Tag Archive for IDEAS

Thomas Co-Authors 5 Studies on Oceanic Environmental Stress

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, is the co-author of five scientific papers.

All are part of the output of international collaborations of which her Wesleyan-based research was a part, funded by the National Science Foundation over the last three years.

“All the studies look at different aspects of the behavior of microscopic organisms in the oceans under past environmental stress, whether caused by the impact of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, or past episodes of global warming or cooling, and at the effect of different rates of environmental change on these life forms,” she said. “We then use these past effects to look into potential effects of future global warming on these oceanic organisms and oceanic ecosystems in general.”

The papers are:

Photosymbiosis in planktonic foraminifera across the Palaeocene Eocene Thermal Maximum,” published in the March 2021 issue of Paleobiology.

Bentho-pelagic Decoupling: The Marine Biological Carbon Pump During Eocene Hyperthermals,” published in the March 2021 issue of Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology.

Updating a Paleogene magnetobiochronogical timescale through graphical interpretation,” published in the January 2021 issue of MethodsX.

Turnover and stability in the deep sea: benthic foraminifera as tracers of Paleogene global change,” published in the November 2020 issue of Global and Planetary Change.

In addition, her paper “Benthic foraminiferal turnover across the Dan-C2 event in the eastern South Atlantic Ocean (ODP Site 1262),” is forthcoming in the June 2021 issue of Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

Thomas Honored for Excellence in Foraminiferal Research

ellen thomas

Ellen Thomas

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, is the recipient of the 2020 Joseph A. Cushman Award for Excellence in Foraminiferal Research.

At Wesleyan, Thomas investigates oceanic benthic foraminifera (eukaryotic unicellular organisms) as proxies for the impact of changes in environment and climate on living organisms on various time scales. This fall, she’s teaching the courses Research Frontiers in the Sciences and Mass Extinctions in the Oceans.

Brian Huber, president of the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research noted that the Cushman Foundation Board of Directors agreed that Thomas “richly deserve[s] being honored for [her] voluminous and highly impactful contributions to foraminiferal research and the broader disciplines of paleoceanography, paleoclimatology and environmental science. [Her] influence as a mentor and educator and [her] leadership and selfless public service contributions to the international research community are also considered outstanding.”

Thomas received the award during the virtual Geological Society of American Meeting last fall.

Faculty, Alumni, Students Publish Books, Journal Articles

Several faculty have recently authored or co-authored books, book chapters, and articles that appear in prestigious academic journals.

BOOKS AND BOOK CHAPTERS

books

Eric Charry, professor of music, is the author of A New and Concise History of Rock and R&B through the Early 1990s (Wesleyan University Press, 2020).

Robert “Bo” Conn, professor of Spanish, is the author of Bolívar’s Afterlife in the Americas: Biography, Ideology, and the Public Sphere (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).

Anthony Ryan Hatch, associate professor of science in society, is the author of three book chapters:
“The Artificial Pancreas in Cyborg Bodies,” published in The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of the Body and Embodiment (Oxford University Press, 2020.) Sonya Sternlieb ’18 and Julia Gordon ’18 are co-authors.

“Against Diabetic Numerology in a Black Body, or Why I Cannot Live by the Numbers,” published in Body Battlegrounds: Transgressions, Tensions, and Transformations (Vanderbilt University Press, 2019).

“Food Sovereignty and Wellness in Urban African American Communities,” published in Well-Being as a Multi-Dimensional Concept: Understanding Connections between Culture, Community, and Health (Lexington Books, 2019). Deja Knight ’18 is a co-author.

James McGuire, professor of government, is the author of Democracy and Population Health (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

JOURNAL ARTICLES 
Three Wesleyan faculty, three recent alumni, and one undergraduate collaborated on an interdisciplinary study titled “A Ribosome Interaction Surface Sensitive to mRNA GCN Periodicity,” published in the journal Biomolecules, June 2020.

The co-authors include Michael Weir, professor of biology; Danny Krizanc, Edward Burr Van Vleck Professor of Computer Science; and Kelly Thayer, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences; William Barr ’18 MA ’19; Kristen Scopino ’19; Elliot Williams ’18, MA ’19; and Abdelrahman Elsayed ’21.

Barr and Williams worked on the project as a part of their BA/MA program.

Anthony Ryan Hatch is the author of three journal articles:
Du Boisian Propaganda, Foucauldian Genealogy, and Antiracism in STS Research,” published in Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, 2020.

