Thursday, September 8, 2022

Lauren Griffith of Commonwealth University-Mansfield recipient of the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant

MANSFIELD, PA (09/07/2022) When Lauren Griffith transferred to Commonwealth University-Mansfield midway through her first year, she had no idea what opportunities would await her at her new university. Now a senior, Griffith, a cell and molecular biology major, is one of the 2022 recipients of the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant, and plans to use the funds to continue her research on pancreatic cancer.

Being mentored by Mansfield faculty member Dr. Kristen Long, associate professor of biology, Griffith's research focuses on exploring how curcumin, an experimental treatment for solid tumors, impacts the inflammatory bacteria that are present in the gut.

"Last semester, using mice as a model, we collected feces, cultured bacteria from the feces, and then treated the bacteria with different concentrations of the curcumin treatment," explained Griffith. "This semester we plan to use a different systems-level approach, where we feed the mice curcumin over a specific time span. We will analyze the sequences of the different bacteria to determine shifts in bacterial populations."

Griffith explained what the grant means in terms of her own research project. "The grant allows me to expand upon my research. For example, I could receive more mice for my experiments and an anaerobic chamber to allow for complete analysis of all bacteria we isolate and grow, since we can only culture aerobic bacteria right now."

Beyond her own research on how curcumin treatment impacts gut bacteria and tumor growth, Griffith spent the summer at the University of Maryland in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) STEP-UP program helping with research concerning how various technologies and software can be used to explore disease therapies. Griffith studied how they affect triple negative breast cancer metastasis therapies. "I was able to conduct independent research firsthand, which outside of my research at Mansfield, was the first time I have done so," said Griffith.

"I learned so much during my internship," said Griffith. "I learned about the graduate school experience and the different avenues of research that I could take with my major in cell and molecular biology, what independent research looks like at the graduate school level, how to prepare for a scientific presentation, and the importance of networking in the scientific field. For my own research, I learned more about the bioengineering field and how similar it is to my own field."

"Lauren is a wonderful example of a student who has taken advantage of the opportunities presented to her here at Mansfield," said Bashar W. Hanna, president of Commonwealth University. "Her passion for learning makes her a role model for all young women in STEM."

After graduation, Griffith plans to pursue her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology. She wants to build a brand to create awareness for young women unaware of the different pathways within the scientific field. "Using my graphic design minor, I want to use social media as a way of helping other young women who want to pursue a career in STEM or the medical field. I want to give advice, share my journey, and create a brand to provide an outlet for those unaware of the pathways in the scientific field."

Griffith has already started work on her brand, and shares advice about college and her experience in the STEM field on her YouTube channel: Lauren Kennedi.

The integration of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield universities under the banner of Commonwealth University is a bold investment in the communities and people of Pennsylvania. Our mission is to expand high-quality, affordable academic opportunities to support the needs of all learners. We're building a powerful tomorrow by boldly changing the trajectory of public higher education to position ourselves for growth, increased access, and to meet economic and workforce development needs. Together we're honoring our history, investing in today, and building a powerful tomorrow. That's the power of three.

View Online: http://mansfield.meritpages.com/news/lauren-griffith-of-commonwealth-university-mansfield-recipient-of-the-nasa-pennsylvania-space-grant/29227 [email.readme.readmedia.com]

Lauren Griffith poses next to her poster detailing her research

Lauren Griffith working in a lab


Thursday, September 1, 2022

Dr. Rebecca Bourgault Selected to Participate in this Year's PKAL SLI

Dr. Rebecca Bourgault, Assistant Professor in EGGS, was selected to participate in this year’s Project Kaleidoscope STEM Leadership Institute (PKAL SLI) from the American Association of Colleges & Universities. In addition to teaching courses in soil and environmental sciences, Dr. Bourgault serves as Stephen J. Jones Professional U Faculty Fellow for the College of Science and Technology. Taking on this new role during a time of transition for the University, she sees this challenge as an opportunity to strengthen the Professional U program for COST, and to develop her own leadership style.

The PKAL SLI was truly an eye-opening and transformative experience for Dr. Bourgault. The focus of the Institute was on reforming STEM education to better serve the needs of a diverse society, in order to create a more inclusive, equitable, and socially just system of higher education. The tools, experiences, and deep discussions offered by the program helped her identify her own strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities for growth and reflection in her professional career and life as a whole.

