Campus News & Events

Recycle Maniacs at Wesleyan


Posted 03/01/06

Wesleyan University is one of 93 colleges and universities nationwide competing in a recycling program through April 8.

 

As part of RecycleMania 2006, Wesleyan aims to collect the largest amount of recyclables, the least amount of trash, and have the highest recycling rate over a 10 week period. A RecycleMania trophy will be presented to the winning school.

 

Schools participating in RecycleMania 2006 represent 33 states, 880,000 students and more than 275,000 faculty and staff. Eight of 11 campuses in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), including Wesleyan, are RecycleManiacs.

 

Bill Nelligan, associate director of Environmental Health and Safety works with Dainty Rubbish Service of Middletown to determine the totals in each collection category. Dainty collects and removes trash and recyclables from campus. Nelligan reports measurements on a weekly basis, via RecycleMania’s Web site, www.recyclemaniacs.org, which also has more information on the project.

 

RecycleMania is endorsed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise program, the National Recycling Coalition’s College and University Recycling Council and the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology Program.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Student Wrestler Wins NECCWA Championship


Dan deLalla ’07, pictured on top, received the New England College Conference Wrestling Association (NECCWA) Championship title at 157 pounds.
Posted 03/01/06
Wrestling team co-captain Dan deLalla ’07 received the New England College Conference Wrestling Association (NECCWA) Championship title at 157 pounds during the match, hosted by Wesleyan Feb. 18 and 19.

deLalla becomes Wesleyan first NCAA qualifier since Brian Fair ’01 captured the 149-pound title in 2001. DeLalla traveled to the College of New Jersey for the NCAA Division III Championships March 3 and 4. deLalla competed in the 157-pount weight class for Wesleyan and lost to third-seeded Robert Gingerrich of North Central, 13-7, in the opening round. He then lost by pin (1:26) to Ryan Herwig of Delaware Valley in the consolation round.

deLalla injured his left elbow during the preseason, sat out the entire regular season but continued to train and practice on his own throughout the winter.

Two other Cardinals took all-New England honors at their weights as Josh Wildes ’08 placed third at 133 pounds and Mike Lima ’08 took fifth at 197 pounds

 
By Brian Katten, Sports Information Director

Board of Trustees Approves Tuition, Fee Increases


In 2006-07, room rates for students will increase.
Posted 03/01/06
On Feb. 25, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees set tuition, room and board rates for the 2006-2007 academic year. Tuition and fees will increase 5 percent to $34,844. Room rates will increase 8 percent, bringing the base double room rate to $5,808, and the base 12-meal dining plan rate will increase 5 percent to $3,732.

The increase in the room rate reflects the escalating cost of utilities in the residence facilities. Wesleyan is also continuing a program to renovate residence halls to improve safety and security. This summer will see completion of the installation of proximity access locks on all undergraduate residence hall facilities accommodating more than 20 students. Tamper-resistant ground-floor windows in the Foss Hill residences and improved fire alarm and sprinkler systems will be installed; lounges will also be renovated.

Additionally, in response to requests from students and parents, senior houses and apartments will be furnished; $200 will be added to the room rate for these units for this purpose. This change was endorsed by the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee, which includes representatives from the Wesleyan Student Assembly, Physical Plant and Residential Life.

Maintaining Wesleyan’s commitment to providing access to students from all backgrounds remains one of the university’s highest priorities. Wesleyan provides financial aid awards that meet 100 percent of demonstrated need. Awards typically include loans, campus employment and grants. In 2005-06, 44 percent of students received grant awards averaging $24,756; scholarships for all four classes totaled $29.3 million.

Wesleyan continues to manage its finances strategically and prudently. The university administration has been efficient in this endeavor, having one of the lowest ratios of administrative costs to educational expense among our peers. While Wesleyan continues to identify new efficiencies, the university administration has been mindful to do so in a way that does not compromise support of the primary academic mission of the university. Wesleyan remains committed to strong financial discipline while providing a first-rate liberal arts and science education that prepares its students to be leaders in a global society.

