Tag Archive for student research

EE&S Students Develop Research, Observational Skills through Puerto Rico Fieldwork

Laura Anderson '11 (center) and fellow earth and environmental science majors and faculty kayak off the coast of Puerto Rico in January. The students worked on research projects on the island, and presented their findings in April.

This semester, 18 earth and environmental sciences majors explored dwarf mangrove forests, studied landslide susceptibility in a rainforest, examined if cave rocks record bat inhabitation, and analyzed the chemistry of coastal seagrass – all in Puerto Rico.

The students, who are enrolled in the E&ES 398 course Senior Seminar, developed observational, interpretative and research skills through their island studies. The seniors traveled to Puerto Rico in January for fieldwork, and spent the past few months analyzing their findings.

They presented their Senior Seminar Presentations on April 19 and 21 as part of the Stearns

Geyer Receives Goldwater Honorable Mention for Antimatter Research

Guy Geyer '13, who studies an antimatter called antihydrogen, received honorable mention for the 2011-12 Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

By synthesizing the antimatter particle antihydrogen, physicists will have the ability to create a more accurate picture and explanation of the universe.

“Would antimatter fall down — or fall up?,” asks physics major Guy Geyer ’13. “If we could trap antihydrogen for a longer length of time, we could test the gravitational effects of the particle. This would certainly be what scientists aim to do in the end.”

Geyer, who studies antihydrogen at Wesleyan, received honorable mention for the 2011-12 Barry Goldwater Scholarship. He competed with 1,095 mathematics, science, and engineering students nationwide for the award.

Geyer began his antihydrogen research last summer under the direction of Reinhold Blümel, the Charlotte Augusta Ayres Professor of Physics. Since then, he has turned the project, titled “Antihydrogen Production in a Paul Trap,” into a successful thesis in partial fulfillment of the Informatics and Modeling Certificate.

While hydrogen is made of an electron and a proton bound together in orbit, antihydrogen

Johnson ’11 Honored for Exoplanet Research

Marshall Johnson '11 presented his research poster at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting, Jan. 10-13 in Seattle, Wash. The AAS awarded Johnson with the Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award.

Marshall Johnson '11 presented his research poster at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting, Jan. 10-13 in Seattle, Wash. The AAS awarded Johnson with the Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award.

Marshall Johnson’s research is out of this world.

For the past two years, the senior astronomy major used the Van Vleck Observatory’s 24-inch Perkin Telescope to study the transits of “exoplanets,” or planets outside our solar system, that orbit another star.

His study, titled “First Results from the Wesleyan Transiting Exoplanet Program,” explains a refined orbital period of a newly-discovered planet named WASP-33b (Wide Angle Search for Planets). Ultimately, Johnson may prove that he’s discovered another planet, WASP-33c.

“Here in Connecticut, with clouds and haze, we don’t have the best observing conditions, but I was still able to obtain high-quality data using our modest-sized telescope,” Johnson says. “The most interesting result, which is still tentative, is that I am seeing transit timing variations in one target. This could be due to an additional planet in the system.”

For his efforts, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) awarded Johnson a Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award, which “recognizes exemplary research by undergraduate and graduate students.” Awardees are honored with a Chambliss medal

Ph.D Candidate Kopac to Study Bacterial Evolution with NASA Award

Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac samples soil that contains a bacterium that can endure extreme conditions.

Sarah Kopac, a Ph.D student in Professor of Biology Fred Cohan’s lab, has won a $20,000 NASA grant for research on ecological aspects of bacterial evolution in Death Valley National Park.

The grant, announced Jan. 11 by the Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium, will support Kopac’s study of Bacillus subtilis, a bacterium commonly found in soils that can endure extreme conditions, such as high heat levels.

Kopac, a third-year Ph.D candidate, is focused on identifying bacterial species that evolved within a gradient of salty soils – part of a broader effort to understand how ecological factors influence the spawning of new species.

Student Research Ongoing Over Winter Break (with VIDEOS)

The work of science never ceases. Jeff Arace '12, pictured in the foreground, and graduate student James Arnone, pictured in the back, spent part of the winter break studying transcriptional regulation of paired genes involved in ribosome biogenesis. Their advisor, pictured in center, is Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Malamut ’12 Photographs Rare Eclipse for NASA

Craig Malamut ’12 helped photograph the Easter Island solar eclipse July 11 as a participant of the Williams College Eclipse Expedition. The composite image brings out the correlation of structures in the sun’s inner and outer corona.

On July 11, Craig Malamut ’12 photographed a pacific solar eclipse 2,500 miles west of South America.

As a Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium Summer Fellow, summer exchange student, Malamut had the opportunity to travel to Easter Island with a group from Williams College. The last time an eclipse occurred over the island was in 591 A.D.

