1991 when she began researching Haitis vibrant culture, often celebrated through Rara. In 2002, she published a book titled, “Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora.” The Web site serves as a companion piece to her book on Rara.
After my book on Rara came out, internet technology made it possible to display the photographs and videotape that I made in Haiti, together with my friends and collaborators, she explains.
Through the online tool, McAlister posted a 15-minute film about Rara, music and dance clips. She included images, video and audio clips of Rara as a carnival; Rara as a religious obligation in Vodou; Rara and the Christians and Jews; Rara gender and sexuality; Rara and politics; and Rara in New York City.
In each section, McAlister includes media, notes from the field, and an analysis, often adapted from her book.
When explaining Rara as a form of carnival, McAlister explains, in the analysis, that the tone, or ambiance, of Rara parading is loud and carnivalesque As in Carnival, Rara is about moving through the streets, and about men establishing masculine reputation through public performance. Rara bands stop to perform for noteworthy people, to collect money. In return, the kings and queens dance and sing, and the baton majors juggle batons-and even machetes!
The site includes clips on several Rara bands including La Belle Fraicheur de l’Anglade in Fermathe, Mande Gran Moun in Darbonne, Rara La Fleur Ginen in Bel Air, Rara Inorab Kapab in Cite Soleil and Rara Ya Seizi.
Donning traditional Rara costumes, which are known for their delicate sequin work and vivacious colors, dancers are shown in action, in low or high bandwidth videos of dances and music. In one clip, a queen and two kings dance the mazoun. Traditional instruments such as bamboo and the paper-fabricated konet are shown in several accompanying images like the one at right.
The music featured on the Web site was produced by Holly Nicolas, postal clerk, and mixed and mastered by Peter Hadley, conductor of Wes Winds.
McAlister, who lived in Haiti to study Rara, says she walked with the bands, took them seriously and listened to what they had to say.
My book, and now this Web site, tell that story, she says.
For more information on the Learning Objects Studio go to: http://learningobjects.wesleyan.edu.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
At left, ethnomusicology students Marzanna Poplawska, Nick Hockin, Amy Ingram and Hae Joo Kim gather during the Society for Ethnomusicologys 51st Annual Conference Nov. 16-19 in Honolulu.
| Nine Wesleyan graduate students studying ethnomusicology ended a recent conference on a high note.
Each student presented papers at The Society for Ethnomusicologys 51st Annual Conference Nov. 16-19 in Honolulu. This years topic was Decolonizing Ethnomusicology.
The annual convention is the focal point of the year; these meetings offer a great chance to network with fellow grad students, eminent senior scholars, and former alums, says Mark Slobin, professor of music. In addition, this is a record-breaking number of graduate students that presented.
Thembela Vokwana presented Can We Sing Together? Performing Nationhood through Choral Festivals in South Africa. Andrew Dewar presented “Sonic Explorations: On the Analysis of Intercultural Experimentalism; Marzanna Poplawska presented Diaspora or not yet–Indonesian Christians in the USA; and Junko Oba presented 280,000 Invisible Men: Music, Identity, and the Story of Nikkei/Zainchi Brazilian Community in Japan, Summer 2005.
Hae Joo Kim presented “Riding the Wave of Nostalgia and Melodrama through Dae Jang Geum; Po-wei Weng presented The Survival of Oral Tradition in a Modernizing Genre: ‘Oral Notation’ in Taiwan’s Peking Opera Percussion Music; Ian Eagleson presented Rural Popular Music and Ethnic Identity: Benga Dance Bands of the Luo Community in Western Kenya; Chris Miller presented “Indonessian Musik Kontemporer and the Issue of ‘Western Influence; Vincenzo Cambria presented Decolonizing the Archive: Documentation and the Production of Knowledge in a Participatory Ethnomusicological Research in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Amy Ingram presented “Parang: Finding a Place for Spanish Creole Identity in the Trinidadian National Calendar; and Nicholas Hockin presented “Drums, Headscarves, and Mothers’ Dances at Weddings in Bamako, Mali: Local Change on the Margins of Globalization;
This was Hockin’s second time presenting a paper at the SEM conference. This year, the Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology, presented segments of his dissertation, which is scheduled to be completed next year.
