Tag Archive for student achievements

Cantwell ’22: Liberals Are Anxious About COVID-19 And They Social Distance More

cantwell poster

Ori Cantwell ’22 presented his research poster during the Convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference on Feb. 13. Cantwell’s study found that liberals were more anxious than conservatives, partially explaining why liberals socially distanced more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ori Cantwell '22

Ori Cantwell ’22

Do political views and anxiety play a functional role in combating COVID-19?

According to a recent study by Ori Cantwell ’22, the answer is yes.

Cantwell, a psychology major, presented his recent study “Yes We (Anxiously) Can: Liberal Ideology and Anxiety Predict Social Distancing during the COVID-19 Pandemic” during the virtual 22nd Annual Convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference, held Feb. 9–13.

“We found that in a sample of over 10,000 American adults, anxiety partially mediated the relationship between liberal ideology and social distancing,” Cantwell explained. “Liberals were more anxious than conservatives, and people were most likely to want to social distance if they were more anxious.”

Cantwell began working on this research in March 2020 with his advisor, Kostadin Kushlev of the Digital Health and Happiness Lab at Georgetown University. They were introduced through Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexis May ’05.

“We don’t think that there’s a plus side to anxiety disorders, but these findings suggest that anxiety could have played a role in how people adapted to the threat of COVID-19 by social distancing.”

To create a social distancing index, Cantwell explored data collected by the Pew Research Center. Between March 19 and 24 more than 10,000 participants were asked, whether, during the pandemic, they’d be comfortable visiting a friend/family member’s house; eating out in a restaurant; attending a crowded party; going out to the grocery store; and going to a polling place to vote.

The average participant was comfortable doing 3.29 out of 5 activities, Cantwell noted.

In November 2020, Cantwell and Kushlev co-authored a pre-print titled “Anxiety Talking: Does Anxiety Predict Sharing Information about COVID-19?” This spring, they’ll continue their research on the topics of misinformation, infodemics, political ideology, anxiety, and social distancing.

Cantwell also is a recipient of the Psychology Department’s Feldman Family Fund grant, which supported his conference registration.

4 Seniors Receive NASA Undergraduate Research Fellowship Awards

space grantsFour members of the Class of 2021 are recipients of NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium awards.

Kimberly Paragas ’21, Ben Martinez ’21, Molly Watstein ’21, and Mason Tea ’21 each received a $5,000 Undergraduate Research Fellowship for their ongoing research. They’re among only seven students statewide to receive the honor.

“I have never seen an institution be so successful at these very competitive grants, and was so proud and impressed by the student applicants,” said Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy.

Paragras is working with Redfield on her project titled “Gas Giant Atmospheric Mass Loss.” According to the abstract, “Atmospheric mass loss is one of two aspects that influence the evolution of planets, making it essential for understanding their origin. The helium 1083 nm line offers insight into the atmospheric escape of close-in exoplanets, which significantly sculpts their population. This project aims to detect excess helium absorption in the atmosphere of the gas giant HAT-P-18b and estimate its present-day mass loss rate by using transit observations taken with an ultra-narrow band filter. The outcome of this project will provide valuable data for constraining mechanisms of mass loss, as helium outflows have only been detected in 5–6 planets to date.”

Martinez ’21 is working with Ed Moran, chair and professor of astronomy, on a project titled “An Unbiased Survey of Black Hole Activity in the Local Universe.” According to the abstract, “Cosmological simulations have shown that the fraction of low-mass galaxies in today’s universe that contain a nuclear black hole is directly related to the mechanism by which massive black hole seeds formed in the early universe. We have obtained optical emission-line measurements for an unbiased sample of local galaxies using a variety of instruments and will separate the objects into four distinct activity classes. We must remove continuum features from our spectra via the process of starlight subtraction, and examine X-ray and near-IR source catalogs for additional evidence of black-hole accretion to create a comprehensive picture of black hole activity in the nearby universe.”

