Forward Thinking

Senior Scholars Highlight Their Academic Endeavors

Christine Pulice (left) and Alissa Packer examine plants as part of Pulice's research for Senior Scholars Day.

Earlier this year, more than 100 Susquehanna seniors presented on topics ranging from linear algebra and cryptology to Feeling in French Film at Senior Scholars Day 2008. Through posters, presentations and performances, students shared the results of research they’d conducted in their fields of study.

For many students, this 30-year tradition represents a culmination of research and writing spanning several semesters. Christine Pulice ’08, of East Greenville, Pa., presented the results of a study on the relationship between cherry trees and ants that she began at the start of her junior year with Assistant Professor of Biology Alissa Packer. A paper on their research was accepted for publication in the science journal Functional Ecology.

Pulice was one of many students to present her research professionally. Numerous students also presented their findings at research forums such as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the Pennsylvania Academy of Science.

Alicia Kalb demonstrates her talent on the saxophone during Senior Scholars Day. For students like Alicia Kalb ’08, of Hatfield, Pa., research was rehearsal. Kalb, a music education major, was one of several seniors who performed on Senior Scholars Day. Working closely with both Adjunct Music Professor Deborah Andrus and Associate Professor of Music Gail Levinsky, Kalb prepared and played Jean-Baptiste Singlée’s Fantaisie for Soprano Saxophone and Piano, op. 89, one of the first pieces ever written exclusively for the soprano saxophone. “This piece really allowed me to work on both my musicality and my technique,” says Kalb.

But it was the close interaction with a faculty mentor that really benefited her education, Kalb says. “Dr. Levinsky is a phenomenal saxophone player, and she really helped me improve on my playing, especially the technical aspects. Not just with this piece, but over the last four years she has taken me so far. I know I am the player I am because of her.”

Neal Lesher ’08, a political science major from Palmyra, Pa., who investigated the voting patterns of judges appointed by the merit system, agreed that interacting with his faculty mentor was a major highlight of Senior Scholars Day. Although Lesher and his mentor, Associate Professor of Political Science Michele DeMary, had demanding schedules, they still found time to discuss his project. “Since we both led somewhat hectic schedules during the day, we found ourselves meeting over breakfast at Kinfolks (a local restaurant) to discuss my paper throughout the semester. I Neal Lesher and Michele DeMary review Lesher's research on voting patterns of judges appointed by the merit system. think this is the kind of one-on-one attention you can only find at a place like Susquehanna,” Lesher says.

“The Senior Scholar's project was the best way to implement all the knowledge and skills I have learned since freshman year at Susquehanna,” says Sabin Mulepati ’08, a biochemistry major from Nepal. According to Mulepati, who conducted research with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Wade Johnson, his Senior Scholars work consisted of just the right balance of independence and guidance. “What I liked best about my project was that Dr. Johnson allowed me to first implement my own ideas. I was able to carry out various experiments and to interact one-on-one with Dr. Johnson when I needed guidance. Whenever I hit a dead end, he always had valuable suggestions to point me in the right direction,” says Mulepati. “Dr. Johnson has helped me to think more critically and to become more independent. I think he has made my transition to graduate school easier.”

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Summer Opportunities for Collaborative Research

The Summer Opportunities for Collaborative Scholarship Fund provided several students with the opportunity to perform research in the social sciences this summer. The program was started three years ago to foster faculty-student scholarship and to offer the same research opportunities in the social sciences and humanities that exist in the natural sciences.

Using Literature to Find Common Threads

Sankofa is an African word meaning, “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.” Last semester, Courtney Glock ’09, a sociology major from Fallston, Md., took this word and developed the Sankofa Book Project under the direction of Simona Hill, associate professor of sociology, and Armenta Hinton, interim director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Glock has collected information from members of the Susquehanna community and the local area about the books that have been most inspiring in their lives. In discovering these books, the intent is to find the common threads that tie us all together.

The idea for the project started as a way to replace the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ reading group with a project that was more inclusive and would cross cultural barriers, welcoming diversity of thought, Hinton says. “Reading is a great equalizer. Everyone reads something, whether it’s the funny pages, The New York Times, or comic books.” Caitlin Clouser (left) and Kathleen Bailey discuss their research on how the neuropeptide galanin affects memory and attention.

