New focus for lab courses introduced

Instead of repeating tried-and-true experiments in their science laboratory courses, university and community college students in eastern North Carolina will soon be learning and conducting science in a more interactive, engaging way.

That’s thanks to new way of leading student laboratory courses called X-Labs. Science educators from East Carolina University and area community colleges learned about the concept May 9 at the X-Labs Summer Symposium at ECU.

Traditionally, instructors teach lab courses in a “cookbook style,” said Joi Walker, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry. Students follow steps, collect data and move on to their next assignment.

Joi Walker, assistant professor of chemistry, discusses the X-Labs concept to a group of educators during a summer symposium in the Science and Technology Building on May 9. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

Joi Walker, assistant professor of chemistry, discusses the X-Labs concept to a group of educators during a summer symposium in the Science and Technology Building on May 9. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

The X-Labs model is a cross-disciplinary, practice-focused model that changes the structure of standard lab courses. Instead of following a set design, students will be a part of the design process while also working with larger teams to create written lab reports and poster presentations.

The program’s goal is to increase student’s ability to engage in science practices between and across disciplines, bringing together a common lab structure and language for undergraduate students.

“Today, we’re introducing the new path we’re headed toward with our lab courses,” Walker said. “We want the leaders in our scientific disciplines to know about the changes coming their way. X-Labs is a different way of doing things; we want to ensure that the campus community is aware of the program and the changes they may see in lab courses moving forward.”

The X-Labs program is a three-year project funded by a $598,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant tasks X-Labs program leaders with transforming lab courses at an institutional level to better prepare undergraduate students for careers in STEM fields. X-Labs will also seek to change lab course structure at community colleges in eastern North Carolina.

East Carolina University student Meghan Lower discusses a poster on X-Labs during a summer symposium on X-Labs at the Science and Technology Building.

ECU student Meghan Lower discusses a poster on X-Labs during a summer symposium on X-Labs at the Science and Technology Building.

The ECU chemistry department is leading the change and will begin conducting courses this summer using argument-driven inquiry. Argument-driven inquiry is an instructional model featuring eight stages of scientific discovery: identifying a task and guiding question, designing a method and collecting data, developing an initial argument, hosting an argument session, conducting a reflective discussion, writing an investigative report, participating in a double-blind peer review, and revising and submitting a final report.

The biology department will follow with X-Labs implementation in the fall, with physics to follow. Walker expects all three deparmtents to have X-Labs courses running by next spring.

“X-Labs changes the culture of lab work,” Walker said. “It’s authentic science. Students are going to be taking a more active role in the lab and that’s going to be better for our students and faculty. ECU has a large undergraduate student population. Our faculty members depend on these undergraduates to help conduct research. X-Labs will better prepare these students to take on that challenge, benefiting both mentor and mentee.”

Mary Farwell, director of undergraduate research, said the program has wide-ranging implications for student research.

“The X-Labs project guides students to make connections between different lab courses,” Farwell said. “They truly learn how science is carried out by scientists. After completing X-Labs, students will be more prepared for and, I believe, more interested in, faculty-mentored undergraduate research.”

For more information on X-Labs, contact Walker at walkerjoi15@ecu.edu.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

Eastern AHEC, ECU and Camp Lejeune partner on new military-civilian cardiac conference

More than 250 military and civilian health professionals came together for a new educational conference entitled Premature Cardiac Death in Eastern North Carolina on May 8 at Camp Lejeune.

Held at Camp Lejeune, the first Premature Cardiac Death in Eastern North Carolina conference brought together more than 250 military and civilian health professionals. (Photos by Jackie Drake)

Held at Camp Lejeune, the first Premature Cardiac Death in Eastern North Carolina conference brought together more than 250 military and civilian health professionals. (Photos by Jackie Drake)

This collaboration allowed physicians, nurses, first responders and others to share and discuss best practices for prevention, intervention and emergency response for cardiac events and cardiovascular disease. The conference was jointly provided by Eastern Area Health Education Center Department of Nursing and Allied Health Education, the Office of Continuing Medical Education and the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, in partnership with Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune.

Dr. D. Lynn Morris, chief of interventional cardiology at the East Carolina Heart Institute and professor of cardiovascular sciences at the Brody School of Medicine, spoke at the conference at Camp Lejeune.

Dr. D. Lynn Morris, chief of interventional cardiology at the East Carolina Heart Institute and professor of cardiovascular sciences at the Brody School of Medicine, spoke at the conference at Camp Lejeune.

