Faculty

Personick Selected to Participate in an NSF-Funded Project

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)

Michelle Personick

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, has been selected by the Leadership Council of the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists (IONiC) to participate in a National Science Foundation–funded study to develop, test, and refine a flexible, foundation-level inorganic chemistry course.

As a Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource (VIPEr) Fellow, Personick joins 17 other inorganic chemists from across the country in a community of practice dedicated to improving student learning. The 2018 VIPEr Fellows are the first faculty who have been selected for this groundbreaking project.

The study, titled “Improving Inorganic Chemistry Education,” is being conducted with support from the National Science Foundation’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program. The project will use classroom observations, analysis of student work, student surveys, and faculty interviews to study how changes in the classroom affect student learning, interest, and motivation. The project also will investigate how IONiC may encourage the adoption of evidence-based classroom practices.

At Wesleyan, Personick teaches general, inorganic, and materials chemistry. Her research group focuses on developing tailored metal nanomaterials to enable fundamental research toward improved catalysts for resource-efficient chemical synthesis and the clean production of energy.

She received her undergraduate degree from Middlebury College, where she studied platinum anticancer drug analogs, and her PhD from Northwestern University, where she developed syntheses for shaped gold and silver nanoparticles. As a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, she studied the catalytic behavior of bimetallic nanoporous alloys.

Read more about Personick in these past News @ Wesleyan articles.

Smolkin Speaks at “Culture of Unbelief” Conference in Rome

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

From May 28 to May 30, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin attended a conference in Rome, Italy, on the “Cultures of Unbelief,” organized by the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network and the Vatican’s Council on Culture.

She spoke on “The Culture of Unbelief 50 Years On,” which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the original “Culture of Unbelief” conference, organized in 1969 by the Vatican’s Secretariat on Non-Believers and the University of California, Berkeley. Her copanelists included Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Andrew Copson, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion and Director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University Stephen Bullivant moderated the panel.

The “Cultures of Unbelief” conference brought together leading academics, leaders of religious and nonreligious groups, journalists, educators, and others to understand the meaning of being a religious “unbeliever.” Topics explored how “unbelievers” engage with religion; their diverse existential, metaphysical, and moral beliefs; and prospects for dialogue and collaboration between believers and unbelievers.

Smolkin also presented a conference paper titled, “Atheism as a vocation: What can socialists teach us about modern belief and unbelief?”

A photo exhibit titled Unbelievers by Aubrey Wade took place during the Cultures of Unbelief Conference. The series offers an insight into the diversity of beliefs and worldviews held by people who don’t believe in God, or gods, in five countries around the world: Brazil, Japan, Norway, the U.K., and USA.

Herbst and Greenwood in The Conversation: The Tell-Tale Clue to How Meteorites Were Made

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy Bill Herbst and Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences James Greenwood write about the model they’ve proposed for how the most common kind of meteorites form—a mystery that has dogged scientists for decades.

The tell-tale clue to how meteorites were made, at the birth of the solar system

April 26, 1803 was an unusual day in the small town of L’Aigle in Normandy, France – it rained rocks.

Over 3,000 of them fell out of the sky. Fortunately, no one was injured. The French Academy of Sciences investigated and proclaimed, based on many eyewitness stories and the unusual look of the rocks, that they had come from space.

The Earth is pummeled with rocks incessantly as it orbits the Sun, adding around 50 tons to our planet’s mass every day. Meteorites, as these rocks are called, are easy to find in deserts and on the ice plains of Antarctica, where they stick out like a sore thumb. They can even land in backyards, treasures hidden among ordinary terrestrial rocks. Amateurs and professionals collect meteorites, and the more interesting ones make it to museums and laboratories around the world for display and study. They are also bought and sold on eBay.

Despite decades of intense study by thousands of scientists, there is no general consensus on how most meteorites formed. As an astronomer and a geologist, we have recently developed a new theory of what happened during the formation of the solar system to create these valuable relics of our past. Since planets form out of collisions of these first rocks, this is an important part of the history of the Earth.

This meteor crater in Arizona was created 50,000 years ago when an iron meteorite struck the Earth. It is about one mile across. W. Herbst, CC BY-SA

This meteor crater in Arizona was created 50,000 years ago when an iron meteorite struck the Earth. It is about one mile across. (Photo by Bill Herbst, CC BY-SA)

The mysterious chondrules

Researchers Explore the Effects of Dam Removal on Bottom-Dwelling Aquatic Animals

COE

Kate Miller PhD ’13

Although dam removal is an increasingly common stream restoration tool, it may also represent a major disturbance to rivers that can have varied impacts on environmental conditions and aquatic biota.

In a paper titled “Dam Removal Effects on Benthic Macroinvertebrate Dynamics: A New England Stream Case Study, five researchers from Wesleyan examined the effects of dam removal on the structure, function, and composition of benthic macroinvertebrate (BMI) communities in a temperate New England stream. The benthic—or “bottom-dwelling”—macroinvertebrates are small aquatic animals that are commonly used to study biological conditions of water bodies.

