Tag Archive for faculty publications

Feller Pens Article Analyzing New Jewish Museum in Israel

Jeremy Zwelling Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Assistant Professor of Religion Yaniv Feller penned an article over the summer titled “Too Good to be True?” for the Tel Aviv Review of Books.

In the piece, Feller discusses the Museum of the Jewish People (ANU), which first opened March 2021. One of the museum’s main exhibits begins with a segment called “Mosaic: Identity and Culture in Our Times” before moving into the historical roots of Judaism, exploring different forms of Judaism in contemporary and historical contexts, as well as the diversity of the Jewish people and the way they observe their religion.

“The question of whether there is such a singular object of research called Jewish history—indeed, whether the history of the Jewish people is unified—has confronted every historian of the Jews. In implicitly answering it, the new exhibition at ANU offers a different historiography to that of its predecessor,” Feller writes.

He argues that the museum could have been constructed anywhere in the world but its specific location within Israel calls into question the role of Israeli politics in the Jewish faith. Feller cites various Israeli politicians who have fought against the LBGTQ+ community, contending that such people inherently affect the religion of the country they seek to represent.

“It is about who gets to define Jewishness,” Feller states.

Feller then analyzes the relationship between politics and Judaism, concluding that Judaism cannot be defined by any one place or identity.

“ANU is everything its creators hoped it would be. A cutting-edge, beautifully executed, comprehensive museum of the Jewish people. And precisely because of that, it feels at odds with its location. As the Museum of the Jewish People, its permanent exhibition is inspirational, but also aspirational. It is increasingly at odds with the diverging paths of the Jewish people and the State of Israel in which the museum is located.”

Sultan, Waterman ’20 Co-Author Paper on Plant Reproduction

Professor of Biology Sonia Sultan recently co-authored an article titled “Transgenerational effects of parent plant competition on offspring development in contrasting conditions” with BA/MA student Robin Waterman ’20. The article, published in Ecology on Sept. 8, examines the relationship between parent plants and their offspring, especially how competition among such parent plants can alter the next generation.

“Conditions during a parent’s lifetime can induce phenotypic changes in offspring, providing a potentially important source of variation in natural populations. Yet to date, biotic factors have seldom been tested as sources of transgenerational effects in plants,” reads an excerpt from the paper’s abstract.

Rubenstein, Taylor ’68 Collaborate On Essay Collection

ImageProfessor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein recently co-authored an essay in collection titled Image: Three Inquiries in Technology and Imagination alongside Mark C. Taylor ’68, professor of religion at Columbia University.

The book, published in September 2021 by the University of Chicago Press, explores how visual elements function in relationship to humans and technology.

“Modern life is steeped in images, image-making, and attempts to control the world through vision,” the book’s description reads. “Mastery of images has been advanced by technologies that expand and reshape vision and enable us to create, store, transmit, and display images. The three essays in Image, written by leading philosophers of religion Mark C. Taylor, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, and Thomas A. Carlson, explore the power of the visual at the intersection of the human and the technological.”

Rubenstein also is the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe (2009), Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse (2014), and Pantheologies: Gods, Worlds, Monsters (2018). Taylor, too, has written several books, including Disfiguring: Art, Architecture, Religion (1994), Mystic Bones (2007), and Abiding Grace: Time, Modernity, Death (2018).

Papers by Kuenzel, Vásquez Published in Economics Journals

David Kuenzel, associate professor of economics, is the co-author of a new paper published in the European Economic Review titled “Preferential Trade Agreements and MFN Tariffs: Global Evidence.” In the paper, Kuenzel and his co-author, Rishi Sharma from Colgate University, study theoretically and empirically the effects of countries’ import composition on multilateral liberalization using a global tariff database that covers the 2000–2011 period. Kuenzel and Sharma provide evidence that greater preferential trade agreement (PTA) import shares induce tariff cuts on non-member countries. The baseline estimates imply that a 10 percentage point increase in the share of imports from PTA partners lowers most-favored-nation (MFN) tariff rates by about 0.4 percentage points. This effect is driven by countries that negotiate deeper preferential trade deals as they are prone to lead to more inefficient trade diversion, which creates a stronger incentive to subsequently cut MFN tariffs.