Sugar Ecologies: Their Metabolic and Racial Effects,” published in 22 Food, Culture, and Society, 2019. Sonya Sternlieb ’18 and Julia Gordon ’18 are co-authors.

Two Meditations in Coronatime,” published by the Section on Science, Knowledge, and Technology of the American Sociological Association, May 2020.

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, is featured in the article “Guns, Germs, and Public History: A Conversation with Jennifer Tucker,” published by the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, July 2020.

Margot Weiss, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of American studies, is the author of “Intimate Encounters: Queer Entanglements in Ethnographic Fieldwork,” published in Anthropological Quarterly, Volume 93, June 2020, and “Hope and Despair in the Queer Nonprofit Industrial Complex,” published in the GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Volume 26, April 2020.

Wickham ’21 Speaks on the Black Student Experience in STEM

posterAs the Black Lives Matter movement continues to shine a light on the Black experience in America, one Wesleyan student is doing his part to foster better understanding for students of color in STEM fields.

On July 2, Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham ’21 participated in a panel discussion on “Black Lives Matter and Neuroscience: Why This Moment Matters.” The event, hosted by the Society for Neuroscience and moderated by Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, provided a forum to discuss hurdles faced by Black students and faculty in STEM and ways to enhance recruitment, mentoring, and retention in STEM fields.

Wickham, a neuroscience and theater double major, is the Class of 2021 president and a College of Integrative Sciences summer research student. A native of Jamaica, Wickham prefaced his comments by acknowledging that as a West Indian Black his experience does not necessarily reflect the full breadth of experiences had by African American students in science. But for his part, Wickham hopes that in sharing his perspective as a neuroscience undergraduate, he can help move the conversation forward in terms of “how we can make the field more inclusive and equitable” and in particular to voice some of the challenges Black students encounter when navigating STEM.

Prehistoric Marine Lizard Exhibited Permanently in Olin Library

Mosasaur

On June 22, crews installed a Mosasaur exhibit in Olin Library. Pictured, from left, are Joel LaBella, facility manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Yu Kai Tan ’20; Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences and Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History; Annie Burke, chair and professor of biology; Andrew White, Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian; and Jessie Steele, library assistant. Pictured in front kneeling is Andy Tan ’21.

As part of the University’s efforts to “activate campus,” a third prehistoric creature has taken up residence at Wesleyan.

The new Mosasaur exhibit is on permanent display inside Olin Library and is a collaboration of faculty, student, and staff efforts.

Mosasaurus hoffmannii Mantell (Mosasaur), a marine lizard, lived in the oceans during the Late Cretaceous period (66 to 68 million years ago) when the last dinosaurs walked the Earth. Mosasaurs had long, snake-like bodies with paddle-like limbs and flattened tails. Some specimens grew to be more than 50 feet long.

In 1871, chemist Orange Judd of the Wesleyan Class of 1847 donated the Mosasaur cast to the University, where it was prominently displayed for years at the University’s Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences. In 1957, the museum closed and thousands of artifacts, including the Mosasaur, were haphazardly stuffed into crates and boxes and stored in random locations throughout campus. For 60 years, the cast remained in its crate, first in the tunnels below Foss Hill, then tucked in the Exley Science Center penthouse, from where it was exhumed by Wesleyan staff and students in 2017.

Wesleyan Labs Create, Donate Face Shields to Local Hospital

visor

Shawn Lopez, Wesleyan’s IDEAS Lab coordinator, models a face shield he created using the lab’s 3D printer. Lopez spearheaded the mask production at Wesleyan two weeks ago and has already donated 100 to Middlesex Hospital.

To help medical personnel safeguard themselves during the coronavirus outbreak, two makerspace labs on campus are manufacturing much-needed protective masks using 3D printers.

On April 1, Wesleyan donated its first set of 100 face shields to medical personnel at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, and others to Wesleyan staff who must work on campus to support the remaining students. The mask, which offers a barrier from the spray of liquids, can be used with or without additional medical masks that cover the nose and mouth.

visors

The face visor frames are printed on 3D printers, and the plastic shield locks onto the small nubs. The completed product protects the entire face.

“Our 3D printers have been running at full speed,” said Francis Starr, professor of physics and IDEAS (Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences) program coordinator.

Shawn Lopez, the IDEAS Lab coordinator, initiated the project at Wesleyan after “weighing the potential benefits (vast) against the potential harm (nonexistent).”

