Category Archives: Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences

Biology professor receives Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences’ top honor

Dr. Baohong Zhang, professor of biology, is the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences 20th Distinguished Professor.

Dr. Baohong Zhang, professor of biology, is the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences 20th Distinguished Professor.
(Photo by Doug Boyd)

Dr. Baohong Zhang, East Carolina University professor of biology, was named Distinguished Professor at the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences 55th annual convocation on Aug. 17. Zhang is the 20th member of the faculty to be honored with the title.

“This is a wonderful surprise to me,” said Zhang. “There are so many great colleagues and professors in THCAS, and I feel lucky, grateful and humbled to be the recipient of this prestigious award. This award will encourage me to achieve more in the future – towards excellence in research, student success and contribution to ECU’s mission and internationalization.”

The THCAS Distinguished Professorship is the highest honor within the college and is conferred upon a professor whose career exemplifies a commitment to and a love for knowledge and academic life, as demonstrated by outstanding teaching and advising, research and creative productivity, and professional service.

“Baohong Zhang is a remarkable scholar and academician who has established a record that by itself would constitute an exemplary career. He has risen to these heights of achievement from modest rural beginnings, in a second language and as an immigrant – a truly inspiring Pirate story,” said Dr. Jeffrey McKinnon, former chair of the Department of Biology.

Zhang (right) gives a tour of the ECU biology greenhouse and discusses his research with a representative from a funding agent.

Zhang (right) gives a tour of the ECU biology greenhouse and discusses his research with a representative from a funding agent. (Contributed photo)

While at ECU, Zhang has displayed the qualities and characteristics required of a Distinguished Professor.

In his role as professor, Zhang has taught courses in plant biology, biotechnology and molecular biology. He has secured grants to support undergraduate and graduate students in study abroad courses in China. In addition to his courses taught, Zhang has served as a mentor to 14 post doctoral scholars and 17 doctoral and master’s degree students, as a member on 44 graduate student committees, and as a mentor to more than 32 undergraduate researchers and 241 undergraduate advisees.

Zhang’s research interests include microRNA, gene regulation, molecular genetics and toxicology, genome editing and biotechnology. He has been recognized locally and nationally for his research and creative activity in the areas of computational and molecular biology, particularly in the role of miRNA – a small non-coding RNA molecule that regulates the activity of genes by silencing RNA after it is transcribed from DNA – during cotton fiber development and in plant responses to environmental stress. In addition, he has conducted studies on the role of miRNA in cancer, and he has conducted research in the area of head trauma.

Dr. Baohong Zhang and Dr. Xiaoping Pan (right) are pictured here with ECU students at Anyang Institute of Technology during their 2018 study abroad research trip to China.

Zhang and Dr. Xiaoping Pan (right) are pictured here with ECU students at Anyang Institute of Technology during their 2018 study abroad research trip to China. (Contributed photo)

Over the course of his career, Zhang has authored more than 200 journal articles, nine books and 14 book chapters in his areas of research. He has presented at more than 50 conferences, and he has secured more than $2.4 million in research funding as the principal investigator or co-PI on 35 projects.

Since joining ECU in 2007, Zhang has chaired three biology departmental committees – greenhouse, seminar series and personnel committee – and served as a committee member on several faculty searches. In his other professional activities, he has served as an editor, associate editor, editorial board member or guest editor for nearly two dozen journals, and he has served as an ad-hoc reviewer for more than 90 journals and 35 funding agencies.

He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Sigma Xi, scientific research society; Association of Southeastern Biologists; the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry; American Chemical Society; and the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Zhang at work in his research lab.

Zhang at work in his research lab. (Contributed photo)

In addition to the THCAS Distinguished Professorship, Zhang has received many awards, including, in 2013, ECU’s Five Year Research Achievement Award, and in 2017, the inaugural ECU Achievement in International Research and Creative Activity Award. In 2018, he received the Cotton Researcher of the Year award given by the International Cotton Advisory Committee. The annual award is presented to only one person worldwide who has raised the international importance of research in the cotton industry.

“I can think of no one better qualified for the Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professorship,” wrote one of Zhang’s colleagues in a letter of nomination.

Another colleague concluded, “I have known virtually all previous THCAS Distinguished Professors. We should be proud to consider professor Baohong Zhang as one of their peers.”

