Tag Archive for graduate students

Case, Hingorani Coauthor Study on DNA Repair

Molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Brandon Case and Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, are coauthors on a study published in Nucleic Acids Research in October 2018.

The paper, titled “Coordinated protein and DNA conformational changes govern mismatch repair initiation by MutS,” reports new findings on how the Mutator S (MutS) protein repairs mistakes in the DNA sequence, which is essential for maintaining the accuracy of the genetic code.

The collaborative effort from researchers at Wesleyan, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University employed single molecule and ensemble kinetic methods to study the mechanism of action of MutS. The outcome is a unified model of coordinated changes in MutS and DNA conformation that enable the protein to recognize errors in DNA and initiate their repair.

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

Kiman Speaks on Klezmer Music during Graduate Speaker Series

On Oct 10, Douglas Kiman, a second year PhD student in ethnomusicology, presented a Graduate Speaker Series talk titled "Klezmorim and Klezmer Music: From Europe to the United States and Back Again." Klezmer music is the instrumental folklore of Eastern European Yiddish-speaking communities played by Jewish musicians called klezmorim. For centuries, these musicians traveled with their music, playing for the nobles and for the masses, within and outside their communities, adapting and absorbing from their surrounding cultures.

On Oct 10, Douglas Kiman, a second year PhD student in ethnomusicology, presented a Graduate Speaker Series talk titled “Klezmorim and Klezmer Music: From Europe to the United States and Back Again.” Klezmer music is the instrumental folklore of Eastern European Yiddish-speaking communities played by Jewish musicians called klezmorim. For centuries, these musicians traveled with their music, playing for the nobles and for the masses, within and outside their communities, adapting and absorbing from their surrounding cultures.

19th Annual Biophysics Retreat Includes Speakers, Poster Sessions

Wesleyan faculty, students, alumni and guests participated in the 19th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat Sept. 27 at Wadsworth Mansion.

Wesleyan faculty, students, alumni, and guests attended the 19th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat Sept. 27 at Wadsworth Mansion. The event included a series of speakers, two poster sessions, and a keynote address.

Alison O’Neil, assistant professor of chemistry, spoke on "Investigating the toxicity of SOD1 aggregates in a stem cell-derived model of ALS." Research in the O'Neil lab is focused on understanding the structure-function relationship of proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases, specifically ALS.  Utilizing human stem cells allows us to study the unique cell types associated with disease. 

Alison O’Neil, assistant professor of chemistry, spoke on “Investigating the toxicity of SOD1 aggregates in a stem cell-derived model of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).” ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Research in the O’Neil lab is focused on understanding the structure-function relationship of proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases, specifically ALS.

Graduate Students, Faculty Attend Yeast Genetics Meeting

From the left is Anna Rogers and Lorencia Chigweshe, both graduate students in the Molecular biology and Biochemistry program.

Graduate students Anna Rogers and Lorencia Chigweshe presented their poster at the GSA meeting.

Two Wesleyan graduate students and two faculty members presented posters at the GSA Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology Meeting held at Stanford University on Aug. 22–26. This meeting, which is held once every two years, is organized by the Genetics Society of America (GSA). The meeting brings together hundreds of scientists making groundbreaking discoveries in the field of genetics and gene regulation using the innovative power of yeast genetics.

Both students received a travel grant through Wesleyan’s Melnick Fund to support travel to the conference.

Lorencia Chigweshe presented a poster titled “Interactions between histone variant H2A.Z and linker histone H1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae meiosis,” while Anna Rogers presented “The histone variant H2A.Z promotes chromosome condensation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.” Both students are mentored by Scott Holmes, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, whose lab investigates how the processes of chromosome segregation and gene expression are regulated in eukaryotes.

“We had the opportunity to engage with experts in the field of yeast genetics and learn from them and get insight on our own work,” Chigweshe said. “The conference was a great opportunity to appreciate yeast as a powerful tool for understanding genetics in addition to its industrial application in beer and bread-making.”

