Brent Packer ’15 is the founder of Potlux, which is on track to be the first online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are effectively aggregated and shared. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Brent Packer from the Class of 2015.
Q: Brent, where are you from and what are you majoring in?
A: I was born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Growing up nearby Amish farms and having tortoises, dogs and a semi-domesticated duck scampering around my house piqued my environmental interests. At Wesleyan, I’m a member of the College of the Environment with a double major in economics and environmental studies.
Q: You are the founder of Potlux, an online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are aggregated and shared. What is the community’s mission?
A: Our mission is to accelerate global environmental progress by unifying the collegiate sustainability movement. View our pitchdeck online.
Q: When did you come up with the idea for Potlux? When did you begin the project?
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Mateusz “Matt” Burgunder ’15
Mateusz “Matt” Burgunder ’15 recently competed in the 2015 Ski Mountaineering World Championships in Verbier, Switzerland where the U.S. National Ski Mountaineering Team finished in 10th place overall.
This was Burgunder’s fourth time competing for the U.S., participating in three events. Competitors race by climbing up and skiing down mountains at a rate of approximately 3,000 feet per hour.
The 2015 Ski Mountaineering World Championships, hosted by the International Ski Mountaineering Federation, were held Feb. 6–12.
More information about the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association and the 2015 World Championships can be found online.
See photos of Burgunder’s events below:
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Rachel Unger ’15 in Nazareth, Israel.
Writing in Tikkun Magazine, government major Rachel Unger ’15 offers a first-hand account of Israeli-Palestinian relations she witnessed during her two trips to the region, and how these experiences shaped her views of a “two-state solution” to the ongoing conflict.
Unger describes watching “religious Jews marching through the Muslim quarter of the Old City celebrating the ‘reunification’ of Jerusalem while the authorities blocked Palestinians from the streets with barricades and prevented an old man from taking the bus to his home. I witnessed police knocking a Palestinian man to the ground while hordes of young Yeshiva boys cheered and sang ‘Am Yisrael Chai!'”
She writes, “This incident felt like a culmination of the nationalism, racism, and contradicting narratives that drive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict forward.” It was, she writes, a side of Israel from which most American Jews are shielded when the tour the country.
Visiting the region and hearing a broad range of Israeli and Palestinian perspectives showed Unger that many on both sides of the conflict gave up long ago on the possibility of a two-state solution. Read more about her thoughts on this here.
Katie McLaughlin ’15 teaches a WesBAM! class called Vinyasa Flow Fusion, which combines meditation, breathing techniques and traditional asana practice for whole body health and happiness.
In this Q&A we speak with Katie McLaughlin from the Class of 2015. (Story and photos by Hannah Norman ’16)
Q: Katie, what are you majoring in?
A: I’m majoring in French and environmental studies with the certificate in international relations. For my capstone project in the environmental studies major, I am researching the academic justifications of contemplative pedagogy and developing a curriculum which integrates it and movement-based learning into elementary school, high school and adult education. The goals of the curriculum are to explore the environment through physical inquiry and embodiment, reevaluate the ways we perceive ourselves as a part of, or apart from nature and reexamine how we interact with ourselves, our communities and the spaces we inhabit.
Q: You are a WesBAM! manager and yoga instructor on campus. Please explain what WesBAM! is all about.
A: Started by Renee Dunn ’14 and Shira Engel ’14, Wesleyan Body and Mind (WesBAM!) is a student-run organization that makes mind-body awareness and fitness accessible at Wesleyan by offering a wide variety of daily classes, free community classes every weekend, and free workshops throughout the semester. WesBAM! instructors are students certified in a variety of athletic disciplines.
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As a service-learning project, Alicia Gansley ’15 helped create a web application for the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. Gansley enjoys writing programs from the comfort of the Science Library. “This is where you’ll usually find me,” she said.
In this Q&A meet Alicia Gansley from the Class of 2015. (Story by Rosy Capron ’14, civic engagement fellow at Wesleyan’s Allbritton Center.)
Q: Alicia, what are you majoring in?
A: I’m majoring in computer science and I’m also completing the economics minor and Civic Engagement Certificate.
Gansley discusses her recent programming project with Kristie Cruz ’15.)
Q: Last fall, you brought your programming knowledge to COMP 342: Software Engineering, a service-learning course where groups of computer science majors develop special projects for local organizations. Tell us more about your project.
