Category Archives: Faculty

Dean, student switch roles in Harriot College

One East Carolina University student recently had the opportunity to serve as “Dean for a Day” in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences.

Dana Shefet, an EC Scholar and Honors College freshman seeking dual degrees in mathematics and public health studies, entered and won a contest to fill in for Dean William M. Downs on April 11.

Dana Shefet begins her “Dean for a Day” experience at the dean’s desk in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences on April 11.

Dana Shefet begins her “Dean for a Day” experience at the dean’s desk in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences on April 11. (Contributed photos)

“At ECU, we are committed to shaping tomorrow’s leaders. We designed our ‘Dean for a Day’ initiative to give one talented arts and sciences student some firsthand experience with university administration,” said Downs. “Just as important for me was the chance to switch places with Dana, to walk in a student’s shoes for the day and to listen to students’ ideas for improving their educational experience. As the day turned out, it was an invaluable experience for both of us to learn about life on the other side.”

In interviewing for the opportunity to be dean, Shefet said her goals included finding ways to make students feel like more than just a number in the college and to get them engaged outside of the classroom to prepare for their careers.

“I thought ‘Dean for a Day’ would be a great idea,” said Shefet. “I was very excited and honored that I was the inaugural participant.”

Acting as dean gave Shefet and the ability to see the leadership required in running the largest and most diverse academic college at ECU.

Shefet met with the college’s staff and advisers, associate deans, professors, students, the THCAS Dean’s Student Leadership Council and ECU’s Chair of the Faculty Dr. John Stiller and Provost Ron Mitchelson.

Dean William M. Downs hosts a luncheon for Shefet’s peers in the conference room of Bate.

Dean William M. Downs hosts a luncheon for Shefet’s peers in the conference room of Bate.

“The thing that most surprised me was how many positions within the college exist, and I think if more students knew about the structure and the different people they could turn to for help besides their adviser, they could be a lot more successful,” said Shefet.

Through her experience, Shefet said she heard multiple times how the college and faculty are here to assist the students. “They are trying to learn what is best for the students for them to succeed and thrive,” she said.

While Shefet whisked between meetings across campus, Downs’ day started by joining a group of arts and sciences students for coffee at the Wright Place Starbucks. He later hosted a luncheon for Shefet’s peers in the dean’s conference room.

“I gathered so many good suggestions, and I am eager for us to get busy implementing them,” said Downs.

That afternoon, Downs attended Shefet’s Chemistry 1160 class taught by Dr. Robert Hughes.

“I had not sat in a chemistry class as a student in some 34 years,” Downs admitted. “It was both engaging and, candidly, a bit humbling. I observed a star faculty member in action, and I gained some serious appreciation for the students around me who were mastering the principles of electrochemistry.”

One of the aspects of the day that Shefet said she enjoyed most were the connections she made with the professors who really wanted her feedback.

“I can’t wait to see the college continue this in future years,” said Shefet.

Shefet is active within the Greenville and ECU communities. She is class president of Alpha Omicron, a chapter of the Gamma Sigma Sigma international service sorority; clinic volunteer at the Greenville Community Shelter; vice president of Pirates for Israel, an advocacy organization; and vice president of East Carolina Hillel, a Jewish youth group. She is a member of the Brody School of Medicine Peer Mentor Program, Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-health professions honor society and the ECU chapter of the American Medical Students Association.

Shefet will complete her degrees in 2021 before applying to medical school. Her career goal is to go into a family medical practice serving the rural populations of North Carolina.

Downs and Shefet met at the end of the day to recap the inaugural THCAS “Dean for a Day.”

Downs and Shefet met at the end of the day to recap the inaugural THCAS “Dean for a Day.”

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

I-Corps@ECU honors entrepreneurs

I-Corps@ECU recognized the work of faculty members, students and community members at its 2018 Celebration and Information Session at the East Carolina Heart Institute on April 13.

More than 30 participants, East Carolina University representatives and community partners honored the spring semester’s 26 teams.

