Category Archives: Faculty

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

LimeBike launches at ECU

One hundred LimeBikes will be deployed on ECU’s campus on Monday, March 12. Anyone can unlock and use the bikes using the LimeBike app. (Contributed photos)

One hundred LimeBikes will be deployed on ECU’s campus on Monday, March 12. Anyone can unlock and use the bikes using the LimeBike app. (Contributed photos)

Beginning Monday, March 12, 100 LimeBikes will be deployed on East Carolina University’s main campus, offering students, faculty and staff, and visitors a simple way to find and use a bicycle.

LimeBike is a bike sharing company based in California and currently operates in more than two dozen cities and several university campuses including N.C. State and UNC Greensboro. Each bike is equipped with GPS, wireless technology and self-activating locks, freeing them from the confines of designated docking areas.

“The dock-free network makes it easier for ECU students and faculty to explore the campus on two wheels,” said LimeBike public relations coordinator Emma Green.

There is no cost to ECU for the service; users access the bikes and pay using LimeBike’s iOS or Android smartphone application. The cost for students and others with an ECU email address is 50 cents per half-hour.

Dan Hemme, LimeBike’s operations manager for Greenville, said he anticipates deploying additional bikes as needed and expanding to include the health sciences campus. The City of Greenville is also working on an agreement to deploy the bikes citywide.

For students, faculty and staff with an ECU email address, the cost is 50 cents per half hour.

For students, faculty and staff with an ECU email address, the cost is 50 cents per half hour.

Users are encouraged to wear helmets, obey traffic rules and safe bicycle operation, and to park the bikes in or near existing bike racks, not on sidewalks or lawn areas. ECU currently has bike rack capacity for 1,780 bicycles in 72 designated bike rack areas, according to Joshua Rossnagel, external operation supervisor for ECU Parking and Transportation.

“One of the projects we are working on is having daily occupancy reports of the bike racks so that we can get accurate data on where additional racks may be needed,” he said. “LimeBike also has strong data metrics that will allow us to find trends in the ridership on campus.”

LimeBike representatives will be manning tables on campus during the launch to answer questions and distribute LimeBike information and swag, including helmets. To celebrate the launch, riders can use the promotional code “LIMEATECU” to receive $1 off their first two rides.

“Bringing LimeBike to ECU will help reduce bicycle congestion on campus while providing alternative transportation methods that will reduce our carbon footprint,” Rossnagel said. “LimeBike will allow faculty, staff, students and guests the opportunity to travel throughout campus without moving their vehicle from their original parking destination.”

For more information visit limebike.com.

 

-by Jules Norwood, ECU News Services

Bus tour focuses on research

East Carolina University faculty and staff returned home March 6 after traveling more than 400 miles across 14 North Carolina counties as part of the inaugural Purple and Golden Bus Tour.

The tour, hosted by the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, took 42 participants to 13 stops over two days.

oParticipants of East Carolina University’s Purple and Golden Bus Tour visited 14 North Carolina counties over two days, including stops at the Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Elizabeth City State University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute.

Participants of East Carolina University’s Purple and Golden Bus Tour visited 14 North Carolina counties over two days, including stops at the Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Elizabeth City State University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute. (Photos by Paige Middleton/REDE Visual Arts Specialist)

“The tour was designed to introduce ECU faculty with identified research plans to the culture, geography, heritage, economy and assets of eastern North Carolina,” said Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement. “This program is designed to encourage partnerships and research that can have long-

term benefits for the people and communities of eastern North Carolina. Already, the faculty participants have started to create new projects and collaborations – and we expect that will continue.”

The tour ties into ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative by creating connections between researchers and regional partners that can affect health, economic development and health disparities in eastern North Carolina. Additionally, participants met with five university-wide research cluster co-directors who were members of the tour.

Mike Lubbock (center), executive director of the Sylvan Heights Bird Park, shares research opportunities with ECU faculty members.

Mike Lubbock (center), executive director of the Sylvan Heights Bird Park, shares research opportunities with ECU faculty members.

Faculty members connected with experts and representatives from various agencies, including Sylvan Heights Bird Park, the Roanoke Cashie River Center, Elizabeth City State University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute. Participants also interacted with town officials from Bethel, Princeville, Windsor and Kinston during the tour.