The program was a success, according to Dr. Mary Wilson, assistant director for nursing education at Eastern AHEC. “Participants were able to gain a deeper understanding of the various types of cardiovascular disease that impact many in our region, current treatment guidelines and research findings,” Wilson said. “Overall, the conference provided an opportunity to learn about the unique health care needs of eastern North Carolina and facilitate joint efforts to coordinate patient care for both military and civilian populations.”

More than 18,000 people in North Carolina died from heart disease in 2016, according to the State Center for Health Statistics. A number of counties in the east, such as Lenoir and Jones, have cardiovascular disease death rates above that of the state. This issue also affects military personnel.

“Events like this allow us to learn from one another,” said Capt. James Hancock, commanding officer of Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, during opening remarks. “We each bring something unique, different capabilities to the table, and today we have an opportunity to share those talents and education. The future of health care in eastern North Carolina depends on us working side-by-side.”

Mildred Carraway, director of continuing medical, pharmacy and dental education at Eastern AHEC, shakes hands with Capt. James Hancock, commanding officer of Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune.

Mildred Carraway, director of continuing medical, pharmacy and dental education at Eastern AHEC, shakes hands with Capt. James Hancock, commanding officer of Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune.

“I was really excited about collaborating with the military health care system,” said Dr. J. Paul Mounsey, chief of electrophysiology at the East Carolina Heart Institute. “I enjoyed interacting with the military physicians. We got a lot of positive feedback and the participants asked great questions. There was a good exchange of ideas. There is huge potential for the future in our goal of improving health care in eastern North Carolina.”

Upcoming continuing education and professional development events from Eastern AHEC include a Military Women’s Health Symposium on Sept. 19 and a Cardiovascular Symposium on Dec. 6. For more information, visit www.easternahec.net.

 

-by Jackie Drake, Eastern AHEC

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

ECU Police to conduct active shooter training

Law enforcement officers train in Tyler Hall as part of an active shooter training drill. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

In this file photo, law enforcement officers train in Tyler Hall as part of an active shooter training drill. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

The East Carolina University Police Department will conduct active shooter training May 14-18 from 5 p.m. to midnight in the Carol G. Belk Building on Charles Boulevard.

This training, a normal part of ECU’s emergency planning procedures, is designed to prepare law enforcement personnelto respond to an active shooter on campus. Belk will be the only building involved in the training scenarios.

According to the ECU Police, the exercise may involve the simulated use of weapons including blank rounds, and role players will be constantly entering the building from multiple entrances.

 

-Contact: Lt. Chris Sutton, ECU Police, 252-737-7433

Blockfest competition gives construction students real-life experience

Blockfest, a structure building competition made possible by Oldcastle Adams, recently came to ECU, where 42 construction students participated in the daylong event.

Blockfest, a structure building competition made possible by Oldcastle Adams, recently came to ECU, where 42 construction students participated in the daylong event. (Contributed photos)

Construction management students recently competed in Blockfest, a design and craft competition in which seven teams of 42 students had to dry-stack a structure using a selection of concrete masonry units (CMU) that were provided by Oldcastle Adams products of Goldsboro.

Before competition day, the teams created an 11-by-17 presentation board that showed the plans and elevations of their proposed structures. On the day of the competition, teams had two hours to build the structures, which had to be approximately 48 inches tall and not exceed a maximum site size of 6-by-6.

Once the students completed construction of the structures, which ranged from benches to grills to firepits, industry judges reviewed the structures. The winning structure was built by Cailey Hastings (team leader), Adam Ghanayem and Andrew Dickerson.

The student team that built the winning structure included Andrew Dickerson, standing and front row, left to right, Adam Ghanayem and Cailey Hastings.

The student team that built the winning structure included Andrew Dickerson, standing and front row, left to right, Adam Ghanayem and Cailey Hastings.

Brett Hardy, vice president of sales for Oldcastle Adams, serves on the advisory board for the College of Engineering and Technology’s Department of Construction Management. He says the competition allows the students to learn more about the CMUs they’ll encounter once in the real world.

“This is the future of our industry (the students),” said Hardy. “I think it’s important for them to understand the different material types.”

Construction sophomore Nathaniel Matthewson levels sand for the base for a structure built during Blockfest.

Construction sophomore Nathanial Mathewson levels sand that served as the base for a structure built during Blockfest.

“It’s like a live lab for them to get hands-on experience,” said Dr. Amin Akhnoukh, assistant professor in construction management.

Akhnoukh said the competition is much more than building the structure. Each team had to not only supply the drawings, but also had to coordinate the purchasing and delivery of materials.

This year’s Blockfest was the third time the event has been held at ECU.

