Tag Archive for Class of 2024

Student Researchers Discover Potential “Plastic-Eating” Bacteria on Campus

Chloe De Palo '22

Chloe De Palo ’22 explains how potential plastic-degrading bacteria were collected from a soil sample at Long Lane Farm.

A team of researchers at Wesleyan has discovered new strains of bacteria—located on the University’s campus—that may have the ability to break down microplastics and aid in the world’s ongoing plastic waste crisis.

Microplastics, which measure less than .20 of an inch, enter the ecosystem— and our bodies— largely through the abrasion of larger plastic pieces dumped into the environment. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, the average person consumes at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and inhales a similar quantity.

“Plastic is typically classified as a non-biodegradable substance. However, some bacteria have proven themselves to be capable of metabolizing plastics,” said Chloe De Palo ’22. “Ultimately, through our research and experiments, we hope to find an effective method of removing plastic pollutants from the environment.”

Fatai Olabemiwo

Fatai Olabemiwo

De Palo ’22, along with Rachel Hsu ’23; Claudia Kunney ’24; and biology PhD candidate Fatai Olabemiwo are members of the Cohan Laboratory in Microbiology, led by Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology. The team has spent almost two years working on a project titled “Isolating Potential Plastic Degraders from a Winogradsky Column.” They presented their most recent findings at Wesleyan’s Summer Research Poster Session.

On March 7, 2020 the research team gathered soil samples from Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm. They placed samples of the agricultural soil, along with plastic strips, inside a modified Winogradsky column, a microbiological tool for culturing broad microbial diversity. The device—invented by Russian scientist Sergei Winogradsky in the 1880s—is still commonly used today to culture bacteria from natural soil and sediments.


Pictured is a Winogradsky column on day 1 (March 7, 2020) and day 496 (June 28, 2021)

“We modified this wonderful device to yield a range of plastic degrades by placing plastic strips at four different zones inside the column,” Olabemiwo explained. “Then we added a medium called Bushnell-Haas Broth, which contains all the requirements for the growth of the microbes except for carbon, to the modified device.”

Now that the columns are sealed, it’s time to wait—for 16 months.

“During this time, we expected the bacteria to ‘tickle’ the strips and eventually adhere to the strips,” Olabemiwo said.

The experiment worked surprisingly well. After 496 days in the soil-broth mixture, Cohan Lab members removed the plastic strips aseptically. Not only did they weigh less, proving that bacteria were effectively decomposing the plastic, but the strips also hosted a diverse community of bacteria from which the lab members isolated 146 strains.

While the majority of the bacteria cultures could be identified through the National Center for Biotechnological Information (NCBI) taxonomy browser, the researchers learned that 24 were discovered species but not characterized and classified, and 28 were novel, undiscovered species.

“We’ll actually be naming them, genomically sequencing them, and adding them to the NCBI taxonomy browser, ” Cohan said.

Now that each bacterium is isolated, the Cohan Lab is working this fall to confirm their potential plastic-degrading abilities by feeding them minute plastic discs in a petri dish. If confirmed, the “plastic-eaters” could help biotechnological companies create a product that could remove microplastics from the environment.

Rachel Hsu '23, Kunney, Chloe De Palo '22

Rachel Hsu ’23, Chloe De Palo ’22, and Claudia Kunney ’24 are the undergraduate researchers working on the project.


Rachel Hsu, a biology and psychology double major, holds samples of the isolated bacteria in a petri dish.

Scientific Images of Nanoparticles, Colliding Stars, Learned Words Win Annual Contest

We had 13 submissions this year.

Thirteen students, majoring in chemistry, physics, astronomy, molecular biology and biochemistry, biology, neuroscience and behavior, psychology, and quantitative analysis submitted images for the 2021 Scientific Imaging Contest.

At first glance, a viewer sees a single image of pink-tinted cubes, resembling a bacteria culture from high school biology.

But upon closer examination, the viewer begins to see a series of other shapes—triangles to hexahedrons to tetahexahedraons (cubes with four-sided pyramids on each face).

“If you stare at this image for a while, you can see that it’s actually a series of five images in the top row, and five images on the bottom row, and each of these images show us nanoparticles that are made of gold and copper,” said Brian Northrop, professor of chemistry. “It’s intriguing, captivating, and visually very interesting.”

The image, which depicts bimetallic gold-copper (Au-Cu) nanoparticles synthesized with varying concentrations and amounts of sodium iodide, was created by Jessica Luu ’24 using a scanning electron microscope. It also was the first place winner in Wesleyan’s 2021 Scientific Imaging Contest.

Jessica Luu

Jessica Luu ’24 took first place with a series of 10 images of bimetallic gold-copper (Au-Cu) nanoparticles synthesized with varying concentrations and amounts of sodium iodide. They were imaged using a scanning electron microscope (SEM).

The annual contest, spearheaded by Wesleyan’s College of Integrative Sciences, encourages students to submit images and descriptions of the research that they’ve been conducting over the summer.

Students Receive 2021 Academic Prizes, Scholarships, Fellowships

monogramThis month, the Office of Student Affairs presented the 2021 student prizes. The recipients and awards include:

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.

  • Kian Caplan 2021
  • Ana Finnerty-Haggerty 2021
  • Andrew Northrop 2021
  • Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham 2021

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.

  • Nia Felton 2021
  • Riley Richards 2021

American Chemical Society Analytical Award

Awarded for excellence in analytical chemistry.

  • Cole Harris 2021

American Chemical Society Connecticut Valley Section Award

Awarded for outstanding achievement to a graduating chemistry major.

  • Emma Shapiro 2021

American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry

Awarded to an undergraduate student in inorganic chemistry to recognize achievement and encourage further study in the field.

  • Abrar Habib 2021

American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry

Awarded to a senior who has displayed a significant aptitude for organic chemistry

  • Niels Vizgan GRAD

American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry

Awarded in recognition of outstanding achievement by undergraduate students in physical chemistry, and to encourage further pursuits in the field.

5 Students Honored with First-Year Seminar Writing Prizes

This month, five students were recognized with the First-Year Seminar Writing Prize for essays they wrote in their first-year seminars throughout 2020. A total of 137 first-year students submitted to the contest this year.

Each winner will receive a $100 prize, and each honorable mention will receive a $50 prize. These students will have their work published online along with an audio recording of them reading their essays aloud.

The First-Year Seminar Writing Prize celebrates the work of first-year writers at Wesleyan.

The three winners are:

Nathan Foote ’24, for “Anti-Gospel,” written for Anne Greene’s Place, Character, and Design.

Gissel Ramirez ’24, for “Gissel Not Giselle: Language as an Identity,” written for Lauren Silber’s Why You Can’t Write.

Michelle Seaberg ’24, for “Your Gender, Hand it Over: Imposing Gender Categories as a Means of Control,” written for Margot Weiss’s Social Norms/Social Power: Reading ‘Difference’ in American Culture.

The two honorable mentions are:

Alexis Papavasiliou ’24, for “Was Oxygen the Only Player in the Cambrian Explosion?” written for Ellen Thomas’s and Johan Varekamp’s As the World Turns: Earth History, with Life’s Ups and Downs.

Natalie Shen ’24, for “Critical Analysis of the Defensive Asylum Seeking Process from a Linguistic Perspective,” written for Beth Hepford’s How Language Works: The Beliefs and Bias that Affect our Social World.

Nonfiction Journalism Class Explores the Continuing Battle for COVID-19 Normalcy

tin can

In a recently-published essay, Chapin Montague ’21 tells the story of Wesleyan students Michayla Robertson-Pine ’22 (top left) and Elizabeth “Liz” Woolford ’21 (top right) who created a virtual after-school learning community for children called Tin Can Learners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Montague and several other Wesleyan students wrote pandemic-related essays for their class, The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction.