I-Corps@ECU is funded by the National Science Foundation. The program provides budding entrepreneurs a model to reach go or no-go decisions on their business ideas by using a lean launch method. Participants identify a customer base, interview potential customers to learn about their wants and needs and reach a decision on whether to bring a product to market based on consumer feedback, market share and profitability.

East Carolina University professor Richard Baybutt describes his product, BetaSol, during the 2018 I-Corps@ECU Celebration and Information Session at the East Carolina Heart Institute. BetaSol is an e-cigarette product that delivers vitamin A to smokers to help protect their lungs from damage. (Photo by Matt Smith)

East Carolina University professor Richard Baybutt describes his product, BetaSol, during the 2018 I-Corps@ECU Celebration and Information Session at the East Carolina Heart Institute. BetaSol is an e-cigarette product that delivers vitamin A to smokers to help protect their lungs from damage. (Photo by Matt Smith)

Three teams were highlighted at the celebration, including a team led by an ECU student, an ECU professor and local business owners. The program recognized BetaSol, a product developed by professor Richard Baybutt, which provides a dose of vitamin A to smokers to help prevent lung injury; FoodMASTER, an educational curriculum that uses food to teach math, science and nutrition skills led by professor Melanie Duffrin and graduate student Allender Lynch; and Glean, a local baking flour product created by a group of entrepreneurs from “ugly” vegetables that are rejected by retail stores.

Each team discussed their journey through I-Corps@ECU and how it helped them reach decisions for their products.

I-Corp co-director Marti Van Scott said the program is a useful tool for entrepreneurs who want to explore whether their idea has a position in the marketplace.

“I-Corps will benefit anyone; whether they’re a scientist, a writer or an artist, this program is useful,” Van Scott said. “Whether you’re researching, writing a grant or have an idea for a business, it forces you to take an in-depth look at what you’re offering to see if its beneficial to the people you’re trying to serve.

“I-Corps is a great tool to help people think through the next steps of their business idea,” she said. “Often, entrepreneurs will come up with an idea, but it’s the steps after that – interviewing potential customers, identifying pain points and determining market share – where they struggle. I-Corps helps point you in the right direction.”

Teal Darkenwald, an associate professor in the School of Theatre and Dance, said she attended the event to learn more about I-Corps@ECU. Darkenwald is the founder of Ultra Barre, a barre-based supplemental dance training method that lengthens and tones muscle.

“My background has nothing to do with entrepreneurship,” Darkenwald said. “I know that’s a deficit in my training and education, so today was a great opportunity for me to learn more about business and entrepreneurship.

“It makes sense for me to learn more about where I fit in with my business and learn how to build a team,” she said. “I could do that through I-Corps. I feel like I have the research background and I have a clear idea of who my demographic is, but I could potentially participate in I-Corps and strengthen the other half of the business through what you learn in the program.”

I-Corps@ECU begins its third session this fall. For more information about the program, http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/ott/icorps.cfm.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

Dr. Emmanuel Zervos named to Raab Professorship

Mary Raab presented Emmanuel Zervos with the Raab Professorship of Adult Oncology at a celebration Thursday. (Photos by Candace Darden)

Mary Raab presented Emmanuel Zervos with the Raab Professorship of Adult Oncology at a celebration Thursday. (Photos by Candace Darden)

After years of preparation, an endowed professorship through the East Carolina University Medical & Health Sciences Foundation was conferred on its first recipient Thursday at the East Carolina Heart Institute in Greenville.

Dr. Emmanuel Zervos was named the inaugural Raab Professor of Adult Oncology. Zervos is a surgical oncologist at the Brody School of Medicine, the vice chair of academic affairs for ECU’s Department of Surgery, and chief of surgical oncology at Vidant Medical Center. Dr. Zervos has dedicated his career to the study and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

The professorship is named for Drs. Mary and Spencer Raab, who played a pivotal role in establishing the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center and remain iconic figures in the fight against cancer for patients in eastern North Carolina. Mary Raab joined the ECU oncology department in 1977, eventually becoming the first female chief of medical staff at what is now Vidant Medical Center. Spencer Raab led the first Division of Hematology/Oncology until his death from cancer in 1993. The Raab professorship was established that same year, but was not awarded to anyone until this week.

