Tag Archive for 5 Questions

5 Questions With . . . Catherine Poisson on the Benefits of Bilingualism

Catherine Poisson

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask 5 Questions of Catherine Poisson, associate professor of romance languages and literatures.

Q: Professor Poisson, you were recently named a Chevalier L’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (a Knight of the Order of Academic Palms) by the Minister of Education for your contribution to the promotion of French language and culture. What was your reaction to receiving this award, and why do you think you were nominated for the honor?

A: I was puzzled and somewhat apprehensive on receiving the notice of Certified Mail, so when I opened the envelope at the post office, it was a happy surprise; I felt flattered. My nomination is in recognition of my contribution to the association Education Française à New York (EFNY). I confess I went to Wikipedia to check exactly what L’Ordre des Palmes Académiques was. I discovered it was founded by Napoléon to honor eminent members of the University of Paris. It consists of a medallion of palms attached to a purple ribbon, which will be presented to me at a ceremony at a later time.

Q: Last June, you were featured in The Wall Street Journal as the president of the EFNY (Education Française à New York). What is the purpose of this organization?

A: EFNY was created in 2005 by Francophone parents who were struggling to have their children not lose their ability to speak French. Those parents – myself included – could not afford private bilingual schools, and believed that private tutoring was not an answer. Bilingual children feel somewhat estranged and we needed to place them in social situations with other peers. EFNY’s mission is to promote French in the Public School System both for Francophone and Anglophone children. We do so in two ways: creation of after school programs (we have 10 sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn) and launching French/English dual languages classes in elementary schools. And we are now moving towards a continuation of the program at the middle school level.

Q: Why is it important students learn a foreign language at a young age?

A:  I would gladly write 20 pages on the subject!  But in a nutshell: the brain is a spectacular sponge till you are 12. From age 12 on, learning a second language becomes increasingly difficult and the results are not as good. Teaching a 5- or 6 year-old child a second language is a true gift; she/he learns to think in several dimensions and the effects are long lasting and far-reaching. Bilingual children are more open to intellectual questions, more curious, and perform better on tests. There are numerous experiments to prove that it is a spectacular advantage in life. My colleague Ana Pérez-Gironés used to have a poster on her office door that said: “Monolinguism can be cured.” I use the motto whenever I can.

Q: Do you encourage your Wesleyan students to study abroad? What is your involvement with the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris?

A:  Studying abroad is not a requirement for the major, but at least 90 percent of the French studies majors do spend a semester or a year in a Francophone country, as do most of the many other Wesleyan students who study French but are not FRST majors. In the French section of Romance Language and Literatures, we believe it is a key component of learning French, whether or not you are a major, and we can usually spot students who spent a semester abroad upon their return. Not only is there a change in their language ability but also a slight change in the way they dress or interact; it can truly be a life changing experience. The French faculty are all very involved in the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris, from the orientations that take place on campus to the change of curriculum. I will be the resident director in 2012-2013 and am very happy about it even though it is a tremendous amount of work, much more work than teaching courses here on campus.

Q: Where are you from, and what led you to teach French at Wesleyan? Also, what classes do you teach at Wesleyan?

I am from Paris, came to the States to work on my M.A. on the American Thriller of the late 30s, completed the degree, then decided to settle here and did an M.A. and a Ph.D. in French Literature at New York University. It is a pretty common trajectory for French faculty in U.S. universities. The year I completed my Ph.D. I was offered a position at Wesleyan and have been happily teaching here ever since. I go back to France twice a year for about six to eight weeks per year. Being bilingual is one thing, being bicultural is another. For myself and my students, it is important to keep up with what’s going on in France.

My focus is literature and culture of the 20th and the 21st century. This semester, I teach a new course on French Popular Culture from 1840 to today examining the question of high and low cultures through sentimental, detective and graphic novels. Very new material for me and very absorbing. I also teach a language class which we believe all tenured and tenure-track French faculty should do.

5 Questions With . . . Joe Siry on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Religious Architecture

Joe Siry, professor of art.

This issue, we ask 5 Questions of Joseph Siry, chair and professor of art and art history. Professor Siry teaches classes about modern and American architectural and urban history. His book, Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture, was published by the University of Chicago Press in December 2011.

