Najeeba Hayat ’13, entrepreneur and designer, is gaining attention in the fashion industry for her designer shoe company, Liudmila Footwear, most recently in Vogue, which hailed her shoes as “stunning” and “fantastical.”
Produced in Italy, Liudmila shoes are designed with Victorian influences in mind. Hayat’s shoes are also praised for being comfortable to walk in, disregarding the cultural norm that women should suffer for fashion.
Hayat, who is originally from Kuwait, was a government major at Wesleyan, but found herself dreaming of designing shoes. In an interview with the Wesleyan Connection, Hayat said, “The Russian literature classes I took at Wesleyan were actually the biggest influence on my decision to follow my passion for design instead of pursuing a career related to my major.”
She credits the classes she took with Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian language and literature, for cultivating her love for the “unique, bizarre, striking characters of Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Chekov, and Sologub.”
“One day, about a month or so before I graduated, we were discussing a speech given by a character in The Petty Demon that struck me by its passion, simplicity and its exact mirroring of my own sentiments,” she explained. “It was an exasperated paean to life and pleasure that in an instant turned me away from the career in consulting that I was actively pursuing at the time. I immediately decided to jump ship and move to Milan to study footwear.”
The Petty Demon is where Hayat found the inspiration to name her new company. Liudmila is one of the central sisters in the book. “As I was naming my brand, I went through many names, but was unsatisfied with all of them,” she said. “Liudmila’s speech kept coming back to me as my primary inspiration and so I decided to name the brand Liudmila in homage.”
Though her career took a different turn from the degree she earned, Hayat believes her liberal arts education prepared her for her role as founder, designer, and CEO. She said, “Even though the field I pursued had nothing to do with what I studied, all of the skills in analysis, problem-solving, and out of the box thinking that I developed at Wesleyan were crucial to my early success.”
Each year, as part of the series “Grist50,” the acclaimed environmental publication Grist honors 50 of the world’s most impactful innovators who are working to solve humanity’s biggest challenges with fresh, forward-thinking solutions. This year, Wesleyan alumnus Evan Weber ’13, co-founder and executive director of U.S. Climate Plan, has been recognized as an “emerging green leader.”
Connecting this year’s 50 green leaders is the theme “The Fixer.” Described by Grist magazine as, “bold problem solvers working toward a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck,” the list includes entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists and activists.
Not only do Weber and his team push for climate legislation on the national level and organize campaigns to support climate justice, but he also supports young activists by building partnerships between grassroots organizations, teaching statewide strategy plans, and advising college students. “It is how you build a generational front against climate change in Weber’s eyes,” according to Grist.
More on Weber, as well as the full list of environmental innovators and their work can be found on Grist’s website.
Eleven Wesleyans were finalists in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this year, including 10 from the Class of 2016, and a Class of 2013 alumna. In all, 23 people from Wesleyan applied for Fulbrights, and 12 were semi-finalists.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The program operates in 160 countries worldwide. Primary funding for the program comes from an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments, host institutions, corporations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad also provide direct and indirect support.
The program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. Candidates must submit a Statement of Grant Purpose defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside the U.S. Recipients are selected based on academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
The 74th annual Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) conference in Chicago April 7-10 was attended by several Wesleyan faculty members, students and recent alumni. The conference, held every April, is one of the largest political science conferences with more than 5,000 presenters from throughout the United States and around the world. It is traditionally held in Chicago’s historic Palmer House Hilton.
Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, Assistant Professor of Government Logan Dancey, and Assistant Professor of Government Yamil Velez all presented research at the conference. They were accompanied by Joli Holmes ’17, John Murchison ’16, Grace Wong ’18, Anh Tuan Nguyen Viet ’16, and Eki Ramadhan ’16, students who contributed to and presented research.
Also in attendance were recent alumni Leonid “Leo” Liu ’14, who presented research with Fowler, and Matt Motta ’13, now a graduate student at the University of Minnesota.
A paper by Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins, Alexander Hirsch ’13 and Michael Inkles ’12 has been published in the journal Group Processes & Intergroup Relations.
Titled, “The threat of racial progress and the self-protective nature of perceiving anti-White bias,” the paper describes two studies in which the researchers examine whether racial progress is threatening to whites, and if perceiving anti-white bias assuages that threat. The first study showed that whites primed with racial progress—by reading an article on social advancement by minorities—exhibited evidence of threat: lower implicit self-worth relative to the baseline. The second study replicated the threat effect from the first study, and examined how perceived discrimination may buffer the white participants’ feelings of self-worth. After the participants attributed a negative event to their race, their implicit self-worth rebounded. For those primed with high racial progress, greater “racial discounting” (attributing rejection to one’s race rather than to oneself) was associated with greater self-worth protection. The researchers concluded that these studies suggest changes to the racial status quo are threatening to whites and that perceiving greater racial bias is a way to manage that threat.
Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies, has co-authored a paper published in FEBS Letters, an international journal established for the rapid publication of final short reports in the fields of molecular biosciences.
The paper, which is an expansion of her lab’s work on the enzyme Heptosyltransferase I, is titled “Cloning and Characterization of the Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase III: Exploring Substrate Specificity in Lipopolysaccharide Core Biosynthesis,” The paper is co-authored by her former graduate student Jagadesh Mudapaka. FEBS Letters is published by Elsevier on behalf of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies.
Taylor also is the co-author of “Improving Alternate Lignin Catabolite Utilization of LigAB from Sphingobium sp. strain SYK-6 through Site Directed Mutagenesis,” published in Process Biochemistry, June 2015. The work in this paper describes molecular engineering of the enzyme LigAB to be better able to metabolize compounds derived from Lignin. Co-authors include Kevin Barry, PhD ’15; Erin Cohn ’15 and Abraham Ngu ’13.
