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SU Marks another summer of Student-Faculty Research

August 1, 2006

SELINSGROVE, (Pa.) – Susquehanna University students have been busy this summer undertaking a variety of research projects with their faculty mentors. More than two dozen of these projects are supported by university funding and national grant awards. Much of this collaborative research will continue through the new academic year, which begins at the end of August.

New this summer is a project led by Professor of Biology Jack Holt in conjunction with expertise from the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies. Funded by a grant from the Degenstein Foundation, two students are working with Holt and other Susquehanna faculty to examine the ecology and chemistry of Shamokin Creek, a watershed in Northumberland County severely impacted by acid mine drainage.

This research is also being supported by the Susquehanna University Research Partners Program. Designed to enhance student learning, further faculty scholarship, and create a community of learners where students and faculty can engage in collaborative research, the program provides students with stipends for their work over the summer months.

A total of 10 students are being supported by the Research Partners Program this summer. Their projects include the expansion of a long-term monitoring program of terrestrial vertebrates at Shikellamy State Park, led by Assistant Professor of Biology Carlos Iudica; research into the regulation of insect egg production, an ongoing project funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by David Richard, professor and head of the Department of Biology; and a study of the role of thalidomide plays on sea urchin development, led by Assistant Professor of Biology and Healthcare Studies Jan Reichard-Brown.

Seven more students – three from history and communications, and four from the sciences, are conducting research in Centralia, Pa., the site of an active mine fire that has burned for more than 40 years. Their research is supported by the NCUR/Lancy Initiative, a joint grant program between the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and the Alice and Leslie E. Lancy Foundation. Communications and history students are examining the health histories of Centralia residents, producing a documentary film about the mine fire and examining the town against the larger decline of the coal industry in Pennsylvania. Students majoring in biology, chemistry, and earth and environmental sciences are examining the mine fire’s effects on soil and the surrounding geology, and investigating the fire’s impact on thermophilic bacteria, plants and microorganisms.

An eighth student is also conducting research at Centralia, through the support of an undergraduate research fellowship from the American Society for Microbiology. This project investigates the molecular changes occurring in microbial communities at the site, expanding ongoing research led by Tammy Tobin-Janzen, associate professor of biology.

Also working with students in Centralia this summer is: Chris Janzen, associate professor and head of the Department of Chemistry; Daniel Ressler, associate professor and head of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Jennifer Elick, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences; and Assistant Professors of History Edward Slavishak and Karol Weaver.

Other nationally funded projects students and faculty are working together on this summer include an examination of the communication function of dragline silk in male and female wolf spiders, led by Associate Professor of Biology Matthew Persons and supported by the National Science Foundation; and ongoing astronomy research at observatories in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the University of Arizona, led by Richard Kozlowski, professor and head of the Department of Physics, and supported by combined funds from SU’s Summer Research Partners Program, the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Some students are even performing off-campus research with scientists from other institutions. One such project is at Rice Quantum Institute in Texas. The opportunity was made possible through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Another REU-funded project for an SU student this summer is at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.

Still more students are performing summer research with faculty mentors through a variety of departmental funding and Susquehanna’s Summer Opportunities Program. These projects include research on human sexuality as it relates to HIV-risk behavior, led by Assistant Professor of Psychology Michael Smith; independent study of the process of editing and publishing a scholarly journal, led by Associate Professor of English Laurence Roth; and research into the relationship between student alliances, personal perceptions, class behavior and study habits, overseen by Nina Tober, associate professor and head of the Department of Music.

A fourth research project supported by the Summer Opportunities Program required a trip to Tanzania, Africa, for Assistant Professor of History Cymone Fourshey and her student research partner. Their research includes the examination of how communities in southwestern Tanzania employ hospitality as a means of dealing with influxes of immigrants and migrant workers.

Contact: Victoria Kidd
570-372-4119

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