Science & Technology

Starr, Hanakata ’14 Co-Author Paper on Polymer Films, Published in Nature Communications

Francis Starr and Paul Hanakata '14 study the mobility gradient on a thin, polymer film.

Francis Starr and Paul Hanakata ’14 study the interfacial mobility in a thin, polymer film.

Francis Starr, professor of physics, and Paul Hanakata ’14 are the co-authors of a new article published in the journal Nature Communications on June 16. The article, titled “Interfacial Mobility Scale Determines the Scale of Collective Motion and Relaxation Rate in Polymer Films,” is based off Hanakata’s senior thesis research at Wesleyan.

Thin polymer films are ubiquitous in manufacturing and medical applications. Their chemical and mechanical properties make them suitable as artificial soft biological tissue and there has been intense interest in how film thickness and substrate interactions influence film dynamics.

The nature of polymer rearrangements within these films determines their potential applications.  However, up to now, there has been no way to readily assess how design choices of the film affect these dynamic rearrangements.

“Paul’s paper is novel because it demonstrates how an experimental measurement of the surface properties can be used to infer the changes to collective motions within the film,” Starr explained. “These results offer a practical metrology that might be used for the design of new advanced materials.”

Hanakata, who graduated in May, will begin his graduate studies at Boston University next fall.

Resor Delivering 6 Lectures to Petroleum Geoscientists in Australia

Associate Professor Phil Resor is delivering six lectures in Australia this June.

Associate Professor Phil Resor is delivering six lectures in Australia this June. He is the 2014 AAPG Distinguished Lecturer.

Philip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, is taking his knowledge of petroleum down under.

Between June 18-26, Resor, a Distinguished Lecturer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), is delivering six lectures in Australia. The talks are geared toward members of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA) and a general petroleum industry audience.

Phil Resor at a talk in Melbourne.

Phil Resor at a talk in Melbourne.

While abroad, Resor will speak on “Syndepositional Faulting of Carbonate Platforms” and “Revisiting the Origin of Reverse Drag.”

He’ll be lecturing in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.

A specialist in structural geology, Resor’s work integrates field mapping, remote sensing, and numerical modeling to better understand the mechanics of faulting. Recent projects have focused on the causes of syndepositional faulting in carbonate platforms, deformation around normal faults, folding on Venus, and the effects of fault zone geometry on earthquake slip.

Prior to joining the faculty at Wesleyan, Resor worked for several years as an exploration geologist in the oil and gas industry.

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Phil Resor in Sydney.

Kilgard Presents Stunning New Image of ‘Whirlpool Galaxy’

m51_w11Roy Kilgard, support astronomer and research assistant professor of astronomy, together with Trevor Dorn-Wallstein ’15 and Tyler Desjardin MA ’11, recently presented stunning new images of a spiral galaxy produced by combining data from more than 232 hours of observing time with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Similar to the Milky Way, the galaxy is officially known as Messier 51 (M51) or NGC 5194, but nicknamed “the Whirlpool Galaxy.” Located about 30 million light years from Earth, its face-on orientation to Earth offers a perspective astronomers can never get of our own galaxy.

The image showing a vibrant purple swirl was presented June 3 at the 224th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Boston, Mass. K.D. Kuntz of Johns Hopkins University was also a co-author.

The image also appeared as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day on June 10.

Kilgard told Universe Today, “This is the deepest, high-resolution exposure of the full disk of any spiral galaxy that’s ever been taken in the X-ray.”

Chandra allowed the astronomers to uncover things that can only be detected in X-rays. According to the website for the Chandra observatory: “Most of the X-ray sources are X-ray binaries (XRBs). These systems consist of pairs of objects where a compact star, either a neutron star or, more rarely, a black hole, is capturing material from an orbiting companion star. The infalling material is accelerated by the intense gravitational field of the compact star and heated to millions of degrees, producing a luminous X-ray source. The Chandra observations reveal that at least ten of the XRBs in M51 are bright enough to contain black holes. In eight of these systems the black holes are likely capturing material from companion stars that are much more massive than the Sun.”

Observations have revealed that the Whirlpool Galaxy is in the process of merging with a smaller companion galaxy, visible in the upper left of the composite image. Researchers believe this is triggering waves of rapid star formation.

Read more coverage of the presentation on NBC News and Space.

Also at the American Astronomical Society meeting, Nicole Arulanantham, a second-year graduate student in the Astronomy MA program, was awarded a Chambliss Medal, and astronomy major Ben Tweed ’13 presented a paper. Read more about it here.

Singer ’15 to Study Moon Rocks as Connecticut Space Grant Fellow

Jack Singer '15 holds a fragmented lunar sample (Apollo 12039,3), a crucial sample for studying his mineral of interest — apatite — on the moon.

Jack Singer ’15 holds a fragmented lunar sample (Apollo 12039,3), a crucial sample for studying his mineral of interest — apatite — on the moon. This summer, Singer received a Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium grant to fund his summer research in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.

