Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Diving in

Ashley Jennings ’07 spends years deep in shark research

Ashley Jennings '07

Ashley Jennings '07

What would it be like to be a shark?

Maybe you’re picturing rows of ragged sawteeth and remembering the last time your stomach growled at you. Or perhaps you’re imagining the feeling of cool water on a strong, streamlined body, and wondering what it would be like to have a superhuman sense of smell.

Most people really wouldn’t even know where to begin imagining. But this question lights up Ashley Jennings’s face. “I think about that pretty much every day,” she says.

Jennings, who graduated from Wheaton College in 2007, explored this question in her research at Boston University, where last year she completed a master’s degree in marine/sensory biology. Working with Jelle Atema, a professor of biology at Boston University and adjunct scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Jennings spent three summers at WHOI studying smooth dogfish, small sharks that can be found along the coast of Massachusetts, for her master’s thesis. While urban legend tells us that a shark can smell a drop of blood in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, Jennings hopes that her research on sharks’ sense of smell will help to dispel that myth, as well as our overblown fear of these animals. [Read more...]

Building a better tomorrow

Ryan Letada ’08 works to transform communities

Letada IMG_7315Born in Kuwait to impoverished parents who dreamed their son would one day become a doctor or lawyer, Ryan Letada ’08 discovered something priceless at Wheaton College: the fire to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit of traditionally marginalized communities.

“Wheaton makes you ask the bigger questions about your purpose in life,” says Letada, who in 2013 co-founded Next Day Better, a New York-based company that, chiefly through its lecture series, showcases the accomplishments—or “tells the stories”—of people who have transformed their communities. The business, for now, focuses on the efforts of social entrepreneurs in the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora. There are plans to ultimately branch out and highlight other ethnicities.

In a series of six lecture engagements around the globe last year (which were also available online), Next Day Better highlighted people such as Illac Diaz, an inventor who created solar light bulbs using recycled plastic bottles. Thousands of poor Filipinos have benefited from his creation. [Read more...]

Career bid

Chen RufusSummer internship at Christie's turns into fall opportunity

While working as a summer intern at Christie’s auction house in New York City, Jiaan “Rufus” Chen ’15 was invited to view one of the items up for sale, a 300-year-old Korean celadon vase. An art history major with an interest in East Asian art, Chen was thrilled by the chance to examine the piece and even more excited when he got to hold it. Then he learned the vase was worth half a million dollars.

At that point, fascination turned to fear as one thought came to Chen’s mind: “Don’t drop it.”

Not only did the Wheaton senior not drop the vase, he handled the rest of his summer duties at Christie’s so well that his supervisor invited him back in fall 2014 to help the auction house prep for their big September sale. [Read more...]

A minute with … Zevi Rubin ’16

Drone CampIf you look up in the sky while at Wheaton and see a drone, Zevi Rubin can’t be too far away. The computer science major has become known for building (he has seven) and piloting drones, which he prefers to call multi-rotors, because drones get a bad rap. Last semester he was a panelist at Wheaton’s first Drone Camp alongside professors. Spreading his wings: “I’ve been working with the Film Department since last summer, and I am now training students to fly a Wheaton-owned multi-rotor to use during film projects. I am always excited to spread awareness about UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] and some of their uses, and I am excited to work with the school to start developing new uses for the technology. So many people have preconceived notions about what a drone is and what it does. My main goal when showing my work to people is to show them that drones aren’t all bad. In fact, my multi-rotor drones are actually pretty fun.” [Read more...]