Q: In your newly-published book, you provide an in-depth look at architect/designer Frank Lloyd Wright’s Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Penn., which was constructed in 1959 and is considered one of his greatest masterpieces. What prompted you to write a book about this structure in particular?

A: I first saw Beth Sholom in 1980 and was hugely impressed with its main auditorium as a space for worship. Its design and construction toward the end of Wright’s long life was formally and technically unprecedented. It also represented a culmination of his involvement with religious architecture, so the book includes chapters on a number of his earlier related church and theater designs, going back to his original participation in the design of Chicago synagogues in the 1880s.

Q: The synagogue was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. What makes this building unique and how does it compare or contrast to other Frank Lloyd Wright designs?

A: Beth Sholom is unique in its tetrahedral steel structure that creates a large main auditorium whose dome is almost entirely of translucent glass.  Wright had experimented with such an idea in earlier unbuilt projects, but Beth Sholom was his only synagogue and the largest free span that he ever realized, yet its seats on floors sloping toward the frontal platform create a communal space that developed from his earlier buildings for assembly.

Q: When did you begin writing this book, and how did you research the synagogue’s background? Also, who would find this book valuable?

A: I began research and writing for this book in 2003, and worked with materials in the synagogue’s archive, in Wright’s archive, and those of churches that he designed in Lakeland, Florida, Kansas City, Missouri,

5 Questions With . . . Fred Cohan on Moneyball, Biology

Fred Cohan

This issue, 5 Questions talks about the connections between the Moneyball and biology with Fredrick Cohan, professor of biology.

Q: Fred, you’ve been talking about how the data mining revolution in baseball, championed by the Michael Lewis book Moneyball and the recent movie of the same name starring Brad Pitt, can change science in general and biology, specifically. Really?

A: Absolutely! On the surface, Moneyball is the story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, who found a way to lead his poverty-stricken team to success against teams with many times the payroll of Oakland. But Moneyball is really about the thrill and triumph of data mining—how old data can be gleaned for meaning in ways that were never intended when the data were originally collected. Beane and his colleagues challenged the time-honored “holy trinity” of batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBIs) as the essence of a player’s offensive value. They were working off theories developed by Bill James, who posited in the 1970s that these traditional statistics, which everyone in the game knew provided the “truth” about a player’s value, were really imperfect measurements. James mined the data and developed other measurements, such as O.B.P. (on base percentage),

5 Questions With . . . Peter Rutland on the European Union

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland has mentioned in the past that many Americans know little about the European Union (E.U.), and what they know may be more based on myth than fact. With a major debt crisis threatening the E.U.’s very existence, 5 Questions thought it might be a good time to discuss some of these misconceptions with Professor Rutland who is Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government and professor of Russian and Eastern European studies.

Q: What is one of the more significant myths many Americans believe is a “fact” about the E.U.?

A: That the European Union brought peace to Europe. Many liberals tend to idealize the European Union as an attractive alternative to the United States – a place which is peaceful rather than violent, communitarian rather than individualist, and with a strong social safety net. Many conservatives demonize the Europeans for the same reasons. When all is said and done, the bottom-line defense of the European Union is that it has ended the centuries old proclivity of European states for invading each other. It’s true that most of Europe has enjoyed six decades without war. But this was due to Uncle Sam and Uncle Joe (Stalin) physically occupying the continent and dismantling its armies in 1945. NATO and the Warsaw Pact were in place well before the emergence of European Community institutions. It was the Cold War, and not the Brussels bureaucracy, that preserved the peace in Europe.

There is also the problem of the wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. This was a conflict for which Yugoslavia’s European neighbors share some responsibility, because of their precipitate recognition of the independence of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, followed by their inability to stop the fighting until the US intervened.

Q: What about the often-heard assertion that the European Union has transcended the nation-state?

A: Another myth. European federalists have been proclaiming the end of the nation-state for decades.

5 Questions With . . . Anne Peters on Egypt Since the Arab Spring

Anne Peters, assistant professor of government, is a former Mirzayan Fellow at the National Academies in Washington, DC. Peters was assigned to develop new programs that would allow U.S. and Arab scientists to collaborate. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

This issue we ask “5 Questions” of Anne Mariel Peters, assistant professor of government who specializes in the Middle East. Her research interests include the durability of Middle Eastern Authoritarianism.

