Grants

Petit Foundation Supports Girls in Science Summer Camp

Greenstreet Teaching & Learning Center 5.5.17

Pictured fourth from left, Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center, accepts a grant from the Petit family and the Petit Family Foundation on May 5.

This month, Wesleyan’s Green Street Teaching and Learning Center received an $8,000 grant from the Petit Family Foundation to support the 2017 Green Street Girls in Science Summer Camp.

The Girls in Science Summer Camp is open to all children going into grades 4, 5 and 6. Children perform experiments and explore chemistry, electronics and physics with Wesleyan faculty. Campers will meet college student mentors, learn about science careers, create scientific posters, and share what they learn with family and friends at a Science Showcase.

The camp will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Aug. 7-11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center and on Wesleyan’s campus.

NASA Supports Planetary Origin Research at Wesleyan

Jim Greenwood

Jim Greenwood

Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, professor of integrative sciences, have received a research award from NASA in the amount of $550,000 for a program titled “Experimental simulations of chondrule formation by radiative heating of hot planetesimals.”

The grant will allow Greenwood and Herbst to hire a post-doctoral fellow who will work in Greenwood’s lab in Exley Science Center to reproduce chondrules — small spherules of melted rock that formed early in the history of the solar system and hold clues to the origin of the planets.

“The origin of chondrules has been a cosmochemical mystery for many decades,” Herbst said.

Bill Herbst

Bill Herbst

Herbst and Greenwood received the support to test a new theory that they have proposed, known as the “flyby” model. In a paper to the journal Icarus published in 2016, the scientists showed that primitive solar system material irradiated by hot magma during a close flyby of a planetesimal with incandescent lava on its surface could be responsible for the formation of at least some chondrules.

The grant, which comes from the NASA program “Emerging Worlds,” will allow them to test this theory in detail.

Their interdisciplinary research grew out of a seminar series sponsored by the Planetary Science group, which is rooted in the Astronomy and E&ES departments, but has a wide following among faculty in other science and non-science departments at Wesleyan.

Wesleyan Receives Mellon Grant for Pedagogical Innovation

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The Center for Pedagogical Innovation and Lifelong Learning (CPI) helps faculty use new technologies to benefit their teaching. Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish and director of the Center for Global Studies, uses videoconferencing technology in his class to connect with students in Madrid.

Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish and director of the Center for Global Studies, is comfortably seated in front of a semicircle of 11 students. He holds an iPad Pro that controls two large screens on the wall behind him and enables him to move effortlessly, seamlessly from Google Maps, to video clips, to text he can annotate on the iPad. All the while he converses in Spanish with his students about a movie that tells the story of a Moroccan woman repatriating the body of her brother after he died crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in a small boat.

In another class, Gonzalez and a colleague in Madrid co-teach with the help of high-quality videoconferencing technology. (See article.)

“You can’t believe what a success my trans-Atlantic classroom arrangement has become. It was as if the students in Spain were here with us,” says Gonzalez. In one class, students in Spain conversed with peers in Middletown about why certain homicides in Ciudad Juarez had not been classified as terrorism. “Talk about interculturalism!”

Technology is helping Gonzalez to teach differently and more effectively. And that’s one goal of the Center for Pedagogical Innovation and Lifelong Learning (CPI), which has been working with faculty members on new techniques and pedagogical strategies.

Now the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given the CPI a major boost with a $750,000 grant to fund its activities for the next four and a half years.

NEA Supports Center for the Arts, Wesleyan U. Press

As part of a recent National Endowment for the Arts grant, Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts was awarded funds for the 2017-2018 Breaking Ground Dance Series. Upcoming performances this season include the return of Urban Bush Women, performing the Connecticut premiere of ‘Walking with 'Trane’ on March 3.

As part of a recent National Endowment for the Arts grant, Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts was awarded funds for the Breaking Ground Dance Series. Upcoming performances during the 2016-2017 season include the return of Urban Bush Women, performing the Connecticut premiere of ‘Walking with ‘Trane’ on March 3.

The National Endowment for the Arts approved more than $30 million in grants as part of the NEA’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement are Art Works grants of $30,000 for Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts‘ Breaking Ground Dance Series and $25,000 to support Wesleyan University Press in the publication and promotion of books of poetry.

The Art Works category focuses on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts.

The Breaking Ground Dance Series at the Center for the Arts, now in its 17th season at Wesleyan, features cutting-edge choreography, world-renowned companies and companies pushing the boundaries of the art form. Upcoming performances this season include the return of Urban Bush Women on March 3. The company will be performing the Connecticut premiere of ‘Walking with ‘Trane,’ an ethereal investigation conjuring the essence of John Coltrane, inspired by the musical life and spiritual journey of the famed jazz saxophonist.

Past companies from the U.S. and abroad that have been featured on the Breaking Ground Dance Series include Bebe Miller Company, Camille A. Brown, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group, Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, Chunky Move, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. The Center for the Arts partners with Wesleyan’s Dance Department and a subcommittee of their faculty and students to select the companies and plan their residencies.

