Olivia Drake

Snyder ’16 Reflects on Her Experience with Forklift

On Oct. 14, Forklift Danceworks will present WesWorks, a performance that celebrates the skilled movement and the often unheard stories of the people whose work sustains the daily lives of the Wesleyan campus.

In this Q&A we speak with Penny Snyder ’16, who works as the communications manager for Forklift. At Wesleyan, she majored in English and received High Honors for her general scholarship thesis on art museums, architecture, and public space. She is an incoming graduate student at the Lyndon B. Johnston School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Penny Snyder '16

Penny Snyder ’16

Q: Hello Penny! How were you first introduced to Forklift Danceworks?

PS: During my senior year at Wesleyan, I was a student member of the College of the Environment’s Think Tank on Urban Environments and Urban Engagement. There, I met Allison Orr and Clara Pinsky ’16 who made her senior thesis with Allison and the other student member of that think tank. As I was working on my thesis on urban development and public space at art museums, it was exhilarating to be in dialogue with people researching and working on the same issues in academia and the real world.

After working for a year in communications at a planning and design firm in Boston, I moved to Austin to work at a museum and started volunteering for Forklift and attending performances. I figured if I hung out for long enough Forklift might have room for me. Then Allison finally called me in December of 2019 and asked if I’d help out more officially!

Q: What personally made you want to stay involved with Forklift after Wesleyan?

PS: I always felt connected to Forklift’s belief that everyone is creative and that art can exist in many forms and settings outside of traditional arts institutions. I grew up in Oklahoma, a place where there’s not a ton of traditional (or even non-traditional) arts institutions, but nonetheless, is a place I’m deeply tied to and holds inspiration and potential for me.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

The Wall Street Journal features Fidelity Investments’ Joel Tillinghast ’80 regarding the meme-stock craze. “Mr. Tillinghast’s tastes in stocks are eclectic. His main mutual fund holds more than 900 names, and some 34% of his assets are in international stocks. His largest concentration is in retailers and consumer-goods stocks beaten down by expectations that e-commerce would crush bricks-and-mortar stores.” (Aug. 4)

On CNBC, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb ’94, Hon. ’21 said health officials will try to administer COVID-19 boosters to head off a winter surge in cases. “The first two [doses] were administered so close together, they really qualify as two primes,” Gottlieb said. “And this is the booster that’s hopefully going to induce a longer-term immunity, more durable immunity.” (Aug. 19)

Also on CNBC, Gottlieb suggests that the coronavirus will become an endemic virus in the U.S. and other Western countries after the recent surge in delta variant infections calms down. “We’re transitioning from this being a pandemic to being more of an endemic virus, at least here in the United States and probably other Western markets,” Gottlieb said. “An endemic virus is one that remains in the American population at a relatively low frequency, like the seasonal flu, for example.” (Aug. 13)

On NBC News, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies, suggests that “there’s a huge split between those who literally want to have a Native governing entity with limited autonomy that’s subordinate to the U.S. nation-state and those who want the U.S. out of Hawaii.” (Aug. 30)

Robert Allbritton ’92 is profiled in Archyde for his work with Politico and Allbritton Communications. “Growing up and well-wired in Washington, he set up Politico in 2007, which soon made a name for itself in the power metropolis of Washington with excellent journalists and many insider stories. The New Republic magazine wrote of Allbritton that he had ‘reshaped the way we conduct politics.’ According to Allbritton, the portal has always been profitable.” (Aug. 29)

In an op-ed published by CNN, David Perry ’95 discusses Jeopardy! and Wesleyan’s former reference librarian Erhard Konerding. Konerding, now retired, “was renowned for his handlebar mustache, encyclopedic knowledge, and support for students as we pursued our own educational aspirations.” (Aug. 20)

Christina Leone, email marketing coordinator for the Office of Advancement, was a contestant on Jeopardy! Leone ended up winning $19,200 on the show. (Aug. 3)

An op-ed titled “How I put Down the Gun” by William “Juneboy” Outlaw as told to Charles Barber, writer in residence, is published in The New Haven Independent. “I tell the kids: ‘Don’t do what I did; the only consequences are death and prison.’ I have negotiated truces between gangs. I have gotten them to turn in guns to the police. To gang members, I have the ultimate street credibility based on my lived experience.” (Aug. 27)

Serena Chow ’21 is featured in an NBCU Academy story about creating the Argus Voices Fund, an initiative that raises money to support low-income journalists of color at the campus newspaper. “When we compensate people fairly, when we take into account the barriers for people, we become better as a newsroom and so does the news judgment that we’re all sharpening.”