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

ECU’s Harriot College recognizes exceptional staff

The Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Staff Council hosted its second annual Staff Awards and Recognition Ceremony May 11 in Harvey Hall. The event honors all dedicated THCAS staff members and recognizes the hard work they engage in on a day-to-day basis.

“Our college has the best staff at ECU,” said Dean William M. Downs. “We could not lead in all the categories in which we lead without them. I am really proud of this group.”

•Julie Marik, Chris Bonnerup and Chastidy Ridley were honored with Harriot College’s 2018 staff excellence awards and professional development grant at a special ceremony May 11.

Julie Marik, Chris Bonnerup and Chastidy Ridley were honored with Harriot College’s 2018 staff excellence awards and professional development grant at a special ceremony May 11.
(Photos by Rob Taylor)

During the ceremony, two staff members received Staff Excellence Awards, and one staff member received the Professional Development Grant. The awards acknowledge administrative or technical staff within the college who show exemplary professionalism and go above and beyond the requirements of their position, while the grant is awarded to a person who is actively pursuing career advancement within his or her field.

Julie Marik, research specialist in the Department of Biology, who serves as greenhouse manager and BIOL 1201 and 2251 lab coordinator, was awarded the Senior Staff Excellence Award. Chastidy Ridley, lead administrative support associate in the Department of Political Science, was awarded the Junior Staff Excellence Award. Chris Bonnerup, advanced research specialist in the Department of Physics and engineer for the ECU Accelerator Laboratory, was awarded the Professional Development Grant.

“I feel very fortunate to work with such a wonderful group of people every day, and I appreciate all they do for me,” said Marik, who is an alumna of ECU (’07) and has worked at the university for 10 years. “I work with a great group of fellow staff and amazing teachers and researchers who are doing very cool science.”

Ridley also is an ECU alumna (’14). She has served as the lead administrative associate in the Department of Political Science for nearly two years and worked with the staff in the Department of Biology from 2015-2016.

•Gift baskets from the THCAS Staff Council were given to the three award winners.

Gift baskets from the THCAS Staff Council were given to the three award winners.

“I am humbled that I have colleagues who think so highly of me. It is always great to have reassurance that you are doing your best, and I feel awards like this do just that,” said Ridley. “Working within the college, I have gained great relationships and friendships. I also enjoy that I now get to supervise student office assistants, as I was once one myself. I find it rewarding that this comes full circle.”

Prior to the ceremony, many colleagues provided words of praise in their nominations of the candidates.

“Julie brings to her challenging position a remarkable combination of professionalism, expertise, strong work ethic, creativity, positive attitude and a desire to help and serve,” wrote a supporter of Marik. “Julie truly exemplifies our Pirate motto, Servire.”

Another nominator wrote, “Julie’s dedication to undergraduate success is evident by her excellent mentorship of TAs and her willingness to take on pedagogical changes to the laboratory courses she oversees.”

A colleague of Ridley’s commented, “Chastidy Ridley is a prime example of the Pirates that we like to see coming from East Carolina University. She was a dedicated student and student worker, and now we are fortunate to have her as a staff member for THCAS. She works tirelessly to ensure that her chair, faculty and students are assisted.”

“Ms. Ridley comes to work each day with a positive attitude and works to help raise the spirits of others around her,” commented another colleague. “She makes it clear she cares about others and will go out of her way to help students and faculty in any way she can.”

Door prizes donated by campus and community organizations were raffled off to attendees of the event.

Door prizes donated by campus and community organizations were raffled off to attendees of the event.

Bonnerup, winner of the professional development grant, began his career with ECU in 2004 as a research instructor in radiation oncology at the Brody School of Medicine. He moved to Harriot College’s Department of Physics in 2013.

“I’m very thankful for the college to offer these funds, as specialized training and continuing education opportunities are not readily available in Greenville,” said Bonnerup.

Bonnerup will use his $1,200 grant to attend this year’s annual Symposium of Northeastern Accelerator Personnel in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference focuses on the interest of the people who use, build, maintain and repair particle accelerators for academic research and commercial purposes.

