Faculty

Robinson Writes About the Real Reason Some People Become Addicted to Drugs

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Writing in The ConversationAssistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson looks to the brain to explain the real reason that some people become addicted to drugs.

Robinson, who also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, begins by debunking two popular explanations for drug addiction: that compulsive drug use is simply a “bad habit,” and that overcoming the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms is too hard for some addicts.

While pleasure, habits and withdrawal can play a role in drug use, Robinson says, the true reason for addiction can be explained by the psychological differences between “wanting” and “liking.”

Volcanoes Caused Ecological Disruption Says Thomas in Nature Article

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is a co-author of a paper titled “Very Large Release of Mostly Volcanic Carbon During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum,” published in the weekly science journal Nature on Aug. 31.

The study focused on Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, a surface warming event associated with ecological disruption that occurred about 56 million years ago, releasing a large amount of carbon. The researchers combined boron and carbon isotope data in an Earth system model and found that the source of carbon was much larger than previously thought.

Most of the carbon, Thomas and her colleagues discovered, was probably released by volcanism during the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean when Greenland separated from Europe.

The paper also was cited in another Nature article, on PhysOrg and on Science Daily.

Resident Writer Reed Remembered for being a Fierce Advocate for Students, Fiction

Kit Reed (Photo by Beth Gwynn)

Kit Reed (Photo by Beth Gwynn)

Kit Reed died on Sunday, Sept. 24, in Los Angeles, Calif., at the age of 85.

After several post-college years as an award-winning journalist, Kit Reed moved to Middletown in 1960 when her husband, Joe Reed, took a position with Wesleyan’s English Department. Kit Reed became a visiting professor of English in 1974, an adjunct professor of English in 1987, and resident writer in 2008. A former Guggenheim fellow, Reed was the first American recipient of an international literary grant from the Abraham Woursell Foundation. Her work has been nominated for the Locus Award, the Campbell Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Tiptree Award and she was twice nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award.

Reed was instrumental in the construction of the Creative Writing Program, helping to attract notable writers from across the country, both within the program and yearly at the Wesleyan Writers Conference. She was a fierce advocate for her students and for fiction itself. Many notable writers came through her care, including Stephen Alter, Suzanne Berne, Peter Blauner, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snickett), Akiva Goldsman, Nina Shengold, DB Weiss (Game of Thrones), and Zack Whedon, as well as many others who remained dear, lifelong friends.

Reed, by last count, wrote 39 books of fiction. As her daughter Kate Maruyama noted, “Kit’s last novel, MORMAMA, came out the day she went in for a biopsy. Her last short story, Disturbance in the Produce Aisle, came out in Asimov’s Magazine the month that she died. May we all be that dedicated, determined and prolific.”

Gruen to Teach at Princeton through Rockefeller Visiting Professorship

Lori Gruen will serve as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the Center for Human Values next spring at Princeton.

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen, the William Griffin Professor of Philosophy, is the recipient of a Laurance S. Rockefeller Distinguished Teaching Visiting Professorship at Princeton.

Next spring, Gruen will co-teach a course titled the Environmental Nexus at Princeton’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach. The undergraduate environmental studies course will examine a collection of global environmental crises and address multiple dimensions of these issues, including scientific, political, social and ethical aspects.

At Princeton, she will serve as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the Center for Human Values. At Wesleyan, Gruen also is professor of science in society; professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; and coordinator of Wesleyan Animal Studies.

Gruen is a leading scholar in animal studies and feminist philosophy. She is the author and editor of 10 books, including Ethics and Animals: An Introduction (Cambridge, 2011), Reflecting on Nature: Readings in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics (Oxford, 2012), Ethics of Captivity (Oxford, 2014), Entangled Empathy (Lantern, 2015) and the forthcoming Critical Terms for Animal Studies (UChicago Press, 2018).

Her work in practical ethics focuses on issues that impact those often overlooked in traditional ethical investigations, e.g. women, people of color, non-human animals. She is a fellow of the Hastings Center for Bioethics, a faculty fellow at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Animals and Public Policy, and was the first chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Center for Prison Education at Wesleyan.

Local Youth Learn Musical Skills from Wesleyan Musicians

As part of Green Street Teaching and Learning Center's AfterSchool Program, Nadya Potemkina, adjunct assistant professor of music, led a special music program for students in grades 1-5.

As part of Green Street Teaching and Learning Center’s (GSTLC) AfterSchool Program, Nadya Potemkina, adjunct assistant professor of music (pictured at right), led a special music program for students in grades 1 through 5 on Sept. 25. Potemkina directs the Wesleyan University Orchestra and teaches Wesleyan Concert Choir. She’s also adjunct assistant professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian studies.

