Tag Archive for Class of 2021

Tan ’21 Presents Mussel Collection at Northeast Geobiology Symposium

Yu Kai Tan BA/MA ’21 presented his recent 3D scanning models during the 2021 Northeast Geobiology Symposium, which took place virtually on April 9-10.

Tan’s presentation was titled “Orphaned Freshwater Mussel Collection Reveals Biogeography of Sculptured Sciences.” During the event, Tan showcased several 3D-scanned models of the mussel collection he is currently studying for his master’s degree.

The symposium, which is organized by students and postdocs, provides an inclusive environment for researchers at various stages of their development to learn from their peers and develop collaborative relationships for future work.

E&ES Seniors Conduct Capstone Research at Wesleyan’s Long Lane Forest

EES capstone

During the Earth and Environmental Sciences Senior Field Research Project presentations on March 19, Phil Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences, showed a map of Wesleyan’s Long Lane Forest. Here, three student groups spent the past semester studying the vegetation soils on the property; how the forest changed over time using historical imagery; and how the groundwater underneath the forest interacts with precipitation on the surface.

EES

Students and faculty from the E&ES497 class gather on the Long Lane field property near the forest.

Ten students majoring in earth and environmental science (E&ES) have completed their senior capstone projects.

Each year, seniors in the major embark on a capstone experience that starts with a seminar in the fall (E&ES497) in which students design an original research project, go on a field trip to carry out the research and complete their fieldwork, and then analyze their results and present them in written reports and oral presentations. In past years, students have ventured across the globe for their field trips. However, the pandemic caused this year’s projects to look a little different. This time, the field trips took place in a spot nearer and dearer to their hearts—Wesleyan’s Long Lane Forest, which is just a half-mile west from the heart of campus.

Study by Snashall ’21, Poulos Published in Forests

Gabe Snashall ’21 and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Helen Poulos are the co-authors of “Oreos Versus Orangutans: The Need for Sustainability Transformations and Nonhierarchical Polycentric Governance in the Global Palm Oil Industry,” published in the Feb. 22 issue of Forests.

According to the paper’s abstract, “While the myriad benefits of palm oil as a food, makeup, and cleaning product additive drive its demand, globally, the palm oil industry remains largely unsustainable and unregulated. The negative externalities of palm oil production are diverse and devastating to tropical ecosystem integrity and human livelihoods in palm oil nations. Given the current trend in increasing sustainability and transparency in global supply chains, we suggest that sustainability policy reforms are feasible and have the potential to promote 21st-century U.S. and international sustainability standards. Polycentric governance may improve the attainment of sustainable global palm oil standards with a set of rules that interact across linear and nonlinear hierarchies and structures, thereby improving collaboration efforts, and increasing connectivity and learning across scales and cultures. Transformations towards sustainability in international palm oil governance has the potential to make valuable contributions to global sustainable development and improve the prosperity of poor rural communities in the tropics by providing a framework for achieving palm oil trade transparency and aligning the sustainability goals across a range of actors.”

4 Seniors Receive NASA Undergraduate Research Fellowship Awards

space grantsFour members of the Class of 2021 are recipients of NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium awards.

Kimberly Paragas ’21, Ben Martinez ’21, Molly Watstein ’21, and Mason Tea ’21 each received a $5,000 Undergraduate Research Fellowship for their ongoing research. They’re among only seven students statewide to receive the honor.

“I have never seen an institution be so successful at these very competitive grants, and was so proud and impressed by the student applicants,” said Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy.

Paragras is working with Redfield on her project titled “Gas Giant Atmospheric Mass Loss.” According to the abstract, “Atmospheric mass loss is one of two aspects that influence the evolution of planets, making it essential for understanding their origin. The helium 1083 nm line offers insight into the atmospheric escape of close-in exoplanets, which significantly sculpts their population. This project aims to detect excess helium absorption in the atmosphere of the gas giant HAT-P-18b and estimate its present-day mass loss rate by using transit observations taken with an ultra-narrow band filter. The outcome of this project will provide valuable data for constraining mechanisms of mass loss, as helium outflows have only been detected in 5–6 planets to date.”

Martinez ’21 is working with Ed Moran, chair and professor of astronomy, on a project titled “An Unbiased Survey of Black Hole Activity in the Local Universe.” According to the abstract, “Cosmological simulations have shown that the fraction of low-mass galaxies in today’s universe that contain a nuclear black hole is directly related to the mechanism by which massive black hole seeds formed in the early universe. We have obtained optical emission-line measurements for an unbiased sample of local galaxies using a variety of instruments and will separate the objects into four distinct activity classes. We must remove continuum features from our spectra via the process of starlight subtraction, and examine X-ray and near-IR source catalogs for additional evidence of black-hole accretion to create a comprehensive picture of black hole activity in the nearby universe.”

