Category Archives: Research

ECU internship opportunity prepares students for real world

East Carolina University graduate Rachel Isaac knew she had a passion.

The Claremont native loves children’s theatre. The energy, excitement and frenzy that come from directing and producing a play for young actors are the emotions that drive Isaac, but the question remained of how to turn that affection into a job.

Isaac arrived at ECU in 2015, joining one of only two undergraduate children’s theatre programs in the state. Fast forward two years, and Isaac found the answer to her pressing job question – an internship with ECU’s SECU Public Service Fellows program.

The program, founded in 2015, connects ECU and communities through projects that address community-identified priorities. Isaac’s internship connected her to Arts of the Pamlico in Washington. The organization provides cultural opportunities through initiation, support and presentation of artistic programs in Beaufort County.

East Carolina University graduate Rachel Isaac reads from “The Polar Express” to a group of children at an event hosted by Arts of the Pamlico. Isaac interned with the organization as part of East Carolina’s SECU Public Service Fellows Internship program. (contributed Photos)

East Carolina University graduate Rachel Isaac reads from “The Polar Express” to a group of children at an event hosted by Arts of the Pamlico. Isaac interned with the organization as part of East Carolina’s SECU Public Service Fellows Internship program. (contributed Photos)

Isaac said at first she was hesitant of taking on the internship.

“During my senior year, professor Patricia Clark asked everyone in our Theatre for Youth department to apply for the internship,” Isaac said. “I was on the fence about it because I was already so busy. Theater is time consuming and the internship would total 350 hours throughout the year.

“A short time later no one had applied, so I applied just for fun,” she said. “I went through the application process, found a facility to work with, and then interviewed. I ended up getting the internship, and it has shaped my life moving forward.”

Despite classes, participating in a play and the 30-minute drive from campus to Washington, Isaac was able to complete the internship, picking up valuable work-related skills along the way.

“My internship was originally focused on the original Turnage Theater, built in 1913,” Isaac said. “It was a vaudeville theater that was shuttered in 2011. However, due to my focus in children’s theatre, we reshaped my internship goals to help build up a children’s theatre program in the region.”

 

New experiences

Isaac said that through her internship she was exposed to new experiences and leadership opportunities that weren’t available in the classroom.

She created brochures and pamphlets for both the Turnage Theater and for children’s theatre history; created a map of historic theaters in North Carolina; developed funding resources for the theater; and hosted and curated event listings for the Arts of the Pamlico.

Isaac’s largest undertakings included interviewing Washington residents about the Turnage Theater and documenting children’s theatre history in North Carolina and beyond.

“For the internship I interviewed different people in the Washington area to get background information on the Turnage Theater, including board members, city council members and even a relative of the theater’s original builder, Cat Turnage,” Isaac said. “I then interviewed people who had a history or knowledge of children’s theatre to learn how they became involved in the discipline and what tools you need to start up a children’s theatre. I wanted to preserve and document a history that wasn’t readily available.”

Isaac also developed a monthly playwriting workshop for young children, guiding the children in writing a story with their own characters, settings, conflicts and resolutions. Isaac participated in the 2017 Early Childhood Education Conference held in Raleigh, where she discussed the Play Outside N.C. program for pre-K students. The program aims to get students more involved in learning outside with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics learning. Isaac helped develop two STEAM modules for the program on art and literacy and on engineering and math.

 

Not reading out of a textbook

After her internship ended, Isaac was extended a job offer by Arts of the Pamlico. She now serves as the organization’s children’s programming coordinator; a job she believes would not have been possible without the SECU Public Service Fellows Internship.

“While I was in school, I basically learned how to be a teacher of children’s theatre,” Isaac said. “With the internship, I was able to put what I learned into practice. I got a better understanding of the administration and leadership skills needed to be successful as a children’s theatre leader.

“I gained a lot more professionalism and understanding of what it’s like to be in charge,” she said. “My work provided real-life scenarios that gave me a lot of knowledge that I wouldn’t have just gotten from the classroom. I felt I was prepared for the real world by combining school with my internship.”

