Naegele Co-Authors New Paper in Nature Communications

Jan Naegele is one of 19 women faculty in the country to receive a Drexel Fellowship.

Jan Naegele

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and development, is the co-author of a new paper titled, “Convulsive seizures from experimental focal cortical dysplasia occur independently of cell misplacement.” It was published in Nature Communications on June 1.

Brain malformations called focal cortical dysplasia are typically formed during human embryonic cortical development and are a common cause of drug-resistant epilepsy and cognitive impairments. One of the causes of cortical dysplasia is improper migration of developing cortical neurons. Failure to reach their correct destinations in the cerebral cortex and dysregulated growth leads to the formation of growths or tubers in regions of cerebral cortex. These abnormal growths don’t wire up properly with other cortical neurons and exhibit seizure activity. In this multi-lab collaborative study, the researchers show in mice with experimentally-generated cortical malformations that there is an increase in growth-associated signaling molecules in experimentally-generated cortical tubers associated with seizures. Blocking this signaling cascade with the molecule rapacycin from early stages can prevent the neuronal misplacement, tuber-like growths, and seizures, but once rapamycin is discontinued, the seizures return. Despite the adverse side-effects of taking rapamycin, these findings suggest that life-long treatment with rapamycin may be required in individuals with focal cortical dysplasia, in order to prevent the re-occurrence of seizures and tubers.

The paper is co-authored with Felicia Harrsch, Naegele’s former lab manager, and researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Miller’s New Book on the Enlightenment and Political Fiction

Miller BookCecilia Miller, associate professor of history and tutor at the College of Social Studies, is the author of Enlightenment and Political Fiction: The Everyday Intellectual, published by Routledge, 2016.

The book argues that much of the important political and economic theory of the era emerged first in works of fiction rather than in theory.

“Unlike studies of the Enlightenment which focus only on theory and nonfiction,” Miller states in her abstract, “this study of fiction makes evident that there was a vibrant concern for the constructive as well as destructive aspects of emotion during the Enlightenment, rather than an exclusive concern for rationality.”

Thomas Co-Authors 5 Papers in Academic Journals

Ellen Thomas, professor of earth and environmental sciences and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, recently co-authored five papers in academic journals.

Her first paper, “Jianshuiite in Oceanic Manganese Nodules” co-authored with Jeffery Post and Peter Heaney, appeared within American Mineralogist. Deviating from her usual research, Thomas focused on mineralogy and, in particular, the crystal structure of a rare mineral found in sediments during an ancient counterpart of future global warming.

Thomas co-authored “Variability in Climate and Productivity during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Western Tethys,” with Flavia Boscolo-Galazzo and Luca Giusberti, both of the University of Padova. This paper, more in line with her usual research, examines unicellular organisms of the deep sea floor that suffered extinction due to a prior period of global warming. It appeared in Climate of the Past.

Working once again with Boscolo-Galazzo and Giusberti and several other scholars, Thomas co-authored, “The Planktic Foraminifer Planorotalites in the Tethyan Middle Eocene” in the Journal of Micropaleontology. This paper describes the researchers’ use of stable isotope analysis to distinguish between floating planktonic matter from bottom-dwelling foraminifera. Through this analysis, they discuss environmental changes during a relatively period of global warming that took place between approximately 9 and 40 million years ago.

“Late Paleocene-Middle Eocene Benthic Foraminifera on a Pacific Seamount (Allison Guyot, ODP Site 865):Greenhouse Climate and Superimposed Hyperthermal Events,” appeared in Paleoceanography. It discusses deep-sea faunas during the same period in the article from the paragraph above. The two other authors of the paper were mentored by Thomas and briefly visited Wesleyan while under her supervision.

The final paper, “Oxygen depletion recorded in upper waters of the glacial Southern Ocean,” appeared in Nature Communications. This paper documents Thomas’s collaborative research with several scholars and PhD students on Antarctic environments during the last few ice ages. In particular, their work focuses on benthic foraminifera, and chemical analysis of their shells.

Crosby’s Memoir Chronicles Life with Pain, Rebuilding after Suffering

9781479833535_FullProfessor of English Christina Crosby is the author of a new book published by NYU Press in March 2016. Titled, A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, the novel chronicles her encounter with pain, which left her paralyzed.

Three miles into a 17-mile bike ride, the spokes of her bike caught a branch, pitching her forward and off the bike. With her chin taking on the full force of the blow, her head snapped back leaving her paralyzed.

This event, as she makes note of in her novel, opened her eyes to the beauty, yet fragility of all human bodies. Her memoir tells of the importance of “living on,” and rebuilding after suffering.

McDevitt MALS ’71 Honored with Asteroid Jackmcdevitt

As a science fiction writer of some renown, Jack McDevitt MALS ’71 was invited to NASA to watch a rocket launch—which he is anticipating in this photograph.

