Middletown, CT, United States
Middletown, CT, United States

Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college in Middletown, Connecticut, United States, founded in 1831. Wesleyan is a Baccalaureate College that emphasizes undergraduate instruction in the arts and science, provides graduate research in many academic disciplines, and grants PhD degrees primarily in the science and mathematics. Wesleyan is the second most productive liberal arts college in the United States with respect to the number of undergraduates who go on to earn PhDs in all fields of study.Founded under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church and with the support of prominent residents of Middletown, the now secular university was the first institution of higher education to be named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. About 20 unrelated colleges and universities were subsequently named after Wesley. Wesleyan, along with Amherst College and Williams College, is a member of the Little Three colleges. Wikipedia.


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Sultan S.E.,Wesleyan University
Current Opinion in Plant Biology | Year: 2010

Evolutionary ecology and developmental biology have converged on the key insight that phenotypic expression is powerfully conditioned by environmental information. Plant ecological development (eco-devo) aims to firstly, determine precisely how plants perceive and respond to the varying environmental conditions they encounter in the real world and secondly, understand the ecological and evolutionary consequences of environmentally mediated phenotypic outcomes. This full explanatory scope, from molecular interactions to natural populations and communities, is just now being realized for two adaptively important aspects of developmental response: shade avoidance and flood tolerance. These and other new findings point to the complex, interactive nature of both environmental cues and gene-regulatory networks, and confirm the importance of incorporating realistic environmental variation into studies of development. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Wiedenbeck J.,Wesleyan University | Cohan F.M.,Wesleyan University
FEMS Microbiology Reviews | Year: 2011

Horizontal genetic transfer (HGT) has played an important role in bacterial evolution at least since the origins of the bacterial divisions, and HGT still facilitates the origins of bacterial diversity, including diversity based on antibiotic resistance. Adaptive HGT is aided by unique features of genetic exchange in bacteria such as the promiscuity of genetic exchange and the shortness of segments transferred. Genetic exchange rates are limited by the genetic and ecological similarity of organisms. Adaptive transfer of genes is limited to those that can be transferred as a functional unit, provide a niche-transcending adaptation, and are compatible with the architecture and physiology of other organisms. Horizontally transferred adaptations may bring about fitness costs, and natural selection may ameliorate these costs. The origins of ecological diversity can be analyzed by comparing the genomes of recently divergent, ecologically distinct populations, which can be discovered as sequence clusters. Such genome comparisons demonstrate the importance of HGT in ecological diversification. Newly divergent populations cannot be discovered as sequence clusters when their ecological differences are coded by plasmids, as is often the case for antibiotic resistance; the discovery of such populations requires a screen for plasmid-coded functions. This paper reviews the features of bacterial genetics that allow HGT, the similarities between organisms that foster HGT between them, the limits to the kinds of adaptations that can be transferred, and amelioration of fitness costs associated with HGT; the paper also reviews approaches to discover the origins of new, ecologically distinct bacterial populations and the role that HGT plays in their founding. © 2011 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Hingorani M.M.,Wesleyan University
DNA Repair | Year: 2016

The focus of this article is on the DNA binding and ATPase activities of the mismatch repair (MMR) protein, MutS-our current understanding of how this protein uses ATP to fuel its actions on DNA and initiate repair via interactions with MutL, the next protein in the pathway. Structure-function and kinetic studies have yielded detailed views of the MutS mechanism of action in MMR. How MutS and MutL work together after mismatch recognition to enable strand-specific nicking, which leads to strand excision and synthesis, is less clear and remains an active area of investigation. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SOFTWARE & HARDWARE FOUNDATION | Award Amount: 461.83K | Year: 2016

One of the main jobs of a computer scientist is inventing new solutions to computational problems. There are often many different ways of solving the same problem, and running these different solutions on a computer can cost drastically different amounts of time, memory, power, money, or other resources. Given limited resources, it is often the case that one solution will accomplish a desired goal, while another solution will fail to do so -- not because the solution is wrong in principle, but because it would cost too much. Therefore, programmers need to be able to predict how much a solution will cost before actually running it, in order to predict whether a proposed solution will successfully accomplish the desired goals. In this project, the principal investigators, along with a postdoctoral fellow and students, are investigating new techniques for predicting the resources used by programs. The intellectual merits of the project are advancing the state of the art in interactive reasoning about program cost, building on several different areas of computer science research. The project is investigating methods that can be implemented in interactive tools, so that a computer can help with making these cost predictions and checking that programmers predictions are correct. The projects broader significance and importance are improving the quality of software, by making it easier for programmers to both code in a high-level language and reason precisely and formally about the cost of their programs, leading to faster and more maintainable code. The project is training undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral researchers for scientific careers. Finally, the techniques developed by this project may inform the development of pedagogical tools for computer science students.

