Tag Archive for Class of 2019

Badr ’20 Guides Upward Bound Students to Write about Their Experiences

A 100-person choir performed “Identities,” which included a poem written by Wesleyan Upward Bound student Chelsea Anthony. Chelsea is pictured front and center with Ahmed Badr ’20, who led a storytelling workshop that resulted in Chelsea’s poem being published.

How did a young refugee from Iraq inspire a high school student from New Britain, Conn., to write a poem that went on to be performed by a 100-person choir made up of high schoolers from around the East Coast?

It all began at Wesleyan.

Ahmed Badr ’20 was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, after his family’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops. As he struggled to adjust to life in the U.S., he started a personal blog to write about his experiences, and “found it incredibly empowering” to share his story.

“I soon began to realize the power of storytelling to inspire and bring people together,” he wrote on his website, Narratio. Determined to empower other youth, he created Narratio to publish written work by young people around the globe. It has been recognized by the United Nations, We are Family Foundation, and featured on NPR and Instagram. Today, Badr is a sophomore at Wesleyan, studying anthropology and pursuing independent projects as an Allbritton Fellow and Patricelli Center Fellow, while continuing to run Narratio, which includes leading creative storytelling workshops for youth around the country.

Students Inducted into Honor Society, Present Research at American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Meeting

Undergraduates from the Biology, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From Left, Alex Shames '18 (MacQueen Lab), BA/MA student Arden Feil (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr '18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little '18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht '18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler '18 (Hingorani Lab).

Undergraduates from the biology, chemistry, and molecular biology and biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From left, Alex Shames ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Arden Feil BA/MA ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr ’18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little ’18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht ’18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler ’18 (Hingorani Lab).

Seven Wesleyan students recently were inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Honor Society, and many of them presented research posters at the ASBMB annual meeting in San Diego, April 21–25.

The ASBMB Honor Society recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors who are pursuing a degree in the molecular life sciences for their scholarly achievement, research accomplishments, and outreach activities. The Wesleyan students inducted were Will Barr ’18, Alexa Strauss ’19, Emily Kessler ’18, Christine Little ’18, Julie McDonald ’18, Rubye Peyser ’18, and Alexander Shames ’18.

The following students attended the annual meeting:

• Kessler, whose poster was titled, “Investigating the Mechanistic Basis of Mutant MutS DNA Repair Protein Malfunction in Lynch Syndrome”
• Barr, “An mRNA-rRNA base pairing model for efficient protein translation”
• Little, “Investigation into the Binding Interactions of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Histone H1 with Holliday Junction”
• Shames, “The Long and Short of Synaptonemal Complex Assembly: Investigating the genesis and functional relevance of a smaller Zip1 isoform”
• Cody Hecht ’18, “Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I: Examining Protein Dynamics with Pyrene Excimer Fluorescence and Tryptophan-Induced Quenching”
• Arden Feil BA/MA ’18, “Scraping the Tip of Zip1’s Role in Meiotic Chromosome Dynamics: Using lacO/LacI corecruitment to identify crossover promoting factors that interface with the N-terminus of a synaptonemal complex protein”

“It was a joy to present the research that I’ve been working on for the past two years as a part of Wesleyan’s Beckman Scholars Program,” said Barr. “Science research can seem like a roller coaster at times, and presenting my research in the company of scientists at all levels of their careers helped me remember just how thrilling this process has been.”

The mission of ASBMB is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, promotion of the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce, and publication of a number of scientific and educational journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research.

Wesleyan Students Win Prestigious Consulting Competition

From left, Justin Liew ’18, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Jake Kwang ’20 won first prize in Roland Berger's "Case for a Cause" competition in April.

From left, Justin Liew ’18, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Jake Kwang ’20 won first prize in Roland Berger’s “Case for a Cause” competition in April.

Imagine you are advising a company that is a leading producer of a certain type of fruit product in the United States. The Chinese market has recently opened for export of this fruit product. How should the company best respond to this new market opportunity in China? What is the competition likely to do?

This was the scenario facing 30 teams of students from across 16 schools in the Roland Berger Case for a Cause 2018 competition, which simulates the work of a strategy consultant. Wesleyan’s team of four students, sponsored by The Gordon Career Center, tied for first place in the competition, which benefits Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to Anne Laskowksi, business career advisor at the Gordon Career Center, this was Wesleyan’s second year participating in the competition. This year, the four students—Jake Kwang ’20, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Justin Liew ’18—formed the team on their own. The group met up to three times each week to work on the case, with many additional hours of individual work each week.

