Tag Archive for alumni

Startup Led by Dhanda ’95 Developing COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests

Rahul Dhanda

Rahul Dhanda ’95

A lack of fast, reliable diagnostic testing has played a major role in the rapid proliferation of cases of COVID-19. Rahul Dhanda ’95 and his team at Sherlock Biosciences are working furiously to change that, potentially shortening the testing’s time horizon to a matter of minutes.

Dhanda is co-founder, CEO, and president of the engineering biology startup based in Cambridge, Mass., which is creating two different diagnostic tests for COVID-19—one rooted in CRISPR technology, the other in synthetic biology. The hope is that the tests can be released during the course of the current pandemic, Dhanda said, each with its own different applications and utility.

A history major who also took premed classes at Wesleyan, Dhanda earned his MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before forging a successful career in the biotech field, with a specialty in diagnostics.

Arkin ’82 to Livestream Readings of His Suspense Novel During COVID-19 Outbreak

arkin book

Matthew Arkin

Matthew Arkin ’82

Starting April 1, Matthew Arkin ’82 will read from his suspense thriller In the Country of the Blind (2013) on YouTube Live.

“I’ll be reading in an effort to fight the strain and isolation [of the COVID-19 pandemic] and perhaps provide a little entertainment,” he said.

This is Arkin’s first attempt at livestreaming, which he’s calling “social distance storytime.”

“It’s an idea I had because we’re all under quarantine right now, we’re social distancing, stuck at home, and like many of you, I wonder how I can fill fill my time, what I can do to help others fill their time … so I thought I’d share it live online. I think it’s a lot of fun.”

Arkin will begin reading the book at 10 p.m. EST, and will continue the livestreams every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. He will lead a live-chat Q&A following each chapter.

Arkin, who double-majored in English and government at Wesleyan, hopes the story will be “something for people to look forward to, something to enjoy, something to sit around together and listen to,” he said.

To subscribe or tune in, visit the Matthew Arkin Studio page on YouTube.

Best of Wes: Alumni-Produced Podcasts

Plug in those earbuds, crank those dials, and tune into some of the many podcasts written, produced, and hosted by Wesleyan alumni. These are the best of Wes!

castroMarysol Castro ’96, broadcast journalist and New York Mets PA announcer, is the host of CTbites Hot Dish! (2020). The podcast, now with 13 episodes, sizzles with Connecticut chefs, farmers, bartenders, food writers, and local food activists. Guests have included Food Network Star winner Chef Christian Petroni, Connecticut Chef of the Year Tyler Anderson, and Westport Farmers Market Director Lori Cochran.

Adam Peltzman ’96 and Koyalee Chanda ’96 are co-writers of the six-episode scripted comedy for kids titled This Podcast Has Fleas (2017). Fleas features rivals Jones the cat and Waffles the dog, who are each creating their own podcast. They’re joined by other household pet characters Benny the gerbil and Mr. Glub the goldfish. In each episode, Jones and Waffles navigate a daily drama, such as a chaotic sleepover party, a trip to the vet, and the dreaded cone of shame. Read more in this past News @ Wesleyan article.

99invisible-logo-zag V2Avery Trufelman ’13 is a host and producer of three podcasts:
99% Invisible (2020), now at 385 episodes and counting, is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about—the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. Trufelman serves as a producer of the show, which has more than 400 million downloads.

Articles of Interest (2019), a seven-episode podcast based off 99% Invisible, investigates the stories behind many clothing styles. Hosted by Trufelman, the show addresses punk style, blue jeans, kids’ clothing, fake pockets, Hawaiian shirts, and more.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. USA Today: “America Has a History of Lynching, but it’s Not a Federal Crime. The House Just Voted to Change That”

Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language Ashraf Rushdy is interviewed on the topic of legislation that would make lynching a federal crime. In the interview he called lynching “the original hate crime.” “Lynching is a blot on the history of America,” he said. “But it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

2. The New York Times: “Starbucks Baristas Accuse Service Company of Abuse and Pay Gaps”

Associate Professor of Sociology Jonathan Cutler is interviewed about transgender issues in labor organizations as immigrant, transgender, and black baristas face discrimination at airport Starbucks. “Organized labor often lives or dies by its ability to tap into broader social movements,” he said. “In this case, you’re seeing the most public effort to organize around transgender issues.”

