Campus News & Events

Wesleyan Students Help Area Kids get a Kickstart on Kindergarten

Amy Breitfeller ’19 interacts with Mohammed, 2 1/2, and his sister, Dania, 1 1/2, during a playgroup July 31 at Russell Library. Breitfeller was using a sand mixture to help children improve their sensory and physical development.

This summer, three Wesleyan students are helping local children prepare for a successful transition into kindergarten.

Through the five-week Kindergarten Kickstart program, Cara Bendich ’19, Amy Breitfeller ’19, and Emma Distler ’19 are working with area youth at four locations to improve their school readiness skills through the research-based, high-impact, low-cost innovative and nurturing preschool program. Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and three of her students first launched Kindergarten Kickstart in summer 2012.

For the summer 2018 session, students are hosting the Kickstart program at Middletown’s Bright and Early Children’s Learning Center, Town and Country Early Learning Center, and the Middlesex YMCA preschool. On Tuesdays, the students hold an additional playgroup at Russell Library for anyone in the community.

“Today we’re playing with moonsand, which is a mixture of flour, glitter, and baby oil,” Breitfeller said during a July 31 gathering at the library. “The children can feel and play with the sand, which promotes physical development and also aids in social skills with other children.”

Through a partnership between University-based research labs, Middletown Public Schools, and local community organizations, Kindergarten Kickstart aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap. The majority of the preschoolers will attend kindergarten this fall at Bielefield School, Farm Hill School, and Macdonough School in Middletown.

3rd Annual Scientific Imaging Contest Winners Announced

A magnified image of a fruit fly’s eye took first place in the third annual Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest in August.

The Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest 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, 21 images were submitted from eight departments.

The entries were judged based on the quality of the image and the explanation of the underlying science. The judges, a panel of four faculty members, were Brian Northrop, associate professor of chemistry; Ann Burke, professor of biology; Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy; and Renee Sher, assistant professor of physics.

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

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

Emily McGhie ’20 took first prize with an image that depicts a mispatterning phenotype in the Drosophila (fruit fly) pupal eye at 40 hours after pupariation. “Such a phenotype was produced in the eye tissue by utilizing an RNA interference transgene to reduce the expression of hth—a gene that encodes the transcription factor Homothorax. Interommatidial pigment cells are shown in yellow and purple, and primary cells are shown in green and blue. In one image, incorrectly patterned cells are compared to correctly patterned cells: the mispatterned cells are highlighted in yellow and green, while correctly patterned cells are highlighted in purple and blue,” she said.

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. The Forward: Jewish Student is Youngest Woman Ever to Finish ‘American Ninja Warrior’ Course

Casey Rothschild ’20 is interviewed about her path to become, at 20, the youngest woman ever to complete the course in the popular sports competition TV show. Rothschild is also a track star, pole vaulter, circus artist, and dedicated student.

2. TIMEThe 25 Moments From American History That Matter Right Now

In this compendium of important moments in American history, Courtney Fullilove, associate professor of history, associate professor of science in society, contributed an entry about July 8, 1853, when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed his steam-powered ships into Tokyo Bay. She writes, “His insistence that the Japanese trade with the United States hinged on a belief that international commerce was a marker of civilization. He had no sense that military enforcement of this norm diminished its value, or that of the numerous American manufactures he brought as gifts.”

3. Hartford Courant: Wesleyan Janitor Facing Deportation Honored by University for Service to Students

Francisco Acosta, an employee of Sun Services, was awarded the Peter Morgenstern-Clarren scholarship for his service and impact on students.

4. The Times Literary Supplement: Don’t Listen to the Critics

In this essay, Hirsch Sawhney, assistant professor of English, writes about the author Michael Ondaatje, whose poetry and prose have made him a bestselling author, “while also earning him the ire of literary critics.”

5. Charleston Gazette-Mail: Appalachian Scholar Project helps Charleston teens prepare for college

Students from Wesleyan have been helping African-American teenage girls get into colleges — especially prestigious, out-of-state institutions.

Recent Alumni News

  1. ESPN: Michele Roberts [’77] Elected to Another Four-Year Term as NBPA Executive Director“The National Basketball Players Association unanimously elected Michele Roberts to serve another four-year term as executive director, union president Chris Paul announced Tuesday,” wrote ESPN staff writer Tim McMahon, and quoted Roberts on “’creat[ing] a system that allowed them [the players] to really believe that I and the team we assembled were going to be interested in one … priority only, and that is the best interest of the players.'”