Q: We all saw the stirring images from Egypt in the spring, but there’s been very little coverage of what is happening there since. What happened in the days and weeks after the protest ended?

A: The Egyptian protesters were a diverse group of people with varying levels of policy goals and political sophistication who all coalesced around the need to remove the President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. That we now see acute fragmentation and intense rivalry among formal parties and informal groups is not surprising. However, this has put the groups in poor position to exert leverage over the military leadership, the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF), that asserted its role as a transitional government after Mubarak resigned from office.

Two major party coalitions have emerged. The first is the Democratic Alliance, which is headed up by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Although the Brotherhood was prohibited from forming a political party, under Mubarak’s rule it built a political bureau that fronted a number of “independents” in parliamentary and associational elections. Until recently, the Alliance comprised about forty Islamic and secular parties. Yet two-thirds of the original members have since left the Alliance (including leading salafi Islamist parties), after expressing concern that the FJP is trying to take the majority of nominees. The second coalition is the liberal Egyptian Bloc, which was established by Coptic Christian businessman Naguib Sawiris and consists of about twenty parties, fifteen of which have reportedly withdrawn because they fear that the dominant Egyptian Liberals Party is trying to hoard nominations.

Newer and smaller parties, then, are largely responsible for the fragmentation of the coalitions. A more liberal political parties law has allowed many new parties to register, but it also means that many of them are less cohesive and less organized. They fear the disproportionate power of leading parties in their respective coalitions. Although nobody knows its precise level of support, as an older organization the Brotherhood has the advantage of drawing upon pre-established networks. By contrast, the Egyptian Liberals Party is a new party, but has the advantage of resources and support from Egypt’s relatively organized business communities.

Q: It was an odd uprising in that there really wasn’t a single organized political group leading it. What were some of the factors that precipitated it?

A: In general, standards of living were being eroded by inflation and unemployment; the financial sector suffered from corruption and unequal access to capital; and educated Egyptians could not find gainful employment.

5 Questions With . . . Natasha Korda on “the Women Behind the Scenes”

Professor Natasha Korda, pictured here in London, is an expert on the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

This issue we ask “5 Questions” of Natasha Korda, professor of English, professor of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality studies. Korda’s book, Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in September 2011. She also co-edited a book, Working Subjects in Early Modern English Drama, published by Ashgate in February 2011.

Q: Professor Korda, you’ve taught English and gender studies at Wesleyan since 1995, and you were promoted to full professor in 2010. What courses do you teach and what are your scholarship interests?

A: My area of expertise is Renaissance literature and culture, particularly the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and my scholarship focuses on the subjects of labor and property, especially women’s labor and property, in Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatic literature and theater history. At Wesleyan, in addition to the Shakespeare lecture and introductory courses like “Shakespeare on Film” and “Renaissance Drama,” I have taught advanced seminars cross-listed with the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, including “Historicizing Early Modern Sexualities” and “Staging Race in Early Modern England.” This spring, while on sabbatical, I will be teaching a graduate seminar at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., on “Mastering Research Methods at the Folger.”

Book by Natasha Korda

Q: You’re the author/editor of more than 20 articles and four books including Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies: Gender and Property in Early Modern England (2002) and Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama (2002). Your newest book, Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage (2011) argues that the purportedly “all-male” stage of Shakespeare’s time relied on the labor, capital and ingenuity of women behind the scenes of theatrical production. In what ways did women contribute, and how were they acknowledged?

A: The rise of the professional stage in England relied on women of all stripes, including ordinary crafts- and tradeswomen who supplied costumes, properties and comestibles; wealthy heiresses and widows who provided much-needed capital and credit; wives, daughters and widows of theater people who worked actively alongside their male kin; and immigrant women who fueled the fashion-driven stage with a range of newfangled skills and commodities. The work of female seamstresses, laundresses, dressers (known as “tirewomen”), wigmakers and head-dressers, among others, was woven into the very fabric of player’s costumes, congealed in the folds of their starched ruffs, set into the curls of their perukes, and arranged in the petticoats of boy-actors, while the terms of female moneylenders were calculated in the playing-companies’ balance sheets and inscribed in the terms of their bonds. Female “gatherers” collected entrance fees at the doors and galleries of theaters, while the cries of female hawkers echoed inside and outside their walls and the wares they sold were consumed in the “pit,” galleries, and on the stage.