“Presenting our ideas in paper sessions allows us a chance to get vital feedback from our peers, not to mention developing public speaking skills. Networking is an integral aspect of the conference, enabling members to share personal and professional insightsthat broaden our understanding of the field and of each other,” Hockin says. “And we develop a sense of what the latest trends are by checking out presentations, reading paper topic titles and abstracts, and by browsing and/or buying books.
In addition to the students, Slobin and Su Zheng, associate professor of music and East Asian studies, chaired panels at the conference. Eric Charry, associate professor of music and Rob Lancefield, manager of Museum Information Services and registrar of collections at Davison Art Center presented papers. Sumarsam, chair of the Music Department and adjunct professor of music, attended the conference, along with several students and recent alumni.
The nine graduate students are among 22 current students studying music. They are an unusually varied group, Slobin explains, including students from Brazil, China, South Africa, Ghana, Mexico, Taiwan and Canada. They are part of the 46-year old program’s interest in drawing the widest spectrum of students from among the substantial pool of applicants; selectivity runs at about 20 percent.
The Music Department faculty wants their students to be well rehearsed, so prior to the conference, they drill the students in the skills of preparing a paper abstract, developing a quality 20-mimute presentation, and delivering it in a lively and well-organized way.
Usually our students’ papers stand out for the attentive response they draw from listeners, as opposed to the many droning, rapid-fire, or inaudible papers we sit through at the dozens of panels, explains Slobin, pictured at left, center.
Wesleyan ethnomusicology Ph.D candidate Amy Ingram has attended a few SEM conferences in the past, but this was her first time presenting at the conference, and her first time presenting her dissertational material to her peers.
I think that the conference is certainly a necessary rite of passage for all grad students, Ingram explains. It helps us all to gain the perspective of how our learning experience at Wesleyan compares to other graduate programs. Receiving feedback from peers and committee members certainly reinvigorated my motivation to keep writing, and meeting others during the social moments between panels was really beneficial.
Following the conference, the Wesleyan affiliates held a party to draw the past and present students together.
In 2008, the SEM convention will be held at Wesleyan in the new Susan Lemberg Usdan University Center.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos contributed.|
by Olivia Drake •
|Wesleyan senior Maggie Arias was one of 15 seniors welcomed to Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest national scholastic honor society during a ceremony Dec. 13. Also pictured, at left, is Gary Yohe, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics and PBK secretary; Mark Hovey, president of the gamma chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and Jane Tozer, assistant to the vice president of University Relations and PBK treasurer and event coordinator.|
| Fifteen Wesleyan students were inducted into the oldest national scholastic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, during an initiation ceremony Dec. 13.
Election is limited to 12 percent of the graduating class, and based on general education expectations and by having a grade point average of 90 or above. Students are nominated by their major departments.
As individuals and as a group, you have contributed a great deal to Wesleyan through your intellectual engagement in the academic work and residential life of the institution, said President Doug Bennet during the induction ceremony. Recognizing your accomplishments is certainly one of the highlights of my job and while I won’t claim that my delight exceeds your own, it comes pretty close.
Phi Betta Kappa was founded in 1776, during the American Revolution. The students join the ninth oldest Phi Beta Kappa chapter in the United Statesfounded in 1845.
The organizations Greek initials signify the motto, “Love of learning is the guide of life.”
I am struck by the breadth and scope of academic interests, and the depth of study reflected across this group, Bennet said. A number of you have chosen double majors allowing you to combine those interests in your professional goals. You have furthered your varied interests through summer activities and internships and research.
Many students excel at Wesleyan, but those of you here today have taken on the challenge of a liberal arts education by investing yourself in everything you do. In a university where academic excellence is common, you stand out. That’s why membership in Phi Beta Kappa is such a singular honor.
The students include:
OWEN RANDALL ALBIN, a double major in the American Studies Program and in neuroscience and behavior. Albin sings with the Wesleyan Spirits, one of the oldest all-male a cappella groups in the country. He is also a member of the Wesleyan sketch comedy group, Lunchbox, where he writes comedic skits and acts in them. A senior interviewer for the admission office, Albin and has been a teachers assistant for biology and chemistry classes. After graduation he hopes to do a few months of clinical volunteer work somewhere in Africa.
