Science & Technology

ITS Launches Security Awareness Campaign

The ITS training videos teach computer users about cyber criminals.

The ITS training videos teach computer users about cyber criminals.

As part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October, Information Technology Services launched a new security awareness campaign titled “Protecting You, Securing Wesleyan”.

The campaign consists of security awareness training videos; tips and tricks provided on the ITS Facebook and Twitter pages; posters distributed around campus; and a new website about cyber security initiatives on campus. The information will help Wesleyan faculty, staff and students be safer online, at work, home or on the road.

Yohe: Scientists Press for Climate Change Action

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, co-authored an op-ed published in The Hartford Courant calling on the government to take action on climate change. The op-ed follows the recent release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (of which Yohe is a senior member) Synthesis Report, which ties together “in a  clear and actionable way” findings on the risks and threats climate change poses to human society.

Business leaders have shown they’re ready to take action in response to these findings, “but they’re looking to politicians to implement policies that provide the regulatory certainty they need. The sooner businesses know what policies governments will enact to reduce carbon emissions, they better they can tailor their plans and continue to spur unhindered economic growth,” write Yohe and Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes businesses to embrace a sustainable future.

Read the whole piece here. Yohe, who is also chair and professor of economics, professor of environmental studies, also spoke to The Washington Post recently about the new synthesis report:

“It’s not too late, but the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets,” Gary Yohe, a Wesleyan University professor who also participated in the drafting of the report, said in an interview. Damage to the Earth’s ecosystems is “irreversible to the extent to which we have committed ourselves, but we will commit ourselves to higher and higher and higher damages and impacts” if the world’s leaders fail to act, Yohe said.

Yohe also participated in a panel discussion about the new report on KQED Radio’s “Forum with Michael Krasny.”

Neuroscience Training Influences Lee’s (’12) Art

Gizmodo features the artwork of Timothy “Timmy” Lee ’12. A neuroscience and behavior, biology and studio arts triple major, Lee always loved drawing but decided to pursue art professionally during his last year at Wesleyan, abandoning plans to attend medical school. According to the article, his time as a neuroscience student is apparent in his work: “These beautiful sculptures and paintings are his way of digging inside his own complex and sometimes disturbing personality.”

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Northrop Teaches Students at Green Street about Polymers through Putty Workshop

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Brian Northrop teaches a student at the Green Street Arts Center how to properly mix the putty’s ingredients.

On Nov. 3, Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, spoke to students at the Green Street Arts Center about polymers. As part of the hands-on workshop, Northrop taught the participants how to make their own silicone polymer putty with glue, water, Borax and food coloring.

Similar putty was accidentally invented during World War II when an American scientist working for General Electric in New Haven, Conn. was trying to create synthetic rubber using silicone oil and boric acid. The result produced a “solid-liquid” goo that had a high melting temperature, could bounce when dropped, and stretch. The product is most commonly known as Silly Putty, a trademark of Crayola LLC.

Northrop’s workshop is funded through a 2014 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. This is the second year that he’s taught students at the GSAC.

Photos of the polymer workshop are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Studies by Varekamp, Thomas Published in Paleoceanography

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Joop Varekamp

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas

Wesleyan faculty Joop Varekamp and Ellen Thomas are among the authors of a paper on rates of sea-level rise along the eastern U.S. seaboard titled “Late Holocene sea level variability and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation,” published in the journal Paleoceanography, Volume 29, Issue 8, pages 765–777 in August 2014. Varekamp is the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences and professor of environmental studies. Thomas is research professor of earth and environmental sciences at Wesleyan, and also a senior research scientist in geology and geophysics at Yale University.

Ellen Thomas discovered that microfossils, such as this  foraminifera fossil, reveal that warm oceans had less oxygen.

Ellen Thomas discovered that microfossils, such as this foraminifera fossil, reveal that warm oceans had less oxygen.

Pre-20th century sea level variability remains poorly understood due to limits of tide gauge records, low temporal resolution of tidal marsh records, and regional anomalies caused by dynamic ocean processes, notably multidecadal changes in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). In the study, Varekamp and Thomas examined sea level and circulation variability along the eastern United States over the last 2,000 years, using a sea level curve constructed from proxy sea surface temperature records from Chesapeake Bay, and 20th century sea level-sea surface temperature relations derived from tide gauges and instrumental sea surface temperatures.

Thomas also is a co-author of a paper titled ‘I/Ca evidence for upper ocean deoxygenation during the PETM‘ published in the Paleoceanography, October 2014.

In this paper, Thomas suggests that the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a potential analog for present and future global warming, may help in such forecasting future deoxygenation and its effects on oceanic biota. Forecasting the geographical and bathymetric extent,

Makri’s Power Limiter Research Noted in Scientific Reports Article

Makri used a power limiter consisting of a nonlinear lossy layer embedded in two mirror layers. This setup provides a resonant transmission of a low intensity light and nearly total reflectivity of a high-intensity light.