The paper is published in the May 21 edition of Sustainability, an international, cross-disciplinary, scholarly, peer-reviewed and open-access journal of environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings.

Ross Heinemann '09, MA '13

Ross Heinemann ’09, MA ’13

The paper’s coauthors include Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies; Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies; Kate Miller PhD ’13; Ross Heinemann ’09, MA ’13; Michelle Kraczkowski PhD ’13; and Adam Whelchel from the Nature Conservancy in New Haven, Conn.

The results of their study indicated that the dam removal stimulated major shifts in BMI community structure and composition above and below the dam.

“Our research shows that the effects of dam removal on the river were not predictable. During the fours years of the study after dam removal, the river did not return to its original state in the areas where the dam was removed,” Chernoff explained.

Hatch Authors New Book on “The Secret Drugging of Captive America”

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor of Science in Society Anthony Ryan Hatch is the author of a new book, Silent Cells: The Secret Drugging of Captive America, published on April 30 by University of Minnesota Press.

The book is a critical investigation into the use of psychotropic drugs to pacify and control inmates and other captives in the vast U.S. prison, military, and welfare systems.

According to the publisher:

“For at least four decades, U.S. prisons and jails have aggressively turned to psychotropic drugs—antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers—to silence inmates, whether or not they have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. In Silent Cells, Anthony Ryan Hatch demonstrates that the pervasive use of psychotropic drugs has not only defined and enabled mass incarceration but has also become central to other forms of captivity, including foster homes, military and immigrant detention centers, and nursing homes.

Yohe in The Conversation: The Economic Cost of Devastating Hurricanes and Other Extreme Weather Events Is Even Worse Than We Thought

Gary Yohe

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Gary Yohe writes about the economic costs of climate change, which he argues will hit our economy much sooner than many people realize.

The economic cost of devastating hurricanes and other extreme weather events is even worse than we thought

June marks the official start of hurricane season. If recent history is any guide, it will prove to be another destructive year thanks to the worsening impact of climate change.

But beyond more intense hurricanes and explosive wildfires, the warming climate has been blamed for causing a sharp uptick in all types of extreme weather events across the country, such as severe flooding across the U.S. this spring and extensive drought in the Southwest in recent years.

Late last year, the media blared that these and other consequences of climate change could cut U.S. GDP by 10% by the end of the century – “more than double the losses of the Great Depression,” as The New York Times intoned. That figure was drawn from a single figure in the U.S. government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment. (Disclosure: I reviewed that report and was the vice chair on the third one, released in 2014.)

Fowler, Northrop, Siry Receive Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching

2019 Binswanger winners

Wesleyan faculty (from left) Joseph Siry, Brian Northrop, and Erika Franklin Fowler join President Michael Roth before the 187th Commencement ceremony, May 26. During the ceremony, the three professors were honored with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Every year at Commencement, Wesleyan recognizes three outstanding teachers with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

This year, during the 187th Commencement ceremony, Wesleyan honored the following faculty members for their excellence in teaching:

Erika Franklin Fowler
Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and director of the Wesleyan Media Project, has taught at Wesleyan since 2009. She has a BA in political science and mathematics from St. Olaf College, and an MA and PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She served as a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan School of Public Health from 2007 to 2009.

6 Faculty Retire from Wesleyan in 2018-19

University Organist Ronald Ebrecht gathers with Joshua Kaye ’04 at a reception honoring retiring faculty on May 26. Ebrecht is one of six Wesleyan faculty who retired during the 2018-19 academic year. (Photo by Rich Marinelli)

In 2018–19, six Wesleyan faculty retired from Wesleyan. They were honored during the 187th Commencement ceremony on May 26 and during a special ceremony at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty.

Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, retired from Wesleyan after 49 years.

The faculty include:

Douglas Charles
Professor of Anthropology (2000 – 2019)
Associate Professor of Anthropology (1994 – 2000)
Assistant Professor of Anthropology (1986 – 1994)

Ronald Ebrecht
University Organist (1988 – 2019)
Artist-in-Residence, Music (2011 – 2019)

Laura Grabel
Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society (2008 – 2018)
Fisk Professor of Natural Sciences (1996 – 2008)
Professor of Biology (1995 – 2018)
Associate Professor of Biology (1989 – 1995)
Assistant Professor of Biology (1983 – 1989)

Patricia Hill
Professor of American Studies (2011 – 2018)
Professor of History and American Studies (2002 – 2011)
Associate Professor of History and American Studies (1991 – 2002)
Assistant Professor of History (1985 – 1991)

Krishna Winston
Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature (2006 – 2019)
Professor of German Studies (1984 – 2019)
Associate Professor of German Studies (1977 – 1984)
Assistant Professor of German Studies (1970 – 1977)

Gary Yohe
Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies (2011 – 2019)
Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics (2006 – 2011)
John E. Andrus Professor (2001 – 2006)
Professor of Economics (1985 – 2019)
Associate Professor of Economics (1981 – 1985)
Assistant Professor of Economics (1977 – 1981)
Watch a video about Professor Yohe online here.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “The Need for a Recovery of the Humanities”

In this essay, President Michael S. Roth responds to the “flood of negativity” in public discourse about higher education, in general, and the humanities, in particular. He suggests that “in order to recover the trust of students and their families, we must overcome our cultivated insularity.”

