Category Archives: Students

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

Student-designed brochure outlines dangers of e-cigs

Second-year Brody School of Medicine students Whitney Green and Radhika Kothadia have designed a brochure to educate middle and high school students about e-cigarettes.

The effort comes on the heels of new 2017 data from Monitoring the Future, funded by the National Institutes of Health, said Dr. Vivek Anand, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at East Carolina University.Front of e-cigarette brochure

“During the past year, 19 percent of 12th grade, 16 percent of 10th grade and 8 percent of eighth-grade students, respectively, reported vaping nicotine,” Anand said. “These numbers can be higher for tobacco-growing areas like eastern North Carolina.”

Public health and tobacco control advocates are concerned about teen use of e-cigarettes because studies have shown that it goes hand in hand with the use of cigarettes and other drugs, he said. “And we still really don’t know how e-cigarettes affect the developing lungs and other organ systems.”

For several years, Anand has conducted research aimed at pinpointing the mechanisms behind smoking behavior.

Kothadia said she has become increasingly interested in patient education and preventative health care, and her interest in the effects of tobacco products began in high school when she volunteered with Tobacco Reality Unfiltered, an initiative of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Our goal was to educate people of all ages about the harmful effects of tobacco,” she said.

Kothadia and Green helped format and edit the educational brochure and are working with J.H. Rose High School to arrange presentations in health classes about e-cigarettes. At least 25,000 brochures will be printed and distributed through the ECU Psychiatry Outpatient Center, ECU Family Medicine Center, ECU pediatrics clinics, Vidant, RHA and PORT health clinics in New Bern, and other community clinics throughout February.

“I grew up with pretty powerful advertising from anti-tobacco campaigns in the early 2000s that targeted young people and revealed the truth about the harmful effects of cigarette smoke,” Green said. “Now the trend has shifted over to vaping, and I don’t think enough information is out there to show teenagers the association between vaping and tobacco or how it all affects their health.”

With as many as one in five high school students reporting the use of e-cigarettes, Anand said continued research and educational efforts about their effects are critical.


-by Jules Norwood, ECU News Services

Pirate entrepreneurship challenge moves to round three with seven teams

The Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge, the signature, three-round business pitch competition sponsored by the College of Business’ Miller School of Entrepreneurship, recently announced seven second-round winners that will move on to the final competition Feb. 22, 2018.

Second-round winners of the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge include, from left to right, Magus Pereira, Paul Safrit, Jordan Rice, Taylor Hicks, Nick Walden, Matt McCall and Victor Still. (contributed photos)

Second-round winners of the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge include, from left to right, Magus Pereira, Paul Safrit, Jordan Rice, Taylor Hicks, Nick Walden, Matt McCall and Victor Still. (contributed photos)

The winners were chosen from 12 teams that came out of round one and judged by East Carolina University representatives.

The round-two winners are:

  1. Magus Pereira, Sid Singh, Kevin Han – ClusterDucks

Mentor: Charles Banks, Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC)

Description: Cluster Ducks is a network of Wi-Fi-enabled buoys designed to extend internet connectivity between distressed individuals affected by natural disasters to emergency personnel and family members.

  1. Matt McCall – Beyond Tutoring

Mentor: Scott Barker, SBTDC

Description: Beyond Tutoring, LLC is a college-level tutoring service for veterans that connects them to personal tutors and tracks their progress and tutoring sessions.

  1. Taylor Hicks, Nick Walden – Simple and Sentimental

Mentor: Ariana Billingsley, SBTDC

Description: Simple and Sentimental provides unique, hand-lettered items. Since starting in December 2016, the company has had almost 2,000 online sales with over 400 5-star reviews on its Etsy shop.

  1. Jordan Rice, Troy Demers – House Pool

Mentor: ECU Technology Transfer

Description: House Pool is a college-exclusive app that makes leasing easier for both the prospective tenant and landlord. It brings together college students and local housing options.