A: My group made a web application for Green Street Teaching and Learning Center to use to sign students up for one of its after school programs. Our system will allow Green Street to collect students’ contact information and course preferences, as well as allow the staff to keep track of this information throughout the semester.
Q: How did the experience of working on a project for an organization differ from working on a project for a typical academic course? Were there unexpected rewards and challenges that came with having a client?
A: It was a real pleasure working closely with Sara MacSorley at Green Street and learning more about their facility and programs. Part of what struck me about working on a project for a client was the fact that you can never just say “90 percent is enough.” We needed to always figure out some way to meet their specifications, which I think pushed the team to really learn and work together.
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Jay Fabien ’15 and his “rescued” husky, Glacier, hang out on Citrin Field Jan. 23. Fabien, formerly a wide receiver for the Wesleyan Cardinals Football Team, hopes to coach student-athletes after graduation and later join the U.S. Army Special Forces. (Photos by Olivia Drake)
He loves “chick-flicks” and played alto-sax in high school. But he also wants to earn a spot in the Special Forces after graduation. In short, the Cardinals’ No. 80 in football has many layers. They all start and end with respect, and comfort in being himself, on and off the field.
He’s no prima donna, even though he has only played one position since he was 9 — wide receiver. Being a distraction to the team is not in his DNA.
“I’ve never been that way,” said Jay Fabien ’15. “I love all aspects of being a wide receiver.”
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Rex Bernstein ’15
Rex Bernstein ’15 died peacefully in his sleep Jan. 10 while visiting family in the San Francisco Bay area. He was pursuing a government major at Wesleyan with a minor in history. He was a former member of the Wesleyan swim team and a member of Beta Theta Pi.
Bernstein, 22, was “a large person with a large personality, and he will be missed by many here on campus,” wrote Dean Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs.
Bernstein is survived by his parents and younger sister, Olive, and his dog, Gato. View Bernstein’s guestbook online here.
A memorial service is being planned by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
Holly Everett ’15
A paper co-authored by molecular biology and biochemistry major Holly Everett ’15 is published in the December 2014 issue of Nature Communications. The article, titled “High-throughput detection of miRNAs and gene-specific mRNA at the single-cell level by flow cytometry,” describes a novel approach to visualizing RNA and protein simultaneously at the single cell level.
Everett has been working on the accompanying research at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.
This new technology uses gene-specific probes and a signal amplification system based on a “branched DNA” principle. The authors show that this novel flow-FISH (for “Fluorescent in situ hybridization”) technique is sensitive, specific and can be multiplexed with simultaneous detection of three different gene-specific RNAs. The results further demonstrate their ability to measure expression of genes critical for immune cells, such as cytokines, in white blood cells specifically targeting the HIV or CMV viruses. The authors also demonstrate the capacity to detect mRNAs for which flow antibodies against the corresponding proteins are poor or are not available. Read more about the study online here.
Everett, who is completing her degree in three years, worked on this study between her sophomore and senior (gap) year, starting in 2013. She hopes to continue this research next year at a HIV and TB research institute in Durban, South Africa.
Everett’s advisor is Don Oliver, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology.
Colin Russell ’15 sings with two a cappella groups on campus and works as a Senior Interviewer in the Office of Admission. “My goal is to personalize a student’s application as much as possible, and it has been a joy to meet so many accomplished high school seniors,” he said. Colin plans on applying to medical school next spring. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
In this Q&A meet Colin Russell from the Class of 2015.
Q: Colin, what are you majoring in? What have been your most instrumental courses so far?
A: I am majoring in neuroscience and behavior while also on the pre-medical path. Two of the most instrumental courses in my journey through Wes have been Organic Chemistry and the Organic Chemistry Lab that is paired with the lecture course. The reputation of Organic Chemistry was extremely intimidating prior to taking the course, and I was nervous that I would not like this subject that is the basis for so much of the biological world. However, I soon learned that I enjoyed the structure of subject, not just in the way it was taught, but in the way that my brain began to process information. The concurrent lab course, while extremely difficult, also allowed for hands-on application of the processes and reactions that we were learning in the lecture class. I enjoyed the course so much that I became a Teacher’s Assistant for the lab, and I will be starting my fourth semester as a TA for the lab in the spring. Not only has the information from these two courses been crucial for my studies, but the process of meeting the challenges of these two classes has also been extremely important in my academic journey.
Q: You’re currently a Senior Interviewer in the Office of Admission. Please describe that role.
