Science & Technology

ITS, Library Offer Wesleyan Community Demonstrations, Lessons

Staff from Information Technology Services (ITS), Olin Library and the Science Library hosted a poster session and demonstration on Nov. 17 and Nov. 19.

ITS staff taught students, faculty and staff about EduRoam (accessing free wireless worldwide at participating institutions using a Wesleyan login); (online training for hundreds of software titles); WFS upgrade (Wesleyan Financial System); WesStation’s green ban on junk mail; cyber security and passwords; and the Master Calendar.

Library staff provided information on Browzine (a way to get alerts and scan through the latest issues of journals on a tablet or laptop using a Wesleyan login); “Not Just Text” (the wide variety of images, streaming videos, sound recordings, CDs, DVDs, maps and open access materials available at the library); customizing resources (class instruction, individual appointments and course-specific online guides or video demos; writing better papers; and ways to preserve the record of scholarly activity on a long-term basis.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Hannah Norman ’16)


Loui, Jung ’16, Alumni Authors of Article in Frontiers in Psychology

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrated sciences, is the co-author of a new study, “Rhythmic Effects of Syntax Processing in Music and Language” published in Frontiers in Psychology in November. The article’s lead author is Harim Jung ’16, and it is also co-authored by Samuel Sontag ’14 and YeBin “Shiny” Park ’15.

According to Loui, the paper grew out of her Advanced Research Methods in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience course, and is the precursor to Jung’s senior and master’s theses. The study uses a behavioral test to look into how music and language—two universal human functions—may overlap in their use of brain resources. The researchers show that perturbations in rhythm take up sufficient attentional resources to interfere with how people read and understand a sentence. The results support the view that rhythm, music, and language are not limited to their separate processing in the auditory circuits; instead, their structure creates expectations about tempo, harmony, and sentence meaning that interfere with each other in other sensory systems, such as vision, and in higher levels of cognitive processing.

“We think that the role of rhythm in this sharing of brain resources dedicated to music and language is an important finding because it could help people who use music as a therapy to help their language functions,” explained Loui. “For example, people who have aphasia (loss of language) due to stroke are sometimes able to sing, a fascinating paradox that led to the development of Melodic Intonation Therapy—a singing therapy designed to help aphasics recover their language functions. Rhythm is important for this therapy, but its precise role is unclear. By studying how rhythm guides the way the brain shares its processing between music and language, we might be better able to target Melodic Intonation Therapy in the future.”

Anthropology, Archaeology Collections Offer Hands-On Learning

At right, Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, taught his class, History of Science and Technology in Modern China, in Wesleyan's Anthropology and Archaeology Collections. 

At right, Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, taught his class, History of Science and Technology in Modern China, in Wesleyan’s Anthropology and Archaeology Collections. The class’s reading correlated with artifacts displayed in the collections. Pictured at left is Jessie Cohen, lab manager.

TJ Blackburn '16 listens to a classroom discussion while examining skulls from three different time periods. 

TJ Blackburn ’16 listens to a classroom discussion while examining skulls from three different time periods.

In the 1920s, a team of scientists working in the Zhoukoudian cave system in Beijing, China unearthed Peking Man, a roughly 700,000 year-old sample of Homo erectus. After the communist revolution of 1949, Peking Man became a prominent figure in bringing science and the story of human evolution to the masses.

As part of the required reading for the HIST 368 class, History of Science and Technology in Modern China, Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, is having his students read The People’s Peking Man, written by Wesleyan alumna Sigrid Schmalzer ’94. The People’s Peking Man offers a skilled social history of 20th century Chinese paleoanthropology and a compelling cultural history of assumptions and debates about what it means to be human.

On Nov. 11, Tan brought his students to the Wesleyan University Anthropology and Archaeology Collections (WUAAC) to offer them a tangible and hands-on lesson to complement their reading.

Jessie Cohen, lab manager, prepared for the class by displaying fossil and extant replicas including Australopithecus afarensis (“Lucy”), Homo erectus (“Peking Man” and “Java Man”), and Homo sapiens. She also included several stone tools which originate from the Paleolithic era, a prehistoric period in human history that lasted approximately 2.5 million years. These particular stone tools are associated with specific dates and locations that overlap with Homo erectus production and usage.

“The juxtaposition of these widely ranging fossil replicas, modern Homo sapiens, and stone tools is representative of the changing environment, physical demands, and technological advances noted throughout human evolution,” Cohen explained.

She also displayed a Chinese newspaper / Chinese-American school brochure came to the collection by way of missionaries in the early 1900s.

“I thought it would be a great idea for the students to see the replicas of Peking Man and think about how the Peking Man was constructed by anthropologists,” Tan said. 

Juhasz, Alumni Published in Behavior Research Methods

Associate Professor Barbara Juhaz, Yun-Hsuan Lai ’14 and Michelle Woodcock ’14 are the co-authors of a paper titled “A database of 629 English compound words: Ratings of familiarity, lexeme meaning dominance, semantic transparency, age-of-acquisition, imageability, and sensory experience,” published in Behavior Research Methods, 47(4), pages 1004-1019 in 2015.

