Tag Archive for graduate students

Graduate Student McNeill Speaks on the Social, Cultural Aspects of the Black New Orleans Brass Band

graduate student speaker

As part of Wesleyan’s Graduate Speaker Series, Marvin McNeill, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology, spoke about “Structures of Feeling and the Significance of Affectivity in the Social and Cultural Survivals of the Black New Orleans Brass Band,” on Feb. 7 in Exley Science Center.

McNeil explained how the institution of the Black New Orleans brass band represents a genealogic continuum that extends back to the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the Louisiana Territory. "This continuum connects a violent past, marked by physical abuse of black bodies in the form of institutionalized slavery, to a violent present confounded by systemic poverty, social injustice, and police brutality," he said. In spite of extreme oppression, the brass band community continues to enrich and enliven both local communities through their iconic musical offerings.

McNeill explained how the institution of the Black New Orleans brass band represents a genealogic continuum that extends back to the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the Louisiana Territory. “This continuum connects a violent past, marked by physical abuse of black bodies in the form of institutionalized slavery, to a violent present confounded by systemic poverty, social injustice, and police brutality,” he said. “In spite of extreme oppression, the brass band community continues to enrich and enliven both local communities through their iconic musical offerings.”

Cohan in The Conversation: A Clue to Stopping Coronavirus

Fred Cohan

Fred Cohan

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Fred Cohan, professor of biology, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, PhD student Kathleen Sagarin, and Kelly Mei ’20 explain how viruses like coronavirus—and several others over history—spread from animals to humans, what determines the size of the outbreak, and how behavioral modifications and technology can stop the spread.

A clue to stopping coronavirus: Knowing how viruses adapt from animals to humans

As the novel coronavirus death toll mounts, it is natural to worry. How far will this virus travel through humanity, and could another such virus arise seemingly from nowhere?

As microbial ecologists who study the origins of new microbial species, we would like to give some perspective.

As a result of continuing deforestation, “bushmeat” hunting of wild animals and caring for our domestic animals, the novel coronavirus will certainly not be the last deadly virus from wild animals to infect humans. Indeed, wild species of bats and primates abound in viruses closely related to SARS and HIV, respectively. When humans interact with wild animal species, pathogens that are resident in those animals can spill over to humans, sometimes with deadly effects.

Karimi Shares Enzyme Research during Graduate Speaker Series

graduate student

Neuroscience and biology BA/MA graduate student Helen Karimi presented a Graduate Speaker Series talk on Nov. 1.

On Nov. 1, neuroscience and biology BA/MA graduate student Helen Karimi presented a Graduate Speaker Series talk titled “All good things come in pairs: Uncovering the activity of BcnI through co-localization microscopy.”

Karimi’s talk focused on restriction endonucleases (REases), a large family of enzymes that make sequence-specific cuts in DNA. As her abstract details, type IIP REases usually cleave sequences as homodimers. However, BcnI, an enzyme belonging to this subtype, acts in a different way. Karimi’s work aims to observe the fine details of BcnI’s cleavage mechanism by using Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy, an imaging technique in which only molecules within a few hundred nanometers of a glass surface are illuminated.

Paper on Bacteria Adhesion Named “Editor’s Pick” by Journal of Biological Chemistry

Rich Olson

Rich Olson

Katherine Kaus PhD '18

Katherine Kaus

A paper written by Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Rich Olson and his former students was designated as an “Editor’s Pick” by the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Only 2% of the approximately 6,600 papers published each year in the journal receive this designation.

Titled “The 1.9 Å crystal structure of the extracellular matrix protein Bap1 from Vibrio cholerae provides insights into bacterial biofilm adhesion,” the paper, published on Oct. 4, explores how bacteria “glues” itself to surfaces in the environment. The co-authors include Alison Biester ’19, Ethan Chupp ’18, Jianyi Lu ’17, Charlie Visudharomn ’17 and Katherine Kaus PhD ’18. Kaus, who is first author on the paper, is featured in a special profile on the JBC website.