The expedition was led by Jay Pasachoff, the Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College and chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Eclipses. This was Pasachoff’s 51st solar eclipse study; it was Malamut’s first.

“Before getting this position, I was thinking my first total solar eclipse would be the 2017 eclipse that runs across the entire United States from Oregon to South Carolina,” he says. “I never in a million years thought I’d be going to Easter Island to see the 2010 eclipse. It was one of the least viewed total solar eclipses in recent history due to the fact that most of the path of totality went over the Pacific Ocean.”

Before the eclipse, student researchers Malamut

Wiedenbeck ’10 Receives NASA-Supported Grant for BA/MA Research

BA/MA biology student Jane Wiedenbeck received a NASA-supported fellowship that will support her research in Professor of Biology Fred Cohan's lab on bacterial evolution.

BA/MA biology student Jane Wiedenbeck received a NASA-supported fellowship that will support her research in Professor of Biology Fred Cohan's lab on bacterial evolution.

In some models of origins of life, hot springs are considered to be one of the first environments inhabited by life. During the 2010-11 academic year, biology BA/MA student Jane Wiedenbeck ’10 will use a NASA-funded Graduate Fellowship to study the evolution of certain microorganisms to discern how life may have originated and evolved under extreme conditions.

Wiedenbeck, who applied for the fellowship during the fall 2009 semester, received a $20,000 award from the Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium. The Consortium is a member of the NASA-funded national Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, and serves to promote and support NASA aeronautic and space-related research in Connecticut.

Martha Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Wesleyan’s liaison for the Connecticut Space Grant, presented the award to Wiedenbeck.

This fellowship will support Wiedenbeck’s research in Professor of Biology Fred Cohan‘s lab on bacterial evolution–specifically the nature and rate of species formation in Bacillus subtilis and hot-spring Roseiflexus. Both model organisms are of particular interest to astrobiology, Wiedenbeck explains.

” Both Bacillus and Roseiflexus are able to thrive in extreme environments, for example, Roseiflexus has the ability to live in extreme thermal conditions in hot springs,” she says. ” While Bacillus and Roseiflexus themselves may not be found in other parts of the universe, studying their ecology and evolution may give us clues as to what types of traits may be advantageous for organisms that would allow them to survive on other planets, and how simple microorganisms in general are able to adapt to extreme environments.”

Bacillus produces an extremely resistant spore, which is believed to be able to withstand the rigors of travel through space, perhaps after being launched into space with dust from an erupting volcano. Thus, if another planet were to be colonized spontaneously by earthly life, Bacillus

Journal Films Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Methods

Molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Jie Zhai explains a scene for videographer Kai-Jie Wang Dec. 15 inside the Hingorani Laboratory. Wang works for the Journal of Visualized Experiments, a peer reviewed, indexed journal devoted to the publication of biological research in a video format. He is filming a project at Wesleyan titled Application of Stopped-flow Kinetics Methods to Investigate the Mechanism of Action of a DNA Repair Protein.

Molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Jie Zhai (left) explains a scene for videographer Kai-Jie Wang Dec. 15 inside the Hingorani Laboratory. Wang works for the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), a peer reviewed, indexed journal devoted to the publication of biological research in a video format. He is filming a project at Wesleyan titled "Application of Stopped-flow Kinetics Methods to Investigate the Mechanism of Action of a DNA Repair Protein."

Zhai and her peers use a KinTek-brand stopped-flow kinetics instrument to monitor the activities of DNA repair proteins in real-time. The JoVE video will explain how the lab uses the instrument so others can develop their own experiments on their own system. The equipment and film was supported by a National Science Foundation grant awarded to Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Zhai and her peers use a KinTek-brand stopped-flow kinetics instrument to monitor the activities of DNA repair proteins in real-time. The JoVE video will explain how the lab uses the instrument so others can develop their own experiments on their own system. The equipment and film were supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Molecular biology and biochemistry major Christopher Doucette '11 and graduate student F. Noah Biro also are featured in the JoVE video. The filmed experiments explain how they're able to monitor a protein binding with DNA by using a fluorescent 'reporter' marker.

Molecular biology and biochemistry major Christopher Doucette '11 and BA/MA student F. Noah Biro also are featured in the JoVE video. The filmed experiments explain how they're able to monitor a protein binding with DNA by using a fluorescent reporter molecule.

Biro explains how a chromatography system works in the lab's 'cold room.' Here, the students purify milligram quantities of a protein from E. coli host cells by ion exchange and chromatography. The JoVE film will be released in early 2010. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

Biro explains how a chromatography system works in the lab's 'cold room.' Here, he purifies milligram quantities of a protein from E. coli host cells by ion exchange and chromatography. The JoVE film will be released in early 2010. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

QAC Hosts Poster Session

I-Hui Chow '12 explains his research titled "Is adolescent smoking associated with lust and romantic commitment?" during the Quantitative Analysis Center's Poster Session Dec. 17 in Beckham Hall. More than 70 students presented posters at the event.  All students are enrolled in the course QAC 201, Applied Data Analysis.

