Faculty

Starr, Mukerji Explore Ways to Better Engage Students, Faculty in the Sciences

Professors Francis Starr and Ishita Mukerji recently participated in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education at Princeton University.

Professors Francis Starr and Ishita Mukerji recently participated in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education at Princeton University.

For their efforts enhancing undergraduate science education and supporting teaching innovations, two Wesleyan faculty members were named National Academies Education Fellows in the Sciences for 2015-2016.

Francis Starr, professor of physics and director of the College of Integrative Sciences, and Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received the fellowships while participating in the 2015 National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education, held June 14-19 at Princeton University.

The Summer Institute, a five-day program of discussions, demonstrations and workshops, brought college and university faculty together to develop teaching skills. Co-sponsored by the National Academies and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Starr, Mukerji and 44 other participants were taught ways to transform the undergraduate classroom and engage students and fellow faculty in the sciences. Current research, active learning, assessment and diversity were woven into the program, creating a forum to share ideas and develop innovative instructional materials to be implemented at each participant’s home institution.

Pictured at far right, wearing a striped shirt, Francis Starr worked with more than 40 other faculty from around New England at the Summer Institute. 

Pictured at far right, wearing a striped shirt, Francis Starr worked with more than 40 other faculty from around New England at the Summer Institute. (Photo by Jill Feldman/Princeton University)

“Wesleyan’s commitment to teaching innovation puts us at the forefront of improving undergraduate education that is essential to prepare future scientists and scientifically literate citizens,” Starr said.

During the institute, Starr and Mukerji developed a “teachable tidbit” with four other institute participants. These tidbits can be implemented in a course during the academic year. In addition, Starr and Mukerji are planning to speak about their experiences to fellow faculty at an NSM luncheon. They’re also working on creating an Academic (Technology) Roundtable meeting with one of the co-directors of the institute.

“Francis and I were both interested in learning these new teaching methods and we’re excited to share them with others on campus,” Mukerji said.

Yohe Reappointed to NYC Climate Change Panel

Gary Yohe has been reappointed to the New York City Panel on Climate Change.

Gary Yohe has been reappointed to the New York City Panel on Climate Change.

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, was reappointed by Mayor Bill DeBlasio to the third New York City Panel on Climate Change on June 30.

Yohe and 18 other experts are tasked with ensuring that the best available climate science continues to inform the city’s resiliency planning. The panel will build on reports by previous panels, and will “look at climate risks through the lens of inequality at a neighborhood scale, as well as focus on ways to enhance coordination of mitigation and resiliency across the entire New York metropolitan region,” according to a press release from the Mayor’s Office.

The panel is an independent body that advises the city on climate risks and resiliency using the best available data. The panel’s report, to be released in 2016, will look at topics including regional climate projections focused on extreme events; community-based assessment of adaptation and equity; critical infrastructure systems, with a focus on interdependent transportation and energy systems in the greater New York City region; expanded climate resiliency indicators and monitoring system; and enhanced mapping protocols. The panel’s second report, released in Feb. 2015, can be read here.

Yohe also is professor of economics, professor of environmental studies.

Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education Featured on ‘Where We Live’

WNPR’s “Where We Live” explored college prison programs, a dwindling resource that has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to prevent recidivism, in a conversation featuring Dara Young, program manager for Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education, and Michael McAlear, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, who teaches in the program.

Young was asked why teaching the liberal arts is effective in prison programs.

“The type of thinking that we hope to encourage through a liberal arts education is particularly important when we’re talking about people who are incarcerated,” said Young. “We regularly hear from our students that the experience of taking liberal arts classes is just transformative. When you expose people to new ideas, to new ways to thinking about the world, it helps them to understand how they got to where they got, and what the mistakes were that they made along the way that helped them to reach this point in their life. I think it also helps them understand what the opportunities are for them to change and to become different, so when they are released, […] they come out as better people than they were when they started.”

Shapiro Reads from Fables in a Modern Key

Norman Shapiro, professor of french.

