Tag Archive for Class of 2016

Zinser ’16 Receives Prestigious Schwarzman Scholar Award

Sophie Zinser ’16 has been selected for membership in the Schwarzman Scholars Class of 2020, located at Schwarzman College in Tsinghua University, where she will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.

Sophie Zinser ’16, deputy director of Syria Direct in Amman, has been selected as a Schwarzman Scholar, one of the world’s most prestigious graduate fellowships, located at Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. This Schwarzman Class of 2020 is only the fourth in the program’s history, with 147 Schwarzman Scholars selected from over 2,800 applicants. The class is comprised of students from 38 countries and 119 universities, with 40 percent originating from the United States, 20 percent from China, and 40 percent from the rest of the world. The Class of 2020 will enroll in August 2019.

In a press release announcing the news, Stephen A. Schwarzman, cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Blackstone, and chairman of Schwarzman Scholars, said, “Our newest class includes a diverse group of future leaders from around the world. They join a global network of Scholars who have committed themselves to being a force for change, regardless of where their professional or personal passions take them. My hope is that a year in Beijing will inspire and challenge these students in ways they haven’t even imagined. I look forward to seeing how this new class will leave its mark.”

At Wesleyan, Zinser double-majored in the College of Letters and French studies. She cofounded the Wesleyan Refugee Project, and following graduation, Zinser worked on a congressional campaign in Minnesota and in international development with the International Rescue Committee’s Emergency Team in New York. Last year on a Fulbright scholarship to Jordan, she led innovative research on safety risks to rural and refugee women. In her current role with Syria Direct, she manages a team of Syrian and foreign journalists in Amman and leads the media nonprofit’s expansion. At Schwarzman College, Zinser will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.

Paik ’16 Wins Goldman Sachs Funds for 3D-Printed Housing Nonprofit

Ellen Paik ’16 (right) speaks to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the Partnership Committee on behalf of New Story, a nonprofit organization that seeks to address global homelessness through the development and application of 3D printing technology.

Ellen Paik ’16, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, teamed up with three colleagues to pitch New Story, an organization working on developing low-cost housing solutions via 3D printing technology, to Goldman Sachs’ CEO and Partnership Committee as part of the Analyst Impact Fund, a global firmwide competition. The prize: a grant to the finalist teams’ selected nonprofits. The event was broadcasted live online on Yahoo Finance (see Paik’s team come in around 38 minutes).

Paik’s group placed second in the global finals and earned New Story $75,000 in support of the organization’s 3D printing initiative. The grant will go towards building the very first complex of 3D printed homes constructed by a nonprofit, in El Salvador by 2019.

“The four of us were attracted to the idea of promoting a scalable technology solution that addresses a global issue,” explains Paik. “We came across New Story, an organization that we really admired because they involve the local community and government in every step of the home-building process—planning, design, and construction—in ways that many existing organizations do not. New Story has helped over a thousand families in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia that used to live in life-threatening conditions and that have been affected by natural disaster. Now, these families are empowered homeowners and able to better secure economic opportunity, safety, access to education, and a sense of community.”

Leung ’16 Awarded Prestigious Congress-Bundestag Fellowship

Melissa Leung '16 (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Melissa Leung ’16 (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Melissa Leung ’16 is 1 of 75 Americans selected to participate in the 2018–2019 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals, a yearlong fellowship for study and work in Germany. CBYX for Young Professionals provides opportunities for youth to collaborate, interact with new people and new ideas, and, ultimately, to become better global citizens and better leaders. The program annually provides scholarships to 350 Americans and also brings 360 Germans to the United States.

While in Germany, Leung will attend a two-month intensive German language course, study at a German university or professional school for four months, and complete a five-month internship with a German company in her career field (foreign aid). Participants are placed throughout Germany and have the opportunity to learn about everyday German life from a variety of perspectives.

Funded jointly by Congress (through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs) and the German Bundestag, the CBYX program is a unique opportunity for young Americans to enhance their professional skills, as well as broaden their political and cultural awareness by experiencing life in another country. Leung will act as a citizen ambassador of the United States, helping to promote a positive image of the U.S. abroad and creating lifelong friendships and professional connections that will keep German-American relations strong for years to come.

Participants must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 18–24, and have clear career goals and experience in their professional fields. Young professionals in STEM, business, agricultural, and vocational fields are especially encouraged to apply, though candidates in all career fields are eligible. This year more than 600 young professionals vied for a place in this prestigious program.

Alumni, Faculty, Graduate Students Make Presentations at Planetary Science Conference

Melissa Luna E&ES MA ’18, Jordyn-Marie Dudley E&ES MA ’18, Keenan Golder MA ’16, Reid Perkins E&ES MA ’19, Ben McKeeby MA ’17, Kristen Luchsinger MA ‘17

Graduate student Melissa Luna; graduate student Jordyn-Marie Dudley; Keenan Golder MA ’13; graduate student Reid Perkins; Ben McKeeby MA ’17; and Kristen Luchsinger MA ’17 recently attended the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.