Dr. Sharon Paynter, assistant vice chancellor of community engagement and research, said that Isaac’s experience is the goal of every partnership created by the internship.

“The experience that Rachel had with Arts of the Pamlico is exactly the kind that we hoped for when this program was created,” Paynter said. “A high-quality student was able to test the professional waters in a supportive and challenging internship in a small town in eastern North Carolina. We are thrilled that the relationship will continue since Rachel joined as a full-time staff member while she does her graduate work.”

Paynter said that applications for the 2018 SECU Public Service Fellow Internships are being accepted until March 15. Students can find information online through the Office of Community Engagement’s website.

While Isaac is now out of the classroom and into the “real world,” she knows her transition would not have been as successful without the program. She encourages others to give it a shot.

“Internships will help you in any profession – with me it just happened to be theater,” she said. “I believe getting out and doing the work helps you way more than just sitting and learning about it.

“With me, it ended up leading to a job; that same possibility is out there for other students. What do you think is going to help you more, only reading a textbook or actually doing the work?”

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

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 

East Carolina researcher collaborates on study of tobacco policies, alcohol sponsorship at LGBT pride festivals

An East Carolina University researcher has found people attending LGBT pride events across the United States have little protection against secondhand smoke.

Dr. Joseph G.L. Lee, assistant professor of health education and promotion in ECU’s College of Health and Human Promotion, co-authored “Tobacco Policies and Alcohol Sponsorship at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Festivals: Time for Intervention,” which was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. Jasmine D. Spivey, who graduated magna cum laude in December from ECU with a bachelor’s degree in health education and promotion, was the lead author. Dr. Stacy W. Smallwood, assistant professor at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University, was a co-author for the study.

 Dr. Joseph G.L. Lee

Dr. Joseph G.L. Lee (contributed photo)

Members of LGBT communities have higher rates of tobacco use and alcohol abuse than their non-LGBT counterparts. Both alcohol and tobacco use represent forms of substance use with substantial costs to the U.S. economy, health care and LGBT lives. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption cause more than 500,000 premature deaths each year in the United States.

Corporate marketing can play a role in contributing to greater levels of smoking and alcohol use among LGBT populations, the researchers say. They reviewed tobacco policies and alcohol industry sponsorship at LGBT pride events in the 100 most populous cities in the U.S. They found that very few pride events have protections in place for secondhand smoke. Many have evidence of alcohol industry sponsorship. The limited number of protections from secondhand smoke were due to smoke- or tobacco-free park policies where the events were being held.

Based on the results, the authors are calling on researchers, practitioners and pride event organizers to enact policies that can reduce tobacco and alcohol use disparities. “We think these data show better engagement between state health departments and LGBT community organizations is needed,” Smallwood said.

 

-by Crystal Baity, ECU News Services

ECU graduate student awarded fellowship for work with marine parasites

East Carolina graduate student Christopher Moore was selected as a 2018 North Carolina Sea Grant and N.C. Coastal Reserve Coastal Research Fellow, allowing the Winston-Salem native to fund his marine-life research.

Graduate student prepares crab condo

ECU graduate student Christopher Moore prepares a crab condo as Goose Creek State Park as part of his work with the Blakeslee Lab. Moore was named a 2018 North Carolina Sea Grant and N.C. Coastal Reserve Coastal Research Fellow, which will fund his research at the Rachel Carson Reserve in Beaufort. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

The fellowship is designed to advance research that addresses coastal management issues at one of North Carolina’s 10 coastal and national estuarine research reserve sites. Moore’s research will be focused at the Rachel Carson Reserve in Beaufort.

The project, titled “Parasites as Novel Indicators of Biodiversity in Restored Coastal Habitats,” will focus on the positive information parasites can relay to scientists in a coastal ecosystem.

“We don’t really think of parasites as beneficial, but actually they can be strong indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem health,” Moore said.

The interdisciplinary doctoral student’s research will track the life cycle of certain parasites at the Rachel Carson Reserve and record the host animals that carry them.

