Grants

Wesleyan Receives State Funds for Stem Cell Outreach

The University of Connecticut-Wesleyan University Stem Cell Core was among the recipients of a new batch of state funding granted for stem cell research.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy on June 24 announced nearly $10 million in new funds to 18 Connecticut-based stem cell researchers. The UConn-Wesleyan Core received $500,000, of which about $25,000 will go to the outreach component of the Core run by Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology. According to Grabel, the funds will support visits by stem cell researchers to Connecticut colleges and universities. Since its founding in 2006, the UConn-Wesleyan Core has contributed substantially to the Connecticut stem cell initiative by providing a central source of technologies and materials for research on human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.

Read more about it here.

Read the Governor’s announcement about the new stem cell research funds here.

Students Receive Patricelli Center Grants, Priebatsch Summer Internship

This month, five Wesleyan students received Summer Experience Grants, supported by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The honor comes with a $4,000 stipend to supplement costs associated with a summer internship experience.

The grants are available for Wesleyan sophomores and juniors currently receiving need-based financial aid who plan to do socially innovative or socially responsible work during summer break.

The recipients include Theodora Messalas ’15, Dara Mysliwiec ’16, Keren Reichler ’16, Geneva Jonathan ’15 and Jared Geilich ’15. In addition, film major Aaron Kalischer-Coggins ’15 received a Priebatsch Internship Grant. All grantees report on their experiences on the Patricelli Center’s ENGAGE blog.

Theodora Messalas

Theodora Messalas ’15

Sociology major Theodora Messalas is working with a food pantry, soup kitchen and women’s homeless shelter called Crossroads Community Services in New York City, exploring ways to implement successful social services in which the needs and preferences of the end-users are paramount.

“I am interested in finding out exactly how Crossroads is run in the hopes of one day spearheading my own similar organization,” Messalas said. “I want to see firsthand how they have translated the desire to provide food and shelter to underserved New Yorkers into a running operation that can actually get these services to people. I want to see all their successes, and I want to get to know the roadblocks that they meet.”

Biology and earth and environmental studies major Dara Mysliwiec is addressing food sovereignty in Lamas, Peru, using sustainable – and previously lost – indigenous farming techniques

State Grant will Support Hingorani’s Research on Lynch Syndrome

Manju Hingorani

Manju Hingorani

Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a grant worth $324,127 from the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health on May 1.

Hingorani will use the grant to address an important need for new diagnostic technology for Lynch Syndrome (LS), a genetic disorder involving malfunction of DNA mismatch repair, which substantively increases the risk of colorectal, endometrial and other cancers. About 150,000 patients are diagnosed with colon cancer in the U.S. per year, of whom more than one in 35 have LS, and three or more of their relatives are at risk for the disorder (about one in 500 Connecticut residents).

“Early diagnosis of LS can profoundly affect the way in which cancer patients are treated—with respect to surgery, chemotherapy and future surveillance—and provide analogous benefits to their family,” Hingorani explained.

Current validated tests for LS have limitations that lower their feasibility and widespread use in screening at-risk populations.

“Our hypothesis is that the core functions of MMR proteins can be measured directly, quantitatively, rapidly, reliably and at clinically relevant protein concentrations on a nano-structured surface,” she said.

This project, proposed in collaboration by investigators Hingorani and Prabir Patra, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Biomedical Engineering Program at the University of Bridgeport, is expected to enable development of novel diagnostic nanosensors that will enable substantive advances in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of colorectal and other cancers.

Knight Foundation Supports Wesleyan Media Project

The Wesleyan Media Project has received a grant of $74,800 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to track and analyze campaign ad spending in the 2014 midterm election cycle. The project is directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, along with Michael Franz of Bowdoin College and Travis Ridout of Washington State University. A resource for journalists, policymakers, scholars and voters, the project has worked to increase transparency in federal elections since it was established in 2010 with support from Knight Foundation.

Read more about the grant and the Wesleyan Media Project’s work here.

Hughes Receives NSF Grant for Research on Planetary Systems

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support her research on “Dust and Gas in Debris Disks Reveal the Origins of Planetary Systems.” The grant, awarded on April 21, is worth $532,943.

Hughes’ research focuses on understanding the formation and evolution of planetary systems.  She particularly studies the huge disks of gas and dust surrounding a young star, which can give insight into how and when a star planet might form. The disk is made up of  “junk” left over from the star’s formation.

The main technique Hughes uses to observe these circumstellar disks involves collecting radio waves. Invisible to the human eye, radio light allows astronomers to peer into dense dust clouds and trace the motions of small molecules.

Read more about Hughes’ research on planetary system formation in these past articles:

http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2014/03/06/hughesscience/
http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2013/05/26/hughes/

Oliver Honored with NIH Award for Protein Translocation Research

Don Oliver

Don Oliver

Professor Don Oliver received a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) (R15) for his research titled “Mechanism of SecA-dependent protein translocation.” The grant, worth $374,148, was awarded on April 15.