The most significant takeaways for Dr. Bourgault included the development of her personal “why” as Jones Fellow – that is, to help students of all backgrounds get hired to well-paying, rewarding STEM careers, and to help change society’s stereotypical view of what a scientist looks like. Another significant realization was learning to prioritize the most important things in life so as not to get overwhelmed by all the less important things. Finally, Dr. Bourgault was matched with a mentor and two colleagues, with whom she developed an instant connection and plans to meet with regularly.

Dr. Bourgault highly recommends any COST faculty member willing to embrace change, personal reflection, and DEIJ to participate in the PKAL SLI in the future. 



Friday, May 6, 2022

Bloomsburg University Student to Graduate College and High School Weeks Apart

As Bloomsburg University seniors anxiously await their chance to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas on Sunday, May 15, Max Norfolk, from Danville, a computer science major, is in a unique situation. This spring, Norfolk will graduate from Bloomsburg University and Danville High School, just weeks apart. 

Norfolk started college before he had finished middle school. He enrolled in the Advanced College Experience (ACE) program at BU while in 8th grade in 2017. "Starting college so early was a little weird at first," said Norfolk. "But it wasn't too hard to balance all my classes. During the day, I go to campus and attend classes like a normal college student. The only difference is that at night I still have my high school classes to finish online." 

The most challenging part of the program, according to Norfolk, was scheduling. "In the list of who gets to pick their classes, those of us in the ACE program are at the very bottom," said Norfolk, "It was easier to enroll in my upper-level classes than the lower-level ones." 

"I wasn't apprehensive about this when I first started at BU because I didn't even know that graduating from both college and high school at the same time was even an option. But, when I needed to eventually take English 101, I couldn't get into it," said Norfolk. "I had to speak to the computer science department chair, who spoke to the English department chair to get special permission to take the class over the summer." 

Norfolk's favorite class during his undergraduate career was compiler construction. "This class may officially be a class, but it is not typically offered. I was able to take it as an independent study with Dr. William Calhoun," said Norfolk. Compilers simply explained, take computer code, and tell the computer how to use it. 

Dr. Calhoun spoke highly of Norfolk's work they did together. "He created his own computer language during his individualized instruction called "Jazz," which is a variant of Java, and created a compiler for it," explained Calhoun. "He is a very intelligent young man and did excellent work." 

"I worked with Dr. Calhoun on research before taking this class," said Norfolk. "It was a lot of fun. Our class gave me a lot of freedom to go off on tangents from what we were originally learning to explore things that were interesting to me." 

During his previous semester's research with Dr. Calhoun, Norfolk was able to publish his work on the cost of a positive integer in the Rose-Hulman Undergraduate Mathematics Journal. He also spoke about the project at a Mathematical Association of America section meeting. 

"The most difficult class I had to take was probably the software engineering capstone," said Norfolk. For his capstone, Norfolk worked with a small group to develop a location-based texting app for Android devices. "It was simply a lot of work. It took about 15 hours a week to program the app with my group." 

"The application allows individuals to communicate via anonymous texts within a geographical boundary," explained Dr. Curt Jones, Max's professor for the software engineering capstone. "For example, parents at a sporting event or students at a Model UN event could communicate without providing personal data. Max ensured that his team completed an outstanding project by working together as a unit with everyone contributing." 

Norfolk is not the only member of his family to participate in the ACE program. His older brother, Zachary, participated in the program, graduating from BU just one year after graduating from high school. His younger sister, Alexis, has just started the program while dually enrolled in 7th grade. His other brother, Jack, is currently taking some of his general education requirements through the program while also enrolled as a high school freshman. 

After graduating, Norfolk plans to further his academic career in a Ph.D. program. He has been accepted into a program at Penn State to study compilers and continue his research as a research assistant. "I would love to do research in the technology industry to see the practical applications of what I work on." 

Norfolk doesn't think that he has missed out on having a normal college experience by completing his undergraduate career early. "I don't think that anyone has had a 'normal college experience' because of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Norfolk. "I knew that I wanted to get a higher degree, and getting a jump start on my education made sense." 

As he reflects on his time with the ACE program, Norfolk says it has been a rewarding experience. "All of my professors and classes have been great. All my professors have been very nice and genuine people who were helpful to me during my time here." 