Watstein ’21 also is working with Moran on a project titled “New Insights into AGN Unification from NuSTAR Observations of Nearby Seyfert 2 Galaxies.” According to the abstract, “Recent X-ray studies have reported a correlation between accretion rate and the presence of a hidden broad-line region in obscured active galactic nuclei (AGNs), suggesting that a substantial revision of the unified model for AGNs is needed. These investigations, however, were based on soft X-ray data, which are unreliable for determining intrinsic luminosities and accretion rates in such objects. Using NuSTAR data in the hard 3-80 keV band, I will determine the intrinsic X-ray luminosities of a large sample of obscured AGNs that have sensitive Keck spectropolarimetry observations, which will afford a definitive test of the accretion-rate hypothesis.”

Tea ’21 is working with Roy Kilgard, associate professor of the practice in astronomy, on a project titled “Analysis, Characterization and Variability of Local, Accreting X-ray Binaries with Archival Chandra Observations.” According to the abstract, “Compact objects are often found in binary systems, emitting X-ray radiation from plasma in their accretion disks as they siphon material from a donor star. Observations of these X-ray binaries (XRBs) in nearby galaxies provide the best opportunity to study the gravitational effects of compact objects on their environment and the high-energy physics powering their emission. In performing a detailed spectral and temporal analysis of the roughly 80 brightest X-ray sources within 15 Mpc, I hope to assess their spectral state and variability in order to more accurately constrain the parameter space and local population of XRBs and black hole binaries (BHBs).”

The NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) is a federally mandated grant, internship, and scholarship program that is funded as a part of NASA education. NASA CTSGC was formed in 1991 in an effort to encourage broader participation in NASA research programs.

Single-Tusked Walrus Skull Settles into Olin Library

walrus

On Jan. 20, crews installed a walrus exhibit in Olin Library. Pictured, from left back row, are Katherine Brunson, assistant professor of archaeology and East Asian studies; Wendi Field Murray, Archaeology Collections manager and adjunct assistant professor of East Asian studies; Andrew White, Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian; Ann Burke, professor of biology; Bruce Strickland, instrument maker specialist; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; David Strickland, instrument maker; and Vivian Gu ’23. Pictured, kneeling, from left, are Yu Kai Tan ’20 and Andy (Dick Yee) Tan ’21.

Olin Library’s newest resident is looking for a good book to sink his tusk into.

The skull of a one-toothed walrus, which was installed in the Campbell Reading Room on Jan. 20, is the University’s latest exhibit on display from the former Museum of Wesleyan University (1871–1957). The piece was donated to Wesleyan 145 years ago by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History but has spent about half of its university life in storage.

The 26-pound skull, which is missing its right tusk, belonged to a Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) living along the Ugashik River in Alaska in 1876. The aquatic mammal would use its tusks to climb onto ice flows, attract mates, establish social structure, or for combat.

“We’re not exactly sure what happened to its other tusk,” said Professor of Biology Ann Campbell Burke. “In the wild, they don’t naturally shed their tusks, but they do get broken. This one was removed after death.”

15 Seniors Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

phi beta kappa

Fifteen seniors were inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society on Dec. 2. Phi Beta Kappa means “love of learning is the guide of life.”

During a virtual ceremony on Dec. 2, 15 members of the Class of 2021 were inducted early decision into the Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

The oldest scholastic honor society in the nation, Phi Beta Kappa at Wesleyan is limited to 12% of the graduating class each year.

Fall-semester election is based on grades through the end of a student’s junior year and fulfillment of the General Education expectations. The minimum grade point average for the fall election is 93, and students are nominated by their major departments.

“Your families, teachers, fellow students, and others at Wesleyan couldn’t be prouder,” Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 said during the initiation ceremony. “We’re delighted to recognize your achievements, even in this world of Zoom, and acknowledge your good work and your strong character. I am honored to be among those who honor you today. Thank you for your many contributions to Wesleyan, and congratulations on this extraordinary achievement.”

The students and their major(s) are below:

Jacob Barabas, College of Social Studies, economics
Kian Caplan, neuroscience and behavior, science in society
Julia Gyourko, history

Wickham ’21 Awarded Rhodes Scholarship for Post-Graduate Study

Fitzroy "Pablo" Wickham is the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham is the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham ’21 has been named the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest, and one of the most prestigious, international scholarship programs in the world. Each year, it provides about 100 fully-funded scholarships to students around the world for post-graduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. According to the website, the “Rhodes Selection Committees are looking for young people of outstanding intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service.”

At Wesleyan, Wickham is a double major in theater and neuroscience and behavior. At the University of Oxford under the Rhodes Scholarship, he plans to pursue an MPhil and DPhil in neuroscience. Later, he plans to attend medical school and ultimately hopes to establish his own neuroscience research laboratory and practice in Jamaica.

Wickham’s selection as the Jamaica Rhodes Scholar was announced by Jamaica’s Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, on Nov. 22.

