Students

Wesleyan Students Capture “Vibrant Wesleyan Jewish Life” in Forward

Writing in the Forward, Matt Renetzky ’18 and Talia Kaplan ’18 share their experience with the “vibrant Wesleyan Jewish Life” scene.

“Perhaps the most unique thing about our community is just how student-run it is. Jewish life evolves from year-to-year based on the desires and needs of the current student body,” write Kaplan, who is affiliated with the Wesleyan Jewish Community, and Renetzky, who is affiliated with Chabad. “If you’re looking for pluralism in Jewish background and practice, Wesleyan is for you.”

Plasma Bubble, Stem Cell Images Win Scientific Imaging Contest

This summer, Wesleyan hosted the second annual Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest, which 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, 33 images were submitted from six departments.

The entries were judged based on the quality of the image and the explanation of the underlying science.  The images were judged by a panel of four faculty members: Steven Devoto, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior; Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, assistant professor of integrative sciences; Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of integrative sciences; and Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

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

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

Yonathan Gomez '18 won first place with his image, "Jumping" Drop. The drop is an expanding partially-ionized plasma created underwater by a pulsed Nd:YAG laser, which pushes upwards on the surface of the water. As the plasma bubble expands, it disrupts the surface from below, which launches a water drop upward. The water drop shown has a diameter of approximately 2mm. The image was taken at 1/2,000 frames per second.

Yonathan Gomez ’18 won first place with his image, “Jumping” Drop. The drop is an expanding partially-ionized plasma created underwater by a pulsed Nd:YAG laser, which pushes upwards on the surface of the water. As the plasma bubble expands, it disrupts the surface from below, which launches a water drop upward. The water drop shown has a diameter of approximately 2mm. The image was taken at 1/2,000 of a second.

Research Shared at Summer Poster Session

More than 120 undergraduate research fellows shared their summer and ongoing research during the Wesleyan Summer Research Poster Session held July 27 in Exley Science Center.

“This really is wonderful that all these students are on campus this summer and that they are here, sharing their research,” said faculty advisor Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics. “It’s really incredible.”

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

Amber Storey ’18 presented her research titled “How Does Polymer Structure Affect Fragility?” Her advisor is Francis Starr, professor of physics, professor of integrative sciences, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Amber Storey ’18 presented her physics research titled “How Does Polymer Structure Affect Fragility?” Her advisor is Francis Starr, professor of physics, professor of integrative sciences, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Nicole Dallar ’18 presented her study titled “Forest fragmentation reduces host plant quality for dietary specialist but not generalist.” Dallas’s advisor is Michael Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. Nicole Dallar ’18 presented her study titled “Forest fragmentation reduces host plant quality for dietary specialist but not generalist.” Dallas’s advisor is Michael Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Nicole Dallar ’18 presented her biology study titled “Forest fragmentation reduces host plant quality for dietary specialist but not generalist.” Dallar’s advisor is Michael Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Will Levinson ’19 shared his quantitative analysis study on “Discrimination Charges and the Labor Market.” His advisor is Karl Boulware, assistant professor of economics.

Will Levinson ’19 shared his quantitative analysis study on “Discrimination Charges and the Labor Market.” His advisor is Karl Boulware, assistant professor of economics.

At left, Kaila Scott 19 and Leslie Maldonado ’19 (center, in pink shirt) shared their psychology study titled “Power of Play 2: The Doll Study.” Their advisor is Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology.

At left, Kaila Scott 19 and Leslie Maldonado ’19 (center, in pink shirt) shared their psychology study titled “Can multi-ethnic dolls reduce children’s pro-white bias?” Their advisor is Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology.

Tess Counts ’18 shared her quantitative analysis study titled “Outsider Candidates Inside Congress: An Analysis of Campaign Rhetoric and Legislative.” Her advisor is Logan Dancey, assistant professor of government.

Tess Counts ’18 shared her quantitative analysis study titled “Outsider Candidates Inside Congress: An Analysis of Campaign Rhetoric and Legislative.” Her advisor is Logan Dancey, assistant professor of government.

Megha Khandelwal presented her physics research titled “Optimization of Monofunctionalized QD for Studying Endonuclease Activity.” Her advisor is Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

Lab assistant Megha Khandelwal presented her physics research titled “Optimization of Monofunctionalized QD for Studying Endonuclease Activity.” Her advisor is Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

Sylwia Lipior ’18 speaks to Joe Knee, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, about her biology research titled “Neuroligin2 overexpression in the hippocampus enhances inhibitory synapses and alters social behavior and navigational memory.” Lipior’s advisor is Janice Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Sylwia Lipior ’18 speaks to Joe Knee, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, about her biology research titled “Neuroligin2 overexpression in the hippocampus enhances inhibitory synapses and alters social behavior and navigational memory.” Lipior’s advisor is Janice Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

At left, Dylan Jones ’19 and graduate student Will Setzer shared their physics research on “Ionization Nature of Tri-state Rydberg H2 Molecules.” Their advisor is Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics.