Wesleyan’s new science center is showcased in The Hartford Business Journal. “The private, liberal-arts college located in the heart of Middletown, is planning to build a new $255 million, 193,000-square-foot science center that would replace its aging Hall-Atwater Laboratory building.” (Aug. 23)

In The Connecticut Mirror, Brian Stewart, professor of physics, discusses what climate “code red” means for the State of Connecticut. “Our future energy needs must be supported by the three pillars of renewable energy, energy storage, and demand management/reduction. The cheapest energy is the energy not used. Connecticut has barely scratched the surface of this resource.” (Aug. 18)

Voices News announces that William “Bill” Ollayos, area coordinator, is a Democratic candidate for the Southbury, Conn. Region 15 Board of Education municipal election. “Mr. Ollayos now works for the Office of Residential Life at Wesleyan University with responsibility for hundreds of students.” (Aug. 18)

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, is quoted in Daily World Live for her involvement with NASA’s new interplanetary missions: DAVINCI+ and VERITAS. “There’s no reason, according to what we know about the planets, that Venus was not habitable at its onset,” she said. (Aug. 17)

Erika Franklin Fowler, professor of government, is mentioned in The Cornell Chronicle for co-authoring a new study titled “Evidence-Based Message Strategies to Increase Public Support for State Investment in Early Childhood Education,” which was published in Milbank Quarterly. Fowler and her colleagues determined a narrative, storytelling approach – “showing rather than telling” is the best way to appeal to folks who might initially be resistant to increased spending on early childhood education. (Aug. 17)

In an article about Coursera, Tech Radar mentions “There are a smattering of offerings under the Arts and Humanities department. This includes a course in “Creative Writing” from Wesleyan University. (Aug. 25)

In The Register Citizen, Ishita Mukerji, Wesleyan Fisk Professor of Natural Science; Kyle McGregor ’24; Schuyler Sloman ’22; Rachel Hsu ’23; and others are mentioned for sharing their summerlong research at a recent virtual poster session. (Aug. 24)

Wesleyan’s Upward Bound Math-Science program is featured in the Connecticut Post. In 2021, 30 of the 32 students who graduated from the program are moving on to higher education. Twenty-six of those students are bachelor-degree bound. (Aug. 24)

WILD Wes Continues Summer Work on Permaculture Site

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The student group WILD Wes was a 2021 recipient of a Jewett Center for Community Partnerships Student Innovation Fund award. These awards support community engagement projects with grants up to $750 each. For 11 years, WILD Wes has been maintaining the West College Courtyard permaculture site.

For more than a decade, the student group WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan University) has worked to transform a .75 acre of sloping, sandy land into a thriving permaculture site.

Located inside the West College Courtyard, the garden boasts a biodiverse natural ecosystem with plants that are beneficial to humans and wildlife. Birds, bees, butterflies (and humans) enjoy the plethora of seasonal produce: blackberries, blueberries, pears, apples, corn, currants, and more. Seasonal flowers, from beebalm to woodland sunflowers, provide insects with nectar-rich meals, and grassy native groundcovers spread to absorb heavy rain and eliminate the need for mowing and fertilizers.

WILD Wes members began working on the courtyard in 2010 and planted their first trees and perennial rain garden two years later. This summer, students laid a paver pathway and encourage passers-by to take a stroll through the site.

The project is supported by the Wesleyan Green Fund, the College of the Environment, Physical Plant, the SAGES-Green Building Subcommittee, the Sustainability Office, and other partners.