More technically, this project is developing the foundations of a tool that programmers can use to semi-automatically analyze the execution cost of programs, in the style of an interactive theorem prover or proof assistant. The main topic of investigation is formally certified methods for the extraction and solution of cost recurrences from source code -- a method of cost analysis that allows a smooth transition between automated and manual verification methods, and is applicable to a wide class of programs. The investigators prior work in this area shows that the process of extracting recurrences from higher-order functional programs on programmer-defined inductive datatypes can be viewed as a translation from the source language to a complexity language, followed by a semantic interpretation of the complexity language. This method is certified by a bounding theorem, proved by logical relations, which implies that the cost predicted by the recurrences bounds the execution cost of the program on all inputs. This project is extending these techniques to more fully-featured source languages (e.g., supporting general recursion and coinductive datatypes); to other forms of cost analyses (e.g., parallel cost and amortized analysis); and to deeper analysis of extracted recurrences (e.g., methods for solving higher-order recurrences; a syntactic logic for manipulating recurrences). The project is developing formalizations and implementations of the proposed techniques, and applying the techniques to verifying compiler optimizations.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Core R&D Programs | Award Amount: 1.10M | Year: 2016

Humans have an innate ability to estimate quantities yet their intuitions often contain biases that interfere with learning new ways to think about quantity. Weaving together strands of psychology, neuroscience, economics, and education, researchers at Wesleyan University and Boston College shed light on the cognitive processes underlying our abilities to estimate 4 kinds of quantities: number, space, time, and probability. By comparing processes across these four distinct areas, the researchers aim to provide a unifying account of how children and adults estimate quantities, which has the potential to transform current understanding of the cognitive bases of how people learn in and across STEM disciplines. Achieving a simple unifying account is important because the ability to think well about quantity in all of these areas is fundamental to STEM learning. Other educational benefits include the establishment of partnerships with local museums that allow the research team to collect data from a diverse population while also supporting the museums public education efforts. This project also contributes to STEM workforce development by training undergraduate students through a service-learning course offered at Wesleyan, and through a summer research internship exchange across the two universities. These aspects of the project, taken with its robust theoretical grounding, well-formulated research questions and tests of competing models of how people reason about quantity in childhood and adulthood, demonstrate its potential to guide and improve the design of STEM learning environments for all citizens.

This project exemplifies the Education and Human Resources Core Research programs commitment to fundamental research on learning in STEM that combines theory, techniques, and perspectives from a wide range of disciplines and contexts. Specifically, it aims to provide a unifying account of how children and adults estimate quantities across four distinct domains: the development of numerical estimation; spatial categorization (remembering the location of items in space); the theoretical neuroscience of time processing (reproducing temporal durations); and decision making under risk (the processing of probabilities). Through a series of behavioral studies with adults and children, the researchers will test their hypothesis that proportion judgment underlies basic quantity estimation across these domains, across development, and across contexts (varying task constraints). This work is important because -- despite striking similarities in behaviors described across research in these literatures -- each one conceptualizes them quite differently, positing different accounts of the underlying mechanisms that yield quantity judgments. The project will advance and potentially transform our understanding of mental representations and processes involved in quantity judgments while also providing insight into how quantity biases may influence the processing of numerical information in educational contexts and real-life decisions. In this way the project builds a coherent, cumulative knowledge base, focusing on high-leverage topics.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Chem Struct,Dynmcs&Mechansms A | Award Amount: 339.33K | Year: 2016

In this project funded by the Chemistry Structure and Mechanisms-A Program of the Chemistry Division, Professors Stewart Novick of Wesleyan University and Stephen Cooke of SUNY Purchase are using a microwave spectroscopy technique to study the interactions of hydrogen gas molecules (H2) and other small molecules that contain metal atoms. These studies seek to advance our understanding of how atoms interact to form molecules, and how molecules interact with each other. The Novick-Cooke team is also exploring other molecular systems, including those containing atoms of the so-called actinide elements, which contain many electrons and may form unusual chemical bonds and carbon-containing molecules with missing electrons (making them positive ions) which are implicated in molecule formation in the interstellar medium. This project involves graduate, undergraduate and post-doctoral researchers. The laboratory shared by Novick and Cooke is opened to many scientific visitors, allowing them to perform experiments that would be impossible for them in their home institution.