Makri used a power limiter consisting of a nonlinear lossy layer embedded in two mirror layers. This setup provides a resonant transmission of a low intensity light and nearly total reflectivity of a high-intensity light.

A study co-authored by Graduate Research Assistant Eleana Makri and two other Wesleyan researchers is a topic of a Oct. 20 article published in Scientific Reports.

Due to the ultrahigh-speed and ultrawide-band brought by adopting photons as information carriers, photonic integration has been a long-term pursuit for researchers, which can break the performance bottleneck incurred in modern semiconductor-based electronic integrated circuits. The article states that “recently, Makri theoretically proposed the concept of reflective power limiter based on nonlinear localized modes, where a nonlinear layer was sandwiched by two reflective mirrors, thus increased the device complexity.”

The report is based on Makri’s study, titled “Non-Linear Localized Modes Give Rise to a Reflective Optical Limiter” published in March 2014. The paper is co-authored by Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics; Hamidreza Ramezani Ph.D. ’13 (now a postdoc at U.C. Berkeley) and Ilya Vitebskiy (Sensors Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Ohio).

The same study was also highlighted in Washington, D.C. at the spring review meeting of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) as one of the main research achievements in electromagnetics of 2014 that can potentially benefit the U.S. Air Force. Read more about this study in this past News @ Wesleyan article.

Read the full Scientific Report article, titled “Chip-integrated optical power limiter based on an all-passive micro-ring resonator,” online here.

Kottos, Basiri Author Paper Published in Physical Review

Data by Tsampikos Kottos and Ali Basiri.

Tsampikos Kottos and Ali Basiri, a Ph.D. student in physics, are co-authors of a paper titled “Light localization induced by a random imaginary refractive index,” published in Physical Review A 90, on Oct. 13, 2014. Kottos is the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics.

In the paper, the authors show the emergence of light localization in arrays of coupled optical waveguides with randomness.

 

 

 

Hughes Finds Magnetic Fields in Stardust; Study Published in Nature

Assistant professor of Astronomy Meredith Hughes and eight colleagues have found evidence of magnetic fields in stardust – an indication that magnetic fields are important in the process of planetary system formation, according to a new paper in the journal Nature.

The discovery is another step in work by Hughes and other astronomers to understand how celestial bodies are formed. It is known that magnetic fields in the “accretion disks” of stars play a dominant role in the star formation process.

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes

Using data from an observatory near Bishop, Calf., Hughes and her colleagues were able to spot signs of magnetic fields in the dust of the disk of a star about 300 light years away. While magnetic fields have been detected in regions that represent the very earliest stages of star formation (the so-called Class 0 and Class I stages), this is the first time they have been seen around a star with an older age closer to when we believe planetary systems form.

“This is an important result,” Hughes said. “It’s the first time that we’ve seen magnetic fields this late in the process of star and planet formation. And like any good scientific result, when you find something new it opens up whole new sets of questions we can ask.”

In fact, Hughes said the astronomers did not expect the results they got. “I honestly didn’t think it was going to work – we had been trying so long with Class II sources and hadn’t found anything,” she said. “But I thought, we might as well try this last source that is just a little younger than most Class II sources. You want to try everything you can – but it was really a surprise when it worked.”

The paper, “Spatially resolved magnetic field structure in the disk of a T Tauri star,” was published Oct. 22. Nature is the world’s most highly-cited interdisciplinary science publication. The 145-year-old journal is published weekly.

Math Ph.D. Candidate Smith Delivers First Graduate Speaker Series Talk

Brett Smith, a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics, spoke during the first Graduate Speaker Series event Oct. 7 in Exley Science Center. Smith's talk, titled "Mine, Yours and the Truth," focused on American mobster Joe Massino, boss of the Bonanno crime family in New York from 1991 until 2004. "Big Joey" famously said, “there are three sides to every story — mine, yours and the truth.”

Brett Smith, a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics, spoke during the first Graduate Speaker Series event Oct. 7 in Exley Science Center. More than 50 students, faculty and staff attended the event. Smith’s talk, titled “Mine, Yours and the Truth,” focused on American mobster Joe Massino, boss of the Bonanno crime family in New York from 1991 until 2004. “Big Joey” famously said, “there are three sides to every story — mine, yours and the truth.”

By using a graph theory called the Robertson–Seymour theorem, Smith explored the competing questions, "What is the best way to organize a mafia so that you won't be caught?" and "What is the best way to patrol a city to disrupt organized crime?" Smith explained how these questions are one and the same.