View past stories about WILD Wes’s efforts here. Photos of the West College Courtyard in July and August are below:

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Forklift’s LaMotte ’18 Discusses Upcoming WesWorks Performance

On Oct. 14, Forklift Danceworks will present WesWorks, a performance that celebrates the skilled movement and tells the often unheard stories of the people whose work sustains the daily lives of the Wesleyan campus.

Gretchen LaMotte '18

Gretchen LaMotte ’18

In this Q&A we speak with Gretchen LaMotte ’18, choreographer and programs manager for Forklift Danceworks. At Wesleyan, LaMotte majored in science in society while working for the Center for the Arts’ Creative Campus Initiative, Zilkha Gallery, and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance.

Q: Hi Gretchen! In October, Forklift will host the performance of “WesWorks,” featuring members of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant staff and campus custodians. Can you describe the process and the goal?

GL: “WesWorks” is about honoring, celebrating, and supporting the people whose work sustains campus life. The core of the process is relationship-building, which we do by spending time with partnering employees on the job, working alongside them as much as possible, and interviewing them about their work. Because we’re visitors to campus, we’re working to support students to be part of that process, and we’re lucky to be building on seven years of work between Physical Plant, students, and Forklift.

Scientific Images of Nanoparticles, Colliding Stars, Learned Words Win Annual Contest

We had 13 submissions this year.

Thirteen students, majoring in chemistry, physics, astronomy, molecular biology and biochemistry, biology, neuroscience and behavior, psychology, and quantitative analysis submitted images for the 2021 Scientific Imaging Contest.

At first glance, a viewer sees a single image of pink-tinted cubes, resembling a bacteria culture from high school biology.

But upon closer examination, the viewer begins to see a series of other shapes—triangles to hexahedrons to tetahexahedraons (cubes with four-sided pyramids on each face).

“If you stare at this image for a while, you can see that it’s actually a series of five images in the top row, and five images on the bottom row, and each of these images show us nanoparticles that are made of gold and copper,” said Brian Northrop, professor of chemistry. “It’s intriguing, captivating, and visually very interesting.”

The image, which depicts bimetallic gold-copper (Au-Cu) nanoparticles synthesized with varying concentrations and amounts of sodium iodide, was created by Jessica Luu ’24 using a scanning electron microscope. It also was the first place winner in Wesleyan’s 2021 Scientific Imaging Contest.

Jessica Luu

Jessica Luu ’24 took first place with a series of 10 images of bimetallic gold-copper (Au-Cu) nanoparticles synthesized with varying concentrations and amounts of sodium iodide. They were imaged using a scanning electron microscope (SEM).

The annual contest, spearheaded by Wesleyan’s College of Integrative Sciences, encourages students to submit images and descriptions of the research that they’ve been conducting over the summer.

Liu Explores Racial Equity in School Funding as NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow

Roseann Liu

Roseann Liu

While teaching in New York City public and charter schools that served low-income, students of color, Roseann Liu and her fellow educators would frequently purchase basic resources such as paper, books, and classroom manipulatives for their students out of their own pockets. Students learned from outdated textbooks and teachers hungered for professional development opportunities.

Teachers and parents alike understood these conditions as the norm.

“Having less became natural,” said Liu, assistant professor of education studies. “Most students, parents, and teachers were unaware of how sharp the disparities were between underfunded and well-funded schools.”

As a newly-selected National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, Liu is exploring the topic of racial equity in school funding through an ethnographic book project, tentatively titled “Designed to Fail.” She’s among only 25 fellows selected for the $70,000 fellowship from a competitive pool of 249 scholars of education.

“‘Why is racial equity in school funding so hard to achieve?’ That’s what I hope to answer,” Liu said.

For “Designed to Fail,” Liu is focusing her study specifically on the State of Pennsylvania, which has one of the widest gaps in the country between educational opportunities for white students and students of color. In a recent study by the Education Law Center, Pennsylvania was cited for providing school districts with the most white students $10,175 in state aid, whereas districts with the least white students received only $7,270—or $2,904 less per student.

While some scholars have already focused on finding the best models for school funding (for example, using performance-based systems), few studies have focused on the actions of school funding influencers— such as lawmakers, advocates, and lawyers—including the strategies they deploy to change school funding systems and the impact of their work.

