Faculty

Astronomy Department Awarded Grants for Research

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

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

Several Wesleyan students and faculty were recently awarded grants for research by NASA’s Connecticut Space Grant Program. Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy and campus director of NASA’s CT Space Grant Consortium, was excited about the number of winners.

“I was thrilled to see how successful Wesleyan was this year in getting grants through NASA’s CT Space Grant program,” wrote Redfield. “It demonstrates the diversity and quality of work we do that is aligned with NASA’s mission.”

“The grants this year support undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research, as well as special events organized by faculty at Wesleyan to promote exposure and career development in STEM fields,” explained Redfield.

Schwarcz Delivers 40th Annual Mansfield Freeman Lecture

Vera Schwarcz, the Freeman Professor of History and East Asian Studies, professor of history, delivered the 40th Annual Mansfield Freeman Lecture on April 16. She spoke in Daniel Family Commons on “The Human Dot on Yellow Mountain: Re-thinking 45 Years of China Study.” (Photos by Dat Vu ’15.)

For more than four decades, Schwarcz has grappled with intellectual dilemmas surrounding a changing reality in China. She has written extensively about comparative history, trauma and memory, as well as the role of intellectuals in the pursuit of the truth.

For more than four decades, Schwarcz has grappled with intellectual dilemmas surrounding a changing reality in China. She has written extensively about comparative history, trauma and memory, as well as the role of intellectuals in the pursuit of the truth.

In her lecture, Schwarcz offered a retrospective gaze upon the turning points in Western understanding of China, and upon the impact of the Freeman Legacy in East Asian Studies at Wesleyan. She also examined the cultural context that shapes our shifting views of China today.

In her lecture, Schwarcz offered a retrospective gaze upon the turning points in Western understanding of China, and upon the impact of the Freeman Legacy in East Asian Studies at Wesleyan. She also examined the cultural context that shapes our shifting views of China today.

Since 1976, the Mansfield Freeman Lecture has featured an outstanding scholar or other luminary in the field of East Asian Studies.

Since 1976, the Mansfield Freeman Lecture has featured an outstanding scholar or other luminary in the field of East Asian Studies.

Faculty, Staff Share Service- and Project-Based Learning Stories

On April 15, faculty and staff met to share their service- and project-based learning stories during an Academic (Technology) Roundtable lunch at the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. A(T)R lunches are designed to promote conversation, cooperation and the sharing of information, ideas and resources among faculty members, librarians, graduate students and staff.

Barbara Juhasz, director of service-learning, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, led the session, providing an overview of service-learning at Wesleyan as well as the variety of ways that service can be used as a pedagogical tool. Other speakers included Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology; Peggy Carey-Best, Health Professions Partnership Initiative advisor; Cathy Lechowicz, director of the Center for Community Partnerships; Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center; Janet Burge, associate professor of computer science; Jim Donady, professor of biology, director of Health Professions Partnership Initiative; Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology; and Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance.

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Jim Donady discusses his ongoing service-learning work at Connecticut Valley Hospital. Left to right: Donady; Sara MacSorley, who shared how service-learning courses can interface with programs at Green Street; Janet Burge, who spoke about how project-based activities are incorporated into her service-learning course, Software Engineering; and Director of Service Learning Barbara Juhasz.

 

Wesleyan Announces Appointment of New Deans

Beginning July 1, Marc Eisner will serve as Dean of the Social Sciences, Ellen Nerenberg as Dean of Arts and Humanities, and Joseph Knee as Dean of the Sciences and Mathematics.

Eisner’s appointment was announced April 17, while the appointments of Nerenberg and Knee were made at the faculty meeting in November 2014. Eisner will succeed Joyce Jacobsen; Nerenberg will succeed Andrew Curran; and Knee will succeed Ishita Mukerji.

Krishna Winston Memorializes Gunter Grass

Krishna Winston

Krishna Winston

When the Nobel Prize-winning German writer Günter Grass died at age 87 this week, The Wall Street Journal turned to Krishna Winston, his translator, for perspective on his life.

According to the Journal’s obituary, Grass was Germany’s best-known contemporary writer “who explored the country’s postwar guilt and in 2006 admitted to serving in one of the Nazis’ most notorious Nazi military units.”

Winston remembered Grass as “a gregarious man who loved cooking and invited his children to sit in on meetings with translators that often lasted several days…”

Gottschalk to Develop Course on “The Sacred” with NEH Grant

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the recipient of a $20,000 National Endowment for the Humanities "Enduring Questions" grant.

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the recipient of a $20,000 National Endowment for the Humanities “Enduring Questions” grant.

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities “Enduring Questions” grant for approximately $20,000 to develop and teach a new course on different understandings of “the sacred.”

Over the last five annual competitions, this competitive grant program received approximately 200 applications each year on average, and funded only 19 awards each year.