Bacteria commonly form structures called biofilms, which are communities of living cells encapsulated by a three-dimensional matrix of secreted proteins, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates. Biofilms are a defense mechanism against environmental challenges and play a role in many pathogenic diseases.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Nation: “Edward Snowden Deserves to Be Tried by a Jury of His Peers, Just Like Everyone Else”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti argues against the Justice Department’s decision to deny Edward Snowden’s request for a jury trial. She contends that in Snowden’s case, in which he is accused of leaking classified information from the National Security Administration in 2013, a jury trial “is not only a viable alternative to a hearing before a judge; rather, given the nature of the charges—where the defendant has supposedly acted to protect the people from the very state that would charge him with a crime—jury deliberation is the proper forum for discussion of appropriate punishment and is the bulwark against the potential misconduct of the state.”

2. Transitions Online: “Stuck in the Middle”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, and Dmytro Babachanakh ’20 explore the history of U.S. involvement in Ukraine, and call upon U.S. leaders of both parties to stop “treating lesser powers as political instruments.”

3. Tulsa World: “Save the Little Grouse on the Prairie”

Alex Harold ’20 is the author of this op-ed that calls for the lesser prairie chicken to be placed on the endangered species list to get the protections it desperately needs, as over 90 percent of its habitat has been degraded or destroyed. While many haven’t heard of this bird, Harold explains that it is an “indicator species” that “reflect(s) the health of the entire prairie ecosystem.” Harold wrote the op-ed as an assignment in E&ES 399, Calderwood Seminar in Environmental Science Journalism, taught by Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell, this semester. The Calderwood Seminars are offered in a variety of disciplines to teach students how to effectively communicate academic knowledge to the public. Read more here.

Wesleyan Welcomes 60 New Graduate Students

graduate students

Wesleyan welcomes 162 graduate students to campus this fall, of which 60 are new.

Of these:

  • 23 new students are enrolled in the BA/MA programs in biology, chemistry, computer science, molecular biology and biochemistry, neuroscience and behavior, physics, and psychology.
  • 13 new students are enrolled in a two-year MA program in astronomy, earth and environmental sciences, and music.

Paper by Robinson, Alumni Published in Behavioural Brain Research

Robinson Lab

A paper coauthored by several members of the Robinson Lab is published in the Oct. 3 issue of Behavioural Brain Research, Volume 371.

The coauthors include Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology; graduate student Charlotte Freeland, Callie Clibanoff ’19, Anna Knes ’19, John Cote ’19, and Trinity Russell ’17.

The flashing lights and celebratory sounds that dominate slot-machine gambling are believed to promote engagement and motivation to keep playing. However, these cues are often presented in the absence of reward, and previous research suggests that this reward uncertainty, which degrades their predictive value, also increases their incentive value. In their paper titled “Distinguishing between predictive and incentive value of uncertain gambling-like cues in a Pavlovian autoshaping task,” the researchers used a process called autoshaping to tease apart the impact of reward uncertainty on the predictive and incentive value of a conditioned stimulus using serial cues.

The Robinson Lab’s research program seeks to identify how intense incentive motivations are produced by brain systems, both naturally in extreme cases and less naturally, but still powerfully, in pathological addictions. Their areas of interest include the role of cues in diet-induced obesity, the impact of uncertainty in gambling, and how cues produce craving in drug addiction.

Varekamp Presents Papers at Volcanic Lakes Meeting in New Zealand, Receives Award

Johan (Joop) Varekamp

Joop Varekamp

Johan (Joop) Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, presented three papers during the Commission on Volcanic Lakes (CVL) program held March 18-20 in Taupo, New Zealand. The papers were coauthored by Wesleyan students, graduate students, recent alumni, and faculty.

The CVL is a scientific, nonprofit organization of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI), connecting researchers that seek to understand how volcanic lakes relate to volcanic activity and their hazards.

Varekamp, who also is the Smith Curator of Mineralogy and Petrology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History and professor of earth and environmental studies, is a former leader of the CVL organization. In addition to delivering a keynote address, Varekamp was named the recipient of the 2019 IAVCEI Kusakabe Award.

