Tag Archive for research

Thomas’s Paper on Foraminifera Published by Academy of Sciences

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas

A paper co-authored by Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2009.

In the article, “Surviving mass extinction by bridging the benthic/planktic divide,” Thomas and her colleagues show a very unexpected observations, i.e. that a species of foraminifera, which lives floating in the surface waters of the Indian Ocean, is genetically the same as a species living on the bottom of the ocean in shallow waters (between tide levels, coast of Kenya) – using DNA analysis.

“We then show, using a sophisticated way of chemical analysis, that it was not just blown there by storms, but formed its shell there in the surface waters,” Thomas explains. “We then interpret these data, and argument that such species that live both on the bottom and floating in surface waters (until now unknown for foraminifera) are much better able to survive the adverse environmental effects at such times as the meteorite impact that resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs.”

The story is written up by the UK counterpart of the National Science Foundation (NERC), which funded the first author of the paper, Kate Darling.

Perkoski ’10 Awarded Terrorism Research Grant

Evan Perkoski ’10 is a recipient of a 2009-10 Undergraduate Research Program grant sponsored by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Perkoski, who is majoring in government, will study “Counterterrorism and ETA in Spain.” His faculty advisor is Erica Chenoweth, assistant professor of government.

Undergraduate Research Program recipients are actively engaged in critical research related to the study of terrorism and responses to terrorism, consistent with the mission of START. Each recipient is paid $3,000 to enhance his/her START research and professional development and receives funds to attend the 2010 START Annual Meeting in College Park, MD.

Hughes Summer Research Program Begins with a Bash

Michael Weir, director of the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, professor of biology, speaks to students at the 21st Hughes Summer Research Program pizza party May 27.

Michael Weir, director of the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, professor of biology, speaks to students at a pizza party that launched the the 21st Hughes Summer Research Program May 27. Weir and Laurel Appel, director of the McNair Program, explained various seminars and workshops available to complement the students' summer-long research efforts.

The gathering allowed the students to meet and mingle with several faculty members including, at left, Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

The gathering allowed the students to meet and mingle with several faculty members including, at left, Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Pizza party attendees included 58 Hughes Fellows, eight McNair Fellows, nine Mellon Fellows, six SCIC Fellows, 11 students supported by other funds, and volunteers who started their 10 week summer research projects.

Pizza party attendees included 58 Hughes Fellows, eight McNair Fellows, nine Mellon Fellows, six SCIC Fellows, 11 students supported by other funds, and volunteers who started their 10 week summer research projects.

Bill Nelligan, director of environmental halth, safety and sustainability, stands by empty pizza boxes from the party. Nelligan taught the fellows about safety issues. (Photos by Laurel Appel)

Bill Nelligan, director of environmental health, safety and sustainability, stands by empty pizza boxes from the party. Nelligan taught the fellows about safety issues in and around the labs. (Photos by Laurel Appel)

Mishara-Blomberger ’11, West ’11 Receive Goldwater Scholarships

From the day Carl T. West ’11 arrived on Wesleyan’s campus, he wanted to study the fundamentals of quantum mechanics.

Although reluctant at first, Tsampikos Kottos, assistant professor of physics, welcomed the eager frosh to his “Complex Quantum Dynamics and Mesoscopic Phenomena” research group.

“To be honest, Carl was a kind of an experiment, for me,” Kottos says. “I usually take sophomores and above at my group, but Carl was so confident on what he wanted, so I decided to involve a freshman in our research. It was a good and decision.”

Carl T. West '11

Carl T. West '11

In the past two years, West wrote an article that was accepted to an international physics journal, presented research to the American Physical Society, and worked out a system dealing with quantum chaos studies with results Kottos had not seen before. And in April, West, along with Jonas Mishara-Blomberger ’11, received a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2009-10 academic year.

The Goldwater Scholarship Award, established by Congress in 1986, is the most prestigious national undergraduate scholarship in mathematics, physics and engineering. Of the 1,097 applicants nominated by faculty members, only 278 students were selected to receive the scholarship.

West, a mathematics, physics and philosophy triple major, and Mishara-Blomberger, a mathematics and physics double major, will each receive a $7,500 scholarship to help cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board for their junior and senior year. They will join Kottos at the Max-Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany this summer.

“It is very exciting for me to receive the Goldwater Fellowship because it is both a great honor and also gives me encouragement to continue pursuing my goals to do research in physics and mathematics,” Mishara-Blomberger says.

Jonas Mishara-Blomberger '11

Jonas Mishara-Blomberger '11

Mishara-Blomberger applied for the Goldwater scholarship while working with Assistant Professor of Physics Greg Voth’s research group on dynamic phenomena of granular gasses. By vibrating a glass chamber filled with 3mm-wide glass spheres, the Voth lab achieved a system of macroscopic particles that have similar properties to a gas.

“Whereas in a gas, you usually cannot acquire data of individual molecules, in our quasi-2-dimensional granular gas we can measure the trajectories of every particle. This direct measurement allows us to calculate variables like pressure, stresses, and viscosity of our system at any given height and time,” Mishara-Blomberger explains.

He will join Kottos’ group this summer to study current relaxation for systems with phase transition (for example how light intensity decays out of a leaking cavity filled with random scatterers).

“It is one of the research lines very close to the same family of problems that Carl and former students have worked on in the past,” Kottos explains. “I am optimistic that Jonas will also come up with a new strong result.”

West will begin a new project, studying how an initial excitation, evolves in time for two systems which are very similar to one-another. This study aims to quantify the sensitivity of dynamics of a complex mesoscopic system to small perturbations. These perturbations are associated with fabrication errors of the mesoscopic device, changes in the environmental temperature etc.

