Monday, August 22, 2016

Hastings Completes Mental Health First Aid Instructors Course

Dr. Todd Hastings, assistant professor of nursing, recently completed the 32 hour Mental Health First Aid instructors course at the University of Chicago. Dr. Hastings is now certified to teach the Mental Health First Aid course and plans to offer this course to the campus community. The course teaches skills for providing initial help to people experiencing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis, and substance use disorders that can occur during the college years.

College students have remarkable stressors related to the demands of living in a campus setting. Balancing academic, social, and work responsibilities away from the supports of family and friends can not only be challenging but debilitating and lead to personal crisis. Students who are struggling at college may start to display unusual behaviors and feel out of balance. Some may begin to display signs of a true mental illness during their early adulthood or even show signs of desperation leading to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

According to Hastings, “As a faculty member and advisor, I was very aware of the potential for students to experience an emotional crisis. My teaching and scholarly focus on psychiatric-mental health nursing education and practice supports a general concern for people struggling with mental illness. I have also noticed the hesitancy in many students to consider accessing any counseling resources due to stigma surrounding such problems.”

The purpose of having a credentialed instructor for Mental Health First Aid in the community is to provide training in Mental Health First Aid, analogous to those who receive instruction in medical first aid or CPR. Interested individuals on campus will be taught strategies to assist someone experiencing a psychosocial crisis or developing symptoms consistent with mental illness. The training may empower campus staff, faculty, and students to help intervene early and limit the consequences of individuals on campus suffering psychological distress.

Currently 40% of young adults age 18-24 are enrolled in a college setting. Public health statistics indicate 75% of mental illnesses occur before age 25. Thus, university environments are ideal locations for early identification of an emerging mental health problem. Early identification of an emerging problem and rapid intervention may help prevent unfortunate consequences. Mental Health First Aid as a process can lead to positive outcomes relative to engagement of those having difficulty coping with stressors on campus.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Luke Vuksta wins 6th place at MathFest

Bloomsburg University junior math major Luke Vuksta won 6th place at the national finals of the Problem Solving Competition held at the MAA Mathfest conference in Columbus, Ohio, this summer.  In this competition each contestant was required to solve a series of mathematical problems. Approximately 400 colleges and universities across the country participated in the Problem Solving Competition.    

Pictured is Dr. William Calhoun, assistant chair and professor of Mathematical and Digital Sciences and Luke Vuksta.

What Is MAA MathFest?

The annual summer meeting of the Mathematical Association of America is the largest summertime gathering of mathematicians. MAA MathFest draws mathematicians from all over the world who come together to celebrate mathematics. It features great exposition of mathematics as well as numerous sessions devoted to all aspects of collegiate mathematics, undergraduate teaching, and curriculum.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

 Researching Nitrogen and Sulfur in Natural Organic Materials

When you’re from the northeast, it’s easy to forget that other less-populated areas of the country exist. This summer, I had the opportunity to explore the midwest, thanks to a National Science Foundation-funded research program for undergraduates. I spent the summer at South Dakota State University researching what appears to just be dirt, but to an environmental chemist, this project has much more significance. Five undergraduate chemistry majors from all over the country (Nebraska, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, California, and Oregon, to be exact) were selected to participate in this program. We were each paired up with a faculty mentor at SDSU and placed in a university dorm for the summer. During our first weekend, we took a trip out to Pierre (pronounced “Pier” by the locals) for our kick-off meeting. This drive took us 3 hours on a straight, flat highway with NO TRAFFIC, which is very different from what I’m used to back home!

After this meeting, we really started to become invested in our individual projects. We were all working on something relating to green chemistry, which basically looks for more environmentally-friendly methods to perform reactions and create materials. My project involves extracting organic content from soils to be analyzed for nitrogen and sulfur. We are interested in this because if there were an excess of nitrogen or sulfur in the environment, it could cause disruption of the carbon cycle and lead to degradation of ecosystems, including water contamination.

My extractions looked like this. As the distillation progressed, the color of the extract would change from clear to orange to brown as the concentration increased. After this point, I fractionated my samples again so they were able to be analyzed for nitrogen and sulfur. It doesn’t sound like this would take a long time, but it actually took me about five weeks of work to get to this point!

Throughout the summer, I took some time to visit the classic South Dakota tourist attractions with the other students. We went to the Corn Palace (the outside is decorated entirely with corn), the Badlands, and Mt. Rushmore over a few weekends. We also went to the Omaha Zoo in Nebraska and the Mall of America in Minnesota. You never really appreciate having car until you live in the midwest and realize the closest civilization is about 3 hours away! Although there isn’t much around here, it’s really a beautiful place to live.

Our final presentation was a poster session in Pierre, South Dakota. We each created a poster about our projects and presented at a symposium for all research students in the state on August 1st. The presentation went very well! I met a lot of really great people and learned more about the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which I plan to apply for this fall.

Now that the summer is winding down and my time at SDSU is coming to an end, I am cleaning up my area in the lab, running some final samples, and preparing to travel back to Bloomsburg. I’ve started writing up my research to send out to a journal for publication! Although I have participated in research before with URSCA at BU and in another program at Old Dominion University, this project really confirmed for me that I want to pursue an advanced degree in environmental chemistry. The chemistry professors I have worked with at BU have really prepared me to take this next step in my career, and I’m very excited to see what comes next!

Shelby Coleman is a senior biochemistry major from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
                Best Student Research Award at Regional Meeting
Bloomsburg University Biology Master's student Jamie Shinskie won the Best Student Research Award for the poster she presented at the 2016 Northeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (NEPARC) Meeting that occurred Aug 9 - 11 in Poultney, Vermont. Jamie's poster highlighted the interdisciplinary ecological research she has been conducting under the guidance of Dr. Amber Pitt (Department of Biological & Allied Health Sciences) and Dr. Tina Delahunty (Department of Environmental, Geographical, and Geological Sciences) in which she used a combination of field-based ecological research and remote sensing to evaluate the effects of reach-scale land use and land cover change and within-stream habitat quality on hellbender salamander population persistence and extirpation in the Susquehanna River drainage of Pennsylvania. Her research demonstrated that deforestation and the subsequent increases in siltation, sedimentation, and turbidity in stream channels were linked with hellbender population loss.

NEPARC is part of the national Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) which is a partnership-based organization dedicated to the conservation of amphibians, reptiles, and their habitats. NEPARC is comprised of representatives from academia, state, federal, and local government agencies, non-government conservation organizations, and the private sector from the states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, District of Columbia, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Jamie will be graduating in 2016 with a Master of Science degree in Biology from Bloomsburg University. Her graduate committee consists of Drs. Amber Pitt, Tina Delahunty, and Steve Rier.

Citation: Shinskie, J.L., A.L. PItt, and T. Delahunty. 2016. Historic and Recent Canopy Cover and Stream Habitat Variables affecting Eastern Hellbender Persistence within the Susquehanna River Drainage of Pennsylvania. 2016 Northeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Meeting, 9-11 August 2016, Poultney, Vermont.