Faculty

Col. Cassidy Is Wesleyan’s First Retired Military Officer Teaching Fellow

As Wesleyan's inaugural Retired Military Officer Teaching Fellow Robert "Bob" Cassidy is actively building relationships and understanding between the U.S. Armed Services and Wesleyan students.

As Wesleyan’s inaugural Retired Military Officer Teaching Fellow, Robert “Bob” Cassidy is actively building relationships and understanding between the U.S. Armed Services and Wesleyan students. Cassidy, who joined the U.S. Army in 1981, focuses his teaching, research and scholarship on international security, strategy, irregular war and military culture. His office is located in the Public Affairs Center.

In this Q&A, and in honor of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, Retired Military Officer Teaching Fellow Robert “Bob” Cassidy speaks about his military career, thoughts on the Iraq invasion and teaching at Wesleyan. (Brandon Sides ’18 contributed to this article.)

Q: How did you acquire your teaching fellowship at Wesleyan?

A: I received a Retired Officer Teaching Fellowship (ROTF) through the Chamberlain Project, which supports fellowships at some of the nation’s top liberal arts institutions. Fellows are required to work on building relationships and understanding between the U.S. Armed Services and civilian institutions and to contribute to the richness and diversity of students’ educational experiences. We also teach two full-credit courses. This fall and next spring, I am teaching a seminar on Policy and Strategy in War and Peace at the Center for the Study of Public Life.

Q: What material is covered in this course?

A: We explore the meaning of civilian-military relations and how those relations interact with our ability to align policy and strategy. We start with the Vietnam War and cover eight wars through the present. So far this semester, we’ve studied the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the peace operations and combat operations in Somalia, the initial war in Afghanistan, and this week, we cover the bad decisions behind the invasion of Iraq. We will end with a look at where we are now with policy and strategy, and the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere against the likes of the Islamic State.

Yohe Examines Impact of the Newly Released Climate Science Report

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, writes in The Conversation about the recently published Climate Science Special Report. While he, like many others, had feared that the Trump White House would reject the report, instead, he writes, “last week’s release was like trick-or-treating on Halloween and coming to a house with a bowl of candy at the door but no one home.”

Government Faculty, Recent Alumni, Co-Author Articles

Two Government Department faculty recently co-authored scholarly articles with recent Wesleyan undergraduates.

Chloe Rinehart ’14 and James McGuire, chair and professor of government, are the co-authors of “Obstacles to Takeup: Ecuador’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program, the Bono de Desarrollo Humano,” published in World Development in September 2017.

Rinehart and McGuire examined factors that keep impoverished people from benefiting from the social assistance programs for which they are legally eligible. Taking the case of Ecuador’s Bono de Desarrollo Humano (BDH), a U.S. $50 monthly cash transfer to families in the poorest 40 percent of the income distribution, they used field research in Ecuador to identify potential obstacles to program takeup, and Ecuador’s 2013-14 Living Standards Measurement Survey to explore which of these potential obstacles were critical deterrents. The quantitative analysis of these survey data showed that compliance costs, like travel to enrollment and payment sites, and psychological costs, including stigma and distrust of government, each had a significant deterrent effect on BDH takeup. 

Wilbur Remembered for Founding Wes Press’s Poetry Series

Richard Wilbur taught English classes at Wesleyan for 20 years. 

Richard Wilbur, pictured third from left, taught English and literature classes at Wesleyan for 20 years. (Photos courtesy of Wesleyan’s Special Collections & Archives)

Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur, eminent poet and former professor of English, died Oct. 14 at the age of 96. Wilbur joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1957 and taught here until 1977. During his two decades at Wesleyan, he received the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for Things of This World (1956), was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and founded the renowned Wesleyan University Press poetry series.

Over his long and distinguished career as a poet and translator, he was appointed as national poet laureate, received two Pulitzer Prizes, a National Medal of the Arts, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the T.S. Eliot Award, and the Frost Medal, among others.

Wilbur died at a nursing home in Belmont, Mass. A memorial celebrating his life and work is being planned on campus in the spring.

Read Wilbur’s obituaries in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post and on NPR.

(Information for this article is provided by Wesleyan’s Office of Academic Affairs)

Kilgard Explains Why Scientists Are So Excited About Observing Merging Neutron Stars

The Van Vleck Observatory on Foss Hill.

Writing in The Conversation, Roy Kilgard, research associate professor of astronomy, explains the significance of an exciting new discovery in astronomy. For the first time, astrophysicists have observed merging neutron stars using LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and the Virgo interferometer.

Kilgard writes:

This news may confirm a longstanding theory: that some gamma-ray bursts (GRBs for short), which are among the most energetic, luminous events in the universe, are the result of merging neutron stars. And it is in the crucible of these mergers that most heavy elements may be forged. Researchers can’t produce anything like the temperatures or pressures of neutron stars in a laboratory, so observation of these exotic objects provides a way to test what happens to matter at such extremes.

