Tag Archive for student research

Research Shared at Summer Poster Session

More than 120 undergraduate research fellows shared their summer and ongoing research during the Wesleyan Summer Research Poster Session held July 27 in Exley Science Center.

“This really is wonderful that all these students are on campus this summer and that they are here, sharing their research,” said faculty advisor Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics. “It’s really incredible.”

Photos of the poster session are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Amber Storey ’18 presented her research titled “How Does Polymer Structure Affect Fragility?” Her advisor is Francis Starr, professor of physics, professor of integrative sciences, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Amber Storey ’18 presented her physics research titled “How Does Polymer Structure Affect Fragility?” Her advisor is Francis Starr, professor of physics, professor of integrative sciences, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Nicole Dallar ’18 presented her study titled “Forest fragmentation reduces host plant quality for dietary specialist but not generalist.” Dallas’s advisor is Michael Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. Nicole Dallar ’18 presented her study titled “Forest fragmentation reduces host plant quality for dietary specialist but not generalist.” Dallas’s advisor is Michael Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Nicole Dallar ’18 presented her biology study titled “Forest fragmentation reduces host plant quality for dietary specialist but not generalist.” Dallar’s advisor is Michael Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Will Levinson ’19 shared his quantitative analysis study on “Discrimination Charges and the Labor Market.” His advisor is Karl Boulware, assistant professor of economics.

Will Levinson ’19 shared his quantitative analysis study on “Discrimination Charges and the Labor Market.” His advisor is Karl Boulware, assistant professor of economics.

At left, Kaila Scott 19 and Leslie Maldonado ’19 (center, in pink shirt) shared their psychology study titled “Power of Play 2: The Doll Study.” Their advisor is Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology.

At left, Kaila Scott 19 and Leslie Maldonado ’19 (center, in pink shirt) shared their psychology study titled “Can multi-ethnic dolls reduce children’s pro-white bias?” Their advisor is Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology.

Tess Counts ’18 shared her quantitative analysis study titled “Outsider Candidates Inside Congress: An Analysis of Campaign Rhetoric and Legislative.” Her advisor is Logan Dancey, assistant professor of government.

Tess Counts ’18 shared her quantitative analysis study titled “Outsider Candidates Inside Congress: An Analysis of Campaign Rhetoric and Legislative.” Her advisor is Logan Dancey, assistant professor of government.

Megha Khandelwal presented her physics research titled “Optimization of Monofunctionalized QD for Studying Endonuclease Activity.” Her advisor is Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

Lab assistant Megha Khandelwal presented her physics research titled “Optimization of Monofunctionalized QD for Studying Endonuclease Activity.” Her advisor is Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

Sylwia Lipior ’18 speaks to Joe Knee, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, about her biology research titled “Neuroligin2 overexpression in the hippocampus enhances inhibitory synapses and alters social behavior and navigational memory.” Lipior’s advisor is Janice Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Sylwia Lipior ’18 speaks to Joe Knee, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, about her biology research titled “Neuroligin2 overexpression in the hippocampus enhances inhibitory synapses and alters social behavior and navigational memory.” Lipior’s advisor is Janice Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

At left, Dylan Jones ’19 and graduate student Will Setzer shared their physics research on “Ionization Nature of Tri-state Rydberg H2 Molecules.” Their advisor is Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics.

At left, Dylan Jones ’19 and graduate student Will Setzer shared their physics research on “Ionization Nature of Tri-state Rydberg H2 Molecules.” Their advisor is Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics.

Graduate Liberal Studies student Anika Dane spoke at the poster session about her study titled “The Association between Depression and Trouble Sleeping.” Dane’s advisor is Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology. Dane also is an administrative assistant in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department.

Graduate Liberal Studies student Anika Dane spoke at the poster session about her study titled “The Association between Depression and Trouble Sleeping.” Dane’s advisor is Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology. Dane also is an administrative assistant in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department.

Research poster presentations were made by students studying astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, math and computer sciences, molecular biology and biochemistry, physics, psychology and quantitative analysis.

Research poster presentations were made by students studying astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, math and computer sciences, molecular biology and biochemistry, physics, psychology and quantitative analysis.

Wesleyan Students Recognized for Scientific Images

This summer, Stephen Devoto, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, launched the inaugural Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest. The contest, which recognizes student-submitted images from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member that are scientifically intriguing as well as aesthetically pleasing, drew 35 submissions from the fields of physics, biology, molecular biology and biochemistry, psychology, earth and environmental science, chemistry and astronomy.

