Science & Technology

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.

 

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.

 

Cognitive Development Lab Designs Games for Family Math Night

Wesleyan’s Cognitive Development Labs hosted Family Math Night at Edna Stevens Elementary School in Cromwell, Conn. on April 9. The event was full of games and activities for preschool children to play and get them excited about math while showing families activities that they can do at home to prepare their children for kindergarten. Assistant Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman’s students designed the math games as part of a research methods class.

Students of Anna Shusterman designed math games for Edna Stevens Elementary School’s Family Math Night. Pictured here are (top from left) Elissa Palmer ’16, Tawni Stoop ’15, Jess Taggart, Anna Shusterman, Max, Alison Denzer-King ’16, Davey Bales ’15, Olivia Mason 15, Julia Vermeulen ’15, Maddy Oswald ’14, Maddy Kidd ’14, and Reuben. Taggart is the lab coordinator for the Cognitive Development Lab’s and Max and Reuben are Professor Shusterman’s sons.

Students of Anna Shusterman designed math games for Edna Stevens Elementary School’s Family Math Night. Pictured here are (top from left) Elissa Palmer ’16, Tawni Stoop ’15, Jess Taggart, Anna Shusterman, Max, Alison Denzer-King ’16, Davey Bales ’15, Olivia Mason 15, Julia Vermeulen ’15, Maddy Oswald ’14, Maddy Kidd ’14, and Reuben. Taggart is the lab coordinator for the Cognitive Development Lab’s and Max and Reuben are Professor Shusterman’s sons.

Northrop Awarded Prestigious NSF CAREER Award

Brian Northrop

Brian Northrop

This month, the National Science Foundation awarded Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, with a 2014 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award.

The CAREER awards support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

The honor came with a five-year grant totaling $537,561, which Northrop will use on his study titled “Selective Thiol-Ene and Thiol-Yne Chemistry, From First Principles to Organic Materials.”

At Wesleyan, Northrop’s research focuses on the design, synthesis and analysis of new organic materials utilizing molecular recognition and self-assembly, and “click” chemistry. With the CAREER Award, Northrop and his students will continue to investigate new methods for making polymers and nanoscale assemblies.

“Synthetic polymers form the basis of many of the materials we encounter every day, from plastics and adhesives to medical equipment and electronics,” Northrop explained. “One of the primary goals of contemporary polymer synthesis is to be able to fine-tune the physical properties of polymers by exhibiting precise control over their chemical structure. By developing methods that allow such precise control, researchers are able to directly influence whether a given polymer is stiff or flexible, fragile or resilient, insulating or conductive, etc.”

Much of the research in Northrop’s lab focuses on developing a thorough, fundamental understanding of how compounds known as thiols react with alkenes and alkynes.

After Studying Abroad, Mummini ’14 Hired as Health Programs Assistant in Denmark

Swetha Mummini ’14

Swetha Mummini ’14 is a biology and neuroscience and behavior double major.

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Swetha Mummini ’14 who studied abroad last spring through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad Program. Her study abroad program hires two graduating past participants to be paid interns for the year after graduation and Mummini received the internship for the science and health programs assistant. 

Q: What prompted you to study abroad in Copenhagen?

A: Macaroni and cheese. I know that sounds a bit ridiculous, but the first time I seriously considered going abroad was at the very beginning of junior year when my friend Catherine invited her friends over for baked macaroni and cheese. Over the course of the meal, her friends talked about their plans to go abroad during spring semester of junior year, and that moment served as my personal eureka moment. I realized what a unique opportunity studying abroad was and how I should take the opportunity to pursue it. That night, I was up until 4 a.m. researching programs and trying to find the perfect fit. Denmark has always fascinated me, especially because of its status as the happiest country in the world and its welfare state. The program that I chose, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS), also offered a wide variety of health science and public health classes that appealed to me.

Q: What did you like about the DIS program in particular?

A: For premedical students, DIS has a unique program called Medical Practice and Policy. It’s a very hands-on program that exposes students to the fundamentals of clinical medicine and the European healthcare system. By participating in the program, I was able to get clinical exposure that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to experience in the U.S. I learned how to take a patient’s case history and formulate a diagnosis. I also learned how to perform basic medical procedures, such as taking an ultrasound and drawing blood. To give students a broader understanding of healthcare policy, our class also took a weeklong trip to Vienna and Budapest where we heard from physicians and other medical specialists about the challenges in their healthcare systems.

Psychology Majors Present Research at Poster Session April 24

More than 45 students presented their research or thesis research at the Psychology Research Poster Presentation April 24 in Beckham Hall. Oluwaremilekun Ojurongbe ’14 presented her study, “Illegality, Criminality and the Taxpayer’s Burden: The Incomplete U.S. Immigration Narrative.” Her advisor was Sarah Carney, visiting faculty with the Psychology Department.

