Live Biology!

From my windows at South College, the campus looks very quiet. The young students from the Center for Creative Youth and other programs stroll across Andrus Field for meals in Usdan, but on the whole it’s just too calm. So just before leaving for some time away from Wesleyan, I stopped into the Hall-Atwater labs to check out the action there

The pace changes completely when you cross Church Street and visit the science labs. There dozens of undergraduates and graduate students are busily working with faculty on sophisticated research projects in chemistry, molecular biology, physics and neuroscience (to cite just a few of the examples). There are countless examples of interdisciplinary work in fields like neuroscience, biophysics and environmental science. Much of the research going on during the summer month is funded by the Hughes Summer Research Program — — as well as funding from departments and faculty research grants. Many of our students will turn this work into theses projects, and some will be fortunate enough to become co-authors with faculty on articles in the best scientific journals. Graduate students play a crucial role in the ecology of research in the sciences. They bring experience and a depth of learning that allow them to help mentor younger students, and they complete independent projects that launch their own careers after receiving their degrees. Grad students don’t substitute for faculty at Wesleyan, but they are an essential complement to them. One of the reasons our science faculty is extraordinarily productive compared with our peer institutions, is that they have great collaborators at different levels. This benefits everyone, and it helps advance the fields in which our faculty work.

My final stop in my little tour was at Prof. Janice Naegele’s lab. Jan‘s work is in neuroscience and stem cell research, and several of her students are working on problems related to epilepsy. I was so impressed by the students’ presentations of their specific projects. They were able to explain their specific investigations and also give this non-scientist a sense of the context for their advanced work. Fludiona Naka ’11 and Raghu Appasani ‘12 gave concise yet informative descriptions of their lab activities. It also helped me that senior Efrain Ribeiro is a joint philosophy-neuroscience major, and so he could put things in terms even I could understand! All were clearly excited about their independent experiments, and they also had an impressive ability to describe how it fit into the work of the team. Other members of the lab are Debra Hall, Xu Maisano, Jia Yang and Sara Royston.

You can learn more about the exciting work of the biologists at Wesleyan by visiting the cool new website:

The sciences at Wesleyan exemplify the success of the scholar-teacher model that has long been key to our school. Long live Biology!

[tags]Biology, Hall-Atwater, research, lab research, Hughes Summer Research Program, graduate students, Debra Hall, Xu Maisano, Jia Yang, Sara Royston, Janice Naegele, Fludiona Naka, Raghu Appasani, Efrain Ribeiro[/tags]

3 thoughts on “Live Biology!”

  1. President Roth
    I “happened” to touch base with the Wesleyan website since my daughter’s, Andrea Giuliano, graduation in May. What a double-edged sword graduation was for me – thrilled to see my first-born graduate from college but sad to know that her chapters at Weselyan had ended. What joy to read your blog, though, as you write of Fludiona Naka. Fludiona “Fludi” is a graduate of Bulkeley High School, Hartford, Connecticut and I was fortunate enough to advise her in high school years and “shrewed” enough to steer her to Wesleyan! Thanks for the update on her studies. Go Red & Black!

  2. Dear President Roth:
    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to our side of campus.
    I invite you and your readers to come back next Friday, July 31, between 1 and 3 pm for the Wesleyan Summer Research Poster Session in the lobby of Exley Science Center. Students from the Hughes Program, Mellon Program, McNair Program, Quantitative Analysis Center (QAC), and Scientific Computing and Informatics Center (SCIC) will all be presenting the results of their summer’s endeavors in what promises to be our biggest poster session yet (despite the recession). We find that the poster format allows for the same one-on-one conversations about the research that you had with the students in the Naegele lab.

    Michael P. Weir
    Director, Wesleyan Hughes Program

  3. Dear President Dr. Roth,

    It is quite unusual for a University President to visit research labs during their free time to explore what is going on in the campus during the summertime. I am sure, these young scientists were surprised to see you at their lab bench, and indeed you became a role model in their young minds!

    As usual science undergraduates and graduates have to work very hard to excel in their career; this hard work not only paves new avenues to reach their academic destinations but also nurtures them to develop patience and decision making process to handle challenging problems ahead. I am very happy to know that Dr. Roth had a chance to see the dedication and commitment of his ‘university’s next generation’s scientists, physicians and entrepreneurs’ (and of course, future donors!). Visits like this by the university’s higher administrative officers will help them to understand the ongoing rigorous activities on the campus; and additionally help to bring more funds (National Science Foundation, Department of Energy) for these bright students.

    Dr. Roth, hats off…good job, well done.

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