As a recent recipient of an undergraduate research fellowship, Jack Singer ’15 is spending his summer at Wesleyan studying the geochemical evolution of the moon. 

The fellowship, supported by the Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium, comes with a $5,000 award. Grantees are expected to work on research related to space/aerospace science or engineering under the guidance of a faculty member or a mentor from industry.

By using a microscope in Wesleyan's Solar Systems Geochemistry Lab, Jack Singer takes a closer look at a Lunar sample.

By using a microscope in Wesleyan’s Solar Systems Geochemistry Lab, Jack Singer takes a closer look at a lunar sample.

For the next three months, Singer will work on various research projects with his advisor James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental science. Singer will first prepare a fragmented lunar sample (Apollo 12035,76) for analysis under an ion microprobe. An ion microprobe applies a beam of charged ions to the sample and helps determine the composition of the material.

This rock contains olivine, a mineral that is mysteriously sparse in many different lunar samples.

“By analyzing the melt inclusions contained within olivine in this rock, I’ll be able to better understand geochemical evolution of the moon,” Singer said.

Singer’s second project is more experimental. He’s attempting to model and quantify diffusion in a late-stage lunar environment (one of the last regions to cool on the moon) by synthesizing a granite-rich model lunar glass.

Singer will heat this glass past its melting point and place it in contact with solid terrestrial apatite — the Moon’s major water-bearing mineral — and measure how elements diffuse across the glass-grain (or solid-liquid) boundary.

Jack Singer and his advisor, James Greenwood, will travel to Japan this summer to use an ion microprobe at Hokkaido University.

Jack Singer and his advisor, James Greenwood, will travel to Japan this summer to use an ion microprobe at Hokkaido University.

“This type of analysis helps us to better understand the processes that occurred during the last stages of lunar cooling,” he explained.

In addition, Singer and Greenwood will travel to Japan this summer to use an ion microprobe at Hokkaido University.

“This machine allows us to analyze and measure stable isotope ratios in the minerals we are interested in, and can therefore tell us something about the fractionation and geochemical history of the lunar body,” Singer said.

Next fall, Singer will write about his research findings.

Chernoff Photographs Fish to Accompany Scientific Journal Article

On June 5, Professor Barry Chernoff photographed two new species of dwarf silverside fish from the Caribbean.

On June 5, Professor Barry Chernoff photographed two new species of dwarf silverside fish from the Caribbean. Chernoff is the director of the College of the Environment, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Chernoff photographed the fish for a scientific paper that he's submitting for publication. The paper will describe the two new species and their two new, formal names.

Chernoff photographed the fish for a scientific paper that he’s submitting for publication.

The paper will describe the two new species and their two new, formal names.

The paper will describe the two new species and their two new, formal names.

Army Veteran Olivieri to Join Class of 2018 through Posse Foundation

Andrew Olivieri

Andrew Olivieri

In the fall of 2008, Andrew Olivieri felt like he was staring down four years of uncertainty, dissatisfaction and “wasting my parents’ money.” A senior at the Bronx High School of Science, where most graduates are expected to attend college, Olivieri just didn’t feel ready.

But the Army life had always attracted him, as a path that led to maturity, a work ethic, and an opportunity to be part of something larger than himself.

“I wanted to be a part of history, and contribute to it,” Olivieri said. “I never wanted to be one of those people who just say, ‘Oh, I thought about joining the military.’ I thought I should just do it.”

Soon Olivieri was starting what would be the first of four deployments with the Army Rangers, including many months in Afghanistan and half a year in Farsi language immersion, which “helped me understand a culture that I only knew through war,” he said. His last experiences in the Army, working with Afghan commandos, were deeply enriched by his working knowledge of their language.

In September, Olivieri’s next big adventure begins: as a Wesleyan freshman. He’ll be in Wesleyan’s first group of 10 U.S. military veterans on campus through the Posse Foundation.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “The student community seems very active, and that’s what I’m looking for. I want to share my experience in an environment where people are willing to listen and willing to share their lives with me.”

As he neared the end of his military service, a family friend recommended Olivieri to Posse, and he applied, seeking a school where he could explore what had become a passion for him in the military: international relations. “Wesleyan seemed perfect,” he said.

Now 22, he’ll join nine other military veterans in the Class of 2018. This is the inaugural year for Posse at Wesleyan; the university hopes to add 10 veterans per class for the next three years.

Posse is one of five programs the university is highlighting June 15-21, as Access2Wes week celebrates diversity and inclusion at Wesleyan. During this week, alumni and friends can support these programs, which also include A Better Chance, Prep for Prep, QuestBridge and the Freeman Asian Scholars, with their gift through the Wesleyan Fund.

#THISISWHY

How Science Helped Win D-Day

On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, faculty director of the McNair Program, writes in Slate about the role played by science in making possible the victory of Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy. 

