Tag Archive for faculty achievements

Grossman Keynote Speaker at Chief Risk Officer Assembly

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman, professor of economics, delivered a keynote speech at the 10th Chief Risk Officer Assembly in Munich, Germany on Nov. 19. The speech was based on his book, WRONG: Nine Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn from Them (Oxford University Press), and focused the consequences of government policy for economic risk.

The CRO Assembly is organized by Geneva Association, an insurance industry think-tank, and the CRO Forum, which is made up of chief risk officers from large (primarily European) multi-national insurance and re-insurance companies. The conference took place at the headquarters of Munich RE, one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies. The program seeks to understand the nature of emerging and key strategic risks, and to understand how and where they relate to insurance.

Read more about Grossman in these past News @ Wesleyan articles.

Teter’s Book Receives Honorable Mention for Jewish Studies Award

sinnersontrialA book by Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, received honorable mention for the 2014 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award. The Schnitzer Book Award was established in 2007 to recognize and promote outstanding scholarship in the field of Jewish Studies and to honor scholars whose work embodies the best in the field: innovative research, excellent writing and sophisticated methodology.

Teter’s book, Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation, published by Harvard University Press in 2011, was honored in the Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History category.

In recognizing her book, the Prize Committee wrote:

“In this beautifully written and richly documented work, Magda Teter traces and convincingly demonstrates the interdependence of economic, religious and political motives that animated Polish anti-Semitism in the early modern period. This book also identifies and elucidates significant factors in the history of their formations in East Central Europe, and in the history of the host-desecration charge in early modern Europe.”

Magda Teter

Magda Teter

In post-Reformation Poland—the largest state in Europe and home to the largest Jewish population in the world—the Catholic Church suffered profound anxiety about its power after the Protestant threat.

In the book, Teter reveals how criminal law became a key tool in the manipulation of the meaning of the sacred and in the effort to legitimize Church authority. The mishandling of sacred symbols was transformed from a sin that could be absolved into a crime that resulted in harsh sentences of mutilation, hanging, decapitation, and, principally, burning at the stake. Recounting dramatic stories of torture, trial, and punishment, this is the first book to consider the sacrilege accusations of the early modern period within the broader context of politics and common crime.

To celebrate the honorable mention, Teter is invited to attend the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award Reception Dec. 14 in Maryland.

Teter also is chair and professor of history, professor of medieval studies. She speaks more about the book and her research in this past News @ Wesleyan article.

Fusso Translates Gandlevsky’s Trepanation of the Skull

fussotranslationSusanne Fusso, professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is the translator of Sergey Gandlevsky’s autobiographical novel, Trepanation of the Skull, published in November from Northern Illinois University Press.

Sergey Gandlevsky is widely recognized as one of the leading living Russian poets and prose writers. His autobiographical novella Trepanation of the Skull is a portrait of the artist as a young late-Soviet man. At the center of the narrative are Gandlevsky’s brain tumor, surgery and recovery in the early 1990s. The story radiates out, relaying the poet’s personal history through 1994, including his unique perspective on the 1991 coup by Communist hardliners resisted by Boris Yeltsin. Gandlevsky tells wonderfully strange but true episodes from the bohemian life he and his literary companions led. He also frankly describes his epic alcoholism and his ambivalent adjustment to marriage and fatherhood.

Fusso’s translation marks the first volume in English of Sergey Gandlevsky’s prose. The book may appeal to scholars, students, and general readers of Russian literature and culture of the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods.

Fusso also is the translator and editor of Vladimir Sergeevich Trubetskoi’s A Russian Prince in the Soviet State: Hunting Stories, Letters from Exile, and Military Memoirs.

Stemler’s New Study Finds Educational Interventions Cannot be “Scaled Up”

Steven Stemler, associate professor of psychology, collaborated with researchers at a number of other universities on a major new study, which found that context matters when implementing educational interventions.

Steven Stemler, associate professor of psychology, collaborated with researchers at a number of other universities on a major new study, which found that context matters when implementing educational interventions.

It turns out that teaching language arts, math and science to fourth graders is not the same as manufacturing cars on an assembly line.

That is, the microeconomics principle of economies of scale—or the cost advantages that businesses get by increasing the scale of production—do not always apply to educational interventions. Put another way, an intervention that works great in one specific educational setting cannot necessarily be “scaled up” to work in many other settings. This is the finding of a major new study funded by the National Science Foundation, on which Associate Professor of Psychology Steven Stemler collaborated with colleagues at a number of other universities including Yale, Cornell and the University of Sydney.

The study, carried out in 223 classrooms across the country in the early- to mid-2000s, was published in the American Psychology Association’s Journal of Educational Psychology in August. The paper is titled “Testing the Theory of Successful Intelligence in Teaching Grade 4 Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science.”