Juhasz is associate professor of psychology, associate professor of integrative sciences, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior.

In this study, the authors collected ratings on 629 English compound words for six variables: familiarity, age of acquisition, semantic transparency, lexeme meaning dominance, imageability, and sensory experience ratings. All of the compound words selected for this study are contained within the English Lexicon Project (Balota et al., 2007), which made it possible to use a regression approach to examine the predictive power of these variables for lexical decision and word naming performance.

The database of English compound words should be beneficial to word recognition researchers who are interested in selecting items for experiments on compound words, and it will also allow researchers to conduct further analyses using the available data combined with word recognition times included in the English Lexicon Project, Juhasz explained.

O’Connell Honored by Association for Women Geoscientists

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, received the Exchange Award from the Association for Women Geoscientists at its annual awards breakfast on Nov. 2. The Exchange Award recognizes the contribution of those who exchange technical, education, and professional information in the field.

The award ceremony took place at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland in conjunction with the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting. O’Connell is also faculty director of the McNair Program.

According to Blair Schneider, president of the Association for Women Geoscientists, O’Connell won the organization’s Outstanding Educator Award in 2000. Since then, she has been an active member of the group’s Outstanding Educator Award committee, and has continually written articles highlighting the winners for the group’s quarterly newsletter. In explaining O’Connell’s selection for the Exchange award, Schneider pointed to her rare “exemplary teaching” in which she uses “hands-on learning with research for undergraduates.”

“Suzanne is also an incredible supporter of the organization and exchanges information about who we are to her own students and young professionals at every meeting. For example, she pays to bring her own students to the AWG awards breakfast so that they can learn about the organization and see women being recognized for their achievements,” Schneider added.

O’Connell also recently co-edited the publication, “Women in the Geoscience: Practical, Positive Practices Towards Parity.”


Wesleyan MOOCs Topic of Academic (Technology) Roundtable

On Oct. 29, the Academic Technology Roundtable (AtR) focused on Wesleyan's Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), from design to implementation.

On Oct. 29, the Academic (Technology) Roundtable (A(t)R) focused on Wesleyan’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), from design to implementation. A(t)R lunches are designed to promote conversation, cooperation and the sharing of information, ideas and resources among faculty members, librarians, graduate students and staff.

Speakers included Jennifer Rose, professor of the practice and research professor of psychology, and Dan Mercier, instructional design director for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation.

Speakers included, at left, Dan Mercier, instructional design director for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, and Jennifer Rose, professor of the practice and research professor of psychology.

Robinson Tells CNN About Addictive Foods

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Breaking news: You may be a pizza-holic.

Mike Robinson, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, was called on by CNN to comment on a new study examining which foods can be the most addictive. Topping the list: pizza, French fries, chocolate, chips, cookies, ice cream, cake, soda, bacon and cheese.

Although not all foods have the potential to be addictive, “it is critical to understand which ones do,” said Robinson, who was not involved in the study, told CNN.

“We are all pressed for time, and food is becoming more and more available,” but we need to think about what we are grabbing on the go, he said. Although a handful of almonds and a milkshake might have the same number of calories, they will have a different effects on your brain and your reward system, and you will be much more likely to go back to get more of the milkshake, he added.

Many of the symptoms of food addiction look like drug addiction, including that people need more and more of the food item to get the same effect. They also accept negative consequences to obtain it and feel the anxiety or agitation of withdrawal when they can’t have it. Although food withdrawal is not as intense as heroin withdrawal, neither is cocaine withdrawal. “It varies by the drug,” Robinson said.

Just like any addiction, the first step to recovery is to acknowledge there is a problem, Robinson said. “I think in the majority of cases when we have a problem with a substance, whether it’s a food or drug…we will ignore it,” he said.

Robinson suggests avoiding foods if you have trouble controlling how much of them you eat. “We are not in a situation where we will have dietary deficiencies (and) whenever possible we should be aiming to cook foods for ourselves,” he said.

Faculty Talks, Poster Sessions During Molecular Biophysics Retreat

Wesleyan President Michael Roth attended the Molecular Biophysics Retreat Oct. 22 and spoke to students and graduate students about their ongoing research.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth attended the Molecular Biophysics Retreat Oct. 22 and spoke to students and graduate students about their ongoing research.

The Molecular Biophysics Program hosted its 16th annual retreat Oct. 22 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. The day-long event included two poster sessions and talks by three Wesleyan faculty and two guests. The event also allowed students and faculty to discuss their current research.

Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, delivered a talk on “Understanding membrane specificity in a family of bacterial pore-forming toxins.”

Joseph Coolon, assistant professor of biology, spoke on “The role of gene regulatory network structure in genome evolution.”

Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics, spoke on “A Single-molecule Toolkit: Using TIRF Microscopy to Study Molecular Interactions and Dynamics.”

