Faculty

Personick Awarded Grant from American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund

Michelle Personick joined the faculty this fall, and is teaching courses in Chemistry of Materials and Nanomaterials and an Integrated Chemistry Lab. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

During the fall 2017 semester, Michelle Personick will teach Nanomaterials Lab and a chemistry symposia.

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, received a two-year doctoral new investigator grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS PRF) to synthesize and test new metal nanomaterials designed to make industrial chemical processes more energy efficient. Her study, titled “Tailored Bimetallic Catalysts with Highly Stepped Facets for Selective and Energy-Efficient Epoxidation and Hydrogenation Reactions,” will be supported for two years with a $110,000 award.

“Global energy consumption is steadily increasing, and the chemical industry is the second largest consumer of delivered energy,” Personick said. “The chemical industry is unique in that it uses energy resources, such as petroleum and natural gas, both as fuels to heat reactors and as starting precursors or ‘feedstocks’ for the production of chemicals and materials.”

As demand for products of the chemical industry—such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, and specialty chemicals—increases, the consumption of energy in this sector increases dramatically. Most industrial chemical processes rely on a catalyst—a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction but is not used up in the reaction.

The goal of the funded research is to understand how tuning the shape and composition of metal nanoparticles changes their performance as catalysts in industrially important chemical transformations. The long-term objective is to apply this fundamental understanding to the design of nanoscale catalysts which make industrial chemical reactions more energy efficient and sustainable by (1) enabling the reactions to take place at lower temperatures and/or (2) eliminating the production of unwanted byproducts, such as carbon dioxide.

Fowler, Gollust ’01: Local TV News Is Making it Harder to Repeal Obamacare

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

Writing in The Washington PostAssociate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and Sarah Gollust ’01 show how local television news coverage is making it more difficult for the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.

“The ACA repeal was always going to be a tough, uphill battle in the Senate, as we explained here in May. The stakes are high — both for the millions of Americans who now have insurance through Obamacare, and for the Republican Party that promised to repeal it,” they wrote. “Senate efforts have failed so far for a variety of reasons. But here’s one that hasn’t yet been explored: local television news. That drumbeat of coverage in their home districts during Senate debates may have made some GOP senators think twice about angering constituents — including those of their own party.”

O’Connell, Gilmore Elected to Positions with Geological Society of America

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, was named a Councilor of the Geological Society of America for the GSA’s governing board. O’Connell will hold this position July 2017 through June 2021 along with two other faculty from the University of Rochester and California State University.

“GSA members have again elected thoughtful and innovative individuals to lead the organization and further the impact of geoscience,” said GSA Executive Director Vicki McConnell. “I am excited to work with the new Officers and Councilors as they join the GSA leadership team.”

Gilmore is a founding member of the Planetary Science Group at Wesleyan.

Marty Gilmore

In addition, Marty Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, director of graduate studies, was elected by the GSA council to be a society fellow. Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on the best of the profession by election at the spring GSA Council meeting. GSA members are nominated by existing GSA Fellows in recognition of their distinguished contributions to the geosciences through such avenues as publications, applied research, teaching, administration of geological programs, contributing to the public awareness of geology, leadership of professional organizations, and taking on editorial, bibliographic and library responsibilities.

Ronadh Cox, who nominated Gilmore for the role, said, “Marty has published widely and influentially in planetary geology. She is an outstanding mentor, training undergraduate and graduate students, publishing with them, and launching them toward successful careers. And she is a leader and valued colleague, attested to by numerous advisory board appointments with the National Research Council and NASA.”

The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, serves more than 25,000 members from academia, government, and industry in more than 115 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.

Basinger Discusses the History of the Summer Blockbuster

Jeanine Basinger

How did summer get to be such a make-or-break season for Hollywood? It wasn’t always this way, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger recently told Marketplace, from American Public Media.

“In the old days, the studio system rolled out movies,” she said. “I mean, let’s take MGM. In 1952 [it] put out a feature film every week, so for 52 weeks they rolled out 52 features.”

In the 1940s, 80 percent of Americans went to the movies once a week. But with television gaining popularity, attendance had plummeted by the 1970s. Until 1975, when Jaws was released around the July 4th weekend. It was a smash hit. A few years later came another hit: Star Wars.

Velez, Wong ’18 Author Paper in ‘The Journal of Politics’

Yamil Velez at Wesleyan University.

Assistant Professor of Government Yamil Velez and Grace Wong ’18 are the authors of a new paper, “Assessing Contextual Measurement Strategies,” published May 17 in The Journal of Politics.

According to the paper’s abstract, “Contextual scholars have explored the impact of residing in racially and ethnically diverse environments on political attitudes and behavior. Traditionally, the literature has employed governmental administrative units such as counties as proxies for citizens’ social contexts. Recently, these measures have come under attack by scholars desiring more personalized measures. This article evaluates the performance of two personalized measures of intergroup context and finds that census-based measures are more closely aligned with subjects’ perceptions of local area demographics than measures that ‘bring the person back in.’ The implications of these findings on the contextual literature are discussed.”

