Tag Archive for graduate students

Math Ph.D. Candidate Smith Delivers First Graduate Speaker Series Talk

Brett Smith, a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics, spoke during the first Graduate Speaker Series event Oct. 7 in Exley Science Center. Smith's talk, titled "Mine, Yours and the Truth," focused on American mobster Joe Massino, boss of the Bonanno crime family in New York from 1991 until 2004. "Big Joey" famously said, “there are three sides to every story — mine, yours and the truth.”

Brett Smith, a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics, spoke during the first Graduate Speaker Series event Oct. 7 in Exley Science Center. More than 50 students, faculty and staff attended the event. Smith’s talk, titled “Mine, Yours and the Truth,” focused on American mobster Joe Massino, boss of the Bonanno crime family in New York from 1991 until 2004. “Big Joey” famously said, “there are three sides to every story — mine, yours and the truth.”

By using a graph theory called the Robertson–Seymour theorem, Smith explored the competing questions, "What is the best way to organize a mafia so that you won't be caught?" and "What is the best way to patrol a city to disrupt organized crime?" Smith explained how these questions are one and the same.

By using a graph theory called the Robertson–Seymour theorem, Smith explored the competing questions, “What is the best way to organize a mafia so that you won’t be caught?” and “What is the best way to patrol a city to disrupt organized crime?”
Smith explained how these questions are one and the same.

Three more graduate students will tentatively speak as part of the series this fall and next spring including Duminda Ranasinghe, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate; Katie Kaus, a molecular biology and biochemistry Ph.D. candidate and Peter Blasser, a graduate student in music. For more information, visit the Graduate Studies website.

Naegele, Aaron, Student Researchers Published in Journal of Neuroscience

Jan Naegele, Gloster Aaron and several Wesleyan researchers are the co-authors of an article titled “Long-Term Seizure Suppression and Optogenetic Analyses of Synaptic Connectivity in Epileptic Mice with Hippocampal Grafts of GABAergic Interneurons,” published in the October 2014 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, Issue 34(40): 13492-13504.

Naegele is professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, and director of the Center for Faculty Career Development. Aaron is associate professor of biology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior. The article is co-authored by Diana Lin ’15; graduate students Jyoti Gupta and Meghan Van Zandt; recent alumni Elizabeth Litvina BA/MA ’11, XiaoTing Zheng ’14, Nicholas Woods ’13 and Ethan Grund ’13; and former research assistants/lab managers Sara Royston, Katharine Henderson and Stephanie Tagliatela.

Studies in rodent epilepsy models suggest that GABAergic interneuron progenitor grafts can reduce hyperexcitability and seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Although integration of the transplanted cells has been proposed as the underlying mechanism for these disease-modifying effects, prior studies have not explicitly examined cell types and synaptic mechanisms for long-term seizure suppression. To address this gap, the researchers transplanted medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) cells from embryos into adult mice two weeks after induction of TLE.

The researchers found that TLE mice with bilateral MGE cell grafts had significantly fewer and milder electrographic seizures. These findings suggest that fetal GABAergic interneuron grafts may suppress pharmacoresistant seizures.

 

Grad Student Herman, Sultan Published in Evolution, Faculty 1000

Jacob Herman

Jacob Herman

Biology Ph.D. candidate Jacob Herman and Sonia Sultan, chair and professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, are the co-authors of an article titled “How stable ‘should’ epigenetic modifications be? Insights from adaptive plasticity and bet hedging,” published in Evolution, Issue 68(3), pages 632-43. Herman was the Private Investigator on the paper.

The article also was selected by Faculty 1000, a platform for life scientists that helps scientists to discover, discuss and publish research.

Sonia Sultan

Sonia Sultan

Epigenetics is the study of ways chemical reactions change the way an organism grows and develops, and the factors that influence them. Epigenetic modifications can be stable across the individual’s lifespan and in some species even persist across generations, or they can be reversible, but it is currently unclear how the persistence of epigenetic modifications may evolve. In this paper, Herman and Sultan provide insights from the theoretical advances in adaptive phenotypic plasticity to predict the conditions that would favor the evolution of stable versus reversible epigenetic modification as an adaptive environmental response both within and across generations.

At Wesleyan, Herman is interested in the evolutionary implications of developmental plasticity. In particular, he has been studying transgenerational plasticity, a phenomenon that occurs when environments experienced by parents (or even more remote generations) influence the phenotypes of offspring, without changing the DNA sequence.

“There is a growing body of research in both plants and animals that suggests that transgenerational plasticity can have important ecological and evolutionary impacts, including influences on response to selection and population persistence in stressful environments,” he said.

Polygonum persicaria

Polygonum persicaria

Herman’s doctoral research focused on adaptive seedling responses to grandparental and parental drought stress in the widespread, introduced plant Polygonum persicaria.

“We found that functionally appropriate responses to drought stress persist across at least two generations in this species. These adaptive effects enhanced the growth and survival of ‘grandchild’ seedling offspring grown in drought conditions,” he said.