Watstein ’21 also is working with Moran on a project titled “New Insights into AGN Unification from NuSTAR Observations of Nearby Seyfert 2 Galaxies.” According to the abstract, “Recent X-ray studies have reported a correlation between accretion rate and the presence of a hidden broad-line region in obscured active galactic nuclei (AGNs), suggesting that a substantial revision of the unified model for AGNs is needed. These investigations, however, were based on soft X-ray data, which are unreliable for determining intrinsic luminosities and accretion rates in such objects. Using NuSTAR data in the hard 3-80 keV band, I will determine the intrinsic X-ray luminosities of a large sample of obscured AGNs that have sensitive Keck spectropolarimetry observations, which will afford a definitive test of the accretion-rate hypothesis.”

Tea ’21 is working with Roy Kilgard, associate professor of the practice in astronomy, on a project titled “Analysis, Characterization and Variability of Local, Accreting X-ray Binaries with Archival Chandra Observations.” According to the abstract, “Compact objects are often found in binary systems, emitting X-ray radiation from plasma in their accretion disks as they siphon material from a donor star. Observations of these X-ray binaries (XRBs) in nearby galaxies provide the best opportunity to study the gravitational effects of compact objects on their environment and the high-energy physics powering their emission. In performing a detailed spectral and temporal analysis of the roughly 80 brightest X-ray sources within 15 Mpc, I hope to assess their spectral state and variability in order to more accurately constrain the parameter space and local population of XRBs and black hole binaries (BHBs).”

The NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) is a federally mandated grant, internship, and scholarship program that is funded as a part of NASA education. NASA CTSGC was formed in 1991 in an effort to encourage broader participation in NASA research programs.

Tan ’20 Honored by Geological Society of America for Poster Presentation

GSAOn Nov. 23, the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) Geobiology and Geomicrobiology Division awarded earth and environmental sciences graduate student Yu Kai Tan ’20 with a student presentation award.

Tan presented his poster, “Freshwater Mussels in North America: Museum Collections and Pre-Industrial Biogeography,” on Oct. 29 during the GSA’s annual (virtual) meeting. Andy (Dick Yee) Tan ’21 collaborated with Tan ’20 on the poster. Their advisors are Ann Burke, professor of biology, and Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History, and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences.

Judges commended Tan’s poster for being “beautifully organized” and having a “terrific use of time and space.” They also noted that “the digitalization and processing of these collections is incredibly important to maintaining them and making them accessible for future research,” and the work “plays a vital role in understanding past and present biodiversity.”

poster

(click to enlarge)

Wickham ’21 Awarded Rhodes Scholarship for Post-Graduate Study

Fitzroy "Pablo" Wickham is the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham is the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham ’21 has been named the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest, and one of the most prestigious, international scholarship programs in the world. Each year, it provides about 100 fully-funded scholarships to students around the world for post-graduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. According to the website, the “Rhodes Selection Committees are looking for young people of outstanding intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service.”

At Wesleyan, Wickham is a double major in theater and neuroscience and behavior. At the University of Oxford under the Rhodes Scholarship, he plans to pursue an MPhil and DPhil in neuroscience. Later, he plans to attend medical school and ultimately hopes to establish his own neuroscience research laboratory and practice in Jamaica.

Wickham’s selection as the Jamaica Rhodes Scholar was announced by Jamaica’s Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, on Nov. 22.

Wickham grew up in a single-parent household in the Jamaican countryside, on the northern part of the island in the parish of St. Ann. He and his sister were raised by their mother, Florence Wickham, a high school mathematics teacher. Wickham notes that St. Ann is birthplace to such acclaimed talent as world-renowned musician Bob Marley; political activist Marcus Garvey; and father of the U.S. Vice President-elect, Donald Harris (Kamala Harris reportedly spent her summers there), yet “remains very underdeveloped and rural, boasting a rich agricultural history.”

After completing fifth and sixth grade in North Carolina, Wickham longed to return to the United States for college. He chose to attend a small liberal arts school given his interest in both neuroscience and theater, and said Wesleyan’s generous financial aid package made it possible for him to afford college in the U.S.