Wickham grew up in a single-parent household in the Jamaican countryside, on the northern part of the island in the parish of St. Ann. He and his sister were raised by their mother, Florence Wickham, a high school mathematics teacher. Wickham notes that St. Ann is birthplace to such acclaimed talent as world-renowned musician Bob Marley; political activist Marcus Garvey; and father of the U.S. Vice President-elect, Donald Harris (Kamala Harris reportedly spent her summers there), yet “remains very underdeveloped and rural, boasting a rich agricultural history.”

After completing fifth and sixth grade in North Carolina, Wickham longed to return to the United States for college. He chose to attend a small liberal arts school given his interest in both neuroscience and theater, and said Wesleyan’s generous financial aid package made it possible for him to afford college in the U.S.

Students Reflect on Presidential Election Voting Experience

voting

From left, Annie Roach ’22, Julia Jurist ’22, and Emma Smith ’22 proudly display their “I Voted” stickers after casting their ballots in Beckham Hall on Nov. 3. “The whole process of voting was much easier than I expected,” Jurist said. “It was very convenient and easy to be able to vote on campus.”

By Annie Roach ’22 and Olivia Drake MALS ’08

After the whirlwind of 2020, Wesleyan students—many of them first-time voters—were particularly eager to exercise their right to vote in the presidential election. While several students cast absentee ballots in their home states weeks ahead of time, others voted in person on Nov. 3.

Marangela James

Marangela James ’24

Marangela James ’24 decided to vote in person in Connecticut, here on campus at Beckham Hall. She registered at Wesleyan earlier this semester, when some students had set up a voter registration table in front of Usdan. “It was a little bit hard navigating how to vote at first with everything going on,” she said, “but I thought it was helpful that Wes had a table set up to register us.”

Thomas Holley ’22 voted via absentee ballot. However, he physically dropped it off in the election box outside his town hall in Cheshire, Conn. “I mostly chose to vote absentee because of its ease and to avoid crowds on Election Day,” he said. “I voted in the 2018 midterms, but this election feels much more important. This statement comes from an unbelievable point of my privilege, but this is the first time political events have directly impacted my daily life. In 2018, I enjoyed voting, but going to the polls did not have the same sense of necessity.”

In conversations with his peers, Holley feels there is a shared sense of “we have to act now, and voting is the least we can do.” Issues such as climate change, reproductive rights, and the virus have come up frequently in discussions, he said.

E2020 Experiences Shape Students’ Views of the Election

Led by the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP), the University launched its new Engage 2020 (E2020) Initiative last fall to deepen Wesleyan’s commitment to civic engagement. To date, 33 students have already received funding to support the development of their civic literacy and their preparedness to engage in political life through hands-on experiences such as working to register voters, issues advocacy, and volunteering on political campaigns. E2020 encourages participation regardless of political affiliation or stances on specific issues.

Since the initiative’s inauguration, Wesleyan has joined forces with colleges and universities across the U.S. to reaffirm the University’s collective responsibility as institutions of higher learning. (Read more about how E2020 has supported student action in civic life in this September 2020 Wesleyan University Magazine article.)

Leading up to the election, three E2020 veterans offered to reflect on their experiences and explained whether, and how, they helped shape their views of the 2020 presidential election and the current political climate.

Dani Dittmann ’22

Dani Dittmann ’22

Government and economics double major Dani Dittmann ’22 interned with Deb Ciamacca’s campaign for Pennsylvania state representative in Pennsylvania’s 168th District, and as she had hoped, she gained much confidence in speaking about politics today, especially the importance of local elections in a swing state. Although her internship concluded at the end of the summer, Dittmann continued to help with the campaign this fall, whether it was phone banking or helping out with social media content.

On campus, Dittmann co-founded a club named New Voters at Wesleyan, which has been registering high school students to vote in Connecticut and beyond. And she also signed up to be the field hockey team’s Voice in Sport’s “More Votes More Voices” campaign team leader. She kept track of teammates’ voter registration status and made sure every member of her team had a plan to vote.

“My E2020 project absolutely impacted me and my actions leading up to the election,” she said. “My experience definitely ignited something within me to ensure I was making some kind of tangible difference leading up to Nov. 3. The experience definitely encouraged me to be as involved as I am in voter registration work and political discussions on campus, and I am so grateful!”

3 Students Win Scientific Imaging Contest

Images depicting star collisions, atom movement in yeast ribosomes, and herbaceous plant root scans were the winning entries of the 2020 Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest.

The Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest, held annually in August, recognizes student-submitted images—from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member—that are scientifically intriguing, as well as aesthetically pleasing. The contest is organized by the College of Integrative Sciences as part of the summer research program.

The winners included Osama Elgabori ’22, Carol Dalgarno ’21, and Jolie Villegas ’21. Elgabori’s advisor is Brian Stewart, professor of physics; Dalgarno’s advisor is Michael Weir, professor of biology; and Villegas’ advisor is Sonia Sultan, professor of biology.