2. NBC News: “Carbon Dioxide Hits a Level Not Seen for 3 Million Years. Here’s What That Means for Climate Change — And Humanity.”

Dana Royer, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, comments on new evidence that the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has climbed to a level last seen more than 3 million years ago. According to the article, shorter term impacts include loss of vegetation and sea-ice coverage, while other things, like the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, will occur more slowly. “But these impacts are going to persist for a very long time,” said Royer. “Once that happens, we can’t really reverse it.”

Krishnan’s Company inDANCE Presents New England Premiere SKIN at Wesleyan

Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, celebrated the success of his New England premiere of SKIN during a Spring Faculty Dance Concert on April 26 at the Center for the Arts Theater.

Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, brought his Toronto-based company inDANCE to the Center for the Arts Theater for a Spring Faculty Dance Concert on April 26–27, with the New England premiere of SKIN. InDANCE is a progressive Canadian dance company whose work transcends boundaries of the familiar and culturally traditional. Offering, instead, surprising juxtapositions in styles, manner, and dress, inDANCE “subverts clichéd representations of ‘classical’ Indian dance, and speaks with an ‘obscenely loud,’ inimitable, and unorthodox global voice,” as noted in the program Krishnan prepared for the event.

SKIN, composed of five pieces, brought together on stage several members of Krishnan’s Toronto company and a select group of Krishnan’s current students: Mickey Kieu ’19, Amira Leila ’20, Gita Ganti ’21, Aditi Mahesh ’21, Luna Mac-Williams ’22, and Spenser Stroud ’22. Noteworthy also: first-year member of the inDANCE company, Eury German ’16, a dance and biology double major while at Wesleyan, was back on the CFA stage, as a dancer in “Holy Cow[s]!” the fifth piece of the evening. Professor Emeritus of Theater John Carr created the lighting design. A preshow performance, “Fantastic Beasts Meet on a Whimsical Beach…” included audience participation through phone texts.

American Studies Hosts Panel Discussion on “Interrogating the Wesleyan to New York City Pipeline”

On May 2, the Department of American Studies hosted a panel discussion on gentrification titled “Interrogating the Wesleyan to New York City Pipeline.” The discussion began by recognizing displaced people—both indigenous and recently displaced—as the center of the conversation.

H. Shellae Versey is an Assistant Professor of Psychology, African American Studies, and Environmental Studies. Her research focuses on health, the life course, work, place, social change, and intersections between gender and race. She is interested in expressions of giving, activism, and community involvement. She is currently working on a spatial mapping project for changing neighborhoods and exploring the dynamics of social trends in cities.

H. Shellae Versey, assistant professor of psychology, moderated the panel discussion. Her research focuses on health, the life course, work, place, social change, and intersections between gender and race. She is currently working on a spatial mapping project for changing neighborhoods and exploring the dynamics of social trends in cities.

Consul General of India Donates “India Corner” Collection to Wesleyan

India

Pictured from left, Joyce Jacobsen, Ishita Mukerji, Andrew White, Consul Sandeep Chakravorty, Michael S. Roth, Swapnil Rai, Balu Balasubrahmaniyan, Steve Angle, and Consul Vipulkumar Mesariya gather at the new “India Corner” in the Olin Library’s Smith Reading Room.

Wesleyan’s Olin Library is now home to a collection of 33 titles donated by the Consulate General of India, New York.

On May 1, Consul Sandeep Chakravorty visited campus and participated in a formal dedication of the “India Corner.”

Housed in the Smith Reading Room, these volumes, representing India’s rich history and culture, and covering the country’s linguistic and geographical diversity, join the library’s other robust holdings in Indian history, culture, and politics as well as Wesleyan’s rich heritage in Indian music, dance, and theater.

Among the donations are Introduction to the Constitution of India by Durga Das Basu; Sufi Lyrics by Bulleh Shah, India: The Emerging Giant by Arvind Panagariya, Contemporary Dogri Short Stories by Ved Rahi, and Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore. All are cataloged and available for checking out at Olin.

Wesleyan is the fifth U.S. university to be gifted such a book collection; the University of Buffalo, the University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Rutgers each have their own “India Corner” at their libraries.

Several Wesleyan faculty and staff attended the "India Corner" dedication ceremony on May 1.

Several Wesleyan faculty and staff attended the “India Corner” dedication ceremony on May 1.

“We’re looking at colleges and universities like [Wesleyan] that are blossoming in their connection to India,” Consul Chakravorty said. “The collection is interesting and represented the diversity of India, from the north, south, east, and west, and some are in Hindi, and other languages.”