Studying the Effects of Neuropeptide on Memory and Attention

Caitlin Clouser '10, a biology major from Glenmoore, Pa., is working with Kathleen Bailey, assistant professor of psychology, on a research project that studies how memory and attention are affected by galanin, an inhibitory neuropeptide in the brain that is overexpressed in patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

Clouser hopes to work in pharmaceuticals after graduation and says this research is a step in the right direction. “Not many undergrads get the chance to do research like this,” Clouser says.

A Study of Iraqi Refugees

Samer Abboud, assistant professor of political science, and Erica White ’09, a Spanish and international studies major from Edgewater, Md., have examined the displacement of more than four million Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Abboud says he wants to answer “the simple question of why Iraqis left their homes and why they went where they did.”

White has assisted Abboud by gathering and analyzing statistical data and academic literature regarding Iraqi refugees. “I wrote several research papers on immigration and on internal displacement over the course of the last year, so when the opportunity to work with Dr. Abboud on this project was presented to me, it was almost a no-brainer,” says White, whose focus is on the developing world.

A Closer Look at Race in Central Pennsylvania

Samantha Hertzler ’10, a sociology and psychology major from New Bloomfield, Pa., is working with David Ramsaran, associate professor of sociology, on a project that looks at class and color lines in the United States. They are examining changing notions about race during the period of globalization in America by conducting interviews with whites across various class backgrounds in central Pennsylvania.

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Research Partners Program

Sixteen students participated this summer in the Research Partners Program. The program gives faculty the opportunity to do research and enhances student learning by providing them opportunities to actively participate in a research project on a full-time basis, says Thomas Peeler, associate professor of biology, who organizes the program.

Since its inception in 1996, the program has allowed more than 100 students to do research thanks to funds provided by the Office of the Provost, Peeler says. What emerges from the program is a close community of researchers composed of students and professors who become partners in the production of scientific data and results. Following are examples of recent partnerships.

Cave Research Sheds Light on Career Opportunities Brian Tanis searches for bones in a central Pennsylvania cave.

To look at the repercussions of global warming, Carlos Iudica, assistant professor of biology, was eager to examine what happened the last time the weather changed drastically. With the help of Brian Tanis ’10, a biology and ecology major from Oakland, N.J., Iudica began excavating fragments of bones from caves in central Pennsylvania, which will help them understand how species have been affected by significant weather changes.

“Opportunities such as this give me the chance to apply concepts that I have learned in the classroom and take it to the next level with hands-on experience,” says Tanis, who has worked with Iudica for two years.

“I want to show students that you can get paid for things that you like to do,” says Iudica, who noted Tanis’ interest in rock climbing when he designed a research project that would be both enjoyable and challenging. “You can put together things that you like with what you will do as a profession for the rest of your life.”

Auditing SU's Environment

Jacqueline Yalango ’09, an earth and environmental science major from Milford, Pa., is working with Katherine Straub, assistant professor of geological and environmental science, on an environmental audit of Susquehanna University. The research assesses energy usage, food waste and recycling on campus over the past five years. Yalango has also compared the energy efficiency in older dorms with that in the new West Village buildings, which have geothermal energy and motion-sensored lighting. This data will be used by the Campus Sustainability Committee, of which Straub is a member, to make recommendations for change.

“It will be useful to the Susquehanna community to know that the way we live every day affects the world around us,” Yalango says.

Mating in Wolf Spiders Matt Persons (left) and Alex Sweger at work in Persons' spider lab.

Alex Sweger ’10, a biology and chemistry major from Etters, Pa., and Matthew Persons, associate professor of biology, are studying mate choice of the male wolf spider. What both Sweger and Persons emphasized most was the importance of their collaboration. “We bounce ideas off of each other, brainstorming and critiquing the methods that we might want to use to test our ideas, but Alex is the primary creative force behind the project,” Persons says.

Their research challenges the widely accepted principle that males have much less of an investment in offspring than do females. “The implications of this are enormous and have been used to explain behavioral differences between males and females of most animals, including humans,” Persons says.

The research also holds implications for Sweger’s future. “One of the reasons why SU science majors are so successful is because they are treated as full collaborators, not helpers or students,” Persons says.

It’s an opportunity Sweger and other students relish. “You never quite fully understand what it means to really ‘do science’ until the pressure is on to design and run your own experiments, pose your own unique questions about the natural world, and perform to the standards set by the scientific community at large,” Sweger says.

Contributing writers to The 'Grove section are Julie Buckingham '09 and Ryan Rickrode'11.

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