At left, Dylan Jones ’19 and graduate student Will Setzer shared their physics research on “Ionization Nature of Tri-state Rydberg H2 Molecules.” Their advisor is Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics.

Graduate Liberal Studies student Anika Dane spoke at the poster session about her study titled “The Association between Depression and Trouble Sleeping.” Dane’s advisor is Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology. Dane also is an administrative assistant in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department.

Graduate Liberal Studies student Anika Dane spoke at the poster session about her study titled “The Association between Depression and Trouble Sleeping.” Dane’s advisor is Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology. Dane also is an administrative assistant in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department.

Research poster presentations were made by students studying astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, math and computer sciences, molecular biology and biochemistry, physics, psychology and quantitative analysis.

Research poster presentations were made by students studying astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, math and computer sciences, molecular biology and biochemistry, physics, psychology and quantitative analysis.

WILD Wes Celebrates 5 Years of West College Courtyard Growth

This summer, the student group WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan University) is celebrating the maturity of flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees seeded and planted more than five years ago.

This summer, the student group WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan University) is celebrating the maturity of flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees seeded and planted more than five years ago.

In 2010, the university offered WILD Wes the West College Courtyard, a .75 acre parcel of sloping, sandy land. After two years of prepping the soil for a permaculture site, students planted their first trees, rye, buckwheat and perennial rain garden at the site.

In 2010, the university offered WILD Wes the West College Courtyard, a .75 acre parcel of sloping, sandy land. After two years of prepping the soil for a permaculture site, students planted their first trees, rye, buckwheat and a perennial rain garden at the site.

10 Student-Athletes Named 2017 Division III Scholar Athletes

Aashli Budhiraja '18, pictured here playing an opponent from Williams, was one of six women tennis players to be named a Division III Scholar Athlete by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

Aashli Budhiraja ’18, pictured here playing an opponent from Williams, was one of six women tennis players to be named a Division III Scholar Athlete by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

Six members of the Wesleyan women’s tennis team, and four members of the men’s squad were named 2017 Division III Scholar Athletes, as announced by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) in July. In addition, both the men’s and women’s tennis programs earned All-Academic Team honors.

Michael Liu ’17

Representing the women’s team were Aashli Budhiraja ’18, Dasha Dubinsky ’18, Helen Klass-Warch ’18, Ella Lindholm-Uzzi ’17, Nicole McCann ’18 and Victoria Yu ’19. On the men’s side, Steven Chen ’18, Jonathan Holtzman ’20, Michael Liu ’17 and Jake Roberts ’17 all earned praise.

In order to earn ITA Scholar-Athlete status, a player must be a varsity letter winner; have a grade point average of at least 3.50 (on a 4.00 scale) for the current academic year; have been enrolled at their present school for at least two semesters (including freshman year through senior year).

Both programs also were named an ITA All-Academic Team for posting a cumulative team grade point average of 3.20 or above (on a 4.00 scale). All varsity letter winners were factored into the cumulative team GPA for the current academic year (including fall 2016 and spring 2017).

Graduate Student Khan Performs at Multiple Summer Music Festivals

Suhail Yusuf Khan

Suhail Yusuf Khan

This summer, graduate student Suhail Yusuf Khan and his band Yorkston Thorne Khan are performing in music festivals around the world.

The band is comprised of Khan, a sarangi violinist and a vocalist of Indian classical music; James Yorkston, a folk singer and guitarist; and Jon Thorne, a jazz bassist.

Yorkston, Thorne and Khan performed at the Glastonbury Festival June 25 in Somerset, England. Afterwards, the group was mentioned in The Telegraph‘s “10 highlights” article written by Alice Vincent:

While it’s easy to stumble upon a whole new field or an excellent hidden bar at Glastonbury, the best festivals give you a couple of artists to go home and listen to afterwards. And Yorkston, Thorne and Khan, the Indian-folk/jazzy trio, collided to give a wig-out that rang beautifully over it all, Suhail Yusuf Khan’s vocals concertinaing over a jam so deeply felt it was as if you were observing a particularly good band practice. I don’t know the song name, I’ve barely heard of the band, but I’ll be playing them at home the minute I get there.