MARGARETTE MAGGIE ADELINA ARIAS, a psychology major, was inducted into Psi Chi last spring, the Psychology Honor Society. As part of a research team during her sophomore year, she worked closely with a local elementary school to implement a peer mediation program to reduce playground violence. Three of her four years here at Wesleyan, she has worked at the Edna C. Stevens School in Cromwell in the after-school program, Kids Korner. Her plans include grad school, and plans to go into counseling or clinical social work.
HYUNG-JIN CHOI, an economics major, has sung with the a cappella group Outside-In for three years and won the intramural basketball championship his sophomore year. A Freeman Scholar, Choi has helped organize events for the Korean Students Association. After graduation Hyung-Jin will return to Korea to serve in the military for two years then plans to go to graduate school and further pursue his studies in economics.
JACK MICHAEL DiSCIACCA carries a double major in mathematics and physics. During his junior year he was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship to fund research during the 2006-2007 school year. DiSciacca plans to attend graduate school to study either pure or applied physics.
CHRISTINA ANN DURFEE is a double major in mathematics and psychology. While at Wesleyan, Christina won the Robertson Prize and Rae Shortt Prize in mathematics. Her plans for the future remain uncertain, but Durfee is currently debating between going into the actuarial sciences and going to graduate school for math.
JACOB STUART GOLDIN is majoring in economics and government. During his sophomore year, Goldin organized a student group that worked with local organizations to push for gay marriage legislation in Connecticut. Eventually he plans to go to law school and/or graduate school in economics.
HANNAH GOODWIN-BROWN, a music major, won the Wesleyan Concerto Competition her sophomore year and performed the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Wesleyan orchestra. She went abroad to the Republic of Georgia, something no one at Wesleyan has done before, and was captain of the womens ultimate Frisbee team. Goodwin-Brown hopes to work with plants in a professional capacity, perhaps getting a degree in either landscape architecture or horticulture.
MAXFIELD WESTGATE HEATH, a music major, is an active composer/pianist in several groups of many genres including jazz, rock, and hip-hop. He has recorded several albums and is in the process of recording a debut studio album of his own songs. He plans on studying composition in grad school in preparation for making a living through some combination of writing/recording/performing and teaching.
CHEUK KEI HO, a math and economics major, is a member of the Wesleyan Spirits and has performed extensively on and off campus for the last four years. He is a Freeman Scholar and studied in Italy during his junior year fall semester. He plans to work in the investment banking division of J.P. Morgan Hong Kong after graduation.
CHEN-WEI JACK HUNG, a double major in economics and French studies, is a native of Taiwan and is a Freeman Scholar. He has learned French as his third language and studied in Grenoble for a semester. Hung was co-chair of the Wesleyan Model United Nations Team representing Slovenia, Hungary, and Malaysia in different MUN (Model United Nation) Conferences. He also served as a resident advisor for a year, taking care of 35 students. After graduation he will go to New York.
GRETCHEN MARLIESE KISHBAUCH carries a double major in psychology and science in society. She served as project director on research co-sponsored by Wesleyans Department of Psychology and the Middletown branch of the State Department of Children and Families. During this time she directed a research team of undergraduate and graduate students investigating child maltreatment. She was awarded membership in Psi Chi, a national psychology honor society. She is currently co-developing and co-leading a student form on Global Health Issues in the Science in Society Department. Kishbauch plans to pursue graduate study in public health.
MANG-JU SHER, a physics major, is a Freeman Scholar. While at Wesleyan she started learning Japanese and violin. She loves cooking and plans to pursue a Ph.D in physics.
BECK LARMON STRALEY is an earth and environmental science major. The bulk of Becks energy is currently focused on Venus. When not studying, Straley can be found at a residential life staff meeting, giving tours on campus to prospective students and their families, destroying the gender binary, or running.
ZHAOXUAN CHARLES YANG, an economics and mathematics major from China is a Freeman Scholar. Yang was captain of the Ping Pong Club for two years, co-chair of the Chinese Students Association, and a resident assistant. After graduation, Yang will be working for J.P Morgan Securities in their Hong Kong Office.
