Tag Archive for faculty publications

Robinson Lab Coauthors Study on Compulsive, Drug Addiction Behaviors

Mike Robinson studies how individuals react differently when presented with a junk food diet.

Mike Robinson

Drug and behavioral addictions like gambling are characterized by an intense and focused pursuit of a single reward above other healthier endeavors. Pursuit of the addictive reward is often compulsively sought despite adverse consequences.

In a newly published study, Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and integrative sciences explored how our decisions can become narrowly focused onto one particular choice. He and his research team used laser light (optogenetics) to activate the central portion of the brain’s amygdala (CeA), an area normally known for its role in generating responses to drug-related and fearful stimuli.

The study, titled “Optogenetic Activation of the Central Amygdala Generates Addiction-like Preference for Reward,” appears in the May 2018 issue of the European Journal of Neuroscience. Robinson Lab members Rebecca Tom ’16, MA ’17, Aarit Ahuja ’16, Hannah Maniates ’16, and current graduate student Charlotte Freeland coauthored the article and participated in the study.

Hüwel’s Book Examines the Physics, Technology of Timekeeping

Lutz Hüwel, professor of physics, is the author of the book Of Clocks and Time, published by Morgan & Claypool Publishers in April 2018.

According to Hüwel, Of Clocks and Time takes readers on a five-stop journey through the physics and technology—and occasional bits of applications and history—of timekeeping. He offers conceptual vistas and qualitative images, along with equations, quantitative relations, and rigorous definitions.

The book includes discussion of the rhythms produced by the motion of sun, moon, planets, and stars, a summary of historical theoretical insights that are still influential today, examination of the tools that allow us to measure time, as well as explanations of radioactive dating and Einstein’s theories of relativity.

The book is available for downloading and for Kindle.

Bloom Reimagines a Forbidden Love Affair in White Houses

On April 19, New York Times best-selling author Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, presented a reading from her new novel, White Houses, inside the Smith Reading Room at Olin Library. Bloom also is professor of the practice in creative writing and English.

On April 19, New York Times best-selling author Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, presented a reading from her new novel, White Houses, inside the Smith Reading Room at Olin Library. Bloom also is professor of the practice in creative writing and English. The event was sponsored by the Friends of Wesleyan Library.

Amy Bloom, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, is the author of White Houses, published by Penguin Random House in February 2018.

White Houses is Bloom’s first historical fiction novel. Guided by 3,000 letters (hundreds more had been burned) between prominent journalist Lorena Hickok and politician/activist Eleanor Roosevelt, Bloom has re-created and reimagined one of the great love stories of the 20th century.

From the description:

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.

Amy Bloom is the author of Come to Me, a National Book Award finalist; A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Love Invents Us; Normal; Away, a New York Times best seller; Where the God of Love Hangs Out; and Lucky Us, a New York Times best seller. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Short Stories, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, and others. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Slate, Tin House, and Salon, among other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award.

This spring semester, Bloom is teaching ENGL 268: Reading and Writing Fiction and ENGL 357: Writing for Television II.

Song, Hingorani Coauthors of 2 Papers in The Journal of Biological Chemistry

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Professor Manju Hingorani and graduate student Bo Song are coauthors of two studies published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry and Nucleic Acids Research in February 2018.

The papers are titled “Positioning the 5′-flap junction in the active site controls the rate of flap endonuclease-1-catalyzed DNA cleavage” and “Missed cleavage opportunities by FEN1 lead to Okazaki fragment maturation via the long-flap pathway.”

The research is related to Song’s PhD dissertation, which he plans to defend in April 2018. Song examined the mechanism of action of human FEN1, an enzyme that cleaves extra single-stranded segments of DNA before they can damage the genome, and thus serves as a guardian of genome stability. Song’s major findings were published in JBC, and he contributed to a study led by Dr. Samir Hamdan’s laboratory at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, which was published in NAR.

“Bo initiated research on FEN1 in my laboratory, and his interest in FEN1 sparked an exciting collaboration with Dr. Hamdan, halfway around the world. We look forward to furthering investigation of this critical enzyme whose malfunction is associated with many human cancers,” Hingorani said.

The research at Wesleyan University was supported by NIH grant R15 GM114743 awarded to Manju Hingorani.

Taylor, Alumni, Students Co-Author 3 Journal Articles

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, is the recent co-author of three articles. Two publications are related to disrupting the formation of Lipopolysaccharides (LPSs), a cell surface component that is important to Gram-Negative bacteria’s ability to form biofilms and become resistant to hydrophobic antibiotics. These papers describe inhibition of enzymes from E. coli, as well as enzymes from related pathogens including Vibrio cholerae (the bacteria that causes cholera), and Yersinia pestis (the bacteria that causes plague). Understanding how enzymes can be inhibited opens up possible new strategies for fighting diseases.