As part of a class assignment for the spring 2021 course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction, students were tasked with writing short essays on the continuing battle for normalcy while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The class is taught by Daniel de Visé ’89, Koeppel Journalism Fellow. After graduating from Wesleyan and Northwestern University, de Visé spent 23 years working in newspapers. He shared a 2001 team Pulitzer Prize and garnered more than two dozen other national and regional journalism awards. He’s also the author of three books.

Journalistic nonfiction, de Visé, explained, uses the tools of the newsroom to create long-form stories that read like novels. Books such as Moneyball, The Orchid Thief, The Warmth of Other Suns, “are grounded in journalistic nonfiction,” he said.

“The class is about how to write nonfiction using the tools of novel-writing and cinema,” de Visé said. “It’s all based on journalism—fact-based reporting. We’re reading and writing stories that have central characters who overcome literary conflicts in a scene-driven narrative.”

A sampling of the articles are published here and descriptions are below.

basketball team

Kiran Kling ’24, pictured at far left, wrote an essay about being on the men’s basketball team during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olu Oladitan ’24, pictured in the center, is featured in the essay.

Kiran Kling ’24 focused his essay, “The Call” on being a student-athlete during the pandemic. With spring sports canceled during the 2020-21 academic year, Kling explained how the 15 members of the men’s basketball team would gather on Zoom every Wednesday night to share updates, network with alumni, and “crack jokes in the players-only group chat during the call.” Read Kling’s essay online here.

Sophie Talcove-Berko ’21 shared her experience of being a college senior during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her essay, “Ski School,” Talcove-Berko wrote about the difficult decisions her peers made during their final year at Wes: “some deferred, some returned, and some went remote.” Talcove-Berko framed her essay around Tammy Shine ’21 who originally planned to return to Wesleyan this spring for her final semester of college, but instead chose to study remotely in Lake Tahoe. “While it was her final chance to live with her college friends on campus, she found the mountains rejuvenating for the mind, body, and soul,” Talcove-Berko wrote. Read Talcove-Berko’s essay online here.

Kling ’24: “The Call”

I'm on the far right with my arms crossed. Olu, who is featured in the story, is squatting in dead center. Coach Reilly also has his arms crossed, and is far right in the gray.The following essay was written by Kiran Kling ’24 (pictured above far left) as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction 

The Zoom was exactly on schedule. The gallery view was full, five minutes early. Coach Reilly ran a tight ship, and all 15 Wesleyan University basketball players, together but apart on this Wednesday night, knew the rules.

“Good to see you all tonight,” Reilly begins. “Everybody give updates, freshman first this time.” 

Every Wednesday at 7 p.m., the nine players who chose to come to campus for the 2020-21 school year, and the six who chose to remain home, meet to hear updates about each other’s lives, network with alums, and crack jokes in the players-only group chat during the call.

“Olu, you’re first on my screen,” Reilly says.

Sitting at his dorm-room desk, Olu Oladitan’s [’24] face is backlit. The only source of light is a set of color changing LEDs that trace the rectangular outlines of the interior walls. It is the kind of lighting that would make a great TikTok, and this is no coincidence. Olu has the combination of humor and dancing skill that garners serious attention on that platform. A green and white Nigerian flag takes up most of the visible wall space, and the team can make out his king-size bed, large for the room, sticking out at the bottom of his video feed. He’s big enough, 6 foot 8 and somewhere around 240 pounds, that the University’s residential life department was happy to accept his application for a large bed.

“I’m doing pretty well,” Olu replies. “Put in a couple of hours with Cane this week.”

Olu works a part-time job keeping the athletic facility running smoothly. The pay is just ok, but the hours are up to him, and it’s a good way to make some pocket money.

“It’s really nice to have access to a gym whenever I want,” says Olu, “much easier than over break.” 

Over break, he was back home in East New York, Brooklyn. Due to a high number of COVID cases, local public transport was limited and gyms were closed.

“I’ve got another in-person class this semester, and I’m hearing that we might be able to return to contact practices eventually, so those are both good things to look forward to,” Olu says. “I’m definitely very happy to be back.”

Coach Reilly pauses for a few seconds to see if Olu has anything more to say.