Faculty, graduate students, and alumni attended the 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference March 19–23 in The Woodlands, Texas.

Graduate student Reid Perkins

Three graduate students were awarded funds from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant that allowed them to travel to this meeting.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Reid Perkins presented a research poster titled “Where Are the Missing Tessera Craters on Venus?” Perkins’s advisor is Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Melissa Luna presented a poster titled “Multivariate Spectral Analysis of CRISM Data to Characterize the Composition of Mawrth Vallis.” Her advisors are Gilmore and Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Jordyn-Marie Dudley presented a poster titled “Water Contents of Angrites, Eucrites, and Ureilites and New Methods for Measuring Hydrogen in Pyroxene Using SIMS.” Dudley’s advisor is Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.

“At their poster presentations, our graduate students were engaging with the top scientists in our field, who were very interested in their work,” Gilmore said. “I was very proud to see them attending talks across a range of disciplines, asking questions of speakers and making such solid scientific contributions.”

Gilmore also presented a study at the conference titled “Formation Rates and Mechanisms for Low-Emissivity Materials on Venus Mountaintops and Constraint on Tessera Composition.” In addition, she worked with NASA scientists on issues related to Venus exploration.

The following alumni authored abstracts presented at the conference: Avram Stein ’17; Jesse Tarnas ’16; Peter Martin ’14Nina Lanza MA ’06; Ian Garrick-Bethell ’02Robert Nelson MA ’69; and William Boynton ’66. Keenan Golder MA ’13; Ben McKeeby MA ’17; and Kristen Luchsinger MA ’17 also attended.

Faculty, Students, Alumnus Co-Author Paper in Biochemistry Journal

Wesleyan co-authors published a paper titled “The Stories Tryptophans Tell: Exploring Protein Dynamics of Heptosyltransferase I from Escherichia coli” in the January 2017 issue of Biochemistry.

The co-authors include chemistry graduate student Joy Cote; alumni Zarek Siegel ’16 and Daniel Czyzyk, PhD ’15; and faculty Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry; Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Their paper investigates the intrinsic properties of Tryptophan amino acids found within the protein, Heptosyltransferase I, to understand the ways this protein moves during catalysis. Understanding the movement of this protein is an important step in developing its inhibitors.

When this protein is inactive, either because it was genetically altered or inhibited, hydrophobic antibiotics become more effective, so inhibitors could be useful in reactivating antibiotics that are current not effective against these bacteria.

While it is popularly believed that inhibiting a protein requires a compound to compete with the substrate, their paper argues that instead one can design a inhibitor to disrupt protein dynamics, preventing activity. The co-authors compare the function of this “protein dynamics disruptor” to a wedge holding open a door–once inserted, the inhibitor prevents the protein from performing its function.

Their research on Tryptophan residues also found that distant regions of the protein communicate whether or not they are binding their substrate to other regions.

“It would be like if your right hand knew that your left hand was holding a pencil just by the changes in the position of your left hand. We are currently pursuing computational studies to look for these motions via molecular dynamics experiments,” Taylor said.

‘Walking Elephants Home,’ Named Winner Of The 2017 EOCA Grant

Becca Winkler ’16 and her team at Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF), previously nominated and named a finalist in the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) grant for their project “Walking Elephants Home,” have been named the winners of the 2017 EOCA grant.

Though there is much work to do in order to fulfill the requirements of the grant, this grant will play a major role in allowing the team to support not only the elephants and mahouts, but also the surrounding forest and the communities in which they are working.

The previous story on Winkler and her project can be found here.

‘Walking Elephants Home’ Project by Winkler ’16 Nominated for Conservation Grant

 Becca Winkler ’16

Becca Winkler ’16 launched “Walking Elephants Home,” a project that provides a new model of tourism, and has been nominated for a European Outdoor Conversation Association grant.

“Walking Elephants Home,” a Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) project launched and run by Becca Winkler ’16, has been nominated for the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) grant—and voting is open until March 23.

“From many conversations with elephant owners struggling to make ends meet and who were unhappy with the conditions their elephants live in at elephant camps, I could see that we needed a new model,” Winkler said. “The forests of Thailand have been home to the Asian elephant for thousands of years; it is their birthright. ‘Walking Elephants Home’ is on a mission to to prove that tourists should do the work to see elephants in their habitat, rather than removing the elephants and forcing them to live in a tourist camp for our benefit.”

Winkler, a Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies major who first began working with elephants in Thailand as an undergrad, wrote her thesis on “Walking with Giants: Eco-feminist Insights on Elephant Tourism in Thailand.” She received a Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship grant in 2016 that helped her launch and run “Walking Elephants Home” through the MEF, a nonprofit that supports elephants and their mahouts (owners) in Thailand. Collaborating with indigenous people, the MEF offers a successful business model with ethical tourism alternatives to those who free their elephants. Their goal is to not only improve the elephants’ well-being by returning them to their natural habitat but also enhances biodiversity and prevents further deforestation.

Acopian ’16 Nominated Snapchatter of the Year

Recent Film Studies graduate Ani Acopian ’16 has been nominated for the “Snapchatter of the Year” award, presented on behalf of The Shorty Awards.