Paper by Cohen ’19 Honored by Center for Jewish Studies

Talia Cohen '19

Talia Cohen ’19

On April 3, the Center for Jewish Studies honored Talia Cohen ’19 with the Best Student Paper in Jewish Studies award.

Cohen’s paper, which she wrote for her Romantic Poetry class during the fall semester, examines a work by Jewish composer Isaac Nathan as a powerful response to anti-Semitism. Specifically, she considers his decision to set Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” to a Sephardic Portuguese tune for Solomon ha-Levi Alkabez’s 16th-century mystical Sabbath poem, “Lecha Dodi.”

According to the abstract, “While Hebrew Melodies (1815), the songbook to which the musicalized version of Lord Byron’s ‘She Walks in Beauty’ belongs, was widely popular and generally held in favorable opinion at the time of its publication, several reviewers criticized the project from one of two seemingly contradictory angles: some took issue with the widespread veneration of Jewish music in a Christian society, finding the songs ‘too Jewish,’ while others complained that the music was not true to its ancient Israelite roots and therefore ‘not Jewish enough.’”

Students Organize TEDxWesleyanU, Host Distinguished Speakers

At left, Anthony Price '20, Zoe Reifel '21, Thafir Elzofri '19, Eunes Harun '20, Melisa Olgun '20 and Leo Merturi '20 thank the audience for attending Wesleyan's TEDxWesleyanU event on April 7.

At left, Anthony Price ’20, Zoe Reifel ’21, Thafir Elzofri ’19, Eunes Harun ’20, Melisa Olgun ’20, and Leo Merturi ’20 thank the audience for attending Wesleyan’s TEDxWesleyanU event on April 7. The entire event was organized by students.

Nationally known leaders and distinguished Wesleyan alumni and faculty presented short, powerful talks during the inaugural TEDxWesleyanU event April 7 in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall.

Launched in 2009, TEDx is a program of locally organized events that bring the community together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. Some of the best talks from TEDx events have gone on to be featured on TED.com and garnered millions of views from audiences across the globe.

Speakers included Maria Santana ’98, a correspondent for CNN en Español; Connecticut State Representative Matthew Lesser ’10; Middletown Mayor Dan Drew; National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71; national radio host Angela Yee ’97, and others. (View photos of the speakers below this article. View bios of all 13 speakers here.)

Melisa Olgun '20 and Eunes Harun ’20 stand outside the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall while preparing for TEDxWesleyanU.

Melisa Olgun ’20 and Eunes Harun ’20 stand outside the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall while preparing for TEDxWesleyanU.

“The current political climate is characterized by the lack of conversations taking place between people of opposing sides and viewpoints. TEDxWesleyanU is the launchpad we need to kickstart an unprecedented level of dialogue,” said Eunes Harun ’20, who spearheaded the event. “The TEDx mission and Wesleyan’s values align so heavily in the fostering of ideas and sparking dialogue. This event further emphasizes how Wesleyan is at the forefront of confronting current political and social issues in an effort to ultimately make the world a better place.”

Harun came up with the idea to host a TEDx event after tossing off ideas to his roommate, Alex Harold ’20, and neighbor Leo Merturi ’20. The tri-founders soon created a TEDxWesleyanU core team including Melisa Olgun ’20; Anthony Price ’20, and Thafir Elzofri ’19. Zoe Reifel ’21, who organized a TEDx event as a high school student, joined the team late to offer her experiences and input. Collaboratively, the group spent more than a year-and-a-half planning the inaugural event, which “has been one of the most impactful learning experiences of my life,” Harun said.

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.

Chitena ’19 Named 2018 Newman Civic Fellow

As a Newman Civic Fellow, Alvin Chitena ’19 will receive a variety of learning and networking opportunities.

Alvin Chitena ’19 has been named a 2018 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.

The Newman Civic Fellowship, named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, is a one-year experience emphasizing personal, professional, and civic growth. Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides a variety of learning and networking opportunities, including a national conference of Newman Civic Fellows in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The fellowship also provides fellows with access to apply for exclusive scholarship and postgraduate opportunities.

