Science & Technology

Research by Loui, Harrison ’14 on Musically-Induced ‘Thrills and Chills’ is Published

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior

Many of us have experienced an intense emotional and physical sensation while listening to a particularly moving piece of music–often described as a thrill, chill or goosebumps. In a new article published in Frontiers in Psychology, Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, and psychology major Luke Harrison ’14 integrate the existing multidisciplinary literature to create a comprehensive, testable model of “transcendent psychophysiological moments in music.” The paper came out of Harrison’s final paper in Loui’s course on Music Perception and Cognition.

They begin by considering the different nomenclature used in popular and academic discourse for this phenomenon, and the advantages and disadvantages of terms such as “thrills,” “chills,” “frissons,” or even “skin orgasms.” They go on to discuss the importance of cultural and social context in explaining musical “frisson,” and the emotional and neurobiological mechanisms behind this sensation. Finally, they explore the specific types of musical stimuli that elicit this reaction.

Read the full article here.

When Water “Unmixes”: Starr Commentary Published in Nature Physics

Water is the most ubiquitous fluid on Earth, and plays a foundational role in life as we know it.  And yet the complexity of this seemingly simple molecule remains a vigorously debated area of scientific research to this day.  Writing in the most recent issue of Nature Physics, Professor of Physics Francis Starr provides a commentary on recent research to uncover the mystery of water’s unusual properties.  

Francis Starr

Francis Starr

“We all learn as children that oil and water don’t mix,” Starr writes. ” If there was only one fluid – say just the water – then “unmixing” should not even be a possibility.  However, it turns out that evidence suggests that, under unusual supercooled conditions, water can unmix from itself, forming two distinct fluids, both of which are pure water.  And it turns out this unusual behavior just might help explain many of water’s other unusual and vital features.”

Nature Physics, part of the prestigious group of Nature journals, is published monthly.

Starr’s research at Wesleyan focuses on computational approaches to understand the emergent complexity of soft and biological matter.  His lab has explored DNA modeling and nanotechnology, lipid membrane dynamics, and polymer films and composites. Undergraduates and graduate students work together in the Starr lab, emphasizing connections to experimental results.

Wesleyan Launches Pilot Pre-Frosh Math and Science Program

Ishita Mukerji, dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, leads a lab tour.

Ishita Mukerji, dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, leads a lab tour.

New students interested in math and the sciences,  who want to get a jump start on their college experience, are taking advantage of a new program this summer.

The Wesleyan Physical Sciences and Mathematics Scholars Program will welcome 11 students from the Class of 2018 to campus for its debut summer session July 27-Aug. 1. An additional 11 students will participate online.

“We’re really excited to put this program into place,” said Ishita Mukerji, dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “One common variable among all these scholars is a very strong interest in science.”

Long Lane Farm Welcomes Chickens, New Farmers

Catherine Walsh '16 handles a young rhode island red hen July 14 at Long Lane Farm. Chickens are a new addition to the two-acre, student-run farm this summer. The hens will start laying in fall and supply Bon Appétit and Wesleyan's Dining Services with fresh eggs. 

Catherine Walsh ’16 handles a young hen July 14 at Long Lane Farm. Chickens are a new addition to the two-acre, student-run farm this summer. The hens will start laying in fall and supply Bon Appétit and Wesleyan’s Dining Services with fresh eggs.

Long Lane Farm is Wesleyan’s student run organic farm devoted to allowing students a place to experiment and learn about sustainable agriculture. This summer, seven students are tending the two-acre farm full-time. New to this year’s farm are Rhode Island red hens, who reside in the farm’s chicken coop. The coop was designed and built by Wesleyan’s Architecture II class in 2013.

Throughout the summer, other students and community members help out around the farm with planting, watering and weeding.

Food harvested from the farm is sold at the North End Farmers’ Market throughout the summer, and at the Wesleyan Farmers’ Market during the academic year. The student farmers donate excess food to Amazing Grace Food Pantry in Middletown, and have an arrangement through which Bon Appétit: dining services funds positions for students to work on the farm in exchange for weekly deliveries of farm vegetables. In addition, the students invite local families to the farm and teach children about the various aspects of farming and producing food. Children are sent home with a bag of produce that they personally harvested.

The farm is funded by the College of the Environment, Bon Appétit and Wesleyan’s Green Fund. View more photos of the farm below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Upward Bound Students Participate in 6-Week Program at Wesleyan

Area high school students participating in Wesleyan's Upward Bound Math-Science Program are on campus through July 25. The students, pictured here on July 7, often spend their lunch recess near Usdan University Center and play sports on Andrus Field. Upward Bound is designed to help low-income and first-generation college students recognize and develop their potential, to excel in math and science, pursue post secondary degrees, and ultimately careers in the math and science professions.

