Tag Archive for Class of 2019

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The New York Times: “Why Half a Degree of Global Warming Is a Big Deal”

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, comments on a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group with which he was involved from the early 1990s through 2014.

2. Avant Music News: “Tyshawn Sorey Residency at the Kitchen”

On Oct. 21–23, Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, assistant professor of music; assistant professor, African American studies; will present a rare three-night New York City appearance in a residency at The Kitchen in Chelsea with a variety of musicians.

Cross Country’s Mitchell ’19 Takes 1st Place at Little 3 Championship

Student-athlete Julia Mitchell ’19 took a first-place finish during the Little Three Championship at Amherst. (Photo by Geoff Bolte)

Julia Mitchell ’19 paced the women’s cross country team with a first-place finish at the Little Three Championship on Sept. 8 in Amherst, Mass. Although Williams College ultimately won the Little Three title, the Cardinals had four runners place in the top 10 as they finished in second place, ahead of Amherst College.

Little Three Championships are declared when a varsity team from Wesleyan, Williams, and Amherst defeats the other two rivals. The fierce competition among the schools dates back to at least 1910. In 2017-18, women’s crew, volleyball, men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse won Little Three titles.

Mitchell, of Bellevue, Wash., completed the 4k course with a time of 15:33.9, which was three seconds ahead of second-place finisher Emma Herrmann of Williams.

For her efforts, NESCAC named Mitchell the Performer of the Week on Sept. 10.

Mitchell capped off last season with an impressive ninth-place finish at the 2017 NCAA Division III New England Regional Championship meet. During head coach John Crooke’s 19-year career at Wesleyan, the women’s team has qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship three times and has placed in the top 10 for the past two seasons at the New England Regionals.

Mitchell is one of eight runners to return to the women’s cross country team this year. On Sept. 29, the team will head to Lehigh University for the 45th Paul Short Run, one of the largest cross country meets in the nation. Last year, Mitchell tallied a seventh-place nod, completing the 6k course with a time of 22:35.

Read more in the Wesleyan Athletics press release.

Eck ’19 Helping City of Middletown Earn Sustainability Certification

Ingrid Eck ’19, pictured here in the West College Courtyard on Sept. 12, is working to certify the City of Middletown by Sustainable CT. Sustainable CT recognizes thriving and resilient Connecticut municipalities. An independently funded, grassroots, municipal effort, Sustainable CT provides a wide-ranging menu of best practices. Municipalities choose Sustainable CT actions, implement them, and earn points toward certification. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Since arriving on campus freshman year, Ingrid Eck ’19 has fully immersed herself in all Wesleyan has to offer: working on the Wesleyan Green Fund; founding Veg Out, a student group dedicated to food justice; and joining—and currently serving as president of—Wesleyan’s only sorority, Rho Epsilon Pi. She is also working toward not one, but three majors: government, environmental studies, and French studies. More recently, she’s felt a desire to get involved in the broader Middletown community and “truly get to know the city in which I have been living.”

This summer, Eck had a unique opportunity to become intimately familiar with the City of Middletown as she prepared and submitted the city’s application to Sustainable CT for certification.

According to Jen Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s sustainability director (for whom Eck interns), the Sustainable CT certification is similar to the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) sustainability rating for colleges and universities. Wesleyan received a silver rating by STARS, a program of The Association of the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, in 2013, and was re-certified in 2016. Like STARS, Sustainable CT encourages municipalities to become more sustainable in many different realms—such as environmental, social, and economic.

Centeno ’19 Honored in Iowa for Undergraduate Environmental Research

Eduardo Centeno ’19 presented a poster at Iowa State University in August.

Wesleyan earth and environmental sciences major Eduardo Centeno ’19 was honored for presenting the “best undergraduate talk” at the 6th Polar Marine Diatom Workshop (PMDW), held Aug. 6–10 at Iowa State University. The honor also earned him a featured appearance on Iowa Public Radio.

Centeno, a McNair Scholar, discussed his research titled “Environmental Interpretation of the mid-Pliocene at Site 697.” For this study, Centeno examined the diatoms (fossils of algae) off of the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula using a marine sediment core drilled at a location known as Site 697.

Eduardo Centeno holds his “best student talk” award at the workshop.

“Diatoms are really important microscopic plants that have been estimated to produce about 20 to 40 percent of the world’s oxygen,” Centeno explained. “They grow pretty much anywhere light and water are present and they’re great tools for geoscientists to explore climate change in the past because they are really sensitive to environmental conditions.”