The third paper builds on her prior work investigating the ways in which sucralose (an artificial sweetener known primarily as Splenda) interacts with proteins, in comparison with its natural disaccharide counterpart, sucrose (common table sugar). She and her co-authors present data showing that sucralose interacts more strongly with hydrophobic patches on protein surfaces than does sucrose, which may be part of the way in which it causes destabilization of proteins.

These papers include alumni authors Noreen Nkosana B.A. ’11, MA ’13, Daniel Czyzyk PhD ’15, Zarek Siegel BA ’16 and current student authors Joy Cote Chemistry PhD ’18, Nimesh Shukla Physics PhD ’18, Cody Hecht ’18, in addition to Taylor’s longtime collaborator, Christina Othon, associate professor of physics at Ripon College.

Taylor also is associate professor of environmental studies and of integrative sciences.

The papers are:

Synthesis, kinetics and inhibition of Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I by monosaccharide analogues of LipidA,” published in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2018, in press.

The Glycosyltransferases of LPS Core: A Review of Four Heptosyltransferase Enzymes in Context,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2017, 18(11), 2256. This article belongs to the Special Issue Lipopolysaccharides.

Hydrophobic Interactions of Sucralose with Protein Structures,” published in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 2017, 639, pages 38-43.

Ulysse’s Book Long-Listed for PEN Open Book Award

A book by Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse was long-listed for the PEN Open Book Award.

The PEN Open Book Award confers a $5,000 prize upon an author of color to celebrate racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

Ulysse’s first poetry collection, Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, me & THE WORLD, was published in 2017 by Wesleyan University Press. The lyrically vivid meditative journey embraces and reclaims a revolutionary Blackness that has been historically stigmatized and denied. Ulysse crafts experiments with “ethnographic collectibles” of word, performative sounds and imagery to blur genres and the lines between the geopolitical and the personal. These poems, performance texts and photographs gather fractured memories—longings laced with Vodou chants confronting a past that looms in the present.

Ulysse also is professor of anthropology and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Read “I am a Storm” from Because When God Is Too Busy in this Wesleyan Magazine Backstory.

Olson Lab Explores How Cholera Infection Spreads

Rich Olson

Rich Olson

Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Rich Olson and members of his lab have uncovered the structural basis for how the bacterial pathogen responsible for cholera targets carbohydrate receptors on host cells—an important finding for the future development of treatment strategies against infectious bacteria.

In their paper “Structural basis of mammalian glycan targeting by Vibrio cholerae cytolysin and biofilm proteins,” published in the Feb. 12 issue of PLoS Pathogens, Olson and his team—Swastik De PhD ’16; graduate students Katherine Kaus and Brandon Case; and Shada Sinclair ’16—looked at Vibrio cholerae, an aquatic microbe responsible for cholera, a potentially life-threatening disease for populations with limited access to health care.

The team studied two of the virulence factors that this particular bacterial pathogen uses to help spread infection: a toxin that creates pores in the membranes of target cells (such as immune cells) and a protein that helps form a protective sheath around the bacterial colonies as they grow.

Study results showed that both of these factors use similar carbohydrate receptors to recognize and target cell surfaces, suggesting that strategically disrupting carbohydrate interactions could affect how V. cholerae and other organisms like it are able to infect human hosts and spread disease.

“Understanding how pathogens specifically recognize targets on human cells is essential for the development of effective drugs and vaccines to fight pathogenic bacteria and prevent outbreaks,” Olson explained.

Read the full paper here.

Kus’s Article Explores the Myths about Immigration’s Negative Impact on the Economy

Basak Kus

Basak Kus

Basak Kus, associate professor of sociology, is the author of “Blaming Immigrants for Economic Troubles,” published in Social Europe on Feb. 6.

In her article, Kus provides evidence that the inflow of immigrants contributes to U.S. economic growth and is not the cause of American workers’ plight. She discusses the arguments that immigration has suppressed wages, discouraged unions, and exerted fiscal pressure on the welfare state.

“It is argued immigrants make demands on the welfare state, while not paying enough taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive. This is not accurate,” she writes. “America’s welfare system is facing pressure; there is no dispute about that. However, immigration is not the cause. Non-citizens’ use of welfare benefits has declined significantly since the 1996 Welfare Reform…. At the same time, there is evidence that, in urban areas, immigrant households are paying taxes at nearly the same rate as native households.”

Minimum wage, she says, hasn’t changed since 2009.

“As of writing, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. According to EPI’s estimations, had the federal minimum wage kept pace with productivity it would be over $18 today. Tackling this issue alone would help improve the economic fortunes of working class folks…. If a country’s laws allow for a race to the bottom, then a race to the bottom there will be. Instead of reforming the policies that make this possible, instead of making use of distributive and redistributive channels to improve the lives of workers, some find it easier to blame the immigrants.”

Kus serves on the editorial boards of Socio-Economic Review and International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Scheibe Explores “Wisdom of Hamilton,” Psychological Depth, in Talk, New Books

Professor Emeritus Karl Scheibe joins his former students Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Owen Panettieri ’01, both playwrights and alumni of his Dramaturgical Approach to Psychology, at a production of Hamilton in New York City. Scheibe will speak on “The Wisdom of Hamilton,” at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty on Feb. 14 at 4:30 p.m.

