Tag Archive for graduate students

Assistant Professor of Music Sorey MA ’11 Wins MacArthur “Genius” Award

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo Credit: John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo Credit: John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, who joined Wesleyan’s faculty this fall as assistant professor of music, has been awarded a fellowship—better known as a “genius” grant—from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The announcement was made Oct. 11.

The fellowship is a “$625,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative and creative individuals as an investment in their potential,” according to the MacArthur website. Fellows are selected based on “exceptional creativity,” “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments” and “potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

Graduate Student Kiman Awarded Scholarship to Attend Yiddish Festival

Douglas Kiman

Douglas Kiman

Douglas Kiman, a first-year PhD student in ethnomusicology, recently received a scholarship to attend the 2017 Yiddish New York festival held Dec. 23-28. Kiman’s research focuses on contemporary klezmer music in Western Europe.

Yiddish New York celebrates and engages with East European Jewish (and other Jewish and co-territorial) traditions to foster new creativity. Drawing inspiration from the historic cultural riches of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Yiddish New York is an intergenerational gathering featuring daily workshops and a broad spectrum of performances and programming. Yiddish New York evenings feature concerts, dance parties, and jam sessions at clubs.

Kiman, a native of France, spent two years in New York as a visiting scholar conducting research at the Yiddish Cultural Institute (YIVO). He also was a member of the Columbia Klezmer Band under the conducting of Jeffrey Warshauer.

“This scholarship is a unique opportunity to collaborate and study with some of the greatest living exponents of Yiddish folk arts including instrumental klezmer music, Yiddish song, dance and theater,” said Cheryl-Ann Hagner, director of Graduate Student Services. “Douglas will also start fieldwork for his dissertation by meeting and interviewing the most prominent American and international members of today’s klezmer scene.”

Speakers, Poster Sessions at Annual Molecular Biophysics Program Retreat

Wesleyan’s Molecular Biophysics Program hosted its 18th annual retreat Sept. 28 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Wesleyan affiliated speakers included:

Professor Francis Starr, spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

Professor Francis Starr spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

  • Colin Smith, assistant professor of chemistry, on “An Atomistic View of Protein Dynamics and Allostery;”
  • Meng-Ju Renee Sher, assistant professor of physics, on “Tracking Electron Motions Using Terahertz Spectroscopy;”
  • Kelly Knee, PhD ’07, principle scientist for Pfizer’s Rare Disease Research Unit, on “Protein Folding Chaperones: Molecular Machines for Tricky Problems;”
  • and Francis Starr, professor of physics, director of the College of Integrative Sciences, on “DNA Four-Way Junction Dynamics and Thermodynamics: Lessons from Combining Simulations and Experiments.”

Arthur Palmer, the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, delivered the keynote address on “Conformational dynamics in molecular recognition and catalysis: Lessons from ribonuclease H, AlkB, and GCN4.”

The day-long retreat also included two poster sessions, where undergraduates, graduate students and faculty shared their research with their peers and colleagues. The event concluded with a reception.

The Molecular Biophysics Training Program, Chemistry Department, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department sponsored the event.

Photos of the retreat are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Makri Awarded Graduate Scholarship from Greek America Foundation

PhD candidate Eleana Makri and Professor Tsampikos Kottos work on reflective optical limiter research at Wesleyan. On Sept. 25, Makri received a $5,000 scholarship from the Greek America Foundation to support her research for the 2017-18 academic year.

For her ongoing research in developing electromagnetic filters that block high power radiation, physics PhD candidate Eleana Makri recently received a Constantine and Patricia Mavroyannis scholarship from the Greek America Foundation. The $5,000 award will support her doctoral research during the 2017-18 academic year.

At Wesleyan, Makri works with Professor Tsampikos Kottos in the development of the reflective limiter concepts that block high power radiation from damaging sensitive sensors, like the eye, while they allow low power radiation to reach the sensor for further processing. Kottos is professor of physics, professor of mathematics and professor of integrative sciences.

The Mavroyannis scholarship is awarded to Greek and Greek-American graduate students studying in U.S. and Canadian institutions and universities. After completing the scholarship, Makri will submit a brief progress report to the Greek America Foundation highlighting her research efforts.

“[Eleana] has distinguished [her]self as not just one of the strongest applicants, but also as someone whose scientific career we look forward to following,” said Jennifer Kellogg, executive director of the Greek America Foundation.

Niraula MA ’18, Redfield Lead Team in Discovery of 3 Super-Earths

A team of scientists from Wesleyan, led by Associate Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield and graduate student Prajwal Niraula MA’18, discovered three super-Earths transiting around a nearby star, just 98 light-years from Earth. This NASA-generated image was created to depict 55 Cancri e, a super-Earth 40 light-years away from Earth.

A team of scientists from Wesleyan discovered three super-Earths transiting around a nearby star, 98 light-years away. The NASA-generated image above depicts a different super-Earth: 55 Cancri e, discovered in 2004.

A team of scientists from Wesleyan, led by Associate Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield and graduate student Prajwal Niraula MA ’18, has co-authored a paper on the discovery of three planets, or super-Earths, transiting around a nearby star, just 98 light-years away.

“Super-Earths are slightly larger than Earth, and the three of them straddle the divide between the rocky planets like Earth and ice giants like Neptune,” explains Redfield.

These planets were found using the Kepler Space Telescope. “Kepler has found thousands of exoplanets these last eight years, but this is the closest planetary system that Kepler has ever found, although closer planetary systems have been found using different telescopes,” says Redfield.