First-day tour stops included the CHE Community Food Hub in Bethel; a windshield tour of Edgecombe, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, Chowan, Perquimans and Pasquotank counties; the Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck; the Roanoke Cashie River Center in Windsor; Elizabeth City State University; and the ECU School of Dental Medicine’s Elizabeth City Community Service Learning Center. Second-day tour stops included the UNC Coastal Studies Institute; the Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge; the Kinston Arts District; and windshield tours of Beaufort, Craven and Lenoir counties.

Tour impact

ECU professor and Theatre for Youth/Theatre Education Coordinator Patricia Clark said the tour provided “valuable connections” that will help her align her research with areas of need in eastern North Carolina.

oECU faculty members visited the Coalition for Healthier Eating Food Hub in Bethel, N.C., as part of the Purple and Golden Bus Tour. The CHE Food Hub is a nonprofit organization that works to connect local, sustainable growers with consumers.

ECU faculty members visited the Coalition for Healthier Eating Food Hub in Bethel, N.C., as part of the Purple and Golden Bus Tour. The CHE Food Hub is a nonprofit organization that works to connect local, sustainable growers with consumers.

“I had the opportunity to discuss STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education ideas for K-2 learning, including incorporating theatre and creative dramatics techniques to teach science,” Clark said.  “This idea developed over a lunch conversation at Lake Mattamuskeet with Hyde and Tyrrell County Extension Director Natalie Wayne. She expressed a need for students to have hands-on science education activities.

“We also talked about offering teacher development programs during the regular school year,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how other researchers and myself might work together to combine theatre arts and the sciences in early learning.”

Dan Dickerson, associate professor and STEAM cluster co-director, said the trip provided an opportunity to shape the goals of the research cluster he oversees.

“The bus tour certainly helped me continue to broaden my network throughout the east by providing an opportunity to listen to, speak with and problem solve with locals who are actively pursuing sustained rural prosperity for their communities,” Dickerson said. “I also learned a lot during conversations from my ECU colleagues while on the bus. Shawn Moore, STEM Center Director and STEAM cluster co-director, and I were able to gather significant input regarding cluster direction and opportunities and are appreciative of their insights.”

REDE plans to host additional bus tours, providing future opportunities for unique collaborations between researchers.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

ECU honored as a breastfeeding friendly workplace

East Carolina University has been recognized as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace by the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition, a nonprofit that protects and promotes breastfeeding.

ECU was recognized for providing space for breastfeeding and time for working mothers to continue their lactation needs after returning to work. Kelli Russell is a teaching instructor in ECU’s Department of Health Education and Promotion and co-chair of the Women and Gender Advancement Council’s lactation committee. She said ECU has a total of nine lactation rooms on main campus and health sciences campus for nursing mothers.

View of the lactation room in Ross Hall (Contributed photo)

View of the lactation room in Ross Hall (Contributed photo)

“The private rooms give students, faculty, staff and campus visitors a safe, clean place to breastfeed or pump,” said Russell.

In addition to privacy, the spacious rooms include comfortable seating, outlets, towels and other items nursing mothers may need. Some of the rooms also include sinks and cold storage.

“Awareness is key,” Russell said. “Our website lists where the rooms are located and how to access the rooms.”

To receive the Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace award, a location must meet strict guidelines and have accommodations in place to support breastfeeding mothers as employees.

Last summer ECU also received recognition for participating in World Breastfeeding Week sponsored by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.

Research clusters share goals

Directors of East Carolina University’s university-wide research clusters shared their goals and expected outcomes Feb. 21 at Eastern AHEC.

The research groups are intended to enlist faculty and researchers from across the university to work on common interest areas.

Representatives from all seven clusters met to share their short and long-term goals with each other and associate deans of research. The meeting allowed directors to pinpoint research areas each cluster was interested in pursuing, while combining resources with other groups.

Dr. Brandon Morrison, director of strategic initiatives for the division of research, economic development and engagement, said the unique challenges eastern North Carolina faces require an innovative problem-solving approach.