KEVIN ALAN YOUNG is a double major in history and Latin American studies. During his time at Wesleyan, Kevin has taught 6th and 7th graders at Summerbridge Cambridge in two six-week courses in literature and a self-designed social studies class on the Vietnam War. He also served as a faculty advisor and organized a camping excursion for 75 students and 20 teachers. He has been a Big Brother volunteer, mentoring a nine-year-old boy. On campus, Kevin has been active in United Student Labor Action Coalition, Students for Ending the War in Iraq, Nagarote-Wesleyan Partnership, and English as a Second Language. Young studied abroad in Nicaragua, and he received a Davenport Grant to spend nine weeks in Chiapas and Oaxaca in southeastern Mexico conducting research on popular education programs. Youngs future includes graduate school in Latin American history and hopes to teach at the college and/or high school level.
To view additional photos go to the Wesleyan Connection’s Campus Snapshot section at http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/snapshot/2006/1206phibetakappa.html.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
|Pictured at top, from left, Gina Driscoll, associate director of stewardship, Penny Apter; Betty Tishler, and Philip Bolton, chair of the Chemistry Department and professor of chemistry. Pictured at left, President Doug Bennet reads a Proclamation to Tishler. (Photos by Olivia Drake and by Roslyn Carrier-Brault)|
| Betty Tishler, wife of the late Professor Max Tishler, celebrated her 97th birthday Dec. 14 in the Exley Science Center. Tishlers family and friends, Wesleyan affiliates and students attended.
During the two-hour party, President Doug Bennet presented Tishler with a Mayors Proclamation that acknowledged Tishler for her contributions to the greater Middletown community.
Tishler, who was married to Max Tishler for 55 years until his death in 1989, raised two sons, Peter and Carl, and has three grandchildren.
She was a partner in her husbands productive and distinguished career at Merck pharmaceuticals from 1937 to 1970. Max Tishler led the development of new drugs and vitamins, which culminated in his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Honor from President Reagan. His developments included products for heart disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, mental depression and infectious diseases.
The Tishlers came to Middletown in 1970. They had an immediate and lasting impact on Wesleyan, especially the Chemistry Department, to which Betty Tishler remains especially devoted today.
She has established prizes at Wesleyan for art, music and for an annual piano competition, and most recently a Research Chair in Medicinal Chemistry in honor of her late husband.
In addition, she is a regular and generous supporter of the Middlesex County United Way.
Over the past 36 years, Tishlers vitality, resilience, curiosity, generosity, and engagement have marked her as a special citizen of Wesleyan and Middletown.
by Olivia Drake •
|In back, Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology, works with her student, Ariel Ballinger 07, on data resulting from a study on children’s counting ability.|
| So many people have had one of those moments, when a check comes after dinner and theyre having a problem adding it up, and they stop and say, Im just not any good at math! says Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology. But they are. We all are. Were born with it.
This isnt just an opinion from an overly-optimistic academic. Barth is one of a growing number of researchers studying intuitive understanding of numbers. So far, theyve established that human beings and even many other species are born with impressive mathematical abilities.
Studies have shown that animals who have no language can think about quantities approximately for example, rats can be trained to press a key about 40 times. And babies, who havent learned a language yet, can tell that adding 5 toys and 5 more toys gives you about 10 toys, Barth says. But animals and babies cant count. Counting takes language.
And counting isnt as simple as you might think. Preschool children quickly learn to count to 10, but it takes them a while to figure out the purpose of counting.
If I asked a child who has recently learned to count to 10 to go to the toy box and get four dinosaurs, the child will probably just give me a handful, Barth says.
Most children learn the concept of one soon after learning to count. Typically, about six months after that, they comprehend the idea of two and about six months later they understand three.
Studies have established that once children understand the concept of three it usually clicks for all the other numbers, Barth says.
So, counting may be tougher than parents realize. But arithmetic, on the other hand, may be easier than you think! Barth confirmed this with a study published in 2005 based on work completed at Harvard University.
