Tag Archive for Grants

Odede ’12, Posner ’09 Receive Award to Build School in Kenya

Kennedy Odede

Kennedy Odede '12, pictured inside his home in Kibera, Kenya, received a Projects for Peace award to build a School for Girls in Kenya's largest slum. Jessica Posner '09 is a co-recipient of the award, and will assist Odede during the 10-week project this summer.

Born and raised in Africa’s largest slum, Kennedy Odede ’12 witnessed abuse, rape, domestic violence and general mistreatment of school-aged girls in his community. His own sister, at age 17, gave birth to a baby recently as a result of rape.

Sadly, this is the norm. Without access to education, many of the girls are forced into commercial sex work at early ages. The Kenyan Government views the slum, named Kibera, as an illegal settlement and therefore does not provide any services or government-funded schools.

“Girls in my community lose their hope of ever attaining an education and ever leaving the slum,” Odede explains.

Jessica Posner '09.

Jessica Posner '09.

As 2009 Davis Projects for Peace grant recipients, Odede and his project partner Jessica Posner ’09 hope to make a difference in these girls’ lives by constructing the slum’s first all-girls school called the Kibera School for Girls. Project for Peace awards, worth $10,000, are designed to encourage and support today’s motivated youth to create and tryout their own ideas for building peace.

The school will offer 105 girls in grades K through six a high-quality formal education based on Montessori school teachings, as well as daily nourishment, self-empowerment, and a refuge from the pressures of the slum. By preparing students for higher education and skilled jobs, Posner says the school will keep the girls out of prostitution and offer them a potential path out of the slum.

“Our hope is that after they leave the school, they will be academically qualified for scholarships at prestigious government boarding schools, and can eventually attend college,” Posner says.

Mukerji Awarded NSF Funding for Her DNA Research

Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a UV resonance Raman spectrometer to measure molecular vibrations. She examines the structure of DNA, to understand how protein modulation of the structure can lead to tumors and other diseases.

Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a UV resonance Raman spectrometer to measure molecular vibrations. She examines the structure of DNA, to understand how protein modulation of the structure can lead to tumors and other diseases.

Errors in genomic DNA can lead to tumors and other diseases. By probing specific DNA structures, Ishita Mukerji hopes to gain an understanding of how such medical conditions can be prevented or possibly cured.

Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, studies how different proteins recognize and bind to DNA. Specifically, she examines four-stranded DNA structures, known as “Holliday junctions,” which are involved in DNA repair and recombination. These are different from the common, two-stranded DNA.

On April 1, Mukerji will receive a four-year grant worth $798,368 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund her research project, “Structure and Function of Holliday Junctions Complexed With Proteins Probed by Fluorescence and UV Raman Spectroscopic Methods.”

“Both DNA repair and recombination are vital functions of the cell, which are needed to maintaining a stable and active genome,” Mukerji explains. “Our goal is to study the structure of the junctions and how that relates to their function.”

Holliday junction structures can be changed by protein binding. Mukerji will examine how these structures are altered by proteins that are known to be involved in repair and recombination and are known to bind to junctions.

“These studies address the overall mechanism of how DNA recombination occurs in the cell and the function of these proteins,” she says.

Chemistry graduate students Andrew Moreno and Jon King, MBB graduate student Yan Li and molecular biology and biochemistry major Olga Buzovetsky ’10, will assist Mukerji with the ongoing research.

Two different methods are used to study the DNA interactions: fluorescence spectroscopy and a laser technique, UV resonance Raman spectroscopy. By using the fluorescence method, the Mukerji group can examine and compare the structure of the junction and the protein-binding sites. By using the Raman technique, which examines molecular vibrations, they can probe protein and ion binding sites.

Wesleyan’s Chemistry Department and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department own several fluorescence spectrometers, and Mukerji has built her own, specialized UV resonance Raman spectrometer.

Most of the proposed research will be completed in Mukerji’s lab, although some computational studies will be done in collaboration with David Beveridge, the University Professor of the Sciences and mathematics, professor of chemistry. She is also collaborating with the Hingorani lab (MBB department) to study how proteins involved in mismatch repair and meiotic recombination bind to Holliday junctions. One set of experiments will be conducted at SUNY Buffalo.

The group will also examine how the protein-junction complex either facilitates or suppresses certain processes.

“One theory that we have is that the proteins we are studying suppress recombination as a means of preserving or maintaining the genome.” Mukerji says. “This is an idea that will be tested with the proposed experiments.”

Grant Supports Green Street’s Community Mural Project

The Green Street Arts Center received a grant worth $10,000 from Citizens Bank and the Citizens Bank Foundation to support the Community Mural Project, an 18 month-long art program that will culminate in a large public mural, to be installed in the spring of 2009 on the corner of Main and Green Streets in the North End of Middletown. Led by mural artist Marela Zacarias, the project’s participants are a diverse group of Middletown children, their families, professional artists, Wesleyan students, and other community members.

Mukerji Awarded $780K from National Science Foundation

Ishita Mukerji.

Ishita Mukerji.

Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a $798,368 grant from the National Science Foundation for her project “Structure and Function of Holliday Junctions complexed With Proteins Probed by Fluorescence and UV Raman Spectroscopic Methods.”

The grant is a continuing grant which has been approved on scientific / technical merit for approximately four years. The grant will be awarded April 1.

Dierker Receives $50K for Addiction Research

Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology, has received a $50,000 research grant from the Peter F. McManus Charitable Trust. The award will support her work focusing on individual differences in the development of addiction. This research is aimed at identifying youth at greatest risk for dependence at various levels of alcohol and tobacco exposure.

NEA Grants Support Wesleyan Press, CFA

The Wesleyan University Press and the Center for the Arts have received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants in December 2008.

Wesleyan University Press received a $35,000 grant to help publish the work of the following poets: Kazim Ali, Rae Armantrout, Adrian Blevins, Kamau Brathwaite, Brenda Hillman, Ed Roberson, Afzal Ahmed Syed, Roberto Tejada and Tan Lin.

The Center for the Arts received $10,000 grant to help fund the “Breaking Ground Dance Series and DanceMasters Weekend.

NASA Awards Grant for Venus Study

Martha Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, received a grant from NASA on Nov. 18. The award, worth $212,000, will fund a study titled “Mapping and Structure Analysis of Fold Belts in Tessera Terrain, Venus.” Gilmore is conducting the study with Phil Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.