Norfolk's hard work over the past five years has not gone unnoticed. Dr. Drue Coles, the professor for COMPSCI 386, Operating Systems, reflected on how Norfolk chose to complete an extra credit project with independent research on advanced elements of computer programming despite high grades in the course. "The overall result was an elaborate exercise in creativity that went far beyond the requirements of the maximum extra credit possible. Max could be forgiven for coasting through his final weeks as an undergraduate, but instead, he is keeping a heavy foot on the gas." 


TALE Outstanding Teaching Award Winners

From left to right: Dr. Christian Grandzol, Dr. Kerrie DeVries, and Dr. Scott Inch

DeVries is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology; Christian Grandzol, is a professor in the Department of Management and International Business; and Inch is a professor in the Department of Mathematical and Digital Sciences. The faculty were nominated by graduating seniors from the class of 2021-22 and selected by TALE's Outstanding Teaching Award Committee. Three Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania faculty members, Kerrie DeVries, Christian Grandzol, and Scott Inch were named the University's 2021-22 Outstanding Teaching Award recipients by the Teaching and Learning Enhancement (TALE) Center.

"Congratulations to this year's TALE Outstanding Teacher Award recipients," said Bloomsburg University president Bashar Hanna. "I am grateful to Kerrie DeVries, Christian Grandzol, and Scott Inch and all our outstanding faculty members who go above and beyond in support of our students and their success."

Dr. Kerrie DeVries creates an inclusive learning environment for students. She is fearless, inspiring, and uplifting. One nominee writes, ”Dr. DeVries dives into one of the toughest issues in the nation today [racism]…with grace, understanding, and pragmatism. She encourages tough but eye-opening conversations.” Her teaching methods compel students to explore their world and discover how they can make a difference. She is applauded for her ability to “relate, analyze, and execute very challenging curriculum” with composure and humility. Dr. DeVries’ courses explore race from a psychological perspective and the role of both cultural and social psychology in group and identity formation. Her research examines psychological factors leading to college retention for diverse student populations.

Dr. Christian Grandzol receives high praise for the job-ready skills that he teaches through class discussions and assignments. Students value the high levels of preparation that Dr. Grandzol puts into his course content which he makes timely and relevant. He is selflessly dedicated to student learning and success. Of special note is Dr. Grandzol’s use of team projects that replicates real-world business practices. Adjectives to describe Dr. Grandzol are “knowledgeable,” “brilliant,” “caring,” “amazing,” and “engaging.” Dr. Grandzol’s scholarly work integrates with his teaching in a variety of ways including the development of Harvard Style case studies on a variety of supply chain management topics and innovative pedagogy. Dr. Grandzol also received the Outstanding Teaching Award in 2011.

Dr. Scott Inch earns accolades for the real-world examples that he brings into the classroom. One student described his digital forensics course as the most challenging, and “exemplary [because] it provided a fantastic benchmark for what I -- as a student -- am capable of in my major.” His teaching creates a space for students to be uniquely “clever and inquisitive.” Always caring and approachable, Dr. Inch facilitates students in their career pursuits. The digital forensics curriculum taught by Dr. Inch includes file systems, traditional hard disk forensics, mobile devices, and Ediscovery. His renown expertise is brought to bear on criminal and civil investigations in the shape of expert reports, depositions, and court testimony.

All recipients will be acknowledged at commencement and be awarded a plaque by the Provost Diana Rogers-Adkinson at a future date. In addition, recipients are awarded a professional development stipend through the BU Foundation.

The 2021-22 Outstanding Teaching Award Committee is comprised of Victoria Geyfman, finance; Michael Hickey, history; Denise Davidson, teaching and learning; David Fazzino, anthropology; Abby Hare-Harris, biological and allied health sciences; and committee chair, L.M. Stallbaumer-Beishline, TALE Director.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

COST Research Day 2022 Award Winners

 

COST Research Day 2022, held on Friday, April 29, provided an opportunity for COST students to present the results of their work with faculty mentors and other collaborators.  Professor Emerita and undergraduate research mentor extraordinaire, Dr. Cindy Venn, kicked off Research Day with a keynote address that shared her journey as a researcher and teacher.  The keynote was followed by 46 student poster presentations on topics ranging from hybrid stars to honeybees!  Fourteen Bloomsburg University alumni and friends returned to campus to help judge presentations and celebrate students’ achievements. 

