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Chernoff Honored at “Sound of Science” Musical Premiere

Chernoff, second from right, at the concert November 10. He is pictured on stage with, from left, composer Felipe Perez Santiago, composer Graham Reynolds, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler.

Barry Chernoff, second from right, is pictured on stage with, from left, composer Felipe Perez Santiago, composer Graham Reynolds, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler.

Barry Chernoff, director of the College of the Environment, was one of eight scientists recently honored with a new musical composition based upon his research—part of a concert and album titled “The Sound of Science, performed in New York City on Nov. 10.

The project aims to build “bridges between the musical and scientific worlds, celebrating their shared culture of inquiry,” according to the website. The pieces were written by seven celebrated composers for amplified cello and electronics, and were all recorded and performed by world-renowned cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, longtime member of Kronos Quartet and several other groups. The Grammy Award–winning quartet has performed at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, most recently in April 2018.

Each composer was paired with a scientist of his or her choosing and tasked with creating music inspired by and reflective of the scientist’s life and practice.

Chernoff’s piece, titled, “Pastaza,” was composed by Graham Reynolds, an Austin-based composer-bandleader-improviser who creates, performs, and records music for film, theater, dance, rock clubs, and concert halls. “Pastaza” and the other works can be played online here.

According to the website: “Graham was drawn to Chernoff’s work for its influence and importance on this grand scale…. When it comes to considering what future we are creating, there is nothing more crucial than the planet, its limited resources, and how it will fare for generations to come.”

The piece aims to honor Chernoff’s “abundant curiosity for the world” around him, and to examine the ways in which his work influences our understanding of “what came before and what’s ahead.”

“I am incredibly honored to have a piece of music inspired by my research and conservation efforts in the Amazon and in South America—and I am in awe of Graham Reynolds’s ability to have imagined the music without having traveled by dugout in the Amazon basin himself!” said Chernoff. “His composition, ‘Pastaza’ is so beautiful, if not breathtaking. Hearing the music performed live by Jeffrey Zeigler with Graham’s electronic backing with my photos being displayed on the wall was an experience I will never forget.”

Chernoff is also the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and professor and chair of environmental studies.

Kottos Awarded $2.8M DARPA Grant for High-Level Photonic Research

Led by Professor of Physics Tsampikos Kottos, Wesleyan will serve as the lead institution for a four-year grant developing cutting-edge technology toward the next generation of navigation systems, optical diodes, efficient frequency converters for night vision, and high-powered filters.

Led by Professor of Physics Tsampikos Kottos, Wesleyan will serve as the lead institution for a four-year grant developing cutting-edge technology toward the next generation of navigation systems, optical diodes, efficient frequency converters for night vision, and high-powered filters.

Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, and Wesleyan University will lead a complex, multi-institution initiative to research and develop the next generation of national instrumentation technology thanks to a four-year, $2,794,606 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Awarded this August, the grant is the culmination of at least eight years of photonics research by Kottos and his fellow collaborators, and will have significant implications for the future of a variety of technologies employed by the federal government and the private sector. An agency of the US Department of Defense, DARPA funds research and development projects that push the boundaries of technology and science. The focus of Kottos’s project is to “develop models and photonic devices that utilize dynamical (hidden) symmetries in order to achieve extreme light-matter interactions” and has three main targets:

  • Target 1: Develop the next generation of navigation instruments by designing photonic architectures with an extreme response to small perturbations. The goal is to use them to hone gyroscopes and accelerometers, which measure and guide the rotation and maneuvers of vehicles like race cars and jet airplanes.
  • Target 2: Utilize the temporal dimension (or time) as an altogether different degree of freedom in order to manipulate the flow of light. Applications vary from efficient night vision cameras, to management of thermal radiation in turbine aircraft engines.
  • Target 3: Investigate how to protect sensitive sensors from high-powered sources—this could include a pilot’s eyes from a laser source, an antenna from a directed electromagnetic burst, or a radar receiver from its own outbound signal.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

1. Inside Higher Ed: “Voting Is Good, but Higher Ed Must Do More”

In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth writes: “In a year when inducements to political violence have become normalized at the highest level, colleges and universities must do more than just encourage our students to vote.” It is crucial that colleges actively work to protect free expression, free inquiry, and fact-based discussion, Roth argues.

Bergstein ’88, Frosh ’68, Lesser ’10, Martin ’99, Rose ’08 Enjoy Election Success

Alumni who have met with success in the midterm elections include:

  • Democrat Alex Bergstein ’88, who won a Connecticut State Senate race;
  • Democrat Brian Frosh ’68, who won re-election as Maryland Attorney general;
  • Democrat Matt Lesser ’10, who prevailed in Connecticut’s State Senate race for the 9th district, which includes Middletown;
  • Democrat Amy Martin ’99 is judge-elect for the Texas District Court 263; and
  • Democrat Max Rose ’08, who won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 11th Congressional District.