 
By Justin Harmon, director of University Communications

Wesleyan’s Basketball Team Encourages Green Street Students to Aim High


Pictured left to right, 9-year-old Monica gets homework help from Wesleyan basketball players Gabe Gonzalez-Kreisberg ’09, Jared Ashe ’07 and Nick Pelletier ’08 during the Green Street Arts Center After School Program. Below, Gonzalez-Kreisberg, who helped launch an ongoing tutoring volunteer initiative goes over a book report with 7-year-old J.J. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Posted 02/16/06

Students involved in Middletown’s Green Street Arts Center After School Program look up to Wesleyan University’s basketball team in more ways than one.

“They always tell me that I’m so tall!” exclaims Gabe Gonzalez-Kreisberg, a 6-ft. 8-inch tall Wesleyan freshman, recalling how students he helps tutor at the center, like 7-year-old J.J., describe him.

Gonzalez-Kreisberg recently helped launch an ongoing tutoring volunteer initiative at Green Street Arts Center with Wesleyan University’s basketball players.

The idea first occurred to Gonzalez-Kreisberg after Wesleyan basketball coach Gerry McDowell encouraged his team to volunteer in the Middletown area during their winter break from classes.

Gonzalez-Kreisberg remembered an e-mail he received from Wesleyan’s community service office calling for tutors at Green Street’s After School Program. He then mentioned the program to Coach McDowell and the entire team immediately agreed to help.

As a result, in shifts of four players per day, the basketball team began to regularly tutor Middletown children enrolled in the program. Even now, with spring semester underway, a handful of players continue to tutor in their free time.

“Many athletes have a sense that things should be given to them, and I wanted our team to know that they should give something back to the community,” says McDowell. “Our team is a solid group of guys, who all care about one another on and off the court and this is important for them to do as a team.”

“I love math and I always encourage the kids to stay with it and to have fun,” says Jared Ashe, the Wesleyan basketball team captain and a junior Economics major from Stamford, Conn. “In sports, great coaching motivates you to play your best. I want to motivate the kids with their homework in the same way.”

When they arrive at the Green Street Arts Center, the students, who range in age from seven to 14, eat a snack and socialize a bit with friends. Then the students who are not enrolled in arts classes go to the homework room where several tutors, including the basketball players, are stationed to assist them.

After helping students finish their homework, which can be in a variety of subjects including math and reading, the players often talk with the kids and sometimes play board games with them.

Ashe, who has always enjoyed tutoring his peers even back in high school, says the board games help to motivate the students to follow through and finish up their homework.

Thirteen year-old Elijah always wants to finish his homework, he says, because that means Gonzalez-Kreisberg will tell him a story afterwards.

“One time, Gabe told me how he touched the court at an Orlando Magic game!” shouts Elijah.

During every tutoring session, Wesleyan’s basketball players agree that the students always seem to get excited about their schoolwork.

“I think one reason why is that we’re such a close group of guys that are all genuinely happy to help out,” says Ashe.

Gonzalez-Kreisberg says another reason why is because he and his teammates act as mentors for the students.

“Because we play a sport and because these students are impressed by the NBA, it allows us to connect directly to them,” says Gonzalez-Kreisberg.

“We try to always stress to them that we are just people who happen to play basketball and that we’re strong in our academics first, then in athletics,” he says.

Despite heavy academic and athletic schedules, both Ashe and Gonzalez-Kreisberg, and other players, like sophomore Nick Pelletier from Amherst, New Hampshire, are committed to continue tutoring at Green Street. Even Coach McDowell has committed to spend some time tutoring at the Center before the year is out.

“Having the team volunteer during Winter break was a tremendous help as we are often left with no student volunteers until classes resume in late January,” says Ricardo Morris, Director of the Green Street Arts Center. “It was also especially nice to have so many male volunteers. I hope the basketball team and other males will consider volunteering at Green Street more often.”

“This is such a positive experience for us as individuals and as a team,” says Ashe. “Hopefully it will continue long after we have all graduated from Wesleyan.”

For more information about how to become a Green Street Arts Center volunteer, please contact volunteer coordinator Lauren Tinkoff at ltinkoff@wesleyan.edu or visit www.greenstreetartscenter.org.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Grant will Support Lecture Series on Ethics, Politics, Society


Posted 02/16/06
Wesleyan received a $200,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support an ongoing lecture series titled Ethics, Politics and Society. The award was given in honor of Douglas Bennet’s 10 years as president of Wesleyan University.