5 Questions With . . . Psychology’s Charles Sanislow on Psychopathology

Charles "Chuck" Sanislow, assistant professor of psychology, runs the Cognitive-Affective-Personality-Science (CAPS) lab in Judd Hall.

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of Charles “Chuck” Sanislow, assistant professor of psychology, who is both a clinical psychologist and a psychopathologist and studies a variety of mental illnesses and the approaches used to diagnose and treat these ailments.

Q: You are clinical psychologist but also a psychopathologist. Can you explain that second title for us?

A: Psychopathology is literally “the pathology of the mind.” To study disorders of the mind requires a variety approaches. Biology and brain systems tell us a lot about when things are working right in the brain, and how they go wrong. We also need cognitive theories to help us understand mental processes, such as disruptions in working memory and emotion regulation. Behavioral approaches inform how our experiences and thought processes may be conditioned and shaped by interpersonal processes.

Charles Sanislow and his students, Katie Marcus '13 and Liz Regan '13 inspect EEG data collected from a participant in one of their studies. EEG involves the use of sensitive electrodes to measure electrical activity in the brain. The wave form shown here called the "P300" is characteristic of a response inhibition task.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with your research?

A: Much of my work has aimed to improve clinical diagnosis. Most psychological disorders as we now know them are based on symptoms and behaviors that seem to cluster together forming a “syndrome.” The causes and mechanisms of these patterns are not well known. One artifact of the current approach to clinical diagnosis is that patients often meet criteria for several mental disorders at once. What does it really mean to say that a person has two different kinds of depression? Are these differences really qualitative? Are the mechanisms independent? These are the types of questions that we ask in my research in the Cognitive-Affective-Personality-Science (CAPS) lab.

Q: How do you approach these questions in your day-to-day research activities?

A: The majority of the research is focused on mental disorders with disturbances in mood and affect and that are moderated by stress or temperament. For example, we study depression and anxiety, including posttraumatic stress disorder and personality disorders such as borderline. We find a tremendous overlap in the features and mechanisms of these disorders. Comparing combinations of these disorders is one way to begin to clarify core processes that may cut across a range of disorders.

5 Questions With . . . MB&B’s Scott Holmes on Gene Expression, Genetics

Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, looks at a set of protein gels with his students.

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. He received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his research on epigenetic silencing of gene expression. 

Gene expression refers to the observable characteristics generated on a molecular level by a particular sequence of DNA or gene; epigenetic controls are essential in maintaining the specific patterns of gene expression that distinguish hundreds of distinct cell types in skin, muscles and other types of tissue. Epigenetic mechanisms also explain how humans can have more than 200 distinct cell types.

Q: Professor Holmes, you are an expert on genetics, molecular biology and chromosome structure. What led you to an interest in genetics and what does your lab research?

A: I had a strong affinity to genetics both as a field of study and as an experimental approach. Our DNA is present in our cells in structures known as chromosomes. My lab is addressing fundamental questions about how these structures are organized, and how that organization influences the function of genes present on the DNA. To accomplish this we primarily use genetic tools. In a directed manner we manipulate genes that we know or suspect will influence the structure of chromosomes, then assess the consequences of these changes.

Associate Professor Scott Holmes uses budding yeast to study chromosome structure and gene expression.

Q: Last year, you received a three-year grant worth $599,832 from the National Science Foundation to support your research titled “Epigenetic Silencing of Gene Expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.” Please explain what epigenetic controls are and what role do they play in gene expression.

A: Most people are familiar with the basics of genetics: the DNA sequence of any two individuals varies by about 0.1 percent (about 1 in 1,000 positions in the DNA sequence), and some of that variation is manifested in measurable ways in our biochemistry, physiology, and outward appearance. Epigenetics refers to situations in which two cells or organisms have identical DNA sequences, yet establish distinct patterns of gene expression and exhibit different characteristics. Epigenetic mechanisms explain how humans can have over 200 distinct cell types despite the fact that all our cells have exactly the same DNA. The distinct gene expression patterns in these different cell types are dictated by their unique chromosome structures; we’d like to know how these structures are initially established, and then how they are inherited as cells grow and divide.

