Tag Archive for student research

While Studying Abroad, Nash ’16 Works with Rare Turtles in Australia

Chloe Nash ‘16 studied the rare Flatback sea turtle while studying abroad in Australia. (Photo by Matt Curnock) 

During her spring semester abroad in Australia, Chloe Nash ‘16 studied the rare Flatback sea turtle. This fall, she’s co-teaching a student forum on marine biology. (Photo by Matt Curnock)

#THISISWHY

Chloe Nash ‘16, a double major in biology and environmental studies, contributed to groundbreaking research on the mysterious Flatback sea turtle — a species with only two photographs in the wild, both of the same individual turtle. While studying abroad in Australia last spring, Nash volunteered at James Cook University for a project that involved raising 30 flatbacks from hatchlings and attaching GPS devices to their shells.

The turtles were released in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and seven are being tracked by satellite. This research is the first time Flatbacks, only found in Australia, have been monitored underwater.

The turtles were released in the Great Barrier Reef once they were deemed strong enough to survive on their own.

The turtles were released in the Great Barrier Reef once they were deemed strong enough to survive on their own.

“I was with them everyday essentially for four months, so they became like my children,” Nash said.

Nash worked as a volunteer, feeding them and cleaning their tanks. Over time, she learned to give them medication and teach them how to dive, which involved luring the turtles down with a food-carrying stick. Once the turtles reached 300 grams, they were strong enough to hold the satellite tags. The research sought to learn more about the Flatbacks’ lives in between hatching and nesting adults— a blank space in the marine biology field.

“One of my favorites named Ali got ill, and we thought he was going to pass away,” Nash said. “But we persevered and he persevered and I ended up getting to release him, which was really great. It was really crazy, just watching him grow.”

Kutlu ’16 Receives ASBMB Undergraduate Research Award

Selin Kutlu '16

Selin Kutlu ’16

Selin Kutlu ’16 recently received the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) undergraduate research award for her work in DNA mismatch repair. ASBMB’s mission is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through the publication of scientific and educational journals, the organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, and promoting the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce.

Faculty, Students, Alumna Co-Author Paper on Skeletal Myogenesis in Zebrafish

Stephen Devoto, professor of neuroscience and behavior; Rosemary Doris, visiting assistant professor of biology; Ph.D. candidate Steffie Windner; and neuroscience and behavior major Chantal Ferguson ’13 are the co-authors of a paper that is the culmination of three years of research. The paper, titled “Tbx6, Mesp-b and Ripply1 Regulate the Onset of Skeletal Myogenesis in Zebrafish” is published in the March 2015 edition of Development, Vol. 142, No. 6, pages 1,159-1,168. The paper is a collaboration between Wesleyan, Kings College London and the National Institute for Medical Research (MRC).

Devoto highlights the importance of the paper:

The paper identifies three new regulators of muscle development, using research with genetically modified zebrafish. It shows that these three proteins form a network that regulate each other. These three proteins and the genes that encode them also regulate the most basic vertebrate features – the body segments that will form the vertebrae and ribs. Thus, the paper demonstrates a genetic linkage between segmentation and muscle development.

The paper’s abstract can be found here.

Steinberg ’16 Studies Effects of Artificial Feeders on Hummingbird Diversity, Interactions in Costa Rica

Hannah Steinberg '16 studied hummingbirds in Monteverde, Costa Rica  through the School for Field Studies.

Hannah Steinberg ’16 studied hummingbirds in Monteverde, Costa Rica through the School for Field Studies.

#THISISWHY
In this Q&A, we speak with Hannah Steinberg from the Class of 2016.

Q: Hannah, you studied abroad through the School for Field Studies’ (SFS) Costa Rica program in Spring 2014. Why did you choose this program and why did you decide to conduct research during your study abroad experience?

A: I chose SFS Costa Rica because I wanted to go to Latin America to improve my Spanish skills and get practical hands-on experience in biological science. Another cool part of the program was that it was situated on a sustainable orange and mango farm in central Costa Rica, but also took us on field trips around the country, and even to Nicaragua for a week.

Q: You were one of six students to receive SFS’s Distinguished Student Research Award this month. Please tell us about your research project, “Effect of Artificial Feeders on Hummingbird Diversity and Level of Interactions in Monteverde, Costa Rica.”