3. The Washington Post: “Does Money Even Matter? And Other Questions You May Have About Bloomberg’s Half-Billion-Dollar Failed Candidacy”

Eliasberg ’74, P’19 on Her Debut Novel, Hannah’s War

The book cover of Jan Eliasberg's new book, Hannah's War

Debut fiction by Jan Eliasberg ’74, P’19.

Award-winning writer/director Jan Eliasberg ’74, P’19 made her debut as a novelist with Hannah’s War, a story inspired by the real-life physicist Dr. Lise Meitner, whom an article in the Aug. 6, 1945, issue of the New York Times referred to as “a female, non-Aryan physicist,” noted for helping the Americans develop the atomic bomb.

Hannah’s War was published by Little Brown on March 3.

“Jan Eliasberg knows how to open big with strong suspense and wry humor and take us for a hurtling ride through one of America’s most complex moments,” said Amy Bloom ’75, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing. “The wonderful characters of Hannah’s War bring together a moving love story, a high-stakes mystery, and a fascinating look into the moral compass of an exceptional woman.”

Eliasberg’s talk at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, originally scheduled for March 26, has been postponed.

Wesleyan University Magazine had profiled Eliasberg, focusing on her work in television and film; here she discusses her transition to being a novelist.

Q: As a screenwriter and director, what were the challenges you faced in writing a novel?

Jan Eliasberg: There were far more advantages than challenges. I would say that the biggest challenge was the idea of sitting down for almost nine months with no collaborative contact. As a director, you do not have a minute to yourself, from the moment you start the job to the moment you finish: You’re on location with eight, 10 people; you are on a set with all 60 others asking you questions. But this was nine months of going for days without really talking to anyone. I mean, how lovely in retrospect, but slightly terrifying to contemplate.

Students Engage with Google Employees through Career Virtual Panel

On Feb. 27, the Gordon Career Center hosted a Google Career Virtual Panel featuring Wesleyan alumni who offered insight on their roles in sales, business, product management, marketing, legal issues, and other roles at Google.

The panel was assembled by Sherry Liang ’20, who completed a WEShadow at Google last winter, and Peer Career Advisor Esmye Lytle ’21.

Speakers included:

Aaron Stoertz '03

Aaron Stoertz ’03

Aaron Stoertz ’03: Stoertz graduated with a BA in English. Since then he worked in conservation biology, public health, and international health policy at the World Health Organization before landing in tech, where he’s worked his way into a position as a product manager at Google Health.

Terry Wei ’07: Wei has 13 years of experience in public relations and communications. She currently leads communications for Waze, the world’s leading crowdsourced navigation app. Previously, Wei was head of public relations at Squarespace and managed product communications at Mercedes-Benz. Originally from California, Wei studied English at Wesleyan and graduated in 2007.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News
1. The Open Mind: “Democratizing the Jury”

Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti is interviewed in connection with her new book, Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life, in which she offers a “full-throated defense of juries as a democratic institution.” “I am very interested in how ordinary people engage with political institutions, and juries are the place where ordinary people have the most power,” she says. Chakravarti calls for more robust civic education, continuing into adulthood, in order to have a “more effective, modern jury system.”

2. Hartford Courant: “Sen. Murphy, Aiming to Expand Pell Grant Eligibility for Incarcerated Students, Hears from Inmates at York Correctional Institution”

Senator Chris Murphy, who is the co-sponsor of a bill to expand the federal Pell grant program for college students to include inmates, met with 11 inmates who have participated in educational programs at York Correctional Institution through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and other college-in-prison programs.“What’s important about the REAL Act is that college affordability should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are,” said CPE program manager Allie Cislo. “It’s one thing rhetorically to commit to reentry,” she said, but resources like educational programs “can make or break it for people.”

