Faculty

Faculty/Staff Band Mattabesset String Collective Performs

The Mattabesset String Collective is a five-piece Wesleyan-affiliated acoustic ensemble playing an eclectic mix of bluegrass, blues, folk, mountain, country and rock, all in a string band style.

The group’s name, Mattabesset, is the Algonquian name for the region that became Middletown. “Since our music reaches back into history, we thought it was appropriate. We were attracted to the term collective because it suggests the egalitarian nature of our enterprise,” said band member Marc Eisner, dean of the Social Sciences Division, the Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in Public Policy, professor of government, professor of environmental studies.

The band performed July 29 in Higganum, Conn. Photos of the concert are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

The Mattabesset String Collective is a five-piece string band featuring dobro, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, bass, banjo or cuatro. Pictured from left is Gil Skillman, Rebecca McCallum, Kevin Wiliarty, Marc Eisner and Barry Chernoff. 

Pictured from left is Gil Skillman, Rebecca McCallum, Kevin Wiliarty, Marc Eisner and Barry Chernoff. They have about 80 songs in their repertoire, ranging from old-time traditional jug band music, to string band versions of Jimi Hendrix and Guns N’ Roses, and a few songs written by band members. “One of the pleasures of playing in this band involves reaching for, and occasionally attaining, new levels of musical cohesion,” Skillman said.

Gil Skillman is professor of economics, tutor in the College of Social Studies. He plays the banjo, cuatro and dobro with the string collective.

Gil Skillman is professor of economics, tutor in the College of Social Studies. He plays the banjo, cuatro and dobro with the string collective. Skillman taught himself guitar as a teenager. “Once you learn to play one fretted instrument, learning others is primarily a matter of varying the approach to sounding the strings, which is easier than learning to play an instrument from the ground up,” he said.

Faculty Spotlight: Michelle Personick

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, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of integrative sciences, is an advocate for Wesleyan Women in Science (WesWIS). “The more women (and underrepresented minorities) who pursue careers in the sciences, the more younger female and underrepresented students will be able to imagine themselves in those roles, and the sciences will begin to diversify,” she said. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this Q&A, we speak with Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of integrative sciences. Personick, who joined the faculty at Wesleyan in 2015, is interested in developing tailored metal nanomaterials that improve the clean production of energy and enable the efficient use of energy resources. Her work has recently been published in the journals Particle and Particle Systems Characterization and American Chemical Society Catalysis.

Q: Professor Personick, how would you describe your main research interests?

A: The main research areas in my group are controlling the shape and composition of noble metal nanocrystals, and exploring the use of these nanoparticles as catalysts to improve the efficiency and selectivity of reactions that are important in chemical industry and in energy production.

When she's not teaching or working in the lab, Michelle Personick, at right, rows crew with the Riverfront Recapture masters racing team in Hartford.

When she’s not teaching or working in the lab, Michelle Personick, at right, rows with the Riverfront Recapture masters racing team in Hartford, Conn.

Q: When did you develop an interest in chemistry?

A: I’ve always been interested in science in general, but it was more a broader interest than a specific focus on chemistry. There was actually a period of time in high school when I wanted to be a particle physicist. I chose chemistry after writing an essay about a cool new light-controlled nanoparticle cancer treatment for a class my senior year in high school.

Q: What attracted you to Wesleyan and how has your experience been here over the last couple years?

A: I had a really positive small liberal arts college experience at Middlebury, where most of my professors knew who I was and cared about how I was doing in their class. Once I decided I wanted to be a professor, I knew that was the type of environment I wanted. In the different courses I’ve taught in my first two years, I’ve found the atmosphere at Wesleyan to be well-matched to pursuing that kind of teaching philosophy. What attracted me to Wesleyan specifically are the unique research opportunities that come out of having a small, but strong, graduate program in addition to being a top-tier undergraduate institution. The advanced research instrumentation here at Wesleyan, such as the electron microscopy facility, is also crucial to our ability to successfully carry out our research. I’d always wanted to work primarily with undergraduates once I set up my own research lab, but having even just two graduate students in that lab as well makes an enormous difference in the level of research I’m able to carry out. In turn, that creates an environment in which the very talented undergraduates I’ve had in my group so far have the opportunity to work on independent projects that get published in peer-reviewed journals and that are well-received by other scientists at major conferences. It’s been very rewarding over the last two years to get our lab up and running and to begin to see the results of the hard work put in by all of my research students, undergraduate and graduate.

Wesleyan Welcomes 57 New Faculty in 2017-18

Pictured, back row, from left: Saray Shai, Yaniv Feller, Samir Bandaogo, Colin Smith and Tyshawn Sorey. Pictured, front row, from left: Justin Peck, Carlos Jiménez-Hoyos, Valeria López Fadul, Daniel Smyth and Scott Aalgaard.