“Wesleyan’s history of diversity, openness, and activism provides an environment that embraces the opportunity for scholarly discourse around issues of ethics, politics and society,” Bennet wrote in the endowment proposal. “As a liberal arts college, we have a responsibility to produce graduates who are able to think and act strategically within an ethical and moral framework. A permanent lecture fund, which does not have to compete each year for scarce financial resources, will go far in helping us achieve this goal.”

The grant, awarded in December 2005, will allow Wesleyan to bring prominent speakers to campus who will engage faculty and students in intellectual discussions of critical and sensitive ethical, political and social issues.

The lecture fund will serve multiple university objectives. It will stimulate intellectual life on campus by introducing new perspectives and experiences to current issues; promote positive and civil political discourse; lay a foundation for lifelong participation as concerned and engaged citizens; and complement efforts already underway to incorporate ethical reasoning in the curriculum.

Expenditures from the Mellon-funded program, estimated at $10,000 a year, will be used for an honorarium, travel expenses and associated costs for the speaker to give a public lecture, attend a class and/or meet informally with faculty and students for one or two days.

“As on many college campuses, Wesleyan recognizes that recent national events, as well as ongoing political and social unrest in several parts of the world, have altered how students view society as well as how they discuss their views,” Bennet says. “As students and later as graduates of Wesleyan, they will be faced with moral and ethical choices. This will be true, he says, in whatever courses of study or careers our students choose to pursue, from business to scientific research to politics to art.”

Wesleyan is already stressing ethical reasoning in the curriculum. Wesleyan has hired new faculty positions in ethics and encourages faculty to designate courses that stress ethical reasoning.

The university also has established a faculty workshop to help them integrate ethics in their courses. This year, students can chose from among 88 courses with an ethics designation.

“Wesleyan has a responsibility to prepare students to think clearly about current issues, to make informed choices and resolve conflict between diverse viewpoints,” Bennet says.

Grant Supports Professor’s Research on DNA, RNA Structure and Dynamics


David Beveridge, pictured at right, the University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics and professor of chemistry studies molecular dynamics of biological molecules and systems with postdoctoral fellow Bethany Kormos and research associate Surjit Dixit.

Posted 02/16/06

By simulating complex protein and polynucleotide structures on a supercomputer, a Wesleyan professor has been able to study one the fundamental events that lead to gene expression in biological systems.

David Beveridge, University Professor of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of chemistry, has spent the past 20 years studying various aspects of the structures, molecular motions and binding properties of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid) using theoretical methods. DNA and RNA are informational macromolecules that control the composition of proteins necessary to life structures and processes.

Beveridge recently received a $241,950 Academic Research Enhancement Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to continue his project “Theoretical and Molecular Dynamics Simulation Studies of U1A-RNA Binding and Specificity.” U1A is an important human protein that interacts with RNA.

“Biological processes involved in gene expression are all controlled by protein-DNA and protein- RNA interactions,” Beveridge explains. “We study the nature of these interactions at the molecular level, and how the molecules involved recognize each other with such high fidelity.”

An understanding of how RNA-protein complexes form and are stabilized is important for understanding the splicing out of stretches of DNA.

Molecular dynamics simulations in this project were motivated by questions posed in experiments performed by Anne Baranger, associate professor of chemistry; and they have been collaborating on protein RNA projects for several years. Bethany Kormos, who is supported by a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship, and Surjit Dixit, senior research associate, are key coworkers on this project and “really do the work,” Beveridge says.

“David has been a fantastic colleague to collaborate with because he is particularly talented at developing projects that aim to investigate and understand fundamental important problems in his field,” Baranger explains. “It has been valuable to me as an experimentalist to work with a person who has developed theoretical methods to answer questions that are difficult to achieve experimentally.”

To progress in his research, Beveridge and his colleagues study the factors contributing to the stability of RNA-protein complexes with a particular emphasis on “dynamical structure,” the nature and significance of molecular motions involved in the complex formation.

Molecular simulations of this type are quite computationally intensive. The Beveridge group carries out their calculations with high performance computers at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. The communication between Wesleyan and NCSA to run simulations involves over the Internet.

The results of a simulation are returned to laboratories at Wesleyan over the Internet and are analyzed locally for these properties using advanced computer graphics work stations.