An article in the Greenwich Time quoted Bergstein, post-victory, as saying, “‘I am elated. I am humbled. I am grateful and I am so ready to serve.’ … Calling herself a ‘different kind of Democrat,’ Bergstein said she would work outside of Hartford’s two-party system.”

A News 12 story noted that Bergstein’s win was historic because “A Democrat has not represented Greenwich and New Canaan in the state Senate for 88 years.”

Freeman Scholarship Supports up to 11 Exceptional East Asian Students Annually

Wesleyan Freeman Asian Scholars gathered for group photos and dinner on Oct. 27.

The Freeman Asian Scholarship Program, now in its 24th year, provides expenses for a four-year course of study toward a bachelor’s degree for up to 11 exceptional students annually, one each from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Freeman Program was established in 1995 and supported scholars for 20 years through the generosity of the Freeman family—Mansfield Freeman ’16, P’43, Hon. ’79; Houghton Freeman ’43, P’77, Hon. ’93; Doreen Freeman P’77, Hon. ’03; and Graeme Freeman ’77.

Wesleyan continues to honor the Foundation’s legacy through this scholarship, which aims to improve understanding and strengthen ties between the United States and the countries and regions of the Pacific Rim. A number of early Wesleyan graduates were influential educators and ministers in Asian countries, and today Wesleyan has formal ties to several prominent universities in Asia.

Photos of the gathering are below: (Photos by Caroline Kravitz ’19)

class of 2019

Class of 2019.

Khamis Presents Paper at 2 Meetings

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis, associate professor of economics and associate professor, Latin American studies, recently presented her paper, “Reversed Migration Trends and Local Labor Markets” at two meetings. She spoke at the North East Universities Development Consortium (NEUDC) at Cornell University on Oct. 27, and at the Kiessling Presentation, Economic Studies Division at The Brookings Institution on Oct. 16.

Khamis coauthored the paper with Emily Conover of Hamilton College and Sarah Pearlman of Vassar College. According to the abstract, the paper estimates the effects of the unprecedented decline in Mexican net migration from 2006 to 2012 on labor markets in Mexico, and finds that declines in migration can have an impact on labor markets in sending countries.

Stein ’08 Wins 2018 Marine Corps Marathon

Stein '08 wins Marine Corps Marathon

D.C. Public Defender Jeffrey Stein ’08 won the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 28 with an official time of 2:22:49. (Photo courtesy Jeff Stein)

Jeffrey Stein ’08 had only one thing on his mind when he registered for the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.—redemption.

After a wrong turn off-course a quarter mile into the race in 2017 landed him an 8th place finish and a trip to the hospital for heat stroke, Stein registered for the 2018 race with one overriding goal: “to reclaim a little bit of dignity.” He achieved his goal and more, surging ahead in the last 2 miles to finish first with an official time of 2 hours 22 minutes 49 seconds.

Haddad in The Conversation: Americans Elected Mayors Who Care About Climate Change

Mary Alice Haddad

Mary Alice Haddad

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor of Government Mary Alice Haddad writes that the recent election of many pro-environment mayors was a promising sign for our country’s response to climate change. She describes the progress that cities in the U.S.—and around the world—have made in this area in recent years, at a time when the federal government is moving backwards. Haddad is also professor, environmental studies, and professor, East Asian studies. 

Americans elected mayors who care about climate change

Being pro-environment was a winning strategy for this country’s mayors.

Twelve mayors in America’s 100 largest cities faced re-election battles during the 2018 midterms, and mayors – both Democrats and Republicans – who followed pro-environmental policies were rewarded. All six mayors who had demonstrated their commitment to the environment by signing the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy – including Stephen Adler of Austin, Texas, Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky, and Libby Schaff of Oakland, California – won re-election. The other big city mayors in re-election battles weren’t so fortunate – two won, two lost, and two are facing runoffs.

Of course, voters consider many issues when they cast their ballot. It’s unlikely that the environment was the deciding issue in these races. However, mayors that prioritize the environment seem to be making changes in their cities that please constituents. The positive election results in 2018 were not an anomaly – all 15 mayors who signed the covenant and sought re-election in the last two years have been victorious at the ballot box, usually by large margins.

Mayors with pro-environmental agendas aren’t just popular. I believe they are an important part of the answer to the global challenge of climate change.

As a scholar of civil society and environmental policy – this is just one of the positive signs I see not just in American cities, but around the world.

Climate change is urgent

A month before the election, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report about the risks associated with climate change. The news was bad. Our planet is now expected to reach a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in average global temperatures as early as 2030. One billion people will regularly endure conditions of extreme heat. Sea levels will rise, exposing between 31 and 69 million people to flooding. Seventy to 90 percent of coral reefs will die. Fishery catches will decline by 1.5 million tons. And that is if we are lucky and keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which will not be easy.

As my colleague Gary Yohe reflected in a recent New York Times article, “2 degrees is aspirational and 1.5 degrees is ridiculously aspirational.” At exactly a time when we need to become more ambitious in our efforts to tackle this global problem, the United States has pulled out of the Paris agreement and is dismantling many of its clean energy and other climate policies at home. One of my students recently expressed a common feeling of helplessness: “It makes me wonder if the best thing I can do is just go out in the backyard and compost myself.”

So, I’d like to say: There is hope. While the president of the United States may not be making much progress, many other people are. The election of pro-environment mayors and governors is one excellent sign.

Cities take the lead

A number of U.S. cities have gained global reputations for their innovative responses to the challenge of climate change.

Once one of America’s most polluted cities, Pittsburgh has demonstrated how creative collaborations with the private sector, nonprofits, philanthropists, and academics can turn toxic urban environments into one of America’s most livable cities.

Austin’s vulnerability to climate-related disasters, including drought, wildfires and hurricanes, has made it especially aggressive about addressing climate change. It has committed to being net-zero greenhouse gas emitter by 2050. Its innovations in developing and spreading renewable energy have earned it awards in green technology, climate protection, and redevelopment. Austin’s pro-environmental efforts are transforming the city into a more livable place for its residents and a better one for the planet.

San Francisco, which reduced its carbon emissions by 30 percent between 1990 and 2016, cemented its global leadership position by hosting the 2018 Climate Action Summit this past September, which gathered 4,500 leaders from local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and business together to address climate change. The summit resulted in numerous corporate and city commitments to become carbon neutral, as well as trillions of dollars of investment in climate action.

New York City reduced its emissions by 15 percent between 2005 and 2015. Its residents have a carbon footprint that is only one-third that of the average American. The mayor of the financial capital of the United States has also become a champion of oil divestment.

These American cities are not alone. They are part of a global movement working to combat climate change. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy has more than 9,000 local governments from 127 countries representing more than 770 million residents committed to making headway on climate change. C40, ICLEI, Metropolis, United Cities and Local Governments and other organizations are helping cities find solutions that work and implement them.

As in the U.S., global cities are also making significant progress on climate change. Tokyo reduced its energy consumption more than 20 percent between 2000 and 2015, with the industrial and transportation sectors making astounding 41 percent and 42 percent reduction respectively. By 2015, the city of London had reduced its emissions 25 percent since 1990, and 33 percent since peak emissions in 2000.

These cities are not waiting for presidents and prime ministers to act, they’re making changes right now that are improving the lives of the tens of millions of their own residents by improving air quality, reducing flooding risk, and expanding green space, all while helping to bend the global emissions curve downward.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

PhD Candidate DeAngelis Speaks on Development of Fruit Fly Retinas

On Oct. 31, Miles DeAngelis, a PhD candidate in biology, presented a graduate speaker series talk titled, “The Hippo Signaling Pathway acts as a novel regulator of morphogenesis.”  DeAngelis’s advisor is Associate Professor of Biology Ruth Johnson, associate professor, integrative sciences.The field of morphogenesis aims to understand the biological processes that tell tissues how to organize into their life-supporting shapes. The Hippo signaling pathway is just one of these many processes. In the past, this pathway was thought to only regulate tissue size. DeAngelis’s work with Drosophila fruit flies suggests that in addition to regulating tissue size, the Hippo signaling pathway also regulates the patterning of pupal retina. The Graduate Speaker Series events are open to the entire Wesleyan community and include lunch. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Students Share Global Experiences through Photography

Delila Flores '19 won Best Photo of Daily Life for her image titled “Machete Abuela," taken in San Vincente, Puebla, México. "This is my bisabuela walking through the campo, the fields, where she uses her machete for her livelihood. She uses it to cut the weeds, to protect herself from the snakes, and as a walking stick. Despite being 92 years old, she is still a strong woman who has defended her land and taught her daughters, my abuela and my mamá to do the same," Flores said.