By using a graph theory called the Robertson–Seymour theorem, Smith explored the competing questions, “What is the best way to organize a mafia so that you won’t be caught?” and “What is the best way to patrol a city to disrupt organized crime?”
Smith explained how these questions are one and the same.

Three more graduate students will tentatively speak as part of the series this fall and next spring including Duminda Ranasinghe, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate; Katie Kaus, a molecular biology and biochemistry Ph.D. candidate and Peter Blasser, a graduate student in music. For more information, visit the Graduate Studies website.

Grad Student Herman, Sultan Published in Evolution, Faculty 1000

Jacob Herman

Jacob Herman

Biology Ph.D. candidate Jacob Herman and Sonia Sultan, chair and professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, are the co-authors of an article titled “How stable ‘should’ epigenetic modifications be? Insights from adaptive plasticity and bet hedging,” published in Evolution, Issue 68(3), pages 632-43. Herman was the Private Investigator on the paper.

The article also was selected by Faculty 1000, a platform for life scientists that helps scientists to discover, discuss and publish research.

Sonia Sultan

Sonia Sultan

Epigenetics is the study of ways chemical reactions change the way an organism grows and develops, and the factors that influence them. Epigenetic modifications can be stable across the individual’s lifespan and in some species even persist across generations, or they can be reversible, but it is currently unclear how the persistence of epigenetic modifications may evolve. In this paper, Herman and Sultan provide insights from the theoretical advances in adaptive phenotypic plasticity to predict the conditions that would favor the evolution of stable versus reversible epigenetic modification as an adaptive environmental response both within and across generations.

At Wesleyan, Herman is interested in the evolutionary implications of developmental plasticity. In particular, he has been studying transgenerational plasticity, a phenomenon that occurs when environments experienced by parents (or even more remote generations) influence the phenotypes of offspring, without changing the DNA sequence.

“There is a growing body of research in both plants and animals that suggests that transgenerational plasticity can have important ecological and evolutionary impacts, including influences on response to selection and population persistence in stressful environments,” he said.

Polygonum persicaria

Polygonum persicaria

Herman’s doctoral research focused on adaptive seedling responses to grandparental and parental drought stress in the widespread, introduced plant Polygonum persicaria.

“We found that functionally appropriate responses to drought stress persist across at least two generations in this species. These adaptive effects enhanced the growth and survival of ‘grandchild’ seedling offspring grown in drought conditions,” he said.

Herman’s research is one part of the larger effort in the Sultan lab to understand how individual plants respond to key environmental stresses, such as drought, and how those responses influence species’ ecology and evolution.

Learn more about ongoing research in the Sultan Lab here.

Wesleyan to Host Archaeology Fair, Oct. 18

The Connecticut State Archaeology Fair, hosted at Wesleyan, will give the public a close-up look at projects happening across the state. The theme is "Creating Community."

The Connecticut State Archaeology Fair, hosted at Wesleyan, will give the public a close-up look at projects happening across the state. The theme is “Creating Community.”

Many people think of archaeology as taking place in exotic locations overseas, not in their own backyard. Yet archaeology projects are continuously being carried out all over the state of Connecticut.

On Oct. 18, Wesleyan’s Archaeology Program and Office of Community Partnerships will present the Connecticut State Archaeology Fair to give the public a close-up look at some of these projects. Part of Archaeology Awareness Month in October, the fair will feature many hands-on exhibits and activities for adults and kids. Presenters will represent a full spectrum of archaeology in the state, ranging from local tribes and community groups to educational institutions and commercial businesses.

Beman Triangle dig

Wesleyan students dig for artifacts at the “Beman Triangle” near campus.

The fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Exley Science Center. While it has been held elsewhere in the state in the past, this is Wesleyan’s first year hosting it. This year’s theme is “Creating Community.”

According to Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, “Connecticut has amazing archaeological resources, and many projects being done all around the state, but a lot of it goes under the public radar. This is a great opportunity for members of the public to learn about archaeology, and see first-hand some of the cool work going on right here in Connecticut.”

Royer’s Study Suggests that the Meteorite That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Changed Forests

Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of a study that suggests fast-growing deciduous plants replaced slower-growing evergreen plants after an impact of a meteorite 60 million years ago. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Sixty-six million years ago, a meteorite struck the Earth with enough force that the ensuing environmental changes, including floods, earthquakes, variable temperatures and light-obscuring dust clouds, possibly wiped out dinosaurs and other pre-historic life. Scientists believe this opened a path for mammals, and ultimately humans, to evolve.

A new study by Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and colleagues from the University of Arizona and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science suggests that the chaos in the wake of the space rock’s impact changed the Earth’s plant life as well. Deciduous plants survived and flourished to a much greater extent than flowering evergreens, the scientists believe, probably because their properties made them much better able to respond to climate conditions post-impact. The deciduous plants, not needing to maintain their leaves year round, essentially needed less energy for survival.