Hornstein Authors New Article in ‘China Economic Review’

Abigail Hornstein

Abigail Hornstein

Associate Professor of Economics Abigail Hornstein’s article, “Words vs. actions: International variation in the propensity to fulfill investment pledges in China,” was published in the journal China Economic Review in July 2017.

Hornstein studied whether companies from certain countries were more likely than others to fulfill investment pledges. On average, she found that firms fulfilled about 59 percent of their pledges within two years. This number was lower for firms in countries with greater uncertainty avoidance, power distance, and egalitarianism; and higher for those in countries that are more traditional. She also found that popular attitudes toward China did not affect the likelihood of fulfilling investment pledges.

Smolkin Discusses Soviet Atheism on BBC

Victoria Smolkin

Assistant Professor of History Victoria Smolkin was recently a guest on BBC Radio 4’s “Beyond Belief” to discuss Soviet state atheism.

Smolkin said that Lenin’s conviction that banishing religion was necessary to create a revolutionary society was right ideologically, but wrong politically.

“If they wanted to stay in power, they needed to accommodate religion, and they understood that,” she said. “However, if they wanted to build a Communist society, ultimately religion had to go.”

Loui Co-Authors Article on Lack of Pleasure from Music

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, is the author of a new publication on musical anhedonia—the lack of pleasure from music. Together with others in her lab, Loui studied an individual with musical anhedonia and compared his brain against a group of controls. They found that his auditory cortex was differently connected to his reward system, a finding which gives further support for the role of brain connectivity in the musical experience.

The article, titled, “White Matter Correlates of Musical Anhedonia: Implications for Evolution of Music,” was published Sept. 25 in Frontiers in Psychology.  It was coauthored by Sean Patterson, BA ’17, MA ’18; Tima Zeng ’17; and Emily Przysinka, former lab manager in Loui’s lab.

Knee Co-Authors Article on Hydrogen-Bonding Interactions

Joseph Knee, the Beach Professor of Chemistry and Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, is the author of a new article published in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (PCCP). This “Perspectives” article, which was commissioned by the PCCP editorial board and editorial office, is a high-profile look at work by Knee and his collaborators that has been going on for nearly a decade. Perspectives articles are intended to present an authoritative state-of-the-art account of a particular research field.

The research by Knee and his collaborators, which is ongoing, uses experimental and computational methods to explore hydrogen bonding interactions, which are extremely important in the structure of water, various solutions, and in many key biochemical structures and processes.

Knee explains, “The most important aspect of our methodology is making careful experimental measurements of two single molecules forming hydrogen bonds and then modeling these bonds with modern quantum chemical calculations. The calculations allow us to decompose the various forces which contribute to the bond strength and structure. The larger goal is to generalizing this insight to more complex hydrogen bonded systems, particularly hydrogen bonding networks which exist in liquids and biological systems.”

The full article can be read here by those with subscriptions or institutional subscriptions, including those on Wesleyan’s campus.

Shasha Seminar 2017 Convenes Experts on Gun Legislation Debate, Paths Forward, Oct. 27-28

Guns in American Society, this year’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, will be held on campus on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 27-28. Made possible by a generous grant from the Shasha family, the 16th annual event will convene experts, including Wesleyan faculty and administrators, as well as alumni from across the country, to examine current debates about the role of guns in American society and discuss ways of reducing the national incidence of gun violence.

According to seminar organizer Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history and science in society and researcher in the history of technology, law and culture, guns are a topic of concern not just for those advocating for gun control but also for gun rights advocates, who see the issue as a question of personal liberty. The debate, she notes, is now moving onto college campuses, with the recent passage of legislation allowing guns on campus in 10 states. Additionally, 16 more states are considering such legislation.

Haddad Calls for Development of Volunteer Force to Respond to Natural Disasters

Mary Alice Haddad

Mary Alice Haddad

Amid the devastation wrought by recent storms, Professor of Government Mary Alice Haddad calls in The Hartford Courant for people everywhere to be better prepared to respond to natural disasters.

When the next storm hits our area, she writes, “It will not be professional first-responders but rather our neighbors who will be the ones handing our child to safety, lifting our dog from his perch atop the garage or helping our grandmother stay warm. America needs to build up its civil society infrastructure. We are known for our volunteerism, our generosity and our big hearts. We now need to organize that volunteer spirit a bit more thoughtfully in ways that can respond well when disaster strikes.”