Weissman to Step Down As Provost, VP; Jacobsen to Serve as Interim

Ruth Weissman

Ruth Weissman

This summer, Ruth Weissman will be stepping down as provost and vice president for academic affairs and returning to her role as the Walter A. Crowell University Professor of the Social Sciences. Joyce Jacobsen, the Andrews Professor of Economics, dean of the Social Sciences and Director of Global Initiatives, has accepted a one-year appointment as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“Ruth’s efforts over the past two years in support of the faculty, in overseeing the curriculum, and in exercising administrative leadership have been extraordinary,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth in an all-campus e-mail. “Wesleyan has been fortunate indeed to have had her in this role.”

Grimmer-Solem’s Research Continues to Have Impact on the Ground in Germany

Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem investigated the story of a celebrated German General during World War II, uncovering new evidence that he cooperated in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. His research has made national news in Germany, where the government is now responding to revelations about the General's legacy.

Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem investigated the story of a celebrated German General during World War II, uncovering new evidence that he cooperated in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. His research has made national news in Germany, where the government is now responding to revelations about the General’s legacy.

Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem’s research on a celebrated German general, known as an “anti-Nazi,” is continuing to have an impact on the ground in Germany today. Over the past year, Grimmer-Solem’s findings have ignited a public debate in the country over General Hans von Sponeck’s place in history—a debate which has now turned to the matter of a commemorative stone honoring him.

Since World War II, von Sponeck had been celebrated in Germany with an Air Force base, city streets and other monuments named after him. All this has changed since Grimmer-Solem’s research shed new light on the General’s reputation as a “good general” who was court-martialed and imprisoned for refusing to follow Hitler’s orders during a major Soviet counteroffensive on the Crimean Peninsula in 1941 by withdrawing his troops from Kerch, likely saving the lives of thousands of soldiers.

A personal connection involving his grandfather drew Grimmer-Solem to study von Sponeck. A detailed investigation of von Sponeck’s military career in the German Military Archives turned up evidence that the general’s record was far from spotless: The records showed close cooperation between the military unit von Sponeck commanded and the SS in committing numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity in the southern Ukraine and Crimea in 1941.

The research was covered in major German news outlets and sparked a national debate and parliamentary discussion about von Sponeck’s legacy. The latest impact has been on a Stolperstein (German for “stumbling stone”) commemorating von Sponeck. More than 48,000 of these granite cobbles are installed in locations around German cities, each with a brass plaque inscribed with the names and fates of victims of Nazism. According to Grimmer-Solem, while they began as an artist’s project, the Stolpersteine project has taken on a semi-official character in recent years as the stones are set in cooperation with German city governments and supported by many local commemorative and historical societies.

Since last year, the German city of Bremen has been grappling with the question of what to do with the stone honoring von Sponeck—a victim of the Nazis who was also a perpetrator. The stone was first set into the pavement in 2007, before Grimmer-Solem’s findings, published in the peer-reviewed military history journal of the German Armed Forces in December 2013, changed public perception of the General.

“Since then, any official commemoration of Sponeck in Germany has become controversial and has led to a debate about what to do about street names, monuments, and of course, the commemorative Stolperstein,” said Grimmer-Solem. “Sponeck’s Stolperstein is particularly problematic as it erases a line between the victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust,” a point he made in the conclusion of his article.

When Gunter Demnig, the Cologne-based artist behind the Stolpersteine project, learned of Grimmer-Solem’s findings, he demanded that the city of Bremen remove the Stolperstein immediately, or else he would no longer sanction the project in Bremen, the home of more than 600 stones. Removal of the commemorative stone was controversial, however, and Bremen project leaders insisted on a public discussion about the matter.

“As the project has gained popularity and sanction as a semi-official memorial, removing Stolpersteine is awkward new territory lacking precedent let alone any procedures,” Grimmer-Solem explained.

On March 3, the Bremen State Central Office for Political Education hosted a podium discussion titled “Grauzonen. Stolpersteine für Wehrmachtsgenerale” (“Gray Zones: Stumbling Stones for Members of the Wehrmacht.”) It was ultimately agreed that the Stolperstein should be officially removed.

“But, to everyone’s surprise, thieves had beaten them to it,” Grimmer-Solem said. At some point, unknown people had excavated and stolen Sponeck’s Stolperstein, and police are now investigating.

The debate is now extending to the legacy of the German military resistance to Hitler in contemporary Germany. As an editorial in the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung (TAZ) noted recently, the debate about von Sponeck has spread well beyond Bremen and now extends to reassessing such postwar German national icons as Claus von Stauffenberg, who is remembered for his failed assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944.

“Stauffenberg, too, has a Stolperstein… and he, like many of his military co-conspirators, was involved in war crimes. Sponeck was shot after the failure of the plot, though he did not belong to it—his evolution from perpetrator to victim corresponds exactly to the ambivalence of this group,” the newspaper wrote.