Taylor presented her research “Thoughts about Adenosine: Efforts in Drug Discovery of Nucleoside Utilizing Enzymes” at the Gordon Research Conference: Nucleosides, Nucleotides and Oligonucleotides in July. Her talk described the work she is performing to help in drug discovery for two enzymes from E. coli, Heptosyltransferase I and the TrmD tRNA methyltransferase, and one human enzyme, p300 histone acetyl transferase.
“Our work in these systems involves computational modeling of interactions between small molecules and the enzymes, to help design new compounds with medical applications,” Taylor explained.
A chapter titled “Research Domain Criteria (RDoC)” by Charles Sanislow, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, was published in the Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology in January.
Kevin Quinn of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Isaiah Sypher ’13 co-authored the chapter.
Sypher worked in Sanislow’s lab at Wesleyan and then went on to a research position at the NIMH Intramural Program in Affective Neuroscience. He is currently in the process of applying to clinical science programs in psychology.
Sanislow and Quinn are both charter members of the NIMH Working Group for the RDoC, a project that is developing a new diagnostic approach based on internal mechanisms to guide research on mental disorders.
Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, and her former graduate student Patrick Harner MA ’13 are the co-authors of a paper titled “Visible–near infrared spectra of hydrous carbonates, with implications for the detection of carbonates in hyperspectral data of Mars,” published in Icarus, Vol. 250, pages 204-214, April 2015.
The paper suggests that hydrous carbonate minerals might be relevant on Mars.
“We bought and made these unusual minerals in my lab and then took spectra of them to simulate what Mars orbiters might see. Carbonate minerals form in water on Earth (e.g., limestones), and are predicted for Mars, but to date are uncommon on Mars,” Gilmore explained. “We suggest this may be because Mars may host hydrous carbonates which look very different than the anhydrous carbonates everyone is looking for in the data.”
Gilmore also is chair and professor of earth and environmental sciences.
Nicole Arulanantham, who is entering her second year as a graduate student in the Astronomy MA program, was awarded a Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society at its June 3 meeting in Boston. The awards are given to recognize exemplary research by a student presenting a poster paper at an AAS meeting.
Arulanantham worked on the study with her advisor, Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, chair of the Astronomy Department, and Ann Marie Cody of the California Institute of Technology. It involved analysis of data obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Read more about the study online here.
Astronomy major Ben Tweed ’13 also presented a paper at the AAS meeting and reported results of his study of the local interstellar medium using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. His advisor is Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, and the work was done in collaboration with astronomers at the Universities of Warwick and Kiel, as well as University College London. Read more about the study online here.
Wesleyan hosted the Academic Scholarships, Fellowships and Prizes Reception for students May 7 in Daniel family Commons.
“We gather today to honor students who represent the highest ideals of Wesleyan University―intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, creative expression, leadership, and service. While celebrating these recipients of awards, prizes, and scholarships, we also honor and thank alumni and friends whose generous contributions make these prizes possible,” said Ruth Striegel Weissman, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
The prizes and recipients are listed below:
Established by the Class of 1967 and awarded to the graduating senior who has exemplified those qualities of character, leadership, intellectual commitment and concern for the Wesleyan community shown by Victor Lloyd Butterfield, 11th president of the University.
Andrew Trexler ’14
Nicole Updegrove ’14
The gift of George Storrs Chadbourne, Class of 1858, to that member of the first-year class outstanding in character, conduct, and scholarship.
Ya-Lih Horng ’17
Established in 1966 by Russell T. Limbach, professor of art, in memory of his wife, Edna Limbach. Awarded annually to the student who has contributed the most imaginative, generous, thoughtful, and understanding social service to the people of the City of Middletown and/or the Wesleyan community.
Joshua Krugman ’14
Catherine Marquez ’16
Wesleyan Memorial Prize
The gift of undergraduates in the Class of 1943 in memory of fellow students who made the supreme sacrifice in the Second World War, to the members of the junior class outstanding in qualities of character, leadership, and scholarship.
Gabriel Gordon ’15
Christian Hosam ’15
Academic Scholarships, Fellowships, and Prizes
George H. Acheson and Grass Foundation Prize in Neuroscience
Established in 1992 by a gift from the Grass Foundation, this prize is awarded to an outstanding undergraduate in the Neuroscience and Behavior Program who demonstrates excellence in the program and who also shows promise for future contributions in the field of neuroscience.
Adele Bubnys ’14
Rachel Rosengard ’14
Alumni Prize in the History of Art
Established by Wesleyan alumni and awarded to a senior who has demonstrated special aptitude in the history of art and who has made a substantive contribution to the major.
Isadora Dannin ’14
Biology Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac was invited to speak at the 2014 Spring Symposium of the Space Telescope Science Institute on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, M.D. on April 29. Kopac spoke on “Specialization of Bacillus in the Geochemcially Challenged Environment of Death Valley.” Watch a video of her 20 minute presentation online here.
Kopac’s talk was part of a four-day interdisciplinary meeting titled “Habitable Worlds Across Time and Space” featuring speakers from around the world working in such diverse fields as biology, geology and astronomy. The focus of the seminar was on identifying places within our Solar System and Galaxy where we can most profitably search for life beyond the Earth.
Astronomy major Raquel Martinez, MA ’13 and William Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, director of graduate studies, also attended the conference.
Both Kopac and Martinez were active active participants in Wesleyan’s Planetary Science Group seminars and activities. Kopac’s advisor is Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. Martinez’s advisor was Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy.