Natalie Robichaud ’14

Kimmell ’82 Named President of the Union of Concerned Scientists

Kenneth Kimmell ’82 will join the Union of Concerned Scientists as president in May. After graduating with a BA from Wesleyan, Kimmell received his JD from UCLA. His decision to become an environmental attorney was prompted by an experience assisting a United State District Court judge on a case in which the government misused science. He was a director and senior attorney at a law firm in Boston before joining the administration of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. As General Counsel of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Kimmell wrote and helped pass five groundbreaking environmental and energy laws. In 2011 he became the head of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the position he will leave to join the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Kenneth Kimmell ’82

Kenneth Kimmell ’82 will join UCS as president in May.

The Union of Concerned Scientists began as a collaboration between faculty and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is now an alliance of more than 400,000 citizens and scientists who “combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.”

“We are pleased and excited to have Ken Kimmell on our team,” said Kathleen Rest, the executive director of the UCS. “He brings a wealth of experience, a deep passion for our issues, and a strong commitment to science-based policy and decision-making. He is a strong, strategic and energetic leader, and we couldn’t be happier with this appointment.”

Kimmell said, “Becoming the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists is the opportunity of a lifetime. UCS is a nationally recognized, mission-oriented group with a stellar staff and the credibility and resources to make a difference on the defining issues of our generation. It’s an honor and a privilege to join such a prestigious organization, and I look forward to working with the UCS board, staff and members to be even more visible and effective in addressing the difficult challenges ahead.”

For more information about the USC, visit their website.


Climate Justice Conference, Long Lane Farm Workdays During Earth Month Celebration

Throughout April, Wesleyan is hosting its second annual Earth Month.

Click this icon to view the "Climate Justice Conference of Solutions" conference poster.

Click this icon to view the “Climate Justice Conference of Solutions” poster.

On April 12, Wesleyan is hosting a “Climate Justice Conference of Solutions” event. Participants will lay out the organizing, technological, and policy solutions to the climate crisis and explore how taking action on climate can improve social justice, create jobs, grow businesses, and enhance national security. Register for the event here.

Other Earth Month events include a Sustainability Career Panel on April 8, Long Lane Farm grand workdays, WILDWes workdays, a Wesleyan Joulebug Competition, an Earth Week Rant with Professor of Physics Brian Stewart, a Mama Earth Fest, a film screening of Victoria Mamas and more.

Earth Month is sponsored by Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office and the College of the Environment.

For more information about these events and others, go to the Earth Month website or see the Earth Month poster below:



Ramezani Ph.D. ’13 Wins Biruni Graduate Student Research Award

Tsampikos Kottos and Hamidreza Ramezani Ph.D. ’13.

Tsampikos Kottos and Hamidreza Ramezani Ph.D. ’13.

Hamidreza (Hamid) Ramezani Ph.D. ’13, recently won the Biruni Graduate Student Research Award. The award aims to promote and recognize outstanding research by a physics graduate student of Iranian heritage who is currently studying in one of the institutions of higher education in the United States, seeking originality, thoroughness, a teamwork spirit and ownership among the candidates. The honor comes with a cash award.

Before graduating with his Ph.D. from Wesleyan in November, Ramezani studied cosmology and gravitational physics while earning his master’s degree at the University of Tehran. He completed his bachelor study in solid state physics at Sahed University.

At Wesleyan, his mentor was Tsampikos Kottos, Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics. Ramezani worked in the Wave Transport in Complex Systems lab and studied ways a macroscopic object is miniaturized. The lab’s objective is “to close the gap between the microscopic and macroscopic worlds and to develop models and theories that will help understand the interplay between quantum mechanics, interactions, and disorder, which dictate the dynamics on the mesoscopic scale.” More information on the lab and its research can be found on this website. Ramezani focused more specifically on the fundamental properties and application of complex optical systems with judicious balanced gain and loss.

Currently, Ramezani is a postdoctoral research assistant under Professor Xiang Zhang at the University of California – Berkeley. His interests are asymmetric transport phenomena in complex electronics, acoustics and photonics systems.

Olatoye ’96 Appointed Chairwoman of NYC Housing Authority

Shola Olatoye ’96

Shola Olatoye ’96

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Shola Olatoye ’96 as chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority. Olatoye’s last position was vice president at Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit organization that advocates affordable housing nationally.

The previous head of the authority was John Rhea ’87. The mayor made the announcement at the Abraham Lincoln Houses in Harlem, a complex of 1,282 apartments in which de Blasio and other Democratic candidates spent a night during the mayoral campaign in order to get a firsthand look at the “moldy walls and broken cabinets” that constitute the disrepair of public housing buildings in New York City.

The New York Times points out that Olatoye faces taking over an authority that covers more than 400,000 residents “as the city’s largest landlord.”

Olatoye and three others were appointed to their leadership positions as part of de Blasio’s plan to expand New York City’s affordable housing stock. Denise Miranda, who works for the Urban Justice Center, which takes legal action for tenants of public housing, says that “Mayor de Blasio and Ms. Olatoye have their work cut out for them,” according to the New York Times article.