Norman Shapiro

On June 28, Norman Shapiro, professor of French, provided light verse readings, including a passage from his recently translated Fables in a Modern Key, as part of the Find Your Park summer festival event series. The reading took place at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

Shapiro is a member of the Academy of American Poets and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française.

Fables was written by by Pierre Coran (whose real name is Eugene Delaisse), a poet and novelist of the Belgian French-language. One of Begium’s most renowned poets with some 45 poetry books published to date, he also is the author of 25 published novels, 24 books of fables, hundreds of comic book stories, and several albums which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. His children’s stories and fables are published around the world, but this the first selection of his fables to be translated into English in a full length book format.

Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site was home to 19th century poet and scholar Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family from 1837–1950. The historic 1759 colonial mansion also was General George Washington’s first major headquarters during the American Revolution. The house and its collections were a gift to the nation from Longfellow’s descendants in 1972. Its extensive collections and grounds represent more than 250 years of America’s history and literature.

Shapiro’s book can be found here.

Scott Published in Routledge’s The Modernist Reader

Stanley Scott

Stanley Scott

Stanley Scott, private lessons teacher in music, authored a chapter titled “Modernism in South Asian Art Music,” published in the The Modernist World, part of the Routledge Worlds series, in 2015.

Scott traces modernism in South Asian art music from its 18th century roots to the 21st century. The examples, drawn from Pakistan, North India and Bangladesh, represent parallel developments throughout South Asia. The seeds of South Asian modernism were sown in 18th century Calcutta, with the emergence of British orientalist scholarship and the development of the urban South Asian intelligentsia. The orientalist discovery of India’s “golden age” allowed Hindu nationalists to find inspiration in an India that predated both European colonization and Islamic rule. North Indian music, in particular, served sometimes as an icon of national identity, sometimes of revived Hindu hegemony, and sometimes of an Indo-Islamic synthesis.

5 Faculty Receive Endowed Professorships

In recognition of their career achievements, five faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1:

Stephen Angle, professor of philosophy and East Asian studies, is receiving the Mansfield Freeman Professorship in East Asian Studies, established in 1986.

Lisa Cohen, associate professor of English, is receiving the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Chair. The Bennet Chair, endowed in 2007, is awarded for a five-year term to a newly tenured associate professor exhibiting exceptional achievement and evidence of future promise.

Andrew Curran, professor of French and outgoing Dean of Arts and Humanities, is receiving the William Armstrong Professorship of the Humanities, established in 1921.

Lori Gruen, professor of philosophy, environmental studies, and feminist, gender and sexuality studies, is receiving the William Griffin Professorship of Philosophy, established in 1885.

Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and outgoing Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and director of technology initiatives, is receiving the Fisk Professorship of Natural Science, established in 1839.

President Roth Discusses the History of Freud’s Couch

Seventy-five years after Sigmund Freud’s death, the father of psychoanalysis’ couch has remained a powerful symbol in our culture. The public radio show 99% Invisible interviewed President Michael Roth, a Freud historian, for an episode exploring the history and cultural significance of Freud’s couch.

Freud, and others of his time, used a couch as part of hypnosis–a cutting edge but controversial treatment. One of Freud’s patients, a wealthy woman named Franny Moser who was struggling from multiple ailments, proved difficult to hypnotize.

“He wasn’t a very good hypnotist. He was kind of a clumsy hypnotist,” explained Roth. “Freud would say, ‘You’re getting sleepy, you’re getting sleepy,’ and she’d say, ‘No I’m not! I’m not sleepy at all.'” Instead of getting sleepy, Moser would talk. At first, Freud tried to interrupt her with his theories, but she insisted on talking.

Then, Roth said, Freud realized that if he just let patients talk and didn’t say anything, they would let down their defenses, revealing their unconscious.

“This is the moment when the pre-Freudian Freud becomes the Freudian Freud,” Roth said. These new techniques and theories for therapy would come to be called psychoanalysis.