Wilson ’18 Wins Fundraising Competition at Clinton Global Initiative University Conference

Siri McGuire '17, Taiga Araki ’17, Alvin Chitena ’19, AJ Wilson ’18, Makaela Kingsley '98 (director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship) and Ferdinand Quayson ’20 attended the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Conference in Boston.

Siri McGuire ’17, Taiga Araki ’17, Alvin Chitena ’19, AJ Wilson ’18, Makaela Kingsley ’98 (director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship) and Ferdinand Quayson ’20 gathered for a group photo prior to the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Conference in Boston.

Dreams are coming true for AJ Wilson ’18, founder of the non-profit organization Dream Chasers.

During the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Conference in Boston Oct. 13-15, Dream Chasers won a Crowdrise fundraising competition and set the record for most money raised ($18,025) by any single group. For his efforts, Wilson was congratulated by Chelsea Clinton, Congressman Joe Kennedy III and former president Bill Clinton.

AJ Wilson '18 was honored by Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, during the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference on Oct. 14. (Photo by Diana Levine/Clinton Foundation)

AJ Wilson ’18 was honored by Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, during the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference on Oct. 14. (Photo by Diana Levine/Clinton Foundation)

Wilson, who grew up in Kennesaw, Georgia, created Dream Chasers to close the academic and opportunity gaps in the South and Midwest through a collection of different programs and initiatives. In five years, the team has impacted the lives of more than 5,300 students and helped students earn $1.4 million in scholarships.

Dream Chasers wasn’t the only Wesleyan student-created organization represented—and invited to—CGI U. Attendee Alvin Chitena ’19 spoke about his organization, ZimCode, which provides Zimbabwean youth with free access to resources they need—computers, internet access and instruction—to learn computer programming and how to apply their new skills in their community.

Ferdinand Quayson ’20, founder of Young Achievers Foundation Ghana, created the organization to provide disadvantaged students in Northern Ghana access to higher education through scholarship workshops and innovative in-school mentorship programs.

Alumnae Collaborate on Play that Debuts Aug. 10 in NYC

Five alumnae and one student are collaborating on a play that will debut Aug. 10-13 in New York City.

Resistance, written by May Treuhaft-Ali ’17 and directed by Maia Nelles-Sager ’17, is about Libby, a 15-year-old girl from Queens struggling with her weight. Everyone in her life from her mother to her “specialist” is trying to help her lose weight, but none of them seem to understand the underlying issue. When her favorite spin teacher is fired, Libby discovers that violent revenge fantasies makes her feel better. But every time she has a violent revenge fantasy, she gains 16 pounds.

“Resistance touches on themes such as weight-loss culture, female relationships, and gentrification. The cast is entirely female-identifying, as is the production team,” said Nelles-Sager, a film and theater double major.

Nelles-Sager and Treuhaft-Ali are assisted by set designer Nola Werlinich ’17; properties designer and assistant set designer Jess Cummings ’17; graphic designer Caitlin Chan ’17; and sound designer Hope Fourie ’19. At Wesleyan, Nelles-Sager directed four shows with Second Stage and wrote a playwriting thesis; Treuhaft-Ali completed a directing thesis with the Theater Department.

Resistance will be performed at the Wild Project, a theater, film, music, and visual arts venue in New York’s East Village. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Aug. 10-12 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 12-13. Tickets are available for purchase online.

Biology Team Samples Drought-Tolerant Bacteria in Death Valley

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizospheres of a juniper tree at about 7,000 feet above sea level.

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizosphere of a juniper tree.

This spring, a research team from Wesleyan traveled to Death Valley National Park to explore the ways bacteria diversifies in extreme environments.

Death Valley, located about 130 miles west of Las Vegas, is a below-sea-level basin known for being the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The average rainfall is less than 2 inches, annually.

“National parks are ideal for research, in general, because the land is protected indefinitely from commercial development,” said team leader Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. “Death Valley is a nice model system for exobiology because of its extreme habitat.”

Cohan, along with graduate student Jerry Lee, Bella Wiener ’19 and Nicole DelGaudio ’18, traveled to California May 29 through June 4. During this time, the researchers trekked through miles of parched — and often prickly — landscapes seeking to sample root soil, or rhizosphere, from various plant species, each over a wide range of elevations that differ notably in their temperatures.