Read the full article here.

The New Yorker Profiles New Wes Faculty Member Sorey MA ’11

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11 will join the Wesleyan faculty this fall. (Photo by John Rogers)

“Tyshawn Sorey Defeats Preconceptions,” proclaims the The New Yorker headline on a profile of Wesleyan’s newest assistant professor of music, Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, who will join the Wesleyan faculty this fall. “The prodigious multi-instrumentalist and composer transcends the borders of jazz, classical, and experimental music.”

Grossman Comments on the Economic Impact of Brexit

Richard Grossman

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman was asked by Wales Online about his expectations for the economic impact of Brexit over the next few years. He said:

“Leaving the European Union will be a drag on the British economy in the medium term. Even before Brexit takes effect, however, the economy will be hurt by two factors: expectations and uncertainty.

“The expectation that the UK will no longer have free access to the European market may lead exporters to reorient production toward domestic consumption or export to non-EU regions well before Brexit comes into force. UK-based financial firms may shift operations to EU locations in anticipation of Brexit, rather than waiting until it is a fait accompli.

“And firms that rely on high-skilled labour may relocate to other countries if they expect the reduction in immigration that is expected to accompany Brexit to  reduce the pool of talented workers in the UK.

“In addition to its anticipated effects, the economy will suffer from the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. There really is no precedent for a country to leave the EU, so no one really knows how the negotiations will turn out.

“And markets hate uncertainty. The worse the perceived effect of Brexit, the worse a drubbing the pound will take.

“A steady decline might support exports to some extent, but will lead to inflation at home as imported goods become more expensive. What is more likely than a steady decline is a more volatile pound, which will help no one.”

 

Grossman Presents Paper at the Bank of England

Richard Grossman

On June 23, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman presented a paper at an economic history symposium jointly sponsored by the Bank of England and the the Centre for Economic Policy Research. Titled, “Beresford’s Revenge: British equity holdings in Latin America, 1869-1929,” the paper looks at stock market returns of Latin American firms traded on the London Stock Exchange.

The program for the conference can be seen here.

Rubenstein Discusses Theories of the Multiverse on Studio 360

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein was a guest on WNYC’s “Studio 360” recently, in a show titled, “The Theoretical Physicist Wore a Toga.” She addressed existential “what if” questions and the idea of multiple universes—an idea, she explains, which “is about 2,500 years old.”

“For the ancient Atomist philosophers [in Ancient Greece], the most desirable thing about what we’re now calling the multiverse was that it got rid of the need for a god. If it is the case that our world is the only world, then it’s very difficult to explain. How is everything so perfect? How is it that sunsets so beautiful?” she said. “What the Atomists believed was that religion and the belief in these kinds of benevolent gods actually caused people to behave terribly to one another, so they wanted to find a different explanation. So their explanation was that it’s not the case that some anthropomorphic god or gods made the universe so it was just perfect the way it is, but that actually that our world was just one of an infinite number of other worlds that looked totally different from our world, and that worlds were the product just of accident, of particles colliding with one another and randomly forming worlds.”

“It sounds a lot like modern physics,” she added.

What are the practical effects of such theories?

“Every major development in modern Western science since Copernicus has been advertised as this radical de-centering of our importance. […] As science progresses, we learn that we are less and less important than we thought we were. That’s one argument. But of course, it doesn’t seem to be the case that these purported decentralizations of the importance of the human have in any way contributed in any way to our feeling like we’re insignificant. We still tend to think that we run the planet.”

Rubenstein is also professor of science in society, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

GLS Professor Belanger P’02 Produces Photographic Study, ‘Rift/Fault’

Photographer and author Marion Belanger P’02 explores geologic boundaries in Rift/Fault.  (Photo by Ann Burke Daly)

Graduate Liberal Studies visiting professor Marion Belanger P’02, is the author of Rift/Fault, a photographic study of the land-based edges of the North American Continental Plate. A Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002 supported a project in the Everglades, where Belanger turned her lens on both the landscape within the national park as well as the suburban development of the swamplands outside the protected area. Now, Rift/Fault continues her interest in natural land formations and boundaries—this one along the San Andreas Fault in California and the Mid-Atlantic Rift in Iceland—and the influence of human society on the earth

Published by Radius Books, and with an essay by art critic and activist Lucy R. Lippard, Rift/Fault is designed to be interactive: Open the cover and two collections of images face each other, each one bound at the top. The photographs labeled “Fault” are on the left; the right side holds “Rift,” with the reader turning each page upwards to view the image that follows. While Belanger paired the photographs on each side to be complementary, she encourages the readers to make their own pairings. The structure of the book conceptually mimics the ever-shifting tectonic plate edges, and “it gives the viewer some agency to figure out how they want to view the book and, by default, how they want to see the landscape. The work itself is a cultural study,” she says.