Q: What is the advantage of using Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a budding yeast, for studying gene expression?

A: Budding yeast has been used for centuries for baking and brewing;

5 Questions With . . . Vera Schwarcz of East Asian Studies

Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, has visited China at least once a year since 1977. She's currently writing and documenting the poetic renditions of Chinese historian/poet Chen Yinke for an upcoming book.

This issue we ask “5 Questions” of Vera Schwarcz, who spent the spring semester as a Lady Davis Fellow at Hebrew University in Israel. Schwarcz is the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, professor of East Asian studies.  She returns to campus this fall.

Q: What will you remember most about your recent sojourn in Israel?

A: What lingers most in mind is the vibrant commitment to live fully the values of Jewish tradition. In Jerusalem, each day I witnessed some act of kindness, some conscious effort to reach out to strangers in a way that pays homage to the Torah in a concrete fashion. This ancient city has the power to renew the spirit. My own personal satisfaction was also enhanced by the high level of Chinese Studies in Israel today. I am currently mentoring graduate theses all over the country in addition to having taught an advanced research seminar at Hebrew University. Who could have imagined the close ties between China and Israel a few decades ago? I had not anticipated that my knowledge of East Asia would become so useful in building links between two of the oldest civilizations on earth.

Q: You are an expert on China. Do you get to that country often, and what do you make of the dramatic ways that China’s increasing economic and political power are changing society there?

A: I have been going to China at least once a year since 1977. After my longest sojourns in 1978-79 (as a member of the first group of official exchange scholars) I have not ceased to marvel at the rapid economic reforms launched by Deng Xiaoping. The pace of the transformation has been, simply put, beyond imagination. I still cannot fathom how my Chinese friends have managed to survive in such a rapidly developing society. We speak about this problem often, as well as the burden of mental illness that haunts a society still ravaged by the Cultural Revolution and the unspoken trauma of 1989. I often find myself on a street corner of Beijing

5 Questions With . . . Eric Charry on Ethnomusicology, Culture

Eric Charry, associate professor of music, is the project director of the Ethnomusicology and Global Culture Summer Institute. (Photo by Bill Tyner '13)

This issue we ask “5 Questions” of Eric Charry, associate professor of music. Charry, an expert on African music, is currently directing the Ethnomusicology and Global Culture Summer Institute at Wesleyan.

Q: Professor Charry, as an associate professor of music, what are your areas of musical expertise and what classes do you teach at Wesleyan?

A: Most of my research and writing until recently has been in the area of African music, specifically, the West African region where Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea and Mali meet. I spent two years in the region learning to play the kora (harp), balafon (xylophone), and jembe (drum). My office is filled with these instruments and I occasionally use them for an ensemble course (Mande Music Ensemble). More recently I have picked up on earlier musical interests and am working an a book on the emergence of an avant garde in jazz in the 1950s and 60s as well as a related book on music in downtown New York during these two decades. I teach an FYI on the latter topic and our field trip walking around New York is always a highlight for everyone. I see a lot of Wesleyan students passing through my large History of Rock and R&B course, and I’m working on a text that I can use in the class, something like a concise history, that will address my needs, without the gratuitous filler chatter. Many of my most interesting musical experiences have come out of hearing student projects in that class. The diversity and depth of creative work cuts across campus in really fascinating, and often hilarious (to us all) ways. The projects are open to the public. Next spring I’ll be teaching a seminar on global hip hop.

Q: You’re the project director of the Ethnomusicology and Global Culture Summer Institute, which is ongoing at Wesleyan through July 1. (View photos of the institute here.) Who sponsors the event, and what are some of the topics addressed throughout the two weeks?

