Rahul Dhanda ’95
A lack of fast, reliable diagnostic testing has played a major role in the rapid proliferation of cases of COVID-19. Rahul Dhanda ’95 and his team at Sherlock Biosciences are working furiously to change that, potentially shortening the testing’s time horizon to a matter of minutes.
Dhanda is co-founder, CEO, and president of the engineering biology startup based in Cambridge, Mass., which is creating two different diagnostic tests for COVID-19—one rooted in CRISPR technology, the other in synthetic biology. The hope is that the tests can be released during the course of the current pandemic, Dhanda said, each with its own different applications and utility.
A history major who also took premed classes at Wesleyan, Dhanda earned his MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before forging a successful career in the biotech field, with a specialty in diagnostics.
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Individuals gathered outside Van Vleck Observatory to view the transit of Mercury on Nov. 11.
For only the seventh time since Wesleyan’s founding, the planet Mercury passed directly in front of the sun, from the perspective of Earth—and Wesleyan served as a gathering place from which to learn about and observe the event. Faculty and students from Wesleyan’s astronomy department, as well as others from the University and the greater Middletown community, gathered outside the Van Vleck Observatory on Nov. 11 to witness the transit through three telescopes.
The mild weather and partly cloudy conditions—particularly at the beginning and end of the transit (which lasted from 7:35 a.m. to 1:04 p.m.)—made for good viewings through the University’s general-purpose 8-inch telescope, as well as its hydrogen alpha solar telescope, which allows users to observe solar prominences. A second solar telescope, owned by John Sillasen, MALS’07, a local amateur astronomer and member of the Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford, was also available to use as part of the event.
Gilberto Garcia ’20, an astronomy and physics major, was assisting with one of the solar telescopes. “Just seeing Mercury in general is a pretty rare occurrence, so I was pretty excited about it,” Garcia said. Viewed from a telescope, Mercury appeared as a small dot on the sun’s surface.
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Ten Wesleyan Mathematics and Science Scholars participated in a weeklong program on campus this summer.
The Wesleyan Mathematics and Science Scholars (WesMaSS) Program is a highly selective academic program designed to support students from traditionally underrepresented groups who are interested in pursuing study in mathematics and natural sciences. The program aims to foster community building and provides the scholars, who are all incoming first-year students, with mentoring and academic resources which encourage and facilitate their sustained involvement in these fields. Each scholar also receives a Wesleyan faculty mentor.
From July 26-31, 10 of the 32 WesMaSS scholars participated in an intensive introduction to studying science at Wesleyan. Students toured the science departments, became familiar with the range of resources available, and attended workshops focused on the expectations for academic work at Wesleyan. They also met with T. David Westmoreland, associate professor of chemistry, who is serving as director of the WesMaSS Program.
Students attended a mini-course in network analysis offered by Pavel Oleinikov, associate director of the Quantitative Analysis Center; a microscopy lab introduction by Jeff Gilarde, director of scientific imaging; and a tour of the Joe Webb Peoples Mineral Museum by James Gutmann, the Smith Curator of Mineralogy and Petrology. The students also participated in many social activities. The program culminated with the Undergraduate Research in the Sciences Symposium, a day-long event that featured a keynote lecture by a prominent scientist and a poster session of the undergraduate scientific research projects.
Photos of the program are below: (Photos by Roslyn Carrier-Brault and Olivia Drake)
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Fifth graders from Snow Elementary School in Middletown toured Wesleyan’s astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics and scientific imaging departments on June 18, 2014. Students also visited the Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections in Exley Science Center.
Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, used the reversible hydration and dehydration of cobalt(II) chloride to demonstrate Le Chatelier’s principle and create color-changing “humidity sensors.” Pieces of filter paper were saturated with a solution of cobalt(II) in water, which turned the paper pink. Warming the paper with a blow dryer evaporated the water and turned the paper blue by re-forming cobalt(II) chloride.
Research student Jesse Mangiardi ’15 Mangiardi ’15 demonstrated how to change the chemical composition — and color — of a penny. First he submerged a copper penny in a solution containing zinc mixed with a base, which coated the penny in zinc and made it appear silver. Next, he heated the zinc-coated penny with a blow torch which caused the zinc and copper to react and form brass, and turned a penny bright gold.
The students took a few silver and gold pennies back with them to Snow School.
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Ishita Mukerji, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division, is one of 50 local scientists to be elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. Mukerji also is professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and is an expert on fluorescence and vibrational spectroscopy.
Mukerji is the 10th Wesleyan faculty to be elected into the academy. She will be introduced at CASE’s 39th annual meeting and dinner on June 5 at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, Conn.
Election to the Academy is on the basis of scientific and engineering distinction achieved through significant contributions in theory or applications, as demonstrated by original published books and papers, patents, the pioneering of new and developing fields and innovative products, outstanding leadership of nationally recognized technical teams, and external professional awards in recognition of scientific and engineering excellence.
“I’m thrilled and honored to join the academy! This is a great recognition of the hard work my research group, consisting of undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs have put in over the years and the strong support that Wesleyan gives to scientific research. This type of recognition really underscores the excellence of the sciences at Wesleyan and the scholar-teacher model that we embrace,” Mukerji said. “I look forward to working and networking with other scientists throughout the state and helping the academy do it’s work to advise the people and government of Connecticut on scientific issues.”
Mukerji’s research interests focus on the use of spectroscopic tools to investigate challenging problems in biology
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On Nov. 9, Wesleyan’s informal science education class in conjunction with the Wesleyan Science Outreach Club presented Science Saturday, a semi-annual fun afternoon of hands-on science for the whole family. Activities took place inside the Exley Science Center.
Wesleyan students taught science lessons that they have been working on this semester, with experiments involving dissections of biological specimens, roller coaster models, and an explosions demo. More than 50 local children and their parents attended.
Andrea Roberts, visiting assistant professor of chemistry; Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; and students from the CHEM 241 Informal Science Education course coordinated the event.
Photos of the event are below:
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Wesleyan hosted a science tour for Snow Elementary School students on June 19. Faculty, staff and graduate students taught the fifth graders about astronomy, biology, scientific imaging, physics and chemistry through several hands-on activities. The students also visited the Joe Webb Peoples Museum in Exley Science Center. Photos of their science tour are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)
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“Innovations: Intersection of Art and Science” is co-hosted by the Center for the Arts and the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences and curated by choreographer Liz Lerman.
Starting on Feb. 28, Wesleyan will bring together teams of artists and scientists to share approaches, skills and outcomes of their research at the intersection of art and science.
The symposium, titled “Innovations: Intersection of Art and Science,” is part of the Creative Campus Initiative at the Center for the Arts.
“The goal of this experimental program is to elevate the arts as a means of teaching, learning and knowing through co-teaching opportunities for artists and non-artists, as well as commissioning new works by artists who are invited to work with faculty and students across disciplines in their creation process,” said Pamela Tatge, director of the Center for the Arts.
“Innovations: Intersection of Art and Science” is co-hosted by the Center for the Arts and the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences and curated by choreographer, performer, writer, educator and speaker Liz Lerman. Lerman is the founding artist director of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.
Speakers include Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, associate professor of environmental studies at Wesleyan; Leila Kinney, executive director of the Arts Initiatives at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Marda Kirn, founding director of EcoArts Connections; and Richard Prum, professor of ornithology and director of the Franke Program in Science and the Humanities at Yale University.
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