“The couch, especially Freud’s couch, it came to symbolize an invitation to open your mind, to let someone see inside,” Roth said. “It’s a reminder that we have the ability to reveal ourselves. And it’s irresistible, right? It’s like a magic carpet. I can get on the couch and suddenly I’ll say things that reveal what I really love…when my whole life I’ve been pretending to love other things.”

Grossman Presents Papers in Switzerland, Norway

The economic crisis that led to the recent recession is only one of the reasons Grossman decided to write Unsettled Account. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman, professor of economics, recently presented a talk titled, “An historical perspective on regulatory competition versus cooperation: the view from economics” at the third annual Conference of the University Research Priority Program. The conference, held June 1-2 at the University of Zurich Institute of Law, was titled, “International Aspects of Financial Regulation: Competition vs. Coordination.”

Grossman’s talk focused on cross-border cooperation between international bank regulators in the wake of the U.S. subprime and European debt crises—an effort to enhance banking stability. Examples include the Basel capital accords and European Stability Mechanism. Grossman put these into historical context by looking at episodes of cooperation—and competition—between federal and state regulators in the U.S. during the 19th and early 20th centuries. He presented evidence on several episodes in which state and federal regulators loosened regulations to help banks under their supervision gain a competitive advantage over banks in neighboring jurisdictions. Although cooperation is feasible in some areas of regulation, Grossman argued that regulators will always be inclined to compete—that is, favor their own banks at the expense of others.

On June 20, Grossman presented a paper at the Third CERP Economic History Symposium, held at Norges Bank, Norway’s central bank, in Oslo.

The paper, co-authored by Grossman and Masami Imai, professor of economics, professor of East Asian studies, is titled “Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain: The Impact of Connected Directors on 19th Century British Banks.

The paper utilizes data on the presence of prominent individuals—that is, those with political (e.g., Members of Parliament) and aristocratic titles (e.g., lords) — on the boards of directors of English and Welsh banks from 1879-1909 to investigate whether the appointment of well-connected directors enhanced equity value for bank shareholders.

Their analysis of panel data shows that the appointment of connected directors did not increase equity returns (as measured by the capital gain plus dividend yield on bank shares), but rather that the appointment of MPs to directorships had negative effects on bank equity returns.

Ulysse Reflects on Violence Against Blacks in Charleston, Dominican Republic

In a blog post on Africa is a CountryProfessor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse reflects on two horrific stories in the news: the mass deportation of thousands of migrant workers and their families of Haitian background from the Dominican Republic, and the killing of nine people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

The “ethnic purging” taking place in the Dominican Republic, writes Ulysse, “is a rejection of a certain kind of Black. Blackness that is too African.”

She continues:

Despite our somatic plurality and the color gradations we encompass, Haiti and Haitians have always been portrayed and understood as that kind of Black. A Blackness of a particular kind that, truth be re-told, radically changed the world. It was an avant-garde Blackness that not only pulled off a successful slave revolution, which caused the disorder of all things colonial, but also brought the sanctity of whiteness into question. The Haitian Revolution disrupted the notion that Freedom (with a capital F) was the sole domain of whites or those close to whiteness. Indeed, the value ascribed to those Black Lives continue to deteriorate. Moreover, those among us who are visibly marked with that Blackness have had to continually dissuade folks that we are not genetically coded to be their property or the help.

Ulysse writes that the attack on the Charleston church is “not unrelated” to the situation in the Dominican Republic. “Being Black, these days, means living in constant state of siege…There are no safe spaces for that Black. Nine people were killed in their place of worship. An act of terrorism that must be named. Their killer sat in a pew for an hour before extinguishing their Black Lives.”

Yohe: Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change ‘Quite Likely a Game-Changer’

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, wrote in The Hartford Courant about Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change–“a very valuable and much needed injection of morality into the scientific and economic discussions on climate change — it is quite likely a game-changer.”