Delila Flores ’19 won Best Photo of Daily Life for her image titled “Machete Abuela,” taken in San Vicente, Puebla, México. “This is my bisabuela walking through the campo, the fields, where she uses her machete for her livelihood. She uses it to cut the weeds, to protect herself from the snakes, and as a walking stick. Despite being 92 years old, she is still a strong woman who has defended her land and taught her daughters, my abuela and my mamá to do the same,” Flores said.

This year, students shared global stories about humanity in 51 cities across 24 countries through the third annual Wes in the World photo contest.

Sponsored by the Fries Center for Global Studies, the contest is open to Wesleyan students who have had any global experience over the previous summer and/or previous semester. This includes study abroad returnees, international students, exchange students, fellowship recipients, and foreign language teaching assistants.

More than 200 students, staff, faculty, and alumni voted on the submissions within five categories: Contemporary Issues, Daily Life, Landscape, People, and Sport and Play.

“Our hope with these categories is to allow students to reflect on ways in which their global experience transcends borders by working towards peace and human rights, recognizing different realities of daily living, appreciating the wonderful landscapes of the earth, raising awareness about peoples and cultures outside of their ethnocentric lens, and connecting with others universally through sports and play,” said Kia Lor, assistant director of language and intercultural learning. “Students are not required to be professional photographers to participate. In fact, we are more interested in the stories behind the photographs than the camera or photo-editing software they used.”

Winners were announced during a ceremony at the Fries Center on Oct. 30.

Delila Flores ’19 won Best Photo of Daily Life; Romina Beltran ’22 won Best Photo of Contemporary Issues; Grant Hill ’20 won Best Photo of Landscape; Shariis Jeffrey ’19 won Best Photo of People; and Alice Ghislaine Musabe ’22 won Best Photo of Sport and Play.

The photo contest is held in conjunction with the Fries Center’s International Education Week celebration, held Nov. 11-17. The theme this year is “Transcending Borders” and events explore the complexities of “belonging” and how our sense of belongs transcends borders.

Romina Beltran '22 won Best Photo of Contemporary Issues for her image titled “In the streets of Kalkota," taken in Kolkata, India. "This photo represents an urban scenario in a capitalistic society in contrast with the elements of both nature and poverty," Beltran explained.

Romina Beltran ’22 won Best Photo of Contemporary Issues for her image titled “In the streets of Kolkata,” taken in Kolkata, India. “This photo represents an urban scenario in a capitalistic society in contrast with the elements of both nature and poverty,” Beltran explained.

Poulos Authors Papers on Managing Ecological Fire Risks, Recovery Strategies

Helen PoulosHelen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, is the coauthor of two papers published Oct. 22 in the journals Fire and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, respectively.

Poulos lead-authored a paper on fire and plant evolutionary ecology titled, “Do Mixed Fire Regimes Shape Plant Flammability and Post-Fire Recovery Strategies?” Contrary to a new model assuming that plant species have evolved three divergent flammability strategies, Poulos and her fellow researchers present three case studies that indicate plant species have evolved “bet-hedging strategies” that mix a variety of flammability and post-fire recovery strategies.

Poulos also co-authored a paper led by ecologist Christopher Johnson of the University of Tasmania titled, “Can trophic rewilding reduce the impact of fire in a more flammable world?” This paper is about managing fire risk by reintroducing large mammals and has received a lot of buzz, including a nod in Science.

“Working with a group of international scientists has really helped me in terms of thinking about global issues associated with fire, and also how humans can work together to create more sustainable landscapes,” Poulos said.

Szegedy-Maszak Receives Onassis Fellowship to Teach Greek History to Incarcerated Students

Andy Szegedy-Maszak

Andy Szegedy-Maszak. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

As an inaugural Onassis Foundation Teaching Fellow in Culture and Humanities, Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, the Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, will have the opportunity to teach Greek history to incarcerated students through Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education (CPE).

Starting during the spring 2019 semester, Szegedy-Maszak will teach an adapted version of his Wesleyan course CCIV 231: Greek History to men at the Cheshire Correctional Institution.

“I was surprised and very honored when I heard that I was awarded the fellowship,” said Szegedy-Maszak. “This class will be a survey of ancient Greek civilization over about 1,000 years, from the Bronze Age to the death of Alexander the Great. It’s less about the memorization of facts than how to use sources—literary, archaeological, and artistic—to put together a narrative, and also how to think about a culture that had some similarities to, but many more differences from, our own.”

The Onassis Foundation established the fellowship with the aim of promoting Greek culture through expanded college course offerings in Greek philosophy, humanities, art, and politics. Through a partnership with the Bard Prison Initiative, Onassis invited partners from across the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison to apply for the titled, distinguished fellowship. Szegedy-Maszak was selected as one of two inaugural fellows.