The molecules, ions, and complexes are produced either by laser ablation or pulsed high voltage discharges coupled with supersonic expansion. The studies on these complexes, ions, and molecules are performed with the exquisitely sensitive and powerful high resolution technique of pulsed-jet Fourier transform microwave (FTMW) spectroscopy. The investigations of the intermolecular interactions between molecular hydrogen and transition metal compounds, for example the complexes H2-CuF, H2-CuCl, H2-AgCl, and H2 AuCl and have found that the bond strengths are surprisingly large (60 - 160 kilojoules per mole). The bonding is found to be very anisotropic but yet the hydrogen maintains its molecular identity in all the complexes studied. The detailed spectra, geometry and binding of H2 with CuO, ZnO, ZnS, AgF, and AuF are being investigated. The positive ion studies include the so-called Zundel ion, protonated water dimer, where the highest level calculations have the proton shared half-way between the two waters. Also being studied are uranium- and thorium-containing molecules where the f-electrons play an important role in the bonding.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY | Award Amount: 234.59K | Year: 2015

The Social Psychology Network (SPN) has become one of the most international and heavily used online networks for research and teaching in the social sciences. Most of its web resources, however, were designed before the widespread adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile computers, which are now the most common devices used to access the Internet. To address this problem, the proposed project will advance psychological research and education by redesigning SPN so that its pages, interactive features, databases, and partner sites work with mobile devices. In addition to advancing research and science education through mobile technology, this project will also build on SPNs 18-year record of giving psychology away, informing social issues, and broadening the participation of underrepresented groups. For example, the creation of mobile-friendly web pages will facilitate usage of the SPN Mentorship Program, in which more than 600 volunteers with doctoral degrees offer free career assistance to students from underrepresented groups. It will also increase access to SPN partner sites such as the Stanford Prison Experiment (PrisonExp.org), the Jigsaw Classroom (Jigsaw.org), and UnderstandingPrejudice.org, each of which focuses on social issues such as protecting human rights, preventing school violence, and reducing prejudice.

By refactoring SPN with a mobile first design approach, this project will ensure that the Network is interoperable and responsive across a wide array of computing devices, thereby making SPN more accessible and better equipped to serve the field as new mobile technologies continue to claim the future of social networking. This work will be completed in phases, beginning with the recruitment of a mobile design specialist and a technical audit to review elements including SPNs social media usage, search engine optimization, web hosting, server configuration, and choice of programming tools. The redesign and conversion of SPN sites will then begin with relatively small sites such as PrisonExp.org and eInterview.org before developing a new mobile design and programming for SocialPsychology.org. Next will come a redesign of SPNs system of 10,000+ user profiles and member pages, followed by a conversion of other SPN pages and features. In the end, this project will leave the Network well positioned to harness the power of the mobile revolution to advance psychological research and education.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SPECIAL PROGRAMS IN ASTRONOMY | Award Amount: 264.32K | Year: 2016

The Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC), eight predominantly undergraduate institutions in the Northeast that each have a small but active astronomy program, will host an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program in astronomy. Undergraduate students, drawn primarily from institutions in the Northeast with small or non-existent astronomy programs, will engage in a mentored research experience each summer with an astronomer at a KNAC institution. These students will join a rich and diverse cohort of students who remain at their own institution and students exchanged among consortium members. This supportive network of mentors gives students sense of belonging within the scientific community, and it greatly increases the likelihood that they will chose scientific or technical careers.

KNAC is a regional consortium of undergraduate-focused institutions whose mission is to promote astronomical research for students at member institutions and at other small Northeast institutions where exposure to astronomical research is limited. Faculty at all member institutions will work closely with individual students for 10 weeks each summer. During the subsequent fall semester, students and faculty from all these institutions will participate in the joint Undergraduate Research Symposium, with their results published in the Proceedings volume. KNAC acts as a virtual astronomy department. Its regional focus makes it an attractive option for students who can stay close to home, participate in the Fall Symposium, and continue to cultivate the relationship with their mentor well after the summer program has ended.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: CONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS | Award Amount: 203.10K | Year: 2015