The group also performed at the Latitude Festival, held July 13-16 Suffolk, England, and the Rudolstadt Festival, held July 6-9 in Germany. In a Zeit Online article, author Christoph Dieckmann wrote:

Skepticism was the formation of James Yorkston / Jon Thorne / Suhail Yusuf Khan: a folk singer and guitarist, a jazz bassist, a sarangi violinist and a vocalist of Indian classical music. The booming world music market produces indeed multicultural soups of the flavors Bockwurst / Sushi / Cardamom, but these three turned out to be the highlight of the festival.

Listen to music from the band’s 2017 album, Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars, online.

Velez, Wong ’18 Author Paper in ‘The Journal of Politics’

Yamil Velez at Wesleyan University.

Assistant Professor of Government Yamil Velez and Grace Wong ’18 are the authors of a new paper, “Assessing Contextual Measurement Strategies,” published May 17 in The Journal of Politics.

According to the paper’s abstract, “Contextual scholars have explored the impact of residing in racially and ethnically diverse environments on political attitudes and behavior. Traditionally, the literature has employed governmental administrative units such as counties as proxies for citizens’ social contexts. Recently, these measures have come under attack by scholars desiring more personalized measures. This article evaluates the performance of two personalized measures of intergroup context and finds that census-based measures are more closely aligned with subjects’ perceptions of local area demographics than measures that ‘bring the person back in.’ The implications of these findings on the contextual literature are discussed.”

Read the full article here.

New Students Welcomed to Wesleyan at Summer Sendoffs

Wesleyan’s newest students and their families are welcomed to the Wesleyan community during a series of Summer Sendoffs June 20 to Aug. 25. Alumni and parents are hosting the events at various locations around the world.

All members of the Wesleyan community are invited to attend the casual socials. Pictured below are photos from a few of the gatherings:

The Taiwan Summer Sendoff, held June 17, was organized and sponsored by Mark Hsieh and May Chao.

The Taiwan Summer Sendoff, held June 17, was organized and sponsored by Mark Hsieh ’90 and May Chao ’06. Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of East Asian studies, also attended.

Students Catalog Wesleyan’s Lost Fossil Collections

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Scattered throughout campus are remnants of not only Wesleyan’s history, but world history. After the closing of the Wesleyan Museum in 1957, thousands of specimens in many collections were displaced, often haphazardly, to nooks, crannies, tunnels, attics, storage rooms, and random cabinets at Exley Science Center, Judd Hall, and the Butterfield and Foss Hill residence complexes.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

Many of these specimens haven’t been accessed in 60 years.

“Sadly, few people are aware that Wesleyan has these unique resources,” said Ellen Thomas, the University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences. “The collections have not been well curated, and not much used in education and outreach. We are discovering beautiful fossils, but the knowledge that they are at Wesleyan has long been lost.”

This summer, Thomas, along with two student research fellows, began the painstaking process of not only locating and organizing collections, but digitally cataloging their finds.

Sajirat Palakarn ’20 and earth and environmental science graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 work 40 hours a week on the project and have created a “fossil assembly line” in Exley Room 309. The students take turns sorting trays of fossils by class and phylum, and then match the fossils with identifying hand-written cards or books from an archaic card catalog, entering the information, piece by piece, into a spreadsheet. They’re expecting to itemize more than 15,000 fossils this summer.

“Look here,” Thomas says, while opening a wooden cabinet at random in Exley’s specimen storage room. “We’ve got shells, fossils of shells, one after another with no labels. They are all disorganized. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make these accessible to the students?”

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they've been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they’ve been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

So far, the students have discovered dozens of fish fossils from the Jurassic Period (99.6 to 145.5 million years ago) and Triassic Period (251 million and 199 million years ago). They’ve encountered fossils of preserved leaves and insects from what is today Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, dating back to the Eocene Period, when the world was much warmer (40-45 million years ago). They’ve also found fossilized plants from coal deposits in Illinois (about 300 million years old), as well as fossil sea lilies (crinoids), which lived in shallow warm seas in what is now Indiana. Many of these fossils were collected by S. Ward Loper, who was curator of the Wesleyan Museum from 1894 to his death in 1910.

They’ve even discovered a plant fossil from Greenland, donated to the Wesleyan Museum in 1895 by A.N. Varse, who was on the second relief expedition attempting to assist Robert Peary on one of his early expeditions to explore Greenland and reach the North Pole.

“It’s really incredible to hold a piece of history like this in our hands,” McKee said. “Not only can fossils tell us what an organism might have looked like and how it lived, but fossils also give us clues about ancient environmental conditions. We can use fossils to understand how the Earth has changed over time.”

While most of the fossil finds are located in locked drawers in the hallways of Exley Science Center, the students also are cataloging fossils in the Joe Webb Peoples Fossil Collection, located on the fourth floor. The museum is named after the late Professor Joe Webb Peoples, who was chair of the Department of Geology from 1935 until his retirement in 1975.