While scientists, economists and other professionals have long made a case for taking action to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change, Yohe writes, “The pope’s encyclical adds a moral dimension to this case with nearly 200 pages of inspiring text about man’s pollution and the immorality of emissions. He notes that the Bible tells humans, as early as the first chapter of Genesis, that they have a stewardship obligation to the planet. The Bible also commands us to protect the least among us — the poorest who lack the means to provide for themselves. These are the people, the world over, who will be most heavily impacted by climate change — the poor, the very young, the elderly and infirm — especially if they live near a coastline. Working from there, as the leader of a billion Catholics, the pope provides theological justification that we are behaving immorally by continuing to avoid reducing emissions.”

Yohe concludes:

I must admit, at this point, that declaring something a sin is way above my pay grade. What I can say from my scientific and faith perspective is this: Putting human beings, their societies and communities, and aspects of nature unnecessarily at risk by ignoring science on the basis of ideology, business interest, or ill-informed and unyielding denial is morally irresponsible — especially for elected officials.

I believe that the pope’s encyclical confirms this perspective not only for more than 1 billion Catholics around the world and across this country, but also for the billions of others from multiple faiths who take seriously their stewardship obligations to the planet and its inhabitants.

Yohe is also professor and chair of economics, professor of environmental studies.

Morgan Models the Evolution of Plasma as a Visiting Professor in Tokyo

morgan

Tom Morgan is a visiting professor in Tokyo, Japan.

Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics, is spending the month of June as a visiting professor at Seikei University in Tokyo, Japan. He is collaborating with Professor Tomoyuki Murakami on modeling the evolution of plasma (an assembly of ions and electrons) created by injecting energy into water, “a substance with many interesting properties and applications,” Morgan explained.

The work focuses on water in both the vapor phase and as a liquid.

Morgan also is collaborating on this experimental work with Professor of Physics Lutz Huwel at Wesleyan. Huwel uses a pulse of laser light to provide the energy input to the water.

“The goal of the research is to understand the mechanisms responsible for the transport and evolution of the energy as time passes,” Morgan explained.

An additional focus is on how the laser light radiation energy that is deposited near the surface of water is dissipated into kinetic energy of ejected ballistic water droplets that have been observed in the lab to rise high above the water.

“There are many potential applications of underwater plasmas to the environmental, biotechnical and medical fields,” Morgan said.

The visit to Seikei University is partially funded by presidential initiative funds supplied by the Director of Global Initiatives. The funds support international faculty collaborations.

Morgan met Murakami several years ago through a common collaborator in Belfast, N. Ireland. The scientists share overlapping research interests and have published one paper together.

“Physics is a very global collaborative discipline,” Morgan said.

Learn more about Morgan’s research online here.

Kolcio Attends White House Event, Presents Research in Ukraine

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, writes about the role dance organizations played in developing dance as an academic discipline in her new book. Ph.D programs in dance, for example, were not available in the 1950s and 60s. (Photo by Stefan Weinberger '10)

Katja Kolcio

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, associate professor of environmental studies, was invited to attend White House Ethnic Day on June 2. The event brought together about 160 leaders from various ethnic communities for a discussion on immigration reform and foreign policy. The foreign policy discussion dealt predominantly with Ukraine, Kolcio’s area of interest.

The event was attended by White House representatives including Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama; Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Foreign Domestic Council; Felicia Escobar, special assistant to the president for immigration policy; Manar Waheed, deputy director for immigration policy; Michael Carpenter, special advisor to the vice president for Europe and Eurasia; and Celeste Wallander, special assistant to the president and senior director, Russia and Central Asia, National Security Council.

The discussion was preceded by a reception on Capitol Hill on June 1 with members of Congress.

In June and July, Kolcio will travel to Ukraine to present her research on somatic theory—which is premised on body-mind integration—and lead workshops in somatic practice geared toward the issues of displacement and PTSD. She has been invited by three different non-profit groups of mental health professionals and specialists in PTSD, a combination of psychiatrists, therapists, social workers and clergy, who assembled to address the increasing incidence of trauma and displacement due to the unexpected Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea and subsequent fighting on the border between Ukaine and Russia.

Learn more about Kolcio in this video.