“Innovation seldom originates from isolation,” Morrison said. “By bringing together a network of faculty and researchers with diverse backgrounds and interests, this meeting was the first step in fostering collaboration across clusters and academic disciplines, with the goal of catalyzing joint research projects in the future.”

Cluster goals

Big data and analytics cluster directors Leonard Annetta and Huigang Liang said their near-term priorities included research into bioproducts and bioenergy, health sciences, machine learning and innovative visualization. The cluster intends to house and analyze data that supports rural-based companies in conjunction with ECU’s recently announced partnership with analytics leader SAS.

Burrell Montz and Alex Manda, directors of the energy and natural resources cluster, are focusing their research priorities on biogas and off-shore energy, including wave and wind-powered energy. Faculty will also investigate water quality in eastern North Carolina, surface and groundwater management, wastewater management and storm water management.

ECU’s health behavior cluster will align its goals with human health behaviors and how those behaviors create patterns that can be used to influence patients’ health decisions. Directors Sam Sears and Kim Larson said that their near-term focus is on adolescent risk behaviors, especially those that affect sexual risk, mental health and physical activity.

Reide Corbett (right) works with J.P. Walsh on a project at the Coastal Studies Institute. Corbett, one of two directors of East Carolina University’s marine and coastal research cluster, introduced the cluster’s goals to other directors at a presentation meeting on Feb. 21.

Reide Corbett (right) works with J.P. Walsh on a project at the Coastal Studies Institute. Corbett, one of two directors of East Carolina University’s marine and coastal research cluster, introduced the cluster’s goals to other directors at a presentation meeting on Feb. 21. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Marine and coastal cluster directors Reide Corbett and David Griffith believe their initial work will be placed in three broad areas – continental margin resources including non-renewable and renewable energy, cultural resources and biological resources; natural hazards including storms, saltwater intrusion and human vulnerability; and marine and coastal health including environmental and human health, health disparities and toxicology.

Mark Mannie, co-director of the human health and disease cluster along with Espen Spangenburg, said his group would focus on increasing understanding of acute and chronic disease in the region, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancers that affect rural residents. Long-term priorities include educating health care workers and patients about these diseases along with new therapies and treatments.

The precision medicine cluster, which focuses on tailoring medical treatment to individual patients, is led by Keith Kenne and David Collier. The group plans to determine how health care professionals can classify individuals into subgroups while providing optimal treatment options based on a patient’s susceptibility to a particular disease and their response to treatments.

STEAM directors Shawn Moore and Daniel Dickerson rounded out the presentations, offering three main areas of interest for their cluster. The group will focus their research efforts on teacher preparation and enhancement, college workforce readiness and public understanding of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) content. They plan to accomplish this by creating educational materials, using and introducing others to research-based innovative technologies and tools, and offering faculty engagement outreach opportunities.

The directors said that forming interdisciplinary relationships with faculty members whose research interests align with their goals is a top priority. Faculty members are encouraged to reach out to cluster co-directors for more information.

Last fall, ECU launched seven research clusters, with an eighth planned later this year. Research clusters are part of a formal university strategy to connect interdisciplinary faculty and researchers who might not have met through traditional means. With the clusters, faculty from across ECU can establish partnerships and combine their talents to advance Chancellor Cecil Staton’s Rural Prosperity Initiative and address pressing health, education and economic disparities.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

Dowdy Student Store to host Grad Expo

Dowdy Student Store will host a Grad Expo for May 2018 graduates from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 and 21 and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Feb. 22 at the student store in the Wright Building on campus.

Graduating seniors can pick up caps and gowns; register for graduation; and order class rings, custom invitations, announcements and thank-you notes. Jostens, the official provider of class rings for ECU, will have samples of class rings, and representatives can help with finger sizing and original designs.

The Alumni Association, Pirate Club, Rec Center, Career Services, Registrar, The Buccaneer, College of Education Office of Alternative Licensure, Custom Stoles and University Frames will be on hand with offers and information.

Jostens has donated three $100 Dowdy Student Store gift cards that will be given away in a drawing. A diploma frame donated by University Frames also will be given away in the drawing. All May 2018 graduates are invited to enter; no purchase is necessary.