Jorge Vásquez, assistant professor of economics, is the co-author of a new paper published in the November 2021 issue of the journal Games and Economic Behavior titled “Co-worker altruism and unemployment.” This theoretical paper, co-authored with Marek Weretka, demonstrates altruism among co-workers may generate downward wage rigidity that creates involuntary unemployment in economic downturns.

Kleinberg Authors New Book on Levinas’ Cultural Legacy

The first time Ethan Kleinberg, the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor of History and Letters, immersed himself in the world of the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas 20 years ago, he wrote a book.

“It was written as a traditional intellectual history and I found that what that I had done was to completely deactivate the aspects of Levinas’ thought where he believes that there are ethical guidelines that come to us from outside our own history, these transcendent ethical guidelines puncture any historical or contextual moment,” Kleinberg said.

He didn’t like what he’d written, so he took an unprecedented step—he tore it up and started over again over a decade later.

Kleinberg’s new take on Levinas’ cultural legacy, Emmanuel Levinas’s Talmudic Turn: Philosophy and Jewish Thought will be published this October in the Cultural Memory in the Present Series from Stanford University Press. Using a series of Levinas’ lectures on the Torah and the Talmud as the touchpoints, Kleinberg has crafted an exploration of his thinking that encompasses aspects of Western philosophy, French Enlightenment universalism, and the Lithuanian Talmudic tradition.

Levinas, a man of strong convictions and a sense of humor, was born in 1906 in present-day Lithuania. Levinas was the among the first to bring philosopher Martin Heidegger’s work to France, and later wrestled with the German’s turn toward Nazism.

Levinas became a French citizen in 1930 and served in the French military during World War II. He was captured in 1940 and spend the remainder of the war in a German prison camp. He was insulated from the Holocaust because of his status as a prisoner of war. Levinas held a relatively protected position despite his religion. His family in Lithuania did not, and were murdered by the Nazis.

Ethan Kleinberg

Ethan Kleinberg

While a prisoner, Levinas turned to sacred Jewish texts, which prompted an evolution in his thinking. Initially, a philosopher associated with the existentialists, his experience during the war led him to focus on what he called “being-Jewish.” He chronicled his thoughts in a series of notebooks, which were recently published.

Padilla-Benavides Explores How Copper Affects Human Disease in FASEB Journal

Teresita Padilla-Benavides

Teresita Padilla-Benavides

A new paper co-authored by Teresita Padilla-Benavides, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, is published in the July 2021 issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal.

Titled “The molecular and cellular basis of copper dysregulation and its relationship with human pathologies,” the paper explores the role of copper in human disease.

Copper (Cu) is an essential micronutrient involved in critical metabolic reactions and biological functions. In humans, mutations or malfunctions of genes that regulate copper stability in the body may lead to numerous pathologic conditions, severe neurodegenerative conditions, or metabolic diseases.

Copper also plays role in cancer treatment as a component of drugs and a regulator of drug sensitivity and uptake. In this review, Padilla-Benavides and her colleagues provide an overview of the current knowledge of copper metabolism and transport and its relation to various human pathologies.

Ospina Explores the Struggle of Searching for Community in New Book

María Ospina, associate professor of Spanish

María Ospina, associate professor of Spanish, recently authored a book of short stories titled Variations on the Body. (Photo by Simon Parra)

María Ospina, associate professor of Spanish, believes that writing fiction is another powerful way to engage the subjects that have driven her academic work—memory, violence, and culture.

“Right now, I think that this is the way that I am going to continue exploring intellectual issues that interest me, including those related to history and politics,” said Ospina, who previously published a book of cultural criticism.

Her debut book of short stories, Variations on the Body, has been translated into English from Spanish by Heather Cleary and was published in the United States in July by Coffee House Press. The book (Azares del Cuerpo) had been previously published in Colombia (where is it already in its third edition), Chile, Spain, and Italy, receiving raves from critics.

In six loosely connected stories, Ospina, who was born in Bogotá and is also associate professor of Latin American studies, follows women and girls from different parts of Colombian society. Through meticulous prose, characters struggle with searching for a community after migrating and with the marks that that voyage leaves on the body. It’s a book filled with tactile imagery and almost a journalistic approach in how it documents the lives of its characters.

Autry Pens Articles on Race, Identity, and Politics in the U.S.

