Science & Technology

Alumni, Friends Attend Food Waste Conversation with Pollan ’15, Bloom ’99

On Oct. 22, 2013, in a historic San Francisco industrial space that once housed the printing plant of William Randolph Hearst, nearly 100 Wesleyan alumni and friends enjoyed an intimate and thought-provoking conversation with two of the nation’s foremost voices on food and the food industry: Michael Pollan P’15 and Jonathan Bloom ’99.

The occasion was “Table Talk,” an event underwritten by generous Wesleyan donors to help support financial aid; the place was The Box San Francisco, in the South of Market district. President Michael Roth welcomed guests to the event and introduced Pollan and Bloom.

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Watch this video and more on the Video @ Wesleyan website.

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Kurtz Researches Psychological Treatments for Schizophrenia

In this video, Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, talks about his research on cognitive remediation – one of several newer psychological treatments for schizophrenia. He discusses the promising results he and his Wesleyan students have observed working with patients at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn.

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Video Features Gruen on the Last 1,000 Research Chimpanzees

In this video, Lori Gruen, professor of philosophy; professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies; professor of environmental studies, talks about the ethics of caring for chimpanzees who have been subjected to invasive biomedical research. She discusses recent positive developments in the movement to retire to sanctuaries the last 1,000 federally-supported research chimpanzees in the United States. Professor Gruen maintains the website www.last1000chimps.com to track the movement of the remaining research chimps in the U.S. from labs to retirement. Find more information about Chimp Haven, the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary where many research chimps live in retirement, at www.chimphaven.org.

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Video Feature on Matt Donahue ’14

Matt Donahue ’14 is a double major in psychology and neuroscience and behavior, works in several departments on campus, and is the chapter president of Brighter Dawns, a student run non-profit that aims to improve health conditions in the slums of Bangladesh. Learn more about Donahue in the video below:

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ENVS Class Makes Scientific, Artistic Inquiry of Gulf Oil Spill

Last summer, Wesleyan students journeyed to the Louisiana Gulf Coast as part of their College of the Environment class, ENVS 380, a scientific and artistic inquiry into the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  The class was led by Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies and Chair of the Environmental Studies Program.

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Video Feature on Opraha Miles ’14

Opraha Miles ’14 is an intended neuroscience and behavior major from Jamaica who sings, dances in the ISIS women of color dance troupe, is a member of the West Indian Student Association (WISA), student manager at Usdan University Center and is a dedicated YouTube enthusiast. Learn more about Opraha in this video below:

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Video Feature on Intelligent Landscape Design Group WILD Wes

Below is a video featuring WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan). WILD Wes is a Wesleyan student group working to transform fossil-fuel-intensive lawns into food-producing, ecologically-regenerative landscapes. WILD Wes is currently working on its first project: a 3/4 acre courtyard situated in a cluster of West College.

The video was created by WILD Wes member Erin O’Donnell ’12 and Ofer Levy ’12, who were enrolled in the “Documentary Advocacy” class. Jacob Bricca, adjunct assistant professor of film studies, taught the FILM 150 course last fall.

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Video Feature on Professor Laura Grabel

In the video below, Laura Grabel, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science in Society, professor of biology, discusses teaching cell biology, her research into neurogenesis of embryonic stem cells, fate of embryonic stem cell-derived transplants in the brain, and cell migration in the early embryo:

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Greenwood Finds Water in Moon Rocks

Jim Greenwood, research assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, holds a slide with a moon rock sample that contains water. The water was found in the mineral apatite, which he and his team were able to identify in the sample. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett Drake)
Jim Greenwood, research assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, holds a slide with a moon rock sample that contains water. The water was found in the mineral apatite, which he and his team were able to identify in the sample. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

Soon after the Apollo spaceflights to the moon, experts examined the rocks brought back by the astronauts and declared with certainty that the moon was a dry, waterless place.