“We’ve been waiting for the right time and this is absolutely the right time, because of Dr. Zervos,” Mary Raab said. “He truly exemplifies the individual we wanted to fulfil the professorship in many ways through his dedication to patient care, his teaching, his mentoring and his research.”

Emmanuel Zervos accepts the Raab Professorship at a celebration at the East Carolina Heart Institute Thursday. 

Emmanuel Zervos accepts the Raab Professorship at a celebration at the East Carolina Heart Institute Thursday.

Being named to a professorship is both an honor to the named holder of the appointment and also an enduring tribute to the donor who establishes it. The Raab Professorship is conferred upon a Brody School of Medicine faculty member who works closely with and has both adult clinical and research duties associated with the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center. Appointments are made by the Dean of the Brody School of Medicine in consultation with the director of the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center and the chair of the department of oncology. Professors are appointed to a five-year term with the ability to renew the professorship for one or more successive terms.

Recognizing the continued contributions of senior-level faculty as well as providing funds to push the frontiers of their scholarship are key functions of the endowed positions. The funds can propel research, extend outreach and support future faculty achievements.

Zervos said he was surprised to be named to the professorship but was “extremely humble and grateful to the Raab family.”

“It’s a singular honor for any academic,” he added.

Zervos said he has no plans on how he will use his professorship funds yet, but hopes it will help enhance the educational mission of the cancer program as well as the facilitation of patient care.

Endowed professorships are also crucial for recruiting and retaining the highest-quality faculty, Mary Raab said, thus ensuring ECU has the best minds that in turn attract the best students. It’s also a way to acknowledge the years of effort that she and Spencer Raab put in to advance cancer treatments in North Carolina.

“I hope that people will recognize my and Spencer’s contributions over the years,and I just want people to know that where we are today depends on what so many other people did in the past,” she said. “I hope it will be a reminder to everybody that the hard work paid off and we can continue to build on what we have and hopefully in the future have more professorships.”

 

-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

Study finds people with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently

A study led by researchers at East Carolina University and New York University showed that adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, even though they are at increased risk for periodontal disease.

The study, published by The Journal of the American Dental Association, used data from 2004 to 2014 that showed an overall decline in dental visits among adults with and without diabetes. People with diabetes were consistently the least likely to obtain oral health care.

Dr. Huabin Luo worked with researchers at ECU and NYU on a study that revealed a concerning trend in dental care among people with diabetes. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Dr. Huabin Luo worked with researchers at ECU and NYU on a study that revealed a concerning trend in dental care among people with diabetes. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

“The pattern is concerning, given that dental care is essential for good oral health,” said Dr. Huabin Luo of ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. “Those who need dental care the most seem to be the least likely to have it.”

In addition to Luo, the study’s authors include Brody’s Dr. Ronny Bell, Dr. Wanda Wright of the ECU School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Qiang Wu of the ECU Department of Biostatistics, and Dr. Bei Wu of the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

Research has shown a two-way relationship between diabetes and oral health. People with diabetes are at an increased risk for periodontal disease, a chronic inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue and bone, which has an adverse effect on blood glucose control.

Dr. Huabin Luo is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health in ECU’s Brody School of Medicine.

Dr. Huabin Luo is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health in ECU’s Brody School of Medicine.

“For people living with diabetes, regular dental checkups – supplemented with proactive dental and diabetes self-care – are important for maintaining good oral health,” Luo said. “Regular dental visits provide opportunities for prevention, early detection and treatment of periodontal disease, which can potentially help with blood glucose control and preventing complications of diabetes.”

ECU’s School of Dental Medicine and its eight Community Service Learning Centers are actively engaged in the screening, counseling and referral of patients with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, said Dr. David Paquette of the School of Dental Medicine. “With our clinical and educational model, we try to communicate that oral health is part of overall health and well-being of patients. Collectively, we aim to partner with other health professionals in tackling these important chronic diseases affecting our population.”

 

-Contact: Jules Norwood, ECU News Services, norwoodd15@ecu.edu, 252-328-2836

Riverbank erosion in Bangladesh

In North Carolina, coastal communities are faced with environmental change as water interacts with the land. Sea level rise and storm surges are the primary threats, but an understudied issue in Bangladesh may help provide N.C. coastal communities with a model for resiliency.