Amy MacQueen, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, associate editor for Genetics, cochaired a workshop on scientific publishing and also presented a poster titled “Synapsis and recombination unite at the Zip1’s N-terminal tip” while Mike McAlear, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, presented “Adjacent gene co-regulation (AGC) as a strategy for transcriptional control and coupling.” McAlear is also associate professor, integrative sciences, and Holmes is also professor, integrative sciences.

Graduate Students, Faculty to Present Studies at Society for Ethnomusicology’s Annual Meeting

Three Wesleyan music graduate students and two faculty were accepted to present at the Society for Ethnomusicology‘s 2018 Annual Meeting Nov. 15–18 in Albuquerque, N.M.

Bianca Iannitti will present a case study on the queer Indian-American DJ, Bianca Maieli, in order to explore the queer female identity within Desi music and virtual spaces.

Gene Lai, MA ’16, will present a study titled “Disdained at Home Embraced by Motherland: The Revitalized Tamil Folk Drumming Ensemble in Singapore.”

And Douglas Kiman will present a study titled “Mapping Klezmer Music in Contemporary Europe: A Case Study of the Jazz’n Klezmer Festival.” He will also be presenting at the Society for American Music in March on the musical identity of a band, the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars.

In addition, B. “Balu” Balasubrahmaniyan, adjunct associate professor of music, will speak on “Hybridized Instrumentation in Ilayaraja’s Tamil Film Scores: A Quest for Village Identity.” And Kate Galloway, visiting assistant professor of music, will speak on “Stop to Smell the Pixels: A Digital Field Guide to Nonhuman Musicality in Proteus.”

Founded in 1955, the Society for Ethnomusicology is a global, interdisciplinary network of individuals and institutions engaged in the study of music across all cultural contexts and historical periods. The annual meeting will include several presentations, roundtable discussions, a symposium, concerts, an open jam session, and a world music pedagogy workshop and professional development workshop.

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.

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.

Ricci PhD ’14 Awarded Congressional Fellowship

(by Christine Foster)

James Ricci PhD ’14, an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemon College was named a Congressional Fellow. (Photo by Darrell Porter, Daemon College)

James Ricci PhD ’14 was awarded a 2018-2019 Congressional Fellowship. The program is administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in conjunction with The American Mathematical Society.

During this year-long fellowship, Ricci will be paired with either a member of Congress or a congressional committee. Fellows work as special legislative assistants learning about policy creation and contributing their own technical and academic expertise. “They are looking for people who are able to speak clearly and be advocates for STEM education,” says Ricci, who spoke by phone from a salmon fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he is working this summer. “I am hopeful that I am all of those things.”

At Wesleyan, Ricci did research on number theory, with a primary focus on the arithmetic theory of quadratic forms. In April 2014 he was chosen as graduate student of the year. Since finishing his PhD, he has been working as an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemen College, near Buffalo, N.Y.

At Daemon, Ricci has worked on a team working to improve retention of students entering with weaker math backgrounds. This included reworking a computer science course he teaches adding in engaging current topics including cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, and net neutrality.

Doris Duke Foundation Supports ICPP’s Performing Artist Case Studies

This summer, students seeking a master’s degree in performance curation from Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) are working on six performing artist case studies funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

On July 16, the ICPP Entrepreneurial Strategies class discussed their first artist — Becca Blackwell, an award-winning trans actor, performer and writer based in New York City. Blackwell is working with consultants and mentors at ICPP to develop a strategic framework for the next two to five years of their career. Blackwell will also be presenting their work at Wesleyan on October 5.

Photos of the class are below: (Photos by Richard Marinelli)

This summer, students seeking a master's degree in performance curation from Wesleyan's Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance are busy taking classes. 

Sarah Wilbur and Paul-Bonin Rodriguez are teaching the Entrepreneurial Strategies course this summer.

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.

PhD Candidate Case Speaks on DNA Repair

On March 7, Brandon Case, a PhD candidate in molecular biology and biochemistry, delivered a talk titled "Just Another Day Fixing the Double Helix" as part of the Graduate Speaker Series.

On March 11, Brandon Case, a PhD candidate in molecular biology and biochemistry, delivered a talk titled “Just Another Day Fixing the Double Helix” as part of the Graduate Speaker Series. Case’s advisor is Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, professor of integrative sciences. 

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.