As the climate changes over time, so does the diverse diatom record. For his project, Centeno is investigating an important change in the diatom record ~3.5 million years ago that was immediately followed by a global glaciation event.

“My evidence shows that during these events, when Earth had a similar CO2 concentration to the present and was only 2–3˚C warmer, Site 697 had a lot less ice than is seen today,” he said. “It’s amazing that Antarctica looked so different during a time period that scientists are using as an analog for the changes we might encounter in the coming century.”

Centeno will continue working on this research with his advisor, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences. After graduating, he plans to continue diatom research in a PhD program.

The Polar Marine Diatom Workshop integrates highly experienced senior-level, mid-career, and early career scientists with graduate and undergraduate students in order to pass on the finer aspects of taxonomy. Participants discussed diatom assemblages from a wide range of environmental settings, including sea ice and marginal ice zones, open ocean waters, upwelling zones, benthic marine habitats and nonmarine communities, all focused on Arctic and Antarctic settings.

“The workshop was amazing. I’ve been to multiple conferences, but there were very few people doing similar research,” he said. “The PMDW gave me an opportunity to collaborate and interact with professors and graduate and undergraduate students from all over the world who do the same exact research I have been doing. This very niche research community was extremely welcoming and accepting, so I’m excited to continue working with diatoms.”

Wesleyan Group Attends Field Workshop, Gathers Volcano Samples in Italy

Pictured from left, Joop Varekamp, Molly Wagner, Celeste Smith ’19, and Christina Cauley explore Italian lakes while attending the International Summer Meeting on Volcanic Lakes in June.

This summer, three Wesleyan students and one faculty member attended a field workshop in Basilicata, Italy, where they presented research, collected data, and visited an extinct volcano containing two bubbling crater lakes.

The group collected samples from crater lakes Monticchio Piccolo (foreground) and Monticchio Grande.

The International Summer Meeting on Volcanic Lakes, hosted by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, took place June 25–29 and focused on the theme “Different perspectives and approaches to studying a volcanic lake.” Basilicata is home to the 3,350-foot-high Mount Vulture (pronounced “Vool-tor-eh”), which last erupted 40,000 years ago.

The Wesleyan attendees included Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (E&ES) graduate students Christina Cauley and Molly Wagner; E&ES and environmental studies major Celeste Smith ’19; and Joop Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of environmental studies, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and professor of Latin American studies. Varekamp also is the Smith Curator of Mineralogy and Petrology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History. They joined more than 25 other participants from Italy, Germany, and Hungary.

The meeting consisted of one long day of scientific presentations in a 12th-century abbey (including talks by Smith, Wagner, and Varekamp), two days on crater lakes Monticchio Grande and Monticchio Piccolo collecting in situ data and samples, and a day of culture, with a trip to the nearby ancient town of Matera.

The group also collected materials specifically for Smith’s senior thesis, including water samples for mercury analyses and a 2.5-foot long sediment core from the most active bubbling lake.

After the field meeting, Smith went to the Institute for Ecosystem Studies at Lago Maggiore near the Swiss border to section her core samples, and then went on to Potsdam, Germany, to subsample an existing sediment core from these lakes.

“Celeste’s thesis topic is to obtain mercury degassing records of this dormant volcano over thousands of years, which will help to establish the natural background mercury flux into the ambient world,” Varekamp explained.

Badr ’20 Guides Upward Bound Students to Write about Their Experiences

A 100-person choir performed “Identities,” which included a poem written by Wesleyan Upward Bound student Chelsea Anthony. Chelsea is pictured front and center with Ahmed Badr ’20, who led a storytelling workshop that resulted in Chelsea’s poem being published.

How did a young refugee from Iraq inspire a high school student from New Britain, Conn., to write a poem that went on to be performed by a 100-person choir made up of high schoolers from around the East Coast?

It all began at Wesleyan.

Ahmed Badr ’20 was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, after his family’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops. As he struggled to adjust to life in the U.S., he started a personal blog to write about his experiences, and “found it incredibly empowering” to share his story.

“I soon began to realize the power of storytelling to inspire and bring people together,” he wrote on his website, Narratio. Determined to empower other youth, he created Narratio to publish written work by young people around the globe. It has been recognized by the United Nations, We are Family Foundation, and featured on NPR and Instagram. Today, Badr is a sophomore at Wesleyan, studying anthropology and pursuing independent projects as an Allbritton Fellow and Patricelli Center Fellow, while continuing to run Narratio, which includes leading creative storytelling workshops for youth around the country.