3. American Theatre: “Digging for New Roots”

This article on “climate change theatre” features Ocean Filibuster, a play by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl through her theater company, PearlDamour. Commenting on the play’s premise, in which a new Senate bill proposes sentencing the world’s oceans to death and the ocean stands to speak in its own defense, Pearl said, “We thought, well, what if the ocean finally got fed up with taking all of our crap, and started talking and didn’t stop until we actually shut up and listened?” American Theatre, a leading publication in the theater industry, writes: “Ocean Filibuster recalibrates the human experience by reminding us of the comparatively small scale and depth of our own existence.”

Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 Discusses Espionage Novel at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

Paul Vidich

Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 spoke about his new book, The Coldest Warrior, on Feb. 24 at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. The espionage novel, published by Pegasus Crime in February 2020, explores the dark side of intelligence that is exposed when a CIA officer delves into a cold case from the 1950s―with fatal consequences.

Paul Vidich

Many of those who attended Vidich’s talk were friends and fellow members of Wesleyan’s Class of 1972. Vidich, a College of Social Studies (CSS) major, said, “What I learned at CSS was critical thinking and healthy skepticism, but not cynicism. I think I’m a skeptical person, but I also think that every generation goes through periods in which government disappoints. … Skepticism, to me, is a healthy way of looking at the world, and my characters in the novel are intentionally skeptical.”

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors: Alznauer ’92, Almond ’99, and Florsheim ’83, P’14

In the seventh of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Flying PaintingsAmy Alznauer ’92, Flying Paintings: The Zhou Brothers: a Story of Revolution and Art (Candlewick Press, 2020)

When Shaoli and Shaoning Zhou are growing up and first learning to paint, their grandmother Po Po tells them, “To become an artist, you must possess the highest spirit.” But when officials from Mao’s republic come to the Zhou family bookstore and burn all of the art and writing they can find, this high spirit of the Zhous’ is strictly regulated, and the brothers can no longer paint freely. It is in this authoritarian political reality that the brothers learn that art can both be beautiful and have terrible consequences, as can the practices of resistance and perseverance. Through a fictionalized depiction of the trials and triumphs that the real-life Zhou brothers faced on their path to becoming art studio owners in Bridgeport, Chicago, author Amy Alznauer crafts an inspiring story for all ages about the importance of collaboration and fighting for artistic freedom. With beautiful illustrations from ShanZuo Zhou and DaHuang Zhou themselves, The Zhou Brothers features and celebrates art that, in its ability to fly off the page, surely exemplifies the highest spirit.

Klaber ’67 Presents RFK Assassination Research at Dublin Festival of Politics

Klaber

William Klaber ’67, author of Shadow Play: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, spoke at the Dublin Festival of Politics last November. (Photo by Siena Klaber)

William Klaber ’67, investigative journalist and co-author of Shadow Play: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, was invited to speak on his research at the Dublin Festival of Politics last November. The book, originally published in 1998 and written with political scientist Philip Melanson, coordinator of the Robert F. Kennedy Archive, was revised and updated in 2018 for the 50th anniversary of the assassination. Additionally, Klaber was featured as a host on the podcast The RFK Tapes, which debuted at #1 on the iTunes chart last year. Created by the producers of Crimetown​ and Cadence13, the audio documentary series re-examines the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

The assassination, says Klaber, was initially investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department, which presented it as a clear-cut open-and-shut case, with Sirhan Sirhan as the admitted perpetrator captured at the scene, gun in hand, and now serving a life sentence. All records had been sealed for 20 years following the crime, and since the release of information in 1988, Klaber has been one of the individuals re-examining and questioning the facts as they were presented. In 1993, Klaber made an hour-long audio program called The RFK Tapes, which aired on 160 public radio stations. After the program’s release, Time magazine reviewed the questions raised in the program with a full-page article on June 7 of that year, concluding, “Alas, considering how much evidence has disappeared, it’s an open question whether … a probe would resolve old doubts—or create new ones.”

