Tag Archive for student achievements

Seniors, BA/MAs Present Thesis Research at NSM Poster Session

Seth Hafferkamp '12 presents his thesis titled, "Autoionization Lifetime Measurements of Na2 Rydberg States" at the "Celebration of Science Theses" April 19 in Exley Science Center. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Fifteen Wesleyan students presented posters on their research in the sciences and mathematics at the seventh annual “Celebration of Science Theses” event held April 19.

“You help keep our sciences here vibrant and alive,” Ishita Mukerji, dean of natural sciences and mathematics, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, tells the students gathered in the lobby of Exley Science Center as she congratulates them. Mukerji says she hopes that after pausing to celebrate their achievements, the students will continue to pursue research for many years to come.

The work presented by seniors and BA/MA students spans a wide range of disciplines.

Micah Wylde ’12 presents his research on “Safe Motion Planning for Autonomous Driving."

For his project, Micah Wylde ’12, a computer science major, developed algorithms for self-driving cars, like the cars reportedly being developed by Google. The algorithms translate high-level navigation goals (eg. Drive from home to the grocery store) into actual turns of the steering wheel. “I was working particularly on safety, which is a big deal when you have one-ton cars hurtling down the road,” he explains.

Wylde says self-driving cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction. “Everything has come together in the last five years—algorithms, sensing technology,” he says. “Now it’s just refining it.”

He adds, “In the next decade, there are going to be autonomous cars on the road—no question.”

Tom Oddo ’12, a Science in Society Program major, studied the work of D. D. Palmer, who founded chiropractics at the turn of the 20th century. Oddo plans to train to be a chiropractor after graduation, and sought to explain the stigma attached to the practice.

Professor, 3 Students to Study, Teach Abroad as Fulbright Fellows

Su Zheng

As a 2012-12 Fulbright recipients, Miriam Berger ’12 will study journalism in Egypt; and Matthew Alexander ’12 and Lynn Heere ’12 will teach English in Germany. Su Zheng, associate professor of music, associate professor of East Asian studies, will study, “China’s Emergent Soundscape: New Music Creativities, Body Politics and the Internet in Defining a Global Chineseness,” in Shanghai, China.

The Fulbright Program is the largest U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide.

Miriam Berger, a College of Social Studies major, will begin her year abroad on June 1, as a fellow at the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad (CASA) in Cairo, Egypt. There, she will study Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Egyptian. After improving her Arabic and cultural literacy skills, she will begin her Fulbright research on how Egyptian print newspapers have responded to the

Students Inducted into French Honor Society, Pi Delta Phi

This year, 11 seniors were inducted into the French National Honor Society, Pi Delta Phi, on April 18. The students were recognized for their outstanding scholarship in the French language and literature. Pictured, from left to right, are inductees Rachel Tretter, Carina Kaufman, Sarah La Rue, Emma Mohney, Kelvin Kofie, Rachel Silton, Meera Suresh, Hahn Le, Alexandra Kinney.

Catherine Poisson, associate professor of romance languages and literatures, led the initiation ceremony. The society seeks to increase Americans' knowledge and appreciation of the cultural contributions of French-speaking countries, and to stimulate and encourage French and francophone cultural activities.

Rachel Tretter , in the foreground, signs the Pi Delta Phi book, making her membership official, while Poisson watches on.

Carina Kaufman, Sarah La Rue, Emma Mohney recite a pledge in French. Members of the society pledge to continue to promote and celebrate the French language and the Francophone culture throughout their life.

In foreground, Alexandra Kinney, and behind, from left, Rachel Silton, Meera Suresh and Hahn Le recite the pledge. (Photos by Charlotte Christopher '12)

English, American Studies Major Ross ’12 Participates in A Cappella Group, Equestrian Team

Grace Ross ’12.

Q&As with outstanding students is an occasional feature of The Wesleyan Connection. This issue we speak with Grace Ross from the Class of 2012.

Q: Grace, you’ll be graduating this May with a double major in English and American Studies. Why did you choose to major in those areas?

A: It was the American Literature survey course I took with Joel Pfister my freshman fall that drew me to English and American Studies. We read Mary Rowlandson’s Indian captivity narrative. Professor Pfister essentially summarized what I had been attempting to argue in A.P. U.S. History and offered analysis far beyond the scope of my high school research paper. I knew then that I wanted to major in both.

