Faculty

Psychology Faculty, Students, Alumni Present Research at CDS Meeting

Professor of Psychology Hilary Barth and Kerry Brew BA '18, MA '19 were among a large group of Wesleyan faculty, students, and alumni who recently presented research at the 2019 CDS Biennial meeting.

Professor of Psychology Hilary Barth, right, and Kerry Brew ’18, MA ’19, left, were among a large group of Wesleyan faculty, students, and alumni who recently presented research at the 2019 Cognitive Development Society biennial meeting.

Numerous students, alumni, and faculty from Wesleyan’s Cognitive Development Labs recently presented their research at the 2019 Cognitive Development Society biennial meeting, held Oct. 17–19 in Louisville, Ky. The labs are led by Professor of Psychology Hilary Barth and Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman.

Barth and Kerry Brew ’18, MA ’19 presented their poster, “Do Demand Characteristics Contribute to Minimal Ingroup Bias?” The work was done in collaboration with lab alumni Taylar Clark ’19 and Jordan Feingold-Link ’18.

Sophie Charles '20, former lab coordinator Alexandra Zax, and lab coordinator Katherine Williams presented their poster on "The Role of Digit Identity in 5- to 8-year-olds' numerical estimates."

Sophie Charles ’20, former lab coordinator Alexandra Zax, and lab coordinator Katherine Williams presented their poster on “The Role of Digit Identity in 5- to 8-year-olds’ numerical estimates.”

Sophie Charles ’20, lab coordinator Katherine Williams, and former lab coordinator Alexandra Zax presented their poster, “The Role of Digit Identity in 5- to 8-year-olds’ numerical estimates.” Barth also contributed to this work.

In addition, many alumni of the Cognitive Development Labs presented at the conference, including Vivian Liu ’18 (now at New York University); Dominic Gibson ’10 (now at University of Chicago); Rebecca Peretz-Lange ’13 (now at Tufts University); Andrew Ribner ’14 (now at University of Pittsburgh); Julia Leonard ’11 (now at University of Pennsylvania); and Ariel Starr ’07 (now at University of Washington). Former lab coordinators Jessica Taggart, Talia Berkowitz, Ilona Bass, and Sona Kumar, and former postdoc Emily Slusser also presented work.

 

 

Annual Liberal Arts + Forum Highlight of Recent Trip to Asia

At the second annual Liberal Arts + forum in Beijing on Oct. 19, from left, Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, and Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, spoke on a panel moderated by Julia Zhu '91 about Wesleyan's unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching economics and environmental studies.

At the second annual Liberal Arts + Forum in Beijing on Oct. 19, Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, left, and Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, center, spoke on a panel moderated by Julia Zhu ’91, right, about Wesleyan’s unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching economics and environmental studies.

In October, President Michael Roth and other Wesleyan faculty and staff traveled to Asia to meet with alumni, parents, prospective families, and others. The trip included visits to Seoul, Beijing, and Taipei.

A highlight of the trip was Wesleyan’s second annual Liberal Arts + Sustainable Economic Development Forum, which took place in Beijing on Oct. 19. Last year, Wesleyan held the inaugural Liberal Arts + Forum in Shanghai, which highlighted film education and US-China collaborations. (Read the story here.)

Over 100 people attended this year’s forum, including prospective students and families, current parents, counselors, and alumni. The day started with an “admission 101” workshop by Associate Dean of Admission James Huerta that provided invaluable insights for prospective families preparing for the college admission process.

Attendees regrouped in the afternoon for Roth’s opening remarks, which highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary learning and how a liberal arts education equips students with a lifetime of important skills. This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Julia Zhu ’91, entrepreneur and CEO of Phoenix TV Culture and Live Entertainment Company; Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economic; and Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies. The speakers discussed Wesleyan’s unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching economics and environmental studies. Later, Tian Ai ’06 and Yinghai Xie ’97, alumni working in the financial services industry, shared their insights into the value of a liberal arts education in personal growth and careers in the second panel, moderated by Ted Plafker ’86, P’17, ’18.

Forum attendee and volunteer Tianhua Shao P’21 commented, “It’s such a privilege to serve as a parent volunteer. Although the forum took a day, I had the valuable opportunity to talk with President Roth, professors, and alumni, and enhance my understanding of liberal arts education and Wesleyan. As a transfer, my daughter is taking full advantage of Wesleyan’s open curriculum and thrives at Wesleyan each and every day!”

