Campus News & Events

Taylor Co-Authors 3 Articles, Writes Book Chapter on Lignin Enzymology

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, recently co-authored three papers and a book chapter related to (1) biomass to biofuel production and (2) development of new therapeutics to treat Gram-negative bacterial infections.

Taylor’s work investigates problems at the biological chemistry interface and seeks to find applications of her work to the fields of medicine and sustainable energy.

Her chapter called “Lignin Enzymology – Recent Efforts to Understand Lignin Monomer Catabolism” in the book Comprehensive Natural Products III: Chemistry and Biology, and her paper “Identifying Metabolic Pathway Intermediates that Modulate Enzyme Activity: A Kinetic Analysis of the DesB Dioxygenase from Sphingobium sp. strain SYK-6,” published in Process Biochemistry in January 2021, both help illustrate the mechanisms for breaking down Lignin, an important biopolymer that provides the structural integrity of terrestrial plants. The DesB paper is coauthored with alumnus Stacy Uchendu ’17 and other members of her lab. Her work is aimed toward helping understand ways to improve the efficiency of biofuel and fine chemical production.

The remaining papers describe efforts to understand the machine-like motions of the protein Heptosytransferase I and efforts to design inhibitors against them to treat bacterial infections:

A General Strategy to Synthesize ADP-7-azido-heptose and ADP-azido-mannoses and their Heptosyltransferase Binding Properties,” published in Organic Letters in February 2021.

Her paper, “Conserved Conformational Hierarchy Across Functionally Divergent Glycosyltransferases of the GT-B Structural Superfamily as Determined from Microsecond Molecular Dynamics,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in April 2021.

This summer, Taylor is overseeing the McNair research program with Ronnie Hendrix, and in the fall, she will be teaching a new First Year Seminar titled Chemistry in Your Life.

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:

June 8
Marketing Technology Insights — ADEC Innovations Appoints New Executive To Lead Company In Their Next Phase Of Growth And Development. Features Sondra Scott ’88, chief executive officer for ADEC Innovations U.S. and Europe.

June 9
The New York Times — 3 Art Gallery Shows to See Right Now. Features installations by Cameron Rowland ’11.

Shondaland — Love and the Burning West: She nearly died while fighting a fire. All she could think about was the tragedy of dying while still a virgin. Features an essay by former U.S. Forest Service smokejumper Sarah Berns ’98.

Connecticut Post — Tour restored 1867 Middletown cemetery this weekend. Mentions the restoration of the Dr. Joseph Barratt monument, which features dinosaur footprints. Barratt had associations with Wesleyan.

June 10
Fox 61 CT — From Middletown to movie screens everywhere | The Wesleyan connection to In the Heights. Features Wesleyan President Michael Roth; Jack Carr, professor of theater, emeritus; and the Patricelli ’92 Theater.

Movie Web — Uncharted Movie: Release Date, Plot, Characters – Everything We Know So Far. Mentions director Ruben Fleischer ’97 and “like other successful filmmakers, such as Joss Whedon [’87, Hon. ’13] and Michael Bay [’86], Fleischer studied at the Wesleyan University in Connecticut.”

Patch — NYC Council District 7 Election: Ray Sanchez Seeks Uptown Seat. Features Raymond Sanchez ’00, CEO of the homeless services provider Aguila.

Yahoo! News via The Hartford CourantIn the Heights, drafted when Lin Manuel Miranda was a student at Wesleyan University, opens in movie theaters. Features Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, who “was a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Middletown when he wrote the Tony-winning hip-hop musical In the Heights.”

June 11
E — It Won’t Be Long Now: How In the Heights Finally Made the Leap From Stage to Screen. Features Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15.

Filmmaker Magazine — “My Cutting Process is Very Old School”: Editor Myron Kerstein on In the Heights. Mentions Wesleyan University.

June 14
Inside Higher Ed — A Military Appointment at Swarthmore. Mentions Wesleyan’s partnership with the Chamberlain Project.

Street Insider — Kanzhun Limited news. Mentions Charles Zhaoxuan Yang ’07, chief financial officer of NetEase, Inc.

June 15
Inside Higher Ed — Newly Tenured at Drury, Middlebury, Virginia Tech, Wesleyan. Mentions Ioana Emy Matesan, assistant professor of government, and Michael Meere, assistant professor of French.

Street Insider — Elliott Opportunity II Corp. news. Mentions Steven Barg ’84, global head of corporate engagement at Elliott Investment Management L.P.