On the banks of the Meghna River, a village in Bangladesh uses a concrete block wall to protect the village from further river bank erosion. (Contributed photos.)

On the banks of the Meghna River, a village in Bangladesh uses a concrete block wall to protect the village from further river bank erosion. (Contributed photos.)

Citizens of Bangladesh live on a delta and also must contend with the power of the Meghna River, which flows in response to monsoon rainfall. While excess rains can lead to flooding in both eastern North Carolina and Bangladesh, riverbank erosion is a unique challenge for Bangladesh.

This multifaceted problem is understudied, but members of an expert panel funded by the National Science Foundation will address this issue at East Carolina University.

ECU will host “Geospatial Science, Human Geography and Atmospheric Science for Coastal Research: Understanding and Predicting Riverbank Erosion in Bangladesh,” at 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, in the Science and Technology Building, Room C-209.

Bangladesh coastal map

Bangladesh coastal map

Dr. Scott Curtis, ECU professor of atmospheric science in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment and one of the event panelists, said, “In Bangladesh, people are caught between geologic and climate drivers and local land loss, which is permanent and can be so severe that entire villages may be wiped out in a year or two.”

During the event, panelists will discuss their interdisciplinary research experiences, focusing on the potential benefits of local adaptation measures and large-scale climate prediction for enhanced resiliency at the coast.

“Our project will add to the current understandings of vulnerability, resilience and adaptation related to coastal erosion,” said Curtis.

Curtis said the average erosion rate for the area they are studying in Bangladesh is 100 meters per year. If that was translated to the Outer Banks, he said it would be underwater in fewer than 50 years.

N.C. coastal map

N.C. coastal map

“The rates of erosion are much higher in Bangladesh than North Carolina,” Curtis said, “which means that social adjustments, recoveries and resettlements occur rapidly and may be a model for our area where accelerated sea level rise is predicted to be a consequence of climate change.”

Curtis will be joined on the panel by Dr. Bimal Paul from Kansas State University; Dr. Kahled Rahman from Virginia Tech; and Dr. Tom Crawford, professor and chair of the Department of Geography at Virginia Tech and former ECU faculty member, who will lead the panel.

The event is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored by The Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment as part of the THCAS Advancement Council Distinguished Professorship in Natural Sciences and Mathematics held by Curtis.

For additional information contact Curtis at curtisw@ecu.edu.

Seen here on the banks of the Meghan River, river bank erosion encroaches on farm fields.

Seen here on the banks of the Meghan River, river bank erosion encroaches on farm fields.

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

Symposium builds connections

Nearly 80 East Carolina University faculty members filled Harvey Hall at the Murphy Center on Tuesday for the inaugural Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Engagement Symposium.

The symposium, hosted by ECU’s Economic Development and Engagement Council, brought together faculty members from across academic disciplines to showcase existing innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement opportunities offered by the university.

Matthew Nash gives a keynote address at East Carolina University’s inaugural Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Engagement Symposium on Tuesday. The symposium introduced faculty members to innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement services provided by the university. (Photos by Matt Smith)

Matthew Nash gives a keynote address at East Carolina University’s inaugural Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Engagement Symposium on Tuesday. The symposium introduced faculty members to innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement services provided by the university. (Photos by Matt Smith)

The event was highlighted by a keynote speech from Matthew Nash, managing director for social entrepreneurship at Duke University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. Faculty members also participated in roundtable discussions with leaders from ECU services including I-Corps, innovation spaces, community engagement, the Miller School of Entrepreneurship, crowd funding, the Research and Innovation Campus, the School of Dental Medicine’s community service learning centers, virtual technologies, the Center for STEM Education, the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute, and the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Engagement Living and Learning Community.

Innovation, entrepreneurship and engaged research activities are enterprises that seek to build, improve, create or affect issues in a community. These activities could include creating a new product that serves a community need, opening a new business or applying academic knowledge to community-based issues with partners from inside and outside academia.