More than 45 students presented their research or thesis research at the Psychology Research Poster Presentation April 24 in Beckham Hall. Oluwaremilekun Ojurongbe ’14 presented her study, “Illegality, Criminality and the Taxpayer’s Burden: The Incomplete U.S. Immigration Narrative.” Her advisor was Sarah Carney, visiting faculty with the Psychology Department.

Victoria Mathieson ’14 presented her research on “Identity, Appraisal, and Emotion: The Role of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy among Latino/a Middle School Students.” Her advisor was Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera, associate professor of psychology.

Victoria Mathieson ’14 presented her research on “Identity, Appraisal, and Emotion: The Role of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy among Latino/a Middle School Students.” Mathieson’s advisor was Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera, associate professor of psychology.

McNair Fellows Research Plasma Underwater, Serpentine Soil Plants in Puerto Rico

Two Wesleyan students presented their research at the McNair Research Talks April 17 in Exley Science Center. The Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program is one of the federal TRiO programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The program’s mission is to create educational opportunities for all Americans regardless of race, ethnic background, or economic circumstance. It assists students from underrepresented groups prepare for, enter, and progress successfully through postgraduate education.

First generation college students from low-income families or African-American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, Native American Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaskan Natives qualify as McNair Fellows. Since 2007, four McNair fellows have entered Ph.D. programs and 15 are working in research fields.

McNair Research Talks are designed for interested, non-expert students.

Rashedul Haydar '14 presented his study on "Laser Induced Plasmas Under Bulk Water: Spatiotemporal Characteristics and Spectral Analysis."

Rashedul Haydar ’14 presented his study on “Laser Induced Plasmas Under Bulk Water: Spatiotemporal Characteristics and Spectral Analysis.”

Lavontria Aaron '14 presented her research on "The Remote Sensing and Mapping of Serpentine Soil Plants in Puerto Rico."

Lavontria Aaron ’14 presented her research on “The Remote Sensing and Mapping of Serpentine Soil Plants in Puerto Rico.”

Honors, Graduate Students Present Posters at Celebration of Science Theses

Honors and MA students in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division presented their research at the Celebration of Science Thesis, April 18 in Exley Science Center. Xi Liu '14 presented her study on "Consequences of Priming Status Legitimizing Beliefs in Whites: An Investigation of Perceived Anti-White Bias, Zero-Sum Beliefs and Support for Affirmative Action." Liu's advisors are Clara Wilkins, assistant professor of psychology, and Joseph Wellman, postdoctoral fellow in psychology.

More than 20 honors and MA students in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division presented their research at the Celebration of Science Theses, April 18 in Exley Science Center. Xi Liu ’14 presented her study on “Consequences of Priming Status Legitimizing Beliefs in Whites: An Investigation of Perceived Anti-White Bias, Zero-Sum Beliefs and Support for Affirmative Action.” Liu’s advisors are Clara Wilkins, assistant professor of psychology, and Joseph Wellman, postdoctoral fellow in psychology.

Graduate student Caleb Corliss ’13 presented his study, “High-Performance Genotypes of Polygonum cespitosum Show Greater Competitive Ability.” His advisor was Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Graduate student Caleb Corliss ’13 presented his study, “High-Performance Genotypes of Polygonum cespitosum Show Greater Competitive Ability.” His advisor was Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Honors, MA Students Present Research at Celebration of Science Theses

Honors and MA students in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division presented their research at the Celebration of Science Theses, April 18 in Exley Science Center.

Xi Liu ’14 presented her study on “Consequences of Priming Status Legitimizing Beliefs in Whites: An Investigation of Perceived Anti-White Bias, Zero-Sum Beliefs and Support for Affirmative Action.”eve_postersession_2014-0418130015

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Oliphant ’13 on the Sense of Community at Wesleyan

Melody Oliphant ’13, who double majored in neuroscience and behavior and history at Wes, is now a research associate in a neurogenetics lab at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.

“I’m often awestruck at the seemingly limitless answers to the question, ‘What makes Wesleyan special?’ or ‘What excited me about Wesleyan?’ Yet, in some form or fashion, the answer always remains the same: the people, the sense of community.

Throughout my Wesleyan experience, I participated in a disparate array of activities and academic pursuits ranging from environmental activism to my double major, from founding a sorority to participating in the Wesleyan Student Assembly, from playing Ultimate Frisbee to serving as a women’s center escort to help women pass center protesters. I worked as an archivist at the Middlesex County Historical Society, as a student manager for the Red and Black Calling Society, as a sustainability intern working to remove bottled water from campus, and as an intern for the Senior Gift.

Someone unfamiliar with Wesleyan might wonder what unites such supposedly divergent interests. But the answer is simple: community. Even in my academics, I learned not to take courses according to my own purported interests, but rather by following professors who ignite a sense of intellectual curiosity and foster a holistic understanding of the world, uniting the humanities with the technoscientific realm.”

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