“Remote access to national supercomputer facilities enables cutting edge research in this field from even a small university vantage point, makes it possible simulate model systems quite close to those involved in experiments,” Beveridge says. “We can computer model systems closer to laboratory conditions than I ever dreamed of 40 years ago.”

Beveridge grew up in the “Sputnik Era” and found the launching of the Soviet space satellite as an incentive to study science. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio in 1959 and his Ph.D in physical chemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 1965. Under a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, he studied molecular quantum mechanics at the Centre de Mécanique Ondulatoire Appliquée in Paris, and continued his postdoctoral studies in quantum chemistry at Carnegie-Mellon University with Professor J.A. Pople, a Nobel laureate.

In addition to research and teaching, Beveridge serves as Wesleyan’s co-director with Ishita Mukerji of the NIH-supported graduate training program and the undergraduate certificate in molecular biophysics.

“David is certainly one of the department’s most successful scientists,” says Mukerji, chair of the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. “He has brought much recognition to the department and to the Molecular Biophysics program.”

Beveridge has served Wesleyan as Dean of Natural Science and Mathematics for seven years and currently holds the title of University Professor of the Natural Science and Mathematics.

Beveridge has overseen a number of undergraduate research projects at Wesleyan, and has mentored both bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D students in their dissertation research. Recent master’s graduates include Duk Blakaj ‘99, now a medical doctor/Ph.D student at Einstein Medical School, and Laura Vickers ’05, who is currently a medical doctor student at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Matthew Young ’92, who initially worked with Beveridge as an undergraduate and continued on to get a Ph.D, has just been appointed to the faculty of the University of Michigan’s Medical School as an assistant professor of biological chemistry and bioinformatics. Five former research students now hold positions as college or university professors – “my greatest achievement,”  Beveridge says.

By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor


Professor Looks for Similarities in Science, Art

Six years ago, David Beveridge began combining teaching and personal interests in the visual arts with scholarship.

Along with Mariah Klaneski ’04, he developed two classes, Science and Modernism and more recently, Science and Art. In Science and Art, interested students, even those with no particular science background, learn basic concepts in class and in the associated laboratory make paper and fresco, synthesize their own pigments using chemical reactions, make paint of various types, and use all their own materials to make original works of art.

“An ultimate experience in learning by doing,” Beveridge says.

Beveridge’s teaching at Wesleyan now ranges from topics in physical chemistry applied to biological systems to general education courses. His currently active courses at Wesleyan in addition to those mentioned above are Molecular Biophysics, and Macromolecular Modeling and Simulation.

Beveridge has more than a passing interest in the visual arts and has taken “a dozen or so” drawing, painting and photography courses offered by Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program and elsewhere. He is curious about the parallels between the arts and the sciences.

“Both are very experimental in a sense, but make use of images in very different ways,” Beveridge explains. “It is interesting to investigate the extent to which viewer response to art follows natural laws analogous to those of science, and where the similarities and differences in creative process occur between scientists and artists.”

Being at Wesleyan has given Beveridge the chance to be involved in a wide range of academic initiatives, both within the sciences and in other areas of the university.

“I’m pretty much a compulsive learner, and Wesleyan accommodates my natural instinct to be a ‘perpetual student,'” he says.

Neuroscience and Behavior Alumni Present Research, Offer Advice


Pictured left to right, front row: Gloster Aaron, assistant professor of biology; John Seamon, professor of psychology; Janice Naegele, associate professor of biology; John Dekker, candidate, department of neurobiology, Harvard Medical School; Megan Carey, postdoctoral fellow, neurobiology department, Harvard Medical School; Allan Berlind, professor of biology, emeritus; Joshua Gooley, postdoctoral fellow, Division of Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; David Bodznick, professor of biology; Harry Sinnamon, professor of psychology; John Kirn, chair, neuroscience and behavior program and associate professor, biology; Back row: Sam Sober, postdoctoral fellow, Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, UCSF and Mauricio Delgado, assistant professor, department of psychology, Rutgers University.

Posted 02/16/06
The Neuroscience and Behavior Symposium was held at Wesleyan University on Feb. 11.

Organized by John Kirn, associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior (NS&B) and Chair of Wesleyan’s Neuroscience & Behavior Program, the symposium was designed to allow current Wesleyan undergraduates to discuss the major and research with established alumni of the Neuroscience & Behavior Department. Nearly 60 people attended the symposium, which was followed by lunch and an informal panel discussion.