Students Inducted into Honor Society, Present Research at American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Meeting

Undergraduates from the Biology, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From Left, Alex Shames '18 (MacQueen Lab), BA/MA student Arden Feil (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr '18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little '18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht '18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler '18 (Hingorani Lab).

Undergraduates from the biology, chemistry, and molecular biology and biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From left, Alex Shames ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Arden Feil BA/MA ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr ’18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little ’18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht ’18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler ’18 (Hingorani Lab).

Seven Wesleyan students recently were inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Honor Society, and many of them presented research posters at the ASBMB annual meeting in San Diego, April 21–25.

The ASBMB Honor Society recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors who are pursuing a degree in the molecular life sciences for their scholarly achievement, research accomplishments, and outreach activities. The Wesleyan students inducted were Will Barr ’18, Alexa Strauss ’19, Emily Kessler ’18, Christine Little ’18, Julie McDonald ’18, Rubye Peyser ’18, and Alexander Shames ’18.

The following students attended the annual meeting:

• Kessler, whose poster was titled, “Investigating the Mechanistic Basis of Mutant MutS DNA Repair Protein Malfunction in Lynch Syndrome”
• Barr, “An mRNA-rRNA base pairing model for efficient protein translation”
• Little, “Investigation into the Binding Interactions of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Histone H1 with Holliday Junction”
• Shames, “The Long and Short of Synaptonemal Complex Assembly: Investigating the genesis and functional relevance of a smaller Zip1 isoform”
• Cody Hecht ’18, “Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I: Examining Protein Dynamics with Pyrene Excimer Fluorescence and Tryptophan-Induced Quenching”
• Arden Feil BA/MA ’18, “Scraping the Tip of Zip1’s Role in Meiotic Chromosome Dynamics: Using lacO/LacI corecruitment to identify crossover promoting factors that interface with the N-terminus of a synaptonemal complex protein”

“It was a joy to present the research that I’ve been working on for the past two years as a part of Wesleyan’s Beckman Scholars Program,” said Barr. “Science research can seem like a roller coaster at times, and presenting my research in the company of scientists at all levels of their careers helped me remember just how thrilling this process has been.”

The mission of ASBMB is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, promotion of the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce, and publication of a number of scientific and educational journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research.

Wesleyan Students Win Prestigious Consulting Competition

From left, Justin Liew ’18, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Jake Kwang ’20 won first prize in Roland Berger's "Case for a Cause" competition in April.

From left, Justin Liew ’18, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Jake Kwang ’20 won first prize in Roland Berger’s “Case for a Cause” competition in April.

Imagine you are advising a company that is a leading producer of a certain type of fruit product in the United States. The Chinese market has recently opened for export of this fruit product. How should the company best respond to this new market opportunity in China? What is the competition likely to do?

This was the scenario facing 30 teams of students from across 16 schools in the Roland Berger Case for a Cause 2018 competition, which simulates the work of a strategy consultant. Wesleyan’s team of four students, sponsored by The Gordon Career Center, tied for first place in the competition, which benefits Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to Anne Laskowksi, business career advisor at the Gordon Career Center, this was Wesleyan’s second year participating in the competition. This year, the four students—Jake Kwang ’20, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Justin Liew ’18—formed the team on their own. The group met up to three times each week to work on the case, with many additional hours of individual work each week.

Paper by Cohen ’19 Honored by Center for Jewish Studies

Talia Cohen '19

Talia Cohen ’19

On April 3, the Center for Jewish Studies honored Talia Cohen ’19 with the Best Student Paper in Jewish Studies award.

Cohen’s paper, which she wrote for her Romantic Poetry class during the fall semester, examines a work by Jewish composer Isaac Nathan as a powerful response to anti-Semitism. Specifically, she considers his decision to set Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” to a Sephardic Portuguese tune for Solomon ha-Levi Alkabez’s 16th-century mystical Sabbath poem, “Lecha Dodi.”

According to the abstract, “While Hebrew Melodies (1815), the songbook to which the musicalized version of Lord Byron’s ‘She Walks in Beauty’ belongs, was widely popular and generally held in favorable opinion at the time of its publication, several reviewers criticized the project from one of two seemingly contradictory angles: some took issue with the widespread veneration of Jewish music in a Christian society, finding the songs ‘too Jewish,’ while others complained that the music was not true to its ancient Israelite roots and therefore ‘not Jewish enough.’”