Q: You recently attended the Center for America’s Americas Forum on April 20, which focused on “Authenticity in the Americas: Constructions and Contestations of Identity.” (View photos of the event online here). Can you elaborate on what was discussed in this four-hour event?

A: The panel was structured around “authenticity” and how it functions within identity formation, nation building, and oppressive systems in North and South America. The panel was composed of six authors we had read throughout the semester: Daphne Brooks, Rebecca Earle, Ben Irvin, Jeff Pilcher, Scott Lyons and Florence Babb. Our Wesleyan professors (and postdoctoral fellows) Amelia Kiddle and Christian Gonzales, spearheaded the effort to find authors who could participate and mediated the event. It was primarily targeted toward the students, although many faculty were present. I was most excited to talk with Daphne Brooks, as she provided a key perspective in my thesis and I was most familiar with her work. She also teaches English and African-American studies at Princeton.

Q: In 2010, you spent your summer working at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. collecting, documenting, and transcribing surveys and managing all the archival material. Is this something you’d like to do more of?

A: 
Getting to know the Library of Congress was a rewarding experience and showed me a side of D.C. that I wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to. It’s been illuminating to delve into the topic of ethical codes in human subject research. But, I’m really an extrovert. As much as I love working with archival material, I don’t see myself spending too much time in an archive, unless it’s research for a graduate thesis or maybe even a book way down the road.

Q: Tell us more about the student-run a cappella group, the Mixolydians.

A:
 The Mixolydians is an ensemble group that performs choral music. Our final concert this spring includes pieces in French, Russian, English and Latin ranging from the past 300 years.

Q: What other organizations, services or clubs did you take part in during your four years at Wesleyan?

A: 
I rode on the Equestrian Team for three years, which provided a good excuse to get off campus every week and to be around horses. Right now, I’m volunteering for Julia Star, a program that sends Wesleyan students to talk with fifth graders about stereotypes and difference. I also served as a member of the English Department Majors Committee, promoting the major to pre-frosh and underclassmen.

Q: What are you going to miss most about Wesleyan, and what are your post-Wesleyan plans?

A:
 I think I’m going to miss the people here most. Everyone you meet on this campus has a passion and has something to offer the world. Ultimately, the late night conversations, unexpected interactions, and multitude of events, performances, and shows will make me most nostalgic. After completing my thesis, I decided to take this summer off and travel around the world. Beyond that, I plan to move to New York in September with my sights set on the publishing industry.

Lana ’12, Spates ’12 Receive Baden-Württemberg Award to Study in Germany

Lana Lana ’12 and Jessica Spates ’12 received a Baden-Württemberg–Connecticut Exchange Grant for a one-year study in Germany.

The Baden-Württemberg Exchange Program offers students an opportunity to earn college credits in one of Germany’s top nine universities. Students spend the academic year at the university they choose.

The Baden-Württemberg Exchange originated from a legislative partnership formed between the State of Connecticut and the German state of Baden-Württemberg in 1989. The agreement invites all students enrolled in four-year colleges and universities in Connecticut to study at any institution of higher learning in Baden-Württemberg. With nine universities from which to choose and a large number of Fachhochschulen (advanced technical colleges) and Kunsthochschulen (art colleges), students of all disciplines can be accommodated.

The Baden-Württemberg Exchange is a reciprocal exchange program. This means that Connecticut students prepay their usual tuition and then trade places with a German student from the Exchange, who has paid their German tuition.

Tratner ’12 to Study Educational Alternatives as Thomas Watson Fellow

Cara Tratner ’12 plays guitar in Algorrobo, Chile, where she studied abroad. Tratner, a sociology major, will travel to Peru, Guatemala, Ghana, Uganda and India as a 2012-13 Thomas J. Watson Fellow.

Cara Tratner ’12 grew up in the dorms of Stanford University where her dad taught English. Immersed in academia from the start, she did not begin to question her educational privilege until her freshman year at Wesleyan.

“As I became aware of the unequal patterns of access to education in the U.S.,” Tratner comments, “I looked back at my own schooling in a different light, starting to think critically about the level of segregation even in my own ‘good’ high school, and the way in which my success as a student was to a certain extent dependent on the failure of so many others.”