Padilla-Benavides Explores How Copper Affects Human Disease in FASEB Journal

Teresita Padilla-Benavides

Teresita Padilla-Benavides

A new paper co-authored by Teresita Padilla-Benavides, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, is published in the July 2021 issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal.

Titled “The molecular and cellular basis of copper dysregulation and its relationship with human pathologies,” the paper explores the role of copper in human disease.

Copper (Cu) is an essential micronutrient involved in critical metabolic reactions and biological functions. In humans, mutations or malfunctions of genes that regulate copper stability in the body may lead to numerous pathologic conditions, severe neurodegenerative conditions, or metabolic diseases.

Copper also plays role in cancer treatment as a component of drugs and a regulator of drug sensitivity and uptake. In this review, Padilla-Benavides and her colleagues provide an overview of the current knowledge of copper metabolism and transport and its relation to various human pathologies.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

In The Washington Post, William Griffin Professor of Philosophy Lori Gruen is quoted in a story about neutering. In her early career, Gruen, who specializes in animal ethics, worked in shelters where she witnessed “perfectly healthy dogs destroyed” and the toll it took on employees. “The overpopulation issue sounds abstract,” she said. “But these are dogs whose lives end and the people who have to bring those dogs’ lives to an end often can’t get certain dogs out of their minds.” (Aug. 5)

In The Hartford Courant, Jhanelle Oneika Thomas ’18, MA ’19 and Royette Dubar, assistant professor of psychology, are featured for their investigation of the motivation and psychological impact of ghosting in the age of social media and hypervisibility. “From the ghoster’s perspective, choosing to ghost was a little bit nicer than a more blatant rejection approach,” Dubar said. ”Individuals may choose to ghost out of concern for the ghostee—that is, to shield them from hurt feelings.” (Aug. 8)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Charles King’s Gods of the Upper Air in Los Angeles Review of Books. Gods of the Upper Air explores the career of Frank Boas, “the father of 20th-century anthropology” in America. “Gods of the Upper Air is gracefully written, and it succeeds beautifully both as intellectual history and group biography,” Roth writes in the review. (Aug. 13)

Wesleyan University’s Center for Film Studies is mentioned in The Hollywood Reporter for being one of 2021’s top 25 American film schools. The article states “in keeping with this institution’s liberal arts identity, its film curriculum is focused on formal analysis and theory. And what it doesn’t provide in production experience, it makes up for in strong industry connections, with a network that includes 2006 grad and Nomadland producer Dan Janvey [’06].” (Aug. 13)

Students Study Exoplanets, Bird Viruses, Chinese Immigration, Bacteria during the Summer

Scientists have already discovered more than 3,500 exoplanetary systems (planets orbiting around stars) in the universe, with the number continually expanding.

By using Wesleyan’s new 24-inch telescope, Kyle McGregor ’24 is on the hunt for more, specifically systems involving two planets. To find them, he measures the light from stars over time, noting that the light will decrease when an exoplanet passes in front of a star, blocking the radiated light to Earth.

“The measuring of this change in light, known as the ‘transit method,’ allows us to detect the presence of these distant worlds and to study their properties,” McGregor says. “It’s really cool, and I love using the new telescope to do it!”

Kyle McGregor '24

Kyle McGregor ’24 of Canton, N.Y. shared his research project titled “Building a Predictive Model for the Detection of Possible Outer Planets in Known 2-body Resonant Systems.”

On July 29, astronomy, physics, and Italian studies major McGregor shared his exoplanet studies during the 2021 Summer Research Poster Session, where students showcase their projects with peers, faculty, and the public. The annual event brought together more than 180 student researchers— half of whom worked remotely this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re still very interested in celebrating our students’ work and emulating the excitement and activity of the in-person poster session,” said poster session coordinator Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and director, College of Integrative Sciences.

McGregor, who has worked with his advisor Seth Redfield, professor of astronomy, since spring 2021, spent the past year conducting research meetings over Zoom. During this time, he developed a predictive model that can be applied to all known two-planet systems. “That [remote research] process went well and helped me prepare for a proper summer doing research in person. Now that I’m [back on campus] I’m most excited about continuing my use of the new telescope and developing this model further to make it more robust and more accurate.” (View McGregor’s research poster online here.)