Students Organize TEDxWesleyanU, Host Distinguished Speakers

At left, Anthony Price '20, Zoe Reifel '21, Thafir Elzofri '19, Eunes Harun '20, Melisa Olgun '20 and Leo Merturi '20 thank the audience for attending Wesleyan's TEDxWesleyanU event on April 7.

At left, Anthony Price ’20, Zoe Reifel ’21, Thafir Elzofri ’19, Eunes Harun ’20, Melisa Olgun ’20, and Leo Merturi ’20 thank the audience for attending Wesleyan’s TEDxWesleyanU event on April 7. The entire event was organized by students.

Nationally known leaders and distinguished Wesleyan alumni and faculty presented short, powerful talks during the inaugural TEDxWesleyanU event April 7 in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall.

Launched in 2009, TEDx is a program of locally organized events that bring the community together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. Some of the best talks from TEDx events have gone on to be featured on TED.com and garnered millions of views from audiences across the globe.

Speakers included Maria Santana ’98, a correspondent for CNN en Español; Connecticut State Representative Matthew Lesser ’10; Middletown Mayor Dan Drew; National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71; national radio host Angela Yee ’97, and others. (View photos of the speakers below this article. View bios of all 13 speakers here.)

Melisa Olgun '20 and Eunes Harun ’20 stand outside the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall while preparing for TEDxWesleyanU.

Melisa Olgun ’20 and Eunes Harun ’20 stand outside the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall while preparing for TEDxWesleyanU.

“The current political climate is characterized by the lack of conversations taking place between people of opposing sides and viewpoints. TEDxWesleyanU is the launchpad we need to kickstart an unprecedented level of dialogue,” said Eunes Harun ’20, who spearheaded the event. “The TEDx mission and Wesleyan’s values align so heavily in the fostering of ideas and sparking dialogue. This event further emphasizes how Wesleyan is at the forefront of confronting current political and social issues in an effort to ultimately make the world a better place.”

Harun came up with the idea to host a TEDx event after tossing off ideas to his roommate, Alex Harold ’20, and neighbor Leo Merturi ’20. The tri-founders soon created a TEDxWesleyanU core team including Melisa Olgun ’20; Anthony Price ’20, and Thafir Elzofri ’19. Zoe Reifel ’21, who organized a TEDx event as a high school student, joined the team late to offer her experiences and input. Collaboratively, the group spent more than a year-and-a-half planning the inaugural event, which “has been one of the most impactful learning experiences of my life,” Harun said.

Alumni, Faculty, Graduate Students Make Presentations at Planetary Science Conference

Melissa Luna E&ES MA ’18, Jordyn-Marie Dudley E&ES MA ’18, Keenan Golder MA ’16, Reid Perkins E&ES MA ’19, Ben McKeeby MA ’17, Kristen Luchsinger MA ‘17

Graduate student Melissa Luna; graduate student Jordyn-Marie Dudley; Keenan Golder MA ’13; graduate student Reid Perkins; Ben McKeeby MA ’17; and Kristen Luchsinger MA ’17 recently attended the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.

Faculty, graduate students, and alumni attended the 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference March 19–23 in The Woodlands, Texas.

Graduate student Reid Perkins

Three graduate students were awarded funds from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant that allowed them to travel to this meeting.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Reid Perkins presented a research poster titled “Where Are the Missing Tessera Craters on Venus?” Perkins’s advisor is Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Melissa Luna presented a poster titled “Multivariate Spectral Analysis of CRISM Data to Characterize the Composition of Mawrth Vallis.” Her advisors are Gilmore and Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Jordyn-Marie Dudley presented a poster titled “Water Contents of Angrites, Eucrites, and Ureilites and New Methods for Measuring Hydrogen in Pyroxene Using SIMS.” Dudley’s advisor is Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.

“At their poster presentations, our graduate students were engaging with the top scientists in our field, who were very interested in their work,” Gilmore said. “I was very proud to see them attending talks across a range of disciplines, asking questions of speakers and making such solid scientific contributions.”

Gilmore also presented a study at the conference titled “Formation Rates and Mechanisms for Low-Emissivity Materials on Venus Mountaintops and Constraint on Tessera Composition.” In addition, she worked with NASA scientists on issues related to Venus exploration.

The following alumni authored abstracts presented at the conference: Avram Stein ’17; Jesse Tarnas ’16; Peter Martin ’14Nina Lanza MA ’06; Ian Garrick-Bethell ’02Robert Nelson MA ’69; and William Boynton ’66. Keenan Golder MA ’13; Ben McKeeby MA ’17; and Kristen Luchsinger MA ’17 also attended.