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Sawhney Authors E-Book on Race, Police Brutality

Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, is the author of a recent work of fiction titled The Diary of Rehan Malhotra, published as an e-book by Juggernaut Books (2017).

In this timely story, Rehan, the son of a Muslim mother and Hindu father, is a middle-aged high school teacher in New Haven, Conn., who struggles with his growing estrangement from his wife and the affluent, white community in which he lives. A charged encounter with a neighbor causes him to look back on his troubled teenage years, when he used and sold drugs, and when he forged a problematic friendship with a young black man named Ink. The Diary of Rehan Malhotra casts a spotlight on the invisible walls that divide city from suburb, which keep some people safe and others confined. It is a meditation on the possibilities and limitations of literature as a cure for social ills.

The story costs 10 rupees, or 15 cents, and is being published as a part of Juggernaut’s efforts to get inexpensive, quality literature to as diverse a readership as possible.

Sawhney is also the author of South Haven and the editor of Delhi Noir, a critically acclaimed anthology of original fiction. Hirsh has lived in Delhi, London and New York City.

Sung ’90 Reflects on Fighting Injustice in New Documentary

Jill Sung ’90, center, with her sister Vera and father, the founder of Abacus Federal Savings Bank, in a still from the new documentary by Steven James, which will air on PBS Frontline Sept. 12. The film chronicles the saga of the only U.S. bank indicted for mortgage fraud related to the 2008 financial crisis.

On Sept.12 (check local listings), Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline will broadcast Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, a new documentary by Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) that tells the story of the only U.S. bank to be criminally charged in connection with the 2008 financial crisis. That bank is Abacus Federal Savings Bank, located in New York City’s Chinatown and founded in 1984 by Thomas Sung, an immigration lawyer and an immigrant himself, who saw the need for this within the insular community. Sung and his wife are the parents of four daughters—three lawyers and one medical doctor—including two affiliated with the bank: Jill Sung ’90, president and CEO of Abacus, and her elder sister Vera, who sits on the board.

The events that are chronicled were set in motion when the Sungs discovered that one of their loan officers was taking money from borrowers in order to create false loan documents. The Sungs immediately fired him, referred the matter to their regulator, and reported the incident to the police. Yet instead of prosecuting that individual, the district attorney’s office turned their scrutiny on the bank’s officers and employees. In an unprecedented turn of events, 18 Abacus employees were placed under arrest and the press was offered a shocking photo-op: 10 of these employees were “handcuffed to a chain and paraded down the hallway in the Criminal Court building in a staged perp-walk before the national news media like a herd of slaves being led to the auction block,” as Thomas Sung later described that event in his statement to the public after Abacus was found innocent of wrongdoing.

Before that day of vindication, however, the legal proceedings, machinations, and trial sprawled over five long, intense years. James was there to film key moments and conduct interviews, including one with New York City District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who led the prosecution.

Sawhney’s Novel Named to South Asian Literature Prize Longlist

A novel written by Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, was named to the longlist for the 2017 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The DSC Prize, which carries an award of $25,000, celebrates the rich and varied world of literature of the South Asian region.

In Sawhney’s South Haven (Akashic Books, 2016), grief, violence and history collide to offer a radical look at childhood and migration in suburban New England. South Haven is one of 13 books on the list. The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 27 in London.

The prize brings South Asian writing to a new global audience through a celebration of the achievements of South Asian writers, and aims to raise awareness of South Asian culture around the world.

Hirsh has lived in Delhi, India; London, U.K. and New York City. He currently lives in New Haven, Conn.

Yohe Writes about Trump, Climate Change

Gary Yohe

In the near future, the Trump Administration must decide whether to approve or reject a new scientific report on climate change. Writing in The Conversation, Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, asserts, “If the Trump administration chooses to reject the pending national Climate Science Special Report, it would be more damaging than pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Full stop.”

Yohe backs up this bold claim by explaining why this report is so important and describing a crucial difference between the report and the Paris Climate Agreement. Namely, “the Paris accord focuses on reducing emissions, while the Climate Science Special Report is designed to help the U.S. better adapt to the effects of climate change even as it underscores the importance of cutting emissions.”

First Indian Motorcycle Prototypes Designed, Built on Wesleyan’s Campus

Did you know that the birthplace of the Indian Motorcycle prototype is on Wesleyan’s property? In 1901, at the site of the former Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company, (now a grassy area abutting Wesleyan’s High Rise and Low Rise Apartments, and Traverse Square Apartments) journeyman Carl Oscar Hedstrom designed and built a prototype for a gas-engine-powered motorized bicycle that would be used to pace bicycle races.

In 1901, at the site of the former Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company (a bicycle factory and now a grassy courtyard area abutting Wesleyan’s High Rise and Low Rise Apartments), journeyman Carl Oscar Hedström designed and built a gasoline engine powered motorized bicycle. This area would later be known as the historic birthplace of the Indian Motocycle (now Indian Motorcycle) prototype.

Pitts-Taylor Wins Merton Book Award for The Brain’s Body

Victoria Pitts-Taylor, left, was presented with the Merton Book Award by Mary Frank Fox of the Georgia Institute of Technology, a council member for the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.

Professor of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Victoria Pitts-Taylor, pictured at left, received the Robert K. Merton Award for her book, The Brain’s Body: Neuroscience and Corporeal Politics (Duke University Press, 2016). The award was presented at a meeting of the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association in Montreal, Canada on Aug. 14.

The Merton Award is given annually in recognition of an outstanding book on science, knowledge, and/or technology published during the preceding three years.

The Brain’s Body previously won the 2016 prize in Feminist Philosophy of Science given by the Women’s Caucus of the Philosophy of Science Association.

Pitts-Taylor also is professor of science in society, professor of sociology.

