Dr. Pawan Sharma Featured in Wesleyan and the World Blog

Internationalizing Chemistry

“This past year (2023-24), the Wesleyan community was enriched by the presence of our first-ever Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence (S-I-R), Dr. Pawan Sharma from Kurukshetra University in India. The S-I-R program aims to promote campus internationalization by bringing scholar-teachers to campus for either a semester or a whole academic year; as Fulbright explains on its website, “S-I-Rs work across departments and curricula in a variety of ways to widely enhance or expand an existing international program, develop new world area studies programs, add an international dimension to existing coursework or provide an opportunity for U.S. students to learn about a particular world region or country.” Wesleyan is able to submit one application per year to participate in this program. In the Spring of 2022, Professors David Westmoreland (then Chair) and Brian Northrop (now Chair) of Chemistry proposed that their department could benefit from an S-I-R, and worked with Wesleyan’s Grants Office and the Fries Center for Global Studies to submit the grant application that ultimately brought us Dr. Sharma.

Brian Northrop, Associate Professor and Chair of Chemistry, and Pawan Sharma, Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence at Wesleyan, 2023-2024

As Dr. Sharma’s time at Wesleyan draws to a close, he had an opportunity to sit down with Prof. Northrop and reflect together on how the year has gone. What does it mean to “internationalize” chemistry?

In some contexts, internationalization might mean bringing new languages or new cultures to bear on a field, but things are different in a field like chemistry. In some sense, chemistry is the same the world over. What Sharma and Northrop discovered, though, was that subtler differences in experiences and perspectives can still lead to fruitful learning opportunities. Sharma noted how even when the “same” pedagogical techniques are used in India and in the US, different expectations and backgrounds of students can lead to different outcomes. In Sharma’s view, these differences are something like different flavors, each with their own values, and by blending and balancing them, the result can be even better pedagogy. He offered the example of “cold calling,” which some of his Wesleyan students initially found to be intimidating. Sharma worked to understand their perspective and to allow them to see that this technique enabled them to show what they had learned (sometimes almost subconsciously). Sharma’s two courses were each very successful, each offering content that had not previously been offered by the department.

Northrop emphasized that starting at a department retreat that occurred soon after Sharma’s arrival, Sharma has been able to offer quite different perspectives on the ways that chemistry can be taught —  which courses are required as opposed to electives, what order topics are taught in, and so on. “Internationalizing chemistry” thus means, at least in part, taking a step back from the way things are typically done at Wesleyan, or in the U.S., and reflecting on whether blending in other approaches might make even more sense.

Sharma also mentioned key things that he had learned about Wesleyan and more generally about higher education in the U.S. For one example: in India, elite schools are all public, whereas private colleges and universities tend to be smaller, newer, and (at least in the sciences) less rigorous. This influences the assumptions that India faculty, students, and prospective students start out with when they learn about Wesleyan: that is, they assume it will be less rigorous. Figuring out a way to change this narrative may help with graduate and even undergraduate recruiting in India. Finally, it is worth noting that Sharma’s internationalization activities also extended beyond the Chemistry Department. He gave and attended talks both at Wesleyan and regionally, some of them on topics of broad interest like the ozone hole and climate change. He also participated in an Intercultural Fair at Middletown’s Russell Library for area kids, and enjoyed volunteering to serve students Thanksgiving dinner and at the Amazing Grace Pantry. In all, Dr. Sharma has been an exemplary member of the Wesleyan community, and we are very grateful to have been able to host him.”

The article can be found here.

2024 Annual Chemistry Department Awards

The Chemistry Department is proud to announce the recipients of the 2024 Annual Chemistry Department Awards:

ACS Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry: Terry Ye
Awarded for excellence in analytical chemistry
ACS Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry: Leonard Majaducon
To recognize achievement in inorganic chemistry and to encourage further study in the field
ACS Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry: Justin Bracero
To a student who has displayed a significant aptitude for organic chemistry
ACS Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry: Ishraq Wasif
To recognize achievement in physical chemistry and to encourage further study in the field
ACS Undergraduate Award for Excellence in Safety & Ethics: Ashley Vazzana
To recognize senior undergraduates who have actively demonstrated the intersectionality between chemical safety and ethical behavior
ACS Connecticut Valley Section Award: Emma Davis
For outstanding achievement by a graduating chemistry major
American Institute for Chemists Award: Maya Goldgisser
For outstanding achievement by a graduating chemistry major
Bradley Prize: Anne Kiely & Jessica Luu
To the senior or junior who excels in chemistry and particularly in special original work
Silverman Prize: Angela Rojas-Merchan
Awarded to a member of the junior or senior class for excellence in chemistry
Peirce Prize: Maya Milrod & Leonard Majaducon
Awarded for excellence in CHEM
CRC Award (General Chemistry): Tihitina Gebeyehu