  1. Victor Still – Who is Rose?

Mentor: Miller School of Entrepreneurship

Description: “Who is Rose?” is a fashion line that highlights the motivation and components of success behind an individual’s life.

  1. Paul Safrit – Safrit Solar

Mentor: John Ciannamea, Innovator in Residence at East Carolina University

Description: Safrit Solar, LLC manufactures and distributes customized and stand-alone portable solar systems for outdoor activities, such as tailgating, camping or daily use.

  1. Nick Venditti, Chandler King – FOWL

Mentor: Hallie Hawkins, SBTDC

Description: FOWL’s mission is described by our slogan “wear your life.” The company is dedicated to creating the biggest bag and accessories brand in the world and bringing everyone together no matter the lifestyle.

“We have an impressive group of student entrepreneurs moving on to the final round of the Pirate Challenge,” said David Mayo, an instructor with the Miller School of Entrepreneurship. “Since round one, each team has made tremendous strides toward the growth of their ventures.”

A total of $20,000 will be split between the first-, second- and third-place winners from round three of the challenge.


-by Michael Rudd, University Communications

ECU students, alumni to take part in new class ring ceremony

For the first time in East Carolina University’s 100-year history, students will receive an official ECU class ring at a ceremony on Dec. 3.

The class ring ceremony is a new tradition in which students mark an important milestone toward becoming ECU alumni. While students have always been able to purchase a class ring, there has been neither a signature collection with a unified look nor a ceremony before. Alumni from 1970-2016 have also ordered class rings this year.

The three official ring styles – signet, traditional and dinner – all have a crest on the top with the university shield, a sword and ECU’s motto, “Servire.” A group of ECU alumni, students, faculty and staff worked with Dowdy Student Stores and jewelry manufacturer Jostens to design the rings.

“The ring ceremony is a very special event and one we hope grows into a venerable tradition here,” said Heath Bowman, ECU Alumni Association president. “The class ring is a tangible connection to the university and a celebration of a student’s time at ECU. It is a lasting symbol of Pirate pride that will forever unite its wearer with fellow Pirates.”

The Ring Ceremony

The ceremony will be 2 p.m. Dec. 3 at the East Carolina Heart Institute at 115 Heart Dr., Greenville. It is open to those who have purchased a ring and RSVP’d to the event invitation. Rings will be presented by Heath Bowman, ECU Alumni Association president, and La’Quon Rogers, Student Government Association president. The ceremony will close with a singing of the university alma mater.

For more information or to buy an official ECU ring, visit Dowdy Student Stores or go to


-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

ECU hosts 3-day symposium on central-eastern European politics

East Carolina University students and the local community recently had the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of foreign affairs and contribute to the international exchange of ideas and perceptions during a three-day symposium on central and eastern European politics.

The event, “Visegrad in the 21st Century,” sponsored by a grant from the International Visegrad Fund, was hosted Nov. 13-15 by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Department of Political Science and the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Dr. Adam Eberhardt visited ECU through a grant awarded to professors in the THCAS Department of Political Science to increase student and public awareness about foreign affairs.<br /> (Contributed photos.)

Dr. Adam Eberhardt visited ECU through a grant awarded to professors in the THCAS Department of Political Science to increase student and public awareness about foreign affairs.
(Contributed photos.)

Two guest speakers from Poland and Czechia – two of the four central European states that make up the Visegrád group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), or Visegrád Four as they are also known – visited campus during the event.

The researchers presented on topics ranging from Polish-Russian relations and Russia’s foreign policy towards central-eastern Europe, to the Visegrád States in a broader context and the Czech people’s exile during the Cold War.

“Our overall goal was for ECU students to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and transformations the east-central European states have experienced in the last 25 years of democratic transitions, European Union and NATO membership, as well as these states’ changing foreign relations with Russia,” said Dr. Magda Giurcanu, teaching assistant professor of political science, who helped organize the event.

On Monday, Dr. Adam Eberhardt, director of the Center for Eastern Studies, a Polish think tank that undertakes independent research on the political, economic and social situation in central and eastern Europe, predominantly discussed Russia’s economy and foreign policy as well as Polish-Russian relations.

