Tag Archive for faculty publications

Sultan, Baker ’18, Berg ’16 Coauthor Paper on Plant Development

Sonia Sultan, professor of biology and professor, environmental studies, and her former students Brennan Baker BA/MA ’18 and Lars Berg ’16 are the coauthors of a paper published in the August 2018 issue of Frontiers in Plant Science.

The study, “Context-Dependent Developmental Effects of Parental Shade Versus Sun Are Mediated by DNA Methylation,” presents work that Baker completed as a BA/MA student in 2017–18. The article is part of a special Frontiers theme on the emerging area of ecological epigenetics.

In this study, the coauthors compared the development of individual plants when their parents were grown in shade or in full sun. The results show that genetically identical seedlings developed very differently just as a result of this difference in parental conditions.

Baker followed up this finding in several ways, including showing that this ‘neo-Lamarckian’ effect on development was conveyed from parents to offspring through epigenetic regulatory changes to DNA expression rather than changes in the genes themselves.

“Learning how environmental effects in the parent generation can influence offspring via these epigenetic mechanisms is one of the most astonishing and important new areas in biology since it challenges the long-held view that only DNA sequence information could be inherited,” Sultan explained.

Baker will be pursuing his work on transgenerational environmental effects in a different biological context. This fall, he is starting an environmental health PhD program at Columbia University, where he plans to study inherited effects of environmental contaminants on human health. Since graduating from Wesleyan, Berg has held a competitive NIH research internship and is planning to go on to medical school.

In addition, a paper by Baker, Sultan, Maya Lopez-Ichikawa ’18, and Robin Waterman ’19 was an invited submission for a special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society that is dedicated to adaptive responses to rapid environmental change. The paper is currently under review for publication.

Kuenzel Coauthors Paper in the Journal of Macroeconomics

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel, assistant professor of economics, is the coauthor of a new paper published in the September 2018 Journal of Macroeconomics titled, “Constitutional Rules as Determinants of Social Infrastructure.”

In the paper, Kuenzel and his coauthors, Theo Eicher from the University of Washington and Cecilia García-Peñalosa from Aix-Marseille University, investigate the link between constitutional rules and economic institutions, which are a key driver of economic development and economic growth.

Kuenzel and his coauthors find that the determinants of economic institutions (or social infrastructure) are much more fundamental than previously thought. In addition to constitutional rules that constrain the executive, highly detailed aspects of electoral systems such as limits on campaign contributions and the freedom to form parties are crucial factors for improving the quality of countries’ economic institutions. Moreover, Kuenzel and his colleagues show that basic human rights have profound effects on economic institutions, a dimension that previously had not been explored in the literature.

Gottschalk, Greenberg ’04 Release Second Edition of Islamophobia

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, and history major Gabriel Greenberg ’04 are the coauthors of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Picturing the Enemy, Second Edition, published in July 2018 by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. The duo released Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy in August 2007.

Islamophobia explores anxieties surrounding anti-Muslim sentiments through political cartoons and film. After providing a background on Islamic traditions and their history with America, it graphically shows how political cartoons and films reveal a casual demeaning and demonizing of Muslims and Islam from both sides of the political aisle. Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment offers both insights into American culture’s ways of “picturing the enemy” as Muslim, and ways of moving beyond antagonism.

“The new edition adds two new chapters and makes many changes to account for the rise of President Trump and mainstream white nationalism,” Gottschalk explains. The book also incorporates parts of Greenberg’s honors thesis at Wesleyan and features more than 50 images that highlight Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bias from conservative and liberal media outlets alike.

Gottschalk also is director of the Office for Faculty Career Development and coordinator of the Muslim studies certificate. His books, which include American Heretics and Religion, Science, and Empire, draw on his research and experience in India, Pakistan, and the United States.

Greenberg lives with his wife and kids in New Orleans. He is the congregational rabbi of a historic synagogue, and also serves as the rabbi for Avodah: New Orleans, a local service corps that seeks to address effects and root causes of poverty in the city.