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)

gsac-(71) gsac-(80)

Studies by Varekamp, Thomas Published in Paleoceanography

varekamp

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,

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.

Ulysse Panelist at Columbia’s Caribbean Conference

Imagining and Imaging the Caribbean

“Imagining and Imaging the Caribbean.”

Gina Athena Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology, participated in “Imagining and Imaging the Caribbean,” the inaugural conference of Columbia’s Greater Caribbean Studies Center, on Oct. 18.

Ulysse discussed “Writing in the Caribbean Diaspora” with fellow panelists Cuban writer and artist Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (Brown University) and Kittian-Brittish novelist Caryl Phillips (Yale University).

Other topics included “The Greater Caribbean as a Geo-Historical and Cultural Region,” “Writing about the Caribbean from National Perspectives” and “Photographing the City in the Greater Caribbean.” The event concluded with a Caribbean concert.

Schwarcz Addresses Moral Dilemma, Ethics in China in Colors of Veracity

veraVera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, is the author of a new book titled Colors of Veracity: A Quest for Truth in China, and Beyond, published by the University of Hawai’i Press in November 2014.

In Colors of Veracity, Schwarcz condenses four decades of teaching and scholarship about China to raise fundamental questions about the nature of truth and history. In vivid prose, she addresses contemporary moral dilemmas with a highly personal sense of ethics and aesthetics.

Drawing on classical sources in Hebrew and Chinese (as well as several Greek and Japanese texts), Schwarcz brings deep and varied cultural references to bear on the question of truth and falsehood in human consciousness. The book redefines both the Jewish understanding of emet (a notion of truth that encompasses authenticity) and the Chinese commitment to zhen (a vision of the real that comprises the innermost sincerity of the seeker’s heart-mind). Works of art, from contemporary calligraphy and installations to fake Chinese characters and a Jewish menorah from Roman times, shed light light on the historian’s task of giving voice to the dread-filled past.

Following in the footsteps of literary scholar Geoffrey Hartman, Schwarcz expands on the “Philomela Project,” which calls on historians to find new ways of conveying truth, especially when political authorities are bent on enforcing amnesia of past traumatic events.

Schwarcz, who was born and raised in Cluj, Romania, was one of the first exchange scholars to study in China in 1979 and has returned to Beijing many times since then.

For more information on the book or to order, visit the University of Hawai’i Press website.

Schwarcz will be speaking about her book at 4:15 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Wasch Center. The event is open to the public.

Wesleyan Media Project’s Research Cited in Senate Committee Hearing

The Wesleyan Media Project’s research was cited by U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine during a hearing April 30 of the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration. The subject of the hearing was “Dollars and Sense: How Undisclosed Money and Post-McCutcheon Campaign Finance Will Affect 2014 and Beyond.” Watch a recording of the webcast here.

The Wesleyan Media Project, directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and collaborators at Bowdoin College and Washington State University, works to increase transparency about political advertising. It tracks political ad airings on television and reports in real time about ad sponsors, spending, tone and content. The project’s co-directors submitted written testimony to the Senate committee about growing interest group involvement in elections and how disclosure matters.

Hughes Receives NSF Grant for Research on Planetary Systems

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support her research on “Dust and Gas in Debris Disks Reveal the Origins of Planetary Systems.” The grant, awarded on April 21, is worth $532,943.

Hughes’ research focuses on understanding the formation and evolution of planetary systems.  She particularly studies the huge disks of gas and dust surrounding a young star, which can give insight into how and when a star planet might form. The disk is made up of  “junk” left over from the star’s formation.

The main technique Hughes uses to observe these circumstellar disks involves collecting radio waves. Invisible to the human eye, radio light allows astronomers to peer into dense dust clouds and trace the motions of small molecules.

Read more about Hughes’ research on planetary system formation in these past articles:

http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2014/03/06/hughesscience/
http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2013/05/26/hughes/

Oliver Honored with NIH Award for Protein Translocation Research

Don Oliver

Don Oliver

Professor Don Oliver received a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) (R15) for his research titled “Mechanism of SecA-dependent protein translocation.” The grant, worth $374,148, was awarded on April 15.

Oliver is the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Oliver studies how proteins are targeted to and transported across biological membranes utilizing bacteria as a simple model system.”The current genetic and biochemical studies are designed to elucidate a molecular motor protein, SecA ATPase, that drives proteins through a universally conserved protein-conducting channel by a largely unknown molecular mechanism,” he said.  “Clarification of the transport mechanism by this motor and its interplay with the channel is essential for understanding comparable protein transport systems in higher cells.”

In addition, such studies should allow for the development of novel antibacterial agents against SecA in order to combat the spread of multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogens.

The grant funds will be utilized to support two Ph.D. Students, a BA/MA fifth-year student, and four undergraduate research students that comprise of Oliver’s research group.