There was a tie for top prize (highest overall scores) and both winners were from Biological and Allied Health Sciences.  Katelyn Kelchner (faculty advisor: Abby Hare-Harris) won for PEX-DETEX Analysis of Splice Donor Variation Indicates an Enrichment of Poison Exons in Individuals with Developmental Brain Disorders and Mitchell Liddick (faculty advisor: Steven Rier) won for Exploring the Impact of Polyester Microfiber Contaminants on the Structure and function of Stream Biofilms

In Biological and Allied Health Sciences, the undergraduate first prize winner was Haley Fiske (faculty advisor: Abby Hare-Harris) for Identification of Poison Exons in Genes Associated with Improved Athletic Performance, and the honorable mention was awarded to Nathan Slotnik (faculty advisor: Kate Beishline) for BORIS Expression in HCT116 Cells.

Among Biological and Allied Health Sciences graduate students, the first prize winner was Oriana Balascio (faculty advisor: Kate Beishline) for Characterizing BORIS Dynamics at Telomeres in a Colon Cancer Cell Model, and the honorable mention was awarded to Braeden Gonzales (faculty advisor: Steven Rier) for Microbial Extracellular Enzymes as Indicators of Riparian and Upstream Forest Cover in Headwater Streams.

In Chemistry and Biochemistry, the first prize winner was Helena Eby (faculty advisors: Ellen Kehres and Michael Borland) for Evaluating the Anti-Proliferative Effects of a PPAR╬▓/╬┤ Ligand Isosteric Selenium Replacement in a Human Melanoma Cell Line with honorable mention recognition for Elizabeth Decoteau (faculty advisor: Matthew Polinski) for New Families of Lanthanide Perrhenate Complexes.

In Environmental, Geographical, and Geological Sciences, first prize went to Lindsey Kerstetter (faculty advisor: Rebecca Bourgault) for Assessing the Cerium Anomaly as a Hydropedologic Tracer in a Forested Northeastern Catchment with honorable mention recognition to Stephen Tapsak and Hannah Jorgenson (faculty advisor: Jennifer Whisner) for Geochemical Analysis of an Acid Mine Drainage Remediation Site Near Ranshaw, PA.

In Mathematics and Digital Sciences, first prize was awarded to Andrew Clickard (faculty advisor: Chris Lynd) for Synthetic Geometry in Hyperbolic Simplices.

In Physics, Health Physics, and Electrical Engineering, first prize was awarded to Aaron Rudolph (faculty advisor: Peter Stine) for Exomoon Detection Using Transit Method, and Honorable Mentions were awarded to John Siebert (faculty advisor: Peter Stine) for Amplitudes and Frequency Correlations of Hybrid Star Candidates and Zach Whisner (faculty advisor: John Huckans) for Design and Construction of an ECDL to Create Rubidium-87 Rydberg.

The Audience Favorite award went to Abigail Lecker of Biological and Allied Health Sciences (faculty advisor: Abby Hare-Harris) for Evaluation of the Effectiveness of a Genetic Variant Curation Assignment.

The COST Research Day Committee gratefully acknowledges support from the faculty of Andruss Library, friends and alumni of the College of Science and Technology, the COST Dean’s Office, the BU Foundation, BU Alumni and Professional Engagement, and a BU Group Experience Grant.

 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Mansfield University junior earns NASA-funded research scholarship and second summer internship

Junior Lauren Griffith, a Mansfield University cell & molecular biology major, received a $4,000 research scholarship from the NASA Pennsylvania State Grant Consortium.

Griffith's funded proposal focuses on the link between the gut microbiome and cancer development and spread. Griffith, a native of Upper Marlboro, Md., was also awarded a Summer 2022 internship through the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Short-Term Research Experience Program to Unlock Potential (STEP-UP) program.

Prior to these awards, Griffith earned a Summer 2021 internship through Cornell University's Microbial Friends and Foes Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Through this 10-week hybrid virtual/in-person internship, Griffith developed a research project evaluating a specific type of large gastrointestinal bacterium, in which she analyzed the genome and differential gene expression across different morphotypes. The internship concluded with a poster and oral presentation on her work.

In addition to learning about genomics and bioinformatics, part of this internship experience included career exploration. Griffith explains, "During the last week of my internship, we met with different career-related panels. PhD candidates talked with us about their upcoming career choices, and from those discussions I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD in a Biology-related field."

Griffith joined the research laboratory of Dr. Kristen Long, associate professor of biology, in Fall 2021 and developed a research proposal investigating the link between the gut microbiome and tumor development and spread, using pancreatic cancer as a model of disease. The proposal was used when applying for the NASA Pennsylvania State Grant Consortium Scholarship. Griffith's awarded funding will support her research during the 2022-23 academic year. Part of the scholarship requirement involves community outreach, where Griffith will continue her role as an American Cancer Society's ResearcHERs ambassador.