Kim, Johnson ’18, Rothschild ’19, Coauthor Study on Self-Related Memory Advantage

Kyungmi Kim

Kyungmi Kim, assistant professor of psychology, is the coauthor of a paper published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review on Aug. 8. Jenne Johnson ’18 and Danielle Rothschild ’19 also contributed to the article.

The paper is titled “Merely presenting one’s own name along with target items is insufficient to produce a memory advantage for the items: A critical role of relational processing.”

Many studies have shown that information processed in relation to our “self” vs. someone else has an advantage in memory, termed the self-reference effect (SRE). Early studies of the SRE used tasks in which participants made explicit self-referential (Does the word nice describe you?) or other-referential judgments (Does the word friendly describe Angelina Jolie?) of target items at encoding, highlighting the memory benefit of explicit semantically-based associations between self and target items. However, an important subsequent finding was that even in the absence of any explicit task demand to make self-referential judgments, there is a memory advantage for target items presented simultaneously with self-relevant (e.g., one’s own name) vs. other-relevant (e.g., another person’s name) information at encoding.

In the study, Kim and her colleagues aimed to clarify the processes underlying this “incidental” self-memory advantage assessing two possibilities: an incidental SRE arises due to a mere co-presentation of a target item with self-relevant information or a relational processing between a target item and self-relevant information at encoding.

During encoding, words were presented in two different colors either above or below a name (the participants’ own someone else’s). Participants performed either a relational encoding task (i.e., a location judgment task, “Is the word above or below the name?”) or a non-relational encoding task (i.e., a color judgment task, “Is the word in red or green?”). In the subsequent surprise memory test, the researchers found a self-memory advantage for both items and their associated source features (name, location, and color) under a relational encoding context but not under a non-relational encoding context. These findings add to the current understanding of how the self affects long-term memory by providing clear evidence for a critical role of relational processing between target items and self-relevant information in eliciting a self-memory advantage. By demonstrating the modulation of an incidental self-memory advantage by encoding contexts, these findings further suggest that the impact of self on cognition is more dependent on processing context than previously assumed.

Kim, a cognitive psychologist, is an expert on learning and memory, and the role of self in cognitive and affective processing. The research in her lab aims to identify psychological mechanisms through which the mind subjectively construes the external world.

This fall, she’s teaching courses on Research Methods in Cognition and Advanced Research in Learning and Memory.

Gottschalk in The Conversation: Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?

Peter Gottschalk

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, discusses “Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?” Gottschalk also is professor of science in society, director of the Office of Faculty Career Development, and coordinator of Muslim studies.

Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and why haven’t they voted in 30 years?

Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, is all set to be the country’s new prime minister. His party emerged the single largest in recent elections.

It is only for the second time in the 71-year history of this second largest Muslim majority country that a democratically elected government, will transfer power to another after completing its full term. The nation’s military has intervened repeatedly to remove leaders and has directly controlled the country for about half of its history.

And so this recent milestone in Pakistan’s democracy has elated many citizens. However, one community boycotted the recent elections, as they have for over three decades: the Ahmadi, a religious minority.

Who are the Ahmadis and what does their boycott tell about the role religion has played in Pakistan’s nationalist politics?

The Ahmadi of Pakistan
The origin of the Ahmadi community goes back to the British-ruled India of 1889. At the time, in the province of Punjab (a region that would later be split between an independent India and Pakistan), a Muslim religious leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, became disenchanted with what he viewed as Muslim decadence that allowed for the humiliating experience of foreign rule.

Like many Indians, he wondered what needed to change in order to overcome the invaders.

Robinson Lab Coauthors Study on Compulsive, Drug Addiction Behaviors

Mike Robinson studies how individuals react differently when presented with a junk food diet.

Mike Robinson

Drug and behavioral addictions like gambling are characterized by an intense and focused pursuit of a single reward above other healthier endeavors. Pursuit of the addictive reward is often compulsively sought despite adverse consequences.