“The way we think it works is that certain types of parasites require multiple hosts to complete their lifecycle,” Moore said. “For example, the Trematoda’s (a type of parasitic flatworm) larval form begins in a mussel or snail. Then, its next lifecycle stage takes place in a small fish or crustacean, like a mud crab or a blue crab. Sometimes the life cycle ends there and other times a late-stage is required, like a larger fish or a bird.

“What I’ve found in my work is that in degraded landscapes, or areas with a lot of development, those late-stage hosts will not be there, so those parasites will not be there,” he said. “As biologists, we can spend a lot of time looking for these late-stage hosts that can be elusive, but if you can find the parasites instead, which are a lot easier to collect and are often very host specific, then that can potentially be an easier way to learn more about an ecosystem and the diversity of organisms it contains.”

Moore said his project will involve capturing early-stage hosts to measure the success of different restoration techniques used by the Rachel Carson Reserve.

“I’m attempting to use parasites … to measure the success of different restoration techniques and how they restore biodiversity,” Moore said. “We won’t be setting up big trap nets to pick up all the fish that are moving through an area. Instead, we hope to sample the easily collectable organisms that serve as early-stage hosts of parasites – so the snails or small goby fish. Those are much easier to capture and collect.

“By looking at the parasites early-stage hosts contain, we can draw some conclusions about not only the health of the landscape, but potentially which restoration projects are working more efficiently.”

Moore looks for crabs on piece of wood

Moore looks for crabs on a piece of wood at Goose Creek State Park.

Moore believes his project could eventually save coastal researchers time and labor.

“I come from an environmental monitoring background,” Moore said. “It’s very time and labor intensive, as well as a stress financially, to collect this data. I’m hoping we can create a new method of scoring environmental health. In our field, we score environments using the Index of Biological Integrity (IBI). The idea of this scale is that certain organisms are weighted to different degrees in an ecosystem based on how they react to pollution. That tells us how healthy a body of water is.

“It would be interesting to develop a parasite-specific IBI from this research,” he said. “Some parasites are not host specific and can live anywhere – they would be rated relatively low on the scale. But some parasites are very host specific and require more sensitive late-stage hosts. They would receive a higher score. Potentially this work could go into developing that scale and offering an index that saves labor and financial costs in larger bodies of water.”

Moore said the fellowship will help fund his project by allowing him to construct “crab condos” which are used to catch first-host organisms. Additionally, he plans on hiring an undergraduate assistant to help process the project’s data.

Moore is a member of the Blakeslee Lab, led by Dr. April M.H. Blakeslee, ECU assistant professor of biology.

The Sea Grant and the Coastal Reserve anticipates awarding $10,000 to fund Moore’s work.

 

-by Matthew Smith, University Communications

Laupus Library offers guidance on difficult conversations with patients, families

Health care providers are called upon every day to have difficult conversations with patients and family members. When patients become angry or upset, it’s important to know the most effective ways to respond.

A new research guide has been developed by Laupus Library to help providers and staff at East Carolina University quickly access current research on this topic.

“Our goal is to provide the most up-to-date information about a myriad of relevant health care topics,” said Jeff Coghill, director of Eastern AHEC library services. “We make sure these research guides are free, authoritative, widely available and easy to use at both the patient and health care professional level.”

Eastern AHEC Building

Eastern AHEC Building

The guide can be viewed at http://libguides.ecu.edu/TheAngryPatient along with many others posted at http://libguides.ecu.edu/.

Further education and in-person training on this topic is available at an upcoming program this spring offered by Eastern Area Health Education Center (EAHEC), the Office of Continuing Medical Education of the Brody School of Medicine, and the Clinical Skills and Assessment Lab.

Close Encounters of the Medical Kind: Simulation in Difficult Conversations will be held May 18 in the Clinical Skills and Assessment Lab, located on the second floor of the Eastern AHEC building.

Health care providers will have the opportunity to learn and practice effective interpersonal communication skills during emotionally charged encounters with standardized patients. Challenging topics such as opioid prescribing and other scenarios will provide the backdrop for practicing essential communication skills.

Questions about the angry patient research guide may be directed to Jeff Coghill, director of Eastern AHEC library services, at coghillj@ecu.edu.

Questions about the program may be directed to Laura Bliley, assistant director for nursing and allied health education at Eastern AHEC, at blileyl@ecu.edu.