“This year’s meeting happens to be a great time to attend, in that the itinerary will include a VIP tour of National Electrostatics Corporation, the manufacturer of the ECU particle accelerator,” said Bonnerup. “The venue is also a great opportunity to meet with highly experienced users of these machines, discuss problems they have experienced and techniques to address and solve them. I hope to bring these skills and techniques back to ECU and use them to provide enhanced engineering and user support for the ECU accelerator lab.”

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

ECU anthropology professor named director of international initiatives for Harriot College

East Carolina University anthropology professor Dr. Megan Perry has been appointed director of international initiatives for the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, effective July 1.

“I’m thrilled to have her expertise and her energy for this important component of our college mission,” said Dr. William M. Downs, dean of Harriot College.

Dr. Megan Perry, associate professor of anthropology and director of international initiatives, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

Dr. Megan Perry, professor of anthropology and director of international initiatives, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

In her new role, Perry, who also serves as director of graduate studies for anthropology, will act as college liaison to ECU’s Office of Global Affairs. She will lead efforts to expand study abroad opportunities for Harriot College students, coordinate scholarships, review proposals for faculty-led programs, promote integration of international experiences into curricula and increase the college’s presence of international scholars for short- and long-term residency.

“It’s a new challenge for me. So that always excites me,” said Perry. “I think international education is really important. It opens up a lot of opportunities for our students and professors.”

Perry said her tasks and goals will include making study abroad programs in Harriot College more cohesive; creating a central place where students can find funding for study abroad – making that process easier; seeking out and identifying countries where ECU can establish a more formal partnership; and consolidating sources for faculty who want to go overseas for research, perhaps through an exchange program.

“When I start, I want to meet with faculty who already have international connections. It will be a lot of exploratory work in the beginning,” said Perry.

She also hopes to help facilitate the ability of international students to come to ECU and take a few classes or connect them with professors who they may want to perform research with for a semester.

“I want to increase participation in international programs by both students and faculty, and increase the international perspective of our curriculum,” said Perry.

Perry came to ECU in 2003 after earning her doctoral degree from the University of New Mexico in 2002. She teaches courses on human osteology, death and disease in classical antiquity, and forensic anthropology.

Her research focuses on 1st century B.C. – 7thcentury A.D. Jordan. She has worked on archaeological projects in Jordan for nearly 25 years and is co-director of the Petra North Ridge Project with Dr. S. Thomas Parker of North Carolina State University.

For additional information, contact Perry at perrym@ecu.eduor 252-328-9434.

 

-by Lacey Gray, University Communications

Harriot College announces 2018 Dean’s Early Career Award recipients

East Carolina University’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences has announced that Dr. Elizabeth Ables, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Jacob Hochard, assistant professor of economics, are recipients of the 2018 Dean’s Early Career Award. The announcement was made May 10 during a special reception hosted by Dean William M. Downs at the home of the THCAS Dean’s Advancement Council Chair Jim Mullen and his wife Pam.

The Dean’s Early Career Award, established in 2015 through the generosity of the Harriot College Advancement Council, recognizes and rewards exceptional performance by tenure-track assistant professors. It represents the college’s breadth of faculty excellence in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics.

“The award’s primary focus is on the faculty member’s productivity in research and creative discovery, which must be judged to be of such high quality and impact that it exceeds expectations,” said Downs. “Outstanding performance in professional development must be complemented by demonstrated excellence in instructional effectiveness and service, and I am extremely pleased to say Drs. Ables and Hochard exceeded these qualifications.”

In addition to their recognition at the home of the Mullens, Ables and Hochard will be acknowledged at Harriot College’s fall convocation in August.

Dr. Elizabeth Ables, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Jacob Hochard, assistant professor of economics, are recipients of the 2018 THCAS Dean’s Early Career Award. (Contributed Photos)

Dr. Elizabeth Ables, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Jacob Hochard, assistant professor of economics, are recipients of the 2018 THCAS Dean’s Early Career Award. (Contributed Photos)

Dr. Elizabeth Ables

“I am humbled and surprised,” said Ables. “This award has gone to some folks that I really admire in the field, especially in our department. It’s nice to consider myself part of that rank.”

Born and raised in rural Virginia, Ables has a lot in common with a majority of the students at ECU.

“It means a lot to me personally to have been able to come to this part of the country,” Ables said. “One of the things I decided I wanted to do when I started this path was to provide experiences for students from rural areas, and I feel East Carolina University has given me the opportunity to do that.”