Noting the significant response to the original audio production, St. Martin’s Press invited Klaber to write a book about what he and UMass Professor Melanson had found in examining the facts of the case: the 1998 version of Shadow Play.

This fall at the Dublin Festival of Politics, John Lee, the political editor of The Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper as well as a book author, joined Klaber onstage to discuss points of contention in the investigation that Klaber raises, including ignored witness accounts, audiotapes of coerced testimony, and bullet-hole evidence, which had been destroyed but indicated that more than one gun had been fired.

“The Irish love their Kennedys and so they’re particularly interested in who killed John and who killed Bobby,“ said Klaber, explaining his invitation to the Dublin political festival. Additionally, he added that many of those who were eyewitnesses or initially interested in the Kennedy murders have passed away. “There are not a lot of us left, in terms of people who really understand the case and who have mucked around in the police files.”

Klaber, who is currently working on a podcast series that takes a new look at the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., is also the author of The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell: A Novel (St. Martins Press, 2016). He was a College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan.

“People sometimes refer to me as a conspiracy guy,” said Klaber, “which serves to dismiss my work. But I’m not that. I’m an evidence guy. In Shadow Play, we talk about what we know.”

Recent Media Hits

NewsWesleyan in the News

  1. Connecticut Public Radio: “The Struggle for Sleep: Why More School Districts Are Considering Later Starts”

Speaking as both a scholar and a mother, Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman comments in this story on the movement to push schools in the state to start later. “People ask me, as a developmental psychologist, ‘Oh, we have this mental health crisis in the state, what are we going to do, what should we be funding, what kind of resources do we need to build in?’ And I just think it’s so silly when we have such a straightforward solution that has such large, measurable impacts.”

2. The Washington Post: “For the Super Bowl, Bloomberg and Trump Are Each Spending $10 Million on Ads”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and her colleagues on the Wesleyan Media Project write about what makes political advertising in the 2020 election cycle look so different (hint: two self-funded billionaires are blowing up existing records) and the unusual decision by candidates Michael Bloomberg and President Donald Trump to spend $10 million each to reach nearly 100 million American viewers at the same time. Fowler was also recently interviewed on Marketplace about political advertising.

3. Transitions Online: “Russian Government Reshuffle: Plus ça Change”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, Professor of Government, analyzes the recent mass resignation of the Russian government following a surprise announcement from Russian President Vladamir Putin that he was rewriting the constitution. There is much unclear about the changes, including why Putin chose to make them at this time, and what the impact will be on Russia’s government. What is clear, Rutland writes, is that “Russia’s political system is broken” due to Putin’s constant tinkering with the country’s political institutions “to create the appearance of change while retaining power in his own hands.”

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan Student Heading to Hollywood Among Writers of the Future Winners”

Former Virginia Governor Baliles ’63, Hon. ’88, Remembered

Gerald Baliles ’63, Hon. ’88, who had served as the 65th governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, died Oct. 29, 2019. He was 79.

A government major at Wesleyan, he earned his juris doctorate degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. After a stint in the Virginia attorney general’s office, he practiced law in Richmond, with a focus on energy and environmental issues. Elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1976, he became the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1981, and was, during his term, selected by his peers as Outstanding Attorney General of the United States.

Elected governor in 1985, he served in that capacity from 1986 through 1991. An obituary in the Richmond Times Post noted that as governor, “[h]e delivered on his promise to make transportation an economic building block, with new roads and improvements to the port and airports in Virginia. He saw education as the key to economic development, raising teachers’ salaries and fully funding school budgets. . . . His continuing leadership was recognized by the National Governors Association when he was elected as its chairman during his term.”