For the outstanding first-year student in Principles of Chemistry
CRC Award (Organic Chemistry): Christie Kim
For the outstanding first-year student in Organic Chemistry
Hawk Prize: Alexis Papavasiliou
To the students who have done the most effective work in biochemistry
Martius Yellow Award: Kayla Alexander & Aiden Parente
Awarded for excellence in Integrated Chemistry Laboratory
The Wallace C. Pringle Prize for Research in Chemistry: Leonard Majaducon & Jessica Luu
Awarded to a student for excellence in research
Peterson Fellowship: Eric Zanderigo
For graduate study in biochemistry
Tishler Prize: Kat Blejec
Awarded to the best graduate teaching assistant in chemistry

Chemistry Majors Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

Spring 2024 elections to Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa have been announced, and it is with great pleasure that we recognize:

Jessica Tran Luu – Chemistry, College of Integrative Sciences, Environmental Studies
Leonard Vincent Anona Majaducon – Chemistry
Alexis Sophia Papavasiliou – Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of their major. The student also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations and must have achieved a GPA of 93 or above.

The emblem contains the three Greek letters “Phi,” “Beta,” and “Kappa,” which are the initials of the Greek motto, Philosophia Biou Kybernetes, or “the love of wisdom is the guide of life.”

Induction will take place on Saturday, May 25, 2024, at 4:00 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel. Faculty and staff are invited to join the inductees.

In Memoriam: Dr. Al Fry

Dr. Al Fry, Elisha B. Nye Professor of Chemistry

Announcement from the Provost:

“I am sorry to inform you that Albert J. Fry, Elisha B. Nye Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, passed away on February 1, 2024, at the age of 86. 

Al received his BS from University of Michigan and his PhD from University of Wisconsin at Madison. He joined the Wesleyan faculty as a postdoctoral research fellow in 1964 and as an assistant professor in 1965. He taught here for 52 years before retiring in 2016. He published more than 170 research articles during his career, as well as two books on organic electrochemistry, and was a member of the American Chemical Society and The Electrochemical Society.

“Al Fry was an exceptionally generous and supportive colleague with a boundless knowledge of physical organic chemistry,” recalled Brian Northrop, E.B. Nye Professor of Chemistry. “His lab was a vibrant place filled with graduate and lots of undergraduate research students who were fortunate to learn directly from one of the best.”

Giselle Reyes ’18, MA’19, visiting instructor of chemistry, worked in Professor Fry’s group while completing her BA/MA. “Professor Fry was an incredibly supportive, caring, and enthusiastic mentor. He excelled at making the lab an approachable, engaging, and welcoming environment for everyone and encouraged diversity in thought and teamwork. He helped me to discover my passion for research and desire to pursue a career in chemistry and he inspired me to face challenges life throws at me with humor, grit, and grace. He was my biggest advocate in the beginning of my career, and I would not be the scientist or person that I am today without him. “

“Al was a wonderful colleague and friend for 42 years,” said George A. Petersson, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, Emeritus. “As a senior colleague he was extremely supportive when I arrived at Wesleyan. We became close friends as I joined him among the senior faculty. There were amusing moments both socially and at work. I remember back in the days before everything was done electronically, I flew to Washington to hand deliver my NSF proposal by the deadline. As I turned to climb the steps to NSF headquarters, I met Al who was descending the steps after delivering his proposal. Al Fry was one of the people who made Wesleyan a very special place. He will be missed by everyone who had the privilege to know him.”