Participants submitted an image along with a brief description written for a broad, scientifically literate audience. The entries were judged based on the quality of the image and the explanation of the underlying science. The first-place prize went to Eliza Carter ’18 from the Earth and Environmental Science Department. Aidan Stone ’17 and Jeremy Auerbach ’17 tied for second places, while Riordan Abrams ’17 won third place. The images were judged by a panel of four faculty members: Devoto; Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, assistant professor of integrative sciences; Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of integrative sciences; and Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

The first-place winner receives a $200 prize; the second-place winner receives $100; and the third-place winner receives $50. Prizes were funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

Devoto was inspired by a similar contest that his daughter won at Haverford College.

“Students at Wesleyan produce extraordinary scientific images, ranging from graphs and computer simulations to microscope and telescope images,” he said. “I wanted students to have fun, to think of their scientific images in an artistic sense. And I thought that the artistic presentations of student scientific images would be a striking testament to the quality and fun of student research here. I hope these will be displayed on campus to highlight the science and the creativity, which thrive at Wesleyan.”

The four winning images are shown below, along with scientific descriptions:

Eliza Carter '18 submitted a scanning electron microscope image of the shell of a radiolarian (a protozoa) found near the top of an Antarctic sediment core from ODP site 697. The radiolarian shell is around 2.7 million years old and is made from silica that was produced by the radiolarian. Studying the percent biogenic silica in a sediment sample is a proxy for primary productivity: the more biosilica you have, the more productive it was.

Eliza Carter ’18 submitted a scanning electron microscope image of the shell of a radiolarian (a protozoa) found near the top of an Antarctic sediment core from ODP site 697. The radiolarian shell is around 2.7 million years old and is made from silica that was produced by the radiolarian. Studying the percent biogenic silica in a sediment sample is a proxy for primary productivity: the more biosilica you have, the more productive it was.

Undergraduates Present Posters at Summer Research Presentation

More than 100 undergraduate research fellows presented their work at the Wesleyan Summer Research Poster Session July 28 in Exley Science Center and the Science Library.

More than 140 undergraduate research fellows presented their work at the Wesleyan Summer Research Poster Session July 28 in Exley Science Center and the Science Library.

Tristan Ang Tze Heng speaks about his study titled “Quantifying the Heterogeneous Dynamics a DPPC and Cholesterol Bilayer. Ang’s advisor is Francis Starr, professor of physics, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Tristan Ang Tze Heng speaks about his study titled “Quantifying the Heterogeneous Dynamics of a DPPC and Cholesterol Bilayer. Ang’s advisor is Francis Starr, professor of physics, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Wesleyan Group Helps Discover First Philistine Cemetery

Assistant professor Kate Birney (pictured in foreground wearing a blue shirt and tan hat) and Joy Feinberg '19 (pictured in back with a long-sleeve shirt) work to unearth skeletons and artifacts buried in a Philistine cemetery.

Assistant professor Kate Birney (pictured in foreground wearing a blue shirt and tan hat) and Joy Feinberg ’19 (pictured in back with a long-sleeve shirt) work to unearth skeletons and artifacts buried in a Philistine cemetery.

Two Wesleyan students, one recent alumna and a faculty member contributed to a groundbreaking discovery of the first Philistine cemetery, a crowning achievement of more than 30 years of excavation in Ashkelon, Israel. Archaeologists and scholars have long searched for the origin of the Philistines, and the discovery of the cemetery is poised to offer the key to this mystery. Findings from the cemetery, dated to the 11th–8th centuries BCE, may well support the claim – long inferred and recorded in the Bible – that the Philistines were migrants to the shores of ancient Israel who arrived from lands to the West around the 12th century BCE.

Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of art history, is the assistant director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon and has been bringing Wesleyan students to the site since 2011 to participate in the research and excavation. The 3,000-year-old site, located in the southern district of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, offers clues to the Philistines’ way of life. Little is known about their origins.

Sarah McCully '16 has worked for the Leon Levy Expedition in Ashkelon for three years.

Sarah McCully ’16 has worked for the Leon Levy Expedition in Ashkelon for three years.