The Poster Session included studies conducted under the auspices of the College of Integrative Sciences (astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, earth and environmental sciences, mathematics, molecular biology and biochemistry, neuroscience and behavior, psychology, physics), Research in the Sciences Program, the Quantitative Analysis Center, College of the Environment, the McNair Program, the WesMaSS Program, and students who are funded by their individual mentors or departments.

Schuyler Sloman '22 and biology and psychology double major Rachel Hsu '23

Schuyler Sloman ’22 of Brooklyn, N.Y. and Rachel Hsu ’23 of Shanghai, China shared their summer-long research project titled “Delving Below the Species Level to Characterize the Ecological Diversity in the Global Virome: An Exploration of Avian Influenza.”

Computer science major Schuyler Sloman ’22 and biology and psychology double major Rachel Hsu ’23 shared their collaborative research on diversity within the H3N8 serotype of avian influenza. Their results suggested that there are at least seven lineages of H3N8 that appear specialized to different waterfowl species. They note that these ecological differences among H3N8 virus lineages could impact the likelihood of spillover to humans.

After using the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) database to locate roughly 1,500 full-genome sequences of the H3N8 subtype of avian influenza from multiple host species of ducks, Sloman wrote programs in Python and Biopython to “clean” the content and pinpoint 103 complete strains of H3N8 within a 60-mile radius of each other in Minto Flats, Alaska. From there, the students continued to align these sequences with a software called MEGAX, and used the EcoSim2 algorithm (developed by their faculty advisors Fred Cohan and Danny Krizanc), which rapidly analyzes large sequence datasets to demarcate individual viruses into lineages that are ecologically distinct.

Sloman and Hsu will contribute their findings to the Global Virome Project, a strategic response to better predict, prevent, and respond to future viral pandemic threats. GVP estimates that more than 500,000 undiscovered animal viruses are capable of transmission to people.

“A year ago I may not have appreciated the importance of The Global Virome Project, but after experiencing the reality of a pandemic I feel truly connected to this work,” Sloman said. “While working remotely with our lab during COVID-19 was difficult for all of us, we’re grateful to contribute to the prevention of future disasters. The significance of a project like this is enormous. It’s been a really rewarding experience to work on a research project which is so relevant.” (View Sloman’s and Hsu’s research poster online here.)

In addition to the ongoing research throughout the summer, students could attend more than 25 in-person and virtual workshops and minicourses focusing on lab safety, science writing, programming languages, data analysis, resume writing, molecule imaging, and more. They also could attend the Summer Seminar Series, with worldwide experts discussing topics on ancient Chinese artifacts, space radiation on cognitive performance, molecular probes for SARS-CoV-2, and even dung beetles. In addition, Saray Shai, assistant professor of computer science, led the Summer Research keynote lecture titled “Topology and Geometry of Urban Road Networks” prior to the poster session.

“Even under our somewhat constrained COVID-19 circumstances, we’re thrilled that we were able to continue our rich summer research projects and programs, which are so vital to our students,” Mukerji said.

Students shared their posters in virtual “Zoom rooms” and breakout sessions. All of the student ‘poster sites’ will live on and serve as an institutional repository of student accomplishments this summer.

Samples of other student research projects are below and on this website.

Anissa Findley '22

Anissa Findley ’22 of Kingston, Jamaica, shared her summer research project titled “Optimising Sample Preparation for the Investigation of Bottom Current Strengths of the Scotia Sea during the Pliocene.”

This summer, chemistry and molecular biology and biochemistry double major Anissa Findley ’22 of Kingston, Jamaica, explored the best ways to prepare 5.3 million-year-old Scotia Sea silt samples for analysis, which can help determine what the weather and ice cover of Antarctica looked like during that time. By testing three different methods of sample preparation, which involve sample crushing, wetting, drying, and particle analyzing, Findley determined that a specific “dry and re-wet method” showed the most consistent way to sort the silt samples by size.