Representatives from Oak Hall custom regalia will be at Dowdy during the Expo for faculty members who wish to purchase their own gowns. They will have samples of regalia and can take measurements. A 10 percent discount will be given on all orders placed during this visit.

Graduating seniors unable to attend the Expo can visit Dowdy Student Stores after Feb. 22 to pick up their caps and gowns.

For more information about the Expo, call 252-328-6731 or visit www.studentstores.ecu.edu.

ECU faculty introduced to research cluster

Fourteen East Carolina University faculty members were introduced to the Health Behavior pan-university research cluster Feb.8, offering opportunities for research collaborations to address health behaviors in the region.

In the fall of 2017, ECU launched seven pan-university research clusters, with an eighth planned for launch in 2018. Research clusters are part of a formal university strategy to connect interdisciplinary faculty and researchers who might not have connected through traditional means. With the clusters, faculty from across ECU can harness their partnerships and talent to advance Chancellor Cecil Staton’s Rural Prosperity Initiative and address pressing human health, education and economic disparities in our region and around the globe.

The Health Behavior cluster is co-directed by Dr. Sam Sears, professor of psychology and cardiovascular sciences, and Dr. Kim Larson, associate professor of nursing science.

This cluster aims to improve the health of those residing in rural regions in North Carolina by fostering direction and collaboration of scientists at ECU to combat negative health behaviors. These behaviors including smoking and lack of physical activity, as well as factors that lead to depression and stress. Members of rural communities are more likely to die of heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke and unintentional injury than those living in urban regions.

“The identification and treatment of health behaviors in rural eastern North Carolina is a perfect arena for ECU to showcase the power of interdisciplinary research,” Sears said. “The challenge we have as a university is that we need to define the targets and the talent to solve these problems – that is what we are accomplishing today.”

Dr. Jeannine Golden (left), associate professor of psychology at East Carolina University, leads a small group in analyzing adolescent physical activity behaviors at the Health Behavior Research Cluster meeting Thursday. The meeting introduced the cluster –one of seven current pan-university research clusters at ECU – to faculty members.

Dr. Jeannine Golden (left), associate professor of psychology at East Carolina University, leads a small group in analyzing adolescent physical activity behaviors at the Health Behavior Research Cluster meeting Thursday. The meeting introduced the cluster –one of seven current pan-university research clusters at ECU – to faculty members. (contributed photo)

The research clusters are the vision of Vice Chancellor Jay Golden and are being supported by the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement.  “Our division is working closely with the cluster co-directors and associate deans of research from all of our colleges and schools to ensure the faculty and student researchers in the clusters have all the tools and institutional support they need to be successful moving forward,” Golden said.

“I hope that our participants today recognize the mobilization of ECU’s support for helping our faculty to address these health behavior challenges through research and community engagement — it is a tremendous opportunity for ECU,” Sears said.

The cluster’s first objective focuses on affecting the health behavior of children by designing community intervention trails targeting birth-kindergarten and school-age populations. These interventions will address mental, heart and behavioral health. Faculty members broke into small groups at the meeting and discussed possible strategies to impact sexual behavior – with a focus on teenage pregnancy – and how to increase the physical activity levels of children.

Sears and Larson believe that through these small groups, faculty members will be able to connect with other ECU faculty members that have an interest in affecting health behaviors, growing the cluster and raising its impact and national prominence.

Dr. Christine M. Kowalczyk, assistant professor of marketing and supply chain management, said she was encouraged by the variety of ideas, experiences and resources that were shared at the event.

“I’ve done related research in the health behaviors field, and it felt like the research clusters provide an opportunity to increase the impact of my research – it’s a natural fit,” Kowalczyk said. “We don’t really cross over to the health sciences campus very much, so having the opportunity to meet potential collaborators and see how your research as part of a larger collaborative effort could make a difference was important.

“Now I have the opportunity to go back to my own department and share my experience today and try to connect other faculty members. We’re able to share these opportunities with colleagues now and encourage them to get involved in the cluster.”

Along with the Health Behavior Research Cluster, ECU has launched research clusters for Big Data and Analytics, Energy and Natural Resources, Marine and Coastal Systems, Human Health and Disease, Precision Health, and STEAM Education. The university will launch its Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Research Cluster prior to the fall of 2018.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications 

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