This year, Wesleyan welcomes 11 new tenure-track faculty, one professor of the practice, and 45 visiting faculty and fellows.

The new junior faculty who start this year include:

Scott W. Aalgaard, assistant professor of East Asian studies
Aalgaard holds BA and MA degrees from the University of Victoria, and MA and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago. His dissertation, titled “‘Homesick Blues’: Crisis, Critique, and Collectivity in Modern Japanese Cultural Production,” traces critical voices in literature, music, and everyday life in modern and contemporary Japan. His areas of research include critical practice in Japan, contemporary Japanese culture, modern and contemporary Japanese literature and popular music, and theories and histories of fascism.

Kleinberg’s Book Argues for a Deconstructive Approach to the Practice, Writing of History

Ethan Kleinberg, director of the Center for the Humanities, is the author of Haunting History: For a Deconstructive Approach to the Past, published by Stanford University Press in August 2017.

“Haunting History is about the ways we think about the past and ‘do’ history at a moment when the digital revolution is changing how we conduct research, store materials, and even write,” Kleinberg said. “In it I argue that many of strategies for writing about, but also understanding the past, are conditioned by the analog practices of the previous century which has served to create the illusion that the past can be studied like an object held in your hand or placed under a microscope.”

The past — by definition — is gone and thus has no definite properties or perhaps we can say that is has latent properties that are activated when we do history, Kleinberg explained. “But this activation of the past is always partial leaving remains that are hidden or dormant. This is a past that is absent but haunts us and can return in ways that disturb our conventional historical narratives and understanding of what the past and history is.”

To account for this play of absence and presence, Kleinberg advocate for a “hauntological” approach to the past.

Bloom ’75, Sawhney Explore the Elm City’s Underbelly in New Haven Noir

New Haven Noir, edited by Amy BloomA star-studded cast of contributors curated by Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing Amy Bloom ’75 fill the pages of New Haven Noir, featuring original stories from Michael Cunningham, Stephen Carter, Roxana Robinson, Assistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney and many others. The book is the latest addition to an award-winning series of original noir anthologies published by Akashic Books, founded by publisher and editor-in-chief Johnny Temple ’88.

“I’m a big fan of noir,” says Bloom, editor of the anthology, which has garnered praise from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. “When Johnny called me and said, I don’t know if you’re from New Haven, but I know you’re connected to New Haven and I’d love you to edit the anthology, I jumped at the opportunity,” she said.

Bloom worked with Temple to select contributors for the anthology, with Bloom choosing to invite several writer friends who hadn’t written noir before, including Alice Mattison and Michael Cunningham. “I told them, it’s conflict and it’s mystery. Bleak. Snappy outfits. Great dialogue,” Bloom said. “And they said, count us in.”

In addition to serving as editor of the anthology, Bloom also is a contributor. Her story, “I’ve Never Been to Paris,” set in New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood, is actually an excerpt from a mystery she wrote years ago, tailored specifically for New Haven Noir.

Sawhney Authors E-Book on Race, Police Brutality

Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, is the author of a recent work of fiction titled The Diary of Rehan Malhotra, published as an e-book by Juggernaut Books (2017).

In this timely story, Rehan, the son of a Muslim mother and Hindu father, is a middle-aged high school teacher in New Haven, Conn., who struggles with his growing estrangement from his wife and the affluent, white community in which he lives. A charged encounter with a neighbor causes him to look back on his troubled teenage years, when he used and sold drugs, and when he forged a problematic friendship with a young black man named Ink. The Diary of Rehan Malhotra casts a spotlight on the invisible walls that divide city from suburb, which keep some people safe and others confined. It is a meditation on the possibilities and limitations of literature as a cure for social ills.

The story costs 10 rupees, or 15 cents, and is being published as a part of Juggernaut’s efforts to get inexpensive, quality literature to as diverse a readership as possible.

Sawhney is also the author of South Haven and the editor of Delhi Noir. He also collaborated with Amy Bloom ’75 on New Haven Noir, Hirsh has lived in Delhi, London and New York City.

Sawhney’s Novel Named to South Asian Literature Prize Longlist

A novel written by Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, was named to the longlist for the 2017 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The DSC Prize, which carries an award of $25,000, celebrates the rich and varied world of literature of the South Asian region.

In Sawhney’s South Haven (Akashic Books, 2016), grief, violence and history collide to offer a radical look at childhood and migration in suburban New England. South Haven is one of 13 books on the list. The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 27 in London.

The prize brings South Asian writing to a new global audience through a celebration of the achievements of South Asian writers, and aims to raise awareness of South Asian culture around the world.

In addition, Sawhney’s novel was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award, which recognizes South Asian writing. The winner for 2017 will be announced in November.