This increasingly critical view of the July 20 conspirators marks a substantial shift in Germany. In the early years of the Federal Republic, Germans found it difficult to honor “traitors” like Stauffenberg, but he took on an increasingly central place in the “democratic” identity of West Germany’s armed forces, and since the 1960s, in German perceptions of themselves as opponents and victims of the Nazi regime.

“It is a sign of the maturity of German democracy that it is now slowly coming to terms with the complex legacy of men like von Stauffenberg,” Grimmer-Solem said.

Read more about Grimmer-Solem’s research on von Sponeck here.

Othon, Taylor Students Published in Physical Chemistry Letters

Christina Othon and Erika Taylor, along with physics graduate student Nimesh Shukla, Lee Chen ’15, Inha Cho ’15 and Erin Cohn ’15, are the co-authors of a paper titled “Sucralose Destabilization of Protein Structure” published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, March 2015. Othon is assistant professor of physics and was PI on the paper. Taylor is assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies.

Sucralose is a commonly employed artificial sweetener that behaves very differently than its natural disaccharide counterpart, sucrose, in terms of its interaction with biomolecules. This research suggests that people may need to think about the impact of sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda) on their proteins.

Watch Othon explain associated research in this video. She speaks around the 34 minute mark.

Filmmaker Fisher is Silverberg Scholar in Residence at the Center for Jewish Studies

David Fisher is the Silverberg Scholar in Residence at the Center for Jewish Studies. (Photo courtesy of David Fisher)

David Fisher teaches When Private Meets Public, a course focusing on Israeli documentaries. (Photo courtesy of David Fisher)

(Story by Lily Baggott ’15)

Last spring, filmmaker David Fisher presented his film, Six Million and One, at the Wesleyan Israeli Film festival. After viewing Fisher’s film and presentation, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies Dalit Katz subsequently invited the filmmaker to teach a course as a scholar in residence this spring. Currently the Silverberg Scholar in Residence at the Center for Jewish Studies, Fisher teaches When Private Meets Public, a course focusing on Israeli documentaries.

“[In this course,] I’m trying to decipher with my students the development and consequently the success of the Israeli documentary films worldwide,” Fisher noted. “They learn how to interpret documentary genres and place them in their proper cinematic, artistic and political contexts.”

Fisher’s own work provides discussion material for his students.

“I use my own documentaries to help shed light on hidden corners of the Israeli society, such as cattle ranchers in the Golan Heights,” he said. “My critically acclaimed family trilogy, however, I use to discuss the universality of very personal films and how both private stories and autobiographical essays meet the public.”

Fisher’s films have won various awards and include Mostar Round-Trip and Love Inventory, which form a triology together with Six Million and One. He is currently working on two films, a National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored documentary on the revival of Yiddish and another film focusing on the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. The filmmaker served as Director General of the New Israeli Foundation for Cinema and TV and has served on various international film festival juries. Before coming to Wesleyan, he also taught courses at various institutions in America and Israel.

“Truthfully, I have always been more interested in the creation of documentaries than teaching about them,” Fisher noted. “…That being said, teaching at Wesleyan was [a] unique experience for me because, for the first time, I didn’t teach film majors but merely interested students. …The students are coming from a variety of different fields (astronomy being one of them) and enrich the discussion to unprecedented levels. …In the case of screening some of my own films, it is interesting for me—as both a filmmaker and as a scholar—to face questions I’ve never been asked before.”

Baerman’s Ensemble Performs The Rock World Premiere During Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend April 22-25

The 14th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend will take place April 22-25 at the Center for the Arts. Noah Baerman, visiting instructor in music and jazz ensemble coach, will present the Music Department Colloquium on April 22.

Pianist, composer, educator and author Noah Baerman, visiting instructor in music and jazz ensemble coach, will present the Music Department Colloquium on April 22 as part of the 14th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend.

The Center for the Arts will host the 14th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend April 22-25.

On April 22, Noah Baerman, visiting instructor in music and jazz ensemble coach, will present the Music Department Colloquium at 4:15 p.m. in the Daltry Room, Music Rehearsal Hall Room 003. The event is free. During the colloquium, Baerman will discuss the philosophical origins and musical development of his suite The Rock and the Redemption in anticipation of its premiere on April 25. 

GRAMMY Foundation Grant Supports Loui’s Research on Epilepsy Intervention

Psyche Loui uses equipment like EEG to run experiments on music perception and cognition.

Psyche Loui uses equipment like EEG to run experiments on music perception and cognition. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, was awarded a grant of $20,000 in March from the GRAMMY Foundation Grant Program to study a musical biofeedback-based intervention for epilepsy.

The grant will fund three different studies that combine EEG sonification, translational research and basic neuroscience for this type of intervention. Loui anticipates that the results will apply music technology as a possible solution to a neurological disorder affecting 65 million people worldwide.

Loui noted that for the approximately one-third of patients with epilepsy who don’t respond well to seizure medication,