NASA Funds Study of Gilmore’s Venus Mission Concept

Martha Gilmore

Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, believes we have a lot to learn from studying Venus—yet the United States has not sent a mission to the Earth-sized planet since the early 1990s. That’s why Gilmore has proposed a major flagship mission concept study to assess whether Venus was ever a habitable planet by looking at its rocks and atmosphere.

In October, NASA agreed to fund the planetary mission concept on Venus submitted by Gilmore, a planetary geologist, and colleagues at several other institutions, who come from varied disciplines. Gilmore, who is the principal investigator, said NASA received 54 proposals and selected 10 to feed into the next Planetary Decadal Survey. Theirs was the only proposal on Venus to receive funding.

In 2020, the National Academy of Science will convene a panel of scientists and engineers to determine the scientific priorities for Planetary Science over the period 2023–2032. This Planetary Decadal Survey is conducted every 10 years and is tasked with recommending a portfolio of missions to NASA. The mission concepts that were funded will be developed for consideration by the Decadal Survey. In the coming months, Gilmore will be meeting and communicating regularly with her science team and conducting mission design runs at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Final reports are due to the Decadal Survey in June 2020, and will describe mission architecture, cost, and how the mission will address the scientific priorities of the Decadal Survey and NASA.

Gilmore’s expertise is on the surface morphology and composition of Venus, Mars, and Earth, and her PhD focused on Venus during the United States’ Magellan mission. She explained that all three planets are rocky, and there is evidence that they all had oceans early in solar system history. Scientists believe that Mars’s ocean dried up first—within about one billion years—and that Venus’s ocean may have lasted for two or three billion years.

“Thus, for most of solar system history, there were two Earth-sized planets with oceans,” said Gilmore. “Was Venus habitable like the Earth and if so, what changed?”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn 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. CT Post: “Former Wesleyan Provost is First Woman President at Hobart and William Smith Colleges”

Joyce Jacobsen, formerly Wesleyan’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and the Andrews Professor of Economics, was inaugurated Oct. 18 as the first woman president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. At the ceremony, the chairman of the HWS Board of Trustees said: “Dr. Jacobsen enters the presidency of Hobart and William Smith at a time of increasing complexity in higher education both here on campus and nationally. It is my belief, and the unanimous belief of the Board of Trustees, that there is no one better to help us navigate this future than Dr. Joyce Jacobsen.” Read more coverage of the inauguration in Finger Lake Times.

2. Wilson Center Blog: “Victoria Smolkin: A History of Soviet Atheism”

In this Q&A, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin discusses her book, A Sacred Space is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism. She explains how religion in the former Soviet states has changed since the fall of the Soviet Union, and offers a preview of her second book project. Smolkin was a Title VIII Research Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in 2014–15.

Coach Raba Inducted into the Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame

Raba

Coach John Raba congratulates goalie Otto Bohan ’20 after the men’s lacrosse team won the National Championship in 2018. Raba will be inducted into the Connecticut Chapter of US Lacrosse Hall of Fame on Nov. 16.

John Raba, head coach of the Wesleyan men’s lacrosse team and adjunct professor of physical education, has been inducted into the Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame for the Class of 2019.

“It is an honor and privilege to be inducted into the Connecticut Chapter of US Lacrosse Hall of Fame,” said Raba. “I am extremely thankful to the Connecticut Lacrosse Foundation and all of its members for this honor. I feel blessed for what the game of lacrosse has done for me and the relationships that it has allowed me to have. I look forward to serving the lacrosse community for many more years to come.”

John Raba

John Raba

Raba has been at the helm of the Cardinals for 23 seasons and has guided Wesleyan to a 278-117 (.704) record, including a National Championship (2018), four NCAA Final Four appearances (2006, ’07, ’17, ’18), and two NESCAC titles (2009, ’17). Under Raba’s tutelage, the Cardinals have qualified for the NCAA Tournament seven times and boast a 15-6 overall record in the national postseason. They have also advanced to 17 conference tournaments, where they own a 23-16 mark.

Raba is the all-time winningest coach in the ultra-competitive NESCAC, and in 2017, he was named the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Division III National Coach of the Year after leading his team to the NCAA Final Four. The 2017 squad led the nation, in all divisions, with a 20-game win streak as they finished 20-2 overall. The 20 wins were a program record. The following year, Raba’s Cardinals returned to the national semifinals but this time advanced to the National Championship, where they won the first national team title in any sport in Wesleyan history, defeating powerhouse Salisbury at Gillette Stadium, 8-6. The Cardinals’ road to the Championship featured road wins over No. 2 Tufts and No. 1 RIT, before knocking off the third-ranked Sea Gulls.