Robyn Autry, associate professor of sociology, studies racial identity, Blackness, and memory, in addition to the politics of museum development in the United States and South Africa. She is the author of eight recent articles relating to these topics.

Her work includes the following:

In the fall, she will teach SOC 202-01: Sociological Analysis and SOC 299-01: The Future Perfect.

Tucker Writes Extensively on British History, Photography, and Archiving

Photo of Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

In the past two years, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker co-edited one book, one journal issue, two articles, two book chapters, and the headnote for a review essay, and authored eight book chapters and two articles. In addition, she has just finished a draft of her second monograph.

Tucker, a historian of 19th- and 20th-century British society, focuses specifically on photographic and cinematic evidence in the fields of science, law, forensic medicine, news reporting, public trials, and the environment.

Her recent work includes the following:

A Right to Bear Arms? The Contested Role of History in Contemporary Debates on the Second Amendment, published by Penguin Press and released in 2020.

“‘Magical Attractions’ Lantern Slide Lectures at British Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meetings, ca. 1850-1920,” a chapter in the book The Magic Lantern at Work: Connecting, Witnessing, Experiencing and Persuading, published in 2020 by Routledge.

“Making Looking: Lantern Slides in British Science,1850-1920,” a chapter in the book A Million Pictures: Magic Lantern Slides in the History of Learning, published in 2020 by John Libbey Press.

“A View of the Ocean, Between the Tropics (1765-1800),” a chapter in the book Britain in the World: Highlights from the Yale Center for British Art, published in 2020 by Yale University Press.

“Photography in the Making of Modern Science,” a chapter in the book Handbook of Photography Studies, published in 2020 by Bloomsbury Academic Press.

Tucker also co-edited the 142nd issue of the journal Radical History Review titled “Visual Archives of Sex” in 2021.

Faculty Collaborate on New, Patent-Pending, Hypersensitive Accelerometer

Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of physics; Rodion Kononchuk, postdoctoral physics research associate; and Joseph Knee, Beach Professor of Chemistry

Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of physics; Rodion Kononchuk, postdoctoral physics research associate; and Joseph Knee, Beach Professor of Chemistry, are developing a hypersensitive sensor at Wesleyan.

When launching spacecrafts and missiles, small navigational mistakes could lead to catastrophic results. A satellite could spin completely out of orbit, a missile could mistakenly strike a civilian territory, or a spaceship could end up at another planet altogether.

Three Wesleyan researchers are collaborating on the development of a novel sensor that would benefit navigation and several other applications.

The new, hypersensitive acceleration sensor is based on a principle borrowed from nuclear physics and has been developed at Wesleyan. It provides enhanced sensitivity and precision compared to conventional sensors.

“Our underlying concept can be applied in a variety of sensing applications ranging from avionics and earthquake monitoring to bio-sensing,” said study co-author Rodion Kononchuk, postdoctoral physics research associate in Wesleyan’s Wave Transport in Complex Systems Laboratory. “We believe that our results will attract a broad interest from research and engineering communities across a wide range of disciplines, which could result in a realization of next-generation sensors.”

In a June 2021 Science Advances article titled “Enhanced Avionic Sensing Based on Wigner’s Cusp Anomalies,” Kononchuk, along with Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of physics; Joseph Knee, Beach Professor of Chemistry; and Joshua Feinberg, professor of physics at the University of Haifa in Israel, shared their study’s results.

The Wesleyan team has demonstrated a whopping 60-fold improved performance in acceleration measurements compared to conventional accelerometers (i.e. sensing devices that measure variations in the acceleration). Wesleyan has already supported a provisional patent application for this study.

Kottos, who spearheads the Physics Department’s Wave Transport in Complex Systems Laboratory, says a “good sensor” is characterized by two elements: its high sensitivity to small “perturbations” and its dynamical range. The latter is the ratio of the maximum to the minimum perturbation that a sensor can detect. And the larger the dynamic range, the better it is.

“Think of a spacecraft or missile. When it takes off, it develops high accelerations, but in the voyage, it needs to detect small accelerations in order to correct its trajectory,” Kottos said. “We believe that our sensor has the ability to measure such a large range of accelerations. Moreover, it is simple to implement and does not suffer from excessive noise that can degrade the quality of the measurements—as opposed to some recent proposals of hypersensitive sensing.”