June 16
South Seattle Emerald — Doc’s Medical Negligence and Dehumanization of Prisoners Must End. Features opinion piece by Hannah Bolotin ’19.

Portal to the Universe via Women in Planetary Science — Martha Gilmore: Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t belong in this field. Features a Q&A with Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology.

June 18
Yale University — Effective July 1, Assistant Dean Robert Harper-Mangels ’92 will become Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Support at Yale.

Daily Kos — Activists are ramping up the fight to bring Asian American history to the classroom. Mentions students at Wesleyan University created a syllabus and ran a student-led Asian American studies course for themselves.

Greenwich Time — Greenwich educator with ‘passion for pedagogy’ selected for Teacher of the Year program. Features Allison Fallon MALS ’10.

June 21
Women in Hollywood — “Still I Rise” Announces Inaugural Fellowship Recipients. Mentions Arielle Knight ’11, a New York-based documentary filmmaker and creative producer.

CT Patch — Obituary: Marilyn Hughes Johnson, 84. Features Marilyn Hughes Johnson, who “worked at Wesleyan University for several years assisting the Director of the Graduate Liberal Studies Program in producing course catalogs and program materials.”

June 22
The WOLF 96.7 FM — SEEDS – Access Changes Everything Celebrates the Graduation of 40 College-bound Students. Mentions that students will attend Wesleyan.

The Conversation — Explorer Robert Ballard’s memoir finds shipwrecks and strange life forms in the ocean’s darkest reaches. Features an article by Suzanne OConnell, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

June 23
Connecticut Post — Torrington gallery presents exhibit of paintings by Don Sexton. Features Don Sexton ’63, who “studied painting and drawing at Wesleyan University.”

Faculty Appointed Endowed Professorships

monogramIn recognition of their career achievements, the following faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1, 2021:

Erik Grimmer-Solem, professor of history, is receiving the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Professorship in the College of Social Studies, established in 2008.

Abigail Hornstein, associate professor of economics, is receiving the Woodhouse/Sysco Professorship of Economics, established in 2002.

Edward Moran, professor of astronomy, is receiving the John Monroe Van Vleck Professorship of Astronomy, established in 1982.

Suzanne OConnell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is receiving the Harold T. Stearns Professorship of Earth Sciences, established in 1984.

Francis Starr, professor of physics, is receiving the Foss Professorship of Physics, established in 1885.

Tracy Heather Strain, associate professor of film studies and co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, is receiving the Corwin-Fuller Professorship of Film Studies, established in 1986.

Also, in recognition of his outstanding research and teaching, Ilesanmi Adeboye, associate professor of mathematics, has been awarded the inaugural Faculty Equity Fellowship for 2021-2022.

Brief biographies appear below:

Ilesanmi Adeboye received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and MS from Howard University. He taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, before arriving at Wesleyan in 2011. Adeboye’s scholarship is at the intersection of geometry, topology, and analysis, with a focus on the study of volume in non-Euclidean geometries. He has published articles on hyperbolic geometry, complex hyperbolic geometry, and projective geometry. Ilesanmi received the 2010 Mochizuki Memorial Fund Award at UC Santa Barbara in recognition of outstanding achievement in mathematics instruction.

Erik Grimmer-Solem was a Harper Fellow at the University of Chicago before joining the history department in 2002. He received his D.Phil. from Oxford University, M.Phil. from Cambridge University, M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and BA from Brigham Young University. Grimmer-Solem has published two books on the history of German social reform and imperialism, along with many articles and reviews in leading journals. He has received numerous awards, including the Binswanger Prize and a recent fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). His scholarship on the Holocaust was covered widely in the German media and discussed by the Bundestag in 2014.

Abigail Hornstein joined the economics department after completing her Ph.D. and M.Phil. from Stern School of Business, New York University, and her AB from Bryn Mawr College. Her scholarship focuses on corporate finance, multinationals, business strategy and governance, and legal institutions, with particular expertise in the Chinese financial markets. Hornstein’s work has been published in many prestigious journals, including Journal of Empirical Finance, Journal of Comparative Economics, Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Journal of Corporate Finance, and China Economic Review.