In Raba’s 23 years at the helm of the Wesleyan men’s lacrosse program, the Cardinals have only finished below .500 once, during his first year as head coach in 1997. Since then, Wesleyan has posted an incredible 20 winning seasons.

Raba was also inducted into the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame on Jan. 24.

The induction ceremony will take place on Nov. 16 at Vazzano’s Four Seasons in Stratford.

Tickets for the event can be purchased through the Connecticut Lacrosse Foundation website at www.ctlacrosse.org. The cost of each ticket is $60 per person ($20 for children and a table of 10 for $500).

Grossman Discusses Latest Unemployment Trends on WTIC Radio

Grossman

Richard Grossman

On Oct. 16, Richard Grossman, chair and professor of economics, discussed the latest unemployment numbers and current state of the economy with Todd Feinburg at WTIC in Hartford. This month, the national unemployment rate has fallen to a new low—3.5%.

“Historically, and certainly for the last 10 years, the number peaked at 10% after the financial crisis, and it’s been working its way down ever since,” Grossman said. “That doesn’t mean all is wonderful if you’re in the labor force. There’s a lot of other things going on … people working part-time who would like to be working full-time … people who are doing contract work that would like to be having full-time jobs with benefits.”

Economists generally see an uptick in wages when unemployment goes down.

“Last month, the wage rate went up, but it went up by less than it had gone up in the previous month, so it suggests that even though the employment rate is low, that still hasn’t had an effect on wage. Normally we’d expect a really strong labor market to have some positive impact on wages.”

Grossman is an expert on economic history and current policy issues in macroeconomics, banking, and finance.

Hogendorn Presents Economics Papers in New York and Portugal

Christiaan Hogendorn

Christiaan Hogendorn

On Oct. 3, Christiaan Hogendorn, associate professor of economics, presented a paper titled “Unequal Growth in Local Wages: Rail versus Internet Infrastructure” for the City College of New York’s Economics Department. David Schwartz ’17 co-authored the paper.

And on Oct. 12, Hogendorn presented a paper titled “The Long Tail of Online News Visits” at the 17th Media Economics Workshop in Braga, Portugal. The paper was co-authored by Hengyi Zhu ’15 and Lisa George of Hunter College. He also served as a discussant for a panel on Network-Mediated Knowledge Spillovers in ICT/Information Security.

Barber Authors New Book on ‘One Man’s Journey from Gangleader to Peacekeeper’

Citizen OUtlaw

Charles Barber is the author of Citizen Outlaw, published Oct. 15 by HarperCollins.

Charles Barber, writer-in-residence in letters, is the author of a new book that tells the dramatic story of William Juneboy Outlaw III. Formerly the head of a major cocaine gang in New Haven, Outlaw turned his life around and now is an award-winning community advocate, leading a team of former felons who negotiate truces between gangs on the very streets that he once terrorized.

Barber wrote Citizen Outlaw: One Man’s Journey from Gangleader to Peacekeeper, published Oct. 15 by HarperCollins, in collaboration with Outlaw. The two gave a WESeminar and book signing on Nov. 1 at Russell House as part of Homecoming/Family Weekend. Their collaboration was also featured on the Today Show on Nov. 13.

Three Wesleyan students and alumni also worked over the summer and contributed to the book including Ben Owen ’21, Nicole Updegrove ’14, and Natalia Siegel ’18.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn 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. The Nation: “Edward Snowden Deserves to Be Tried by a Jury of His Peers, Just Like Everyone Else”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti argues against the Justice Department’s decision to deny Edward Snowden’s request for a jury trial. She contends that in Snowden’s case, in which he is accused of leaking classified information from the National Security Administration in 2013, a jury trial “is not only a viable alternative to a hearing before a judge; rather, given the nature of the charges—where the defendant has supposedly acted to protect the people from the very state that would charge him with a crime—jury deliberation is the proper forum for discussion of appropriate punishment and is the bulwark against the potential misconduct of the state.”

2. Transitions Online: “Stuck in the Middle”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, and Dmytro Babachanakh ’20 explore the history of U.S. involvement in Ukraine, and call upon U.S. leaders of both parties to stop “treating lesser powers as political instruments.”

