Tag Archive for graduate students
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
Wesleyan co-authors published a paper titled “The Stories Tryptophans Tell: Exploring Protein Dynamics of Heptosyltransferase I from Escherichia coli” in the January 2017 issue of Biochemistry.
The co-authors include chemistry graduate student Joy Cote; alumni Zarek Siegel ’16 and Daniel Czyzyk, PhD ’15; and faculty Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry; Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.
Their paper investigates the intrinsic properties of Tryptophan amino acids found within the protein, Heptosyltransferase I, to understand the ways this protein moves during catalysis. Understanding the movement of this protein is an important step in developing its inhibitors.
When this protein is inactive, either because it was genetically altered or inhibited, hydrophobic antibiotics become more effective, so inhibitors could be useful in reactivating antibiotics that are current not effective against these bacteria.
While it is popularly believed that inhibiting a protein requires a compound to compete with the substrate, their paper argues that instead one can design a inhibitor to disrupt protein dynamics, preventing activity. The co-authors compare the function of this “protein dynamics disruptor” to a wedge holding open a door–once inserted, the inhibitor prevents the protein from performing its function.
Their research on Tryptophan residues also found that distant regions of the protein communicate whether or not they are binding their substrate to other regions.
“It would be like if your right hand knew that your left hand was holding a pencil just by the changes in the position of your left hand. We are currently pursuing computational studies to look for these motions via molecular dynamics experiments,” Taylor said.
by Olivia Drake •
Music graduate student Suhail Yusuf Khan will be a featured guest artist at the Berklee Indian Ensemble on May 9. In addition, he will conduct a master class on Hindustani music and the sarangi, one of the oldest string instruments featured in North Indian classical music. The sarangi is the only instrument in the world that can emulate all the nuances of the human voice. Played with a bow, this instrument has three main strings and 37 sympathetic strings.
Khan started to play the instrument when he was 7 years old. The grandson of the sarangi legend Ustad Sabri Khan, and nephew of sarangi genius Ustad Kamal Sabri, his professional career took off at age 11 when he played his first live concert in Liverpool, England. Khan is the first of his family to fuse ancient classical music from India with genres as varied as jazz, rock, electronic and Irish music. In 2014, he was named a Forbes India “30 Under 30.”
He also is a composer, singer and songwriter. After graduating from Wesleyan, Khan is considering applying to PhD programs in ethnomusicology or will continue to perform around the world.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Men in the U.S. today increasingly believe themselves to be victims of gender discrimination, and there are a record number of recent lawsuits claiming anti-male bias. In a study published in March in Psychology of Men and Masculinity, Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins and her co-authors assess the consequences of these perceptions of anti-male bias. Are men who perceive discrimination more likely to discriminate against women? How do beliefs about societal order affect men’s evaluations of men and women?
The article is co-authored by former post-doctoral fellow Joseph Wellman, now an assistant professor at California State University–San Bernardino, Erika Flavin ’14, and Juliana Manrique ’15, MA ’16.
In a blog post on the study, the authors write:
Traditionally men have had higher status than women in the U.S.; they have been better educated, more likely to be employed, and have tended to earn more than women with the same job and qualifications. People vary in the extent to which they believe that this particular ordering of society is fair and the way things should be. Some believe this type of inequality is legitimate, while others believe it should change. We expected that men who believed men should have higher status in society would be most upset about the thought that men now experience discrimination, and that they would react by favoring men over equally-qualified women. This effort would be a way to reestablish men’s perceived rightful place in society.
They conducted two studies to test this prediction. In the first, male participants read an article about increasing bias against men or another group, and then were asked to evaluate the résumé of a man or woman as part of an ostensibly unrelated study. The résumés were identical except for the name and gender. The researchers found that men who believe the social hierarchy is fair tended to give more negative evaluations of the female candidate relative to the male candidate after reading about bias against men. They also showed less desire to help the female candidate. The same effect wasn’t seen after male participants read about bias against an unrelated group. The researchers conclude that beliefs about the legitimacy of the hierarchy and perceptions of bias against men together seemed to disadvantage women.
In a second study, the researchers manipulated participants’ beliefs about society’s fairness by having them create sentences by unscrambling strings of randomly ordered words that suggested system legitimacy. For example, they created sentences like “effort leads to prosperity” – which makes people believe that hard work in society is rewarded. Or, they unscrambled other words to create neutral sentences unrelated to society. Unscrambling system-legitimizing sentences caused participates to believe the social structure is legitimate, and in turn, caused those primed to perceive discrimination against men to more negatively evaluate female targets. They also reported being less willing to help the female targets than male targets.
The researchers gave participants an opportunity to provide feedback on how to improve targets’ resumes. Those primed with beliefs that the social structure is legitimate reacted to perceiving bias against men by providing more constructive feedback to male targets than female targets. They write that these findings are striking, as the resumes were identical – only the names varied.
This research suggests that men who believe that men should be high-status in society react to perceiving bias against men by engaging in efforts to maintain men’s position of power. These individuals may be unaware that they favor their own group or disadvantage women; they may simply perceive that they are righting a perceived wrong. However, this explanation was not supported by other research results. When the researchers primed men to perceive discrimination against women, they did not react by favoring women over men. It seems as though they are uniquely concerned about maintaining their own group’s position in society, they write.
The researchers conclude that when high-status individuals perceive increasing bias against their group, those who endorse the legitimacy of the social hierarchy may perpetuate social disparities. Thus, if men increasingly perceive discrimination against their group, they may be more inclined to discriminate against women and provide other men with an extra boost. They recommend adopting hiring and evaluation processes that mask gender to prevent these potentially deleterious effects of perceiving bias against men.
Read the complete research article here.