“Great stuff, glad to have you back. Dylan, you’re next.”

An awkward pause ensues, as Dylan unmutes on his second try.

“Things haven’t changed much here since we last talked,” Dylan tells the group.

This is to be expected. Dylan Ward is coming in live from his bedroom in Westport, Connecticut, a little less than an hour’s drive away from Wesleyan in the direction of New York City. You can tell his room is on the top floor because one of the walls slants, indicating the roof of his house is on the other side. In stark contrast to Olu’s room, all of Dylan’s lights are on. Visible in his video frame are a pair of dumbbells on the floor, and a pixelated inhaler on his dresser in the back corner.

“I’m still looking around for some solo court time,” Dylan says. “It should be easier once the local high school seasons end.”

Dylan doesn’t feel comfortable playing basketball with other people because his asthma puts him at serious risk, should he get sick. At home, he can self-isolate.

“In the meantime I still have the hoop in the driveway,” he adds. “I’ve been on Facetime with my trainer, and we’ve been getting creative with the home workouts. I’ve lost some fat and put on some muscle, I’m staying steady at 210 and getting stronger.”

After a pause, he continues:“Classes are good too, psych, calc, international relations, and a philosophy course. I do feel a little like I’m still in high school, and next year is my freshman year.”

In the absence of a campus experience, or any kind of true shopping period for classes, Dylan takes academic advice from one of his older brother’s friends, who was an economics major at Wesleyan.

“I’m still looking for a job, just to stay busy, but yeah, my life here isn’t too interesting,” Dylan sums up.

Coach Reilly pauses again. On paper, Dylan and Olu should be living very similar lives: they are teammates, both considering economics or psychology. They are both good students living up to high expectations. Both of their older siblings are recent Harvard graduates. But the pandemic pushed their narratives in two directions, at least for a little while. Dylan has never met his teammates, and Olu just ate dinner with them before getting on the call.

Neither Dylan or Olu feels like he had much of a choice concerning whether to stay home. 

For Olu, getting tested twice a week, per Wesleyan policy, is the only way to safely play basketball. On campus, there’s always food, and his friends are mostly on campus, too. He even stayed on campus for a portion of winter break, to reap the same benefits. He spent his entire high school career at boarding school, and most of his friends he met before college live in the Boston area.

On Dylan’s terms, the only way to win is not to play. His childhood friends are around, and they can hang out at a distance. It makes sense to stay home and not take any kind of risks. In his words, “It makes sense to wait. I can have my real freshman year next year.” 

Neither Olu or Dylan feels like he is a real Wesleyan student yet. Olu says that “next year will be my first year as a real college student, and for that matter, a college basketball player.” 

They both say they feel more like individuals than full-on members of the Wesleyan community, and both expect that to change once COVID restrictions are lifted.

Despite their vastly differing levels of interaction with the Wesleyan basketball team, in the weekly call, students on and off campus are equals. “These interactions make me feel as though I belong,” Dylan says. 

Coach Reilly calls on the next player. The call will end in 55 minutes, precisely, another cog in the well-oiled Reilly machine. Dylan and Olu will both sign off feeling justified in their choices, and part of something greater than themselves. Quite the feat in a pandemic.

Students Reflect on Presidential Election Voting Experience


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.

Philosophical Debate Serves as Living a Good Life Course’s Midterm

good life class

Students from the philosophy course Living a Good Life gathered in Memorial Chapel on Oct. 22 to participate in a three-part debate that served as their midterm.

Philosophers in the ancient world, in both the East and the West, typically viewed the practice of philosophy as an activity aimed at changing one’s orientation to the world and, thus, how one lives one’s life. Some of these thinkers developed views that still appear to have contemporary relevance, but many of them also held beliefs that we recognize today as not only outdated but also deeply misguided. Given these blind spots in their thinking, should ancient philosophy be “canceled”?