Area high school students participating in Wesleyan’s Upward Bound Math-Science Program are on campus through July 25. The students, pictured here on July 7, often spend their lunch recess near Usdan University Center and play sports on Andrus Field. Upward Bound provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance.

The six-week academic summer program offers intensive math, science, writing and language training; counseling, mentoring and academic support services; exposure to Wesleyan's faculty members who do research in mathematics and the sciences; and education or counseling services designed to improve the financial and economic literacy of students.

The six-week academic summer program offers intensive math, science, writing and language training; counseling, mentoring and academic support services; exposure to Wesleyan’s faculty members who do research in mathematics and the sciences; and education or counseling services designed to improve the financial and economic literacy of students.

Students also go on educational field trips which supplement classroom activities and participate in cultural enrichment activities such as visits to museums, plays, and art exhibits as well as community service. Activities, trips, and involvement are designed to help students become more familiar with S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering Math) education. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Students also go on educational field trips which supplement classroom activities and participate in cultural enrichment activities such as visits to museums, plays, and art exhibits as well as community service. Activities, trips, and involvement are designed to help students become more familiar with S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering Math) education. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Wesleyan Receives State Funds for Stem Cell Outreach

The University of Connecticut-Wesleyan University Stem Cell Core was among the recipients of a new batch of state funding granted for stem cell research.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy on June 24 announced nearly $10 million in new funds to 18 Connecticut-based stem cell researchers. The UConn-Wesleyan Core received $500,000, of which about $25,000 will go to the outreach component of the Core run by Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology. According to Grabel, the funds will support visits by stem cell researchers to Connecticut colleges and universities. Since its founding in 2006, the UConn-Wesleyan Core has contributed substantially to the Connecticut stem cell initiative by providing a central source of technologies and materials for research on human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.

Read more about it here.

Read the Governor’s announcement about the new stem cell research funds here.

PIMMS Hosts Math Institute for Local Teachers, Teaching Artists

Wesleyan's Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS) is hosting an Intel Math Institute for local teachers. PIMMS, a partner of the Green Street Arts Center, developed the course for Middletown and Meriden teachers. Thirty K-8 teachers are attending, along with two teaching artists from Green Street.

Wesleyan’s Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS) is hosting an Intel Math Institute for local teachers. PIMMS, a partner of the Green Street Arts Center, developed the course for Middletown and Meriden teachers. Thirty K-8 teachers are attending, along with two teaching artists from Green Street.

The 10-day Institute began June 23 and offers a space for interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

The 10-day Institute began June 23 and offers a space for interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

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The Institute is co-taught by Christopher Rasmussen, assistant professor of mathematics (pictured at left), and math education specialist Sharon Heyman, currently the only Intel-trained instructors based in Connecticut (not pictured). Rasmussen taught an Intel Math course to teachers in the Danbury, Conn. area in 2013. Sara MacSorley, director of PIMMS and the Green Street Arts Center, is serving as project coordinator.

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The Institute pairs an intensive, 80-hour math course with ongoing academic-year professional development and arts integration workshops, to help teachers link common concepts to classroom instruction.

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The institute is supported by a Connecticut State Mathematics and Science Partnership grant.

The Cost of Climate Change

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, was called on by The Associated Press to comment on a new analysis of the regional economic impacts of climate change. The report, commissioned by The Risk Business Project, made predictions including:

Between $66 billion and $106 billion in coastal property will likely be below sea level by 2050, labor productivity of outdoor workers could be reduced by 3 percent because extremely hot days will be far more frequent, and demand for electricity to power air conditioners will require the construction of more power plants that will cost electricity customers up to $12 billion per year.

 

While Yohe said the report’s general conclusions are “right on the money,” he noted that “There’s a whole litany of things not calculated in the assessment.”

Yohe added that this report is notable because of the business and financial experience of the people behind it, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Jr., former hedge fund manager, Thomas Steyer, and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, among others.

“These are people who have managed risk all their lives and have made an enormous amount of money doing so,” Yohe said.

 

Wesleyan Faculty Teach Fifth Graders about Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy

Fifth graders from Snow Elementary School in Middletown toured Wesleyan’s astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics and scientific imaging departments on June 18, 2014. Students also visited the Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections in Exley Science Center.

Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, used the reversible hydration and dehydration of cobalt(II) chloride to demonstrate Le Chatelier's principle and create color-changing "humidity sensors." Pieces of filter paper were saturated with a solution of cobalt(II) in water, which turned the paper pink. Warming the paper with a blow dryer evaporated the water and turned the paper blue by re-forming cobalt(II) chloride.

Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, used the reversible hydration and dehydration of cobalt(II) chloride to demonstrate Le Chatelier’s principle and create color-changing “humidity sensors.” Pieces of filter paper were saturated with a solution of cobalt(II) in water, which turned the paper pink. Warming the paper with a blow dryer evaporated the water and turned the paper blue by re-forming cobalt(II) chloride.

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Research student Jesse Mangiardi ’15 Mangiardi ’15 demonstrated how to change the chemical composition — and color — of a penny. First he submerged a copper penny in a solution containing zinc mixed with a base, which coated the penny in zinc and made it appear silver. Next, he heated the zinc-coated penny with a blow torch which caused the zinc and copper to react and form brass, and turned a penny bright gold.

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The students took a few silver and gold pennies back with them to Snow School.

Singer’s Study Reveals that Finicky Feeders Avoid Bird Predation

In a recent study, Associate Professor Mike Singer compared 41 caterpillar species to show the link between dietary breadth and vulnerability to predators.

In a recent study, Associate Professor Mike Singer compared 41 caterpillar species to show the link between dietary breadth and vulnerability to predators.

Grandmothers used to warn youngsters against being “a jack of all trades, and a master of none,” and with good reason, at least in the animal kingdom, according to research by Mike Singer, associate professor of biology, associate professor of environmental studies.

Singer’s decade of research in the ecosystems of Connecticut forests reveals that caterpillars with finicky feeding habits avoid predation from birds, whereas those that feed generally on many plants become meals for baby birds. The “specialist” bugs are much better at survival.

Singer and five collaborators published these findings in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences June 16.

Mike Singer studies the Papilio glaucus, one of the most bird-resistant caterpillars. (Photo by Mike Singer)

Mike Singer studies the Papilio glaucus, one of the most bird-resistant caterpillars. (Photo by Mike Singer)

“Dietary specialization of herbivores drives the dynamics of this food chain,” Singer explained. Caterpillars with generalized diets are less likely than specialists to be camouflaged or to display warning colors or features to avian predators.

A familiar example of a dietary specialist is the caterpillar of the Monarch butterfly, which feeds exclusively on milkweed plants. This caterpillar accumulates toxins from its food-plants, rendering it unpalatable to birds and other predators. The toxic caterpillar is distinctively striped and colored as a warning to its enemies.

Poulos Studies Changing Perceptions of Whales Aboard World’s Last Wooden Whaling Ship

Helen Poulos climbs the rigging aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in existence.

Helen Poulos climbs the rigging aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in existence.

On June 15, Helen Poulos, a postdoctoral fellow in the College of the Environment, set sail aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaling ship in the world. Built and launched in 1841, the Morgan embarked on 37 voyages up until 1921, roaming every corner of the globe in pursuit of whales. She had been docked at the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut since 1940, and underwent major restoration work in recent years. This month, she took one final commemorative voyage in order to call attention to the importance of historic ships and America’s maritime heritage, as well as raise awareness about changing perceptions of whales and whaling.

Helen Poulos

Helen Poulos

Poulos is one of 79 individuals—including artists, historians, scientists, journalists, teachers, musicians, scholars and whaling descendants—selected to take part in this unprecedented public history project. Together, the group will produce a creative work for the Mystic Seaport to share online, and through exhibits, publications and public programs. On nine different legs of the journey, they will work alongside staff from the Mystic Seaport museum to “examine every aspect of the journey, and to better understand the past experiences of those who sailed this ship and others like her,” according to the project’s website. The ship will stop in a number of historic ports in New England, including Martha’s Vineyard, Provincetown and Boston. The journey wraps up August 9 with a homecoming celebration at Mystic Seaport.

Closing Schizophrenia Program a Crippling Loss

Writing in The Hartford Courant, Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, chair and associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, rails against plans to close the 20-year-old Schizophrenia Rehabilitation Program at the Institute of Living in Hartford. Individuals with schizophrenia suffer from impairments that can make daily life a Herculean struggle for the entire family,” writes Kurtz. Moreover, people with schizophrenia represent a substantial proportion of the homeless population; have extremely have levels of unemployment; and, in the absence of treatment, all too often end up in prisons, which are ill-equipped to treat them and where they are highly vulnerable targets of other prisoners.

Kurtz writes: “The Schizophrenia Rehabilitation Program, internationally recognized for its treatments, is one of the very few treatment centers in Connecticut that can address the needs of this patient population and the only program, to my knowledge, to offer such a rich array of integrated services with such proven results. Indeed, despite the dire statistics, we know that evidence-based treatments can improve outcomes in schizophrenia and that many people with the disorder can live rich and fulfilling lives, even with residual symptoms.”

Read more here.