Case, Hingorani Coauthor Study on Repair of DNA Damaged by Sunlight

Brandon Case

Molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Brandon Case and Professor Manju Hingorani are coauthors of a study published in Nucleic Acids Research in March 2019.

The paper, titled “The ATPase mechanism of UvrA2 reveals the distinct roles of proximal and distal ATPase sites in nucleotide excision repair,” reports new findings on how the UvrA2 protein uses its ATPase activity to probe DNA for damage lesions, such as those caused by UV radiation, and initiate nucleotide excision repair (NER). This DNA repair process corrects tens of thousands of lesions introduced daily into the human genome by UV rays and chemical agents.

Naegele Lab Releases New Study on Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Jyoti Gupta, who earned her PhD in biology in 2018, is pictured presenting her dissertation defense at Wesleyan. Gupta is the lead author on a recently published study that investigates abnormal neuron growth in mice that have temporal lobe epilepsy.

Adult neurogenesis, a process whereby new neurons are added to the brain, is thought to be confined in mammals to just a few regions, including the hippocampus, a structure important for learning. Whether this process occurs in the adult human brain is controversial, but in most other mammals that have been studied, adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus appears to be essential for forming memories.

Producing new neurons in the adult hippocampus is regulated by the environment, mood, exercise, diet, and disease. In some forms of epilepsy, the production of new cells in the hippocampus, called granule cells, becomes highly abnormal and the altered neurogenesis is thought to increase over-excitation and exacerbate seizures.

Students, Faculty, Alumni Present Research at 50th Annual Planetary Science Conference

Jeremy Brossier presented a talk titled "Radiophysical Behaviors of Venus’ Plateaus and Volcanic Rises: Updated Assessment." He also presented a poster titled "Complex Radar Emissivity Variations at Some Large Venusian Volcanoes."

At left, earth and environmental sciences postdoctoral research associate Jeremy Brossier presented a poster titled “Complex Radar Emissivity Variations at Some Large Venusian Volcanoes” during the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.

Several Wesleyan students, faculty, and alumni attended the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) March 18-22 in The Woodlands, Texas. Members of the Wesleyan Planetary Sciences Group presented their research on a range of planetary bodies.

This annual conference brings together international specialists in petrology, geochemistry, geophysics, geology, and astronomy to present the latest results of research in planetary science.

Earth and environmental studies major Emmy Hughes ’20 presented a poster titled “Observations of Transverse Aeolian Ridges in Digital Terrain Models” during a session on “Planetary Aeolian Processes.”

Earth and environmental science graduate student Reid Perkins MA ’19 presented a talk titled “A Reassessment of Venus’ Tessera Crater Population and Implications for Tessera Deformation” and a poster titled “Volumes and Potential Origins of Crater Dark Floor Deposits on Venus.”

Grad Student Kemble Discusses Heavy Metal Feminism

Katrice Kemble, a graduate student in ethnomusicology, presented a talk on "Daughters of Darkness: Performing Heavy Metal Feminism" on Feb. 27 during the Graduate Speakers Series.

Katrice Kemble, a graduate student in ethnomusicology, presented a talk on “Daughters of Darkness: Performing Heavy Metal Feminism” on Feb. 27 during the Graduate Speakers Series.

Kemble's research explores the oft-overlooked roles of women in the mainstream heavy music industry by following the bands Halestorm, In This Moment, and New Years Day on a female-fronted tour of the United States. Their performance of heavy metal feminism raises important questions about gender representation in popular culture, feminism and sexualization, genre expectations, and beyond.

Kemble’s research explores the oft-overlooked roles of women in the mainstream heavy music industry by following the bands Halestorm, In This Moment, and New Years Day on a female-fronted tour of the United States. Their performance of heavy metal feminism raises important questions about gender representation in popular culture, feminism and sexualization, genre expectations, and beyond. (Photos by Preksha Sreewastav ’21)