“I think that current students like to hear first hand about the experiences of others who are a few steps further along in their career paths,” says Kirn, who hoped to also attract to the symposium Wesleyan students who don’t conduct research, and who have limited interactions with graduate students.

“All of our current majors doing research interact with our own graduate students and I think this is a very important mentoring process – yet another reason why we are lucky to have a Ph.D. program,” he says.

Kirn also says the conference was a great opportunity for current students to learn how the speakers structured their own educations at Wesleyan and to find out what their lives are like now.

Current Wesleyan students, like Emily Gallivan and Jessica Ghofrani, both Sophomore NS&B majors, were happy with the small, intimate symposium setting and found the presentations interesting.

Junior NS&B major Tarek Sami agrees.

“I liked hearing about the history of the department and this was a great opportunity to meet alumni and current faculty in the department,” he says.

One of the symposium’s featured speakers was alumna Megan Carey ‘96, now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. Carey also received a master’s from Wesleyan University’s NS&B department in 1997. She presented a talk on her Ph.D, thesis which she earned from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), titled “Visual instructive signals for motor learning.”

Carey’s work suggests a mechanism for how sensory signals represented in specific brain areas can lead to changes in neuronal activities that trigger learned behaviors, such as riding a bike or playing tennis. Carey studied the repeated eye movements of monkeys in order to gather her information.

Another alumni, Sam Sober ‘98, discussed his Ph.D. dissertation research, titled “Sensory Integration During Motor Planning.”

Sober, who also received his Ph.D. from UCSF, is now a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF’s Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience. He spoke about his Ph.D., which involved analyzing the movements that human subjects made when reaching towards targets in a virtual reality environment.

Sober used virtual reality to alter visual imagery, by shifting an image of the subjects arm away from its true location.

“This led to people making reaching errors,” explains Sober. “We analyzed these errors and found that the brain is very adaptable in how it combines visual information with proprioceptive (the felt sense of posture) information.”

Sober says that although his studies focused on healthy individuals, a basic understanding of how the brain integrates different sources of information could help us understand disorders resulting from strokes and traumatic brain injuries.

Sober, who earned a Luce Fellowship, took a year off after graduating from Wesleyan to study acupuncture in Korea. He told the audience that taking a year off between finishing undergraduate studies and beginning graduatestudies or medical school was a good way to stem potential burn out.

Other presentations included “Entrainment of the Circadian Timing System,” by Joshua Gooley ’00; “Reward-related processing in the human striatum,” by Mauricio Delgado ’97 and “Single Channel Analysis of Mammalian HCN Gating,” by John Dekker ’98, ’99.

“These speakers, who once did research in our labs, are now doing excellent work and we wanted to recognize them for their achievements,” says Kirn. “Based on suggestions of some students, we’d like to host something like this again with alumni who aren’t in academic positions – with a theme like ‘Just what can I do with this NS&B degree anyway?’”

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Brown Leaving Provost Position, Will Continue Teaching, Research


Posted 02/16/06

Judith Brown, vice president for academic affairs and provost, will step down from her position June 30. She will spend a year on sabbatical, and return to Wesleyan as a professor of history in 2008.

 

Brown was recruited six years ago to help Wesleyan achieve its highest academic aspirations as a liberal arts university. 

 

“Judith brought extraordinary intelligence and commitment to what is surely one of the most difficult jobs in university administration,” says President Doug Bennet. “I speak for the trustees and all of us in thanking her for her leadership and celebrating her plan to return to scholarship here at Wesleyan.”

 

Brown, who has not has a sabbatical since 1992, has worked in academic administration for 11 years. She made her announcement during a faculty meeting Feb. 14.

 

“I am ready for a change and for a change of pace,” she says. “I would like to take a break, to resume some intellectual projects I have neglected, to explore new intellectual horizons, and above all, to take more time to be with and travel with my family, especially with my husband, Shannon, while we are still able to enjoy a healthy, energetic, and active life.”

 

Bennet will appoint another faculty member as interim vice president for academic affairs and will actively consider nominations.

 

“It is of the greatest importance that we sustain the momentum and direction to which Judith has contributed so much, and meet the objectives in the strategic plan,” Bennet says.