After this realization, Tratner began exploring alternative models of education and working with educational organizations seeking to reach those excluded from the type of education she grew up with. She taught in diverse settings ranging from Philadelphia public middle schools to Argentinian high schools to Connecticut prisons.

Yet Tratner shares that her experience in these teaching positions only complicated her understanding, leaving her wondering how and when educational structures actually benefit the communities they serve. “In my teaching experience I struggled to determine whether alternative educational practices were truly built out of the needs of those communities, or whether they functioned more to integrate individuals into a standardized educational paradigm,” she says.

As a 2012-13 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, sociology major Tratner will explore the topic “Overcoming Exclusion: Community-Based Educational Alternatives” in a year-long “wanderjahr.” Tratner is one of only 40 Watson Fellows selected to follow her passion in a self-designed project in countries outside the U.S. The fellowship comes with a $25,000 stipend. “The Watson is a way for me to learn about the work of educators who aim to empower marginalized communities to construct their own education,” she says.

Tratner will begin her wanderjahr in Peru, where 70 percent of Peruvian children who live isolated in Andean mountain communities do not complete more than five years of school. She’ll also explore and compare the work of educators in Guatemala, Ghana, Uganda and India who are developing culturally-relevant education programs for communities that have been left out of the formal education system.

Tratner will examine how cultural context influences the pedagogical methods of the educational response in each region. She’ll explore the diverse ways educators around the world are seeking to solve the problem of educational exclusion.

“The wanderjahr is a perfect opportunity for me to see first-hand the incredible variety of innovative initiatives around the world aiming to create a culturally-relevant education,” she says. “If I can discover how educators are able to empower entire communities to construct their own model of education, I hope that I too will be able to locate myself within a global educational community and work to construct my own path as I step forward into the world of education.”

Chemistry Major Sagi ’14 Receives Goldwater Scholarship for Academic Merit

Goldwater Scholar Andras Sagi studies how different compounds bind to quadruplex DNA. His research may lead to treatments for cancer.

A Wesleyan sophomore is the recipient of a prestigious award from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

Andras Sagi ’14, a chemistry and molecular biology double major, is one of 282 college students from around the country who received a Goldwater Scholarship. Goldwater Scholars are selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,123 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. The $15,000 scholarship will be applied to Sagi’s tuition, fees, books, and room and board over two years.

At Wesleyan, Sagi works with Philip Bolton, professor of chemistry, on localizing the binding of different ligands to quadruplex DNA, which may lay a foundation for cancer treatments.

“Quadruplexes are of considerable therapeutic interest because induction or stabilization of quadruplex formation in cells has been shown to cause cancer cell senescence and death,” Sagi explains. “Moreover, quadruplexes have a protein-like structural diversity, allowing for the development of drugs highly specific to particular quadruplex structures. Thus, pharmaceuticals capable of targeting certain quadruplexes may be of significant interest as treatments for cancer.”

Sagi is interested in determining where and how different compounds bind to quadruplex structures.

“If we can understand the locations of binding of various compounds to particular quadruplex structures, then we can help scientists design drugs capable of achieving similarly strong binding,” he says.

After graduating from Wesleyan, Sagi intends to pursue a doctorate in chemistry “at the best institution in my field  of biophysical chemistry I can receive acceptance to,” he says. “From this point on, I will seek employment either in academia or with the government, with the intention of becoming an established scientist at a national laboratory or institute.”

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on Nov. 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Since its first award in 1989, the Foundation has bestowed over 6,200 scholarships worth approximately $39 million.

 

28 Juniors Awarded Davenport Study Grants

The John E. Andrus Center for Public Affairs recently announced its 2012 Davenport Study Grant recipients. Twenty-eight juniors will receive funding to support research and scholarly projects in public affairs, beginning this summer. Grants typically range from $500 to $3,000.

The funds are made available to current sophomores and juniors thanks to a gift from the Surdna Foundation in honor of Frederick Morgan Davenport, Class of 1889, and Edith Jefferson Andrus Davenport, Class of 1897. Recipients are chosen based on “demonstrated intellectual and moral excellence and a concern for public affairs.” They must show promise for leadership in public service through their personal qualities and scholarly and vocational intentions.