A: My research project was part of an ongoing study of the ecology of hummingbirds

Students Travel to Puerto Rico to Develop Research Skills

The group photo of the earth and environmental science team.  The group travelled to Puerto Rico in January to develop their research skills.

Twenty-one students, two faculty and one guest traveled to Puerto Rico in January. Students honed their research skills while on the chain of islands.

This semester, 21 senior earth and environmental science majors in the Senior Field Research Project (EES 398) course traveled to Puerto Rico to develop their research, data collection, analytical and presentation skills.

Students gathered samples in a bat cave while wading through inches of bat guano.

Students gathered samples in a bat cave while wading through inches of bat guano.

As part of the EES Department’s capstone course sequence, students are required to participate in a series of student-designed research projects. From Jan. 12-19, students performed independent research in the field.

“The overarching spirit is to have students participate in the full arc of a research project: from the design all the way to the presentation of the results,” said Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, associate professor of environmental studies. Royer has co-taught the class three times, this year with Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, faculty director of the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

GIS Service Learning Class Shares Field Research, Projects with Community

As part of the GIS Service Learning Laboratory course, Katy Hardt '15 researched the wetlands, waterways and critical habitats of the northwest section of Middletown. Hardt and fellow group members John Murchison '16 and Catherine Reilly '15 presented their findings to the Middlesex Land Trust.

As part of the GIS Service Learning Laboratory course, Katy Hardt ’15 researched the wetlands, waterways and critical habitats of the northwest section of Middletown. Hardt and fellow group members John Murchison ’16 and Catherine Reilly ’15 presented their findings to the Middlesex Land Trust.

Five groups of students enrolled in the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Service Learning Laboratory course E&ES 324 spent their semester helping local organizations learn more about land parcels in the City of Middletown.

On Dec. 1, the students presented their research to fellow students, faculty, staff, community members and community partners.

Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, taught the class.

Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, taught the class.

Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, taught the class, which included included lessons on geographic information systems (GIS) concepts and spatial data analysis and visualization.

“GIS are powerful tools for organizing, analyzing and displaying spatial data,” Diver explained. “GIS has applications in a wide variety of fields including the natural sciences, public policy, business, humanities or any field that uses spatially distributed information. In this class, students worked to solve local problems in environmental sciences.”

The students worked closely with community partners from the Middlesex Land Trust, Middletown Conservation Commission, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and others to design a GIS, collect and analyze data, and

Mathematics Ph.D. Student Haensch Receives Mass Media Fellowship

Anna Haensch is one of two mathematicians selected for the prestigious Mass Media Fellowship this year.

Anna Haensch is one of two mathematicians selected for the prestigious Mass Media Fellowship this year.

When Anna Haensch tells new acquaintances that she’s a mathematician, many people immediately recoil.

“There’s this repellent nature to math,” she said. “There’s this big wall up around it—people find it terrifying or uninteresting.”

That’s exactly why Haensch, a Ph.D. student who just successfully defended her dissertation, wants to learn how to communicate better to the general public about math. She is the recipient of a Mass Media Fellowship, administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Haensch’s fellowship is sponsored by the American Mathematical Society (AMS). The 10-week summer program, which starts June 3, places graduate and post-graduate level science, engineering and mathematics students at media organizations around the country, where they develop skills to translate their work to the public. Haensch will be stationed at the NPR Science Desk in Washington, D.C.

She was one of two mathematicians selected for the prestigious fellowship this year. Thirteen fellowship recipients in other scientific fields will be stationed at media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, NOVA, Scientific American, and WIRED.

Haensch, who earned her undergraduate degree at the State University of New York at New Paltz, has been at Wesleyan for the past six years, working on number theory under Professor of Mathematics Wai Kui Chan.

“I plug integers into polynomials and see what integers I get out,” she explained. “This is a question that’s really easy to ask, but it’s very hard to get our hands on the solution. Over the last several hundred years, this has been a question people have been very interested in.”

After passing her qualifying exams at Wesleyan, Haensch began teaching courses in pre-calculus

New Radio Telescope to Benefit Astronomy Research

A new telescope at Van Vleck Observatory saw its first light on May 1. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by staff and students of the Astronomy Department and the Science Machine Shop.

Astronomy students and faculty celebrated the completion of a new small radio telescope (SRT) on May 1 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. This is Wesleyan’s first radio telescope, joining three optical telescopes housed at the Van Vleck Observatory on Foss Hill.