Ables received her doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University in 2007 and completed post-doctoral training at Johns Hopkins University in 2012, before coming to ECU in January 2013. She is a cell biologist and geneticist, and she teaches undergraduate and graduate-level courses in cell biology.

“I teach very differently to the undergraduates than I do to the graduate students,” Ables said. “I enjoy the undergraduates. They tend to be more enthusiastic when they learn something for the first time. But I like challenging the graduate students, in part, because they challenge me back. I think my most rewarding experience is teaching the graduate students who work in my lab.”

Ables studies the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) stem cells seen here. They are located in the ovary and are the parent cells for every oocyte, or egg, produced by the female fly. (Contributed photo)

Ables studies the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) stem cells seen here. They are located in the ovary and are the parent cells for every oocyte, or egg, produced by the female fly. (Contributed photo)

As a cell biologist and trained developmental biologist, Ables researches how cells that make up the human body are instructed by genomes to have a specialized function. She uses stem cells as a model because they have the potential to divide and make new daughter cells. This research underlies two fundamental biological questions pertaining to regenerative medicine, and how we make new cells from stem cells or other tissue sources; and cancer biology, which is a problem of unlimited cell division.

Currently, two doctoral students, three master’s students and up to four undergraduate students per semester conduct research in Ables’ lab using Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly.

Fruit flies are being sorted by a student researcher in Ables’ lab. In the lab, Ables and her students study the basic biology of how cells use the information encoded in the genome to establish specialized functions. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Fruit flies are being sorted by a student researcher in Ables’ lab. In the lab, Ables and her students study the basic biology of how cells use the information encoded in the genome to establish specialized functions. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

“It’s a great model system. I use it as a way to teach cell biology in my classroom,” said Ables. “It’s really hard to get attached to a fly, which I think is good for beginning experimentalists, and we have a lot of tools so the experiments we do are relatively simple.”

At ECU, Ables collaborates across campus with researchers in the reproductive biology interest group. She is involved with a variety of microscopy groups including the Laser Technology Applications Group, an east/west campus initiative that seeks to provide more dynamic research and information-sharing opportunities to industry and academic researchers. Also, Ables serves or has served on the biology departmental undergraduate curriculum committee, the biology graduate curriculum committee and on a number of faculty searches.

Dr. Jacob Hochard

When Hochard learned he would be one of the recipients of this year’s award, he said, “It’s definitely humbling. I know a lot of the past recipients, and they are great scholars. I am privileged to be in their company.”

“ECU has done a really good job of supporting early career researchers,” Hochard said. “I think they are progressive at institutionalizing interdisciplinary research, which is one of the reasons I am very happy here.”

Hochard received his doctoral degree from the University of Wyoming in 2015, before beginning his career at ECU that same year. At ECU, Hochard is an assistant professor of economics and an assistant research scientist at the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy. He teaches an introductory-level principals of microeconomics course, and he teaches doctoral students in the coastal resources management program.

“I love teaching the introductory level students,” said Hochard. “Most of them are first-generation college students, and I am too. So I think I can identify with them and get them excited about economics.”

Through one of his research projects, Hochard traveled to rural Karnataka, India, where he visited schools and interviewed farmers about their agricultural practices and challenges. (Contributed Photo)

Through one of his research projects, Hochard traveled to rural Karnataka, India, where he visited schools and interviewed farmers about their agricultural practices and challenges. (Contributed photo)

Hochard’s research focuses on ecosystem services from land, water and wildlife. He is examining the red wolf recovery program in eastern North Carolina, how land use changes in the developing world affect poverty rates and the human health impacts of hog farms on eastern North Carolina, specifically how ingesting contaminated water affects birth weights and gestation lengths.

His most pressing work is the focus on water quality in eastern North Carolina, which is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. ECU co-collaborators include Dr. James Randall Etheridge, assistant professor of engineering, and Dr. Ariane Peralta, assistant professor of biology.

“We are hoping to inform communities on how they can protect themselves against potentially contaminated water sources, whether that’s expanding public services into rural areas that currently lack them, or investing in natural capital – forest cover, restoring buffers that will filter out contaminants – and how that might protect human health,” said Hochard. “The thing I find intriguing about the work we are doing in water quality and human health is it is one of those areas where you can have a local impact and still make a broad intellectual contribution that is recognized by our peers.”