2. New York Times Book Review: A White House Memoir That’s Equal Parts C-Span and ‘Sex and the City’

Paul Begala, political consultant, commentator, and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, reviews From the Corner of the Oval (Spiegel & Grau, 2018) by Beck Dorey-Stein ’08. He calls it an “addictively readable memoir … that is improbable even by White House standards.”

3. The Boston Globe: This CEO Doesn’t Like to Be Cornered

A profile of Dr. David Schenkein ’79, P’08, “CEO of Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Cambridge, [who] runs a biotech startup that won approval last August for its first drug, Idhifa, to treat a rare and devastating form of leukemia caused by a genetic mutation.”

4. Forbes: The Three Tactics This Radio Personality Used to Make Her Mark in Media

Angela Yee ’97, “one-third of the popular The Breakfast Club, Power 105.1’s syndicated morning radio show based in New York,” profiled by Pauleanna Reid, features mentoring advice from Yee, including ”reach back to educate.”

5. Forbes: The Founder Of Tala On Her Leap From Finance To Fundraising For Her Mission-Driven Startup

Shivani Siroya ’04, founder and CEO of Tala, talks with Forbes staff writer Tanya Klich at Forbes Women’s Summit, delineating her fundraising process in a Q&A, as well as in a backstage video.

6. New York Times: ‘Emojiland’ and a Graceful Elegy at the New York Musical Festival

The “graceful elegy” is If Sand Were Stone, reviewed by Laura Collins-Hughes, who considered it a “strong offering” of that week. (Now closed, it was at the Acorn Theater.) It also featured the talents of recent alumni. Collins-Hughes writes: “With book and lyrics by Carly Brooke Feinman [’16] and music by Cassie Willson [’17], it’s a show whose subject—a middle-aged woman’s fast unraveling from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease—risks turning off potential audience members. But as staged by Tyler Thomas, with spare yet essential choreography by Nora Thompson [’15], part of this musical’s triumph is its sensitivity and grace.”

Students Share Summer Research Projects at Poster Session

Cher Qin ’21 presented her quantitative analysis study titled “Text Classification of 2016 Presidential Campaign Advertisement” during a poster session July 26. Qin’s advisors are Pavel Oleinikov, associate director of the Quantitative Analysis Center, and Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government.

More than 135 undergraduate research fellows shared their summer-long research during a poster session on July 26 in Exley Science Center.

Students from the Psychology Department, College of the Environment, Biology Department, Neuroscience and Behavior Program, Chemistry Department, Physics Department, Astronomy Department, Math and Computer Science Department, Quantitative Analysis Center, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department, and Astronomy Department presented posters. Posters often contain text, graphics, and images that illustrate the students’ research results on a single board. Poster session attendees can view the posters and interact with the authors.

The summer research program is hosted by the College of Integrative Sciences.

“We had possibly the largest poster session ever this year, with presentations by students from across the sciences, as well as many departments in the social sciences,” said Francis Starr, professor of physics, professor of integrative sciences, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, head of the College of Integrative Sciences. “Year after year, I am in awe of what our Wesleyan students are capable of.”

Photos of the poster sessions are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Rochelle Spencer ’20 shared her poster titled “Dendrimer Synthesis via Highly Efficient Thoil-Michael Reactions.” Her advisor is Brian Northrop, associate professor of chemistry, associate professor of integrative sciences.

Cho Named U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholar

Joan Cho is one of 11 U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholars in the country.

As a 2018-19 U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholar, Joan Cho, assistant professor of East Asian studies, will develop public policy skills and learn how to provide commentary and expertise on issues related to Korea.

The U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholars Program is a unique two-year non-resident program that provides opportunities for mid-career Korea specialists to discuss issues of importance to U.S.-Korea relations with policymakers, government officials, and opinion leaders in Korea and the United States, learn how to effectively engage with the media, participate in the policymaking process, gain experience as public intellectuals helping to bridge the scholarly and policy communities, and address issues of importance to the U.S.-Korea relationship.