Although the project is heavily physics-based, Kottos and Kononchuk knew they needed a chemist to help turn their theories into a reality. As it turned out, Knee—who is an expert on optical sensing—had laboratory experience that was applicable to the current project.

“It was wonderful to be brought into such an exciting project,” Knee said. “My research area is in laser spectroscopy which requires significant expertise and experimental capabilities in optical physics. Fortunately, my lab had some key capabilities which helped us put together an experimental prototype that ultimately was used to validate the theoretical constructs.”

“Joe’s experimental expertise in the chemistry framework was crucial for building the experimental platform,” Kottos said. “Our initial discussions helped us to better understand what can or cannot be done and allowed us to successfully design the experiment with a limited budget.”

Kottos began research for the new hypersensitive avionic sensor design in 2018 after receiving a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. The guiding principles were to maximize the sensitivity of the sensor without compromising its dynamical range [i.e. the ratio between the largest and smallest perturbation that a sensor can measure] while making it as cheap and simple to make, as possible.

The current sensor design is approximately 4 inches long, but the size could be reduced depending on the application. Smartphone sensors, for example, measure about 1/4 of an inch, but they are far less sensitive than the design created at Wesleyan. Wesleyan undergraduate Jimmy Clifford ’23 is currently working on simulations to come up with a miniaturized design of this concept.

“Once we have it, either we will have to partner with a fabricator or we will have to off-shore the design and test it at Wesleyan,” Kottos said. “We hope to take this concept to production and hopefully to the marketplace!”

Read more:
The Why Axis: Cutting-Edge Science at Wesleyan (Wesleyan University Magazine)

Kottos Awarded Simons Collaborative Grant to Advance Wave Transport Research

Kottos Awarded $2.8M DARPA Grant for High-Level Photonic Research

Kottos Awarded Engineering Grant from the National Science Foundation

Taylor Co-Authors 3 Articles, Writes Book Chapter on Lignin Enzymology

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, recently co-authored three papers and a book chapter related to (1) biomass to biofuel production and (2) development of new therapeutics to treat Gram-negative bacterial infections.

Taylor’s work investigates problems at the biological chemistry interface and seeks to find applications of her work to the fields of medicine and sustainable energy.

Her chapter called “Lignin Enzymology – Recent Efforts to Understand Lignin Monomer Catabolism” in the book Comprehensive Natural Products III: Chemistry and Biology, and her paper “Identifying Metabolic Pathway Intermediates that Modulate Enzyme Activity: A Kinetic Analysis of the DesB Dioxygenase from Sphingobium sp. strain SYK-6,” published in Process Biochemistry in January 2021, both help illustrate the mechanisms for breaking down Lignin, an important biopolymer that provides the structural integrity of terrestrial plants. The DesB paper is coauthored with alumnus Stacy Uchendu ’17 and other members of her lab. Her work is aimed toward helping understand ways to improve the efficiency of biofuel and fine chemical production.

The remaining papers describe efforts to understand the machine-like motions of the protein Heptosytransferase I and efforts to design inhibitors against them to treat bacterial infections:

A General Strategy to Synthesize ADP-7-azido-heptose and ADP-azido-mannoses and their Heptosyltransferase Binding Properties,” published in Organic Letters in February 2021.

Her paper, “Conserved Conformational Hierarchy Across Functionally Divergent Glycosyltransferases of the GT-B Structural Superfamily as Determined from Microsecond Molecular Dynamics,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in April 2021.

This summer, Taylor is overseeing the McNair research program with Ronnie Hendrix, and in the fall, she will be teaching a new First Year Seminar titled Chemistry in Your Life.

Naegele’s Neuroscience Research Published in Journals 

Jan Naegele

Jan Naegele

Janice Naegele, Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, and professor of biology, is the co-author of three recent publications. Naegele’s work focuses on stem cells and finding new treatments for epilepsy and brain damage.

Naegele’s articles include the following:

Induction of temporal lobe epilepsy in mice with pilocarpine,” published by BioProtocol in February 2020.

Development of electrophysiological and morphological properties of human embryonic stem cell-derived GABAergic interneurons at different times after transplantation into the mouse hippocampus,” published by PLoS One in August 2020.

Optogenetic interrogation of ChR2-expressing GABAergic interneurons after transplantation into the mouse brain,” published by Methods in Molecular Biology in September 2021.