As an award-winning science fiction writer, Jack McDevitt MALS ’71 was invited to NASA, to watch a rocket launch—which he is anticipating in this photograph.

Award-winning science fiction writer Jack McDevitt MALS ’71 received an out-of-this-world honor: Lowell Observatory astronomer named an asteroid for him.

In an e-mail, astronomer Lawrence Wasserman, explained, “I discovered the books of Jack McDevitt early in 2015 and spent most of the year plowing through every novel he has written. I was especially taken by his naming the first Mars spaceship for Percival Lowell, our founder. And, as a person who spent their teens in the ’60s reading Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, I was very pleased to find someone who writes science fiction that doesn’t have any elves, dwarfs, or magic swords but gets back to spaceships and time travel.”

Wasserman, who notes his specific interest in asteroids and the Kuiper Belt (a region of the solar system beyond Neptune’s orbit that contains many small orbiting bodies), has discovered around 50 asteroids.

“The International Astronomical Union regulates the naming of these objects (they’re the same ones who demoted Pluto),” he says. “The rules say that the discoverer gets to name the asteroid and that becomes the official name for all astronomers to use.”

Wasserman had named asteroids in honor of his parents, son, and high school physics teacher. Then, “Since Jack McDevitt chose to honor our observatory’s founder, Percival Lowell, in one of his books, I wanted to return the favor and name an asteroid for him.”

The astronomer and the author have exchanged a few e-mails. Wasserman sent McDevitt a photograph of asteroid Jackmcdevitt, as well as one of the asteroid Larissa, which was mentioned in McDevitt’s novel, Coming Home, set in the 12th millennium.

McDevitt, whose newest novel, Thunderbird, was released in December, adds: “Professor Wasserman sent me a list of names provided for asteroids during the past two months. They included mostly scientists, a few literary characters out of Greek mythology, some historical people, a few cities, Tina Fey, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan. And, finally, me. They’ve put me in pretty decent company.

Loui Studies How Brain Connectivity Reflects Aesthetic Responses to Music

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Assistant Professor of Psychology Psyche Loui has long been interested in studying the intersection of music and emotions. In her latest study, published March 10 in Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience, she identified specific connections in the brain between the auditory processing regions and regions for social and emotional processing. The article is titled, “Brain connectivity reflects human aesthetic responses to music.”

Loui, who also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, has previously studied how music can cause chills, or similar strong physiological reactions in people when listening to music. Together with former thesis student Matt Sachs, she set out to study what was different in the brains of people who experience these music-induced chills compared to those who don’t.

The researchers started by conducting a large online survey with more than 230 participants. From this group, they selected 10 people who reported frequently experiencing chills from music and 10 people who reported not getting chills. They controlled for musical experience, gender and personality differences. Each participant was asked to bring in a few favorite pieces of music to the lab. Since individuals respond differently to music—that is, music that is chill-inducing varies from person to person—the researchers used music provided by one participant as control stimuli for another participant.

Hingorani Reflects on Marriage, Career in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Journal

In 2015, Manju Hingorani and her husband of 19 years, Anish Konkar, met up in Helsinki after Hingorani attended a conference in Oslo held in honor of this year’s Nobel laureate Tomas Lindahl. They then traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Tallinn, Estonia.

In 2015, Manju Hingorani and her husband of 19 years, Anish Konkar, met up in Helsinki after Hingorani attended a conference in Oslo held in honor of this year’s Nobel laureate Tomas Lindahl. They then traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Tallinn, Estonia.

Manju Hingorani, Wesleyan professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, was featured in the “Coordinates” section of ASBMB Today, the monthly publication of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Here, Hingorani briefly reflected on her marriage and career through a haiku.

Her haiku read:

Home is where the lab

is, was, will be, my partner

he’s home too – elsewhere.

She added, “I’m a professor of biochemistry, and my husband is a pharmacologist in the industry. We’ve lived under the same roof for about seven of our 19 years as a married couple. But it has been a fabulous life, doing what we love and meeting up for a few days/weeks/months at a time in different cities around the U.S. and the world. We wouldn’t change a thing.”

The link to the full article:


Paper on Guilford, Conn.’s Sea Level by Varekamp, Thomas, 2 Alumnae Receives 93 Citations

A research paper co-authored in 1995 by Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science; Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental science; and Wesleyan alumnae Koren Nydick ’95 and Alyson Bidwell ’95 has returned to the spotlight.

The paper, “A Sea-level Rise Curve from Guilford, Connecticut, USA,” originally published in Marine Geology, was cited last month in another paper on sea-level rise in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

Professor Varekamp admits that the “paper has done remarkably well, with 93 citations, not bad at all for a senior thesis-based article. The inclusion in this PNAS study is the icing on the cake.”

The paper developed from Nydick and Bidwell’s senior thesis work in salt marshes in nearby Guilford, Conn. As a testament to the quality of this work, a group of scientists from Boston University, Yale and Rutgers reproduced Nydick’s study two years ago with additional resources and found an identical sea level rise curve.