This year’s recipients represent majors in the College of Social Studies, History, Sociology, Government, Latin American Studies, Science in Society, American Studies and Anthropology, Religion, Dance, French Studies and Neuroscience & Behavior.

The grant recipients and their project titles are:

Zain Alam ’13, Dreams and Disappointment: India’s Muslims, the Muhajir, and the Making of Pakistan

Dahlia Azran ’13, Memorials of the Holocaust: A Comparative Study of the planning process of Holocaust Memorials in the United States, Israel, Germany and China

Corey Guilmette ’13 Honored for Investor Responsibility Committee Efforts

Corey Guilmette '13, who is studying abroad in Spain this semester, is interested in socially responsible investments. He is double-majoring in government and psychology.

Q&As with outstanding students is an occasional feature of The Wesleyan Connection. This issue we speak with Corey Guilmette from the Class of 2013.

Q: Corey, you’re the 2012 recipient of the Peter Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Award for being chair of the Wesleyan Committee for Investor Responsibility. Tell us about that committee.

A: It has become increasingly evident in the wake of the financial crisis that the current investment system favors blind short-term gains and not long-term results that more often help people and the planet. The Committee for Investor Responsibility seeks to encourage investments that benefit society as opposed to investments that are harmful to people and the environment. For example, last semester we developed a proposal to have Wesleyan move some of its money from larger, national banks into local banks that help empower low-income communities.

Q:  What got you interested in investments?

A: During my freshman year of college I heard about socially responsible investment and was very excited about the great amount of good responsible investment could do. Wesleyan’s endowment is approximately $600 million, which means that its investment decisions can have a big impact, whether it is as a shareholder advocating for greater environmental responsibility or choosing investments that help disadvantaged communities.

Q:  What classes (or professors) at Wesleyan have been most instrumental to you, so far?

A: It’s tough to pick just one class or professor, but last semester I had the opportunity to take Environmental Politics and Democratization

Chin ’13 Attends Clinton Global Initiative, Seeks to Make Wesleyan Greener

Shamar Chin ’13

From March 30-April 1, Shamar Chin ’13 joined nearly 1,200 other students at a meeting in Washington, D.C. of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U).

According to the Clinton Global Initiative’s website, CGI U, launched by former President Bill Clinton in 2007, “challenges students and universities to tackle global problems with practical, innovative solutions.” CGI U hosts an annual meeting for students, national youth organizations and university officials to discuss solutions to pressing global issues.

Prior to attending the meeting, each student must develop and submit a Commitment to Action: a specific plan to address an important challenge on his or her campus or in the global community.

For her commitment, Chin is seeking to convert Wesleyan’s lawn mowers to produce fewer environmentally harmful emissions.

“At the meeting, I had the chance to network with many students from across the globe and learn about their commitments,” says Chin. “I had the opportunity to attend working sessions in my area of interest—environment and climate change—where we discussed the importance of campus sustainability and environmental entrepreneurship. The plenary sessions were inspiring and made me realize that failure comes with innovation, but we should embrace it rather than give up.”

Chin is majoring in Earth & Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. “I have always wanted to start a green initiative in my community,” she says. Over winter break this year, her thesis advisor, Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, associate professor of environmental studies, director of the Service Learning Center, urged her to apply to the Clinton Global Initiative.

O’Connell calls Chin a “self-starter.” She was impressed that Chin, after working with middle school girls at the Green Street Arts Center last summer, had taken the initiative to start her own environmental afterschool program for girls.

Chin is still gathering the necessary approvals for her CGI U commitment, which she has called “Go Green-Go Wes.” She aims to meet her goals before she graduates next spring.

“I firmly believe that global warming is linked to the emission of greenhouse gases, and this was the foundation for my Commitment to Action,” Chin explains. “Wesleyan University has signed the New England Governors/ Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan, which requires greenhouse gases associated with energy production to be reduced to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. I proposed raising funds to purchase two electric lawn tractors. However, Wesleyan does not own their own lawn equipment, so I have reworked my commitment to raise funds to purchase catalytic converters for our lawn tractors.”

“Participating in this program has been such a blessing and one of the best experiences of my life. I met incredible people, heard amazing ideas and I left feeling very inspired. I am positive that we as students can enact change,” Chin says. She encourages her fellow students to apply to the Clinton Global Initiative in the future.