I-Hui Chow '12 explains his research titled "Is adolescent smoking associated with lust and romantic commitment?" during the Quantitative Analysis Center's Poster Session Dec. 17 in Beckham Hall. More than 70 students presented posters at the event. All students are enrolled in the course QAC 201, Applied Data Analysis.

College of Social Studies major Chelsea Sprayregen '10 shared her poster titled "What is the relationship between education and attitudes toward homosexuality?"

College of Social Studies major Chelsea Sprayregen '10 shared her poster titled "What is the relationship between education and attitudes toward homosexuality?"

Biology graduate student Christian Skorik's project is titled "Parasitism in forest caterpillars: complex ecology in a tritrophic system." Skorik's advisor is Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology.

Biology graduate student Christian Skorik's project is titled "Parasitism in forest caterpillars: complex ecology in a tritrophic system." Skorik's advisor is Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology.

Faculty, Students Present Work at Geological Society Meeting

Several Wesleyan faculty, graduate students and alumni participated in the 2009 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting Oct. 18-21 in Portland, Ore.

Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, director of the Service Learning Center, presented a research poster and delivered a presentation titled “Techniques and Tools for Effective Recruitment, Retention and promotion of Women and Minorities in the Geosciences.” She spoke about the grant-funded organization Geoscience Academics in the Northeast (GAIN), which was established to build a community of academic geoscience women within a small geographic area.

Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented an abstract of his research titled “Twelve Years of Element Flux Measurements at Copahue Volcano.” He spoke about measuring water fluxes and river water compositions on the volcano for the last 12 years including a magmatic eruption period in 2000.

Varekamp and Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented the paper “Natural and Human Impacts on the Evolution of Block Island, RI.” Sarah Gillig ’09, Emma Kravet ’09 and Conor Veeneman ’09 also contributed to the paper.

Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, gave a talk titled “Leaf Economic Traits from Fossils Support a Weedy Origin for Angiosperms.” Royer explained how many key aspects of early angiosperms are poorly known. By studying leaf economic traits such as photosynthetic rate and leaf lifespan, Royer concludes that early Cretaceous landscapes were populated with weedy angiosperms with short lived leaves.

Royer’s former post-doc Dan Peppe and Maria Gabriela Doria Ramirez M.A. ’09 gave a talk. McNair Fellow Sofia Oliver ’10 attended and co-authored Peppe’s paper.

Earth and Environmental Sciences major James Rea ’09, who currently works at the Cascade Volcano Observatory, presented his work on “Regional Magmatic Setting of Callaqui Volcano (S-Andes, Chile).” Rea samples several rocks from lava flows, scoria cones and dikes around the volcano for trace elements, mineral chemistry and radiogenic isotope compositions.

Earth and Environmental Sciences graduate student Tristan Kading presented a similar abstract titled “Copahue Volcano, Argentina: Introducing ‘Extreme Environments’ on Earth to High School Students” and “Lake Caviahue, Argentina as a Source-Sink for Volcanic Arsenic and Phosphorus.”  Kadding has spoke to local high school students about field work in the small village of Caviahue. The talks highlight the nature of geological field work while touching on some important basic concepts in earth science.

Other attendees included Peter Patton, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences and Emma Mendelsohn ’10.

Mergendoller ’11 Challenges Facebook’s Alcohol Advertising Policies

Jacob Mergendoller '11 discovered that Facebook profiles may contain a great deal of alcohol content and are accessible by anyone, regardless of age.

Jacob Mergendoller '11 discovered that Facebook profiles may contain a great deal of alcohol content and are accessible by anyone, regardless of age.

Jacob Mergendoller ’11 is changing the way Facebook markets alcohol on the social networking site.

In a research article titled “Alcohol Promotion on Facebook,” published in The Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, Mergendoller and co-authors Sarah Mart and Michele Simon explain how the social networking site Facebook changed its advertising policies and regulations from not offering online advertising to soliciting paid advertisements for products and services including alcohol products.

“There are a number of loopholes in Facebook’s enforcement of their own alcohol advertising policy,” Mergendoller says. “There are some age restrictions on the alcohol content on Facebook (meaning inaccessible to minors), but there is also a strong presence of alcohol advertisements in different forms which can be accessed by anyone.”

For the report, Mergendoller explored the prevalence of alcohol-related content found in popular aspects of Facebook profiles and identified aspects of Facebook that contain a great deal of alcohol content and are accessible by anyone, regardless of age.

Psychology major Mergendoller wrote the article during a summer internship at the Marin Institute, an organization which fights to protect the public