You’re Invited! View the Solar Eclipse at the Van Vleck Observatory, Aug. 21

Watch a partial eclipse of the Sun at Wesleyan’s Van Vleck Observatory on Aug. 21.

The campus and local community is invited to witness the partial eclipse of the Sun at Wesleyan’s Van Vleck Observatory on Aug. 21. While Middletown isn’t in the narrow path of totality, viewers should still be able to see about 65 percent of the Sun disappear. Telescopes for the family-friendly event will be set up at 1 p.m., and the eclipse will begin at approximately 1:20 p.m., with mid-eclipse falling at approximately 2:40 p.m. The event is hosted by Wesleyan’s Astronomy Department and is free of charge.

Wesleyan Students Capture “Vibrant Wesleyan Jewish Life” in Forward

Writing in the Forward, Matt Renetzky ’18 and Talia Kaplan ’18 share their experience with the “vibrant Wesleyan Jewish Life” scene.

“Perhaps the most unique thing about our community is just how student-run it is. Jewish life evolves from year-to-year based on the desires and needs of the current student body,” write Kaplan, who is affiliated with the Wesleyan Jewish Community, and Renetzky, who is affiliated with Chabad. “If you’re looking for pluralism in Jewish background and practice, Wesleyan is for you.”

Plasma Bubble, Stem Cell Images Win Scientific Imaging Contest

This summer, Wesleyan hosted the second annual Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest, which recognizes student-submitted images from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member that are scientifically intriguing as well as aesthetically pleasing. This year, 33 images were submitted from six departments.

The entries were judged based on the quality of the image and the explanation of the underlying science.  The images were judged by a panel of four faculty members: Steven Devoto, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior; Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, assistant professor of integrative sciences; Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of integrative sciences; and Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

The first-place winner received a $200 prize; the second-place winner received $100; and the third-place winner received $50. Prizes were funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

The three winning images are shown below, along with scientific descriptions, written by the students.

Yonathan Gomez '18 won first place with his image, "Jumping" Drop. The drop is an expanding partially-ionized plasma created underwater by a pulsed Nd:YAG laser, which pushes upwards on the surface of the water. As the plasma bubble expands, it disrupts the surface from below, which launches a water drop upward. The water drop shown has a diameter of approximately 2mm. The image was taken at 1/2,000 frames per second.

Yonathan Gomez ’18 won first place with his image, “Jumping” Drop. The drop is an expanding partially-ionized plasma created underwater by a pulsed Nd:YAG laser, which pushes upwards on the surface of the water. As the plasma bubble expands, it disrupts the surface from below, which launches a water drop upward. The water drop shown has a diameter of approximately 2mm. The image was taken at 1/2,000 of a second.

Research Paper by Personick, King Published in ‘Particle’ Journal

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, and her graduate student Melissa King, are co-authors of a paper titled “Bimetallic Nanoparticles with Exotic Facet Structures via Iodide-Assisted Reduction of Palladium,” published in the journal Particle and Particle Systems Characterization, Vol. 34, Issue 5, in May 2017. The research was featured on the inside front cover of the issue.

In this study, Personick and King explain how gold–palladium tetradecapods (14-pointed nanoparticles) with an unusual combination of both well-defined concave and convex facets can be synthesized by introducing dilute concentrations of iodide during nanoparticle growth. Iodide directs the formation of the tetradecapods by increasing the rate of palladium ion reduction, which is a new role for this shape-controlling additive.
This article also was recently highlighted in Advanced Science News.

Winslow Remembered for Establishing World Music Program

Richard Winslow '40 received a Doctor of Letters at the 2010 Commencement. President Roth announced the establishment of the Richard K. Winslow chair in music, made possible by a generous gift from the Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Richard Winslow ’40 received a Doctor of Letters at the 2010 commencement. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Richard Winslow, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, died July 24 at the age of 99.

Winslow received his BA in English from Wesleyan with the Class of 1940, and his BS and MS from the Julliard School. He joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1949 and taught music here for 34 years until he retired in 1983. During this time, he advocated for and oversaw the establishment of Wesleyan’s renowned program in world music and had a profound influence on the lives of many students and colleagues.

His friend and colleague, Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Emeritus, said “Without Winslow, Wesleyan would never have had the visionary music department of such ambition, scope, and radicalism that it continues to enjoy. He was a kind of radical Yankee in the spirit of Thoreau and Ives. Dick was a figure from an old Wesleyan who ensured that music would have permanent prominence in a small liberal arts college, affecting the world of music in countries, institutions, and concert halls around the globe as the ‘energy’ (his favorite word) of the place radiated outward.”

Mukerji, Oliver Co-Author Study in PNAS on Basic Cell Function

In this illustration, SecA is shown in light gray and the SecYEG complex is in dark gray. The rainbow colored portion of SecA is the two helix finger. n cyan is a model of the hairpin.

In this illustration, the hairpin is highlighted in cyan. The hairpin is formed by the initiator part of a protein.

All cells — bacterial or human — secrete up to 10 or 20 percent of the proteins that they make. Human secreted proteins, for example, include components of serum, hormones, growth factors that promote cell development during embryogenesis and tissue remodeling, and proteins that provide the basis for immune cell signaling during infection or when fighting cancer.

The secretion process, however, isn’t an easy feat for cells, as they need to move the proteins across a membrane through a channel. Transport requires the formation of a hairpin, formed by an initiator protein.

In a recent study, Don Oliver, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, explain the importance of where and why hairpins form and how they help proteins move across the cell.

The study, titled “Alignment of the protein substrate hairpin along the SecA two-helix finger primes protein transport in Escherichia coli,” brings together key areas of membrane biochemistry, structural biology and molecular biophysics, and has innovative applications of molecular genetics and fluorescence spectroscopy. It was published in the Aug. 7 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).