Wesleyan Professor Collaborates with other Universities on Stem Cell Research Initiative


Posted 02/01/06

Laura Grabel, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of biology, is working with Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee on ways to save the state money on a research laboratory.

 

Grabel along with scientists from Yale University and the University of Connecticut, believe at least one core laboratory could be established in the state. The scientists told a panel overseeing Connecticut’s 10-year, $100 million stem cell research initiative that they are willing to collaborate and avoid repeating the same work and save money. They said they could share expensive equipment and conduct certain research with human embryonic cells that is not eligible for federal money and prohibited in facilities built using federal funds.
 

The Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee is in the beginning stages of determining how best to distribute the first chunk – $20 million – of the state’s $100 million investment. The committee hopes to award grants this summer, possibly as early as June 30.

Fish May Help Unmask Muscle Diseases


Stephen Devoto, associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior, studies vertebrate developmental patterns in zebrafish.
Posted 02/01/06
A tiny fish popular with aquarium enthusiasts is poised to make a big splash in our understanding of muscle development. The results could have implications on the comprehension and perhaps treatment of muscular dystrophy, certain types of heart disease and other serious muscle-based ailments.

These findings by Stephen Devoto, associate professor of associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior were recently published in the paper titled “Generality of vertebrate developmental patterns: evidence for a dermomyotome in fish,” in the January issue of the scientific journal Evolution & Development.

Devoto’s research examined the musculature of the tiny zebrafish, an aquarium favorite indigenous to South Asian streams. What the researcher found was that although fish and human beings comprise widely different physical forms, their underlying muscular development is much more similar than scientists had previously believed.

“This research validates the idea that understanding fish development will tell us how human muscle stem cells develop at the very beginning stages,” says Devoto, who has been studying zebrafish at Wesleyan since 1992. “At their very basic level, we found developmental similarities between all vertebrates are much more striking than previously documented.”

In basic terms, Devoto’s work compared the cell layer that contributes to muscle formation in many different vertebrate species, including zebrafish, trout, skates and chickens, among others. He demonstrated that this cell layer in fish, know as the dermomyotome evolved prior to the last common ancestor of all vertebrates.

“It was one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments,” admits Devoto, who has always been fascinated by how cells talk to one another, how they are created and how they morph. “It was the kind of moment that is so rewarding for a scientist.”

But such moments are rare and often require tremendous amounts of work in and out of the lab. In Devoto’s case, the journey actually took him to Europe.

While on sabbatical at Kings College in London during 2004, Devoto engaged in many lengthy talks with Simon Hughes who was Devoto’s host. Hughes, who provided Devoto with laboratory access during his stay in London, is also a fellow co-author, about chicken and frog muscle development.

“Our conversations planted the initial seeds that maybe muscle in all vertebrates is formed the same way,” Devoto says.

Their ideas were solidified after Devoto reviewed a cross section of trout embryos with Walter Stoiber, another co-author, at the University of Salzburg in Austria.

“Surprisingly, these connections had not been demonstrated before,” Devoto says.

After returning to Wesleyan in the summer of 2004, he threw himself into researching the early muscle cell development in as many fish species as he could find.

Katherine Wolfe, an Olin Library assistant in the Interlibrary Loan Department, helped Devoto obtain copies of obscure hand-drawings and research from the 1800 and 1900s. Often he had to do his own translations of the German and French citations.

“I got so excited when I found out one of the journals was in I couldn’t wait to analyze it,” Devoto says. “It turned out that some nineteenth century scientists doing comparative embryology suspected these similarities, but they did not have the ability to provide conclusive evidence back then.

After analyzing their findings, Devoto and co-authors began writing the paper in the fall of 2004.

Devoto and his team continues their research with zebrafish. The tiny fish are a transparent species that is easy to study and breed. Currently, about 5,000 of the fish reside in his laboratory.

One of Devoto’s ongoing projects examines their skeletal muscle signaling protein, named Hedgehog. He and his colleagues learned that, when the protein is intentionally blocked in zebrafish, muscle development is disrupted. With his new work demonstrating close similarities between fish and humans in muscle development, Devoto believes that it is very likely that Hedgehog signaling is required for muscle development in humans. Anomalies in this signaling may underlie some muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy and certain types of heart disease.

Devoto and his undergraduate and graduate students are also trying to find out what happens next to the embryonic zebrafish muscle cells after they form.