“As a Korean-American scholar of contemporary Korean politics, it is my goal to better inform Koreans and Americans that the U.S.-Korea relationship is not limited to foreign relations on a national level,” Cho said. “The NextGen Scholar program will provide me with the opportunity to engage with key policymakers in Washington and Seoul. I’ll also be able to network with like-minded scholars from diverse backgrounds, and collaborate on various research/policy-relevant projects while learning to become a public intellectual.”

Personick Honored with Young Investigator Program Award from Army Research Office

Michelle Personick joined the faculty this fall, and is teaching courses in Chemistry of Materials and Nanomaterials and an Integrated Chemistry Lab. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Michelle Personick

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, is the recipient of a three-year, $339,000 Young Investigator Program grant funded by the U.S. Army Research Office. Personick will use the funds to support her nanoparticle research, which ultimately may protect military soldiers from hazardous chemicals and materials.

The Army’s Young Investigator Program is designed to identify and support talented scientists and engineers who show exceptional promise for doing creative research, in order to encourage their teaching and research careers. The program is open to U.S. citizens, Nationals, and resident aliens holding tenure-track positions at U.S. universities and colleges, who have held their graduate degrees for fewer than five years at the time of application.

Sundial Sculpture Installed on Van Vleck Observatory

Seth Redfield, chair and associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, and artist Robert Adzema observe a sundial's installation July 16 at the Van Vleck Observatory. Adzema, a maker of site-specific sundials, designed the sculpture to be placed at its exact location on the telescope's wall.

Seth Redfield, chair and associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, along with artist Robert Adzema observed the sundial’s installation July 16 at the Van Vleck Observatory. Adzema, a maker of site-specific sundials, designed the sculpture for this exact location below the telescope’s dome.

The campus community now has the ability to tell time the way Egyptians did more than 3.500 years ago—by using light and shadows.

A modern-day sundial, which mimics those used throughout history, now hangs on the south side of the Van Vleck Observatory’s 24-inch Perkin telescope. The six-foot-square structure is fabricated from 3/16-inch thick Muntz metal bronze with stainless steel reinforcing.

“Campus doesn’t have enough outside art,” said Joyce Jacobsen, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “A sundial is a perfect piece because it’s not only aesthetically pleasing but it’s functional too.”

Bill Herbst, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, along with Jacobsen, had been pitching the idea of a sundial to the Wesleyan administration for many years. In 2016, the plan was approved by all involved parties, including the President’s Office and Physical Plant-Facilities. Jacobsen and Herbst commissioned sundial creator and artist Robert Adzema of New York to design and build a sundial for Wesleyan’s campus. After visiting campus six times and crafting multiple paper and wooden models, Adzema completed the time-telling sculpture in 18 months.

“Sundials can be designed for almost any fixed surface that receives sunlight,” Adzema said. “The most precise dials, as is this dial, here at Wesleyan, are made to the exact longitude and latitude of the site.”

On July 16, crews from New Jersey traveled to campus and began installing the 650-pound sundial. Adzema also attended to offer guidance and direction.

“It’s a great location in terms of being visible without being intrusive,” Jacobsen said. “We will also have an entry now in the online listing for sundials around the world, so now maybe we will have yet more people visit campus, drawn here by the sundial!”

Photos of the sundial’s installation are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Crews used a scissor lift to lift and install the 650-pound sundial.

Fresh Organic Produce Grown, Sold by Wesleyan Students

This month, students tending Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm are harvesting a bounty of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, and duck eggs. From 3 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday, members of the Wesleyan and local community can purchase these organic garden goodies at an on-site farmer’s market, located at 243 Long Lane.

Long Lane Farm is Wesleyan’s own student-run organic farm devoted to allowing students a place to experiment and learn about sustainable agriculture. The produce also is sold at local farmer’s markets, donated to Amazing Grace Food Pantry, or served to students in Usdan. Long Lane Farm was founded in 2003 by a group of students seeking to provide a practical solution to local hunger problems and build a strong connection with the Wesleyan and Middletown communities.

At the July 10 and July 31 markets, students sold squash, green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, carrots, garlic, collard greens, kale, chard, duck eggs, mint, lemon balm, sage, thyme, oregano, and mugwort. Photos are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Rothschild ’20 Youngest Woman to Complete American Ninja Warrior Course

Casey Rothschild ’20, pictured here on the “Philadelphia Qualifiers” episode of American Ninja Warrior, completed the obstacle course in 4:57. (Photo by Bill McCay/NBC)

Casey Rothschild

Casey Rothschild

On June 25, American studies major Casey Rothschild ’20 became the youngest woman, and only the third woman this season, to complete the course on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.