More information about Eastern AHEC may be found at http://easternahec.net/.

 

-by Kelly R. Dilda, University Communications 

 

Invasive species exhibit opens at N.C. Estuarium

East Carolina University biologist April Blakeslee and students in her lab have created a new exhibit on invasive species at the North Carolina Estuarium in Washington. The exhibit will be unveiled Thursday, Oct. 26 at 4:30 p.m.

ECU biologist April Blakeslee and art and design student Kayla Clark have created a display about invasive species at the N.C. Estuarium in Washington. The exhibit opens Thursday, Oct. 26. (contributed photos)

ECU biologist April Blakeslee and art and design student Kayla Clark have created a display about invasive species at the N.C. Estuarium in Washington. The exhibit opens Thursday, Oct. 26. (contributed photos)

Funded by N.C. Sea Grant with additional contributions from the N.C. Estuarium and ECU’s Department of Biology, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, and Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, the exhibit highlights Blakeslee’s research on zombie crabs — mud crabs infected with a parasite that takes over their reproductive systems — as well as notable invaders such as lionfish and hydrilla.

“We hope that visitors will come away with a better understanding about invasive species and will be fascinated by this host-parasite system and also the important role that parasites can have in ecosystems” said Blakeslee. “They will also learn more about how each person can make a difference in preventing the spread of invaders by not releasing unwanted pets; cleaning boats of attached algae, plants and animals; cleaning boots — essentially, the message that every person can make a difference in conservation-related efforts.”

ECU art and design graduate student Kayla Clark was instrumental in the design of the exhibit, Blakeslee said. “The exhibit is truly interdisciplinary, bringing art and science together for educating about an important conservation issue.”

The zombie crab parasite is a kind of barnacle, called Loxothylacus panopaei or Loxo for short, that is native to the Gulf of Mexico but is now being found along the east coast as far north as Long Island Sound. Blakeslee and her students dubbed the infected crabs zombie crabs because they continue living but are reproductively dead. The parasite also affects the crab’s behavior, causing it to protect the egg sac as if it were the crab’s own young. The protective behavior is found not only in female crabs, but also in males, which would not normally exhibit such tendencies.

By hijacking the mud crabs’ reproductive system, Blakeslee said the parasite could have a dramatic impact on the population. She and a team of researchers are monitoring mud crab populations in eastern North Carolina to assess and track the spread of the parasite.

The N.C. Estuarium is located at 223 E. Water St. in Washington. For more information visit www.partnershipforthesounds.net/nc-estuarium.

 

-by Jules Norwood, ECU News Services

Project researches community resilience

Jasmine Hayes, a master’s student in East Carolina University’s Department of Public Health, has been awarded funding to study resilience in rural communities following natural disasters.

The $10,000 grant from N.C. Sea Grant and the N.C. Water Resources Research Institute will be used to conduct focus groups and ultimately improve the understanding of how individuals and communities respond after major storms, flooding and other disasters. The Disaster Resilience Program will be conducted in Pitt and Robeson counties.

Jasmine Hayes has received funding to study community resilience. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Jasmine Hayes has received funding to study community resilience. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

“We chose Pitt County because it was affected in 1999 by Hurricane Floyd, and those same communities were affected again in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew,” Hayes said. “We chose Robeson County because it’s the third-highest poverty stricken county in N.C., and also it had the highest flooding among 50 counties that were affected by Hurricane Matthew.”

Hayes is seeking members of the community to share their experiences.

“From those focus groups we want to allow people a voice that they may not have had to speak and tell their story, so that we can better assess community leaders and those programs that provide assistance and help to people who have been affected by hurricanes and disasters,” she said. “We wanted to get the perspective of community members that have been affected, to get a better understanding of what they’ve gone through, the struggles, how they feel like things could be improved for future disasters in our community.”

Suzanne Lea, associate professor in the Department of Public Health, said the study will help to articulate the perceptions and behaviors that influence how people adapt after a flooding event.

“Collectively, we aim to understand how individual resilience contributes to community resilience,” she said. “At the conclusion of this project, residents of eastern North Carolina will have helped identify strategies that enhance recovery from flooding events.”