A: Joining the Office of Admission team has critically shaped my senior year and outlook on Wesleyan. I have learned much not only about the admissions process, but also a ton about Wesleyan and her students. As Senior Interviewers, we are expected to know about the various corners of campus life, and so I found myself seeking out ways to soak up random tidbits,
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Jesse Lieman-Sifry ’15 visited the Sub Millimeter Array in Hawaii this summer to help observe, learn about how radio astronomy data is collected, and see the array of antennas up close. Lieman-Sifry recently received a $5,000 Undergraduate Directed Campus Scholarship from the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium to support his ongoing research on gas planet formation.
For the past year and a half, Jesse Lieman-Sifry ’15, an astronomy and physics double major, has focused his undergraduate research on understanding the formation of gas planets. This month, Lieman-Sifry received a $5,000 Undergraduate Directed Campus Scholarship from the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, funded by NASA. The award will be applied to his financial aid package and support his ongoing research in the Astronomy Department.
Jesse Lieman-Sifry uses data to model the dust and gas on a specific star system called 49 Ceti. 49 Ceti is visible to the naked eye.
Planets form in disks of gas and dust left over from the formation of a star. For gas planets, such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, a massive rocky core must solidify before accumulation of gas can begin.
“In the 10 million years we assume it takes this rocky core to form, most of the gas has been blown away by the energy from the hot central star. This would suggest that it is very hard to form gas planets, as the timeline for these processes don’t line up,” Lieman-Sifry explained. “Something about this picture isn’t quite right though, as the planet-hunting Kepler mission has revealed that gas planets are actually very common around other stars in the Milky Way.”
Lieman-Sifry is working with high-resolution data collected by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. The data, provided from radio interferometers,
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Angela Yoo ’15 is co-coordinator of the tutoring program, WesReads/WesMath, which allows Wesleyan students to tutor at two different local elementary schools. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
Q: Angela, where are you from and why did you choose Wesleyan to further your education?
A: I am from Nanuet, New York but I went to a boarding school called Phillips Exeter Academy. I chose Wesleyan because I was intrigued by how people were given the freedom to pursue their interests, no matter how different these interests might be. I was also attracted by the collaborative atmosphere and how people seemed to encourage and support their peers.
Q: What are you majoring in?
A: I’m double majoring in chemistry and English, and I hope to write a thesis on non-beta lactam inhibitors of beta-lactamses. This entails synthesis of potential inhibitors as well as investigating the efficacy of these compounds through enzyme kinetics. I have been working in Professor Pratt’s lab in the Chemistry Department since sophomore spring. I chose to also pursue English because I was really interested exploring the different stories that people tell, the various ways in which they tell their stories and how we understand them.
Q: You’re currently the co-coordinator of a tutoring program called WesReads/WesMath. Tell us a bit about this program.
A: WesReads/WesMath allows Wesleyan students to tutor at two different local elementary schools. More than 70 Wesleyan students volunteer through the program and we help teachers with classroom activities or work with a small group of advanced learners on a math or reading curriculum that we developed or organized.
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This month, five Wesleyan students received Summer Experience Grants, supported by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The honor comes with a $4,000 stipend to supplement costs associated with a summer internship experience.
The grants are available for Wesleyan sophomores and juniors currently receiving need-based financial aid who plan to do socially innovative or socially responsible work during summer break.
The recipients include Theodora Messalas ’15, Dara Mysliwiec ’16, Keren Reichler ’16, Geneva Jonathan ’15 and Jared Geilich ’15. In addition, film major Aaron Kalischer-Coggins ’15 received a Priebatsch Internship Grant. All grantees report on their experiences on the Patricelli Center’s ENGAGE blog.
Theodora Messalas ’15
Sociology major Theodora Messalas is working with a food pantry, soup kitchen and women’s homeless shelter called Crossroads Community Services in New York City, exploring ways to implement successful social services in which the needs and preferences of the end-users are paramount.
“I am interested in finding out exactly how Crossroads is run in the hopes of one day spearheading my own similar organization,” Messalas said. “I want to see firsthand how they have translated the desire to provide food and shelter to underserved New Yorkers into a running operation that can actually get these services to people. I want to see all their successes, and I want to get to know the roadblocks that they meet.”
Biology and earth and environmental studies major Dara Mysliwiec is addressing food sovereignty in Lamas, Peru, using sustainable – and previously lost – indigenous farming techniques
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