The 20-year-old, who hails from Holliston, Mass., is a former member of Wesleyan’s women’s track and field team, where she holds the triple jump record. She trains three times a week at Real Life Ninja Academy in Windsor, Conn., and New Era Ninjas in Hamden, Conn. For the summer, she is working as a gymnastics and circus aerial arts coach at a camp in Massachusetts.

After tackling six obstacles, including foam steps, spinning bow ties, a broken bridge, wingnuts, lightning bolts, and a 14.5-foot tall wall, she hit the final buzzer in under five minutes.

Read more in this Hartford Courant article.

Watch the episode below:

YouTube Preview Image

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. NBC’s American Ninja Warrior: Youngest Woman to Hit Buzzer: Casey Rothschild

Rothschild ’20 competed in the NBC television show’s Philadelphia qualifiers, becoming the youngest woman to ever finish a course when she hit the buzzer at 4:57. Rothschild has been training for years and uses the moniker Circus Ninja because of her background in circus arts. Read Rothschild’s interview with The Hartford Courant.

2. The Washington Post: This Is What It Feels Like to Be Separated at the Border

Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history, associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies, shares her own heartbreaking experience of being separated from family at the border as she left the U.S.S.R. as a child refugee in 1988.

Tucker Speaks at Arsenals of History Symposium

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

On May 21, Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, spoke at the Arsenals of History Symposium held at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyo., May 21–23. The theme of the second annual symposium was “Ethics of Firearms in Museums.”

The symposium brought together authorities in the field to discuss practical guidelines for museums with firearms. Other presenters came from the Autry Museum of the American West, the Art Institute of Chicago, Colonial Williamsburg, Dutch National Military Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NRA Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Marshals Museum, Springfield Armory National Historic Site, and the Royal Armouries Museum. Representatives discussed teaching firearms in universities, reconversion and restoration of flintlocks, how a museum gets a gun, and collecting objects with dubious pasts.

Tucker spoke specifically about the role of public collections in the gun debate and her new research that looks at the historical coevolution of cameras and firearm technology.

“We know that people talk about shooting pictures and shooting guns, and we know the language is similar, but one of the things that I am interested in is how the technology for cameras and guns evolved together,” she said.

The conference garnered much media attention. In the May 28 issue of the Billings Gazette, Tucker discussed how the interest in firearms is the “charisma” of guns, whether it’s addressed in museum displays or not.

“Museum collections of firearms can engage with contentious issues,” said Tucker, who is serving on the first Board of Directors of the Association of Firearms History and Museums.

On June 20, The Firearms Blog, which covered the workshop for the museum, featured Tucker and other curators speaking about their presentations.

Tucker is the author of “Display of Arms: A round-table discussion about the public exhibition of firearms and their history,” forthcoming in the July 2018 issue of Technology and Culture, Volume 59, Number 3.

The Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press also has accepted Tucker’s book manuscript on “Firearms and the Common Law” for publication next year.

Tucker also will be speaking on “The Role of Gun Collections in Museums in Today’s Debate over Firearms,” Sept. 29 at a conference on Guns and Museums: A Workshop for Museum Educators, to be held at Fairfield University. The event is open to the public and registration is online.

Robinson Lab Awarded Grant from National Institute on Drug Abuse

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and integrative sciences, is the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The grant will be awarded over two years, starting on July 1, and will support a study titled “Dissecting Cortical Contributions to Risky Decision-Making.”

Robinson and his research students will use optogenetics in rats to inhibit parts of the brain’s prefrontal cortex during the decision-making process.

“The aim would be to see how we make decisions when faced with risk,” Robinson explained. “Are certain areas of the prefrontal cortex involved in tracking the outcomes of previous choices in order to influence future decisions? Or, do they simply promote more or less risky behavior when a choice presents itself?”

The Robinson Lab focuses on the brain mechanisms underlying motivation and reward and how they come together to produce desire and risky decision-making. These findings would be relevant to various forms of addiction such as drug abuse and gambling disorders.