Al is survived by his wife, Melissa; his daughter, Anne Fry and son-in-law, Steve Bozeman; son Peter Fry and daughter-in-law Rebecca Springer; son Jon Fry and daughter-in-law Kim Mergenthaler Fry; and grandchildren Morgan Bozeman, Molly Fry, Maggie Fry, Will Fry, and Mackenzie Fry. There will be a private family service at D’Angelo Funeral Home in Middletown, Connecticut. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Leopold Schepp Foundation, 950 Third Avenue, Suite 3100, New York, NY 10022.”

Nicole Stanton
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Dance

Giselle Padilla Reyes ’18 and Dr. Al Fry, at Commencement

Chemistry Major Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

Fall 2023 elections to Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa have been announced, and it is with great pleasure that we recognize
Anne Foley Kiely.
To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of their major. The student also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations and must have achieved a GPA of 93 or above.

The emblem contains the three Greek letters “Phi,” “Beta,” and “Kappa,” which are the initials of the Greek motto, Philosophia Biou Kybernetes, or “the love of wisdom is the guide of life.”

Anne Foley Kiely
Chemistry, Science in Society

Induction will take place on Wednesday, December 6, 2023 at 4:30p.m. in McKelvey Room, Admissions.

In Memoriam: Dr. Stewart Novick

Dr. Stewart Novick, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics

It is with profound sorrow that the Chemistry Department announces the passing of Dr. Stewart Novick. Stew was an esteemed figure within the Wesleyan community, revered for his significant contributions to molecular spectroscopy, the department, and the university. In recognition of his legacy, the Chemistry Department is planning a memorial event, and shall soon share the details here. Condolences may be sent to the family here.

Announcement from the Provost:

“It is with deep sadness that I write to inform you that our dear friend and colleague, Stewart E. Novick, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, Emeritus, passed away last week at the age of 78.

Stew received his BS from Stony Brook University and his AM and PhD from Harvard University. He served as a research fellow at Harvard and a research associate at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, University of Colorado at Boulder, before he arrived at Wesleyan in 1978, where he taught until his retirement this past summer. During his 45 years at Wesleyan, he was named an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, a National Science Foundation Fellow, and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

“Stew was the consummate educator: demanding, caring, capable of intense precision and joyful inspiration,” recalled President Michael Roth. “When I think of the sciences at Wesleyan, I will always think of Stew Novick.”

David Westmoreland, associate professor of chemistry, reflected that “Stew Novick was the heart and soul of both the Chemistry Department and the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division. He was a prolific researcher, a talented and much revered teacher, and a steadfast colleague and friend to many at Wesleyan and around the world. But perhaps his greatest legacy is in the scores of undergraduate and graduate students who were transformed by his mentorship. He was truly the epitome of what a Wesleyan professor should be.”

“He was a curmudgeonly mensch. He believed in the goodness and potential of everyone, pushed me to be my best self and (thankfully) forced me to apply to grad school,” said Stew’s former student, Alison Williams ’81. “His love of chemistry was infectious. He was the epitome of a colleague, always bringing people together. The Tuesday science faculty lunch tradition that he began 33 years ago still continues. Even when he was bedridden, he was deeply concerned about Wesleyan, his colleagues, and students, and refused to dwell on his health.”

Beach Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, Joe Knee said, “Stew was beloved by students, faculty, and the entire Wesleyan community. His passion for science was extraordinary and inspired the many students he taught in his classes and the large number of graduate and undergraduate students he mentored in his laboratory.”

Former student Alison Spodek Keimowitz ’97 reflected, “He was incredibly patient in explaining difficult concepts, flexible and willing to follow students’ lead on projects. He brought a sense of fun to everything he did—from complicated quantum mechanics to catching (and releasing!) dozens of mice from the lab.”

“His guilelessness was endearing, as was his cutting sense of humor,” reflected Brian Stewart, professor of physics. “His devotion to his students, to his craft, and to science were absolute. The latter evidenced not only by the NSM Luncheon but also by his annual question at the final faculty meeting of the year. Stew was a true mensch, but his was a unique, maybe slightly cockeyed sort of Menschlichkeit.”

Stew is survived by his brother, Dennis. The family will hold a service on Sunday, October 22, at 3:00 p.m. at Summer Hill Cemetery, 564–598 Old Toll Road in Madison, Connecticut. Memorial donations may be made to a charity of one’s choice, in honor of Stew.”

Nicole Stanton
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Dance