The students not only catalog the artifacts, but they also write about their finds, and the museum, on a blog and on Twitter.

McKee and Palakarn, a College of Social Studies major, are constantly learning on the job. “I don’t have a science background, but here I am learning about unicellular microorganisms, sponges, coral, arthropods, trilobites and sea urchins,” Palakarn said.

“I know by the end of this summer you’re going to change your major to earth and environmental science,” McKee said. “I’m sure of it.”

Sanjirat "Bright" Palakarn '20; Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee '17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Peoples' Museum in Exley.

Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20; Research Professor Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Webb Peoples’ Fossil Collection in Exley.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley's Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley’s Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a Perisphinctes species found in Madagascar.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a cephalopod found in Madagascar. This species lived during the late Jurassic Period.

Sanjirat Palakarn '20 displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

Sajirat Palakarn displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse's fossil discovery in 1895.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse’s fossil discovery in 1894. It was donated to Wesleyan in 1895.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed away above these cabinets in Exley Science Center.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed above these cabinets in Exley Science Center. “Some of these are now extinct. We will want to catalog these too, but this will be a project for another time,” Thomas said.

McClain-Frederick ’20, Bekele ’19 Excel at Korean Language Speech Contest

Madison McClain-Frederick '20, pictured third from left, and Bethlehem "Betty" Bekele, pictured fourth from left, won prizes at the Five College Korean Language Speech Contest.

Madison McClain-Frederick ’20, pictured third from left, and Bethlehem “Betty” Bekele, pictured fourth from left, won prizes at the Five College Korean Language Speech Contest.

Two Wesleyan students received top prizes in the Five College Korean Language Speech Contest held April 14 at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This was Wesleyan’s second year participating in the contest.

The recipients include Madison McClain-Frederick ’20, who took first prize for the beginning level with her speech titled “My Red Sneakers,” and Bethlehem “Betty” Bekele ’19, who took second place at the intermediate level with her speech titled “My Country Ethiopia and Korea.” Bekele is supported through a Center for East Asian Studies language study grant to spend this summer studying language in Korea.

The contest is sponsored by the Five College East Asian Language Program and is open to any college student in New England who is currently enrolled in Korean language classes. Contestants cannot be native Korean speakers nor heritage learners. Participating students must write their own short speeches in Korean.

Hyejoo Back, assistant professor of the practice of East Asian studies, served as the team’s advisor. “My students worked very hard to prepare for the contest,” Back said. “We’re very proud of them.”

Read about the 2016 award recipients in this article.

Inaugural Hamilton Prize Winner Featured in Boston Globe

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt).

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt.)

The Boston Globe recently published a profile of Audrey Pratt, an incoming student in Wesleyan’s Class of 2021 and the winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. Pratt, a graduate of Needham (Mass.) High School, won a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan for her short fiction submission, “Thorns, Black and White.”

Pratt, who was accepted early decision to Wesleyan, told the Globe that when she applied for the prize, she “didn’t think in a million years I’d win,” but she was excited for the chance to have Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99 read her work. Miranda, writer/creator and former star, and Kail, the director of Hamilton, are co-chairs of the alumni selection committee for the prize.

Wesleyan received more than 600 entries, including short stories, slam poetry, screenplays and songs.

Pratt described her entry as “a dark fantasy story, almost a modern Grimm fairy tale, about a forest, the coming of age process, girls with antlers and other monstrous versions of forest creatures.”

Pratt has written stories as long as she can remember. She was captain of her high school’s speech and debate team, a member of the all-female robotics team, and a member of the National Honor Society. At Wesleyan, she plans to study creative writing, neuroscience and behavior, and film.

“I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it,” she told the Globe. “It has given me a lot to live up [to], but I’m going to try my best and make everyone proud.”

Read more about Pratt and the Hamilton Prize here.

Biology Team Samples Drought-Tolerant Bacteria in Death Valley

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizospheres of a juniper tree at about 7,000 feet above sea level.

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizosphere of a juniper tree.

This spring, a research team from Wesleyan traveled to Death Valley National Park to explore the ways bacteria diversifies in extreme environments.

Death Valley, located about 130 miles west of Las Vegas, is a below-sea-level basin known for being the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The average rainfall is less than 2 inches, annually.

“National parks are ideal for research, in general, because the land is protected indefinitely from commercial development,” said team leader Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. “Death Valley is a nice model system for exobiology because of its extreme habitat.”

Cohan, along with graduate student Jerry Lee, Bella Wiener ’19 and Nicole DelGaudio ’18, traveled to California May 29 through June 4. During this time, the researchers trekked through miles of parched — and often prickly — landscapes seeking to sample root soil, or rhizosphere, from various plant species, each over a wide range of elevations that differ notably in their temperatures.