The study, titled Abstract number and arithmetic in preschool children, published in an issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that preschoolers can add big sets approximately long before they learn how to add big numbers exactly in school.
In the study, Barth showed pre-school children graphics with blue colored dots, covered them for a few moments, then showed them an array of a similar number of red dots. Then Barth asked the children which set blue or red had more dots. She also showed them two successive arrays of dots and asked them if the aggregate number was larger or smaller than a third array of dots. In another permutation, the dots were replaced by sounds, to make sure children werent just using visual imagery to solve the problem.
The children were consistently able to recognize the differences between the dot sets, even in the tasks that included adding the dots, Barth says. The sets were too big for these kids to count, yet they had no problems recognizing which sets, when combined, would be larger than the third set. And we didnt find any differences in gender: girls were just as adept at this as boys.
One of Barths students, Ariel Ballinger 07, designed a separate study based on Barths work thanks to a Fellowship from the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences. The fellowship provides a stipend so students can undertake full-time research during the summer.
Theres no way I couldve done a study like this without help from the Hughes Program, Ballinger says.
Her study, titled Counting, Estimation and Approximate Nonverbal Addition in Young Children, is a new examination of number approximation in children whove reached different levels of verbal counting ability.
Some previous studies done by Jennifer Lipton and Elizabeth Spelke at Harvard showed that a childs ability to estimate numbers is related to verbal counting range, Ballinger says. Children were shown pictures containing different numbers of dots and asked to quickly guess how many there were, without counting. These studies showed that kids who could count to 100 guessed pretty well. But kids who could only count to 30, for example, could only guess well for sets of up to 30 dots. For bigger sets, they had no idea – they didnt even give bigger estimates for 100 dots than for 40 dots.
But these studies often averaged the performance of large groups of children with very different levels of counting skill. I wanted to test this relationship by looking at more specific groups.
Ballinger divided her children into three groups based on counting ability. She found that although counting ability was related to the accuracy of the guesses, even children who could only count to 30 guessed bigger numbers for bigger sets of dots.
This went against the previous findings, Barth says. Children do seem to understand the rough meanings of big number words like 80 or 90 even before they can count that high.
Ballingers study has been accepted for a presentation at a professional meeting. She will present her research at the annual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, held in Boston in March. Barth will present another research project completed with Ballinger and AnjaLi Carrasco 07, Rachel Jacobson 08, and Jessica Tsai 07.
Its great to be at a place like Wesleyan where undergrads can get involved with ongoing faculty research, Ballinger says.
Ballinger will continue to work with Barth in the next semester gathering more data for her thesis.
Barth has been working with local children who are rewarded with stickers and prizes for participating, and their parents are compensated for travel expenses and has recently entered into an arrangement with some local schools.
We assure parents that we arent testing the children to see how good they are at math, but rather, finding out how kids in general think about numbers, Barth says. “There are educational implications as well. Understanding these abilities better will help us figure out the most effective ways to teach kids.
|By David Pesci, director of Media Relations. Photo by Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
Professor, Student Study Children’s Ability to Count
Online Incite Magazine Pushes Readers to Take Actions
Students Compete in National Putnam Math Competition
Betty Tishler Celebrates 97th Birthday at Wesleyan
Students Inducted into Scholastic Honor Society Phi Beta Kappa
Wesleyan University Press Receives NEA Grant
Wesleyan Receives State Stem Cell Grants
Grant Targets Treatment of Epileptic Seizures
Wesleyan Students Pedal for Affordable Housing
Scott Plous Named CASE Professor of the Year
Former Wesleyan Professor Burton Hallowell Dies
Faculty Receive Fulbright Scholar Grants
Men’s Soccer Winning Streak Ends at Tourney
Goldsmith Family Cinema to be Dedicated
Residential Life Staff Honored by National Organization
Global Warming Topic of Schumann Symposium
Wesleyan a Top Fulbright Scholar Producer
Former Trainer Walter Grockowski Dies at 86
Scientists Share Research at Biophysics Retreat
Presidential Search Forum Provides Insight
Wes Home Program Teaches Home Maintenance
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by Olivia Drake •
|Rebecca Littman ’08, Thomas Coen ’07, Stacie Szmonko 07 and Aaron Sussman ’07 are the editors of Incite Magazine, which aims to bridge political commentary with the activist community.|
| The power of insight, the power to incite. Thats the motto of a new magazine created by Wesleyan students that links progressive political commentary with action.
