When parasites attack woolly bear caterpillars, such as this Grammia incorrupta, the insects eat leaves loaded with chemicals called alkaloids, which seems to cure the infection. The discovery, by Michael Singer, represents the first clear demonstration of self-medication among bugs.
Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology, is the author of “Self-Medication as Adaptive Plasticity: Increased Ingestion of Plant Toxins by Parasitized Caterpillars,” published in PLoS ONE, March 2009. PLoS ONE is an open access, online scientific journal from the Public Library of Science.
This new article rigorously demonstrates that caterpillars can self-medicate, following up on a previous publication in Nature in 2005. This is the first experimental demonstration of self-medication by an invertebrate animal.
This paper also represents the first publication to arise from research funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to Singer in December 2007. Kevi Mace BA ’07 MA ’08 assisted with the research.
The research also was featured in an article titled “Woolly Bear, Heal Thyself,” published in Discover Magazine online, and in an article titled “Woolly Bear Caterpillars Self-Medicate — A Bug First,” published in National Geographic News. The caterpillars also were mentioned in the March 26, 2009 edition of nature-research-highlights-09.
Neuroscience of Birdsong.
John Kirn, chair and professor of neuroscience and behavior, professor of biology, director of Graduate Studies, is the co-author of a book chapter titled “Regulation and function of neuronal replacement in the avian song system.”
The chapter is published inside the book Neuroscience of Birdsong, released in 2009 by Cambridge University Press.
The book provides a comprehensive summary of birdsong neurobiology, and identifies the common brain mechanisms underlying this achievement in both birds and humans. Written primarily for advanced graduates and researchers, there is an introductory overview covering song learning, the parallels between language and birdsong and the relationship between the brains of birds and mammals; subsequent sections deal with producing, processing, learning and recognizing song, as well as with hormonal and genomic mechanisms.
The book was featured in Science Magazine in February 2009 in an article titled “Neuroscience: Singing in the Brain.”
A group of Wesleyan faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, along with three post-docs from the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Chemistry departments, attended the 53rd Annual Biophysical Society Meeting in Boston.
Several labs contributed posters including those run by David Beveridge, the University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, professor of chemistry; Irina Russu, professor of chemistry; Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Don Oliver, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, chair and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; and Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.
Noah Biro ’09 was a co-author on a poster contributed by Hingorani lab. David Snydacker ’09 and Maiko Kondo ’07 were co-authors on posters contributed by Mukerji lab.
Mukerji was a speaker on a panel titled “Transition from Postdoc to Faculty.”
Hari Krishnan mixes contemporary Bharatanatyam and classic modern dance.
Choreographer Hari Krishnan, artist in residence of dance, will present his first New York season with his company inDANCE in New York City. Performers include Julie Neuspiel ’09 and Emily Watts ’03; and musician Aaron Paige, music graduate student.
The evening features five works choreographed by Krishnan. With dancers of diverse personal and training backgrounds, inDANCE strives toward “radical innovation in the extraction of post modern dance vocabulary from contemporary Bharatanatyam and classic modern dance with an uncompromising standard of excellence.” The company’s socio-political consciousness characterize the repertoire and its approach to dance-making.
inDANCE is a Toronto-based Canadian company, that crafts a provocative global view of contemporary Indian dance. Established in 1999, inDANCE presents works that are a unique synthesis of Krishnan’s South Asian and Western aesthetic sensibilities.
The event is held at 8 p.m. April 3 and 4, and at 3 p.m. April 5. Purchase tickets in advance at www.joyce.org or 212-352-3101.
Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, has won the Association of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division 2008 award for the best single-volume reference work in the humanities and social sciences. The award was for his 1,200-page collection of translations, French Women Poets of Nine Centuries, published by Johns Hopkins, 2008.
The AAP awards prizes in several categories, ranging from the humanities and social sciences to life sciences, physical sciences, and medicine. Shapiro’s winning single-volume work, competing against multi-volume works, went on to win as well the overall Award for Excellence in Reference Works.
Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science in Society, was one of three guests featured on PBS’s “Where We Live” on March 23. Grabel joined scientists and ethicists from all over the country for StemCONN 2009—an international stem cell research symposium held in New Haven, Conn. The symposium organizers and experts spoke on what new federal policy means for a state like Connecticut, which has already heavily invested in stem cell research.
Connecticut is home to leading academic institutions for human stem cell research, including Wesleyan, Yale University, the University of Connecticut. It is a place where national and international stem cell research partnerships develop, thrive and grow.
During StemCONN, Grabel, chair of the StemCONN organizing committee, provided an up-to-the-minute report on the achievements of Connecticut’s research institutions and the State of Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research Fund. Her current research interests include a study of the ability if GABAergic neurons derived from embryonic stem cells to prevent chronic seizures when transplanted to the mouse hippocampus, and a study examining the molecular signals that direct production of neural stem cells from embryonic stem cells and the environmental conditions, following seizures, that promote integration of embryonic stem cell-derived neural stem cells.
Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy, associate professor feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and director of the Ethics in Society Project was also on the organizing committee for StemCONN. Gruen is chair of the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight committee. Her work lies at the intersection of ethical theory and ethical practice and she has published on multiple topics in bioethics, environmental ethics, and other areas of practical ethical concern.
Recently, she co-edited Stem Cell Research: The Ethical Issues (Blackwell, 2007) with Grabel and Peter Singer.
The Wesleyan University Board of Trustees affirmed the promotion with tenure, effective July 1, 2009, of the following members of the faculty. These appointments do not conclude tenure announcements for the 2008-2009 academic year, and more may be forthcoming.
Norman Danner, associate professor of computer science, was appointed assistant professor of computer Science in August 2002. Before coming to Wesleyan he was the VIGRE assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CPATH CB Collaborative Grant, a Mellon Foundation Grant and a Wesleyan University Ethical Reasoning Course Grant.
Danner’s teaching interests focus on open-source software development. His research interests are primarily focused on the development of practical programming languages
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Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a $798,368 grant from the National Science Foundation for her project “Structure and Function of Holliday Junctions complexed With Proteins Probed by Fluorescence and UV Raman Spectroscopic Methods.”
The grant is a continuing grant which has been approved on scientific / technical merit for approximately four years. The grant will be awarded April 1.
Vera Schwarcz, professor of history and East Asian Studies and director of the Mansfield Freeman Center, discusses her experience with China during a presentation Jan. 29.
Thirty years ago, the United States opened its first embassy in the People’s Republic of China as our nation began reestablishing its relations with the country. Vera Schwarcz, professor of history and East Asian studies and director of the Freeman Center, remembers the events well. After all, she was part of them.
Schwarcz, an expert on Chinese culture, politics and literature, was one of only seven official exchange scholars invited to visit China in February 1979 when the embassy opened. Her recollections of this time, and her subsequent 30 years of experiences studying in and about China, served as the foundation for her presentation titled “A Thirty Year Harvest: Personal Reflections on U.S. China Relations.”
Schwarcz’s lecture kicked off Wesleyan’s Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies semester-long celebration and recognition of the reopening of community country to the western world.
During the lecture Schwarcz shared her insights, inspiration and challenges that have come from her personal relationship with China for the past three decades.
“I went to China as a so-called expert,” Schwarcz says. “I came back as a perennial student.”
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Jan Willis, professor of religion, professor of East Asian studies, meets with three Buddhist nuns in Ladakh, India. Willis was honored as a "Outstanding Woman in Buddhism" recently for making an "exceptional contribution to Buddhism."
In the sparsely populated, mountainous region of Ladakh, India, elderly Buddhist nuns are suffering from isolation, illiteracy and lack of respect from their communities. These women, who spent their lives serving their family or working as laborers, have rarely had the opportunity to become ordained or to worship in a monastery like the highly regarded male monks.
“These women have been devalued from the beginning,” says Jan Willis, professor of religion, professor of East Asian studies. “All they’ve ever wanted to do is serve the dharma and study, but instead, they’ve become servants of their community, or helpers for the monks.”
Willis, who has devoted part of the last seven years to helping a group of elderly Ladakhi nuns, is being honored as an “Outstanding Woman in Buddhism” for the year 2009 for making an “exceptional contribution to Buddhism.”
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Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology, spoke at a conference titled “Celebrating Seattle’s Striking History,” sponsored by the University of Washington Department of History. The conference was held Feb. 6 at the Seattle Labor Temple to commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Seattle General Strike of 1919. Rosenthal spoke about the strike, and also about a rock opera he wrote and recorded in 1986 with his band, The Fuse, about the strike. The Seattle Labor Chorus sung two songs from the album. In addition, Rosenthal was interviewed about his song on the NPR station in Portland, KBOO, and the NPR station in Seattle, KUOW.
The Chicago Tribune reviewed Look, What I Don’t Understand, a solo-performance by Anthony Nikolchev ’08, co-directed by the Assistant Professor of Theater Yuriy Kordonskiy, lighting design by Anna Martin ’09.
The production was originally developed as a student show at Wesleyan and moved to its four-week professional run at the Chicago Athenaeum Theatre in January 2009. This one-man drama draws upon historical narratives experienced by Nikolchev’s family during their 1960s escape from the totalitarian hostility of communist Bulgaria to detainment in America, challenging himself and audiences to comprehend the experience of past generations through the perspective of present generations.
Other feature reviews include The Windy City Times, The Urban Coaster and The Latest and Greatest art blog. In April 2009, the production is invited to participate in the ArmMono, a festival of solo-performances in Yerevan, Armenia.