Beyond his research at ECU, Hochard is a member of the Coastal Maritime Council. Earlier this year, he received the 2018 Coastal-Maritime Council Coastal Scholar Award during ECU’s Research and Creative Activity Week. He is a member of the Coastal Resource Management doctoral program admissions committee, a member of the Science and Technology Advisory Committee for the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuarine Partnership, and he founded and organized ECU’s Early Career Contributions in Climate and Coastal Science seminar series.

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

ECU offers new master’s degree in Hispanic studies

Spanish is the official language of 20 nations and is the second most spoken language in the world, with more than 400 million native speakers. Students at East Carolina University now have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of Spanish and to prepare for a successful career with the new Master of Arts in Hispanic Studies.

“1934 Environment” was painted by Cândido Portinari (December 29, 1903 - February 6, 1962), a prominent Brazilian artist and influential practitioner of the neo-realism style in painting. 

“1934 Environment” was painted by Cândido Portinari (Dec. 29, 1903 – Feb. 6, 1962), a prominent Brazilian artist and influential practitioner of the neo-realism style in painting.

Approved in March, the program is accepting applications through July 15 for the fall semester. The program is unique in that it is not divided into traditional language, culture and literature courses but takes a holistic approach to teaching, said Dr. Dale Knickerbocker, professor of Hispanic studies and director of the new graduate program.

“The M.A. graduate will develop a transcultural understanding of Hispanic studies, defined as the ability to comprehend and analyze discourse – the cultural narratives that appear in every kind of oral and written expressive form,” Knickerbocker said.

ECU students come to the Hispanic studies program with a wide variety of professional interests, from health to banking and communications to criminal justice.

Through the graduate program, students will be matched with a partner in the state that aligns with their interests and professional goals on an active-learning research project. A few partners include Vidant Health Care, the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, El Centro Latino and the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project.

“Students will learn to communicate with the degree of formality needed to succeed in professional environments,” said Knickerbocker.

Once they graduate, students are highly competitive in pursuing many careers, including health care, education, banking, media, social work and law enforcement.

Chichén Itzá is a complex of Mayan ruins on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. A massive step pyramid known as El Castillo, or Temple of Kukulcan, dominates the ancient city that thrived from around 600 A.D. to the 1200s. (Photo by Daniel Schwen)

Chichén Itzá is a complex of Mayan ruins on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. A massive step pyramid known as El Castillo, or Temple of Kukulcan, dominates the ancient city that thrived from around 600 A.D. to the 1200s. (Photo by Daniel Schwen)

According to the 2010 United States Census Bureau, Hispanics and Latinos constitute both the largest and the fastest growing minority in North Carolina and the U.S., growing from 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2000 to 16.3 percent in 2010, or from 35.3 million to 50.5 million individuals – an increase of 43 percent.

The master’s program will give ECU students the linguistic and cultural competency to provide goods and services to this rising demographic.

In addition, beginning in fall 2019, the program will offer online, distance education courses, continuing 20 years of distance education success by ECU Hispanic studies faculty. This opens up the possibilities for professionals and K-12 educators to continue their education on a more flexible basis, Knickerbocker said.

Once distance education classes begin, ECU’s online program will be the only online master’s of Hispanic studies offered in North Carolina or the southeastern United States. Currently, New Mexico State is the only other institution to offer an online master’s program in Hispanic studies.

For more information or to apply for the fall 2018-19 academic year, visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-cas/foreign/mahispanic/ or contact Knickerbocker at knickerbockerd@ecu.edu.

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

300 million-year-old boulders donated to ECU

On April 18, East Carolina University’s Department of Geological Sciences received a donation of three boulders, estimated at more than 300 million years old.

The boulders were installed for display outside of the Graham Building as part of the department’s collection of North Carolina rock types.

David Lee (left), chief geologist and enviormental supervisor with the Wake Stone Corporation, and ECU Geological Sciences associate professor Dr. Richard Spruill (right) stand with two rock specimens that were placed outside of the Graham Building on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

David Lee (left), chief geologist and enviormental supervisor with the Wake Stone Corporation, and ECU Geological Sciences associate professor Dr. Richard Spruill (right) stand with two rock specimens that were placed outside of the Graham Building on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

Each boulder weighs several tons and came from a Rocky Mount rock quarry.

