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Liberal Arts

&Sciences Winter 2014

A newsletter for alumni of UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Philosophy Student Learns Ropes of Media P. 2 Endowed Professors Bring World-Class Expertise P. 3 Baby Talk Helps Babies Talk

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Chemistry Gives Student Marketable Skills

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efore Sun Products Corp. hired Casey Camire ’14 as a summer intern, students studying engineering typically dominated the internship application pool. Many companies like Trumbull, Conn.-based Sun Products, which develops and markets household cleaners, typically look first for engineering students when recruiting for their internship programs. But chemistry major and math minor Camire knew that with his background in chemistry and applied laboratory experience, he too could be a good fit for the lucrative internship. “After my experiences there, they are now looking for more chemistry students,” he says. “Our training isn’t just in chemistry, it’s in problem

solving. It’s our ability to tease apart the variables.” In particular, Camire says his analytical chemistry class used what he learned in physical chemistry and organic chemistry and applied that knowledge to teach him how to solve real-world problems. “Ever since starting here at UConn I’ve been involved in undergraduate research, and that has been the most consistent part of my chemistry experience,” he says. “I like research because you learn techniques that are marketable in this economy.” More recently, Camire was honored by the American Chemical Society’s Division of Analytical Chemistry with a national excellence award given yearly to an outstanding undergraduate student. Professor Emeritus of

Chemistry James Stuart, with whom Camire is currently conducting research, says the award recognizes Camire’s outstanding ability to perform analytical chemistry. Stuart is teaching Camire how to use natural and synthetic antioxidants in biodiesel processing and testing, as well as for industrial research. “In this day and age, things are moving so fast that you just have to be able to adapt and keep on learning,” says Stuart. “It’s up to you to take that initiative to the next level.” “It is fast-moving, challenging, and unpredictable work. I was simply given a problem and asked to solve it any way I could,” says Camire. “I came to work each day not knowing exactly what I was going to do, and that freedom was very appealing.”

COLLEGE NEWS

Spirituality, One Click at a Time A UConn sociologist launched a new project to understand how people’s religious beliefs are affected by their daily lives. Professor Bradley Wright’s website soulpulse.org allows people to participate in a twoweek survey of their health, well-being, and feelings of spirituality. Early results from more than 92,000 participants indicate that people feel more joyful when exercising or being outside than when on a computer or watching TV, and that getting enough sleep contributes significantly to feelings of spiritual well-being. Continued on p. 2


Liberal Arts & Sciences

COLLEGE NEWS

Jennifer Sterling-Folker receives CLAS medal from Provost Mun Choi

Four Inducted into Endowed Professorships Four distinguished faculty members were formally inducted as endowed professors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in November, positions that honor their stature as researchers, teachers, and mentors. “What we all get from these professorships is the opportunity to do some really good work,” said Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Preston Britner at the event. Britner plans to use his chair, the Philip E. Austin Chair in Social Sciences, to bring Connecticut officials and researchers together to understand why less than six percent of children who grow up in foster care finish college. “Thse professorships show how philanthropic giving benefits all aspects of University life,” CLAS Dean Jeremy Teitelbaum said. “Scholars are rarely afforded the opportunity to express publically their appreciation for the essential support that makes their work possible,” added Jeffrey Shoulson, professor of literatures, cultures, and 2

languages, who was invested as the Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies. “So I feel especially privileged to openly give thanks for this opportunity.” Jennifer Sterling-Folker, professor of political science, received the Alan R. Bennett Honors Professorship in Political Science. Sterling-Folker is an international relations theorist whose writing focuses on international organization and global governance. Jerzy Weyman, professor of mathematics who joined UConn in August 2013, was the recipient of the Stuart and Joan Sidney Professorship in Mathematics. Weyman is an algebraist who studies theoretical mathematics.

Philosophy Student Learns Ropes of Media When Stephen King sat down for a phone interview with Connecticut radio station WNPR in 2013, UConn philosophy and political science major Emily Boushee ’14 was on the other line, fielding phone calls from listeners who were eager to ask the famous horror writer a question on air.

Boushee remembers feeling jittery about her celebrity encounter. “I was getting nervous because I wasn’t sure if I should call him Stephen or Mr. King,” she says. Boushee says her internships at Connecticut media outlets have not only utilized the skills she’s learned in her UConn classes, but have also allowed her to explore her passion for media and politics. In particular, Boushee says that her Philosophy of Ethics class drove her interest in the deeply rooted ethical issues behind political debates. During the string of political scandals involving former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, Boushee pitched and produced her own show on WNPR’s Where We Live program about political scandal. She says that her ethics class helped her to produce engaging questions for the show. “One of things philosophy teaches us is how be openminded and listen to a range of opinions,” says philosopher Michael Lynch, one of Boushee’s professors. “On the other hand, philosophy also teaches us to be very critical and analyze what the other person is trying to say.” “My philosophy classes have just made me a better thinker,” agrees Boushee. “They have helped me see the other side of an argument and understand its merits.”

Emily Boushee ’14

A New Path to Vaccines A UConn research team led by chemistry professor Challa Kumar has discovered a way to stabilize hemoglobin, the oxygen carrier protein in the blood, which could lead to the development of more stable vaccines. The team’s novel approach involves wrapping a polymer around hemoglobin, which allows it to maintain its biological function and structural integrity.

It’s Still Location, Location Controversy has swirled for years over the placement of wind turbines in coveted beach vacation spots on Cape Cod. The windy area is a perfect place to harvest energy, but developers and homeowners worry about turbines reducing property values. Now a study of roughly 122,000 recent home sales by geography professor Carol Atkinson-Palombo shows that turbines have no effect on property values in Massachusetts.