This summer, Joy Feinberg ’19, Jaimie Marvin ’19 and Sarah McCully ’16 worked on the Philistine cemetery. McCully ’16, who came to Ashkelon with Birney years ago, is now a staff member for the Leon Levy Expedition. In addition, Sam Ingbar ’16, Hannah Thompson ’17, Maria Ma ’17 and Sabrina Rueber ’18 are also in Ashkelon this summer working on the excavation of a 7th century merchants’ neighborhood.

Students Catalog Roman Gems during Museum Internship

Margot Metz '18 holds a tiny intaglio gem from the early Roman Empire that appears to be made of carnelian or sard, and depicts an athlete holding a strigil (a tool for scraping oil and sweat from the skin during exercise). Metz, Maria Ma '17 and Emma Graham '19 spent four weeks this summer cataloging about 200 gems during an internship at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. 

Margot Metz ’18 examines a tiny intaglio gem from the early Roman Empire that appears to be made of carnelian or sard, and depicts an athlete holding a strigil (a tool for scraping oil and sweat from the skin during exercise). Metz, Maria Ma ’17 and Emma Graham ’19 spent four weeks this summer cataloging about 200 gems during an internship at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. An intaglio is made by grinding material below the surface of the gem, leaving an inverse image.

During the Roman Empire, the art of gem carving or intaglio provided a way to characterize one’s self, family or acquaintances.

This summer, three Wesleyan students with an interest in classical studies worked with a Roman intaglio collection previously owned by J. Pierpont Morgan (father of J.P. Morgan) at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford.

As interns, Maria Ma ’17, Margot Metz ’18, and Emma Graham ’19 collaborated on documenting and cataloging about 200 intaglio gems, which made the collection accessible to a wider audience of scholars and museum visitors. The gems were hidden from public view for decades.

The student researchers determined this Roman intaglio (at right) pictured Ajax carrying Achilles over his shoulder. An arrow is sticking out from the top of Achilles' foot. By using The Handbook of Engraved Gems by C. W. King, the students were able to find an illustration of a similar gem. "This is how we came to the conclusion that it is Ajax carrying Achilles," Margot Metz said. 

The student researchers determined this Roman intaglio (at right) pictured Ajax carrying Achilles over his shoulder. An arrow is sticking out from the top of Achilles’ foot. By using The Handbook of Engraved Gems by C. W. King, the students were able to find an illustration of a similar gem. “This is how we came to the conclusion that it is Ajax carrying Achilles,” Margot Metz said.

“It’s so exciting that our students had the opportunity to work in the local community and to employ what they know about Greek and Roman antiquity in a partnership with a wonderful museum like the Wadsworth Atheneum,” said Lauren Caldwell, associate professor of classical studies.

Graham, a College of Letters major, felt the internship would perfectly combined her two intellectual passions: classics and art history.

“I have always been interested in how these two areas of study overlap and influence each other,” Graham said. “Also, I have always been a great lover of museums and I was interested in what goes on behind the scenes at a museum.”

The students would frequent the museum three days a week for about six hours a day. During their time, they documented the gems’ measurements, material and imagery.

“The subject matter of the gem determined how long we spent on each one. For example, we were able to identify animals very quickly but other gems, such as badly weathered gems or gems with more complex imagery, took more much time,” Graham said.

In order to determine the symbolic meaning of each gem, the students worked together and consulted intaglio collections online owned by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and The British Museum, as well as a huge collection of imprints of intaglio gems housed at Cornell University.

“We were able to personally work with every gem in the collection, which was truly an amazing experience,” Graham said.

Metz was interested in the internship because she wanted to explore another area of ancient civilization. “It was fascinating being able to apply what I had learned in the classroom at Wesleyan in a practical manner at the museum. We were able to identify generic figures as gods and goddesses, such as Neptune and Ceres, by using the objects they were pictured with in gems and comparing them to stories in mythology,” she said. 

The internship, which concluded June 23, was jointly supervised and organized by Wesleyan faculty and Atheneum staff including Caldwell; Clare Rogan, curator of the Davison Art Center; Linda Roth, the Charles C. and Eleanor Lamont Cunningham Curator of European Decorative Arts; and Johanna Miller, school and teacher programs specialist at the Wadsworth Atheneum. The Watson Squire Fund in the Department of Classical Studies supported the students’ room and board expenses. Students applied and interviewed for the internship through the Atheneum.

“The interns did a great job and their work will be entered into our database and made available to the public through our website,” Roth said. “There already is a small selection on view now in a gallery devoted to Art and Curiosity Cabinets.”