Radio telescopes are highly complementary to optical telescopes. Able to see through cloud cover, they are not limited by weather. Also, in a "radio sky," the remnants of exploding stars and distant supermassive black holes shine brightly.

Radio telescopes are highly complementary to optical telescopes. Able to see through cloud cover, they are not limited by weather. Also, in a “radio sky,” the remnants of exploding stars and distant supermassive black holes shine brightly.

Going forward it will allow Wesleyan students to detect more remote radio sources, map galactic rotation and conduct other kinds of astronomical research. It will be an essential tool in the university’s astronomy courses.

This fall, the SRT will allow Wesleyan students and faculty to detect remote radio sources, map galactic rotation and conduct other kinds of astronomical research. It will be an essential tool in the university’s astronomy courses.

Astronomy students and faculty celebrated the new small radio telescope (SRT) on May 1 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The SRT has a motorized arm that can position the dish to face any part of the sky. Quasars, pulsars, and the afterglow of the Big Bang have all been discoveries of radio astronomy.

The SRT has a motorized arm that can position the dish to face any part of the sky. Quasars, pulsars, and the afterglow of the Big Bang have all been discoveries of radio astronomy.

Students enrolled in Assistant Professor Meredith Hughes' Radio Astronomy Class created the functional radio telescope in one semester. They followed design specifications for a small radio telescope developed by Alan Rogers at MIT’s Haystack Observatory.

Students enrolled in Assistant Professor Meredith Hughes’ Radio Astronomy Class created the functional radio telescope in one semester. They followed design specifications for a small radio telescope developed by Alan Rogers at MIT’s Haystack Observatory. Wesleyan is the first university to assemble a SRT from upgraded system plans published by Haystack.

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, divided her class into three teams, each of which was responsible for a different part of the telescope. Each team would work separately, acquiring and assembling the components for its part of the telescope.

Hughes, pictured directing the satellite through a computer, divided her class into three teams. Each team was responsible for acquiring and assembling the components for different sections of the telescope.

Of the 10 astronomers who have received Nobel prizes in astronomy, six used radio telescopes in their research.

Of the 10 astronomers who have received Nobel prizes in astronomy, six used radio telescopes in their research.

Classmates, with the help of Astronomy Department faculty, used the new device to detect the sun.

Classmates, with the help of Astronomy Department faculty, used the new device to detect the sun during a “First Light” celebration.

Astronomy Students Present Research at KNAC Meeting

Seven Wesleyan undergraduates spoke during the annual Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium meeting held at Middlebury College on Sept. 22. They presented the results from their summer research projects.

Seven Wesleyan undergraduates spoke during the annual Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium meeting. They presented the results from their summer research projects.

Seven Wesleyan undergraduates presented research at the annual Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium meeting held at Middlebury College on Sept. 22.

Astronomy major Mark Popinchalk '13 presents his research.

Astronomy major Mark Popinchalk ’13 presents his research.

Pictured above, from left, are: Eric Edelman ’13, astronomy major, who worked with Professor Jay Pasachoff at Williams College; Miche Aaron ’14, earth and environmental studies major, who worked with Associate Professor Martha Gilmore of Wesleyan;  Mark Popinchalk ’13, astronomy major, who worked with Professor Debra Elmegreen of Vassar College; James Dottin ’13, earth and environmental studies major, who worked with Research Associate Professor James Greenwood of Wesleyan; Ben Tweed ’13, astronomy major, who worked with Assistant Professor Seth Redfield of Wesleyan; Kerry Klemmer ’13, astronomy major,  who worked with Professor Kim McLeod of Wellesley College; Lily Zucker ’14, astronomy major, who worked with Professor Tom Balonek of Colgate.

In addition to presenting research talks, the students also wrote research papers that have been published in the 2012 Proceedings of the Undergraduate Research Symposium of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium. KNAC is sponsored by a National Science Foundation/Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant at Wesleyan.

 

Summer McNair Scholars Study Water on Mars, Toxins, Black Political Activists

McNair scholar Lavontria Aaron '14 studied "Mars Brine Mineralogy" this summer. Her research was sponsored by the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

McNair scholar Lavontria Aaron ’14 studied “Mars Brine Mineralogy” this summer. Her research was sponsored by the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

By looking at high-resolution images captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists are able to see gullies, which are argued to be geologically recent. Because they are most likely formed by water, it is believed that they can answer the question of whether or not there is still “active” water on Mars.

