Faculty

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.

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

Peter Rutland, Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought and a professor of both government and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, 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 articles include:

Transformation of nationalism and diaspora in the digital age,” published in Nations and Nationalism in December 2020.

Russia and ‘frozen conflicts’ in the post-soviet space,” published in Caucasus Survey, in April 2020.

Do Black Lives Matter in Russia?,” published in PONARS Eurasia policy memo in July 2020.

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

NASA Selects 2 Proposed Venus Mission Concepts Co-Developed by Gilmore

Gilmore

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, believes that if scientists are able to measure Venus’s atmosphere and surface, we can better understand the climate, volcanic activity, and the habitability of Earth-size worlds. The selected missions aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like planet after it was potentially another habitable world in the solar system with an Earth-like climate. (Photo by Henry Greenwood)

Two proposed Venus mission concepts co-developed by planetary geologist Martha Gilmore were selected by NASA’s Discovery Program this week. The selected missions aim to understand how Venus became a scorching planet after it was potentially another habitable world in the solar system with an Earth-like climate.

Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is a co-investigator of both winning concepts. Each project will receive approximately $500 million per mission for development and is expected to launch in the 2028–2030 timeframe.

The projects include VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) and DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus).

“Venus is so critical to our understanding of how Earth-sized planets form in our solar system and other solar systems,” Gilmore said. “I can’t wait to see what we know about Venus in 20 years—will we know then that Venus was once covered in oceans? Will we know how the inner planets acquired their water inventory? Will we know how to recognize habitable planets around other stars? Will we find evidence of life there?”

VERITAS, a Venus orbiter, will create high-resolution topography imaging of Venus’s surface and produce the first maps of the planet’s global surface composition. By charting surface elevations of nearly the entire planet, scientists will be able to learn more about the geological history of the planet and why it developed so differently than Earth. VERITAS also will map infrared emissions from Venus’s surface to map its rock type and determine whether active volcanoes are releasing water vapor into the atmosphere. VERITAS is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

DAVINCI+ is an atmospheric probe that would be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. As the probe plunges into Venus’s thick atmosphere, it would measure the chemical composition, revealing the possibility of a history of water on Venus. In addition, DAVINCI+ will return the first high-resolution pictures of the unique geological features on Venus known as “tesserae,” which may be comparable to Earth’s continents, and, as the oldest terrains on Venus, may record past climates. This will be the first U.S.-led mission to Venus’s atmosphere since 1978.

“Having these two such complementary missions is a dream come true,” Gilmore said. “I’m so happy and look forward to working with our students on this fascinating planet.”

According to NASA, these investigations are the final selections from four mission concepts NASA picked in February 2020 as part of the agency’s Discovery 2019 competition. Following a competitive, peer-review process, Gilmore’s missions “were chosen based on their potential scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans.” The project teams will now work to finalize their requirements, designs, and development plans.

NASA“We’re revving up our planetary science program with intense exploration of a world that NASA hasn’t visited in over 30 years,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science in a June 2 press release. “Using cutting-edge technologies that NASA has developed and refined over many years of missions and technology programs, we’re ushering in a new decade of Venus to understand how an Earth-like planet can become a hothouse. Our goals are profound. It is not just understanding the evolution of planets and habitability in our own solar system, but extending beyond these boundaries to exoplanets, an exciting and emerging area of research for NASA.”

Established in 1992, NASA’s Discovery Program has supported the development and implementation of over 20 missions and instruments. These selections are part of the ninth Discovery Program competition.

Gilmore, who also is the co-coordinator of Wesleyan’s Planetary Sciences program, is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, has served on dozens of NASA and National Academy of Sciences-NRC Committees, has mentored more than 20 master’s degree recipients, has served as chair of the Wesleyan’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Venus Exploration Analysis Group, deputy chair of VEXAG, and has a publication record of fundamental research contributions in planetary geoscience, particularly on the geological evolution of the Earth, Venus, and Mars.