Neuroscience Program Holds Undergraduate Research Symposium, Poster Session

The Neuroscience and Behavior (NSB) Program hosted their third annual undergraduate research symposium April 29 in Daniel Family Commons. Senior thesis writers delivered 10-minute scientific presentations during a dinner with fellow NSB students and faculty. Students also showcased their finest scientific projects during a research poster session, pictured below: (Photos by Ryan Heffernan ’16)

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Psychology Students Share Research at 10th Annual Poster Presentation

Psychology Poster Session, April 28, 2016. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS '08)

Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins, pictured in back row center, gathered with her students during the Psychology Research Poster Presentation. The Wilkins Lab broadly examines prejudice, stereotyping, and the self.

Forty-six thesis and research students presented 36 posters during the Psychology Research Poster Presentation April 28 in Beckham Hall. The 10th annual event allowed the students to share their research and ongoing studies with peers and faculty from the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division.

Photos of the poster presentation are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Psychology Poster Session, April 28, 2016. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS '08)

Psychology Poster Session, April 28, 2016. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS '08)

Science, Mathematics Students Share Their Ongoing Research at Poster Session

On April 14, the final day of WesFest, a select group of Wesleyan students gathered in the Exley Science Center Lobby to share some of their research projects in the natural sciences and mathematics. This relatively small gathering represented only a fraction of the 150 students on campus actively engaged in natural science and mathematics research.

Harim Jung ’16 presented his research done with Cameron Arkin ’17, “Electrophysiological Correlates of Rhythm and Syntax in Music and Language.“ Their faculty advisor is Assistant Professor of Psychology Psyche Loui.

Harim Jung ’16 presented his research done with Cameron Arkin ’17, “Electrophysiological Correlates of Rhythm and Syntax in Music and Language.“ Their faculty advisor is Assistant Professor of Psychology Psyche Loui.

PhD Candidate Obenchain Recipient of Humboldt Research Fellowship

Dan Obenchain,a PhD candidate in chemistry, has been awarded the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship to study microwave spectroscopy in Germany. He's pictured here with his Wesleyan advisor, Stew Novick, professor of chemistry.

Dan Obenchain, a PhD candidate in chemistry, has been awarded the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship to study microwave spectroscopy in Germany. He’s pictured here with his Wesleyan advisor, Stew Novick, professor of chemistry.

A PhD candidate in chemistry will spend two years in Germany working on microwave spectroscopy research.

As a recipient of the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship, Dan Obenchain will continue his studies at the University of Hanover. He will start his fellowship in August 2016 after taking two months of intensive German language classes.

On March 4, Dan Obenchain met with Jens Grabow, a professor from the Institute of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at the University of Hanover. Grabow was visiting Wesleyan to speak at the Department of Chemistry's Colloquium. Obenchain will work with Grawbow for the next two years in Germany.

On March 4, Dan Obenchain met with Jens Grabow, a professor from the Institute of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at the University of Hanover. Grabow was visiting Wesleyan to speak at the Department of Chemistry’s Colloquium. Obenchain will work with Grabow for the next two years in Germany.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation brings young and senior scientists from around the world to Germany to conduct research in many different fields of science.

“Thankfully, working at Wesleyan has given me many great opportunities to publish my work. The faculty of both the chemistry and physics departments have been very supportive throughout my time at Wesleyan,” Obenchain said.

At the University of Hanover, Obenchain will work alongside Jens-Uwe Grabow, a professor from the Institute of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry. Both Obenchain and Grabow are microwave spectroscopists who study the properties of molecules by observing how they rotate. In 2015, Obenchain wrote a research proposal that looks at the interaction of two metals found in bimetallic nano-particles. Nano-particle research is a growing field of materials science, and is helping to make advances in many fields, including fuel cell efficiency and in polymer synthesis.

“Thinking about what we do is similar to thinking about a figure skater spinning in place. The skater will go faster if they bring their arms into their body, and slower if they extend them out. We use the same ideas when molecules rotate to determine their shapes and the type of chemistry they can do,” Obenchain explained.

In addition to having similar research interests, Obenchain and Grabow also design and maintain their own research instruments. Wesleyan’s Machine Shop constructed Obenchain’s microwave spectrometer, which mimics Grabow’s design in Germany.