Make Career Connections at Connect@Wes

Wesleyan students and alumni are invited to a networking and relationship building opportunity, Connect@Wes, held Feb. 28 and March 1 on campus. Events held throughout the weekend are designed to help with career advancement.

Events begin with “Creating Connections,” a hands-on opportunity for students to practice presenting themselves as professionals through structured speed-networking. Students will apply to participate and will be matched with expert advisors (recruiters and hiring managers as well as alumni and parent volunteers) for brief, one-on-one sessions. Expert advisors will use their experience and expertise to critique what they have heard and give valuable insight on how the presentation might have been more effective. Students must apply for this opportunity.

Other events include a dinner with Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, workshops on “Create Your Career Calling Card,” “Get the Most Out of Your Workplace,” and “Be Ready to Move Up, Or Out.” Featured speakers include Ed Heffernan ’84, CEO and President of Alliance Data; Jim Citrin P’12 ’14, senior director at Spencer Stuart and Associates; and Bradley Whitford ’81, Emmy award-winning actor and advocate for Clothes Off Our Back Foundation.

Connect@Wes is sponsored by University Relations and the Career Center and is designed to help current students and alumni build relationships with other members of the Wesleyan community and receive advice from an array of experts.

The event is free, but requires registration. For more information, click here.

Porter ’15 Works as Diversity Intern with Ocean Drilling Program

Nishaila Porter ’15 and her fellow Diversity Intern, Ernesto Martinez from the University of California, Berkeley, were included in "Core Discoveries: The Newsletter for US Scientific Ocean Drilling.

Nishaila Porter ’15 and her fellow Diversity Intern, Ernesto Martinez from the University of California, Berkeley, were included in “Core Discoveries: The Newsletter for US Scientific Ocean Drilling.”

Over the summer, Nishaila Porter ’15 worked on a research project as a 2013 Diversity Intern at Columbia University. The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and the U.S. Implementing Organization cosponsored the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory Summer Intern Program at Columbia University for the second consecutive year.

The goal of the Columbia University Diversity Internship is to “expose minority students to careers in scientific ocean drilling by providing them with a 10–12 week educational and career building experience.” Current interns work with mentors on research projects using scientific ocean drilling data.

While working on the project, titled “Which Marine Fossil Assemblages Best Match Ice Core Assemblages,” Porter used samples from sites with sediments of Eocene age that are rich in diatom and compared them to the diatom assemblage in the GISP2 ice core that was collected in Greenland in order to determine the likely source of diatoms in the ice core.

Porter’s advisor is Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Redfield Speaks about Magnetic Polarity Flipping on WNPR

Seth Redfield

Seth Redfield

Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, spoke with Patrick Skahill and WNPR News on Nov. 15 about the sun flipping its magnetic polarity, which only happens every 11 years. While the change in polarity is not fully understood by scientists, the event is exciting “because this is kind of a probe into the internal workings of the sun, which is actually really hard for us to get a handle on,” according to Redfield.

This solar cycle, Cycle 24, has not been disruptive to satellites or the electric grid, which can react negatively to solar radiation. The sun’s northern hemisphere flipped earlier this summer and the southern hemisphere is poised to flip very soon.

Read the article online here.

Ocorr Ph.D. ’83: Fruit Flies on Space Mission for Research

Karen Ocorr Ph.D. ’83

Karen Ocorr Ph.D. ’83

Karen Ocorr Ph.D. ’83 is sending fruit flies into space to study their heart development and function outside of Earth’s gravity. An assistant research professor in the Development and Aging Program at the Sanford-Burham Medical Research Institute, Ocorr is collaborating with fellow researchers at NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University to study the effects of space travel and microgravity on the heart function of fruit flies.

“We believe that our studies with fruit flies can provide us with important information that will impact astronauts’ heart health when they spend extended periods in microgravity including current missions aboard the ISS (International Space Station) and future manned missions to Mars,” Ocorr said.

In December 2013, the fruit flies will be flown to the International Space Station for approximately 30 days, with identical ground controls. Post-flight both will be analyzed for alterations in heart function, using a system developed by Ocorr and Rolf Bodmer, Ph.D. at Sanford-Burham.

When Ocorr first began presenting her research idea to cardiologists, she met with skepticism and confusion; no one seemed to see the possible connection to human hearts. While fruit fly hearts are clearly much smaller than human hearts, they have several important similarities. For example, they use many of the same ion channels involved in causing the contractions of the heart, making them a better model in this respect than mouse hearts, which beat far faster than human hearts, using different cellular components. Rolf Bodmer was one of the first to see the useful connection between fruit fly and human hearts: In the 1990s, he discovered a gene in fruit flies called “tinman” that, when mutated, caused the fruit fly to not have a heart. In humans, that same gene nkx2.5, in concert with several other genes, turned out to also be critical for embryonic  heart development. In 2004, Ocorr took this discovery a step further, noting—as a result of discovering a mutant fly with heart arrhythmia—the similarities in the cellular function of the heart in both fruit flies and humans.