Edward Moran arrived at Wesleyan in 2002 after serving as a Chandra Fellow at University of California, Berkeley, and an IGPP Postdoctoral Fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and receiving his Ph.D. and MA from Columbia University. Moran studies black holes in the nuclei of dwarf galaxies to gain insights into galaxy evolution, and the history of black hole activity in the universe via investigations of the cosmic X-ray background radiation. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Suzanne O’Connell arrived at Wesleyan in 1989 after receiving her Ph.D. from Columbia University, her M.Sc. from State University of New York at Albany, and her AB from Oberlin College. O’Connell studies marine sediment cores recovered through scientific ocean drilling (DSDP, ODP, IODP) to understand past climate change, which helps to understand and model future climate change. She is the 2001 recipient of the Association for Women Geoscientists Outstanding Educator Award and a Fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA). Currently, OConnell serves on the United States Science Advisory Program committee for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and on the governing council for GSA.

Francis Starr joined the physics department in 2003 after serving as the deputy director of the Center for Theoretical and Computational Materials Science at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). His research focuses on the emergent complexity of soft matter physics and biophysics. Starr has authored or co-authored over 120 refereed publications and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He is the former director of the College of Integrative Sciences and currently directs the Integrated Design, Engineering, & Applied Science (IDEAS) program.

Tracy Heather Strain received her Ed.M. from Harvard University and her AB from Wellesley College, and is currently an MFA candidate at the Vermont College for the Arts. Strain is an award-winning documentary film director, producer, and writer whose work tells stories with a goal of advancing social justice, building community, and empowering the marginalized. Her films have received two Peabody Awards and have been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ford Foundation, Independent Television Service, and LEF Foundation, among other funding organizations. Her most recent work is American Oz, which premiered April 19, 2021.

Kauanui Guest-Edits Anarchist Studies Journal, Speaks at Virtual Events

Kēhaulani Kauanui

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies, guest-edited a 2021 special issue of Anarchist Development in Cultural Studies called “The Politics of Indigeneity, Anarchist Praxis, and Decolonization” as well as wrote an article for the issue by that same title. Kauanui’s work focuses on Indigenous sovereignty, settler colonial studies, anarchist history and activism, and critical race and ethnic studies. Among other recent publications, in 2021, Kauanui also wrote a commentary for Volume 24 of Postcolonial Studies called “False dilemmas and settler colonial studies: response to Lorenzo Veracini: ‘Is Settler Colonial Studies Even Useful?’”

This past academic year, Kauanui chaired the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Native American Studies Search Committee for the American Studies department and also served as a consultant for select administrators and faculty regarding the politics of land acknowledgments and recognition of the Wangunk, the Indigenous people of the land where Wesleyan is located.

Additionally, Kauanui delivered invited lectures (virtually) for universities across the world, including UC Santa Cruz, Concordia University, York University, University of Virginia, Stanford University, and University of Melbourne. She was also a guest on Kaua‘i Community Public Radio (KKCR), where she discussed Biden’s policy on Native Hawaiians and federal recognition.

This coming fall, Kauanui, who also is an affiliate faculty in anthropology, will hold a fellowship at Wesleyan’s Center for Humanities. She’ll be teaching a new class—CHUM378: Decolonizing Indigenous Gender and Sexuality.

Naegele’s Neuroscience Research Published in Journals 

Jan Naegele

Jan Naegele

Janice Naegele, Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, and professor of biology, is the co-author of three recent publications. Naegele’s work focuses on stem cells and finding new treatments for epilepsy and brain damage.

Naegele’s articles include the following:

Induction of temporal lobe epilepsy in mice with pilocarpine,” published by BioProtocol in February 2020.

Development of electrophysiological and morphological properties of human embryonic stem cell-derived GABAergic interneurons at different times after transplantation into the mouse hippocampus,” published by PLoS One in August 2020.

Optogenetic interrogation of ChR2-expressing GABAergic interneurons after transplantation into the mouse brain,” published by Methods in Molecular Biology in September 2021.

Johnston, Otake Explore Fukushima Disaster in New Book

Body in FukushimaA new book written by two Wesleyan faculty explores the experience of two travelers in the land destroyed by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

William Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History, and Eiko Otake, visiting artist in dance, are the co-authors of A Body in Fukushima, published June 1 by Wesleyan University Press.

Johnston, a historian and photographer, accompanied Japanese-born performer and dancer Otake on five explorations across Fukushima, creating 200 photographs that document the irradiated landscape, accentuated by Eiko’s poses depicting both the sorrow and dignity of the land.

Johnston elaborated on the process of creating the book.