3. Tulsa World: “Save the Little Grouse on the Prairie”

Alex Harold ’20 is the author of this op-ed that calls for the lesser prairie chicken to be placed on the endangered species list to get the protections it desperately needs, as over 90 percent of its habitat has been degraded or destroyed. While many haven’t heard of this bird, Harold explains that it is an “indicator species” that “reflect(s) the health of the entire prairie ecosystem.” Harold wrote the op-ed as an assignment in E&ES 399, Calderwood Seminar in Environmental Science Journalism, taught by Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell, this semester. The Calderwood Seminars are offered in a variety of disciplines to teach students how to effectively communicate academic knowledge to the public. Read more here.

Author Translated by Winston Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature

Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature is coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, Emerita.

For the second time, an author whose work Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, Emerita, translated, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke on October 10 “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience,” according to the Nobel committee. Handke has become “one of the most influential writers in Europe after the Second World War,” the committee said.

Winston, who specializes in literary translation, began translating Handke after his long-time English translator, Ralph Manheim, died. She has published many translations of Handke’s works, including Essay on the Jukebox (1994), My Year in the No-Man’s-Bay (1998), On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House (2000), Crossing the Sierra de Gredos (2007), Don Juan: His Own Story (2010), The Moravian Night (2016), and The Great Fall (2018). She is currently working on several new translations of Handke’s work.

O’Connell in The Conversation: How Deep is the Ocean?

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell has written a new article for The Conversation’s “Curious Kids” series answering the question “How deep is the ocean?” The article is based on her research studying the sea floor.

Curious Kids: How deep is the ocean?

The remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer captures images of a newly discovered hydrothermal vent field in the western Pacific. NOAA

The remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer captures images of a newly discovered hydrothermal vent field in the western Pacific. (NOAA)

Explorers started making navigation charts showing how wide the ocean was more than 500 years ago. But it’s much harder to calculate how deep it is.

If you wanted to measure the depth of a pool or lake, you could tie a weight to a string, lower it to the bottom, then pull it up and measure the wet part of the string. In the ocean you would need a rope thousands of feet long.

In 1872 the HMS Challenger, a British Navy ship, set sail to learn about the ocean, including its depth. It carried 181 miles (291 kilometers) of rope.

During their four-year voyage, the Challenger crew collected samples of rocks, mud and animals from many different areas of the ocean. They also found one of the deepest zones, in the western Pacific, the Mariana Trench, which stretches for 1,580 miles (2,540 kilometers).

Sultan to Lead $2M Evolutionary-Developmental Biology Project

Sonia Sultan

In the Wesleyan Research Greenhouse, Professor of Biology Sonia Sultan studies how Polygonum plants develop and function differently in response to contrasting environmental conditions. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

With support from a $2 million John Templeton Foundation National Sciences grant, Professor of Biology Sonia Sultan will spearhead a multi-institution evolutionary biology research project over the next three years.

The project, titled “Agency in Living Systems: How Organisms Actively Generate Adaptation, Resilience and Innovation at Multiple Levels of Organization,” developed from Sultan’s research on how individual organisms respond to their environments. Sultan and her Wesleyan research group study this question through experiments with the common plant Polygonum.

Sultan's data on Polygonum plant have broader implications for understanding evolution.

Sultan’s data on Polygonum plant have broader implications for understanding evolution.

Sultan’s previous findings have shown that genetically identical Polygonum plants can develop very differently depending on their growth conditions, allowing adaptive adjustments by individual plants without any genetic change. Because these adjustments are made actively by plants, rather than pre-scripted by their DNA sequence, this insight poses challenges to prevailing conceptual models for development and evolutionary adaptation.

“Scientists are particularly keen to understand these types of induced changes because they may help populations to very rapidly adapt to novel environmental stresses caused by human activities,” Sultan said.

The Templeton Foundation grant supports a consortium to investigate more broadly this property of biological agency—the ways in which active, real-time responses by living organisms influence the organisms’ own features. Sultan and her international team of co-investigators will focus on the active response mechanisms produced by evolution that grant organisms a degree of agency in shaping their own development, behavior, and subsequent evolution.

“New findings over the past decade about gene expression, development, the nature of inheritance, and the basis of adaptation, have led developmental and evolutionary biologists to re-examine some fundamental and long-standing ideas,” Sultan said. “The concept of agency may provide a unifying framework at a time when many scientists are seeking to update and expand those ideas. This project gives us the opportunity to help move the field forward and hopefully contribute to a more nuanced understanding of organisms.”