Sawhney has lived in Delhi, India; London, U.K. and New York City. He currently lives in New Haven, Conn.

Yohe Writes about Trump, Climate Change

Gary Yohe

In the near future, the Trump Administration must decide whether to approve or reject a new scientific report on climate change. Writing in The Conversation, Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, asserts, “If the Trump administration chooses to reject the pending national Climate Science Special Report, it would be more damaging than pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Full stop.”

Yohe backs up this bold claim by explaining why this report is so important and describing a crucial difference between the report and the Paris Climate Agreement. Namely, “the Paris accord focuses on reducing emissions, while the Climate Science Special Report is designed to help the U.S. better adapt to the effects of climate change even as it underscores the importance of cutting emissions.”

Pitts-Taylor Wins Merton Book Award for The Brain’s Body

Victoria Pitts-Taylor, left, was presented with the Merton Book Award by Mary Frank Fox of the Georgia Institute of Technology, a council member for the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.

Professor of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Victoria Pitts-Taylor, pictured at left, received the Robert K. Merton Award for her book, The Brain’s Body: Neuroscience and Corporeal Politics (Duke University Press, 2016). The award was presented at a meeting of the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association in Montreal, Canada on Aug. 14.

The Merton Award is given annually in recognition of an outstanding book on science, knowledge, and/or technology published during the preceding three years.

The Brain’s Body previously won the 2016 prize in Feminist Philosophy of Science given by the Women’s Caucus of the Philosophy of Science Association.

Pitts-Taylor also is professor of science in society, professor of sociology.

Research Paper by Personick, King Published in ‘Particle’ Journal

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, and her graduate student Melissa King, are co-authors of a paper titled “Bimetallic Nanoparticles with Exotic Facet Structures via Iodide-Assisted Reduction of Palladium,” published in the journal Particle and Particle Systems Characterization, Vol. 34, Issue 5, in May 2017. The research was featured on the inside front cover of the issue.

In this study, Personick and King explain how gold–palladium tetradecapods (14-pointed nanoparticles) with an unusual combination of both well-defined concave and convex facets can be synthesized by introducing dilute concentrations of iodide during nanoparticle growth. Iodide directs the formation of the tetradecapods by increasing the rate of palladium ion reduction, which is a new role for this shape-controlling additive.

This article also was recently highlighted in Advanced Science News.

Winslow Remembered for Establishing World Music Program

Richard Winslow '40 received a Doctor of Letters at the 2010 Commencement. President Roth announced the establishment of the Richard K. Winslow chair in music, made possible by a generous gift from the Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Richard Winslow ’40 received a Doctor of Letters at the 2010 commencement. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Richard Winslow, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, died July 24, 2017 at the age of 99. A service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1 at the Antrim Baptist Church, 85 Main St. in Antrim, N.H. All are welcome.

Winslow received his BA in English from Wesleyan with the Class of 1940, and his BS and MS from the Julliard School. He joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1949 and taught music here for 34 years until he retired in 1983. During this time, he advocated for and oversaw the establishment of Wesleyan’s renowned program in world music and had a profound influence on the lives of many students and colleagues.

His friend and colleague, Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Emeritus, said “Without Winslow, Wesleyan would never have had the visionary music department of such ambition, scope, and radicalism that it continues to enjoy. He was a kind of radical Yankee in the spirit of Thoreau and Ives. Dick was a figure from an old Wesleyan who ensured that music would have permanent prominence in a small liberal arts college, affecting the world of music in countries, institutions, and concert halls around the globe as the ‘energy’ (his favorite word) of the place radiated outward.”

Mukerji, Oliver Co-Author Study in PNAS on Basic Cell Function

In this illustration, SecA is shown in light gray and the SecYEG complex is in dark gray. The rainbow colored portion of SecA is the two helix finger. n cyan is a model of the hairpin.

In this illustration, the hairpin is highlighted in cyan. The hairpin is formed by the initiator part of a protein.

All cells — bacterial or human — secrete up to 10 or 20 percent of the proteins that they make. Human secreted proteins, for example, include components of serum, hormones, growth factors that promote cell development during embryogenesis and tissue remodeling, and proteins that provide the basis for immune cell signaling during infection or when fighting cancer.

The secretion process, however, isn’t an easy feat for cells, as they need to move the proteins across a membrane through a channel. Transport requires the formation of a hairpin, formed by an initiator protein.

In a recent study, Don Oliver, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, explain the importance of where and why hairpins form and how they help proteins move across the cell.

The study, titled “Alignment of the protein substrate hairpin along the SecA two-helix finger primes protein transport in Escherichia coli,” brings together key areas of membrane biochemistry, structural biology and molecular biophysics, and has innovative applications of molecular genetics and fluorescence spectroscopy. It was published in the Aug. 7 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).