Eberhardt argued that Russia perceives the western European countries to be weak. However, Russia challenges the security of neighboring countries by asking for concessions without offering anything in return.

He also said there is little to no modernization because of the “law of the ruler,” and after 17 years in power, President Putin has no desire to tackle the challenges to the Russian state.

Dr. Martin Nekola visited ECU.

Dr. Martin Nekola visited ECU.

“Russia is not the Soviet Union of the Cold War,” said Eberhardt.

A roundtable discussion was held Tuesday afternoon with Eberhardt; ECU political science faculty Drs. Armin Krishnan and Giurcanu; and Dr. Martin Nekola, an independent scholar from Prague, whose research focuses on non-democratic regimes, the era of Communism, Czech communities abroad and the east-European, anti-communist exiles to the United States during the Cold War.

On Wednesday, Nekola gave a presentation on his research pertaining to the Czech migration, which began Feb. 20, 1948 and lasted until 1989. Many researchers disagree on the total number of Czech citizens who fled Czechia, but Nekola said 250,000 seems to be a realistic number. Many of the citizens traveled to refugee camps in Germany, Austria, Italy and France.

“The atmosphere was tense,” said Nekola, referring to the fear and frustration felt immediately following WWII.

As time passed, the people also began emigrating to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the United States. Nekola’s research has traced a number of Czechian descendants to cities in the U.S. that have strong Czech communities, including Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, New York, St. Louis, and possibly Charlotte and New Salem, North Carolina.

Closing out the three-day symposium, students in the course presented research posters on topics that were covered throughout the semester. Attendees voted on the two best posters. First place and a $100 award went to Josiah Thornton, India Peele and Dwayne Lewis Jr. for “The Transition of Central Europe: The Fate of Visegrad,” and the second place award of $50 went to Natalie Best, Kaitlyn Rose and Josh Ziegler for “Slovakia and Hungary’s Case brought to the European Court of Justice: Legality of the Challenge.”

Drs. Nekola, Giurcanu, Eberhardt and Krishnan

Drs. Nekola, Giurcanu, Eberhardt and Krishnan.

One more guest lecturer associated with the International Visegrad Fund grant will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, in Howell, room N107. The presentation will feature Dr. Bartosz Rydlinski of Poland.


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

Harriot College Collecting Items for Pitt County Angel Closet

Harriot College’s Staff Council is holding a donation drive for the Pitt County Angel Closet. Each department and the dean’s office has a box where contributions may be dropped off before Dec. 8. (contributed photo)

Harriot College’s Staff Council is holding a donation drive for the Pitt County Angel Closet. Each department and the dean’s office has a box where contributions may be dropped off before Dec. 8 (contributed photo)

In this season of thanks and giving, East Carolina University’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences is dedicated to helping the community’s youngest citizens. The THCAS Staff Council is hosting a donation drive, Nov. 13 – Dec. 8, with proceeds going to the Pitt County Angel Closet.

Each of the 16 departments in the college was given a box to decorate and place near their office, where individuals can donate new bibs, baby bottles, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, pull-ups, underwear, socks and winter clothes for children of all ages.

“We thought a donation drive would be a great way to get people involved with a local organization,” said Amelia Thompson, chair of the council’s planning subcommittee. “The Angel Closet was in need of several items, and we thought that we could really make a difference for them this year.”

The goal of the council is to collect 500 items for the organization.

Dr. William M. Downs, dean of Harriot College, is particularly drawn to helping children.

On Nov. 28, at the half-way point for donations, Downs and members of the staff council will walk around to the departments and collect the items donated up to that point. Then, they will deliver those items to the Pitt County Angel Closet, with the final collection and drop-off occuring on Dec. 8.


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

ECU student receives Fulbright scholarship

East Carolina University School of Communication senior Emory Saia is one of 14 young professional journalists and students to receive a Fulbright scholarship for the Berlin Capital Program in Germany.

