Students and Faculty Receive NASA Connecticut Space Consortium Grants

Editorial StaffApril 19, 20235min

Five Wesleyan University faculty and students were announced as recipients of grants from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium.

“I would say that these awards are a wonderful example of the broad range of research areas and activities that occur at Wesleyan. We are lucky to have such exciting research, active faculty, and motivated students, and Wesleyan always does very well. I am grateful that these NASA CT Space Grant funds enable wonderful activities here at Wesleyan,” said Seth Redfield, professor of astronomy.

Candice Etson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a Faculty STEM Education Research Grant for her project Supporting Spatial Thinking to Improve Physics Learning. Meng-ju Renee Sher, assistant professor of physics, received a Faculty STEM Education Programming Grant for the Wesleyan Girls in Science Summer Camp.

Three students were recognized. Guy Bennevat Haninovich ’23 received a Graduate Research Fellowship for his project Mapping Macroblooms: Investigating the drivers of Sargassum invasion in the Caribbean. Alaina Einsig received a grant to travel to the MMT Observatory and Kyle McGregor ’24 received an undergraduate scholarship.

Faculty STEM Education Programming Grant

Meng-ju Sher
Wesleyan University
Wesleyan Girls in Science Summer Camp

Female faculty members from Wesleyan’s natural science and mathematics, in partnership with Middletown Public Schools, run a one-week “Girls in Science Summer Camp” for underserved elementary school girls from Middletown, CT, and surrounding communities. The camp is designed to reveal to 32 girls, 9-12 years old, the science that surrounds them in their daily lives, while also giving them exposure to (1) scientific concepts and vocabulary, (2) equipment and experiments, and (3) female scientist role models, including both faculty and female Wesleyan science students. Campers explore science topics ranging from neural activity, renewable energy, to biochemistry through hands-on activities and science-inspired art projects.

Faculty STEM Education Research Grant

Candice Etson
Wesleyan University
Supporting Spatial Thinking to Improve Physics Learning

The goal is to help build the diverse and skilled workforce the nation needs by removing barriers to student success in introductory physics. She aims to do this by developing online tutorials that use computer simulations students can manipulate and explore on screen to help them learn about the behavior and relationships between electric and magnetic fields. Preliminary data suggests this approach can benefit all students, but especially women, with weaker spatial reasoning skills more than tutorials without simulations. As additional tutorials are piloted, they expect to learn more about the factors that impact how students learn physics.

Graduate Research

Guy Bennevat Haninovich ‘23
Wesleyan University
Mapping Macroblooms: Investigating the drivers of Sargassum invasion in the Caribbean

Influxes of pelagic Sargassum Natans and Sargassum Fluitans, beginning in 2011, has created a new Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt (GASB) that is being influenced by a multicontinental set of drivers. The GASB has had catastrophic effects on coastal livelihoods and aquatic ecosystems. The purpose of this research is to develop a spectral library spanning multiple species and clones of algae and a procedure for spectral analysis of surficial macroalgae mats. This work will provide context for the spatial distribution of algae mats in relation to their driving forces.