3 Students Win Scientific Imaging Contest

Images depicting star collisions, atom movement in yeast ribosomes, and herbaceous plant root scans were the winning entries of the 2020 Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest.

The Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest, held annually in August, recognizes student-submitted images—from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member—that are scientifically intriguing, as well as aesthetically pleasing. The contest is organized by the College of Integrative Sciences as part of the summer research program.

The winners included Osama Elgabori ’22, Carol Dalgarno ’21, and Jolie Villegas ’21. Elgabori’s advisor is Brian Stewart, professor of physics; Dalgarno’s advisor is Michael Weir, professor of biology; and Villegas’ advisor is Sonia Sultan, professor of biology.

Students Present Research Projects during Virtual Summer Poster Session

boone

Tyler Boone ’21 shared his poster titled “Probing the Effects of YTA7 on Genetic Silencing in S. cerevisiae” during the virtual Summer 2020 Research Poster Session.

On June 30, Wesleyan hosted a virtual Summer 2020 Research Poster Session to celebrate the accomplishments of more than 150 student researchers.

To emulate the excitement and camaraderie of the live poster session, students hosted their own individual presentations on Zoom and answered questions live.

Examples of student research projects are below:

tyler boone

Tyler Boone ’21

Tyler Boone ’21 shared his poster titled “Probing the Effects of YTA7 on Genetic Silencing in S. cerevisiae.” Boone is double majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry and biology with a minor in chemistry. In order to better understand how the structure of chromatin, a complex of DNA and protein found in eukaryotic cells, affects gene silencing specifically, Boone studied the gene YTA7 in a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Boone’s advisor is Scott Holmes, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Sydney Lodge '21

Sydney Lodge ’21

Sydney Lodge ’21, who is double majoring in psychology and African American studies with a concentration in cultural psychology, presented “An Analysis of the Impact of History and Sociological Factors on the Future of Affordable Housing.” Her project offers various perspectives on the past, present, and future of affordable housing in Texas and California and explores the attitudes of women of color who advocate for affordable housing and whose work centers around anti-gentrification and anti-displacement efforts. Her advisor was H. Shellae Versey, a former assistant professor of psychology.

2 Students of Color Receive Tokita Prize for Literature

Jade Tate '22 and Jake Kwon '21

Jake Kwon ’21, top, and Jade Tate ’22 are recipients of the Shu Tokita Memorial Prize.

Jake Kwon ’21 and Jade Tate ’22 are the recipients of the 2020 Shu Tokita Memorial Prize, which is awarded annually to a student of color majoring in literature or language with a focus on literature, who demonstrates financial need.

The award, which comes with a $1,500 prize, was established 20 years ago by the friends and relatives of Shu Tokita ’84, who passed away in 1989 from leukemia. He had received a BA in English literature from Wesleyan and an MA in Japanese literature from Tsukuba University. The prize seeks to reflect Tokita’s interest in literature and is focused on supporting students of color, for whom the study of literature, Tokita’s family and friends felt, is often considered a “luxury.”

Applicants may be affiliated with the following departments: English, College of Letters, other language/literature departments, or related studies in East Asian studies concentrating on Chinese or Japanese literature.

Tate and Kwon received the prize during a virtual awards ceremony on June 30. The selection is based on the submitted 750-word essay and on financial need, and not on academic standing.

Kwon, a biology and English double major, had a lifelong struggle with literature as a person of color. POC voices, he says, were undermined in the American education system.

Ngodup ’20, Joshi ’20, Khun ’20 Inducted Into ASBMB Honor Society

For demonstrating exceptional achievement in academics, undergraduate research, and science outreach, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology inducted Tenzin Ngodup ’20, Meera Joshi ’20, and Charya Khun ’20 into the ASBMB Honor Society, ΧΩΛ.

ΧΩΛ recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors pursuing degrees in the molecular life sciences at colleges or universities. To be eligible, undergraduate nominees must be members of an ASBMB student chapter, and maintain a minimum of a 3.4 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

Nominations may be submitted by either a faculty ASBMB member or by the student member.

