Category Archives: Research

Student researchers awarded Joyner Library’s Rhem/Schwarzmann Prize

Three East Carolina University students from the Department of History in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences have been awarded Joyner Library’s ninth annual Rhem/Schwarzmann Prize for student research.

Established by Ann Schwarzmann to honor William and Emily Rhem and Theodore and Ann Schwarzmann, the Rhem/Schwarzmann Prize recognizes outstanding research papers written by sophomores, juniors and seniors at ECU.

Winners pose with Joyner Library leadership. From left to right, Sarah McLusky, outreach and instruction librarian, Anna Scott Marsh, Andrew Colton Turner, Noah S. Shuler, and Jan Lewis, director. (Contributed by Joyner Library)

Winners pose with Joyner Library leadership. From left to right, Sarah McLusky, outreach and instruction librarian, Anna Scott Marsh, Andrew Colton Turner, Noah S. Shuler, and Jan Lewis, director. (Contributed by Joyner Library)

Winning the award for first place — and a $750 prize — was Andrew Colton Turner, a 2017 graduate, for “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Events: The Experiences of Common People During the Siege and Capture of Fort Macon.”

“It’s a great honor to receive an award like this and to use these resources to do the research worthy of such an award,” said Turner.

Senior Noah S. Shuler took second place and a $500 prize for “A Struggle for Growth: The Civil War and North Carolina Religiosity.”

Junior Anna Scott Marsh received a $250 prize and third place for “Life, Labor, & Lasting Legacy: James Yadkin Joyner’s Investment in North Carolina’s Educational System.”

Eligibility criteria required students to use the library’s Special Collections, which houses manuscripts, rare books, university archives and the North Carolina Collection, as a primary source for their research.

“Joyner Library’s Special Collections contain a wealth of primary source materials relevant to every field of study,” said Joyner Library Director Jan Lewis. “We are happy to partner with ECU instructors to encourage the exploration and use of these materials by undergraduate students and to recognize excellence in student research through the Rhem/Schwarzmann prize.”

Papers could be in any field of study but had to be at least 10 pages or 2,500 words in length and submitted by Feb. 17. Entries were judged on originality, quality of research, style, documentation and overall excellence by a panel comprised of faculty and staff from the library.

“Joyner’s Special Collections offers me the opportunity to use really good primary resources located right in my backyard,” said Turner. “It’s really interesting to see how someone’s letters from Rhode Island end up in a library in North Carolina and then can be used for something I’m interested in.”

Turner said he enjoyed how easily accessible the collection is along with the controlled environment that is safe for both the user and the materials.

“When you sit down and hold something that someone 150 years before you held, it’s a totally different experience. You get a better personal connection to your topic than if you were just staring at a computer screen. It’s a full circle.”

Turner also offered advice for students who haven’t yet explored the collection.

“The special collections staff is extremely helpful, so don’t be intimidated. Requesting a document from the collection is completed online. Then all you have to do is show up and your box will be there waiting for you to do your research.”

“My favorite part of working in special collections is getting to see what students can do with our material,” said Sarah McLusky, outreach and instruction librarian in special collections. “It was a pleasure to read this year’s entries, and to hear the winners speak with such enthusiasm about their research.”

This year’s awards were made possible by the Friends of Joyner Library and the generosity of the late Ann Schwarzmann.

“Mrs. Schwarzmann would be pleased to see the enthusiasm and deep subject matter engagement by this year’s prize recipients,” said Lewis.

For more information about the awards and future participation, contact McLusky at 252-328-2444 or mcluskys16@ecu.edu.

To learn more about manuscripts and rare books, university archives, digital collections and the North Carolina Collection, visit www.ecu.edu/cs-lib/specialcollections.

 

-by Kelly Rogers Dilda, 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

ECU kicks off Research and Creative Achievement Week

A line of posters, students and judges in Mendenhall Student Center kicked off East Carolina University’s 2018 Research and Creative Achievement Week on March 26.

The 12th annual event features more than 440 research posters and presentations, giving undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students an opportunity to share their work with their peers and mentors.

Student Andra Glover (left) discusses her research poster with judges at the 2018 Research and Creative Achievement Week. The event began Monday at Mendenhall Student Center and runs through April 2. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Student Andra Glover (left) discusses her research poster with judges at the 2018 Research and Creative Achievement Week. The event began Monday at Mendenhall Student Center and runs through April 2. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

RCAW allows students from all disciplines – from biomedical sciences to visual arts and design – to practice their presentation skills and interact with other creative scholars on campus. Judges, made up of ECU faculty, staff and graduate students, provide a balanced evaluation of the students’ work, grading them on subject knowledge, effective medium use, clarity and question response, and originality and creativity. Awards are presented at the end of the week to both poster and oral presenters.