“The more accurate the silt [sizes] are, the better the conclusions can be made about ice cover and the glacial and interglacial periods, during the Pliocene [period],” she said. (View Findley’s research poster online here.)

Findley’s advisor is Suzanne OConnell, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science.

Ken Wu '23

Ken Wu ’23 of Shenzhen, China shared his summer research titled “GIS Visualization of Chinese Demographic Shifts between the 1970s and 1990s.”

By using U.S. census data and visualizations, film studies and environmental studies double major Ken Wu ’23 built an interactive ArcGIS map to show the correlation between the decline of Chinese Language Theaters in New York City and the outward shifts of Chinese immigrant enclaves. His project also includes more granular census tract data as well as including more diverse demographic indicators, such as average income, racial composition, and household information.

“My project is not just about films or cinemas but really, more broadly, about the story of Chinese immigrants in general,” Wu explained. “This summer, [it was] very exciting that I was able to use a more non-traditional method of studying this topic, namely using statistics and census data to map out how Chinese immigrants lived and moved in New York City. I hope this research can fill some of the gaps left vacant in the narrative of Asian American identities.” (View Wu’s research poster online here.)

Wu’s advisor is Lisa Dombrowski, professor of East Asian studies.

Savanna Goldstein '22 of Philadelphia, Pa.shred her study titled "Parent-Child Conversation Facilitates Number Talk During Shared Storybook Reading"

Savanna Goldstein ’22 of Philadelphia, Pa. shared her study titled “Parent-Child Conversation Facilitates Number Talk During Shared Storybook Reading.”

Savanna Goldstein ’22, who’s majoring in education and psychology with a concentration in cognitive science, is a member of Wesleyan’s Cognitive Development Lab. Her summer research project focused on how shared storybook reading can help children understand numbers in a deeper way. “Storytime can be a great opportunity for parents to weave math talk into their daily routine, but most picture books focus solely on literacy development and social skills. That’s why we chose to investigate how parents supplement stories with their own math talk,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein asked parents to read two stories to their children, one explicitly related to numbers, and one implicitly providing an opportunity to discuss quantity. By recording these reading sessions and encoding the transcripts for different types of number talk—such as parent counting, encouraging labeling, tandem counting, and corrected feedback—she was able to determine which conditions inspired the most effective number talk.

“If parents begin story time with the intent of helping their child learn about math, they will likely produce more number talk and the interaction will be more meaningful,” she said. (View Goldstein’s research poster online here.)

Goldstein’s advisors are Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology, and Sierra Eisen, postdoctoral fellow in psychology.

Elizabeth Ouanemalay '23

Elizabeth Ouanemalay ’23 from Long Beach, Calif. shared her study titled “Evolvability of Sporulation and Germination in Bacillus Subtilis Batch Culture.”

Biology and Science in Society double major Elizabeth Ouanemalay ’23 and Biology PhD student Kathleen Sagarin studied Bacillus subtilis to determine whether two traits essential to the bacterium’s survival could easily evolve. B. subtilis is able to tolerate extreme environmental conditions by virtue of its ability to form desiccation- and heat-resistant spores and its ability to germinate from these spores. Elizabeth and Katie challenged B. subtilis to evolve changes in both its sporulation and germination abilities.

They challenged a B. subtilis lab strain in “serial batch culture,” where they cultured the bacteria past the point that they exhausted their resources, and then they transferred the bacteria to fresh medium, either with or without heating the culture to kill non-spores, over 11 growth cycles. Under these conditions, they found that when the cultures were not heated at transfer, the bacteria quickly declined in their ability to sporulate. This was probably because spores undergo the slow process of germination before they can resume growth in fresh medium; on the other hand, bacteria that fail to produce a spore can start growing more quickly in the fresh medium. It was surprising that after just two weeks, the cost of germination would cause the bacteria to become much less efficient at producing spores.

A complementary result was found in the cultures which were forced to go through a spore stage by the end of each growth cycle. Ouanemalay and Sagarin are now isolating individual bacteria strains from each of these evolved found that when every individual had to germinate to begin growth in fresh medium, the bacteria evolved to germinate more quickly. It was again surprising to them that germination ability could evolve so quickly.

(View their research poster online here.)