Haribabu Arthanari, a lecturer of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School, presented a talk titled “Therapeutic Targeting of Protein-Protein Interactions Part -1: Deciphering the protein landscape by NMR Spectroscopy.”

Keynote speaker John Kuriyan is interested in the structure and mechanism of the enzymes and molecular switches that carry out cellular signal transduction and DNA replication. He uses x-ray crystallography to determine the structures of proteins involved in signaling and replication.

Keynote speaker John Kuriyan is interested in the structure and mechanism of the enzymes and molecular switches that carry out cellular signal transduction and DNA replication. He uses X-ray crystallography to determine the structures of proteins involved in signaling and replication.

The event’s keynote speaker was John Kuriyan, investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor of molecular and cell biology and chemistry at the University of California-Berkeley. Kuriyan spoke on “Structural Mechanisms in Protein Kinase Regulation.”

The event was sponsored by the NIGMS Molecular Biophysics Training Grant GM08271, Department of Chemistry and Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. (Photos by Jennifer Langdon)


Varekamp, Gilmore Co-Author Articles on Argentina’s Copahue Volcano

Joop Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Marty Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor and chair of professor of earth and environmental sciences, are the co-authors of two book chapters published in Copahue Volcano (Springer Publishers, September 2015)

Copahue Volcano is part of Springer Publishers’ “Active Volcanos of the World” series. Varekamp is the lead author on a chapter with Jim Zareski MA‘14 and Lauren Camfield MA’15. Gilmore and Tristan Kading MA’11 are co-authors with Varekamp on another chapter dealing with terrestrial environments as analogs for Mars. A third chapter, on acid fluids, was written by Varekamp with an Argentinian collaborator. 

Since 1997, Varekamp has worked with Wesleyan undergraduate and graduate students almost every year at Copahue Volcano in Argentina. This project is reaching its closing stages, and has led to 10 peer reviewed published articles, most co-authored with students, four book chapters, six MA theses, and eight senior theses. All these students have subsequently obtained higher degrees in E&ES fields and are currently employed in the broad field of geochemistry and/or volcanology. Varekamp is now focussing his studies on the Newberry volcano in Oregon.

Astronomy Students Present Research at KNAC Symposium

The 26th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC) was held at Williams College on Oct. 17.

Five students presented results of their summer research: Julian Dann ’17, Aylin Garcia Soto ’18, and Girish Duvvuri ’17 delivered oral presentations while Rachel Aronow ’17 and Avi Stein ’17 presented a poster. Several other students came along to enjoy the weekend, which featured a dinner and social event on Friday night, the seminar on Saturday and breakout sessions on such topics as Inclusive Astronomy and how/why to program in Python.

More than 100 students and faculty from KNAC attended the event (pictured below):



Morgan Presents Phase Space Research at Gaseous Electronics Conference

Professor Tom Morgan, Andrew Murphy '11 and Jace Haestad '11 recently presented their research "Closed Orbits in Phase Space" in Hawaii. 

Professor Tom Morgan presented “Closed Orbits in Phase Space” in Hawaii.

Tom Morgan, Foss Professor of Physics, recently attended the 68th Gaseous Electronics Conference of the American Physical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii and presented a poster dealing with the behavior of giant atoms with an electron far from the nucleus in phase space. Andrew Murphy ’11 and Jace Haestad ’11 contributed to the study.

Phase space is a momentum-velocity space that provides a different perspective on atomic behavior. Looking at atoms from this viewpoint provides a mechanism to uncover new insight into their quantum nature.

Morgan also took the opportunity to reconnect with a Japanese colleague, Professor Tomoyuki Murakami, at Seikei University, Tokyo, whom Morgan spent the month of June visiting in Tokyo. Morgan and Murakami took the occasion to work on a paper on research undertaken collaboratively with Lutz Huwel, Professor of Physics, and Professor Bill Graham of Queen’s University, N. Ireland, on the behavior of the air-water interface after focused laser induced plasma breakdown. The air-water interface is ubiquitous with applications to biology, environmental studies, chemical analysis and medicine, but its detailed behavior is not well understood. The collaboration uses both state of the art computer simulation and experimentation to elucidate its dynamics and structure.

Naegele Honored by Society for Neuroscience

Janice Naegele accepting the award at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting.

Janice Naegele accepting the award at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting.

During the Society for Neuroscience‘s (SfN) annual meeting Oct. 17-21, Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, received the Louise Hansen Marshall Special Recognition Award.

The Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award honors individuals who have significantly promoted the professional development of women in neuroscience through teaching, organizational leadership, public advocacy and more. Naegele shares the 2015 Louise Hansen Marshall award with Paul Greengard P’77, P’79, GP ’08, the Vincent Astor Professor at The Rockefeller University in New York.

Naegele began her career studying the characteristics of cortical neurons and more recently has performed pioneering studies of transplantation of inhibitory neurons in the brain as a potential treatment for severe epilepsy.