Left to right, guest panelists Bridget Todd, Allison Mathews and Suzanne Lazorick discuss how they have used research and creative achievement to change the world at RCAW’s opening session and discussion panel. (Photo by Matt Smith)

Left to right, guest panelists Bridget Todd, Allison Mathews and Suzanne Lazorick discuss how they have used research and creative achievement to change the world at RCAW’s opening session and discussion panel. (Photos by Matt Smith)

For the first time, RCAW held an opening session and panel discussion. The event featured digital strategist Bridget Todd, MATCH Wellness co-director Suzanne Lazorick and 2BeatHIV director and Community Expert Solutions CEO Allison Mathews. The trio hosted the panel “Run with New Ideas: Using Research and Creative Achievement to Effect Real World Change.” Todd, Lazorick and Mathews discussed their work with underserved communities – including women, children and minorities – and took questions from the crowd.

Katina Hilliard, a graduate student in the College of Health and Human Performance, said she wanted to go through the learning experience of presenting her research to others. Hilliard and her co-researcher’s study focused on the relationship between staff practices in an after-school service program and school connectedness.

“Presenting at RCAW gives you a lot of practice in public speaking,” Hilliard said. “Presenting your research to others is a big part of the research process and this gives you an opportunity to share in a safe setting. In the future when I present at conferences, I’ll be able to use this experience to guide me.

Research posters line the halls of Mendenhall Student Center for the opening of RCAW.

Research posters line the halls of Mendenhall Student Center for the opening of RCAW.

“Every one of the judges and students that come through RCAW are here to help you,” she said. “They’re not here to criticize or put your work down; they’re here to build you up and make your work better.”

RCAW Chairman and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Tom McConnell agreed with Hilliard, emphasizing the importance of students dipping their research toes into public speaking.

“RCAW is all centered around our students,” McConnell said. “We want to give them a number of learning opportunities. These presentations are often the first presentations ECU students give and they gain valuable communication skills in the process. They also learn how to work with teammates and mentors – important skills to master if they plan to continue their research initiatives in the future.”

RCAW will run until April 2. More information is at https://blog.ecu.edu/sites/rcaw/.

 

-by Matt Smith, 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

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, RTI International explore partnership

East Carolina University and RTI International are exploring opportunities to jointly combat health, economic and educational disparities in eastern North Carolina.

As part of ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative announced by Chancellor Cecil Staton in 2017, the university has challenged itself to become a national model of how a major research university can lead regional transformation and create a new generation of technologies, micro-businesses and innovative solutions.

By developing a partnership with RTI, an independent, globally-engaged nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition, ECU can better serve the needs of rural residents in eastern North Carolina. RTI delivers reliable data thorough analysis, innovative methods, novel technologies and sustainable programs that help partners, like ECU, inform public policy and ground practice in evidence.

“ECU is excited to develop this important partnership,” said Dr. Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement at ECU. “RTI is an internationally recognized leader for developing and implementing impactful research programs. Its long history of collaborating with research universities and institutions like ECU will allow our faculty and students to benefit from those experiences and be able to extend our research and engagement capabilities both in North Carolina and around the globe.”

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 the Rural Prosperity Initiative.

Representatives from RTI met with ECU research cluster co-directors Feb. 21 to discuss collaboration opportunities such as having RTI staff on external advisory boards; offering lectures between ECU and RTI research leaders; creating student internship and mentorship opportunities; and establishing partnerships with ECU faculty members and RTI on research projects.

“By joining forces with ECU, we have the opportunity to further alleviate health, economic and educational disparities in our community,” said Jacqueline Olich, senior director of University Collaborations at RTI.

The company has a long record of working with research universities, institutions, faculty, scholars, staff and students to advance scientific scholarship. In 2014, the RTI University Scholars Program was launched, bringing academic researchers from the 16 University of North Carolina campuses and Duke University to work alongside RTI’s scientists and researchers.

“Our missions are similar in that we are focused on improving the human condition,” Golden said. “Our new university-wide research clusters align with RTI’s priority practice areas of human health; energy and environmental sciences; education and workforce development; food security and agriculture; and innovation ecosystems.”

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

Could a poll boost ECU’s national reputation?