The Berlin Capital Program gives journalists and students the opportunity to better understand the media’s role in the political, economic and cultural landscape of Germany and Europe. The weeklong program, Nov. 12-19, includes seminars and discussions with media experts as well as visits to political, cultural and media institutions.

ECU senior Emory Saia

ECU senior Emory Saia

Saia, a journalism student from Pennsylvania, learned about the program from ECU communication professor Dr. Cindy Elmore, who thought she would be a great candidate. Saia spent most of the summer compiling her 19-page program application with encouragement from Elmore, who was “patient, kind and so willing to help and motivate me to continue,” Saia said.

The youngest of five children with parents who are professors, Saia credits her family for the desire to seek new learning experiences. Her brother, Taylor, also received a Fulbright scholarship and traveled to Indonesia to teach English and music for six months. Saia’s sister, Maggie, an ECU alumna, and Taylor guided and supported her application process. “They reminded me that it’s not about the end result, but the journey,” she said.

Saia plans to embrace the opportunity although anxious “to take this leap, literally on a plane across the world by myself.” She encourages other students to challenge themselves. “Push yourself out of your comfort zone and accept new experiences and adventures as they are around you. You just have to be willing,” she said.

Saia serves as an intern in the ECU School of Communication, where she maintains the social media accounts, creates promotional material, plans events and assists as a director in Dr. Mary Tucker-McLaughlin’s Producing the News class. Saia will take over the School of Communication Instagram account to document her experience. Follow her journey at

-by Brittany Thompson, School of Communication 



After minor league debut, Tanner Duncan returns to his roots

It’s a cool October evening at Guy Smith Park in Greenville. The defending national champion East Carolina University Club Baseball team is warming up before their intrasquad scrimmage. The star of that championship team last year, Tanner Duncan, pulls up in his pickup truck to watch practice.

“I knew I was going to miss this place when I left, but I didn’t realize I’d miss it quite this much,” said Duncan, a 2017 kinesiology graduate who’s now playing professionally in the Houston Astros organization.

Although he’s a professional ballplayer now in the Astros organization, Duncan continues to show off his pride for the ECU Club Baseball team. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Although he’s a professional ballplayer now in the Astros organization, Duncan continues to show off his pride for the ECU Club Baseball team. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Duncan is wearing his ECU Club Baseball hat and T-shirt – not his Astros gear. Following his National Club Baseball World Series MVP-winning performance last spring, Duncan was signed by the Astros and spent last summer pitching for them in the Gulf Coast League. He is the first ECU club player to play professional baseball, so one might think that he would be showing off his accomplishment by wearing navy and orange – especially since the Astros just won the World Series.

“I want to wear (ECU Club Baseball attire) with pride and I want to give club baseball a good name. I feel like there is a stereotype that’s surrounding club baseball – a stigma attached to it (that it’s not good baseball),” Duncan said. “There’s a lot of talent out here, a lot of good players that participate in this, and I hope people recognize that now.”

“It (Duncan turning pro) brings a lot more credibility to our program,” says ECU Club Baseball head coach Ben Fox. “Being able to put a guy in the league that has never played JUCO (junior college) baseball or D1 baseball, it says a lot about what we demand from guys every day.”

Duncan’s former ECU teammates see the dedication that’s required to play professional baseball.

“I knew as hard as he worked, he was going to get an opportunity to play after. He was just one of those special athletes coming out working every day,” said senior outfielder Jordan Maye. “He’d be the first one here and one of the last ones to leave. That’s just what his mentality is – he’s always working.” 


Duncan and his former teammates look on as the ECU Club Baseball team scrimmages.

Duncan and his former teammates look on as the ECU Club Baseball team scrimmages.

Duncan’s presence at practice during his offseason is a big deal to the guys on the field.

“It brings up that ‘what-if’ factor – you could potentially be in the same position that he is,” said senior catcher Jake Merzigian, who caught for Duncan in last season’s national championship game. 