“Here the systems are too big to describe using exact Quantum mechanics, but too small for Newtonian mechanics to work well either. So, these systems allows us to probe fundamental types of questions regarding the agreement of classical and quantum descriptions of chaos,” West explains. “In fact, we are even able to examine the dynamics, that is, how the system changes in time, which is an exceptionally difficult problem.”

In 2008, Goldwater Scholarships went to Noah Biro ’09 a molecular biology and biochemistry and sociology double major, and Alison Ringel ’09, a molecular biology and biochemistry and physics double major.

“This continues the great 2008 success of our Wesleyan undergraduates in the annual competition,” says Reinhold Blumel, the Charlotte Augusta Ayers Professor of Physics, chair of the Physics Department. “Both Jonas and Carl are doing great work in physics, and this, no doubt, attests to Wesleyan’s strength in the sciences and mathematics.”

After Wesleyan, West hopes to pursue a Ph.D in physics and become a research professor; whereas Mishara-Blomberger is planning to attend graduate school for either mathematics or theoretical physics.

“I feel very strongly that my getting this award reflects the strength of Wesleyan’s Physics Department and the amazing commitment we have to undergraduate research,” West says. “What I have been able to do in the past four semesters is totally impossible at most major universities, but here at Wes it is not only doable but encouraged.”

In addition to sharing the Goldwater Scholarship, Mishara-Blomberger and West also received the Johnston Prize in 2008. The prize is awarded to those first-year students or sophomores whose performance in their first two semesters of physics shows exceptional promise.

In April 2009, they  each received the Karl Van Dyke Prize, awarded each year to one or more students either majoring in physical science or having a predominant interest in physical science and technology, and who show outstanding achievement in academic work and a promise of productivity in a professional career. They were nominated by faculty in the Physics Department.

Doucette ’11 Receives Undergraduate Research Award

Christopher Doucette ’11, a molecular biology and biochemistry major, received an undergraduate research award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Undergraduate Affiliate Network is a national organization comprised of university-based chapters dedicated to the advancement of undergraduate research, research-based undergraduate education, and K-12 outreach in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Doucette will receive a research award in the amount of $1,000. The award is to be used for the purchase of research supplies and reagents. He is expected to present his findings and results at the next ASBMB annual meeting.

Doucette works with Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, in her lab.

Hingorani, Biro ’09 Co-Author Article on Metal Toxin

Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, is the co-author of “Mechanism of Cadmium-mediated Inhibition of Msh2-Msh6 Function in DNA Mismatch Repair,” published in Biochemistry, March 25, 2009. Three undergraduates from three countries worked on the project in the Hingorani Lab at Wesleyan. They include Francis Noah Biro ’09; Markus Wieland, an exchange student from University of Konstanz; and Karan Hingorani, Manju Hingorani’s nephew from St. Xaviers College in Mumbai who did volunteer work in the lab. The project focused on how the heavy metal toxin Cadmium (found in cigarette smoke, industrial pollution, batteries, etc.) causes DNA damage and blocks DNA repair, which promotes development of cancer.

Hingorani also co-authored the article “Mechanism of ATP-Driven PCNA Clamp Loading by S. cerevisiae RFC,” published in the Journal of Molecular Biology, March 13, 2009.

de Boer Speaks About Middletown’s Silver Mine in Hartford Courant

Jelle Zelinga de Boer, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus, was cited in April 3 edition of The Hartford Courant. In an article titled ” Remnants Of Old Mine In Middletown Date to Revolutionary Times,” de Boer explains why an abandoned silver mine in Middletown, Conn. played a supporting role in the history of the country’s industrial past.

According to de Boer, the Middletown mine was originally opened to mine lead and was one of only two sites in New England that produced the metal for the Continental Army during the early stages of the Revolutionary War. The operation began in earnest in 1775 when smelting works were built along the river to provide lead for ammunition, including cannonballs. According to the article, records show that the mine produced 15,563 pounds of lead and even helped defeat British Gen. John Burgoyne and 6,000 British troops during the Saratoga Campaign in 1777. The mine was opened periodically over the years after the Revolution, including a stint as a silver mine in the mid-1800s when huge stampers crushed tons of rock laden with silver.

De Boer has a upcoming book titled Stories in Stone: How Geology Influenced Connecticut History and Culture.

Naegele Receives Major Conn. Stem Cell Grant

Janice Naegele, chair and professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, has received a $499,988.00 grant from the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee for her study titled: “Brain Grafts of GABAergic Neuron Precursors Derived from Human and Mouse ES Cells for Treating Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.”

The four-year grant will begin in July 2009, and will support research in laboratories in Wesleyan’s biology department and neuroscience program. The research is directed toward generating inhibitory interneurons that we will transplant into the hippocampus of mice that have temporal lobe epilepsy. The goal of the project is to investigate the potential therapeutic effects of these embryonic stem cell derived neuron grafts for repairing damage to the brain and suppressing seizures.

The award is part of Connecticut’s $100 million Human Embryonic Stem Cell Initiative. Naegele’s co-investigators on this study will include Gloster Aaron, assistant professor of biology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, and Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science in Society, professor of biology.

Singer, Mace ’07 Research Published in Scientific Journals

When parasites attack woolly bear caterpillars, such as this <em> Grammia incorrupta</em>, 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.

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.

Faculty, Students Attend Biophysical Society Meeting

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.”

Willis Honored for Efforts with Buddhist Nuns

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."

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.”

Jan Willis

Jan Willis

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.”