The short life span of fruit flies is also an asset in this space research project, she noted. Researchers can study the effects of living 80 percent of a life in space in only a month with fruit flies, whereas with humans it would, of course, take decades. Ocorr describes the main experiment for an article in Orlando Medical News as “…a look at heart function and atrophy in flies that have been in space for a while… We’ll send up our normal flies and also the mutant flies that are predisposed to heart malfunction and we’ll see the differences in ways these different types of flies can cope with microgravity.”

When asked by Orlando Medical News if she’d like to accompany the flies on their space mission, Ocorr replied, “In a heartbeat; no pun intended.”

McKim ’88 Joins N.E. Center for Investigative Reporting

Jenifer McKim ’88

Jenifer McKim ’88

Jenifer McKim ’88 joined The New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) as the assistant managing editor and senior investigative reporter. With close to 25 years of experience as a news journalist, most recently for The Boston Globe, McKim has won many awards for her work, including the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism in 2011 for a story about the domestic sex trafficking of minors and the California AP Investigative Journalism Award in 2008. In 2005, she led a group of reporters to write about the importation of lead-tainted Mexican candles, a project that was nominated as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. McKim is also a Fellow of the Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

In a NECIR press release, McKim commented on her transition from daily news reporting: “I’m excited to help grow this new model of nonprofit journalism. I’m looking forward to getting to work.”

Executive Director of NECIR Joe Bergantino noted the crucial nature of her work: “Jenifer understands the important role investigative reporting plays in holding the powerful accountable—in our region and our nation. She is a top-tier journalist whose reporting has had impact and has improved the lives of New Englanders.”

Interactive WesPartyMap Team Wins Wesleyan Hackathon Challenge

Students work on their programs during the Wesleyan Hackathon. (Photo by Shannon Welch '14)

Students work on their programs during the Wesleyan Hackathon. (Photo by Shannon Welch ’14)

The 2nd Wesleyan Hackathon Challenge took place from noon on Friday, Sept. 6 until noon on Sunday, Sept. 8. Each participating team was provided a 1 GB Linode VPS on which to host their application, which must live and operate without using additional computing resources. While brainstorming and server maintenance were allowed before and after the allotted time slot, all code writing and editing had to take place within 48 hours.

A team of Wesleyan Computer Science alumni judged the submissions and named winners based on creativity (Does the app solve a problem in a novel way? Does it do something unique and new?), technical difficulty (How difficult was the implementation of the app?), and polish (Is the interface aesthetically pleasing? Is the user experience smooth and simple?). The team of judges consisted of Julian Applebaum ’13, a software engineer at Squarespace Inc.; Carlo Francisco ’11, a software engineer for Groupon; Evan Carmi ’13, a software engineer for Brewster; and Jonathan Lyons ’12, a software architect at Jaroop.

The winners were announced Monday morning. Sam Giagtzoglou ’16, Max Dietz ’16, and Jack Lashner ’16 comprised the winning team, creating WesPartyMap, an interactive map of where all the parties are happening on campus on any given weekend. This app was also determined to be the most creative app. The first runner up was HalfBagel, created by Tyler Harden ’17, Cumhur Korkut ’17, Wei Wang ’15, and Arthur Burkart ’14. HalfBagel offers a view of which rooms on campus are available as students decide where to live during GRS. This app won the judges’ vote for best design. The second runner up team of Aaron Plave ’15, Brian Gapinski ’14, and Justin Raymond ’14 created WesHappening, a live map that shows where all on campus events take place.

Read more about the event in this Wesleyan Argus article.

Grünbaum ’44 Honored with German Federal Cross of Merit, Honorary Degree

Adolf Grünbaum ’44

Adolf Grünbaum ’44

The president of the Federal Republic of Germany has conferred upon Adolf Grünbaum ’44 the Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse, or the Federal Cross of Merit, First Class and the faculty of the University of Cologne gave him the title of Ehrendoktorwürde, or the Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy.

After graduating from Wesleyan with a bachelor of arts with high distinction in both philosophy and mathematics, Grünbaum went on to build the Philosophy, History and the Philosophy of Science departments at the University of Pittsburgh, where he taught until 2003. Oxford University Press recently published the first of three volumes of Grünbaum’s Collected Works.

Read his story online here.

GLS Hosts Networking Reception

Graduate Liberal Studies hosted its annual networking celebration Aug. 8 in the Center for Film Studies. The event provided an opportunity for prospective and current students to network with GLS alumni, faculty and with one another. Attendees also toured the Nicita Gallery, which is currently featuring an exhibit on award-winning writer, director and producer Joss Whedon ’87. For more information on Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies, see this website.

Photos of the reception are below:

Gradaute Liberal Studies Networking Receptiion Aug. 8, 2013. Gradaute Liberal Studies Networking Receptiion Aug. 8, 2013. Gradaute Liberal Studies Networking Receptiion Aug. 8, 2013. Gradaute Liberal Studies Networking Receptiion Aug. 8, 2013. Gradaute Liberal Studies Networking Receptiion Aug. 8, 2013. Gradaute Liberal Studies Networking Receptiion Aug. 8, 2013. Gradaute Liberal Studies Networking Receptiion Aug. 8, 2013. Gradaute Liberal Studies Networking Receptiion Aug. 8, 2013.