“If they are looking to play at the next level, they see now that it’s possible and all it takes is hard work and dedication,” Fox said. “If you want anything out of this game, if you work for it, you can get it.”

Duncan pitched 10 scoreless innings in the championship game and was named the MVP of the tournament.

Duncan, right, shares a laugh with his former catcher Jake Merzigian.

Duncan, right, shares a laugh with his former catcher Jake Merzigian.

“Catching for him was unbelievable. Just seeing him work so hard and seeing him pitch in that national championship game. It was by far one of the best baseball games I’ll ever be a part of,” Merzigan said. “That’s definitely on my wall of fame.”

Duncan was hoping his performance would lead to the major league draft, but that didn’t happen. However he was invited to Virginia for a tryout with the Astros. Shortly after throwing for scouts, the team signed him, and the next day he headed to Florida to play for the Astros minor league affiliate.

“It was awesome, I think, just getting there to the facility,” he said. “You go into the locker room, and they have a locker for you with your name on it, the Astros symbol and everything. It’s surreal, man, it’s something I wanted for a long time, and so I’m very happy and very grateful for it.”

“It’s hard to put into words,” Fox said. “Tanner’s been so good for us for so long and I truly believe that he should have been playing at another level the whole time, but we were lucky enough to have him.”

After what he calls a successful season in the GCL, where he had a 2.17 ERA in 11 appearances, Duncan is resting his arm and working out. He expects to go to extended spring training with the Astros at the end of March or beginning of April. He’s hoping to get a shot with a full-season team or play for the short-season single-A affiliate in New York.

“It’s good to see him come out here and continue to be around the guys. He was one of our leaders last year, and to have him come back out here has been huge for us,” Maye said.

“I’m living the dream; couldn’t be happier,” Duncan said.



-by Rich Klindworth, ECU News Services

Trash cinema class to screen ‘worst movie ever made’

It’s not very often that a movie’s appeal is in how dreadful it is. But that’s exactly how an East Carolina University film class is advertising its upcoming screening of “The Room.”

Often called “the worst movie ever made” or “the Citizen Kane of bad movies,” “The Room” is about a successful banker named Johnny, his deceptive fiancé Lisa and his best friend Mark. There’s also terrible dialogue, ridiculous subplots and unexplained framed photos of spoons.

The class will host a free screening of “The Room” at 7 p.m. Thursday in Hendrix Theatre as part of their coursework.

“The director sort of had no idea what he was doing,” said Dr. Amanda Klein, an associate professor who teaches FILM 4980, also known as Topics in Film Aesthetics: Trash Cinema and Taste.

“He made it in a way that made no sense, like someone learning a new language and misusing the words and terms,” she said.

Director, producer and star Tommy Wiseau gained a cult following because of the movie’s captivatingly odd elements. Most see “The Room” as his misguided, so-bad-it’s-good passion project. It also inspired an upcoming movie about its making directed by James Franco.

“It’s not about analyzing the film as a good film,” FILM 4980 student Susie Hedley said. “It’s about analyzing why it’s not, and appreciating the world that these bad qualities bring you into. And ‘The Room’ brings you into one hell of a world.”

Hedley said she was drawn to the Trash Cinema class in part because it gives credit to films that often aren’t deemed worthy of serious examination.

“Examining trash movies through an academic lens is like reading ‘Twilight’ in a literature course or studying Dothraki as a foreign language. It seems wrong somehow, because we’re taught to see these topics as lowbrow or lacking substance.”

But, as Klein pointed out, “It’s much easier to see film construction when you look at one that isn’t made too well.”

It can also be a lot of fun to watch. Similar to a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” screening, yelling and throwing things during “The Room” is not only acceptable, but encouraged. Viewers at the Thursday night screening will receive a goodie bag of projectiles including mini footballs, rose petals and spoons (the reasoning will make sense during the movie for the uninitiated).

“As for the audience, I can’t be sure whether or not they’ll love the experience, but I know it will get a strong reaction out of them,” Hedley said. “The first time I saw the film … mostly I was in shock the whole time.”


-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

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