“By witnessing events and places, we actually change them and ourselves in ways that may not always be apparent but are important,” Johnston said. “Through photographing Eiko in many places in Fukushima, we are witnessing not only her and the locales themselves but the people whose lives inhabited these places. I do not consider my photographs as documents of Eiko’s performance. Rather, each photograph becomes a performance of its own when placed in front of a viewer.”

The book also includes essays and commentary reflecting on art, disaster, and grief.

Johnston and Otake were interviewed about their work on the book by the Gagosian Quarterly for the Summer 2021 Issue.

On June 27, 2017 Eiko performed near the wreckage of a home four miles north of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster. The home, and the surrounding vibrant neighborhood, was destroyed by the tsunami and then inundated with radioactivity from the Daiichi plant.

On June 27, 2017 Eiko performed near the wreckage of a home four miles north of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster. The home, and the surrounding vibrant neighborhood, was destroyed by the tsunami and then inundated with radioactivity from the Daiichi plant.

Eiko performed at the Tomiko Municipal Sanitation Plant June 26, 2017. The plant is located 4.3 miles south of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors and was damaged by the earthquake. Most Tomioka residents had left the community due to radiation caused by the Daiichi disaster and the plant closed.

Eiko performed at the Tomiko Municipal Sanitation Plant June 26, 2017. The plant is located 4.3 miles south of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors and was damaged by the earthquake. Most Tomioka residents had left the community due to radiation caused by the Daiichi disaster and the plant closed.

Read more:

A Body in Fukushima: Recent Work Exhibition on Display in Zilkha Gallery (February 2018)

Otake, Johnston ‘Fukushima’ Project Culminating Events in NYC on March 11 (March 2017)

Johnston, Otake Exhibit A Body in Fukushima in Manhattan (September 2016)

A Body in Fukushima: Photo, Video Exhibit on Display at 3 CFA Galleries (February 2015)

Faculty, Alumni Rated Among World’s Top 1% of Scientists

Thirteen Wesleyan faculty are rated among the top 1% most-cited researchers worldwide, according to a recent study by PLOS Biology.

The study, led by Professor John Ioannidis from Stanford University, combines several different metrics to systematically rank the most influential scientists as measured by citations. More than six million scientists, who were actively working between 1996 and 2018, were analyzed for the project.

The faculty include:
David Beveridge, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, emeritus
Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology
Mark Hovey, professor of mathematics, associate provost for budget and personnel
Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of physics
Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology
Herbert Pickett, research professor in chemistry, emeritus
Dana Royer, professor of earth and environmental sciences
Francis Starr, professor of physics
Steve Stemler, professor of psychology
Ruth Striegel Weissman, Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, emerita
Sonia Sultan, professor of biology
Johan Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus
Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, emeritus

In addition, at least eight Wesleyan alumni are rated in the top 0.1% of all scientists in the world including Gene Stanley ’62, Philip Russell ’65, Jay Levy ’60, Nick Turro ’60, Dr. William H. Dietz ’66, Michael Greenberg ’76, Jerry Melillo ’65, John Coffin ’67, and Hugh Wilson ’65. (Know of any others? Let us know at newsletter@wesleyan.edu!)

The study reinforces Wesleyan’s reputation as an exceptional liberal arts institution, said Wilson, who is professor emeritus of spatial and computational vision at York University.

“It is sometimes questioned whether a liberal arts education is really optimal for an aspiring scientist. After all, wouldn’t it be better to take just science and math courses rather than spending part of one’s time with literature, philosophy, history, or art,” he said. “So, [this study shows that] liberal arts continue to attract outstanding scientists as dedicated faculty members who espouse both teaching and research.”

Rutland Writes Of Russia, Politics, COVID-19 in Recent Publications

peter rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland, Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, has recently authored and co-authored many scholarly articles and book chapters. His research focuses on contemporary Russian politics, the political economy, and nationalism.

His works include:

A chapter titled “Looking back at the Soviet economic experience,” published in 100 Years of Communist Experiments in June 2021.

Dead souls: Russia’s COVID Calamity,” published in Transitions Online in March 2021.

Workers Against the Workers’ State,” published by the NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia in February 2021.

Poverty, Politics and Pandemic: The Plague and the English Peasant’s Revolt of 1381,” published in History News Network in January 2021.

Restored Peacock Displayed in Wesleyan’s Science Library

peacock

The entrance to the Science Library in Exley Science Center houses a taxidermied peacock that has been restored by faculty and students in the biology department. The peacock, originally rediscovered in 2018 and put on exhibit in spring 2019, is part of a bird collection that was first displayed at the museum in Judd Hall and now belongs to the Wesleyan Museum of Natural History.