The project’s findings will be shared with local governments and aid agencies to help in shaping response efforts for future flooding events.

For more information or to participate in the focus groups, contact Hayes at 252.744.2629.

 

-by Jules Norwood

ECU researchers studying Cadmium disruption of Calcium binding proteins

Researchers at East Carolina University are continuing to study a known toxin and its interaction with Human Cardiac Troponin C (HcTnC), whose normal binding structure with Calcium helps regulate the contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle. Any disruption of this binding may lead to a buildup of Calcium and numerous health issues, including blocked arteries, irregular heart rhythms and even death.

Pictured left to right: Caitlin Palmer, Dr. Anne Spuches, Katie Vang, Eshita Karnik. (Photos and images provided by Anne Spuches)

Pictured left to right: Caitlin Palmer, Dr. Anne Spuches, Katie Vang, Eshita Karnik. (Photos and images provided by Anne Spuches)

Dr. Anne Spuches, associate professor of chemistry, recently was awarded a three-year, $252,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support her work on the project.

Along with fellow colleagues and undergraduate and graduate students in her lab, Spuches is researching calcium and cadmium interactions with EF-hand proteins. Specifically, they are examining how Cd(II) binds with HcTnC, preventing the crucial binding of Ca(II).

Spuches’ team consists of Drs. Toby Allen and Anthony Kennedy from the Department of Chemistry; Drs. Joseph Chalovich and Bill Angus (ret.), from the Brody School of Medicine Department of Biochemistry; Dr. Barbara Lyons, from New Mexico State University; former ECU graduate students Lindsay Fulcher and Rachel Johnson; doctoral student Katherine Buddo; and graduate students Eshita Karnick and Katie Vang.

In the lab, from left to right: Caitlin Palmer, Jacob Montgomery, Dr. Anne Spuches.

In the lab, from left to right: Caitlin Palmer, Jacob Montgomery, Dr. Anne Spuches.

Fulcher was the first student to work with Spuches on cadmium research and performed intense ITC studies to determine the binding constant of metal to protein. She was able to learn how tightly cadmium was binding in comparison to calcium.

She said Spuches gave her the freedom to be creative, which allowed her to build a story that started from the molecular level and has the potential to develop into something that could help people.

“Working in Dr. Spuches lab taught me to always push to learn more and find a way to connect small pieces to a bigger picture,” said Fulcher. “That is where you find meaning and thus the motivation to help change the world through science and research.”

She referred to her experience as something she can use no matter where she goes and no matter what she is doing, saying it was a “soul-searching project.”

The research being performed by Spuches’ team will have multiple benefits, including filling a gap in the current literature regarding the binding of cadmium to other proteins that natively bind calcium.

“It is known that Cd(II) can disrupt Ca(II) signaling pathways but little else is known about the mechanisms of such interactions,” said Spuches.

Structure of cardiac muscle troponin C. (Figure on right generated by Katherine Buddo)

Structure of cardiac muscle troponin C. (Figure on right generated by Katherine Buddo)

Another benefit of the research is that it continues to enable students to conduct independent research in the field of bioinorganic chemistry, learning a multitude of techniques that will prepare them for careers in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industries and making them competitive for PhD programs.

“I have really enjoyed working with Dr. Spuches,” said graduate student researcher Katie Vang. “What I enjoy most is seeing the experiments come to life in her lab. She has been working on this project for a long time and to actually be in the lab and see the raw experiments/data is quite rewarding.”

“Her passion has given me insight on the importance for research and what it can contribute to the world,” said Vang.

Ultimately, Spuches’ project may have important implications for how scientists view cadmium toxicity.

“Cadmium exposure and toxicity remain important environmental concerns in the U.S. and in North Carolina,” said Spuches. “Chronic Cd(II) exposure can result in numerous health problems, including cognitive impairment in children, low birth weights and preeclampsia in pregnant women, and cardiovascular disease in adults.”