This summer, Griffith will complete her STEP-UP internship at the University of Maryland and will work in a cell and microenvironment engineering laboratory focused on advancing scientific knowledge on how to approach therapeutic strategies for diseases.

"This summer I look to gain more insight into the biomedical side of science," said Griffith. "In addition, I hope to bring the skills and knowledge I acquire through this experience and apply them to my NASA-funded research project on pancreatic cancer. I'm super excited about these upcoming opportunities!"

Griffith looks to tie together information from all three of her experiences to address the question: How does diet influence the gut microbiome, and in turn, influence disease development and/or resistance therapy? "These experiences will not only help researchers understand this link at a scientific level, but they will allow me to continue to explore my creative and problem-solving side while also preparing me for graduate school," Griffith continued. "Every aspect of these unique opportunities encompasses what I want to accomplish through a career as scientist."

NASA Pennsylvania State Grant Consortium Scholarships are awarded to rising juniors and seniors attending an accredited Pennsylvania college or university and are enrolled in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics program. Scholarship recipients agree to participate in multiple education outreach and mentoring activities throughout the award cycle.

Dr. Long's research laboratory at Mansfield University focuses on the physical and immunological aspects of pancreatic cancer and how both contribute to tumor development and resistance to standard cancer therapies.

Shaelyn Marx '22, Brittney Atkins '21, Caitlin Beauduy '21, Catherine Troutman '20, and Adrianna Vaskas '19 each received a NASA research scholarship under Long's advisement and are currently pursing advanced degrees in graduate programs or working in the biomedical sciences industry.

For more information about the biology program at Mansfield University or to learn more on this and other active research projects in Dr. Long's laboratory, visit Mansfield Biology


Monday, April 4, 2022

LHU Biology Department to host the 53rd annual Commonwealth Biology Conference

The Lock Haven University Biology Department will host the 53rd annual Commonwealth of Pennsylvania University Biologists (CPUB) Conference. The event will be held virtually on Zoom and will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 9.

WHAT: Commonwealth Biology Conference

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 9

WHERE: Virtual, Zoom

WHO: Heather Bechtold, hab206@lockhaven.edu or Jenny Bandura, jlb915@lockhaven.edu

 

Speakers will include Dr. Bashar Hanna, LHU interim president; Greg Turner, wildlife biologist with the PA Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management; Dr. Brent Sewall, associate professor in the Department of Biology at Temple University; Dr. Matthew Foradori, professor and director of medical technology and nuclear medicine technology at Edinboro University and CPUB interim president.

Conference hosts will be Drs. Jenny Bandura and Heather Bechtold, LHU biology faculty.

Greg Turner, keynote speaker, is a wildlife biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management and works with diseases affecting bat populations including white-nose syndrome and COVID. He is interested in conservation and management of wildlife.

Dr. Brent Sewall, keynote speaker, is an associate professor in the Department of Biology at Temple University. The goal of his research is to understand and address critical and emerging threats to biodiversity and to develop effective strategies for conservation. Ongoing work focuses on understanding threats to North American hibernating bats caused by the emerging infectious disease known as white-nose syndrome; identifying and addressing critical threats to tropical and temperate biodiversity; and understanding factors underpinning the resilience of ecological communities.

Dr. Matthew Foradori is a professor and director of medical technology and nuclear medicine technology at Edinboro University and serves as the CPUB interim president for 2022.

Dr. Jennifer Bandura is a cancer biologist in the Biology Department at LHU. She has been a co-director of the Lock Haven CPUB chapter since 2019.

Dr. Heather Bechtold is a biology professor at LHU and ecosystem ecologist that studies both aquatic and terrestrial systems. She has served as director of CPUB for the LHU chapter since 2014.

The CPUB meeting will be held in a virtual format using Zoom webinars and is free and open to the public. To register, visit CPUB Conference 2022 (lockhaven.edu).

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania University Biologists (CPUB) was founded in 1973 as an organization to provide support for the teaching and research activities of faculty in the biological sciences from the fourteen state-owned universities in the State System of Higher Education (SSHE). Its activities have included scientific meetings, symposia and institutes for the enhancement of the professional development of its members and associates. It also provides a forum for graduate and undergraduate students for the presentation of their research.