Herman’s research is one part of the larger effort in the Sultan lab to understand how individual plants respond to key environmental stresses, such as drought, and how those responses influence species’ ecology and evolution.

Learn more about ongoing research in the Sultan Lab here.

Ishiguro to Study Female Saman Dance as Fulbright DDRA Fellow

Maho Ishiguro

Maho Ishiguro

Maho Ishiguro, an ethnomusicology doctoral student, received a Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellowship to study the female Saman dance in Indonesia. The award came with a $29,508 stipend.

Ishiguro’s proposed research title is “Saman Dance in Diaspora Presence of Female Saman Dance as Expressions of Piety Cultural Identity and Popular Culture.” Her DDRA project will examine the contemporary life of female Saman dance in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Banda Aceh.

Saman dance, or the dance of a “thousand hands” is typically performed in Gayo Lues, a mountainous region of Aceh, by eight to 20 male performers who kneel in a row and make different kinds of torso movements accompanied by songs, clapping hands, slapping chests or slapping the floor. The dance traditionally is performed to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad and has been used recently to promote Acehnese as well as Indonesia’s national culture.

“Indonesia’s deepening Islamization today impacts the nations’ performing arts and the conduct of Muslim women’s lives,” Ishiguro said. “In Aceh, despite its Islamic origin, female adults were prohibited from performing Saman dance at public events.

Wesleyan Welcomes 64 Graduate Students

Graduate Student Services welcomed 64 graduate students to Wesleyan on Aug. 26.

Of the students, 19 are part of Wesleyan’s BA/MA program; 12 are MA students; 20 are Ph.D. candidates; eight are Foreign Language Teaching Assistants; three are Wesleyan Writing Fellows and one is an exchange student from Germany.

Twelve are studying music and ethnomusicology; 37 are pursing degrees in science and mathematics; three are studying psychology and 12 are non-degree seeking students.

Of the 64 graduate students, 43 are from the United States. The other 21 are from France, Ghana, India, Greece, Spain, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Singapore, United Kingdom, Argentina, Italy, Japan, the Bahamas, Germany, China, Nepal and Morocco.

During Graduate Student Orientation, which began on Aug. 26, students toured Wesleyan’s Science Library and Olin Library, where music students were introduced to the Music library. They also attended panels and talks on Life at Wesleyan, Wellness at Wesleyan, lab safety training, graduate pedagogy and honor codes.

Students met with several Wesleyan faculty, staff and students including Mark Hovey, director of graduate studies, professor of mathematics; and Cheryl-Ann Hagner, director of Graduate Student Services; Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion; Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs and others.

Pictured below are photos of the graduate student welcome picnic, held Aug. 26 behind Exley Science Center: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Graduate Students, Faculty Attend American Chemical Society Meeting

Chemistry graduate student Duminda Ranasinghe spoke about his research on "Density functional for core-valence correlation energy."

Chemistry graduate student Duminda Ranasinghe spoke about his research on “Density functional for core-valence correlation energy.”

Two graduate students and two faculty attended the 248th national meeting of the American Chemical Society Aug. 10-14 in San Francisco, Calif.

Chemistry graduate students Duminda Ranasinghe delivered a poster presentation on her research titled “Efficient extrapolation to the (T)/CBS limit” and an oral presentation on “Density functional for core-valence correlation energy.”

"Assessing weak interactions in small dimer systems with PM7."

Chemistry graduate student Kyle Throssell presented a poster titled “Assessing weak interactions in small dimer systems with PM7.”

Chemistry graduate student Kyle Throssell presented two poster presentations on “Potential curves of selected radical thiol double additions to alkynes” and “Assessing weak interactions in small dimer systems with PM7.”

The students were accompanied by George Petersson, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of chemistry; and Michael Frisch, research professor in chemistry.

Ph.D. Candidate Marino Attends Workshop on Computational Number Theory

Mathematics Ph.D. candidate Alicia Marino, pictured top, left, joined 11 other women studying mathematics and computer science for a four-day workshop this summer.

Mathematics Ph.D. candidate Alicia Marino, pictured top, left, joined 11 other women studying mathematics and computer science at a four-day workshop this summer.

Mathematics Ph.D. candidate Alicia Marino recently attended a four-day workshop in Portland, Ore. studying various aspects of computational number theory. The workshop focused on Sage, a mathematics software package, developed by and for the mathematical community.

The event included talks, tutorials, and time spent in small project groups developing Sage code. Participants worked to enhance the Sage library and discussed ways to increase the number of women in Sage development. The workshop ran July 28-Aug. 1.

Alicia Marino works on coding at the Sage workshop. 

Alicia Marino works on coding at the Sage workshop.

Marino, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science, attended the conference to sharpen her programming skills.

“My initial desire to attend the workshop was to throw myself back into that kind of an environment,” she said. “With the knowledge I gained at the workshop, I can continue to develop Sage on my own relative to what I do at Wesleyan.”