Oliver is the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Oliver studies how proteins are targeted to and transported across biological membranes utilizing bacteria as a simple model system.”The current genetic and biochemical studies are designed to elucidate a molecular motor protein, SecA ATPase, that drives proteins through a universally conserved protein-conducting channel by a largely unknown molecular mechanism,” he said.  “Clarification of the transport mechanism by this motor and its interplay with the channel is essential for understanding comparable protein transport systems in higher cells.”

In addition, such studies should allow for the development of novel antibacterial agents against SecA in order to combat the spread of multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogens.

The grant funds will be utilized to support two Ph.D. Students, a BA/MA fifth-year student, and four undergraduate research students that comprise of Oliver’s research group.

NASA Supports Greenwood’s Research on the Moon’s Water

James “Jim” Greenwood

James “Jim” Greenwood

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences James “Jim” Greenwood has received a $331,000 grant from NASA to support his research on the moon’s water.

His proposed research, tracking water in rock samples brought back by the Apollo missions, will “take a giant leap towards solving one of the most important questions in planetary science – whether the Moon is wet or dry,” Greenwood said.

“We’ll be studying pockets of glass trapped in early and late-crystallizing minerals in lunar mare basalt samples,” Greenwood said. “We will measure water and other volatile elements in these trapped melt pockets to reconstruct the volatile history of the samples as they cooled and crystallized near the lunar surface.”

The NASA grant is part of NASA’s Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research program.

Greenwood intends to use the grant, which will be distributed over four fiscal years, to fund one Wesleyan undergraduate per summer to conduct research in his lab. The grant will also allow Greenwood to do critical measurement work at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

This project is only the latest initiative in Greenwood’s intensive work on lunar rocks, and the Moon’s relative wetness. Most recently he and four colleagues co-authored a paper in the prestigious journal Science, casting doubt on the theory of abundant lunar water, while simultaneously boosting theories around the Moon’s creation, several billion years ago.

 

Knight Foundation Supports Wesleyan Media Project

The Wesleyan Media Project received a grant of $74,851 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to track and analyze campaign ad spending in the 2014 midterm election cycle.

The project is directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, along with Michael Franz of Bowdoin College and Travis Ridout of Washington State University. A resource for journalists, policymakers, scholars and voters, the project has worked to increase transparency in federal elections since it was established in 2010 with support from the Knight Foundation.

Petit Family Foundation Supports Green Street’s Science Summer Camp

A summer science camp for girls – featuring three Wesleyan faculty, several Wesleyan students and two teaching artists – will be supported by a new $10,000 grant from the Petit Family Foundation. The camp, a pilot program of the Green Street Arts Center, will expose about 10 local 5th grade girls to “real world examples of women in science” and introduce them to the wide variety of scientific careers.

“We still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields,” said Sara MacSorley, Green Street’s director. “We want to support young girls in our community. A key piece to increasing the number of women in the sciences is to provide role models and support systems.”

The idea for the camp was born out of conversations MacSorley had last year with several Wesleyan faculty around connecting the PIMMS (Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science) program at Green Street to research going on in campus labs.

Those faculty – Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies;  Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics; and Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology — will teach in the camp, assisted by Wesleyan students from their respective departments. Teaching artists Lindsay Behrens and Meredith Arcari, who work in Green Street’s Science and Art AfterSchool Program, will help include the arts integration approach to learning science concepts.

The campers will be chosen from among the current AfterSchool students at Green Street. With the help of the Wesleyan teaching assistants , they’ll do hands-on experiments, art projects and a final science show for family and friends.

“An evaluation piece – this is really cool – will be to have the girls draw a picture of a scientist at the very beginning, before they interact with any of the faculty or students,” MacSorley said. “Then at the end of the week, we’ll ask them to complete the same task. This exercise has been done in other places with surprisingly diverse results.”

The Green Street project was chosen from among 40 proposals this year to the Petit Family Foundation. To read more about the foundation go here.

 

Oliver Received NIH Grant for Protein Translocation Research

Professor Don Oliver received a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) (R15) for his research titled “Mechanism of SecA-dependent protein translocation.” The grant, worth $374,148, was awarded on April 15.

Oliver is the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

NASA Grant Supports Herbst’s Observations with Spitzer Space Telescope

Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, director of graduate studies, received a $5,000 grant from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to support observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope. The title of the proposal is “Planet Formation in the Circumbinary Disk of KH 15D.”

Herbst and his colleagues are measuring the brightness of the T Tauri binary system KH 15D covering several important missing orbital phases around minimum light and one near maximum. Data is crucial to understanding the mechanisms behind the observed reddening in the system, which has implications for planetformation and disk evolution.

Learn more about this study online here.

 

Center for Prison Education Receives $300,000 Grant from Ford Foundation

The Center for Prison Education has received a grant of $300,000 from the Ford Foundation, supporting the continuation of the program which has delivered a Wesleyan education to Connecticut prisons since 2009.

The grant will not only help fund the classes taught at the Cheshire and York Correctional Institutions, but also support CPE’s re-entry services, which assist students who complete their sentences in continuing their college education post-release.

“Support from the Ford Foundation recognizes the necessity of bringing educational opportunities to our prisons, the success of the Center for Prison Education’s model for doing so, and the ability of incarcerated students to meet the challenges of even the most demanding liberal arts education,” said Dara Young, manager of the CPE.