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
A group of Wesleyan faculty, students and alumni attended the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodland, Texas March 20-24. The annual conference unites 2,000 international specialists in petrology, geochemistry, geophysics, geology and astronomy to present their latest research in planetary science over the course of several days.
Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the George I. Seney Professor of Geology Martha Gilmore coordinated Wesleyan’s group. While at the event, she presented her work on the oldest rocks on Venus and Mars gully analogues on Earth.
A number of her current graduate and undergraduate students attended and several also presented their work. Ben McKeeby MA ’17 discussed his work on Mars-analogue volcanic sites on Earth; Shaun Mahmood MA ’17 discussed his work on lunar water; and Avi Stein ’17 discussed his work on Venus sediments. All three of these students were supported by the NASA Connecticut Space Grant. Earth and Environmental Sciences graduate student Jordyn-Marie Dudley MA ’18 also attended the conference.
Numerous alumni made contributions at the conference including astronomy majors Bob Nelson MA ’69 and Jesse Tarnas ’16; earth and environmental sciences majors Tanya Harrison MA ’08, Nina Lanza MA ’06, Keenan Golder MA ’13 and James Dottin ’13.
Earth and environmental sciences and chemistry double major Peter Martin ’14 and physics major Ian Garrick-Bethell ’02 also contributed.
by Frederic Wills '19 •
Three Wesleyan Molecular Biology and Biochemistry majors received the unique opportunity of presenting their thesis work at the 61st annual Biophysical Society meeting in New Orleans, Feb. 11-15.
by Olivia Drake •
Three faculty and one graduate student co-authored a paper titled “Statistical Coupling Analysis combined with all-atom Molecular Simulation Postulates Dynamical Allosterism in the MutS DNA Mismatch Repair Protein,” published in the March issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry – Biophysics, published by The American Chemical Society.
The authors include David Beveridge, the Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, professor of chemistry, professor of integrative sciences; Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, professor of integrative sciences; Kelly Thayer, visiting assistant professor of computer science; and molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Bharat Lakhani.
This project is part of Lakhani’s ’16 PhD thesis of Lakhani. Notably, the project brings together the experimental biochemistry of Hingorani’s research program, which specializes in DNA mismatch repair, and the computational biophysics in Beveridge’s Laboratory, which specializes in molecular dynamics simulations. All theoretical calculations were carried out using the Wesleyan High Performance Computer Cluster.
In addition, the article was selected as an ACS “Editor’s Choice,” an honor given to one article from the entire ACS portfolio of journals each day of the year. As a consequence, the authors have been invited to submit a 30-40 minute online presentation to “ACS LiveSlides,” which increases the exposure of the published work.
by Olivia Drake •
On Feb. 8, John Hossain, a MA candidate from the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, presented a talk on “The Role of Reverse Fault Geometry on Slip Rate Estimates” during the Graduate Speaker Series.
Estimates of fault slip rates are an integral part of assessing seismic hazard because they affect estimates of earthquake renewal and moment release rates. For some faults, however, slip rate estimates vary among geodetic studies or between geodetic and geologic investigations. In his talk, Hossain explained why by using a series of numerical models.
Graduate Speaker Series events are open to the entire Wesleyan community. (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)
On Nov. 18, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (E&ES) hosted the 8th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of Connecticut (GSC). The event featured a student scholarship wine-tasting fundraiser and a public science lecture called “The Real Jurassic Park in the Connecticut Valley,” by paleontologist Robbert Baker.
During the meeting, Phillip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, Martha “Marty” Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, were awarded the Joe Webb Peoples Award for their efforts in hosting the 2015 New England Intercollegiate Geologic Conference. The award recognizes those who have contributed to the understanding of the geology of Connecticut through scholarship, education and service.
Many other E&ES faculty were in attendance, including Dana Royer, Suzanne O’Connell, Johan Varekamp, Peter Patton and Timothy Ku. Additionally, several E&ES graduate students attended, including John Hossain, Melissa Luna, Shaun Mahmood, and alumni Bill Burton ’74, Nick McDonald MA ’75, and Peter LeTourneau MA ’85.
Ethnomusicology PhD candidate Maho Ishiguro MA ’12 was honored at the 2016 Society of Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting with the Nadia and Nicholas Nahumck Fellowship for her research titled “Seudati and the Social Contestation of Female Dance in Aceh, Indonesia.”
The award is given to help support research on a dance-related subject and its subsequent publication, and consists of a $4,000 research fellowship and $1,000 award for publication.
“This fellowship will allow me to continue doing my research on the topics of Acehnese dance and music forms, women’s practice of performing arts, and changing socioreligious climate in the post-tsunami Aceh, from 2004 to today,” she said.
Ishiguro, who spent 15 months in Indonesia on a Fullbright-Hays Fellowship studying Acehnese performing arts, will now take a deeper look into the seudati dance form.
“In my research, I plan to look more closely into seudati as a case study to examine the issues of female and male aesthetics expressed through movements in Acehnese dance and how choreographers navigate through social expectations and Islamic regulations today when they create movements,” she said.
Graduate student Suhail Yusuf Khan recently gave a lecture and demonstration at the Department of Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Khan’s lecture focused on the sarangi and its use in popular music contexts.
Khan was invited to UCLA to lecture to a global pop music class.
“The idea was to show students some of my experimental and pop music,” Khan said.
During his demonstration, Khan spoke about the the sarangi’s role in Hindustani music and the relationship to the voice. He also showed different playing techniques, and shared his own musical story, including the challenges he faces as a classically trained musician navigating the global popular music industry.
Khan, from New Delhi, India, is working towards his master’s degree in music. He also is a composer, singer and songwriter. After graduating from Wesleyan, he is considering applying to PhD programs in ethnomusicology or will continue to perform around the world.