Marino learned about the workshop from event organizer Anna Haensch, who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Wesleyan in 2013. Haensch is now on the faculty at Duquesne University.

Professor of Mathematics Wai Kiu “Billy” Chan served as advisor to Marino and Haensch.

“It was definitely an empowering experience to spend a week in a beautiful environment with intelligent women dedicating our time to a merge of math and computer science,” Marino said.

Grad Student’s Graphic to Appear on Journal’s Cover

Katherine Kaus's story and figure will appear in the September 2014 Journal of Molecular Biology. The figure depicts the structure of a domain of the Vibrio vulnificus hemolysin that binds cell-surface glycans allowing the toxin to attack target cells. The structure was determined using a technique called X-ray crystallography.

Katherine Kaus’s figure, based on an article she co-authored, will appear on the cover of the Sept. 9 Journal of Molecular Biology. The figure depicts the structure of a domain of the Vibrio vulnificus hemolysin that binds cell-surface glycans allowing the toxin to attack target cells. The structure was determined using a technique called X-ray crystallography.

A figure created by Katherine Kaus, graduate student in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department, was selected to run as the featured cover graphic in the Sept. 9 Journal of Molecular Biology.

The graphic is related to her article, titled “Glycan Specificity of the Vibrio vulnificus Hemolysin Lectin Outlines Evolutionary History of Membrane Targeting by a Toxin Family,” which was published in the journal on July 29. It is co-authored by Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and researchers at the University of Connecticut. The abstract appears online here.

Vibrio vulnificus is an emerging human pathogen that causes severe food poisoning and opportunistic infections with a mortality rate exceeding 50 percent.

The aquatic pathogen secretes a pore-forming toxin (PFT) called V. vulnificus hemolysin (VVH) which form transmembrane channels in cellular membranes. “Determining the mechanism for how PFTs bind membranes is important in understanding their role in disease and for developing possible ways to block their action,” Kaus explained in the paper’s abstract. Sequence analysis in light of the authors structural and functional data suggests that V. vulnificus hemolysin may represent an earlier step in the evolution of Vibrio PFTs.

Arulanantham Honored with Chambliss Medal at American Astronomical Society Meeting

Astronomy graduate student Nicole Arulanantham received the Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society.

Astronomy graduate student Nicole Arulanantham received the Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society.

Nicole Arulanantham, who is entering her second year as a graduate student in the Astronomy MA program, was awarded a Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society at its June 3 meeting in Boston. The awards are given to recognize exemplary research by a student presenting a poster paper at an AAS meeting.

Arulanantham worked on the study with her advisor, Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, chair of the Astronomy Department, and Ann Marie Cody of the California Institute of Technology. It involved analysis of data obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Read more about the study online here.

Astronomy major Ben Tweed ’13 also presented a paper at the AAS meeting and reported results of his study of the local interstellar medium using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. His advisor is Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, and the work was done in collaboration with astronomers at the Universities of Warwick and Kiel, as well as University College London. Read more about the study online here.

Blümel, Nam Published in Physical Review A

Reinhold Blümel, the Charlotte Augusta Ayres Professor of Physics, and physics graduate student Yunseong Nam are the co-authors of “Robustness of the quantum Fourier transform with respect to static gate defects,” published in Physical Review A, Issue 89, in April 2014.

The quantum Fourier transform (QFT) is one of the most widely used quantum algorithms, ranging from its primary role in finding the periodicity hidden in a quantum state to its use in constructing a quantum adder.

Kopac, Herbst, Martinez MA ’13 Attend Space Telescope Science Institute Symposium

Biology Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac was invited to speak at the 2014 Spring Symposium of the Space Telescope Science Institute on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, M.D. on April 29. Kopac spoke on “Specialization of Bacillus in the Geochemcially Challenged Environment of Death Valley.” Watch a video of her 20 minute presentation online here.

Kopac’s talk was part of a four-day interdisciplinary meeting titled “Habitable Worlds Across Time and Space” featuring speakers from around the world working in such diverse fields as biology, geology and astronomy. The focus of the seminar was on identifying places within our Solar System and Galaxy where we can most profitably search for life beyond the Earth.

Astronomy major Raquel Martinez, MA ’13 and William Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, director of graduate studies, also attended the conference.

Both Kopac and Martinez were active active participants in Wesleyan’s Planetary Science Group seminars and activities. Kopac’s advisor is Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. Martinez’s advisor was Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy.

Biology Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac speaks at the the Space Telescope Science Institute's Spring Symposium.

Biology Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac speaks at the the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Spring Symposium.

Raquel Martiniz MA '13 poses with her research poster and conference organizer John Debes. Raquel is currently working in NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center and has been accepted to the Ph.D. program at the University of Texas where she will begin studies in the fall.

Raquel Martiniz MA ’13 poses with her research poster and conference organizer John Debes. Raquel is currently working in NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center and has been accepted to the Ph.D. program at the University of Texas where she will begin studies in the fall.