The next presidential election may be two years away, but East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research has its focus set on Nov. 3, 2020.

•Peter Francia is the new director of ECU’s Center for Survey Research.

Peter Francia is the new director of ECU’s Center for Survey Research. (Contributed photo)

By then, Director Peter Francia hopes to have established a university polling center capable of accurately predicting the voting margins.

If successful, the university could join other polling powerhouses like Quinnipiac University, Monmouth University and Marist College, who regularly find themselves in the national spotlight come campaign season – an otherwise rare occurrence.

“They have a national reputation because of the polling they do. Why not ECU?” Francia said.

Becoming well-known for political polling extends beyond simple name recognition. The president of Monmouth University has estimated the value of free media exposure to be close to $1 billion. When John Lahey started Quinnipiac’s poll in the late ’80s, the school was a small commuter college with fewer than 2,000 students. A coordinated effort to build a polling facility helped turn it into a nationally known university with more than 10,000 students today.

“If you were to follow our admissions and our growth, you could follow the poll,” Lahey told Politico last year.

ECU plans to set up its poll beginning with a call center that will be built with the help of a $100,000 donation from alumni Wayne and Sherry Holloman. The Hollomans have annually supported a political science scholarship, Honors College student programming and the Voyages of Discovery lecture series.

Wayne and Sherry Holloman donated $100,000 to the Center for Survey Research to establish an ECU polling center.

Wayne and Sherry Holloman donated $100,000 to the Center for Survey Research to establish an ECU polling center. (Contributed photos)

“Imagine learning the results of the election and hearing people say, ‘ECU was dead on it,’” Wayne Holloman said. “It could be big.”

Housed in the Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Survey Research currently assists the university as well as private clients and public agencies in public opinion and community assessment research. That includes survey design, questionnaire development, data collection and focus group research.

“We’ve seen across the country that university-based opinion polls can capture the pulse of the electorate and catapult their institutions to prominence,” said Dr. William Downs, Dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. “Wayne and Sherry Holloman are great friends of ECU and of the Arts and Sciences, and their generous investment in our Center for Survey Research will ensure that Pirate polling has a successful launch and an impactful future.”

Francia, who is also a political science professor, said a polling center makes sense at ECU because North Carolina is an exciting state to be in politically.

“On the presidential map, North Carolina is not a red state or a blue state. It is a purple state. There is also a history of very competitive statewide contests for governor and for the U.S. Senate,” he said. “Moreover, partisan control of the U.S. Senate could potentially hinge on a single seat in 2020. If so, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate election will have national implications.”

The ECU Poll will involve students by giving them opportunities to work in the call center, develop questionnaires and conduct data analysis. Francia said he hopes the polling center can be worked into the political science curriculum so more students can learn how polling and random sampling works.

In addition to political polling, the university would be capable of polling on other topics that affect the area, like opioid use and immigrant labor.

“Expanding services and missions is important,” Holloman said. “That’s what this is. Making ECU a part of the community, the state and the nation.”

 

-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

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

ECU to host Live/Virtual Technology Showcase

East Carolina University will present a Live/Virtual Technology Showcase at the East Carolina Heart Institute on Friday, Feb. 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

ECU students and faculty can learn about ongoing federal research and existing intellectual property and interact with principal investigators representing more than 90 federal laboratories and more than 300 federal facilities from the Southeast and Midwest regions of the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC).

These federal labs include the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Agriculture and more, representing billions of dollars in funded research and opportunities for students in the areas of scholarships, internships, funded research, access to federal research and intellectual property, and mentorships with world-class researchers.

“Students and faculty will have the opportunity to interact live or virtually with these principal investigators,” said Joe Gaines, director of industry and economic development for ECU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development. “Also, we hope students and regional entrepreneurs can use this technology infusion to form teams for our i6 Regional Innovation Strategies grant starting next semester.”

Those teams will have the chance to pursue funded commercialization activity and be part of a U.S. Department of Commerce grant.

Held in collaboration with the FLC and sponsored by ECU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development, N.C. IDEA and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the showcase will include a panel discussion on small business technology transfer and innovation research funding opportunities. There will also be seminars on how to work with federal labs and grant opportunities, and student/faculty research, scholarship and internship opportunities at federal labs.

For event details and agenda, visit http://www.ecu.edu/oeied/techshowcase.cfm. Lunch will be provided. Admission is free; for tickets visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ecu-livevirtual-technology-showcase-tickets-41470574605?aff=ehomecard.

 

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