 

-by Michael Rudd, University Communications

Hurricane Preparedness Week 2018: Be prepared to weather the storm

ECU Police patrol campus during Hurricane Irene in 2011. (File photo)

ECU Police patrol campus during Hurricane Irene in 2011. (File photo)

While most of today’s students are too young to remember 1999’s Hurricane Floyd, the severe flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 remains a fresh memory. Eastern North Carolina and East Carolina University students, faculty and staff have been at the forefront of helping the community prepare for and recover from these natural disasters.

The National Weather Service marked May 6-12 as Hurricane Preparedness Week, and North Carolina has designated May 13-19 as its week to urge the public to start thinking about storm season. The official start of the Atlantic hurricane season is June 1, but recent history has shown that tropical activity can begin early.

High winds, heavy rain and flooding are among the hazards associated with hurricane landfalls, and they can lead to extended utility outages, drinking water contamination, traffic issues, flooding, downed trees and structural damage.

The best way to stay safe during a hurricane or tropical storm is to be prepared before there is a storm approaching. Everyone in areas that could be impacted by hurricanes should have an emergency kit and a plan for communications during an emergency. Visit www.ready.gov for information on what should be included in an emergency kit.

Learn what areas are flood-prone and plan to avoid them. At ECU, flood-prone parking lots have signs at their entrances. These include the lower Minges and lower College Hill lots.

In the event of an approaching storm, the university will communicate updates through the ECU Alert system. Announcements can be found on the university homepage and through the emergency hotline, email and SMS text message systems.

For more information visit https://alertinfo.ecu.edu/hurricane-safety/.

The first step in hurricane preparedness is determining your risk.  What types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live? How can you prepare to  handle them? (Contributed image)

The first step in hurricane preparedness is determining your risk. What types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live? How can you prepare to handle them? (Contributed image)

 

-by Jules Norwood

Honor a service member with a Memorial Walk commemorative brick

Anthony Britt, Associate Director for Administration & Summer School at ECU, honored three members of his family by placing bricks engraved with their names at the Memorial Walk at Christenbury Gym during a Veteran's Day ceremony in November. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

Anthony Britt, Associate Director for Administration & Summer School at ECU, honored three members of his family by placing bricks engraved with their names at the Memorial Walk at Christenbury Gym during a Veteran’s Day ceremony in November. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

Each November, the Office of Military Programs conducts a ceremony to honor those whose engraved brick pavers will become part of the Memorial Walk located west of Christenbury Memorial Gymnasium.

The project, by the College of Health and Human Performance and the Office of Military Programs, also raises funds for ROTC Army and Air Force Scholarships.

The decorative brick pavers, engraved with a selected name or phrase, can be purchased in honor of any living or deceased veteran or active duty service member, as well as anyone who has done something in support of our national defense, including helping with programs with the VA, Support The Troops, Wounded Warrior Project and similar activities.

East Carolina University’s faculty, staff, students and friends are able to purchase the commemorative bricks for family members or those who have served in the military. The cost is $125 – $25 buys the paver and pays for the engraving, and $100 goes for ROTC scholarships. The $100 of the cost is tax-deductible.

The November ceremony includes a segment where the family, friend and/or service member can lay the paver as part of the program. During this time, each name is read and the Victory Bell is struck to represent the service and sacrifice of the one honored.

The dedication for this year will be 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2. Paver orders will be accepted for this year’s ceremony until Sept. 7.

For more information and to access the order form, visit https://hhp.ecu.edu/2018/05/09/honor-a-service-member/.

The engraved bricks become part of the Memorial Walk outside of Christenbury Gym.

The engraved bricks become part of the Memorial Walk outside of Christenbury Gym.

Family Fun Day set for June 3

Campus Recreation & Wellness will be hosting Family Fun Day on Sunday, June 3 from 2– 4 p.m. at the North Recreational Complex on U.S. 264 East to celebrate our members and families.

The ECU campus community is invited for an afternoon of inflatable water slides, kid-friendly games, a dance party on the beach and a fitness walk. You will be able to paddle in a kayak, a canoe or a stand-up paddle board across the lake. CRW 2018 summer campers get a chance to meet the new counselors for this upcoming season.

Light refreshments will be served. Water activities are available so please come prepared to get wet.

You must register for this event prior to June 1 at crwregistration.ecu.edu. Please log in with your ECU PirateID and add any dependents to your account that wish to attend. Then you will choose the icon for Special Events.

North Recreational Complex address:

Campus Recreation & Wellness

3764 U.S. 264 East

Greenville, NC 27843

*NRC is located on U.S. 264 next to North Campus Crossing.

 

For more information contact Jenny Gregory at gregoryj@ecu.edu 

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

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