“Dance is arguably the most under-supported of the performing arts, so funding from the NEA significantly enhances the CFA’s ability to bring dance artists of the highest caliber to Connecticut audiences,” said Laura Paul, interim director of the Center for the Arts. “And beyond the dollars, it is a real point of pride to have the NEA as a funding partner.”

Wesleyan University Press will publish authors Kamau Brathwaite, Camille Dungy, Shane McCrae, Erin Moure, Evie Shockley and Gina Athena Ulysse, who is professor of anthropology and feminist, gender and sexuality studies at Wesleyan. Books will be accompanied by online reader companions, and will be promoted through author readings and workshops, social media, and the press’s website, among other means.

“We are delighted to have the support of the National Endowment for the Arts for the poetry titles that will be published in 2017,” said Wesleyan University Press Director Suzanna Tamminen. “The books coming out this year are tuned to concerns about the planet, about violence in the streets, faraway and in our own homes. At the same time these poems uplift us, and break us out of routine molds of thought. Over the years, this kind of support from the NEA has helped us to reach thousands of people, with readings at libraries, universities, public parks, museums, theaters, schools, bookstores and clubs. We are very excited about this year’s books, and grateful to the NEA for supporting the Press and these works of art.”

A portion of the grant will also enable reading tours for each author.

“The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Wesleyan University Press, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”

Office of Naval Research Supports Microwave Limiter Study in Physics Department

Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, professor of mathematics, and his graduate student, Eleana Makri, are studying photonic limiters, which can be used to protect optical sensors (for example, the human eye) against laser-induced damage. Kottos recently received a grant to advance his research on microwave limiters, an important class of such protection devices.

Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, professor of mathematics, and his graduate student, Eleana Makri, design reflective power limiters, which reflect radiation back into space. Kottos recently received a grant to advance his research on microwave limiters, an important class of such protection devices.

With support from the Office of Naval Research, researchers in Wesleyan’s Physics Department are working on ways to protect optical sensors (for example, the human eye) against laser-induced damage.

In August, Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, professor of mathematics, received a three-year grant from the Office of Naval Research to further his designs of “Reflective Microwave Limiters.” Typical microwave limiters have the ability to block excessive radiation through absorption. However, absorption can lead to overheating, eventually causing the destruction of the limiter.

Kottos studies reflective power limiters with his graduate student Eleana Makri and Postdoctoral Research Associate Roney Thomas. The team hopes to develop realistic designs of microwave limiters that can tolerate high power radiation via direct reflection back in space (instead of absorbing it.)

“The limiter designs that we propose would reflect excess radiation back to space while providing broadband, omnidirectional protection from high-power electromagnetic radiation. As a result, they will be able to protect sensitive equipment by two or even three orders of magnitude higher power radiation than existing limiters,” Kottos explained.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is an organization within the U.S. Department of the Navy that coordinates, executes, and promotes the science and technology programs of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps through schools, universities, government laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit organizations. Due to the rapid development of high power directed energy weapons technology, the ONR is supporting research that explores new materials and protection schemes of electromagnetically sensitive components from high power incident radiation.

NSF Supports Singer’s Research on Habitat Fragmentation in Connecticut

Mike Singer.

Mike Singer.

Mike Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation this month to support a study on habitat fragmentation. Fragmentation occurs when contiguous habitats become separated into smaller, isolated areas often caused by human activities (new roads, housing developments) or natural processes (flooding, drought).

Singer and his colleagues will study the effect of anthropogenic forest fragmentation on the food web of plants, herbivores, and carnivores (tri-trophic interactions) in Connecticut. The project will focus on relationships among deer, trees, caterpillars, and songbirds.

The grant, which will be awarded over three years, is shared with Robert Bagchi, David Wagner, and Christopher Elphick in the University of Connecticut’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Wesleyan’s part of the award totals $258,933 and UConn’s part totals approximately $573,000.

As part of the grant, Singer will recruit a new PhD student to work on the study.

The research team will test several possible reasons for the loss of caterpillars, which are important food for songbirds, in highly fragmented forests. For example, some of their preliminary evidence suggests that forest fragmentation creates better habitat for deer, which browse out some of the best food plant species for caterpillars.

The PhD student will be tasked with testing the hypothesis that caterpillars grow more poorly on the plants in highly fragmented versus large forest tracts.

At Wesleyan, Singer teaches courses on conservation biology, ecology, plant-animal interactions and evolutionary biology.

NIH to Support Weir’s Research on Ribosome Protein Translation

Michael Weir

Michael Weir

Michael Weir, professor of biology, professor of integrative sciences, received a grant worth $491,599 from the National Institutes of Health in September. Weir will use the award to better understand how ribosomes — the machines that make proteins — choose sequences in mRNAs (messenger ribonucleic acids) to start protein translation.

