Class of 2022

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    Simon Van Deursen

    Simon Van Deursen ‘22 is a double major in CIS and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry who works as a Research Assistant in Professor Alison O’Neil’s lab. He grew up in San Anselmo, California and is a member of the Ski and Snowboard team at Wesleyan. He decided to elect a major in CIS because the open-ended, interdisciplinary nature of the major appealed to him. He has enjoyed the “think outside the box” mentality of the CIS major, in addition to being exposed to fields of science that he may not have otherwise experienced.

    His research project in the O’Neil lab has focused on the role that astrocytes, a type of star-shaped glial cell (non-neuronal cells that help maintain homeostasis but do not emit electrical impulses), play in the development of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Simon uses stem cells to model both healthy and diseased cell types to study the effects of mutations associated with ALS. His advice to incoming CIS majors would be to keep an open mind when picking research labs and paths of study, as there are many opportunities within the major for students to try things outside of their comfort zone.  

Class of 2021

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    Nour-Sa√Źda Harzallah

    Nour-SaÏda Harzallah ‘21 is a triple major in CIS, Physics, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. She grew up in the coastal city of Monastir in Tunisia and came to Wesleyan after graduating from Pioneer High School of Monastir. She works as a Research Assistant in Professor Francis Starr’s lab. Never having felt like her interests fit within a single discipline, Nour-SaÏda appreciated the CIS major’s emphasis on conducting scientific research informed by different fields of knowledge.

    Nour-SaÏda’s work in the Starr lab lies at the interface of Physics and Molecular Biology, a project that involves studying the bacteriophage phi29. The virus uses different methods of DNA packaging and ejection to store DNA within the viral shell, and to infect host cells. Nour-SaÏda uses molecular dynamics simulations to study the mechanisms of those packaging and ejection processes. After graduating from Wesleyan, Nour-SaÏda will spend two years working as a Research Assistant in the Bhatia lab at MIT while deciding which bioengineering subfield she would like to specialize in.

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    Alex Poppel

    Alex Poppel BA ’20 MA ’21 double majored in CIS and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry with a minor in Molecular Biophysics. He is currently working in Professor Amy MacQueen’s lab. Poppel chose to major in CIS because he liked the strong sense of community within the major, and found that learning about different branches of science helped him probe questions within his own area of research. He remembers discussing the process of water purification in the Senior Colloquium for the major, in which students were asked to devise their own methods for purifying water based on knowledge they had from their main discipline of study. He was fascinated to learn that the actual process does in fact draw on a mix of knowledge from different disciplines, an experience that showed him how combining different viewpoints could lead to the best solution.

    Poppel’s project in the MacQueen lab has focused on studying the role of the E3 SUMO Ligase Zip3 in recombination propagation and the assembly of synaptonemal complex, a protein structure that forms between homologous chromosomes during meiosis. Poppel is currently pursuing his Master’s in the MacQueen lab through the BA/MA program, after which he plans to obtain a PhD in structural biology.

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    Ekram Towsif

    McNair Scholar Ekram Towsif ’21 works as a Research Assistant in Professor Fred Ellis’ lab. He is a triple major in CIS, Physics, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry who was born in Chittagong, Bangladesh but grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Ekram chose to major in CIS because the program gave him the opportunity to solve interdisciplinary problems that required an understanding of both Physics and MB&B, two of his majors. He has enjoyed learning about the intersection of different scientific fields in topics ranging from exoplanets to the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. He recommends that incoming CIS majors ask and explore difficult questions, as that is when the most interesting science often happens.

    Ekram’s project in the Ellis lab has focused on creating simulations and experimental models of a two-dipole PT-symmetric magnetic system. After graduating from Wesleyan, he will begin working towards a PhD in Physics at Emory University in Atlanta.

Class of 2019

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    Chien Ho

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    Yaxin Li

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    Kati Young