Forty years later, James Greenwood begs to differ. Not only does he have proof, his findings strongly suggest that some of the lunar water he found is not indigenous to the moon or earth but appears to have originated from somewhere else in space.

Greenwood, research associate professor, visiting assistant professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences, pioneered a new method of analyzing the rocks using a combination of light, electron and ion-beam microscopes. He and his international team of planetary geologists and geochemists, announced their findings at the 41st Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, in March.

It was a discovery almost didn’t happen, however. In fact, the only reason Greenwood found proof of water on the moon was because he was looking at a rock from Mars.

“I was in a lab at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, using an ion microscope to measure water in Martian meteorites,” Greenwood, who is a planetary geochemist, says. “We had pioneered this new technique to use two-dimensional ion imaging and were looking at this mineral in the meteorites called ‘apatite,’ which is a common phosphate mineral and holds water. Our analyses had been very good, probably better than ever before. So I thought, ‘What if we used this technique on moon rocks?’”

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Greenwood thought of moon rocks because a 2008 study from Brown University had found possible evidence of water in volcanic moon rocks. However, the study had been problematic and its results disputed. Still, Greenwood was intrigued that the possibility of water in the lunar rock samples had not been thoroughly vetted.

“The rocks were all declared devoid of water when they were first analyzed 40 years ago,” he said. “But I thought our new technique held some promise.”

Greenwood’s technique and the advanced instruments he gained access to, made it possible for him and the other scientists on his team to analyze the sample’s chemical composition over areas as small as 5 x 5 microns.

“In the past, they had actually ground up the analyzed samples. This created conditions that put the chemical analysis out of context,” he says. “Our method let us look at the samples as they are, in situ.”

The hardest part was getting permission to examine a sample. Less than 900 rocks were brought back from all the Apollo missions combined. Access is strictly limited.

It took several months, but Greenwood was able to get a few samples to analyze. The first were from the lunar highlands, which he thought might hold promise. But no water-holding apatite was found. Then he gained access to a sliver of rock brought back from the southwestern edge of the Mare Tranquillitatis – the “Sea of Tranquility” – where Apollo 11 had set down in 1969.

“So there we were in the lab at about 3 a.m. and the first sample we looked at, boom, there it was. Water. At first we couldn’t believe it. But we double-checked and we were just blown away. It was clearly there.”

The apatite, which is the same mineral that teeth are made of, was rife with water molecules. However, as Greenwood and his colleagues continued to analyze the samples they found that the water contained in the rocks was not from the earth or the moon.

“It was consistent in the water that comes from comets,” Greenwood says.

How could he tell? Water molecules found on earth – and those indigenous to the moon, since it was once part of the earth – contain a specific ratio of hydrogen to deuterium, which scientists use as a standard. The water Greenwood has found in some of the lunar samples has nearly twice the deuterium.

“The only things that falls into this range with any consistency are comets,” Greenwood says.

He adds that comets have long been known to hold frozen water and that perhaps as much as 10% of the earth’s water had come from comets, as well.

Microscopic water in minerals inside moon rocks is a tremendous find, but in a practical sense it does not open the door to, say, astronauts extracting this water to use on a lunar base or colony. Greenwood says that process would be too expensive and energy-exclusive with current methods. However, his discovery does open up another possibility.

“The level of water we found in the samples are consistent with the amount of water one would find from the mantle in the earth,” he says. “So there may be a reservoir of water within the mantle of the moon. Somewhat like groundwater here on earth.”

How far within the mantle, how deep below the surface is another challenge for another completely different type of study.

But Greenwood and his team have confirmed what many people have wondered for centuries, perhaps millennia. There is water on the moon.

Varekamp, Thomas Present Papers at Estuarine Research Conference

Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science, and Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented papers at the Estuaries and Coasts in a Changing World conference of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation in Portland, Ore. Nov. 1-5.

Their talks were titled “Proxies for Eutrophication in Long Island Sound” and ” Hypoxia in Long Island Sound – Since When and Why.”