That was the question up for consideration in a midterm debate held on Oct. 22 as part of PHIL 210: Living a Good Life, co-taught by Steve Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy; Tushar Irani, associate professor of letters and philosophy; and Steven Horst, chair and professor of philosophy. The course is one of Wesleyan’s largest in-person courses taught this semester and was featured in an Oct. 19 The New York Times article titled “Ancient Philosophy, Meet Modern Pandemic.”

Class of 2024 Attends Virtual Orientation Program

class of 2024Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state regulations, Wesleyan is delivering its annual Orientation Program virtually through live Zoom meetings, townhalls, and webinars.

Orientation activities began in mid-July, where members of the Class of 2024 and transfer students participated in sessions on charting a course through the open curriculum, sustainability at Wesleyan, wellness, financial aid, student employment, career center information, and working with an academic peer advisor. They also learned the Wesleyan fight song and participated in virtual social events including a virtual escape room, Jeopardy!, drag race bingo, and a magic show.

Sudbury, Mass. resident Sabrina Ladiwala ’24 chose to defer her on-campus enrollment until the spring semester due to the pandemic, but has participated in several first-year orientation webinars.

“After my orientation meetings, I would hang back to ask the leader a question. Multiple times, that simple exchange led to sharing experiences about what spring term was like for each of us or developed into a really in-depth talk about life on the Wes campus. As I started having more of these conversations, not only did I welcome all the information, but I also enjoyed listening to all the personal, on-campus stories these students told. In spite of sitting in my home, I already felt connected to the community,” she said.

Ladiwala also attended several social events, including a virtual escape room.

“After my group completed this fun exercise, we just stayed back and talked for around 20 or 25 minutes about moving in, what dorms we were in and how quarantine was going for us. Even though I am deferring, I was still included in that conversation which really meant a lot to me,” she said. “Even though orientation is over and classes are starting, I am excited to stay in touch with all my Wesleyan friends and am really looking forward to being on campus in the spring!”

Students also participated in several health and safety webinars on returning to campus, COVID-19 testing, and the importance of quarantine.

During an "End of Summer Bash" social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader.

During an “End of Summer Bash” social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader in Zoom “breakout rooms.”

782 Students Join Wesleyan’s Class of 2024

class of 2024This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 782 students to the Class of 2024. University faculty and staff worked tirelessly over the summer to ready the campus for opening this semester while providing a safe and healthy environment for all. Those students unable to come to campus in the fall may continue their Wesleyan education remotely, and may join us on campus in the spring.

“The Class of 2024 is dynamically diverse, exceptionally talented, and incredibly resilient,” said Amin Gonzalez ’96, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid. “I’m immensely proud of the members of this class and not just because of their impressive credentials or the fact they are the first that my dedicated team and I have admitted to Wes, but because they boldly persevered through unprecedented challenges. Having taken all the proper safety precautions and offered a robust virtual orientation program, we are excited to welcome them to campus and have full confidence they will each in their own way make substantive contributions to our vibrant community.”

A total of 12,752 individuals applied for a spot in the Class of 2024. Of those, Wesleyan admitted 2,640 (21%) and 782 matriculated.

Below are some stats about the Class of 2024*:

  • 40% men and 60% women
  • 53% attended public high schools
  • 14% are from outside the United States
  • 79% live outside New England; 13% live in 34 other countries including Ghana, Iran, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, and Senegal
  • 41% are students of color, of which 33% are domestic students of color
  • 10% are international students
  • 8% are the children of Wesleyan alumni
  • 14% are among the first generation in their family to attend a four-year college
  • 43% are receiving financial aid
  • 79% have already studied a foreign language
  • 93% graduated in the top 20% of their high school class
  • Economics, psychology, English, and biology are the top projected majors
  • 22 students are QuestBridge National College Match Finalists and 7 are Posse Veteran Scholars
    *The Class of 2024 was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and should be considered in that context.

For more information, visit the Class of 2024 Profile.

Wesleyan congratulated the Class of 2024 admitted students last April through a series of virtual WesFest events, and welcome messages from notable graduates like composer, actor, and director Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15. Once on campus, students participated in a virtual New Student Orientation.