The Future of Brain Science UConn’s Board of Trustees recently approved an $8-million investment in an fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine, which measures how blood and oxygen flows in the brain. The machine will be a major asset to CLAS cognitive science programs and will help scientists understand how language is acquired, how emotions are processed, and a myriad other brain functions. Read more college news at http://clas.uconn.edu


Winter 2014

Next Gen Connecticut Planning Underway UConn trustees have approved the start of planning for several building projects anticipated under Next Generation Connecticut, the first steps in the wide-ranging initiative to greatly expand the University’s strength in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). Two new residence halls at Storrs, a state-of-the-art research complex, and student housing at Stamford are being considered among the first capital projects launched under Next Gen CT. University officials are also actively planning for the relocation of the Greater Hartford campus from its current site in West Hartford to a downtown Hartford location, which they say will create and strengthen connections between UConn and the many public and private entities nearby. Under Next Gen CT, the state is allocating $1.5 billion over 10 years for capital projects to support UConn’s curriculum and research expansions as a way to put the University’s expertise to work to help create and retain Connecticut jobs. The planning includes a new STEM research center

with labs and other critical research facilities in about 350,000 square feet of space in Storrs. A renovation and major upgrade of the Gant Math and Science Complex is also planned for STEM faculty offices and teaching facilities. The two planned residence halls include space for honors students and for STEM majors, and both would be anticipated to open in 2016 or 2017. Next Gen CT will also include renovations and modernizations to the Avery Point campus’s classrooms, labs, and waterfront dock area.

Baby Talk Helps Babies Talk A new study from UConn researchers has found that infant babbling plays an important role in future language development. When that babbling is prompted by one-on-one interaction with a parent speaking ‘parentese’— the exaggerated, animated baby talk style characterized by raised pitches and exaggerated vowels—the results predict heightened language acquisition skills. Nairán Ramírez-Esparza, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, and her colleagues Adrián García-Sierra, assistant research professor in UConn’s

SPOTLIGHT ON

Matthew Duffy ’12 Degree: B.A., history Job Title: Account Strategist at Google, Mountain View, California

While he was a student at UConn, Matt Duffy participated in two internships with the Walt Disney Corporation. Following graduation he worked for Apple and MTV. Google used LinkedIn to recruit him to their team, and now Duffy often uses the tool to find prospective new employees for Google. He says that professionals should never underestimate the power of online social networking sites, like LinkedIn, in helping them find a job. “LinkedIn can be a really powerful took for shaping your career,” he said. Join thousands of other CLAS alumni on our LinkedIn at http://linkd.in/UConn-CLAS

Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, and Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, collaborated on a study that showed the common wisdom imparted to new parents that the more words babies hear, the faster their vocabularies grow, may not be true. Their findings show that what actually spurs early language development isn’t so much the quantity of words as the style of speech and social context in which that speech occurs. “How you talk to children matters, and the use of ‘parentese’ is much better at developing language than regular adult speech,” RamírezEsparza says. “It’s even better if

communication occurs during one-on-one interactions.” The study involved 26 one-year-olds who wore vests containing audio recorders that collected sounds from the children’s auditory environment for eight hours a day for four days. When the babies were two years old, parents completed a questionnaire measuring how many words their children knew. Infants who had heard more baby talk knew more words. “Our study shows that it helps to make an effort to talk to infants as much as possible,” says Ramírez-Esparza. “Some families are just quieter and they don’t talk as much. But getting engaged and having the infant talk back—or babble—is really important.”

Nairán Ramírez-Esparza, assistant professor of psychology, left, and Adrián García-Sierra, assistant research professor of psychology and speech, language, and hearing sciences.

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Liberal Arts & Sciences AROUND CAMPUS

Bousfield Psychology Building Transformed This fall marked the completion of a yearlong renovation and expansion of the Weston A. Bousfield Psychology Building, a project that added more than 30,000 square feet of new office, laboratory, and common space. The expansion comes at a crucial time for the growing psychology department, which in the past ten years has granted more bachelor’s degrees than any other program of study at UConn and in the past two years has hired 10 new faculty members. Department Head James Green expects that the department will continue to

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expand thanks to funding and resources from Next Generation Connecticut. “We had a wonderful building, but we didn’t have the space that promoted undergraduate engagement with the rest of the department,” says Green. The ground floor of the Bousfield Annex now features a two-story atrium, named for longtime UConn professor and former Psychology Department Head Charles A. “Skip” Lowe, which is lined with tables and electronic monitors that encourage students to linger between classes. “I see students at work in the atrium all day. It’s been very gratifying to see them taking advantage of the space straight away,” says Heather Bortfeld, associate professor of psychology.

Much of the Bousfield Annex comprises state-of-the-art laboratory space where students engage in research and hands-on learning, including two new wet laboratories where Green says students “get their hands dirty” in course work in physiological psychology and animal learning and behavior. The annex also houses 12 research rooms for the more than 300 undergraduates who enroll each semester in upper-division individualized research courses with faculty, and specially designed space for the department’s Psychological Services Clinic. “All of these new evelopments help our students feel more connected to faculty and staff, and they help us create an identity that wasn’t really possible before,” says Green.

We want to hear from you! Moved or changed jobs? Tell us what you’re up to by contacting Caitlin Trinh, CLAS Director of Alumni Relations, at caitlin.trinh@uconn.edu


Liberal Arts & Sciences Winter 2014