Professor of Psychology Emeritus Karl Scheibe recently published two new books, The Storied Nature of Human Life: The Life and Works of Theodore R. Sarbin (co-written with Frank J. Barret), which, he says, “sets the tone” for the second, Deep Drama: Exploring Life as Theater, a collection of recent essays. The latter book’s final piece, “The Wisdom of Hamilton,” recalls Scheibe’s first meeting with Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, his advisee in the autumn of 1998, and then explores the psychological depth and truth within Miranda’s award-winning Broadway musical. Miranda had been a member of Scheibe’s course, A Dramaturgical Approach to Psychology, in the spring of his junior year.

Scheibe also presented a talk on “The Wisdom of Hamilton” at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty on Feb. 14.

In a Q&A, he further discusses the two books in context to each other and his work:

Q: You’ve said that your intellectual formation as a psychologist owes so much to Sarbin and the intellectual positions that he taught you to honor and value. How would you describe this intellectual stance that you owe to Sarbin, your mentor?

Shapiro Translates Coran’s Fables of Town and Country

Norman Shapiro, the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, is the editor and translator of Fables of Town and Country, published by Black Widow Press in October 2017. Fables of Town and Country is the English version of poet-novelist Pierre Coran’s Fables des Villes et des Champs.

Supported by a grant from the Belgian Ministry of Culture, Fables of Town and Country is the second of three works by Coran that Shapiro is translating. The first was Fables in a Modern Key in 2014, and the third, Rhymamusings is scheduled to appear in 2019. Coran, Shapiro explains, “is a whimsical octogenarian celebrated throughout his native Belgium as a preeminent ‘children’s poet’—though only, in truth, for the most precocious of children!”

The 200-page book is illustrated in full color by Olga Pastuchiv.

Shapiro also is Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française and a member of the Academy of American Poets.

Juhasz Authors Eye Movement Study on Compound-Word Processing

Barbara Juhasz

An article by Barbara Juhasz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, has been published in the January 2018 edition of the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. The study, titled “Experience with compound words influences their processing: An eye movement investigation with English compound words” appears in Issue 71, pages 103–12.

Recording eye movements, Juhasz explains, provides information on the time-course of word recognition during reading. Eye movements also are informative for examining the processing of morphologically complex words such as compound words.

In this study, Juhasz examined the time-course of lexical and semantic variables during morphological processing. A total of 120 English compound words that varied in familiarity, age-of-acquisition, semantic transparency, lexeme meaning dominance, sensory experience rating and imageability were selected.

The impact of these variables on fixation durations was examined when length, word frequency and lexeme frequencies were controlled in a regression model. Juhasz discovered that the most robust effects were found for familiarity and age-of-acquisition, indicating that a reader’s experience with compound words significantly impacts compound recognition. These results provide insight into semantic processing of morphologically complex words during reading.

In 2003, Juhasz and her former graduate mentor, Professor Keith Rayner, co-authored a related study on “Investigating the effects of a set of intercorrelated variables on eye fixation durations in reading,” published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition. This study examined the impact of five-word recognition variables, however focused on relatively short, morphologically simple words.

Juhasz’s new article is published in a special issue devoted to honoring Rayner, who passed away in 2015. Rayner, the Atkinson Family Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, San Diego, oversaw an Eyetracking Lab at the university.

“Keith was a very well-respected cognitive scientist who was a pioneer in using eye movements to study reading processes,” Juhasz said. “I’m honored that I could follow up on research that we worked on together more than a decade ago and have it published in this special issue.”

Khamis Co-Authors Article on Effects of Historical Labor Policies on Women

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis, assistant professor of economics and assistant professor of Latin American studies, has co-authored a new paper published in the December 2017 issue of Labour Economics. The paper, titled “Women make houses, women make homes,” examines the effects of historical labor market institutions and policies on women’s labor market outcomes.

To conduct the research, Khamis and her colleagues studied the “rubble women” of post–World War II Germany, who were subject to a 1946 Allied Control Council command that required women between the ages of 15 and 50 to register with a labor office and to participate in postwar cleanup and reconstruction.

The study showed that this mandatory employment had persistent longstanding adverse effects on German women’s overall participation in the labor market. Possible reasons for this include physical and mental exhaustion associated with the demanding manual labor involved in removing war debris; an increase in postwar marriage and fertility rates; and a reversion to traditional gender roles as men returned from war.

The findings highlight how important it is for countries—especially those recovering from conflict—to develop labor market institutions and policies that support women’s participation in the workforce. In addition, the paper concludes, “Our results also provide suggestive evidence that work-contingent income support programs may have limited positive effects on female future labor market outcomes and welfare dependency unless such policies are further backed up by the provision of quality child care and labor market institutions at large.”