Summer Science Seminars

Weekly seminars are designed to broaden and enrich the intellectual experience of our summer research students. The speakers design their talks to be interesting and valuable for the undergraduate audience of varying scientific backgrounds and fields. Included are some talks by Wesleyan alumni who have gone on to careers in the sciences. Research students are encouraged to talk with the speaker, both in the formal seminar period, and in more informal smaller groups.

Research in Science Summer Program 2024 Seminar Series

All seminars begin at 12:00pm in Shanklin 107 unless otherwise specified. Snacks provided, please bring your own drinks.

  • June 13: "The wisdom of might: How children come to appreciate multiple possibilities"

    seminar-photo-brian-leahy.pngBrian Leahy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the consequences of your decisions will be. Before making an important decision, you might want to take into account what you know and also what you don’t know. You need to consider how the world is and how it isn’t, and use those facts to guide your decision-making. But if there’s some important missing information, you should also consider the facts about what might and might not happen. Brian Leahy, a developmental psychologist who splits his time between Brown and MIT, studies how children make decisions in the face of multiple open possibilities, and how their decision-making changes with age. He holds two PhDs, one in philosophy (University of Connecticut) and one in psychology (Harvard). He was also a postdoc in linguistics (University of Konstanz). He has found striking deficits in preschoolers’ decision-making: when there is more than one open possibility, preschoolers identify one of the possibilities and treat it as the fact of the matter. They do not seem to understand, as an adult would, that their chosen possibility might and might not be real. How does adultlike reasoning develop? One hypothesis is that language plays a role: children learn to think better by learning to talk about possibilities. 

    Host: Anna Shusterman 

  • June 20: RIS Summer Program Alumni Panel

    Join alumni of the Research in Science Summer Program to learn how their experiences at Wesleyan prepared them for their futures in science!


    Carolyn "C" Dundes, PhD (Wes '17, they/them),Stem Cell Scientist, Axent Biosciences

    C is a proud Wesleyan alum! They grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area before attending Wes, where they conducted research on generating neurons from human pluripotent stem cells with Professor Laura Grabel. This work at Wesleyan inspired them to pursue a Ph.D. in Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University. At Stanford, C continued using the integrative science approaches they learned at Wes by bridging developmental and stem cell biology to establish a new model of mammalian hindbrain development in their doctoral thesis. After a postdoc at Genentech, C is excited to embark on a new project with Axent Biosciences, a biotech start-up focused on engineering next-generation stem cell therapies for unmet patient needs. Outside of the lab, C can be found gravitating toward the nearest dog or enthusiastically watching an NWSL game.
    Jake Erley, Yale School of Medicine Physician Associate Program 
    Jake Erley is initially from Garnet Valley Pennsylvania, and graduated from Wesleyan University in 2022. While at Wesleyan, he majored in biology and began research in the Coolon lab during his sophomore year. In the Coolon lab, he studied octanoic acid resistance in D. sechellia and the genomic influence of titrating the RAP 1 protein in yeast. While at Wesleyan, he was part of the football team, WesTHON, and Wesleyan Food Rescue. Upon graduation, Jake shifted his focus to studying human health. He took additional courses in human health and worked at Hartford Hospital's Bone and Joint Institute as a Patient Care Technician. In the fall, he will be attending Yale's Physician Associate program and will embrace his research and liberal arts educational background in his approach to patient care. 
    Caroline Pitton, PhD Candidate, Harvard Medical School
    Caroline graduated from Wesleyan in 2022 with majors in Biology and French Studies and a minor in Informatics & Modeling. While at Wes, she studied differential gene expression in Drosophila in Joe Coolon's lab, including as a CIS-funded student in Summer 2021. She is currently a research associate in Zuzana Tothova's lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigating epigenetic regulation of blood cancer development and progression. She is very excited to be starting her PhD in Biology at Harvard Medical School this fall! 

    hunter_vannier on siteHunter Vannier, he/him, PhD Candidate, Purdue University

    Hunter was born in Kamloops B.C and moved to East Wenatchee, WA at age four where grew up and graduated from high school. Since age three, he played hockey which led him to Texas, back to Canada, and finally the east coast where he was recruited to play hockey at Wesleyan, a dream come true. At Wesleyan, Hunter played varsity hockey and graduated in 2020 with a B.A. in Astronomy (advised by Dr. Seth Redfield) and a Planetary Science minor (advised by Dr. Martha Gilmore). He is currently in his fourth year of the Planetary Science PhD program at Purdue University where he analyzes spacecraft data collected from the Moon and Mars to better understand their diverse volcanic deposits.  His goals are to be at the forefront of the next generation of lunar exploration by involving himself in robotic and human missions as either a scientist or as an astronaut. In his spare time, he loves to garden, cook, hike, and is pursuing a private pilot license.

  • June 27: Harnessing Protease Motion for Treatment of Flaviviral Infections & Alzheimer’s Disease

    03_2018_Jeanne_Hardy_js_IMG_2869.jpegJeanne Hardy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


    Host: Teresita Padilla-Benavides

  • July 11: Illuminating Diverse Planet Formation Environments

    headshot.jpgJane Huang, Columbia University

    Jane Huang is an assistant professor of astronomy at Columbia University. She grew up in the city of Chicago and received her B.S. in chemistry at University of Chicago and a PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Harvard University. She then completed a Sagan Fellowship at University of Michigan before moving to Columbia.


    Host: Meredith Hughes

  • July 18: Title To Be Determined

    jen-mitchel.jpegJennifer Mitchel, Wesleyan University


    Host: Seth Redfield

    The Keynote speaker will be Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Sciences.

Prior year seminar schedules:

Summer 2023Summer 2022 - Summer 2021 Summer 2019 Summer2017 Summer 2016 - Summer 2015 - Summer 2014 - Summer 2013 - Summer 2012 - Summer 2011