“Designs for hand-sewn masks and 3D-printed visors were making the rounds on makerspace blogs and websites. It was clear that we could jump in and make a difference here at Wesleyan,” Lopez said. “As the coordinator of the lab, I understood that it was within my purview to undertake a project of this nature.”

Taylor Named a “Top 35 Woman in Higher Education” by Diverse

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, is honored for being among the “Top 35 Women in Higher Education” in the March 20 issue of Diverse.

Taylor joined the Wesleyan faculty in 2007 and teaches courses in the areas of organic chemistry, biochemistry, environmental chemistry, and bio-medicinal chemistry, among others.

She’s also associate professor, environmental studies, and associate professor, integrative sciences, and takes a multidisciplinary approach to investigating problems at the biological chemistry interface.

Diverse acknowledged Taylor for “striv(ing) to find ways to exploit enzymes found in nature to perform reactions that can help advance the fields of chemistry and medicine.” Her research group has included over 75 students to date, spanning high schoolers to PhD students, with women and other underrepresented students comprising more than three-quarters of her lab members.

Thomas Co-Authors 5 New Publications

Thomas

Ellen Thomas

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, is the co-author of five new publications. They include:

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.

Thomas: Carbon Impact—Not Volcanism—Key in Driving the Cretaceous Mass Extinction

Thomas

Ellen Thomas

(By Kayleigh Schweiker ’22)

As scientific study regarding the mass extinction of marine life during the Cretaceous era has progressed, theories including extraterrestrial impact and intense volcanism have surfaced. However, a recent study co-authored by Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, suggests that carbon impact—not volcanism—was key in driving the Cretaceous mass extinction.

In a paper titled “Rapid ocean acidification and protracted Earth system recovery followed the end-Cretaceous Chicxulub impact,” which was published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Thomas and her colleagues discuss how increases in ocean acidity played a driving force in the mass extinction of marine organisms. This mass extinction, labeled the “Crustaceous-Palogene die-off,” or the K-Pg event, led approximately 75% of plant and animal life on Earth to extinction. Though scientists have suggested that the presence of sulphuric acid proceeding the crash may have caused ocean pH levels to drop, Thomas and her team’s research on this topic reveals a different possibility.

New IDEAS Lab Offers State-of-the-Art Digital Fabrication Tools

 Assistant Professor of the Practice Daniel MollerIDEAS clasroom

Daniel Moller, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences, is teaching Introduction to Design and Engineering inside the new IDEAS Lab this fall semester.

Equipped with 3-D printers, water-jet and laser cutters, computer-operated milling machines, and high-tech drills, saws, and workstations, Wesleyan’s new IDEAS Lab is on the “cutting edge” of digital fabrication.

Wesleyan’s new ProtoMAX water-jet cutter created this butterfly out of aluminum in 18 minutes.

This fall, the College of Integrative Sciences opened the adjoined classroom and makerspace in Room 40 of Exley Science Center. While it is currently used by students in the IDEAS (Integrated Design, Engineering & Applied Science) program, by spring 2020 the space should be open to the entire Wesleyan community.

“The space is the heart of our efforts to provide students with a facility to explore their ideas and create new projects,” said Francis Starr, IDEAS coordinator and professor of physics.

The IDEAS program prepares students to succeed at the intersection of design, the arts, and engineering. Students hone skills in identifying which scientific and engineering principles need to be understood to achieve design goals, and use computer-aided design (CAD) software and fabrication tools in the lab to create a solution for their design. Students also develop foundational knowledge in design and engineering by working in collaborative groups on project-based studies.

While much of the new lab equipment was purchased by the University, lighting solutions company OSRAM, based in Beverly, Mass., donated dozens of fabrication tools and parts to Wesleyan this summer. The lab’s professional-grade 3-D printer, computer numerical control router, and vortex dust collector were part of the donation, which collectively are valued at approximately $500,000.

“The donated items allow us to offer students access to a number of tools that they would otherwise not get a chance to experience,” said Professor of Physics Brian Stewart, who spearheaded the OSRAM donation. “We’re also moving closer to establishing an advanced lab in the Physics Department, so the donated vibration-free laser tables, hardware, and electronic equipment will serve as the nucleus of this exciting new departmental project.”

Learn more about IDEAS in this Wesleyan Magazine article. Follow the Wesleyan IDEAS Lab on Instagram.

