College of Intigrative Sciences

Integrative Sciences @ Wes

A College of Integrative Sciences newsletter

The College of Integrative Sciences newsletter highlights the interdisciplinary coursework and research across the NSM disciplines at Wesleyan, and seeks to help build new contacts across departments. This issue features profiles of CIS-affiliated faculty, CIS senior majors, and science-related news at Wes and beyond.

Science News @ Wes

More than 20 students in Professor Joseph Coolon’s Genomics Analysis Class (BIOL310) last spring were just published as co-authors on a paper looking into the inheritance of resistance to a common fruit fly toxin. The paper, entitled “Transcriptomic Analysis of Octanoic Acid Response in Drosophila sechellia Using RNA-Sequencing,” was published in the journal G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics. The students in the class analyzed the data as a part of their final projects for Coolon’s class. Read more here.
Undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty members from Wesleyan and other areas in New England gathered at Wadsworth Mansion earlier in October to present research on topics ranging from the melting thermodynamics of DNA four way junctions to the assembly and function of human chaperonin proteins. The retreat welcomed Professor Arthur Palmer from Columbia University Medical Center to present the keynote address on the dynamics of substrate recognition for three highly-conserved enzymes. Read more here.

Astronomy professor Seth Redfield and MA student Prajwal Niraula have discovered 3 Super-Earths, or planets that are slightly larger than our earth, just 98 light-years away. These planets hold the possibility for extraterrestrial life and are the closest exoplanets that the Kepler telescope has ever discovered. Read more here.

Meet a CIS Major:

Olivia Hutter '18 is an MB&B and CIS double major pursuing a certificate in Integrative Genomic Sciences. Her research focuses on the proteins involved in forming the synaptonemal complex in meiosis. She prefers puppies to kittens and is really into Fleetwood Mac.

Read more about Olivia here.
Danny Robertson '18 is a CHEM, PHYS, and CIS triple major. His research focuses on the synthesis of gold, silver, and platinum nanoparticles and how their structures can be optimized for catalysis. Danny plans on attending graduate school in chemistry and prefers puppies to kittens.

Read more about Danny here.

Faculty Spotlight: Colin Smith

Colin Smith was recently hired as Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, and Integrative Sciences. His research asks questions related to protein structure and function, and uses a combination of biophysical and computational techniques to solve the puzzle of allostery. Learn more about Professor Smith here.

Beyond Wes

Earlier in October, the 109th Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank, and Richard Henderson for their work in developing CryoEM, the fastest-growing technology for achieving atomic resolution structures of biological macromolecules. The power of CryoEM lies in its ability to capture high resolution structures of dynamic processes in solution (e.g. mRNA splicing, Zika virus assembly, and ribosome translocation). Advances in electron detector technology have caused rapid adoption of the technology since 2010. This year, the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation, which funds Wesleyan’s Beckman Scholars Program, is spending $12.5 million to help build 5 new CryoEM facilities across the country. You can read more about the Nobel award here.

Dark matter, the elusive substance that cosmologists believe must exist to balance out the observed mass distribution in our Universe but which has not actually been observed, just got even stranger. Studying galaxy clusters has traditionally been a good way to characterize dark matter, since the total visible mass (the summed mass of each star in each cluster) is too small to explain the large-scale structures and dynamics of these clusters. However, French and British researchers have recently concluded a study of ten such galaxy clusters and discovered that the standard model of dark matter does not describe the observed dynamics of these clusters; namely, that the density in the clusters’ centers is far lower than it should be using the traditional “cold dark matter” model. This lower density allows the clusters’ central galaxies to “slosh” about long after the cluster has relaxed, which should not be possible if a larger concentration of mass was centered there. This implies that we still do not fully understand the nature of dark matter and that there may be more exotic forms of it at these clusters’ centers yet to be discovered. You can read more about this work here.

Equity in STEM

A recent study from UPenn’s Wharton School has shown that university professors are more likely to accept students with white-, male-sounding names than those without. Researchers sent emails from fictional students to 6,500 professors across almost 90 disciplines at 259 institutions, requesting a meeting to discuss research and mentorship opportunities before applying to grad school. Each message was identical save for differing names that varied apparent gender and race. The researchers found that white, male applicants were more likely to receive a response email and, if that were received, they were more likely to receive a positive response than students in the other categories. Interestingly, they found this trend to be most pronounced in high-paying fields (generally the sciences) at private institutions.

This research serves to chip away at the pervasive sentiment that white males are being targeted and suffering for institutionalized policies on inclusivity, such as affirmative action and Title IX, as well as exposing the (presumably) subconscious discrimination that still manifests itself at the highest level of academia. You can learn more about the article here or find the original publication here.

Research-A-Palooza!

This CIS advising experts are:
Michael Weir (Biology)
Francis Starr (Physics)

For academic or general concerns, contact the CIS director, Francis Starr via email at fstarr@wesleyan.edu

For administrative assistance, contact:

Maureen Snow
msnow@wesleyan.edu
(860) 685-2409