As a summer Wesleyan McNair scholar, astronomy major Lavontria Aaron ’14 used a hyperspectral instrument to determine if the gullies contained minerals (salts) which would be left behind by water brines.

“By examining the spectrum of the brines, we’ll be able to learn more about Mars’ history and possibly man’s future in pursuit of exploring the red planet,” says Aaron, who worked on the project with her faculty advisor Marty Gilmore, chair and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Aaron and her 13 McNair peers are supported by the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which serves students in their second, third, and fourth college semesters. It provides career-oriented activities,

Sediment Geochemistry, Children’s Linguistic Studies at Summer Research Poster Session

Students majoring in earth and environmental sciences, biology, molecular biology and biochemistry, chemistry, physics, psychology, environmental health, safety and sustainability presented their summer-long research projects during the Wesleyan Summer Research Poster Session Aug. 2 in Exley Science Center. Quantitative Analysis Center summer fellows, Hughes fellows, and McNair scholars also presented their research. Photos of the event are below (Photos by Olivia Drake):

Psychology major Yan Pui “Angela” Lo ’14 presented “The Role of Linguistic Context in Children’s Acquisition of Number Words.” Her advisor is Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology.

Chemistry major Sarah Hensiek ’13 discussed her research on “Comparative Studies of Transition Metal Complexes of Polyacetate Tetraaza Macrocycles.” Her advisor is T. David Westmoreland, associate professor of chemistry.

Raymond Wong ’14 spoke about his summer-long research on “Are Wealthier States More Successful than Poorer States?: The Impact of Income Packaging on States’ Child Poverty Rates. Wong’s advisor was Wendy Rayack, associate professor of economics, tutor in the College of Social Studies. Wong completed his research through the Quantitative Analysis Center.

Ellen Lesser ’15 presented a poster titled “Estimation Bias in Numerical and Non-Numerical Spatial Tasks in 9- and 10- Year Olds and Adults.” Her advisors are Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, and postdoctoral fellow Emily Slusser.

Molecular biology and biochemistry and chemistry major Laura Nocka ’13 speaks to Francis Starr, associate professor of physics, about her research on “Structure and Function of Holliday Junctions Complexed with Ions and HU Protein. Her advisors are Ishita Mukerji, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and David Beveridge, the Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, professor of chemistry.

David Shor ’13 presented “Impact of Exposure to Party Mentions in Political Ads and Local News on Ability to Identify Candidates’ Political Party.” His advisor is Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government. Shor completed his research through the Quantitative Analysis Center and Wesleyan Media Project.

Earth and environmental science major Ariela Knight ’13 presented “Sediment Geochemistry and Laminations of Ballston Lake, N.Y.” Her advisor is Tim Ku, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences. Pictured at right is Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Fellows Explore Black History in School Curricula, Deglaciation, Schooling in Nicaragua, More

Elsa Hardy '14 presents her Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship research on July 26.

Elsa Hardy ’14 presents her Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship research on July 26. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Last summer, Elsa Hardy ’14 worked for a youth enrichment program in New York City. Several of the children came from the Frederick Douglass Academy, a middle school in Harlem where 75 percent of the students are black.

“I asked the students who went there, ‘Do you know who Frederick Douglass was?’ None of them did. They had no idea,” Hardy recalls. “I was shocked to learn that the students didn’t know who the namesake of their school was.”

Hardy, who is majoring in African American studies and Hispanic literatures and cultures, became curious as to why the average middle school student received such a diluted black history lesson in the classroom. As a 2012 participant in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship summer session, Hardy launched a research project on “Middle School U.S. History Curricula, Black National Identity, and Academic Performance.”

“If U.S. history curriculum covers black history minimally, or not at all, what effect does this have on the ways in which black students understand their place in our nation’s history or in contemporary American society,” she asks.

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program is a highly selective mentoring program that prepares students of color and others committed to overcoming racial and ethnic disparities in education for graduate study and careers as university professors in the arts and sciences. Four fellows from Wesleyan and six fellows from Queens College spent six weeks this summer working on their preliminary research. They presented their findings and plans on July 26.

“The summer session is just the beginning of a life-long relationship with these students,” says MMUF coordinator Krishna Winston,