Her advisor is Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

In The New Yorker, screenwriter, director, and actor Mike White ’92 discusses his latest work, money and status, and his time on Survivor. “Instead of just focusing on one couple’s honeymoon, I constellated [the new show The White Lotus] with many people grappling with ideas about money,” he says. “Who has the money can really create the dynamic of a relationship, the relationship itself, the sense of self. Money can really inform and pervert our most intimate relationships, beyond just the employee-guest relationship at the hotel.” (July 18)

On NPR’s Ted Radio Hour, Wikipedian Jake Orlowitz ’05 describes how volunteers update the world’s largest encyclopedia. “Writing a new article—it’s a lot of fun, because you get to shape what comes next,” he says. “Wikipedians build in layers. And if you put down that first layer, put down that scaffolding, someone else will come by and put up a wall there or window there.” (July 23)

In El País, Robert Conn, professor of romance literature and languages, discusses the legacy of Simón Bolívar. “In each national tradition in the Americas, including the United States, the way in which Bolívar is remembered is different and depends on the figures to which he is compared,” Conn says. The article also sites Conn’s book, Bolívar’s Afterlife in the Americas (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). (July 24)

Alex Kurtzman ’95 is featured in The New York Times for renegotiating his deal at CBS Studios. Under a new five-and-a-half-year agreement, he will continue to shepherd the growing “Star Trek” television universe for ViacomCBS’s Paramount+ streaming platform.


An obituary describing the work of Dr. J. Allan Hobson ’55, who studied the dreaming brain, is in The New York Times. Hobson, who died at the age of 88, disputed the Freudian view that dreams held encrypted codes of meaning, believing instead that they resulted from random firings of neurons in the brain. (July 28)

In EOS, Girish Duvvuri ’17 is credited for coining the term “necroplanetology”—the newest branch of exoplanet studies that involves intrinsically rare targets. “We’re proud of the name,” said Seth Redfield, professor of astronomy. “It’s a great way to describe the systems we’re studying. It has a small number of practitioners, but the larger community is just starting to look into this topic.” (July 26)

Greg Voth, professor of physics, is featured in Live Science for testing a 150-year-old theory proposed by Lord Kelvin. (July 28)

Hannah Bolotin ’19, director of development and policy for the Post-Prison Education Program, shares an op-ed in South Seattle Emerald regarding Washington’s Department of Corrections “trapping” incarcerated men in solitary confinement. “There should no longer be debate over the ethics of solitary confinement: It is both proven to be ineffective, and periods of longer than 15 days are considered unacceptable from a global human rights perspective as a form of torture,” she writes. “Until the DOC finds a viable solution, over 200 incarcerated men remain on an ever-growing waitlist, surviving in conditions known to inflict them with more trauma, intensified mental health issues, and increased behavioral issues, all of which they will carry with them as they return to the main prison setting—and eventually, return to society.” (July 28)

On tucson.com, former Wesleyan provost Shelia Tobias, who died at the age of 86, is remembered for advocating for women’s equality. (July 21)

In Gold Derby, Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 admits that he was homesick when he started writing In the Heights. “I was a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut,” he noted. “I was, for the first time, living in a Latino Program house with other kids my age. We all had to write an essay to get into the house of how we were going to be Latino leaders on campus.” (July 27)

Leela Narang-Benaderet ’92, MA’93 is mentioned on Golf Content Network for making her U.S. Senior Women’s Open debut. Narang-Benaderet is a partner in a sports marketing and athlete management company and has served as tournament director for a number of Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) events. (July 29)

In Nature, Oppenheim ’02 Outlines the Importance of Creating an Intergovernmental Panel on Pandemic Risk

Ben Oppenheim ’02 says the way pandemics unfold over time and their impacts "have everything to do with our individual choices, our politics, and our ability to cooperate to help protect each other."

Ben Oppenheim ’02 says the way pandemics unfold over time and their impacts “have everything to do with our individual choices, our politics, and our ability to cooperate to help protect each other.”

Political scientist Ben Oppenheim ’02 thinks it’s only a matter of time.