After earning her PhD and pursuing a post-doctoral career in ecology, Nydick now works as the science coordinator for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Incidentally, a Smithsonian scientist funded by NASA recently contacted Nydick to inquire about the carbon core data from her thesis study for a wetlands carbon storage project.

“I am proud to note that some of my former students who are now professors or practicing scientists in their own right, have their undergraduate thesis articles among their most cited papers,” Varekamp said.

WesPress Publications Win 2 Poetry Awards in 2016

9780819575050A poetry collection published by Wesleyan University Press was named a Tufts Poetry Awards 2016 Finalist.

The Little Edges, written by Fred Moten, was published by WesPress in 2014. The Little Edges is a collection of poems that extends Moten’s experiments in what he calls “shaped prose”—a way of arranging prose in rhythmic blocks, or sometimes shards, in the interest of audio-visual patterning. Shaped prose is a form that works the “little edges” of lyric and discourse, and radiates out into the space between them.

As occasional pieces, many of the poems in the book are the result of a request or commission to comment upon a work of art, or to memorialize a particular moment or person. In Moten’s poems, the matter and energy of a singular event or person are transformed by their entrance into the social space that they, in turn, transform.

The Tufts poetry awards

Barth, Patalano Co-Author Paper on How Numeracy Affects Risky Decision Making

Hilary Barth and Andrea Patalano, associate professors of psychology, recently co-authored a paper in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review along with two former Psychology Department undergraduates, Laura Machlin and Jason Saltiel.

The paper is titled, “The Role of Numeracy and Approximate Number System Acuity in Predicting Value and Probability Distortion.”

When people make “risky decisions” like choosing between two gambles with different values and different probabilities of success, their choices appear to be based on distorted versions of both the values and probabilities. Although there are many theories attempting to explain the distortion, we don’t know exactly why it happens. This study investigated whether some of this distortion comes from people’s numerical abilities (specifically, verbal numeracy and a measure of numerical approximation: the ability to rapidly discriminate sets of different numbers of elements).

“We did not find evidence for links to numerical approximation, but we found that individual differences in value and probability distortions were clearly related to numeracy skills (the higher a person’s numeracy score, the less distortion),” Barth explained.

Roberts Publishes Journal Article on Gregory, Bishop of Tours

Michael Roberts, the Robert Rich Professor of Latin, professor of medieval studies, professor of classical studies, recently contributed his work, “Venantius Fortunatus and Gregory of Tours: Patronage and Poetry,” to a journal dedicated to providing an expert guide to interpreting the works and legacy of Gregory, Bishop of Tours (573-594) in religious and historical studies.

Published in A Companion to Gregory of Tours, in December 2015, Roberts’ article looked particularly at the relationship between the historian of 6th century Gaul, Gregory, Bishop of Tours, and the Italian-born poet Venantius Fortunatus. Throughout his work, Roberts argues, “that Gregory was Fortunatus’ patron and friend and that Gregory’s appreciation for poetry in general and for the poetic skills of Fortunatus in particular lay at the root of their relationship.”

The purpose of this book is to gain a deeper understanding into the life of Gregory, Bishop of Tours, who was a writer, often described as “ahead of his time.” In his work, Gregory covered history, hagiography and religious instruction and wrote about events, as well as himself as an actor and witness. Roberts uses this platform to explore just a small excerpt of the life and work of Gregory, Bishop of Tours.

Wilkins, Alumni Author New Paper on Threat of Racial Progress to Whites

Clara Wilkins, assistant professor of psychology, has studied perceptions of discrimination against whites and other groups who hold positions of relative advantage in society—such as heterosexuals and men—since she was a graduate student at the University of Washington. She became became interested in the topic of perceptions of bias against high status groups after hearing Glenn Beck call president Barack Obama racist. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Clara Wilkins

A paper by Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins, Alexander Hirsch ’13 and Michael Inkles ’12 has been published in the journal Group Processes & Intergroup Relations

Titled, “The threat of racial progress and the self-protective nature of perceiving anti-White bias,” the paper describes two studies in which the researchers examine whether racial progress is threatening to whites, and if perceiving anti-white bias assuages that threat. The first study showed that whites primed with racial progress—by reading an article on social advancement by minorities—exhibited evidence of threat: lower implicit self-worth relative to the baseline. The second study replicated the threat effect from the first study, and examined how perceived discrimination may buffer the white participants’ feelings of self-worth. After the participants attributed a negative event to their race, their implicit self-worth rebounded. For those primed with high racial progress, greater “racial discounting” (attributing rejection to one’s race rather than to oneself) was associated with greater self-worth protection. The researchers concluded that these studies suggest changes to the racial status quo are threatening to whites and that perceiving greater racial bias is a way to manage that threat.

Read more about Wilkins’ other research here, here and here.