In 2020, she received the Randolph W. “Bill” and Cecile T. Bromery Award from the Geological Society of America for her exemplary contributions to research in the geological sciences and for being an instrumental mentor to young people of color.

3 Professors Honored with 2021 Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching

binswanger

At left, Provost Nicole Stanton and Wesleyan President Michael Roth congratulate Sonali Chakravarti, associate professor of government, on being a recipient of a Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Every spring, Wesleyan recognizes outstanding teaching with three Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

This year, Wesleyan honors the following faculty members for their excellence in teaching:

Sonali Chakravarti

Sonali Chakravarti

Sonali Chakravarti
Sonali Chakravarti, associate professor of government, came to Wesleyan in 2009. Her work focuses on questions of emotions, the law, and democratic institutions. Chakravarti is the author of two books—Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life (University of Chicago Press, 2019) and Sing the Rage: Listening to Anger After Mass Violence (University of Chicago Press, 2014)—as well as numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters in publications including Political Theory and the Journal of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. At Wesleyan, she teaches courses including What Is the Good Life?, The Moral Basis of Politics, Transitional Justice, and Acting and Citizenship, among others. She served on the Educational Policy Committee in 2019–20, and on the faculty board of the Fries Center for Global Studies in 2018–19. In 2014, she was awarded Wesleyan’s Baker Memorial Prize. Chakravarti has been the Ann Plato Post-Doctoral Fellow at Trinity College and Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. She earned a BA in political science from Swarthmore College, and an MA, an MPhil, and a PhD in political science from Yale University.

7 Faculty Retire from Wesleyan

Seven faculty, including Johan Varekamp received professor emeritus status during the 189th Commencement ceremony. Each professor was featured on a large LED screen. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

During Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement ceremony, seven faculty were recognized for retiring from active service on the faculty and have attained emeritus status:

William Herbst, a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1978 and John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy since 2000.

Joyce Jacobsen, a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1993 and Andrews Professor of Economics since 2003.

J. Donald Moon, a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1970 and Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Professor in the College of Social Studies since 2008.

Thomas Morgan, a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1973 and Foss Professor of Physics since 1996.

Ellen Thomas, a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1992 and Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences since 2017.

Khachig Tölölyan, a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1974 and Professor of English and Letters since 2006.

Johan Varekamp, a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1983 and Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science since 2005.

4 Faculty Honored with MA Ad Eundem Gradum Degrees

During the 189th Commencement ceremony, four Wesleyan University faculty received the honorary degree of Master of Arts ad eundem gradum. The degree is awarded regularly and solely to those members of the faculty who (1) are not graduates of Wesleyan at the bachelor’s level and (2) have attained or been appointed to the rank of full professor on our faculty. By the award of this degree, all full professors on the Wesleyan faculty are made alumni of the University, and are qualified to participate in alumni affairs.

The recipients include: Erika Franklin Fowler, professor of government; Barbara Juhasz, professor of psychology; Hari Krishnan, professor of dance; and Phillip Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Poulos Publishes Paper on Arizona Wildfires

Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, is the lead author on a research article titled “Wildlife severity and vegetation recovery drive post-fire evapotranspiration in a southwestern pine-oak forest, Arizona, USA” published in Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation on May 8, 2021.
Undergraduates Michael Freiburger ’21 and Hunter Vannie ’20 assisted in collecting field data.

From the paper’s abstract:

In this study, post-fire ET was driven by plant species composition and tree canopy cover. ET was significantly higher in the morning and midday in densely vegetated post-fire shrublands than pine-dominated forests that remained 5–7 years after wildfire. Our results demonstrate that plant functional traits such as resprouting and desiccation tolerance drive post-fire ET patterns, and they are likely to continue to play critical roles in shaping post-fire plant communities and forest water cycling under future environmental change.

The paper is Poulos’ first result from her NASA ECOSTRESS project. She received a $300,000 grant from NASA in 2019 to study how high-severity wildfires in southern Arizona can permanently affect forests. The project uses data recorded by the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) instrument on the International Space Station.