“When you’re trying to build a foundation for conducting innovative and engaged work, you have to think about how to fit the concept of innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement into faculty members’ productivity,” said Sharon Paynter, assistant vice chancellor for community engagement and research. “Today’s event was a way to show faculty members how they can connect to offices and programs that focus on IEE activities.”

Jennifer Watson discusses crowd funding opportunities to a group of ECU faculty members at ECU’s inaugural Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Engagement Symposium.

Jennifer Watson discusses crowd funding opportunities to a group of ECU faculty members at ECU’s inaugural Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Engagement Symposium.

Paynter said that the symposium also offered faculty members a chance to learn about IEE services to bring back to their students.

Department of Interior Design and Merchandising teaching instructor Tiffany Blanchflower agreed, saying that the event gave her a chance to learn how to connect her students with local community partners.

“Community engagement is the future and we need to embrace that,” Blanchflower said. “If we’re (faculty) only doing research for academia, it’s not going to impact society or our communities. The point of research is to solve problems. By conducting engaged research and by introducing students to engaged research, we’re better preparing students for what their future is going to look like outside of the classroom.”

In his speech, Nash touched on using innovation and entrepreneurship to impact social change. He said by asking students not what they will be, but what problem they are trying to solve, it changes the mindset of how students tackle regional disparities.

“We’re looking for new and improved ways to achieve impact,” Nash said. “We can no longer just imagine what the solutions are and hope that things will work out. We have to work with communities, define their needs with their support and create solutions.”

ECU offers a variety of IEE programs for faculty and students, including the Engagement and Outreach Scholars Academy, the State Employees Credit Union Public Fellows Internship program, and the Community-University Partners Academy. For more information on innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement opportunities, visit www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/communityengagement/index.cfm.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

Greenville science teacher receives inaugural John C. Park Scholarship

A new scholarship at East Carolina University helped send an eastern North Carolina science teacher to a national conference this month.

Allie Smith, an eighth grade science teacher at C.M. Eppes Middle School in Greenville, attended the annual National Science Teachers Association National Conference on Science Education in Atlanta.

Her trip was made possible by the John C. Park Scholarship, established this year by Dr. Leonard Annetta, the College of Education’s Taft Distinguished Professor of Science Education, and the ECU Center for STEM Education.

Dr. Leonard Annetta, right, and Shawn Moore, left, present eighth-grade C.M. Eppes Middle School teacher Allie Smith with the inaugural John C. Park Scholarship on  March 8 in her classroom. (Photos by Cole Dittmer)

Dr. Leonard Annetta, right, and Shawn Moore, left, present eighth-grade C.M. Eppes Middle School teacher Allie Smith with the inaugural John C. Park Scholarship on March 8 in her classroom. (Photos by Cole Dittmer)

The scholarship, valued at up to $1,500, provides funding for science teachers from eastern North Carolina in their first five years of teaching to attend the annual national conference. Going forward, the endowment will provide an award for two science teachers (one in grades K-5 and another in grades 6-12) each year.

“I am so grateful to ECU and the scholarship donors for this chance to attend this conference,” she said. “ECU has steadily provided me with unmatched opportunities while I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and they continue to do so now in my second year of teaching.”

John C. Park Scholarship recipient Allie Smith at the 2018 NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Atlanta.

John C. Park Scholarship recipient Allie Smith at the 2018 NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Atlanta.

Smith received her bachelor of science in middle grades education and her master of arts in education for middle grades from ECU with concentrations in math and science education.

The scholarship is named for John C. Park, who spent 25 years as a professor of science education at North Carolina State University where he had an influence on several members of ECU’s science education faculty.

“A leader by example, John dedicated his life to his family, his church, and to education,” Annetta said. “He created innovative ways of instilling others with the curiosity and desire to learn and positively impact the world around them.”

Annetta presented Smith with the inaugural scholarship on March 8 in her classroom. He shared a letter from Park’s wife, Lory Park, about what attending professional development conferences meant to her husband’s career.

The annual John C. Park Scholarship will provide funding for two science teachers from eastern North Carolina in their first five years of teaching to attend the annual NSTA National Conference on Science Education.

