Science & Technology

Personick Wins LaMer Award from American Chemical Society

Michelle Personick

Michelle Personick

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, received the Victor K. LaMer Award from the American Chemical Society Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry. The honor, which comes with a $3,000 monetary award, was presented at the ACS Colloid and Surface Science Symposium June 5-8 at Harvard University, where she presented a plenary talk.

The Victor K. LaMer Award is presented to the author of an outstanding PhD thesis in colloid or surface chemistry. LaMer was the editor of the Journal of Colloid Science (now the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science) from its founding in 1946 to 1965. In addition to his seminal work on colloids, LaMer’s fundamental contributions to physical chemistry have found their way into every textbook and university course on that subject.

Personick received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Middlebury College in 2009 and a PhD in chemistry from Northwestern University in 2013. Her doctoral thesis was titled “Controlling the Shape and Crystallinity of Gold and Silver Nanoparticles.”

A key advance of her dissertation work was the development of a comprehensive set of design guidelines for controlling the shape of gold nanoparticles via reaction kinetics and surface passivation effects. Her graduate research contributed to 15 articles published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Nano Letters, Science and others.

From 2013 to 2015, Personick was a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard. As a member of the Integrated Mesoscale Architectures for Sustainable Catalysis (IMASC) Energy Frontier Research Center, she studied selective oxidative transformations of alcohols on nanoporous gold alloy catalysts. In July 2015, she joined the faculty at Wesleyan where her research focuses on the synthesis of noble metal alloy nanoparticles with well-defined shapes and catalytically active high-energy surfaces.

The Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry is one of the most active Divisions in the ACS with approximately 2,500 members throughout the world.

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.

Yohe Speaks at the ‘Rap Guide to Climate Chaos’

Gary Yohe answered audience questions about climate change during the off-Broadway production, "Rap Guide to Climate Change" on May 29.

Gary Yohe answered audience questions about climate change during the off-Broadway production, “Rap Guide to Climate Change” on May 29.

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, made his off-Broadway debut in the TED-talk segment of “Rap Guide to Climate Change,” written and performed by Baba Brinkman and directed by Darren Lee Cole, at the SoHo Playhouse in New York City on May 29. In this one-man show, running from February through July, Brinkman breaks down the politics, economics, and science of global warming, following its surprising twists from the carbon cycle to the global energy economy.

Yohe was invited to be the climate expert for the TED-talk segment in the middle of the show. He spent 25 minutes on stage with Brinkman taking questions from the audience, which provided material for the closing raps.

Gilmore Discusses Future of Space Exploration With Buzz Aldrin

Gilmore is a founding member of the Planetary Science Group at Wesleyan.

Professor Gilmore is a founding member of the Planetary Science Group at Wesleyan.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, joined legendary astronaut and engineer Buzz Aldrin and Hoppy Price of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a discussion on WNPR about the past, present and future of space exploration. The three were guests on The Colin McEnroe Show on May 25.

Aldrin, who was one of the first two humans to walk on the moon, is the author of a new book, No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon.

McEnroe asked Gilmore about our current level of understanding about Mars.

“Our knowledge of Mars has really increased over the last two decades, and that’s because of a sustained series of missions, a flotilla of spacecraft in orbit, roving and on the surface of Mars that have been able to learn upon each other’s discoveries and leverage each other’s assets. We understand now not only that it was habitable on Mars at the same time that life evolved on Earth, but also where it’s habitable. And so the last rover we landed on the surface of the planet has landed in a place where there was mud and there were rivers and there was sustained water over long periods of time. So we understand now a lot about the history of Mars and the history of water on Mars and the environments that exited on Mars at the same time life was evolving on Earth.”

 

 

Students Toss Objects from Exley’s Roof during Big Drop

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In 1589, Galileo dropped balls of various sizes from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that they all hit the ground at the same time. On May 4, Wesleyan students repeated this experiment in modern-day way at Exley Science Center. Several Wesleyan students, staff and faculty observed the “big drop.”

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Hanna Elszasz ’18, Sam Sheppe ’18, and Bill Nelligan, director of environmental services, dropped objects from the roof of Exley Science Center. In this test, the group used a Mac and PC.

Students Solve, Analyze Complex Problems at DataFest

Students from Wesleyan, Trinity College, Connecticut College, Yale University and the University of Connecticut participated in the American Statistical Association DataFest, hosted at Wesleyan in April. 

Students from Wesleyan, Trinity College, Connecticut College, Yale University and the University of Connecticut participated in the American Statistical Association DataFest, hosted at Wesleyan in April. (Photos by Will Barr ’18)

Three teams from Wesleyan received honors during the American Statistical Association DataFest, hosted at Wesleyan April 8-10.

During DataFest, students are presented with a large, complex, surprise data set and work over the weekend to explore, analyze, and present their findings. Teams of three to five undergraduate students from Wesleyan, Trinity, Connecticut College, Yale, and the University of Connecticut competed against each other.

After two days of intense data wrangling, analysis and presentation design, each team was allowed only five minutes and no more than two slides to impress a panel of judges.

The event, coordinated by Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center, is part of a set of initiatives to strengthen quantitative reasoning and facilitate computational and data analysis work across the curriculum. It is designed to bring together current students, alumni and data analysis professionals as they work together in addressing real world problems that involve computational data work.

The event also provided an opportunity for recruiters to connect with students who are interested and skilled in data analysis, and may be candidates for internships or job openings.