Incite Magazine founded by Thomas Coen 07, Aaron Sussman 07 and Rebecca Littman 08, features articles that call for a compassionate and honest world while providing readers with the tools and resources to help fight for it. The magazine is updated online as new content is edited at http://www.incitemagazine.org/ and augmented by a periodically-published print edition.
Launched Nov. 20, Incite was founded by with a grant from Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress. The Wesleyan Student Assembly also supports the not-for-profit publication.
According to the magazines mission statement, Incite Magazine is a collaboration among students at Wesleyan who believe that progressive ends must be realized through free exchanges of ideas, opinions, and critiques that are then applied to action. The editors not only aim to offer incisive, well-researched commentary and bold, responsible reporting, but to provide a network for writers and activists who share progressive principles and to conclude each article with information on how to become active and involved.
We started Incite Magazine because we saw a gap between the political commentary community and the activist community, Coen says. We wanted to bridge that divide so that people dont just analyze what the problems are, but also connect that to what people can do about those problems, how they can work to make the world a better place.
Connecting the article with action is what sets Incite apart from other online magazines, Sussman explains. At the end of every article is a What You Can Do About It segment.
I will often read an article in the progressive press that exposes the truth and evokes anger. But the next step is asking, what can I do about this? Sussman says. Every article in Incite, provides ways for readers to get involved in social action, whether that is writing to Congress, contacting local media or joining a demonstration.
The editors also encourage readers to submit their own views.
Incite has eight sections including Iraq, The Constitution, The Media, Domestic Politics, Foreign Policy, Labor and Economics, Science and Technology and Activism. Under each of these headings, readers will find articles on that topic. For example, under the Science & Technology heading, Leah Katz writes about Arming Women in the Battle Against HIV/AIDS: The Case for Microbicides, and under the Foreign Policy heading, Coen writes about A Life-Long Supply of Genocide and Bushs Democracy Doctrine.
Sussmans article They Hate Our Freedom: The Truth About the Military Commissions Act,” under The Constitution section, was picked up by at least six other publications and was an official source on Google News.
On the magazines online version, readers can listen to several interviews conducted by members of the Incite staff. Coen and Ben Levinger have posted their interviews of Ned Lamont, Connecticuts former democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate and Emily Biuso, internship director for The Nation, and others. Sussman has posted many interviews, including with Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war peace activist and Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU.
In addition, the Web site offers an overabundance of useful links to sites on Iraq, law and human rights, media resources, media activists, government watchdogs, think tanks and other online magazines. It also features an action calendar, which includes upcoming events that involve political activism, advocacy or expression.
Incite wants to be a resource for several activist groups, and be used as a tool to connect them to the Wesleyan, Middletown, and broader community, Littman says.
The editors each have extensive experience with activism and journalism, ranging form working as a page in the U.S. Senate to interning with the ACLU and People for the American Way to studying political policy in Uganda and Cameroon. Additionally, Sussman has had articles published in several publications including alternet.org, the Atlantic Free Press, mediachannel.org, Eat the State! and In Motion Magazine.
Since three of the four editors will be graduating this spring, they are seeking writers, editorial staff, activists, photographers, designers and technology and Web specialists. The editors hope younger members of the Wesleyan community will take over the reigns in future years.
Stacie Szmonko 07 is the publications editor-in-chief. She hopes the experience with Incite will lead her to a career with a political magazine after college. Meanwhile, its an ideal way to gain experience and voice her opinions.
Ive always had a deep interest in progressive politics, critiquing the mainstream media and writing argumentative articles, she says. We hope new writers will join our discussion and help us create a magazine and community that can positively influence the way we see the world and our own potential to change it something that can Incite true progress.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
| Wesleyan University Press will be the recipient of a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant was awarded for the publication, promotion and distribution of new collections of poetry.
