All News

Hot off the Press: New Papers by Hingorani, Tucker, Case PhD ’19

Manju Hingorani, visiting scholar in molecular biology and biochemistry, and Brandon Case PhD ’19 are co-authors of a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA in July 2020. The paper, titled “Recurrent mismatch binding by MutS mobile clamps on DNA localizes repair complexes nearby,” reports novel findings about the mechanism whereby MutS protein triggers initiation of DNA repair. The research at Wesleyan was supported by NIH grant R15 GM114743 awarded to Manju Hingorani. Case is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School.

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, discusses the role of material culture and visual media in shaping how museums communicate histories of science and technology in an article titled “Guns, Germs, and Public History: A Conversation with Jennifer Tucker,” published July 8, 2020 in the Journal of The History of the Behavioral Sciences.

Artist Gittes ’10 Donates 1,800 Paintings to NYC Hospital Staff

Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes wanted to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, so he created paintings for every single person working at Interfaith Medical Center in New York.

Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes ’10 wanted to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, so he created paintings for all employees working at Interfaith Medical Center in New York. (Image courtesy of NBC Nightly News)

Gittes

Gittes holds up a sampling of the “Strangers to No One” project.

On July 26, Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes ’10 was featured on NBC Nightly News in a “There’s Good News Tonight” segment.

For an entire month, Gittes worked on a project titled “Strangers to No One,” which involved painting 1,800 flowers. He donated the works to every employee at the Interfaith Medical Center in New York City, a nonprofit community hospital, to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you love somebody, you give them a flower,” Gittes said in the interview.

Donning a Wesleyan University sweatshirt on the show, Gittes demonstrated how he painted the flowers using a syringe as opposed to a paint brush.

“I … felt powerless and frustrated,” Gittes said. “I can’t paint one for everyone and everywhere, but I could paint one for everyone at one hospital.”

New 24″ Telescope to Provide Better Research Opportunities for Astronomy Students, Faculty

On July 20, the Astronomy Department’s Van Vleck Observatory acquired a state-of-the-art 24-inch telescope that can view galactic objects remotely and autonomously.

“When fully operational, the system will be able to determine if the weather is favorable for observing, open the dome, take calibration observations from a queue, and close down in the morning, all on its own,” explained Roy Kilgard, associate professor of the practice in astronomy. “We’ll be able to conduct remote observations in real time, with a human operator at home or in their office, and make those images available to our students or researchers immediately.”

The new 24-inch PlaneWave CDK24 system replaces a 20-year-old 16-inch Meade LX200GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain in the rooftop dome of the observatory and will allow for student and faculty research and public observation nights. The department hopes to have the telescope fully operational by the start of the fall semester.

At 8 a.m., crews began the installation, which included using a crane to hoist a steel pier, mounting device, and the telescope through the slit in the dome. Photos of the installation are below: (Photos courtesy of Roy Kilgard and Patrick Bohan)

telescope

telescope

Flowers from Foss, Wildlife from WestCo

Although human activity on campus is sparse during the summer and during the COVID-19 pandemic, birds, butterflies, bees, and the occasional groundhog are enjoying the plethora of pollen, nectar, berries, and fruits the campus grounds have to offer.

Pictured are summery scenes taken from the Foss Hill and West College areas of campus on July 20: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

west co garden

Thousands of woodland sunflowers line the upper path behind West College. Ten years ago, the University offered the student organization WILD Wes a .75-acre parcel of sloping land behind the West College complex to build a permaculture site. The courtyard is now home to hundreds of species of perennials, native grasses, ground covers, fruit trees, berry bushes, and other wildlife.

A monarch butterfly drinks nectar from a thistle flower.

A monarch butterfly drinks nectar from a thistle flower in the West College courtyard.

Chong ‘21 Rallies against ICE Policy, Speaks at Capitol Press Conference

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Bryan Chong ’21 spoke during a press conference at the state Capitol, where Attorney General William Tong announced a lawsuit filed by Connecticut, 16 other states, and the District of Columbia against the government’s proposal to revoke student visas for international students should their universities choose to move classes online due to COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Mark Mirko @markmirko/Hartford Courant @hartfordcourant)

On July 6, when the U.S. government made a federal ruling that international students would be deported should their studies be held exclusively online, Bryan Chong ’21 took immediate action to fight back.

The Hong Kong native and visa holder had already spent six years in Connecticut, attending high school in Kent before enrolling at Wesleyan. If the COVID-19 pandemic moved Wesleyan to return to an all-online format again, the policy would have forced Chong to return to China for his senior year of college. But he wasn’t worried about himself as much as his international peers.

“I couldn’t imagine the mental toll this would have on international students who don’t necessarily have a secure home to go home to. There are many international students who see colleges and universities as a safe haven from their hometowns, or maybe from income insecurity, housing insecurity, and food insecurity,” Chong said.

After receiving blowback from universities and colleges across the country, on July 14 the government abruptly rescinded the proposal, easing the minds of the more than 400 international students at Wesleyan.

Wesleyan Joins Amicus Brief in Support of International Students with F-1 Visas

Wesleyan University recently joined with 58 of our peer colleges and universities in filing an amicus brief to halt the implementation of the July 6 directive by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding international student enrollment for the fall of 2020. The brief is in support of the petition filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week that seeks to enjoin DHS/ICE from implementing a rule that would deny visas and deport international students whose campuses are unable to resume in-person courses in the fall due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

“While colleges and universities are working tirelessly to make plans to ensure our students can continue their educations, we are now being asked to contend with this illogical and draconian regulation,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78. “Rather than focusing on being productive partners in helping to ensure the safety of our communities and the country, the administration has resorted to cruel actions that continue the Trump Administration’s three years of open demonization of immigrants that undermines the security of many who are temporarily in the United States to work or study. From threats of deportation to the “Muslim Ban” and fulminations on the “Chinese virus,” the Trump administration has stoked hostility to foreigners—or at least to foreigners it paints as undesirable.

“The latest proposal does nothing with regards to stemming the seemingly unchecked spread of COVID-19 throughout our country; in fact it just adds yet another unnecessary hurdle to making decisions and plans that will allow colleges and universities to identify the safest ways of returning and providing instruction this fall,” added Roth.

The amicus brief filed in United States District Court in Massachusetts included such diverse colleges and universities as Yale University, Stanford, Amherst College, Brown University, Dartmouth College, Princeton University, Rutgers University, and Smith College.

For more information contact Deborah (Deb) Katz at Dkatz02@wesleyan.edu or 860-919-7261.

Wesleyan Releases Detailed Plans for Campus Reactivation

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Following a March move to remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesleyan has released a detailed set of plans and launched a new Reactivating Campus website, which will serve as a key information hub for the campus community, as the University prepares to reopen to in-person instruction for the 2020 fall semester.

Wesleyan announced in mid-June that it intended to resume in-person classes on Aug. 31, pending the ongoing recommendations of University, state, and federal health and safety experts. With a promising current public health trajectory in Connecticut and in Middletown, the University’s pandemic planning group is continuing to refine plans for the coming semester and guiding Wesleyan through a series of gating checkpoints in accordance with state guidelines.

Gonzalez Discusses How COVID-19 Has Changed College Admission

Amin Gonzalez

VP and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96. (Photo by Adrienne Battistella)

In late June, Wesleyan was among more than 300 colleges and universities to issue a joint statement, “Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19,” organized by the Making Caring Common Project and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The movement underscores a commitment to equity and to encouraging students to balance self-care, meaningful learning, and care for others. We spoke to Wesleyan’s Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96 about this shared commitment, as well as how admissions at Wesleyan has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has obviously affected just about every realm of everyday life. How has it impacted high school students and the college admission process?

The disruptions caused by the pandemic have significantly set back students who were on a traditional trajectory of exploring colleges. Junior year spring is typically a launching point for students to research and visit schools, but this spring most college campuses were closed to visitors. With regard to their high school experiences, not only were academics and extracurricular activities interrupted—you can imagine the impact on student-athletes and talented musicians who plan to pursue these passions in college—but students were largely cut off from peers and adults who help them grow and think through important questions about their future. We’re also finding that inequities amongst students are being exacerbated by the pandemic, and that’s only going to become more pronounced over time.

Faculty, Alumni, Students Publish Books, Journal Articles

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

BOOKS AND BOOK CHAPTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Students of Color Receive Tokita Prize for Literature

Jade Tate '22 and Jake Kwon '21

Jake Kwon ’21, top, and Jade Tate ’22 are recipients of the Shu Tokita Memorial Prize.

Jake Kwon ’21 and Jade Tate ’22 are the recipients of the 2020 Shu Tokita Memorial Prize, which is awarded annually to a student of color majoring in literature or language with a focus on literature, who demonstrates financial need.

The award, which comes with a $1,500 prize, was established 20 years ago by the friends and relatives of Shu Tokita ’84, who passed away in 1989 from leukemia. He had received a BA in English literature from Wesleyan and an MA in Japanese literature from Tsukuba University. The prize seeks to reflect Tokita’s interest in literature and is focused on supporting students of color, for whom the study of literature, Tokita’s family and friends felt, is often considered a “luxury.”

Applicants may be affiliated with the following departments: English, College of Letters, other language/literature departments, or related studies in East Asian studies concentrating on Chinese or Japanese literature.

Tate and Kwon received the prize during a virtual awards ceremony on June 30. The selection is based on the submitted 750-word essay and on financial need, and not on academic standing.

Kwon, a biology and English double major, had a lifelong struggle with literature as a person of color. POC voices, he says, were undermined in the American education system.

Wickham ’21 Speaks on the Black Student Experience in STEM

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

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

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

Gershberg ’95 Plays Key Role in Reuters’s Pandemic Coverage

Michele Gershberg '95

Michele Gershberg ’95

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in February, and as doctors and scientists intensified their search for ways to stymie the virus, it quickly became clear to Michele Gershberg ’95 that her already challenging job was about to get even more complicated.

As the U.S. health editor for the Reuters news agency, Gershberg leads a team of eight reporters covering health and scientific innovation, as well as the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. “It runs the whole gamut,” Gershberg said. “We are part of a larger global team of health and pharma industry reporters, with reporters in London, Paris, Zurich, and Beijing, so we really work together very closely to try to tell the global story.”