BA/MA Student Antonellis ’17 Awarded Scholarship for Energy Technology Research

BA/MA student Nicholas Antonellis ’17

Nicholas “Nicky” Antonellis ’17, a BA/MA student in physics, is one of 14 students in the U.S. selected to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Directed Energy Professional Society (DEPS).

Candidates for the award must be full-time graduate students who are interested in pursuing or are currently studying the directed energy technology areas of high-energy lasers or high-power microwaves.

Antonellis is interested in using his knowledge in photonic device design and computational simulations in order to eventually improve upon medical technologies.

55 Graduate Students New to Wesleyan

On Aug. 29, the Office of Graduate Student Services hosted a new graduate student orientation and lunch at Exley Science Center. In 2017-18, Wesleyan welcomes 15 new PhDs; 12 MAs; 17 BA/MAs (all received a BA in May 2017); nine foreign language teaching assistants in romance languages, Asian languages and Arabic languages; and two new writing fellows.

During the course of orientation, the new graduate students were introduced to the Graduate Student Association, Wesleyan culture and Wesleyan resources that can support their academic career and life at Wesleyan. Students were introduced to Wesleyan staff representing student accounts, public safety, sustainability initiatives, residential life, counseling and psychological services, athletics, Title IX and more. Librarians provided tours of Olin Library and the Science Library. Faculty and staff from the Center for Global Studies also offered a pedagogy session specifically for the new Foreign Language Teaching Assistants called The American Classroom. New international graduate students were treated to a workshop on cultural adjustment.

Photos of their luncheon are below: (Photos by Cynthia Rockwell)

Mukerji, Oliver Co-Author Study in PNAS on Basic Cell Function

In this illustration, SecA is shown in light gray and the SecYEG complex is in dark gray. The rainbow colored portion of SecA is the two helix finger. n cyan is a model of the hairpin.

In this illustration, the hairpin is highlighted in cyan. The hairpin is formed by the initiator part of a protein.

All cells — bacterial or human — secrete up to 10 or 20 percent of the proteins that they make. Human secreted proteins, for example, include components of serum, hormones, growth factors that promote cell development during embryogenesis and tissue remodeling, and proteins that provide the basis for immune cell signaling during infection or when fighting cancer.

The secretion process, however, isn’t an easy feat for cells, as they need to move the proteins across a membrane through a channel. Transport requires the formation of a hairpin, formed by an initiator protein.

In a recent study, Don Oliver, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, explain the importance of where and why hairpins form and how they help proteins move across the cell.

The study, titled “Alignment of the protein substrate hairpin along the SecA two-helix finger primes protein transport in Escherichia coli,” brings together key areas of membrane biochemistry, structural biology and molecular biophysics, and has innovative applications of molecular genetics and fluorescence spectroscopy. It was published in the Aug. 7 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Graduate Student Khan Performs at Multiple Summer Music Festivals

Suhail Yusuf Khan

Suhail Yusuf Khan

This summer, graduate student Suhail Yusuf Khan and his band Yorkston Thorne Khan are performing in music festivals around the world.

The band is comprised of Khan, a sarangi violinist and a vocalist of Indian classical music; James Yorkston, a folk singer and guitarist; and Jon Thorne, a jazz bassist.

Yorkston, Thorne and Khan performed at the Glastonbury Festival June 25 in Somerset, England. Afterwards, the group was mentioned in The Telegraph‘s “10 highlights” article written by Alice Vincent:

While it’s easy to stumble upon a whole new field or an excellent hidden bar at Glastonbury, the best festivals give you a couple of artists to go home and listen to afterwards. And Yorkston, Thorne and Khan, the Indian-folk/jazzy trio, collided to give a wig-out that rang beautifully over it all, Suhail Yusuf Khan’s vocals concertinaing over a jam so deeply felt it was as if you were observing a particularly good band practice. I don’t know the song name, I’ve barely heard of the band, but I’ll be playing them at home the minute I get there.

The group also performed at the Latitude Festival, held July 13-16 Suffolk, England, and the Rudolstadt Festival, held July 6-9 in Germany. In a Zeit Online article, author Christoph Dieckmann wrote:

Skepticism was the formation of James Yorkston / Jon Thorne / Suhail Yusuf Khan: a folk singer and guitarist, a jazz bassist, a sarangi violinist and a vocalist of Indian classical music. The booming world music market produces indeed multicultural soups of the flavors Bockwurst / Sushi / Cardamom, but these three turned out to be the highlight of the festival.

Listen to music from the band’s 2017 album, Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars, 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.

Ocorr PhD ’83 Sends Fruit Flies into Space for Cardiovascular Research

Karen Ocorr Ph.D. ’83

Karen Ocorr PhD ’83

Karen Ocorr PhD ’83, a professor at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, Calif., is using fruit flies to investigate how long-term weightlessness might affect the cardiovascular health of astronauts.

Ocorr’s research team packed 400 adult fruit flies and 2,000 eggs in a capsule, which will be launched by a rocket in June and return to Earth after spending a month docked in space.

In a New York Times article published on June 2, titled “Fruit Flies and Mice to Get New Home on Space Station, at Least Temporarily,” Ocorr explains that although the structure of a fly heart is very different than that of a human, the cardiovascular system shares many of the same cellular components in addition to the similar heartbeats.

Fruit flies, Ocorr said, are “actually much closer in some respects to humans than the mouse or rat models are.”

Upon their return, Ocorr and her colleagues will study the flies for abnormalities in the skeletal and heart muscles and the shape of the hearts.

At Wesleyan, Ocorr’s biology research was supervised by Allen Berlind, professor of biology emeritus.

Ocorr also appears on NASA’s educational panel with regard to science projects on the missions at the 1:22 mark. 

Read more in this 2013 News @ Wesleyan article.