The structure of cardiac troponin C regulatory domain with bound Cd(II) reveals a closed conformation and unique ion coordination. (Figures generated by Katherine Buddo and Lindsay Fulcher)

The structure of cardiac troponin C regulatory domain with bound Cd(II) reveals a closed conformation and unique ion coordination. (Figures generated by Katherine Buddo and Lindsay Fulcher)

Currently, cadmium is found in cigarette smoke, paint and pesticides, which trickle down into drinking water and are often found in the food supply.

According to Spuches, there is some indication that cadmium also may increase the risks for diabetes and obesity.

This is the topic of a future study Spuches will conduct with Honors College undergraduate students Caitlin Palmer and Jacob Montgomery, and Drs. Lisa Domico and Walter Pories at the ECU Brody School of Medicine, who will examine pesticides and metals found in patients from eastern North Carolina, and their correlation with diabetes and obesity.

The results of Spuches’ research may allow people to make more informed decisions in the future about how to avoid or limit their exposure to toxic metals in the environment, decreasing their potential health risks.

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications 

Grant funds energy needs, education at community center

Dr. Ranjeet Agarwala (top left) and students at the Lucille Gorham Intergenerational Center test solar panels and a portable power station. (Photos by Erik Panarusky)

Dr. Ranjeet Agarwala (top left) and students at the Lucille Gorham Intergenerational Center test solar panels and a portable power station. (Photos by Erik Panarusky)

The Lucille Gorham Intergenerational Community Center will soon have some help with its electrical needs thanks to the sun, students and faculty in the East Carolina University College of Engineering and Technology, and a Constellation E2 Energy to Educate grant.

CET students partnered with the center to study its needs, equipment, appliances and layout, then conducted an energy audit to calculate the total energy consumption and the rate of energy consumption on a daily and monthly basis, said Dr. Ranjeet Agarwala, assistant professor in the Department of Technology Systems.

“We had originally talked about putting solar panels on the roof,” Agarwala said, but based on the center’s needs, a more portable and adaptable system was chosen.

The $37,500 grant funded the purchase of 18 100-watt solar panels and nine portable power stations. Each power station can be charged from the solar panels and can provide power for anything from charging a cell phone to running a refrigerator.

Deborah Moody, director of LGCC, said the center’s campus includes six buildings, so the flexibility of the portable systems made perfect sense.

“We wanted it to be simple and never have an excuse not to use it,” she said.

The panels and power packs can be used during outdoor events, instead of running extension cords everywhere. They will also allow the center to function during power outages.

“Last year when we had the hurricane, we still had to come in because the community still has needs,” Moody said. “But we didn’t have any power in the building. So this would allow us to charge our laptops and go to work like we usually do.”

Agarwala shows students at the Lucille Gorham Intergenerational Center how the unit can power a computer.

Agarwala shows students at the Lucille Gorham Intergenerational Center how the unit can power a computer.

 

In addition to offsetting daily energy consumption needs, powering events and emergency use, there’s an educational component. The center has STEM-based after-school and summer programs, and the students will be able to learn about topics ranging from energy conservation to converting units of power.

Each power station has multiple AC and DC outlets, as well as a digital display showing energy input and usage. The panels and the power stations can be connected in different combinations depending on specific energy needs.

During a demonstration of the equipment, the students were able to see how much energy was being generated by the solar panels and the impact of shadows, as well as the amount of energy drawn by a charging cell phone.

“It’s exciting to watch the kids light up,” Moody said. “We want to get them excited and interested in these fields to prime them and train them, and then have them grow up and contribute to the community.

“We also want the youth to help us think of other ways to use these to help save energy. And then they’ll become advocates at home with their parents, and tell them, ‘These are things we can do to save energy in the house.’”

The LGCC opened in 2007 and is operated through a partnership between ECU, the City of Greenville and Pitt Community College. Constellation’s E2 Energy to Educate grants fund student projects focusing on energy science, technology and education.

The solar panels and power stations, funded by an E2 Energy to Educate grant from Constellation, will be used for events, emergency power and daily energy needs at the center.

The solar panels and power stations, funded by an E2 Energy to Educate grant from Constellation, will be used for events, emergency power and daily energy needs at the center.

 

By Jules Norwood

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