Ngodup, Joshi, and Khun are among only 56 students from around the country who were inducted into the honor society in 2020. All three are members of the Mukerji Lab, which is managed by Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

The Mukerji Lab research uses spectroscopic tools to investigate challenging problems in biology by exploring the structure-function relationship of biomolecules.

81 Students from the Class of 2020 Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

phi beta kappa

Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society is the ninth oldest chapter in the country.

Eighty-one seniors have been elected into Wesleyan University’s Gamma Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society during the 2020 spring semester.

They join 15 other seniors elected during the 2019 fall semester.

To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. The student also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations and must have achieved a GPA of 93 or above.

The emblem contains the three Greek letters “Phi,” “Beta,” and “Kappa,” which are the initials of the Greek motto, Philosophia Biou Kybernetes, or “the love of wisdom is the guide of life.”

The 2020 inductees include:

Kate Awalt-Conley, Inayah Bashir, Kiara Chanel Benn, Maya Bernstein-Schalet, Kisanet Bezabih, Julia Boland, Erica Buckingham, Jonathan Canfield, Chelsea Cantos, Jules Matthew Chabot, Edward Chapman, Ruth Chartoff, Yin-Tung Chen, Andrew Daggon, Lillian Davis, Lucy de Lotbiniere, Maya Roth Donovan, Sarafina Fabris-Green, Gabriella Feder, Stephen Ferruolo, Andrew Fleming, Luke Forsthoefel, Nathaniel Gillman, Naomi Glascock, and Julia Glassman.

McNair Fellows Present Research at Diversity in STEM Conference

SACNAS

Elizaveta “Liz” Atalig ’21 and Ekram Towsif ’21 won 2019 SACNAS conference presentation awards for their respective fields of research.

Two Wesleyan McNair Fellows recently participated in the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country.

From Oct. 31–Nov. 2, Elizaveta “Liz” Atalig ’21 and Ekram Towsif ’21 joined more than 4,000 peers at the 2019 SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) conference in Hawaii. For more than 45 years, SACNAS has served as an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanics & Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership within STEM.

Attendees of the three-day conference are immersed in cutting-edge scientific research and professional development sessions, motivational keynote speakers, a career expo, multicultural celebrations, and an inclusive and welcoming community of peers, mentors, and role models.

In addition, both Atalig and Towsif received Outstanding Research Presentation awards in their respective disciplines.

“This is the first time McNair fully funded Fellows to participate in the SACNAS conference, so we’re very proud of Ekram and Liz for maximizing their conference experience and conducting their award-winning poster presentations,” said Ronnie Hendrix, associate director of the Wesleyan McNair Program.

Wesleyan Places 1st in National Cybersecurity Competition

CSAW

Cher Qin ’21, Shuyuan Hung ’21, John Jiang ’21, and Kevin Koech ’21 took first place in a recent cybersecurity policy competition.

A team from Wesleyan took first place in the 2019 CSAW Policy Competition, the most comprehensive security competition in the world.

Hosted by the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and NYU School of Law Center for Cybersecurity on Nov. 6–8, the U.S.-Canada policy competition challenged contestants to think about the big picture of cybersecurity policy, economics, law, and governance. The purpose of the competition is to encourage students who are interested in the nexus of policy and emerging technology issues to think critically about major policy issues affecting society and to impact the cyber industry by presenting their ideas to leaders within the field.

Wesleyan’s team included College of Social Studies (CSS) and quantitative analysis center (QAC) major Cher Qin ’21; CSS and economics major Shuyuan Hung ’21; CSS and physics major John Jiang ’21; and computer science and economics major Kevin Koech ’21.

The team took home a $1,000 prize for the first-place win. Teams from the United States Naval Academy took the second and third prizes.

“We did not expect that [we], coming out of a liberal arts university, would win, but having diverse backgrounds helped,” Hung said.

Read more about the competition in this QAC student blog.