Photos of the IDEAS Lab are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Lopez shows off a vacuum forming tool, which is used to form plastic around a mold and create a permanent object. At left is a 3-D printer.

Shawn Lopez, College of Integrative Sciences makerspace coordinator, displays an object created by the IDEAS Lab’s vacuum forming machine, pictured at right. The tool heats and forms plastic around a mold and creates a permanent object. At left is a 3-D printer that “prints” a three-dimensional object based on a computer design.

IDEAS

Francis Starr speaks to Brian Stewart about a large 3-D printer that was donated by OSRAM. This machine can print objects with exceptionally high resolution in a wide variety of materials.

Lopez demonstrates how a laser cuts an object out of wood.

Lopez demonstrates how a laser cuts an object out of wood.

The 75-watt engraver uses a CO2 laser, pulsing at 2,500 cycles per second, to cut into a sheet of wood.

The lab’s water-jet cutter slices through flat sheets of metal, tile, stone, and plastic using 30,000 psi of water and garnet abrasive material.

The IDEAS Lab milling machine uses various drill bits to cut and carve 3-D objects from solid materials such as metal, wood or plastic.

The multi-axis computer numerical control router, or milling machine, uses various drill bits, as well as a 4th axis lathe attachment, to cut and carve 3-D objects from solid materials such as metal, wood, or plastic. After programming the paths using appropriate software, the process is almost entirely automated. “Most of our CNC machines are really designed for cutting material in two dimensions,” Lopez said. “What if you want to actually carve a piece of metal in three different dimensions? This mill is the kind of device that can actually do that.”

OSRAM donated multiple laboratory oscilloscopes, which are used to display and analyze the waveform of electronic signals. Three have already been installed in the Exotic Wave Lab managed by Fred Ellis, professor of physics. “Numerous research groups have already benefited through the acquisition of individual pieces of equipment: oscilloscopes, digital delay generators, and other hardware have satisfied needs or increased capabilities in most of the department’s experimental laboratories,” Stewart said. “This is particularly welcome as our ability to accommodate additional undergraduate students into our research labs is often limited by the availability of equipment for new or exploratory projects.”

In addition to digital fabrication machinery, OSRAM donated thousands of pieces of optical equipment to Wesleyan.

The IDEAS Lab is located on the ground floor of Exley Science Center.

The Next New Things: Presenting Final Projects in IDEAS 170

In December, the students of IDEAS 170: Introduction to Design and Engineering presented inventions of their own design. These final group projects are possibly the next new life hacks everyone will crave: a projector that doesn’t rely on electricity (great for watching movies when the power is out), a chair that folds flat (packs easily and saves space), or a dorm room light that mimics the sun (helps set your sleep/wake cycle naturally).

Additionally, one group of Wesleyan students collaborated with students from Renbrook School in West Hartford. Betsy Flynn, Lower School Learning Specialist at Renbrook, explained: “The Renbrook students brought their accessible playscape design to Wesleyan and pitched their idea to the class on the same day that other project ideas were pitched. Then the Wesleyan team came to Renbrook with several elements of their inclusive playground to get feedback from Renbrook students. They spent an hour together getting to know each other and had a spirited discussion of what each had in mind in their designs.”

On the day the final projects were presented, the Wesleyan students set about creating a one-inch scale prototype of the playscape, inviting their younger collaborators to visit the University to see how their initial ideas had taken physical (albeit miniature) form.

The two IDEAS sections of the fall 2018 semester, taught by Professor of Physics Greg Voth and Assistant Professor of the Practice in Integrative Sciences Daniel Moller, offered 32 students the opportunity to work collaboratively on project-based studies at the intersection of design, the arts, and engineering. The course, part of a new interdisciplinary minor, the Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS) program, is hosted and administered by the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS).

Wesleyan (issue 3, 2018) featured the course in its cover article, Putting the Art in Smart Design, following the students through the first half of the course as they worked on individual devices that would hop after a timing mechanism released. A video, “The Big Hopper Reveal,” illustrated their design and engineering work at the semester’s midpoint. The photos and video below, taken at the end of the fall 2018 semester, show the group inventions. (Remember: You saw them here first). (Photos by Cynthia Rockwell)

Trevor Devanny ’20, Joe Clayton ’20, Liam Murray ’20, and Mauricio Bailleres ’21 ready their go-cart, complete with fully functional steering mechanism, for its outdoor trial run.

Professor and Chair of the Physics Department Greg Voth examines the steering mechanism for stability.