Lennox Discusses History on Podcast “Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness”

Jeffers Lennox

Jeffers Lennox

Associate Professor of History Jeffers Lennox was featured on a May 4 episode of the podcast Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. In an episode titled  “What Was Canada Up To During The American Revolution? with Professor Jeffers Lennox,” Lennox spoke about Canada and the American Revolution.

The podcast, which is hosted and created by Van Ness, an Emmy-nominated television star and New York Times bestselling author, focuses on different topics each week. Van Ness interviews experts in various fields and delves into the subjects in which they specialize.

The episode began with Van Ness asking an overarching question: “What’s the deal with Canada’s origin story?”

Lennox spoke about how parts of Canada were originally colonies at the time of the American Revolution, though they did not choose to join the fight. However, these were not the first people to live on the land.

“Like all of North America, the territories that become Canada were just indigenous homelands. There had been indigenous people living in the Northeast for 12,000 years before settlers arrived,” Lennox explained.

He also expanded on the history of French influence in Canada.

“The French settlers stayed [on the land],” Lennox said. “That’s why if you go to Montreal or Quebec City, or anywhere in Quebec and lots of places in Nova Scotia, it’s primarily French speakers, but the administration leaves, and now the British are governing this French population of like 70,000 settlers, plus trying to deal with indigenous allies and indigenous enemies.”

Towards the end of the episode, Lennox elaborated on how Canada tends to be overlooked in contemporary culture.

“That is a fairly recent thing,” he said. “Canada at the time of the American Revolution and through the 19th century was certainly on the minds of most Americans because it was developing this sort of parallel track that was so similar in so many ways but demonstrated an alternative way of maintaining ties to Britain. Different ways of handling slavery and enslaved peoples, indigenous relations — all this kind of stuff that Americans paid attention to.

Lennox emphasized the interconnectedness of the relationship between the United States’ origins and the development of Canada.

“What I want people to understand is that the creation of the United States wasn’t a United States project,” Lennox explained. “It was a continental project. And those who did not participate in the revolution played a fundamental role in the way that Americans came to think about themselves and then how they established a country that could then foster that identity.”

Lennox’s work focuses on Early North America, from the 17th century to the 19th century. This semester, he is teaching Intro to History: Resistance and Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1500-1850 and Oh Canada: Indigenous Resistance and Settler Colonialism, 1776-1896.

Murillo Awarded Four Quartets Prize For Poetry

John Murillo

John Murillo

John Murillo, director of creative writing and assistant professor of English and African American studies, is the recipient of the 2021 Four Quartets Prize for his poem “A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn” from his poetry collection Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books, 2020).

The prize, awarded by the T.S. Eliot Foundation and the Poetry Society of America, will bestow Murillo with $21,000. It was launched in 2018 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets being published in a single volume of work and is given to a “unified and complete sequence of poems published in America in a print or online journal, chapbook, or book in 2020,” according to the prize’s website.

The judges’ citation says the poem “lights a match and holds us in the flame.”

“In this extraordinary fifteen-sonnet redoublé, the speaker meditates on the recent history of murderous racism in America that makes of Black men targets, and centers in the lyric space Black anger and Black pain,” the citation reads. “Murillo reminds us that his is a long lineage and each sonnet’s epigraph marks the genealogy of resistance Black poets continue to enact. Murillo’s anti-elegy demonstrates a lyrical virtuosity, passion, and command of language that makes this work urgent, essential, and enduring.”

Murillo has gained much recognition for his work this year alone, including winning the Tufts Kingsley Award for Poetry in April and being nominated for an NAACP Images Award for Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry in February. His collection was also longlisted for both the PEN/Voelcker and Believer Book Awards in January, and his poetry has been featured in American Poetry Review

This semester, Murillo is teaching Techniques of Poetry and Intermediate Poetry Workshop.

To view a video of Murillo reading from his winning poem, click here.