In a newly published study, Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and integrative sciences explored how our decisions can become narrowly focused onto one particular choice. He and his research team used laser light (optogenetics) to activate the central portion of the brain’s amygdala (CeA), an area normally known for its role in generating responses to drug-related and fearful stimuli.

The study, titled “Optogenetic Activation of the Central Amygdala Generates Addiction-like Preference for Reward,” appears in the May 2018 issue of the European Journal of Neuroscience. Robinson Lab members Rebecca Tom ’16, MA ’17, Aarit Ahuja ’16, Hannah Maniates ’16, and current graduate student Charlotte Freeland coauthored the article and participated in the study.

Hüwel’s Book Examines the Physics, Technology of Timekeeping

Lutz Hüwel, professor of physics, is the author of the book Of Clocks and Time, published by Morgan & Claypool Publishers in April 2018.

According to Hüwel, Of Clocks and Time takes readers on a five-stop journey through the physics and technology—and occasional bits of applications and history—of timekeeping. He offers conceptual vistas and qualitative images, along with equations, quantitative relations, and rigorous definitions.

The book includes discussion of the rhythms produced by the motion of sun, moon, planets, and stars, a summary of historical theoretical insights that are still influential today, examination of the tools that allow us to measure time, as well as explanations of radioactive dating and Einstein’s theories of relativity.

The book is available for downloading and for Kindle.

Bloom Reimagines a Forbidden Love Affair in White Houses

On April 19, New York Times best-selling author Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, presented a reading from her new novel, White Houses, inside the Smith Reading Room at Olin Library. Bloom also is professor of the practice in creative writing and English.

On April 19, New York Times best-selling author Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, presented a reading from her new novel, White Houses, inside the Smith Reading Room at Olin Library. Bloom also is professor of the practice in creative writing and English. The event was sponsored by the Friends of Wesleyan Library.

Amy Bloom, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, is the author of White Houses, published by Penguin Random House in February 2018.

White Houses is Bloom’s first historical fiction novel. Guided by 3,000 letters (hundreds more had been burned) between prominent journalist Lorena Hickok and politician/activist Eleanor Roosevelt, Bloom has re-created and reimagined one of the great love stories of the 20th century.

From the description:

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.

Amy Bloom is the author of Come to Me, a National Book Award finalist; A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Love Invents Us; Normal; Away, a New York Times best seller; Where the God of Love Hangs Out; and Lucky Us, a New York Times best seller. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Short Stories, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, and others. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Slate, Tin House, and Salon, among other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award.

This spring semester, Bloom is teaching ENGL 268: Reading and Writing Fiction and ENGL 357: Writing for Television II.

Song, Hingorani Coauthors of 2 Papers in The Journal of Biological Chemistry

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Professor Manju Hingorani and graduate student Bo Song are coauthors of two studies published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry and Nucleic Acids Research in February 2018.

The papers are titled “Positioning the 5′-flap junction in the active site controls the rate of flap endonuclease-1-catalyzed DNA cleavage” and “Missed cleavage opportunities by FEN1 lead to Okazaki fragment maturation via the long-flap pathway.”

The research is related to Song’s PhD dissertation, which he plans to defend in April 2018. Song examined the mechanism of action of human FEN1, an enzyme that cleaves extra single-stranded segments of DNA before they can damage the genome, and thus serves as a guardian of genome stability. Song’s major findings were published in JBC, and he contributed to a study led by Dr. Samir Hamdan’s laboratory at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, which was published in NAR.

“Bo initiated research on FEN1 in my laboratory, and his interest in FEN1 sparked an exciting collaboration with Dr. Hamdan, halfway around the world. We look forward to furthering investigation of this critical enzyme whose malfunction is associated with many human cancers,” Hingorani said.

The research at Wesleyan University was supported by NIH grant R15 GM114743 awarded to Manju Hingorani.