The annual John C. Park Scholarship will provide funding for two science teachers from eastern North Carolina in their first five years of teaching to attend the annual NSTA National Conference on Science Education.

“He was troubled by the cost and the low attendance of new teachers,” Lory Park said. “Although he had little control over the cost of a conference, he himself made an effort to get the attendance of teachers just starting their careers higher by providing funding through whatever means possible for these teachers.”

Smith said she hopes to bring her students more exposure to science education.

“My goal for going to the NSTA conference in Atlanta is to find affordable ways to bring authentic science experiences to my students,” Smith said. “As a teacher in a Title I school, I work with a majority of students who, for a plethora of reasons, are unable to engage with science in a meaningful way outside of my classroom.”

To qualify for the scholarship, teachers must have taught less than five years at the time of the application within the Latham Clinical Schools Network and be a National Science Teacher Association member in good standing.

For more information or to apply for the scholarship, contact Annetta at annettal16@ecu.edu or 252-328-6179.

 

-by Cole Dittmer, University Communications

Dean emeritus receives medal for contributions to medical profession

Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean emeritus of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, was recently honored in New York City for his contributions to the medical profession and for his achievements in academic leadership.

Cunningham was awarded the 2018 Jacobi Medallion on March 15 from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Cunningham, who served as dean at Brody from 2008 to 2016, completed his residency in surgery at Mount Sinai. He said he was humbled to receive the award, which ties him back to the roots of a strong foundation for his career in service, responsibility and medical expertise.

Dr. Paul R. G. Cunningham, dean emeritus of the Brody School of Medicine, was awarded the 2018 Jacobi Medallion for excellence in the medical profession from Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)

Dr. Paul R. G. Cunningham, dean emeritus of the Brody School of Medicine, was awarded the 2018 Jacobi Medallion for excellence in the medical profession from Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)

“The only way I’ve assimilated this is by making the analogous connection between the story of the prodigal son, and this welcome by the vaunted institution on 5th Avenue,” he said.

While the return to New York was nostalgic for Cunningham, faculty at Mount Sinai voiced admiration for his game-changing contributions to the field of medicine and to education.

“Dr. Paul Cunningham represents the very best of our profession,” said Dr. Reena Karani, senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education and curricular affairs at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. “He dedicated his professional life to serving the most vulnerable in North Carolina and remains committed to equity and social justice in medicine.”

Karani “re-introduced” Cunningham to Mount Sinai, getting to know him in a professional setting and witnessing his encompassing knowledge and passion for medicine as well as his penchant for leadership.

“He listens carefully, acknowledges strengths, seeks a shared understanding of issues and promotes collaborative problem solving,” she said.

A surgeon by training, Cunningham was named Brody’s fifth dean in 2008. Previously an ECU trauma surgeon and educator, Cunningham as dean led the school in its devotion to producing primary care physicians for the state, increasing opportunities for underrepresented minorities in medical education and improving the health status of the citizens of eastern North Carolina. He recently completed a stint as president of the North Carolina Medical Society.

His time at ECU, he said, melded with his experience at Mount Sinai to be the best of both worlds, with much of his career achievement happening at ECU.

“Greenville and the Brody School of Medicine have commonalities with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai,” he said, “and at the same time, we are worlds apart. I am clearly a product of both environments, but the greatest demonstration of any competency that I may have had has been in this place, ‘down here.’”

The Jacobi Medallion has been awarded by the Mount Sinai Alumni since 1952 for distinguished achievement in the field of medicine or extraordinary service to the hospital, the Icahn School of Medicine or to the Alumni Association.

Cunningham was one of nine 2018 Jacobi Medallion recipients.

He expressed his appreciation to Mount Sinai, and said its faculty encouraged him to press beyond his comfort zone and his own vision for himself and his potential.

“I achieved much more than I could have imagined when I thought that I wanted to be a surgeon at age 16,” Cunningham said. “Life comes at you with different opportunities at different times, and keeping and cultivating a sense of wonder can really open up exhilarating experiences.”