The restoration team, which includes Professor of Biology Ann Campbell Burke, Yu Kai Tan BA/MA ’21, Andy Tan ’21, and Fletcher Levy ’23, recently updated the display to include new signage and fresh peacock feathers from biology professors Stephen Devoto and Joyce Ann Powzyk’s farm.

“It was found in storage alongside a whole bunch of minerals in Room 316 of Exley,” Yu Kai Tan said. “It was sitting way up high on this shelf, and probably since 1970, no one has looked at it or touched it. It was covered in dust and muck.”

When the team first found the peacock, it was in such poor condition that they needed to call for outside help.

Raynor’s Study Suggests Wolves Help Decrease Vehicle Collisions with Deer

Raynor

Jennifer Raynor

Can wolves help prevent deer-vehicle collisions?

According to a new study by Assistant Professor of Economics Jennifer Raynor, areas with wolf populations are seeing a 24 percent decline of car vs. deer accidents due to the canines creating a “landscape of fear” in ways human deer hunters cannot.

Her study, titled “Wolves make roadways safer, generating large economic returns to predator conservation” was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on June 1. Raynor and her co-PIs investigated the potentially positive presence of wolves in relationship to roadways by examining 22 years of data from Wisconsin.

The researchers determined that for the average county, the wolves’ effect on deer collisions yielded an economic benefit that is 63 times greater than the costs of verified wolf predation on livestock.

14 Faculty Promoted, 2 Conferred Tenure

monogramThe following faculty were conferred tenure, effective July 1, 2021, by the Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting:

  • Ioana Emy Matesan, Associate Professor of Government
  • Michael Meere, Associate Professor of French

Ioana Emy Matesan, Associate Professor of Government
Professor Matesan’s scholarship focuses on the study of political violence with an emphasis on the Middle East. Her recent book, The Violence Pendulum: Tactical Change in Islamist Groups in Egypt and Indonesia (Oxford University Press, 2020), addresses what determines the appeal and spread of violent and nonviolent resistance. She has published several peer-reviewed articles and a book chapter and helped create and administer the Muslim Studies Certificate. She has received the Carol A. Baker ’81 Memorial Prize through the Public Affairs Center and served as a tenure-track representative to Academic Council. She offers courses on Democracy and Dictatorship, Comparative Politics of the Middle East, and Terrorism and Film.

Michael Meere, Associate Professor of French
Professor Meere is an expert in 16th- and 17th-century French drama. He is the author of the forthcoming monograph Onstage Violence in Sixteenth-Century French Tragedy: Performance, Ethics, and Poetics (Oxford University Press, 2021), editor of French Renaissance and Baroque Drama: Text, Performance, Theory (University of Delaware Press, 2015), and co-editor with Valérie M. Dionne of Staging Justice in Early Modern France, a special issue of Early Modern French Studies (2020). He has served on the Fulbright committee, the Watson Fellowship committee, and the Advisory Board of the Fries Center for Global Studies. His courses include French and Francophone Theater in Performance, Elementary French, and Love, Sex, and Marriage in Renaissance Europe.

They join three other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

In addition, 14 faculty members are being promoted.

  • Jane Alden, Professor of Music
  • Sarah Carney, Associate Professor of the Practice in Psychology
  • Sonali Chakravarti, Professor of Government

73 Seniors Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

Kat Eaton '21

Phi Beta Kappa inductee Kat Eaton ’21 plans to work as an editor at a ghostwriting company while applying to creative writing programs at graduate schools.

During her four years at Wesleyan, Katherine “Kat” Eaton ’21 not only fell in love with creative writing, but she also discovered interests in martial arts, fire spinning, and tabletop roleplaying games—Dungeons & Dragons, Monster of the Week, Masks, and more. “Basically, I’m a storyteller, whether that’s on my own or with other people,” Eaton explained.

Eaton, who graduated on May 26 with honors for her English thesis titled “Myths and Legends of Aetheria: A Study in Worldbuilding,” is also among only 88 students from the Class of 2021 to graduate with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

On May 24, she and 72 of her peers were inducted into the Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa during a virtual ceremony. At Wesleyan, only 12 percent of each graduating class is elected to PBK, the oldest national scholastic honor society. Election is based on fulfilling general education expectations and having a grade point average of 93 or above.

Students are nominated by their major departments or class dean.