Taylor, Alumni, Students Co-Author 3 Journal Articles

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, is the recent co-author of three articles. Two publications are related to disrupting the formation of Lipopolysaccharides (LPSs), a cell surface component that is important to Gram-Negative bacteria’s ability to form biofilms and become resistant to hydrophobic antibiotics. These papers describe inhibition of enzymes from E. coli, as well as enzymes from related pathogens including Vibrio cholerae (the bacteria that causes cholera), and Yersinia pestis (the bacteria that causes plague). Understanding how enzymes can be inhibited opens up possible new strategies for fighting diseases.

The third paper builds on her prior work investigating the ways in which sucralose (an artificial sweetener known primarily as Splenda) interacts with proteins, in comparison with its natural disaccharide counterpart, sucrose (common table sugar). She and her co-authors present data showing that sucralose interacts more strongly with hydrophobic patches on protein surfaces than does sucrose, which may be part of the way in which it causes destabilization of proteins.

These papers include alumni authors Noreen Nkosana B.A. ’11, MA ’13, Daniel Czyzyk PhD ’15, Zarek Siegel BA ’16 and current student authors Joy Cote Chemistry PhD ’18, Nimesh Shukla Physics PhD ’18, Cody Hecht ’18, in addition to Taylor’s longtime collaborator, Christina Othon, associate professor of physics at Ripon College.

Taylor also is associate professor of environmental studies and of integrative sciences.

The papers are:

Synthesis, kinetics and inhibition of Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I by monosaccharide analogues of LipidA,” published in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2018, in press.

The Glycosyltransferases of LPS Core: A Review of Four Heptosyltransferase Enzymes in Context,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2017, 18(11), 2256. This article belongs to the Special Issue Lipopolysaccharides.

Hydrophobic Interactions of Sucralose with Protein Structures,” published in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 2017, 639, pages 38-43.

Ulysse’s Book Long-Listed for PEN Open Book Award

A book by Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse was long-listed for the PEN Open Book Award.

The PEN Open Book Award confers a $5,000 prize upon an author of color to celebrate racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

Ulysse’s first poetry collection, Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, me & THE WORLD, was published in 2017 by Wesleyan University Press. The lyrically vivid meditative journey embraces and reclaims a revolutionary Blackness that has been historically stigmatized and denied. Ulysse crafts experiments with “ethnographic collectibles” of word, performative sounds and imagery to blur genres and the lines between the geopolitical and the personal. These poems, performance texts and photographs gather fractured memories—longings laced with Vodou chants confronting a past that looms in the present.

Ulysse also is professor of anthropology and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Read “I am a Storm” from Because When God Is Too Busy in this Wesleyan Magazine Backstory.

Olson Lab Explores How Cholera Infection Spreads

Rich Olson

Rich Olson

Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Rich Olson and members of his lab have uncovered the structural basis for how the bacterial pathogen responsible for cholera targets carbohydrate receptors on host cells—an important finding for the future development of treatment strategies against infectious bacteria.

In their paper “Structural basis of mammalian glycan targeting by Vibrio cholerae cytolysin and biofilm proteins,” published in the Feb. 12 issue of PLoS Pathogens, Olson and his team—Swastik De PhD ’16; graduate students Katherine Kaus and Brandon Case; and Shada Sinclair ’16—looked at Vibrio cholerae, an aquatic microbe responsible for cholera, a potentially life-threatening disease for populations with limited access to health care.

The team studied two of the virulence factors that this particular bacterial pathogen uses to help spread infection: a toxin that creates pores in the membranes of target cells (such as immune cells) and a protein that helps form a protective sheath around the bacterial colonies as they grow.

Study results showed that both of these factors use similar carbohydrate receptors to recognize and target cell surfaces, suggesting that strategically disrupting carbohydrate interactions could affect how V. cholerae and other organisms like it are able to infect human hosts and spread disease.

“Understanding how pathogens specifically recognize targets on human cells is essential for the development of effective drugs and vaccines to fight pathogenic bacteria and prevent outbreaks,” Olson explained.

Read the full paper here.