The press requested support for the publication and promotion of 12 poetry books that will be published in the Wesleyan Poetry Series in 2007 and 2008. Forthcoming titles to be covered by the grant include New and Collected Poems by Barbara Guest, a new edition of Victor Segalens modernist classic Stèles, and Zong by Marlene NourbeSe Philip.
We are delighted that the NEA is recognizing the importance of Wesleyans program, explains Suzanne Tamminen, director of Wesleyan University Press. Their support will not only help us cover publishing costs; it will aid in our marketing efforts,Leslie Starr, assistant director and marketing manager, says a portion of the NEA funds will go towards the presss Web site development. The press hopes to reach a larger student audience, and to increase the course adoption of its poetry books by utilizing the Web.
To this end, new Web pages will be designed for a select group of Wesleyan poetry books, specifically to enhance their usefulness in the classroom setting.
These pages will provide context for the books, links to author interviews, reviews, and audio clips, as well as essay topics and suggested further reading, Tamminen says.
The Presss staff consists of Tamminen, Starr, Stephanie Elliott, publicist; and Eric Levy, senior editor. Their office is located at 215 Long Lane in Middletown, across from the Physical Plant building.
Wesleyan University Press is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2007. The press is best known for its poetry series, which has included such notable poets as James Dickey, James Wright, Robert Bly, Marge Piercy, Ellen Bryant Voigt and Yusef Komunyakaa, among others.
The press has continued the tradition of publishing top-notch poetry, having won the 2004 National Book Award for poetry, for Jean Valentines Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 19652003, and the 2006 International Griffin Poetry Prize, for Kamau Brathwaites Born to Slow Horses.
For more information visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/wespress/.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
At left, Daniel Greengard ’08, Albert Hill ’07 and David Pollack, assistant professor of mathematics, work through problems, which were part of the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition held Dec. 2.
| During a recent mathematics test, which spanned six hours, Daniel Greengard 08 believes he only got one question completely correct out of 12.
But getting only one question correct puts him in the top half of all test-takers, explains David Pollack, assistant professor of mathematics and faculty-advisor for the 67th Annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition held Dec. 2.
The Putnam exam tests originality and technical competence, and contestants are expected to be familiar with formal theories embodied in undergraduate mathematics. All the necessary work to justify an answer and all the necessary steps of a proof must be shown clearly to obtain full credit.
Greengard was one of nine Wesleyan students who competed in the national competition. The annual contest began in 1938 and is designed to stimulate a healthy rivalry in mathematical studies in the colleges and universities of the United States and Canada.
Since the Putman problems come from many different areas of mathematics, occasionally we see a problem that somehow relates to a course that one of us is taking, but rarely do theorems from the course help, says Greengard, a mathematics major who has competed three times. Only basic knowledge of math is needed to solve most of the problems. For solving the Putnam problems, creativity and cleverness are much more helpful than knowledge of math.
Although practicing for the test is not necessary, Pollack ran Putnam practice sessions every Friday afternoon.
The practice sessions allow the students to work through similar problems together and share ideas with one another, Pollack says.
But during the test, they compete as individuals, which involves taking two, three-hour examinations under the supervision of a mathematics faculty member. Since the test grading is extensive, results wont be posted until April 2007.
Prizes are awarded to the institutions with the five winning teams. The top three teams receive cash prizes of $15,000 to 25,000. The five highest ranking individuals are designated Putnam Fellows by the Mathematical Association of America.
Putnam exam-taker Albert Hill 07, who is double majoring in mathematics and music, says most of the problems can be solved without using anything above linear algebra and multi-variable calculus. He recommends anyone who enjoys thinking creatively about intricate math problems would enjoy taking the exam.
These arent problems you find on homework, Hill says. These require multi-level, multi-step thinking and are much more interesting.
The competition is open only to regularly enrolled undergraduates, in colleges and universities of the United States and Canada, who have not yet received a college degree. No individual may participate in the competition more than four times.
The other students who competed this year include Jacob Goldin ’07, Daniel Hore ’07, Surendra Kunwar ’10, Jamie Macia ’07, Isaac Levy ’09, Yudhishthir Kandel ’09 and Nathan Fieldsteel ’10.
The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is administered by The Mathematical Association of America.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|