Wesleyan team 1,588,506 received the "Best in Show" award. Teammates included Jack Gorman ’19, Samara Prywes ’17 and Tiffany Coons ’18,

Wesleyan team 1,588,506 received the “Best in Show” award. Teammates included Jack Gorman ’19, Samara Prywes ’17 and Tiffany Coons ’18,

Students, Faculty, Alumna Honored at Beckham Social Justice Awards

Several students were honored for helping promote diversity and inclusion during the Edgar Beckham Social Justice Awards ceremony April 23 in Beckham Hall. 

Several students were honored for helping promote diversity and inclusion during the Edgar Beckham Social Justice Awards ceremony April 23 in Beckham Hall.

Students, faculty and staff who exercised cultural sensitivity, helped promote diversity and inclusion, and improved the campus climate were recognized at the annual Edgar Beckham Social Justice Awards ceremony held April 23. The event brought together generations of alumni, students, faculty and staff to celebrate the tenets that make Wesleyan diverse.

Originally called the Edgar Beckham Helping Hand Awards when it was founded in 2013, the awards were created in honor of Edgar Beckham, the first African-American Dean of the College at Wesleyan University and a tireless advocate for social justice.

Neuroscience Program Holds Undergraduate Research Symposium, Poster Session

The Neuroscience and Behavior (NSB) Program hosted their third annual undergraduate research symposium April 29 in Daniel Family Commons. Senior thesis writers delivered 10-minute scientific presentations during a dinner with fellow NSB students and faculty. Students also showcased their finest scientific projects during a research poster session, pictured below: (Photos by Ryan Heffernan ’16)

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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.

O’Connell, Alumni Participate in National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Workshop

Suzanne O’Connell, right, with Ed Laine ’69 and Kerry Brenner ’94 at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop.

Suzanne O’Connell, right, with Ed Laine ’69 and Kerry Brenner ’94 at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop.

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, faculty director of the McNair Program, together with Ed Laine ’69 and Kerry Brenner ’94, attended a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) workshop in Washington, D.C. on April 20-21. The three were involved in a report on Service Learning in the Geosciences.

O’Connell presented the report at the meeting.

Laine, recently retired from Bowdoin College, was on the meeting steering committee, while Brenner, a senior program officer in the Board on Science Education in the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (NAS) coordinated the meeting.

A summary of the workshop will be published as a book by the National Academies Press in fall 2016.

Van Vleck Observatory Celebrates Centennial with Exhibition, Event Series

Wesleyan’s iconic observatory dome was built to house the Van Vleck Refractor, used in research until the early 1990s. Photo by John Van Vlack.

Wesleyan’s iconic observatory dome was built to house the Van Vleck Refractor, used in research until the early 1990s. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

The building was named for Professor John Monroe Van Vleck, who taught mathematics and astronomy at Wesleyan from 1853 until his death in 1912.

The building was named for Professor John Monroe Van Vleck, who taught mathematics and astronomy at Wesleyan from 1853 until his death in 1912.

Wesleyan’s Van Vleck Observatory is celebrating its centennial this spring, with a series of events and an exhibition beginning in early May.

On May 6, the observatory’s library will reopen to the public with an exhibition on the history of astronomy at Van Vleck. Developed by a team of faculty, students, and staff, the exhibition will use the observatory’s extensive collection of scientific instruments, teaching materials, photographs, drawings, and correspondence to illustrate both the changes in astronomical research and teaching over the past century, and the observatory’s consistent mission of conducting instruction and research under the same roof. The exhibition will incorporate the history of science into Van Vleck’s existing public outreach programs through period lectures, demonstrations of historic artifacts, and gallery talks.

“The Millionaire” Mechanical Calculator. Useful for determining distances to stars, this late 19th-century calculator had high precision (eight significant figures) and is still in perfect working order. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

“The Millionaire” Mechanical Calculator. Useful for determining distances to stars, this late 19th century calculator had high precision (eight significant figures) and is still in perfect working order. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

The exhibition was spearheaded by Roy Kilgard, support astronomer and research associate professor of astronomy, Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, Amrys Williams, visiting assistant professor of history, and Paul Erickson, associate professor of history, associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of science in society.

More events are planned in the run-up to the exhibition opening. On May 1, the Wesleyan Orchestra will hold a concert featuring astronomically themed music, including John Cage’s Atlas Eclipticalis, which was composed using star charts from the Van Vleck Observatory library. On May 3, Special Collections & Archives will host an exhibition, “A Stellar Education: Astronomy at Wesleyan, 1831-1916.” Located on the first floor of Olin Library, the exhibition documents the study of astronomy at Wesleyan from the university’s opening through the construction of the Van Vleck Observatory. On May 4, the History Department is hosting David DeVorkin, senior curator at the National Air and Space Museum, who will give a talk situating Van Vleck in the history of American observatories.

PhD Candidate Frayne Speaks on Designing Dendritic Polymers

During the Graduate Student Speaker Series talk on April 20, Stephen Frayne, a PhD candidate in chemistry, spoke on "Designing Dendritic Polymers: From Theory to Experiment." Study and application of polymeric materials spans the physical, life, and applied sciences and has revolutionized nearly every facet of modern day society: medicine, transportation, construction, agriculture, and electronics, to name a few.

During the Graduate Student Speaker Series talk on April 20, Stephen Frayne, a PhD candidate in chemistry, spoke on “Designing Dendritic Polymers: From Theory to Experiment.” Study and application of polymeric materials spans the physical, life, and applied sciences and has revolutionized nearly every facet of modern day society: medicine, transportation, construction, agriculture, and electronics, to name a few.