After graduating from Wesleyan with a PhD in chemistry this May, Dan Obenchain will conduct research in Germany

After graduating from Wesleyan with a PhD in chemistry this May, Dan Obenchain will conduct research in Germany.

“Jens is not only a great scientist, he’s the best at designing and building microwave spectrometers,” Obenchain said. “I am more of a MacGyver when it comes to the instruments, while Jens is more of a Michelangelo. Hopefully, I can gain some of his expertise as one day I’d like to start my own academic research lab.”

Obenchain, who is completing his fifth year at Wesleyan, plans to defend his thesis at the end of the month and graduate in May. In addition to his research in Hanover, Obenchain looks forward to exploring Germany “and experiencing its culture, and hopefully seeing a Bundesliga soccer match at some point.”

After completing his fellowship, Obenchain will join more than 27,000 Humboldt Foundation alumni worldwide – the Humboldtians.

Support Wesleyan Researchers in Crowdfunding Pilot

Four Wesleyan academic departments, from psychology to dance to chemistry to biology, are competing for grant funds through a new crowdfunding site specifically designed for research project fundraising.

experimentExperiment.com’s Challenge Grant for Liberal Arts Colleges asked scientists to define a scientific research question for the crowd with a prize for the project with the most backers. The pilot launched on Feb. 24 and concludes March 25.During this 31-day period, the goal is to reach $4,000 in funding. If so, the team is granted the money. If not, they receive nothing and no one’s pledges are charged. By backing a project, participants will receive updates, results and data from project creators.

Wesleyan research include how the brain prevents risky-decision making/addiction; the effects of using artificial sweeteners; controlling seizures with light; and the effectiveness of somatic mind-body practices on victims of the war.

On Wednesday, March 16 at 11:59 p.m., Experiment will award the project with the most backers $2,000 directly through their project page.

Wesleyan’s projects include:

Seniors Improve Scientific Research Skills with Studies in Hawaii

Students who are enrolled in the E&ES 397/398 Senior Seminar and Senior Field Research Project Capstone spent eight days conducting research in Hawaii. Pictured, the students gather on a lava tree field.

Earth and environmental sciences majors, who are enrolled in the E&ES 398 Senior Field Research Project course, spent eight days conducting research in Hawaii. Pictured, the students gather on a lava tree field.

Off the Kona Coast in Hawaii, massive manta rays glide through the ocean waters feeding on microscopic zooplankton. For more than 50 years, local hotels and tour boat companies artificially illuminated the coast with bright lights to attract plankton, and ultimately manta rays seeking an extra boost of nutrition in the evening hours.

“The manta ray tours use white lights, but we were curious to know if different light wavelengths correlated to changes in plankton abundance and diversity,” said earth and environmental studies senior Rebecca Hanschell.

Robert Ramos '16 observes tropical fish and corals while snorkeling in Kahaluu Beach.

Robert Ramos ’16 observes tropical fish and corals while snorkeling in Kahaluu Beach.

As part of the EE&S 398 Senior Field Research Project course, Hanchsell and 18 of her peers spent Jan. 5-12 in Hawaii working on group research projects. This course is open to all E&ES majors who completed the mandatory course E&ES 397 Senior Seminar during the fall semester.

The goal of 397 is to provide seniors with a seminar-style capstone experience “that explores topics that span multiple subdisciplines of the earth and environmental sciences,” explained Tim Ku, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences. “In addition, students create hypothesis-driven original research projects which are then implemented in 398. We hope the seminar and field research project teaches students how to become independent, professional scientists.”

Hanschell, along with Zachary Calhoun, Alex Fireman and Robert Ramos, worked with a tour boat company to collect samples of seawater exposed to no light, white light, yellow light and red light. After removing water and examining the particulate matter left behind in filters in the SEM microscope, the group discovered that red light treatment had the highest nitrogen concentration and the highest overall number of plankton identified. The control sample collected in pure darkness had the lowest number of identified plankton.

Will Sawyer '16 uses a long “selfie stick” to photograph a top view of lava tree mold on a 1974 lava flow while Dara Mysliwiec '16 and Alex Fireman'16 assist.

Will Sawyer ’16 uses a long “selfie stick” to photograph a top view of lava tree mold on a 1974 lava flow while Dara Mysliwiec ’16 and Alex Fireman’16 assist.

For their senior field research project, Will Sawyer and Lydia Tierney studied a Hawaiian lava tree formed in 1974.