Facilities Services employee Josh Cole (left) and David Lee (right) use straps to secure a large rock specimen while placing it outside of the Graham Building.

Facilities Services employee Josh Cole (left) and David Lee (right) use straps to secure a large rock specimen while placing it outside of the Graham Building.

ECU students will benefit from the donation of the boulders, which will contribute to their education.

“Undergraduate and graduate geoscience majors at ECU will utilize these specimens in various classes, including our yearlong sequence of the study of earth materials called mineralogy/petrology,” said Dr. Richard Spruill, associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences. “No other university in North Carolina has such an extensive collection of specimens of rocks from N.C.”

The donation was made possible by the Wake Stone Corporation. The boulders are from a granite intrusion exposed at the land surface in the quarry. A much younger intrusion of a dark colored rock called diabase, which occurred approximately 150 million years ago during the Mesozoic opening of the Atlantic Ocean, also exists at the site.

Dr. Richard Spruill (left) helps guide a bolder into place outside of the Graham Building.

Dr. Richard Spruill (left) helps guide a bolder into place outside of the Graham Building.

Dean, student switch roles in Harriot College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

Endowment to bring more renowned speakers to ECU

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Colson Whitehead, underwater explorer Jean-Michael Cousteau, primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have all come to East Carolina University to share their unique perspectives, and such luminaries will continue to be a staple thanks to an endowment for the Voyages of Discovery Series.

The series is an ongoing showcase of distinguished speakers with thought-provoking messages from every field. Humanitarians, authors, activists and astronauts have all been featured since the series was established in 2007 by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. The Voyages of Discovery Series has become the premier intellectual event for students and faculty of ECU as well as the citizens of eastern North Carolina.

The 2017-2018 season ended Thursday with a performance by the political satire group The Capitol Steps at ECU’s Wright Auditorium.

Harvey Wooten attends the 2017 Voyages of Discovery premier lecture with Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic, and friend Vik Sexton. (Contributed photo)

Harvey Wooten attends the 2017 Voyages of Discovery premier lecture with Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic, and friend Vik Sexton. (Contributed photo)

The Ms. Harvey S. Wooten Voyages of Discovery Endowment is the first endowment for the series. Wooten is one of the founding members of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advancement Council and has been involved in the series since its beginning.

“I just feel so strongly about this lecture series,” she said. “It’s a way to bring intellectual stimulus to the university and the community with big names that might not ever come here otherwise.”

Wooten, a Kinston native, has lived in Greenville for nearly 40 years. She served as the co-chair of the THCAS Advancement Council for 10 years. As an active member of the council, Wooten has provided generous funding for the college and established the Harvey Sharp Wooten Study Abroad Scholarship and the Harvey Wooten Social Sciences Scholarship.

“Harvey Wooten is, without match, our most loyal and generous supporter of the Voyages of Discovery Series,” Dean William M. Downs said. “For years, she has contributed funds that have enabled Harriot College to bring some of the world’s foremost scientists, authors, policymakers, and world-changers to Greenville. By creating the Wooten Endowment, she has laid a solid foundation for the series’ future. As we endeavor to elevate the prominence of the speakers we bring to campus, we will look to grow the endowment so that generations of future Pirates will continue to benefit from the wisdom, wit and inspiration of those showcased by eastern North Carolina’s most important lecture series.”

Series director Jeffrey Johnson echoed that sentiment. “Harvey is a person of wide-ranging interests in the arts and sciences, and her appetite for intellectual inquiry and exploration embodies this series,” he said. “All of us who are involved with the series are deeply grateful to Harvey.”

Wooten said she never misses a lecture. Her favorites over the years have included renowned paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, writer and journalist Walter Isaacson, and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Above all, Wooten said she hopes the endowment will encourage more people to give to the lecture series and show others what a gift ECU is giving to the public.

“You can bring rock stars and country singers here and that’s great entertainment for one night, but these speakers that come give you insight into their mind and their world and give you something inspiring to take away from it.”

For additional information about the Voyages Series, visit www.ecu.edu/voyages.

 

-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

Riverbank erosion in Bangladesh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bangladesh coastal map

Bangladesh coastal map

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

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

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

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

N.C. coastal map

N.C. coastal map

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

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