Created to honor the best of social media by recognizing those with an influential and significant presence, The Shorty Awards draws nominees from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Acopian gained significant Snapchat clout with her colorful snaps, specializing in narrative pieces, branded content, and music videos. Some of her work featured in her Shorty Award profile include turning the famous Angkor Wat into a real life Temple Run, and creating content for the healthy restaurant chain Sweetgreen.

Acopian’s videos can be viewed on her Shorty Award profile, and be sure to vote for Acopian everyday until voting closes, Feb. 16.

14 Seniors Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa

Fourteen members of the Class of 2017 were inducted into Wesleyan's Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest national scholastic honor society.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth, pictured in the back row, joins the new members of Phi Beta Kappa for a group photo following their initiation ceremony on Dec. 7 at the Office of Admission

On Dec. 7, 14 members of the Class of 2017 were inducted into Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest national scholastic honor society.

To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. He or she also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations, and must have achieved a GPA of 93 and above. The students in this particular group have GPAs of 93.47 and above and have already met all their undergraduate requirements.

“It’s delightful to be here and celebrate your accomplishments today,” said President Michael Roth during the PBK initiation ceremony. “Being a member of Phi Beta Kappa is a tribute to your abilities and accomplishments, but also your curiosity and desire to learn. We celebrate you and your work as a community of friends, colleagues and teachers.”

Mackey ’16 Recipient of Victory Scholar Program

Former student-athlete Jack Mackey ’16 was named a recipient of the Sport Changes Life Victory Scholar Program.

Victory Scholars are “driven young athletes who spend a year mentoring young people through sport in communities in Northern Ireland and Ireland, while studying for their Masters degree and continuing to play the sport they love.” This year, 23 scholars will embark on a life-changing experience of community outreach initiatives, and academic and athletic fulfillment to help mold the lives of young people and enable them to develop a global perspective.

With the help of The Rory Foundation, the Victory Scholars program will send its scholars to Belfast, Northern Ireland for two weeks of training. Mackey will then take his place at the prestigious Letterkenny Insititue of Technology in Donegal, Ireland.

McGill ’16 Screens Short Film at Princeton Film Festival

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Adam McGill ’16

Film studies major Adam McGill ’16 screened his short film Punked! at the Princeton Student Film Festival this summer. McGill’s comedy is about a punk rock singer and guitarist named Dale, whose allegiance to his music is challenged when a new romance enters his life.

McGill filmed the short in the fall of 2015 as a senior thesis project at Wesleyan. During his time at Wesleyan, McGill was taught by Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, who said, “I’m happy to see his work recognized outside the classroom. He joins a long line of Wesleyan film majors who have gone on to great things after they leave Wesleyan. It’s lots of fun to watch this happen.”

Since graduating in May, McGill worked on small sets in the New York City area and he’s currently interning at Sony Pictures Classics, a film distributor, working with their marketing team.

Punked! also will be playing later this September at the Golden Door International Film Festival in Jersey City, N.J. View his film online here.

Wesleyan Students Help Local Preschoolers Get a Kickstart on Kindergarten

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Stephanie Blumenstock ’16 works with children in the Kindergarten Kickstart program on July 14 at Bielefield School in Middletown. The program, which is taught by Wesleyan students and local teachers, is celebrating its fifth year this summer. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, summer pre-K program for children in Middletown created by Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and her students, is celebrating its fifth year. It’s marking the occasion with an event July 20 at the Middletown Roller Skating Rink (free for any current or past Kickstart family, 4 to 6 p.m.) and using a new grant to further develop student innovation in the program.

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At left, Megan Dolan ’17 and Stephanie Blumenstock ’16 help Kindergarden Kickstart students during outdoor playtime.

Shusterman and three of her students first launched Kindergarten Kickstart in summer 2012 as a pilot program with 15 children at MacDonough School. They designed the curriculum and taught the program together with a MacDonough teacher. Today, this five-week program serves 35 children at Bielefield and Farm Hill schools (who will be entering kindergarten at those schools plus MacDonough), with six Wesleyan undergraduates and recent alumni leading the classes and developing the curriculum. A certified teacher continues to work at each site. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including a small budget from Wesleyan’s Provost, the Foundation for Greater Hartford, Safe Schools/Healthy Students, and a seed grant from Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

The program is intended for children who could benefit from an extra pre-school experience before beginning kindergarten in the fall. Through a partnership between university-based research labs, Middletown Public Schools and local community organizations, Kindergarten Kickstart aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap and improve participants’ school readiness skills through a short-term, high-impact, low-cost preschool program.

According to Shusterman, children in low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten with academic skills up to two years behind their peers. Research shows that quality early childhood education makes a huge difference in helping to shrink this achievement gap. In fact, economists estimate a $7 return for every $1 invested in early childhood education, resulting from lower spending on school remediation, incarceration, unemployment and other programs that become necessary when children do not start out on the right foot.

Shusterman said Kindergarten Kickstart was started as a way to put early childhood research into practice.