“This is an ongoing challenge in biology and is of great importance for investigations of cell function,” Weir said.

Weir is testing the hypothesis that sequences downstream of the translation start codon of mRNAs can form transient base pairs with a conserved sequence in 18S ribosomal RNA (called the 530 loop). This ribosomal RNA sequence is part of the structure of the ribosome and is located in the ribosome entrance tunnel for mRNAs.

He proposes that the base pairing is like a car’s braking system that helps the ribosome pause at the start codon, and that the transient base pairing also helps the ribosome walk along the mRNA in three-nucleotide steps as it adds amino acids to the growing new protein chain.

Kuenzli, Horst Honored with NEH Grants for Book Projects

Two Wesleyan faculty received National Endowment for the Humanities grants on Aug. 9.

Katherine Kuenzli

Katherine Kuenzli

Katherine Kuenzli, associate professor of art history, received a $250,000 Scholarly Editions and Translations grant. She and project co-directors Michael André and Kathleen James-Chakraborty will use the funds to prepare a critical edition and translation of a selection of writings by the Belgian artist and essayist Henry van de Velde titled Henry van de Velde: Selected Essays, 1889–1914.

Scholarly Editions and Translations grants support the preparation of editions and translations of pre-existing texts of value to the humanities that are currently inaccessible or available in inadequate editions. Typically, the texts and documents are significant literary, philosophical, and historical materials; but other types of work, such as musical notation, also eligible.

Kuenzli also is working on a monograph titled Henry van de Velde: Designing Modernism. Together with Selected Essays, these projects recover van de Velde’s important role in Neo-Impressionist painting and the German Werkbund, and they demonstrate how ideas of internationalism and the total work of art lie at the heart of modern approaches to museum display, art education, and industrial design.

Humanities Open Book Program Supports Out of Print Book Digitizing

Wesleyan recently received a $100,000 grant through the Humanities Open Book Program for digitizing select titles in the areas of dance and theater that were previously published by Wesleyan University Press but are no longer in print.

The Open Book Program is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities, and is part of the agency-wide initiative called The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square. The purpose of the Open Book grant is to make out-of-print titles previously published by academic presses widely available in an open access (free) e-book format.

Barth, Patalano Receive Major Grant from National Science Foundation

Hilary Barth

Hilary Barth

Andrea Patalano

Andrea Patalano

Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, and Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, have received a major grant from the National Science Foundation. The $1,101,456 grant will support collaborative research on quantitative reasoning conducted in the Cognitive Development Lab (directed by Barth) and the Reasoning and Decision Making Lab (directed by Patalano). The research project will be conducted in collaboration with Sara Cordes at Boston College, which will receive an additional $177,496.

According to the NSF abstract, humans have an innate ability to estimate quantities yet their intuitions often contain biases that interfere with learning new ways to think about quantity. Weaving together strands of psychology, neuroscience, economics, and education, the researchers hope to shed light on the cognitive processes underlying our abilities to estimate 4 kinds of quantities: number, space, time, and probability. By comparing processes across these four distinct areas, the researchers aim to provide a unifying account of how children and adults estimate quantities, which has the potential to transform current understanding of the cognitive bases of how people learn in and across STEM disciplines. Achieving a simple unifying account is important because the ability to think well about quantity in all of these areas is fundamental to STEM learning.

Support Wesleyan Researchers in Crowdfunding Pilot

Four Wesleyan academic departments, from psychology to dance to chemistry to biology, are competing for grant funds through a new crowdfunding site specifically designed for research project fundraising.

experimentExperiment.com’s Challenge Grant for Liberal Arts Colleges asked scientists to define a scientific research question for the crowd with a prize for the project with the most backers. The pilot launched on Feb. 24 and concludes March 25.During this 31-day period, the goal is to reach $4,000 in funding. If so, the team is granted the money. If not, they receive nothing and no one’s pledges are charged. By backing a project, participants will receive updates, results and data from project creators.

Wesleyan research include how the brain prevents risky-decision making/addiction; the effects of using artificial sweeteners; controlling seizures with light; and the effectiveness of somatic mind-body practices on victims of the war.

On Wednesday, March 16 at 11:59 p.m., Experiment will award the project with the most backers $2,000 directly through their project page.

Wesleyan’s projects include:

Wesleyan 1 of 12 Institutions Awarded Beckman Scholars Program

Wesleyan is one of only 12 institutions awarded a prestigious Beckman Scholars Program this year, according to Francis Starr, director of the College of Integrative Sciences and professor of physics, who directs Wesleyan’s Beckman program. The Beckman Scholars Program provides intensive research experiences and career mentoring to help Wesleyan undergraduates develop as leaders in the sciences.

Up to two Wesleyan students will receive this award annually, which carries a total stipend of $18,200 plus funds to support supplies and travel. Awards are normally made to sophomores to support research during the summer through the summer following junior year.