“For any amphibious operation, an ability to predict the height and timing of high tides is crucial,” write O’Connell, yet adds, “Predicting tides correctly is not as simple as you might think. Having taught oceanography to undergrads for many years, I can testify to just how complex, even counterintuitive, this science is.”

Read more here.

Renovations Begin on Astronomy’s Van Vleck Refractor Telescope

The almost-century-old 20-inch Van Vleck Refractor, which lives on Foss Hill in its iconic dome, is undergoing a major renovation. Work began June 2.

The rare historic telescope will be dismantled, cleaned, repaired, reassembled and modernized over a period of about 15 months in preparation of the observatory centennial in 2016. The refractor has been deteriorating gradually since its retirement from research around 1993.

Antique Telescope Society members and Ray Museum Studios founders Fred Orthlieb, Ph.D. and Chris Ray are leading the renovation. Astronomy major Julian Dann ’17 and German Studies major Rebecca Hanschell ’16 are assisting with the project this summer.

Read more about the project in this News @ Wesleyan article.

Photos of the renovation, taken on June 5, are below. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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cam_vvo_2014-0605143302

X-Ray Vision of our Sister Galaxy

m51_w11Roy Kilgard, support astronomer and research assistant professor of astronomy, together with Trevor Dorn-Wallenstein ’15 and Tyler Desjardins MA ’11, recently presented a stunning new picture of the Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M51 or NGC 5194. According to NBC News’ coverage, the picture from NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory “combines data from more than 232 hours worth of Chandra’s observations, gathered over the course of 12 years, and highlights hundreds of previously undetected X-ray sources.”

Kilgard tells Universe Today, “This is the deepest, high-resolution exposure of the full disk of any spiral galaxy that’s ever been taken in the X-ray.” The image appears to show evidence that the Whirlpool Galaxy is in the process of colliding with a smaller companion galaxy, which would trigger waves of rapid star formation.

“In this image, there’s a very strong correlation between the fuzzy purple stuff, which is hot gas in the X-ray, and the fuzzy red stuff, which is hydrogen gas in the optical,” said Kilgard. “Both of these are tracing the star formation very actively. You can see it really enhanced in the northern arm that approaches the companion galaxy.”

Read more coverage on Space.

K.D. Kuntz of Johns Hopkins University was also a co-author.

Arulanantham Honored with Chambliss Medal at American Astronomical Society Meeting

Astronomy graduate student Nicole Arulanantham received the Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society.

Astronomy graduate student Nicole Arulanantham received the Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society.

Nicole Arulanantham, who is entering her second year as a graduate student in the Astronomy MA program, was awarded a Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society at its June 3 meeting in Boston. The awards are given to recognize exemplary research by a student presenting a poster paper at an AAS meeting.

Arulanantham worked on the study with her advisor, Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, chair of the Astronomy Department, and Ann Marie Cody of the California Institute of Technology. It involved analysis of data obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Read more about the study online here.

Astronomy major Ben Tweed ’13 also presented a paper at the AAS meeting and reported results of his study of the local interstellar medium using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. His advisor is Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, and the work was done in collaboration with astronomers at the Universities of Warwick and Kiel, as well as University College London. Read more about the study online here.

Thomas’s Paper Published in Paleoceanography

The deep-sea benthic foram Aragonia velascoensis went extinct about 56 million years ago as the oceans rapidly acidified. (Photo by Ellen Thomas)

The deep-sea benthic foram Aragonia velascoensis went extinct about 56 million years ago as the oceans rapidly acidified. (Photo by Ellen Thomas)

Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the author of a paper titled “Rapid and sustained surface ocean acidification during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum,” published in Paleoceanography, May 2014. 

In this paper Thomas and her colleagues document that ocean acidification of the surface ocean not only occurred during past times of global warming and high CO2 levels, but also by how much — about 0.3 pH units. The group studied planktic foraminifers from a drill site in the North Pacific.

Thomas’ study has been highlighted in a press release from Columbia University and also on Phys.org.

College of Integrative Sciences to Offer Researched-Based Approach to Learning Science

Beginning next year, students majoring in the natural sciences or mathematics will have the option to pursue a cross-disciplinary, research-based course of study through the new College of Integrative Sciences (CIS), which was approved by the faculty on May 21.

According to a proposal for the new College developed by Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Ishita Mukerji in consultation with faculty colleagues: “CIS aims to be an intellectual home for students interested in exploration at the boundaries of scientific disciplines, and to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for students of all disciplines who are interested by a research-based approach to learning science.”

Mukerji, who is also director of technology initiatives and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, added: “The College builds on the idea that tomorrow’s scientists will face challenging problems in the diverse areas of energy, public health, the environment, among others, that will require a broad knowledge base, and a synthesis of different research methodologies and creative problem solving skills. Thus, a key feature of the CIS is the integration of different fields to address complex problems.”