“There’s this idea circulating that pandemics are a ‘once in a century’ problem because the 1918 flu happened about a century before COVID-19. But that’s just a random quirk,” Oppenheim said. “The next one could be next week. Or next month.”

A College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan, Oppenheim is currently vice president of product, policy, and partnerships at Metabiota, a business providing data-driven insights to help organizations manage infectious disease risk. Through epidemiological modeling, Oppenheim and his colleagues are able to estimate the frequency and severity of pandemics like COVID-19, and the numbers, he said, “are worrisome.”

“The best evidence we have suggests that COVID is not a once in a century phenomenon, but more like a 30-year event. That doesn’t mean we’ll experience a pandemic like COVID every 30 years, but that every year we have roughly a 3% chance of a pandemic as deadly as this (or worse) occurring. Over the next 25 years, it’s about a 50% probability of experiencing a pandemic on this scale—basically a coin flip,” he said. “There is of course some uncertainty in that estimate, but the crucial thing is that it isn’t carved in stone.”

Alumni Create Environment-Focused Summer School for Youth in Japan

Kotaro Aoki and Kota Uno

Kota Uno ’16 and Kotaro Aoki ’16 are co-organizing a summer school program in Fukushima, Japan to help youth share their thoughts and values regarding nature, climate, and the environment.

For a truly sustainable future, Class of 2016 alumni Kotaro Aoki and Kota Uno believe it’s crucial to teach people how to view—and properly “use”— nature.

“Education is the most important piece in solving the root cause of climate change and environmental problems,” Aoki said. “If we don’t change our mindset, the same problem continues to rise no matter how drastic changes on the surface are.”

After reuniting recently in Fukushima, Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic, Aoki, a philosophy major, and Uno, a College of Social Studies major, discovered a shared interest in climate change. They agreed that they needed to help youth discover a deeper interest and respect for their natural environment. After months of planning, the duo, along with several other Wesleyan alumni, organized an environmental education program for Japanese youth to take place this summer in Aizuwakamatsu, near Fukushima.

From Aug. 17 to 20, the Kotowari Aizu Summer School program will help youth learn the relationship between humans and nature and reimagine a way of life moving forward. Kotowari is a Japanese word that means “unchanging law of truth that governs humans and the environment.”

“We’re not attempting to promote a certain idealism, value, or message, such as ‘let’s protect our environment for the future generation,'” Aoki said on the program’s website. “This is because we value individual journeys to reach their own conclusions. To promote that individual process, we will expose the youth to diverse perspectives on environmental and climate crises and help them unearth their thoughts and values.”

The idea for the summer program originated after Aoki returned to Fukushima after spending three years in India practicing ascetic meditation in the Himalayas. He had hoped to bring back “the sense of awe and prayer to today’s world, which used to be at the center of human life for thousands of years.” Uno, who was working as an organic farmer in Fukushima, was learning alternatives for human beings and nature to co-exist.

“We each shared a conviction that climate change and other environmental problems originate from the way we are today in relation to nature, which is totally out of sync with what nature truly is,” Uno said.

The duo knew they’d need more manpower to start a program, so they recruited other likeminded Wes alumni—molecular biology and biochemistry major Jianyi Lu ’17; government major Kohei Saito ’09; College of Social Studies major Yusaku Takeda ’14; and government and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies double-major Shizuha Hatori ’18 to help organize and teach the school.

The inaugural summer school will be small—capped at 20 participants between the ages of 15 and 22. Topics will include moral dilemmas of climate change, creating “value” in the economy and how that impacts the natural world, technology in connection with natural resources, the distinction between humans and nature, and finding a potential deeper meaning of nature.

Participants will engage in outdoor activities and discussions to gain first-hand experience and be exposed to different viewpoints.

The program is currently supported by Earth & Human, an environmental NPO founded by Japanese actor Ebizo Ichikawa. The co-founders also are leading a crowdfunding campaign in which donors are connected to activity reports, access to online lectures, and a Aizu Nature Blessing Course.

“Together, the program aims to lay the foundation for the youth to think deeply and take action regarding the climate crisis,” Uno said.

The group is looking for like-minded collaborators. Email info@kotowari.co for more information.