Astronomers are excited because for the first time they have gravitational waves and light signals stemming from the same event. These truly independent measurements are separate avenues that together add to the physical understanding of the neutron star merger.

Starr Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society

Francis Starr

Francis Starr

Francis Starr, professor of physics, was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society in October. This honor is bestowed upon only 0.5 percent of physicists nation wide.

The criterion for election is “exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise including outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education.

Starr received the APS fellowship for his simulation studies elucidating fundamental aspects of glass formation in bulk and ultra-thin film polymer materials. At Wesleyan, the Starr group focuses on soft matter physics and biophysics. Starr and his graduate and undergraduate students combine computational and theoretical methods to explore lipid membranes, glass formation, DNA nanotechnology, polymers and supercooled water.

Starr also is professor and director of the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS) and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. The CIS is dedicated to providing students with translational and interdisciplinary science education through original research. The CIS summer research program hosts around 180 students annually.

Starr is the seventh Wesleyan faculty to receive the honor since 1921. He was nominated by the Division of Polymer Physics.

Dierker Authors Article on ‘Passion-Driven’ Approach to Teaching Statistics, Data Analysis

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology, is the author of a new article, “Falling in Love with Statistics: Shaping Students’ Relationships With Data.” It was published in October in Scientia, a site that seeks to open a dialogue between science and society.

Dierker writes about the novel approach, called Passion-Driven Statistics, that she and her team at Wesleyan developed to teach statistics and data analysis to students from diverse backgrounds. According to the article, it is a “multidisciplinary, project-based approach that is both supportive and engaging for students at all levels of statistical mastery and those coming from diverse educational backgrounds.”

Loui Co-Authors Article on Human Creativity and the Brain

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, co-authored a new article published in the December 2017 issue of Brain and Cognition.

The paper is titled, “Jazz Musicians Reveal Role of Expectancy in Human Creativity.” Loui and her colleagues found that within one second of hearing an unexpected chord, there is a world of differences in brain responses between classical and jazz musicians.

Assistant Professor of Music Sorey MA ’11 Wins MacArthur “Genius” Award

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo Credit: John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo Credit: John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, who joined Wesleyan’s faculty this fall as assistant professor of music, has been awarded a fellowship—better known as a “genius” grant—from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The announcement was made Oct. 11.

The fellowship is a “$625,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative and creative individuals as an investment in their potential,” according to the MacArthur website. Fellows are selected based on “exceptional creativity,” “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments” and “potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

Jacobsen Speaks at Event on the Economics of Misogyny

Joyce Jacobsen, third from left, with other economists at the Center for American Progress event.

Joyce Jacobsen, third from left, with other economists at the Center for American Progress event. (Photo courtesy of the Center for American Progress)

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen spoke at an event on Sept. 29 at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. The event was on the topic, The Economics of Misogyny. Jacobsen spoke on the topic of feminist economics in conversation with Judith Warner, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. A video recording of the event can be seen here.

Jacobsen also is the Andrews Professor of Economics.

Bork-Goldfield Elected to American Association of Teachers of German Council

Iris Bork-Goldfield

Iris Bork-Goldfield

Iris Bork-Goldfield, chair and adjunct professor of German studies, has been elected to serve as the Northeast Region representative to the Executive Council of the American Association of Teachers of German.

The American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) supports the teaching of the German language and German-speaking cultures in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education in the United States. The AATG promotes the study of the German-speaking world in all its linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity, and endeavors to prepare students as transnational, transcultural learners and active, multilingual participants in a globalized world.

Speakers, Poster Sessions at Annual Molecular Biophysics Program Retreat

Wesleyan’s Molecular Biophysics Program hosted its 18th annual retreat Sept. 28 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Wesleyan affiliated speakers included:

Professor Francis Starr, spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

Professor Francis Starr spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

  • Colin Smith, assistant professor of chemistry, on “An Atomistic View of Protein Dynamics and Allostery;”
  • Meng-Ju Renee Sher, assistant professor of physics, on “Tracking Electron Motions Using Terahertz Spectroscopy;”
  • Kelly Knee, PhD ’07, principle scientist for Pfizer’s Rare Disease Research Unit, on “Protein Folding Chaperones: Molecular Machines for Tricky Problems;”
  • and Francis Starr, professor of physics, director of the College of Integrative Sciences, on “DNA Four-Way Junction Dynamics and Thermodynamics: Lessons from Combining Simulations and Experiments.”

Arthur Palmer, the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, delivered the keynote address on “Conformational dynamics in molecular recognition and catalysis: Lessons from ribonuclease H, AlkB, and GCN4.”

The day-long retreat also included two poster sessions, where undergraduates, graduate students and faculty shared their research with their peers and colleagues. The event concluded with a reception.

The Molecular Biophysics Training Program, Chemistry Department, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department sponsored the event.

Photos of the retreat are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)