“We’re now extending our thought process and asking ourselves where do the cells go from this point and what exactly does this mean?”

 
By Laura Perillo,  associate director of Media Relations

“Ferocious Beauty: Genome”  Premiers at Wesleyan


“Ferocious Beauty: Genome” premiered Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 in the Center for the Arts Theater.

Posted 02/01/06

How we heal, age, procreate and eat may soon change because of genetic research happening right now. The world premiere of renowned choreographer Liz Lerman’s “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” explores this moment of revelation and questioning in an arresting theatrical work that combines movement, music, text and film.

 

The world premier of “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” took place Feb. 3 and Feb. 4, in the Center for the Arts Theater.

 

The piece is the result of an unprecedented partnership with scientists and ethicists to confront the promise and threat of a new biological age.

 

For the past three years, the CFA and Wesleyan faculty have partnered with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, led by Liz Lerman, to explore the ethical and social repercussions of genetic research. The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange is a professional company of dance artists that creates, performs, teaches, and engages people in making art.

 

Through relationships with Wesleyan’s science faculty and students, Wesleyan served as a “laboratory” for Lerman’s development of the piece. This collaboration reflects both the Dance Exchange’s and Wesleyan’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, as the project has initiated an unprecedented dialogue between scientists and artists. The outcome will be represented through a plurality of viewpoints, mirroring a dialogue among multiple voices—artistic, scientific and scholarly—in their varied perspectives.

 

Wesleyan provided extensive information, assistance and feedback in helping Lerman to create the piece.

 

“The piece took a conceptual turn several times because of the contributions from the scientists at Wesleyan,” Lerman says. “And, the fact that one of the scientists is a dancer made the leap between the two disciplines easier.”

 

The partnership with Wesleyan has also resulted in the most comprehensive residency ever undertaken by a dance company at Wesleyan. Lerman joined Wesleyan’s dance faculty as a visiting assistant professor for fall 2005. Students in her class had the opportunity to explore scientific, ethical and social issues related to genetic research.

 

Liz Lerman, who received a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship in 2002 for her visionary work, exposed Wesleyan students and faculty to the Dance Exchange’s methods and interdisciplinary approach. The ultimate goal was to refine ways to teach science to non-scientists and to gain knowledge through embodied movement.

 

Wesleyan and the Flint Cultural Center in Flint, Mich. are the lead commissioners of “Ferocious Beauty: Genome.”

 

The show will soon tour major performing arts centers including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Krannert Center for Performing Arts at the University of Illinois.

 

For more information on the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange visit http://www.danceexchange.org/.

Events Educate About Diversity


Posted 02/01/06
As part of Wesleyan’s on-going efforts to provide staff education dedicated to diversity issues, the Office of Affirmative Action is sponsoring a workshop, “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Academic Workplace,” on Feb. 9.

The workshop will be offered twice: at 9:30 a.m. in the Russell House, and at 1:30 p.m. in Woodhead Lounge. Each session meets for two hours and 15 minutes.

“This workshop will provide frameworks for understanding sexual orientation and gender identity in a more integrated way and offer participants in-community perspectives on work-related issues,” explains Michael Benn, interim director of Affirmative Action.

The workshop will be conducted by Dorothea Brauer, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning & Ally Services, Diversity & Equity at the University of Vermont.

Topics of discussion will include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights, same-sex marriages versus civil unions, benefits and family configurations.

Participants will have opportunities to work with language and terminology and become more culturally competent and confident that their workplace conversations are respectful and inclusive.

Wesleyan’s revised and expanded policy on discrimination and harassment can be found online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/affirm/policy_harassment.html.

Space is limited to 30 participants per workshop. For more information or to register e-mail Janice Watson at jwatson@wesleyan.edu or call 860-685-2006.


Pedro Noguera Challenges Racial Inequality in Schools

The Office of Affirmative Action and The Center for Faculty Career Development sponsored a discussion titled “Challenging Racial Inequality in Our Schools” featuring Pedro Noguera on Feb. 1

Noguera, a professor specializing in urban sociology in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University, spoke on the ways schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment.

Noguera has served as an advisor and engaged in collaborative research with several large urban school districts throughout the United States. He has also done research on issues related to education and economic and social development in the Caribbean, Latin America and several other countries throughout the world.