 

-by Spaine Stephens, University Communications

New USDA report provides trend data analysis about U.S. biobased economy

The United States Department of Agriculture today released its first-of-its-kind report that documents indicators of the United States’ biobased economy.

The biobased economy refers to all economic activity derived from scientific and research action focused on understanding how things work at a genetic and molecular level. These activities are then applied to processes to improve products and technologies in sectors including health, energy and agriculture.

The new report – “Indicators of the U.S. Biobased Economy” – includes an analysis of trends in the biobased economy from 2011-16, including trends in agriculture, renewable chemicals, biobased products, energy and government policy.

A report released today by the United States Department of Agriculture, written by researchers at East Carolina University and NC State University, details indicators of the nation’s biobased economy. IECU Photo by Cliff Hollis)

A report released today by the United States Department of Agriculture, written by researchers at East Carolina University and NC State University, details indicators of the nation’s biobased economy. (ECU Photo by Cliff Hollis)

According to the report, the renewable chemicals and biobased product sectors contributed 4.2 million jobs to the American economy in 2014, with a value-added contribution totaling $393 billion. Under the USDA BioPreferred Program, which facilitates the development and expansion of markets for biobased products, the number of renewable chemicals and biobased products that are USDA-certified has rapidly increased from 1,800 in 2014 to 2,900 in 2016.

The report also found that the biobased economy is playing an increasingly important role in the U.S. economy. For example, it found that ethanol production in the United States surpassed 14.7 billion in 2015, accounting for 270,000 jobs. Additionally, the production of biodiesel has risen 367 percent from 2010, now accounting for 1.26 billion gallons. Soybeans, which are used in the production of biodiesel, have also seen a rise in production, more than quadrupling from 670 million pounds grown to 4.1 billion pounds from 2005-12.

Golden (ECU Photo by Rhett Butler)

Golden (ECU Photo by Rhett Butler)

Commissioned by the USDA under contract from the Office of the Chief Economist, the report is a joint publication of the Energy and Natural Resource Research Cluster at East Carolina University and the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) at the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management. It was co-authored by Jay Golden, professor in the Department of Engineering and vice chancellor of research, economic development and engagement at ECU, and Robert Handfield, Bank of America University Distinguished Professor and SCRC director at NC State University. A second volume of this report is already in development.

“I applaud the Department of Agriculture for commissioning this important work,” Golden said. “Globally, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and many countries are developing metrics to track the rapid growth being witnessed in biobased chemicals, energy and products. More than any other nation, the United States has an incredible opportunity to revitalize manufacturing via biobased products and chemicals, especially in rural regions of our country. This report will serve as a platform for policy makers and entrepreneurs to identify where we need to make investments and opportunities for new businesses.”

As part of the project, a new web-based tool that pulls together big data and analytics of the biobased economy will be hosted by ECU and will be available this spring. The tool will host visualized data for agriculture, energy and bioproduct indicators, with individual data analysis for categories in each grouping.

Hanfield (Contributed photo)

Handfield (Contributed photo)

“This is the first initiative to combine multiple indicators of the biobased economy from multiple sources into a single unified dashboard,” Handfield said. “More than ever, the United States needs to invest in biobased innovation and create metrics that span interdependent and complex value chains across a wide range of products and sectors. For the first time, public and private actors can monitor the progress towards these goals in an integrated fashion.”

Golden and Handfield previously co-authored the inaugural “Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry” report, published in 2015. That report is currently being updated for release later this year.

ECU and NC State are working together to develop a strong biobased products and renewable chemicals industrial base in eastern North Carolina. ECU, led by Chancellor Cecil Staton, has made a commitment to supporting biobased production and manufacturing through its Rural Prosperity Initiative. The initiative is an unprecedented effort by ECU to grow its research enterprise while targeting its research to have the greatest positive impact on health, education and economic outcomes in eastern North Carolina.

Janire Pascual-Gonzalez, a postdoctoral scholar in the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement at ECU, has provided technical assistance with this report.

Additional research support was provided by Duke University graduate students Ben Agsten, Taylor Brennan, Lina Khan and Emily True, in Durham.

 

-by Matt Smith, ECU University Communications, and Anna Rzewnicki, NC State

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