A: Several years the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) wanted to make a push on several fronts to raise the profile of our field. They put out a call for proposals to host a summer institute. Several of us in the Music Department responded and they selected us, in part due to our successful hosting of the annual SEM meeting at Wesleyan in 2008 (over 1000 members attended). SEM and Wesleyan’s Music Department made a joint proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities and we were fully funded to invite 22 college and university teachers and 3 graduate students here for two week to study recent developments in ethnomusicology with an eye toward enhancing teaching in the humanities. The participants (they’re properly called NEH Summer Scholars) receive a stipend, which is providing a small stimulus to our Main St. restaurants! They are all staying at 200 Church St., and seem to have blended in with local frat culture, although perhaps slightly tamer. The overriding theme of global culture allows us to address a broad spectrum of musics from around the world. We’re especially interested in musics that have moved in one way or another across the globe. Full details about the event, including biographies, are on our web site.

Q: Who teaches the summer institute?

A: The core faculty members are myself, Mark Slobin and Su Zheng. Mark Slobin is the Richard K. Winslow Professor of Music, and is one of the most prolific and respected scholars in our field. He is a past president of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Society for Asian Music, past editor of Asian Music journal and past Chair of the Music Department. Su Zheng is an associate professor of music

5 Questions With . . . Dick Miller on Keeping Track of the Money

Dick Miller

This issue we ask “5 Questions” of Dick Miller, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, Emeritus, who retired from active teaching in 2006. Next fall, he’ll be back in the classroom with a liberal arts spin on the uses and abuses of financial accounting.

Q: In the fall, you’ll emerge from retirement to teach ECON 127, “Introduction to Financial Accounting,” a type of course that’s rarely been offered at Wesleyan. Why this course, why now and why you?

A: The Economics Department has recognized that we need an accounting course in our curricular offerings, but we have difficulty in getting a visitor to teach one. Our students are at a disadvantage in job interviews and in the first weeks on the job if they do not have some basics. ­ Some of our seniors cannot distinguish a balance sheet from an income statement, and that is a long way from discounted cash flow analysis or cost of capital estimation. I taught a half course in accounting some years ago, and several months ago the department chairman, Gil Skillman, asked me if I would be interested in teaching such a course, and I think that this is an opportunity for me to contribute further to the Wesleyan educational enterprise. The Career Advisory Council, a group of 24 alumni mostly in business and put together by Mike Sciola, Director of the Career Resource Center, has been very encouraging and supportive in our mounting this version of accounting.

Q: More than 70 students have pre-registered for the course. What do you think is driving interest in the subject?

A: Almost certainly the interest comes from students’ realization that accounting would be a valuable addition to their resume. And likely they think that the material will be useful not only in careers but in understanding topics in personal finance and in issues reported in the news.

5 Questions With . . . Jennifer Tucker on Mars, Victorian England

Jennifer Tucker is co-teaching a course this semester on “Interpreting Life on Mars: Scientific Data and Popular Knowledge.” (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this issue we ask “5 Questions” of Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, associate professor of science in society, and associate professor feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Q: Professor Tucker, you started off with an undergrad degree in biology but you’re on the History Department’s faculty here and specialize in, among other areas, Victorian London and British cultural history. How did your interest evolve in these directions?

A: I entered college with a strong interest in history, but I also loved science courses. At Stanford I combined a major in the neurosciences of visual perception and memory with coursework in history of science and history of art. After receiving a Marshall Scholarship to study at Cambridge University, I completed graduate work in the history of science, focusing on, among other things, issues of visual representation in scientific and popular culture. The time I spent in the UK made up my mind to continue the study of history; talking with other historians of science sparked my desire to understand the power of visual communication in scientific and technological cultures and to engage the sciences as historically evolving practices – two interests that still invigorate my teaching and research. Most of my scholarship and teaching concentrates on British history during the 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when people around the world were experimenting with new visual technologies, such as photography and cinema. In addition to teaching general courses in British history and history of science, I also direct seminars and thesis research at Wesleyan on various topics in the history of science and visual communication. Some of the courses I teach include “Evolution, Pictures and Publics,” “Scientific Visualization in Western Culture from Leonardo’s Drawings to MRIs,” “10 Photographs That Shook the World,” and “Fact and Artifact: Visual Persuasion, Expert Evidence, and the Law.”

Q: You also have an appointment in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality studies. Is there an overlap with your Science in Society work or is this a separate research and teaching area?

A: Yes, there is an overlap. This semester, for example, I am teaching a course called “Gender and Technology.” The class analyzes the role of gender and other social factors