Nontechnical Abstract:
When particles are transported in a turbulent fluid flow, their motion is strongly affected by their shape. Most previous work on particle motion in turbulence has considered the simplest case which is spherical particles, but an understanding of non-spherical particle motion is necessary to understand many important situations including ice crystals in clouds, the processing of wood fibers in paper making, and many biological organisms such as plankton whose motion in turbulent flow is affected by their non-spherical shape. Recently, it has become clear that the dynamics of anisotropic particles also offer a powerful new way to understand some fundamental properties of the fluid motion in turbulence such as vortex stretching. In this project, we use 3D printers to create particles with a wide range of shapes and track the particle motion in a turbulent water flow using multiple high speed video cameras. We have identified a special particle shape which we call a chiral dipole that should preferentially rotate in one direction when it is placed in a random turbulent environment. Such a particle can extract energy from specific scales of the turbulent flow. We also will measure the rotational motion of particles formed from several symmetric thin rods connected in the center. These particles can be made in a wide range of sizes and allow measurement of the amount of rotational energy at different scales in the turbulent flow. We will study particles that deform in the fluid flow, and develop new methods of fabricating small particles in custom designed shapes. This work will provide valuable foundational science for work on engineering and environmental applications involving anisotropic particles in turbulence. It will also provide a new and intuitive way to measure some of the most fundamental processes in turbulence including vortex stretching and the rotational energy that exists at different scales in turbulent flows. Methods for measuring forces on particles and fabricating small particles with customized shapes should also find use far beyond our work. Education and research training are central to this project, which will support the mentoring of a postdoctoral scientist, a graduate student, and undergraduates in research. The project also supports the PIs work co-directing the Wesleyan Science Outreach program.

Technical Abstract:
The dynamics of anisotropic particles in turbulent fluid flows are important in many applications including paper making, icy clouds, and locomotion of micro-organisms in environmental flows. Recently, it has become clear that the dynamics of anisotropic particles also offer a powerful new window into fundamental properties of the small scales of turbulent flows. In this project, we use 3D printed particles to experimentally measure the rotation and alignment of anisotropic particles of a wide variety of sizes and shapes in turbulent fluid flow. Chiral dipoles formed from two opposite handed helices joined in the center should have a preferential rotation direction in an isotropic turbulent flow. This should provide an elegant way to observe a fundamental property of turbulence: on average material lines and vortices are being stretched by the flow. As chiral dipoles are stretched, they should exhibit a solid body rotation vector whose projection onto the chiral dipole vector has a non-zero mean. Particles will also be printed with four arms in tetrahedral symmetry and a wide range of sizes in order to observe the distribution of rotational energy as a function of scale in a turbulent flow. The moments of the solid body rotation rate as a function of particle size may show power law scaling across an inertial range with corrections to the mean field theory scaling exponents due to turbulent intermittency. The forces acting on arms of particles can be measured from the bending of the arms. Particles will be printed from flexible polymers and tracked in highly viscous fluids to determine the feasibility of measuring forces this way. Finally, we will explore the use of two-photon stereo-lithography for fabricating particles with much higher spatial resolution allowing much smaller particles to be printed. Education and research training are central to this project, which will support the mentoring of a postdoctoral scientist, a graduate student, and undergraduates in research. The project also supports the PIs work co-directing the Wesleyan Science Outreach program.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: POP & COMMUNITY ECOL PROG | Award Amount: 30.85K | Year: 2016

The study of the long-term evolution of plant species diversity is important to understanding current losses or maintenance of diversity as habitats shift and become fragmented. This project will examine how diversity has evolved in the western hemisphere using a database of over 100,000 plant species. Using new approaches in informatics applied to genetic, geographical and environmental data, the project will investigate the possible causes of shifts in species diversity at extensive geographic scales by considering evolutionary diversification, dispersal, adaptation, and coexistence. Additionally, the project will determine if hard limits on species diversity exist and the extent to which these are determined by environmental history. This is a Big Data project that will simultaneously develop tools in informatics and train students on the use of these statistical tools. The tools will be made widely available, and training will build on the collaboration among those at a liberal arts college, a comprehensive masters institution, and a research university.

This research project will contribute to a predictive science of biodiversity based on underlying ecological and evolutionary processes. The Botanical Information and Ecology Network will be leveraged to test explanations for assembly of diverse biomes over evolutionary time by taking advantage of recent advances in biodiversity informatics, phylogenetic analysis, and the modeling of multivariate niche hypervolumes. How the evolutionary contingencies of adaptation, diversification, and dispersal interact with possible ecological limits on the niche space of different environments will be investigated. The taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversity of whole biomes and clades will be quantified in order to model niche evolution and biome shifts at extensive geographic and temporal scales. Whether evolutionary biome shifts are systematically associated with changes in functional traits or niche hypervolumes will be examined. Whether or not the functional niche space of biomes becomes saturated over evolutionary time, and if saturation reflects ecological limits on diversification through physiology, will be tested. The research will contribute novel answers to some of the most persistent questions in ecology, evolution, and biogeography, as well as innovative new tools in ecoinformatics.

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