Space Grant

NC Space Grant Expands Consortium Membership

ECU is the newest university to join the NC Space Grant, a consortium of academic institutions that promote, develop, and support aeronautics and space-related science, engineering, and technology education and training in the state.

In partnership with NASA, industry, non-profit organizations, and state government agencies, the NC Space Grant conducts programs designed to equip the current and future aero/space workforce in North Carolina.

Other N.C. affiliates include Appalachian State, Duke and N.C. State universities and the North Carolina Community College System.

As a new member of the NC Space Grant, ECU will collaborate with NASA and the aero/space community and strengthen existing relationships.

Led by Dr. John Rummel, the Space Grant program at ECU will use space science and technology as a vehicle to “inspire the next generation of explorers” using ongoing NASA-related research and educational programs at ECU with NC Space Grant-focused activities. The ECU mission is to increase the interest, awareness, and opportunities brought by ECU faculty to develop astrobiology, space science, planetary sciences, and exploration opportunities for university students, first, and thereby reach K-12 teachers, students, and the public.

Rummel is the director of the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy and a professor of biology at ECU.  Prior to his arrival at ECU in 2008, Rummel was the NASA Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, based in Washington, D.C., responsible for leading all aspects of NASA’s program to understand the origin, evolution, and fate of life in the universe.

For more information about the NC Space Grant, visit


Campus Kitchen

Katie Crifasi, left, and Kalyne Reid check the temperature of hamburgers while preparing dinner at the Ronald McDonald House. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Campus Kitchen transitions to student leadership

In little less than a year, East Carolina University’s Campus Kitchen has saved more than 1,300 pounds of food from being wasted and served more than 1,500 meals.

These milestones have come courtesy of more than 360 students, led by an AmeriCorps VISTA coordinator. But now, the students are taking charge.

A leadership team of eight student volunteers voted Jan. 20 to decide key positions in Campus Kitchen’s hunger relief operations, meaning that eventually their efforts will be student-run.

“They’ve really taken it upon themselves to help the program grow,” said Katie Winn, who coordinates the program through AmeriCorps VISTA, the national service program.

Campus Kitchen opened its doors at ECU’s Todd Dining Hall in February 2010. Part of a national hunger relief effort, the project works with Aramark to collect unused food from the university’s dining facilities.

Supplemented by items donated through food drives, Campus Kitchen volunteers twice a week prepare food for children and families at the Ronald McDonald House, which houses families of children receiving medical treatment, and the Little Willie Center, an after-school program.

“We want to serve complete meals,” Winn said. “We’ve had everything from hamburgers on the grill to pasta salad and pasta bakes and casseroles.”

Running the program takes varied talents including logistical skills, marketing know-how and cooking ability. Student leaders all receive ServSafe certification, a food-safety training credential. They all commit regular hours to the project and oversee other volunteers.

Katie Crifasi, a member of the leadership team and graduate student studying cell biology, joined the project because it offers so many ways to help others. Not only does Campus Kitchen help the university be more efficient, she said, it also helps the Little Willie Center and the Ronald McDonald House serve families and children.

“Everybody’s just really grateful,” she said. “It sounds really simple — you’re just making dinner for someone, but it really makes things easier on a family.”

Preparing meals for others is also fun, she said.

“Sometimes, just like any kitchen, we think, ‘Did we put too much seasoning in this one? Should we do it this way?’” Crifasi joked. “We look at our cake and think, maybe our moms wouldn’t be proud of us for this one, but hopefully it still tastes good.”

More than 360 volunteers have logged more than 880 hours of service, Winn said, and the program has no trouble attracting help from students.

Winn will continue to advise students through the end of the year, when her VISTA assignment ends. The federal program, founded in 1965 to fight poverty, provides a living stipend and other benefits in exchange for a year’s service.

“We will always have a supervisor for the kitchen,” Winn said. “The intention is to have another VISTA, just not one to be as involved.”

Volunteers hope the operation raises awareness about hunger and food insecurity, she said. Since the economic downturn began, food banks around the country have reported sharp increases in demand.

“There is a whole new face of poverty that is coming around with the recession,” Winn said. “There are a lot of people who on the outside look like average-income people, but they go to bed hungry at night. It’s becoming a really ubiquitous issue. People really need help.”


ECU to build dental center in Lillington

By Doug Boyd

LILLINGTON, N.C.   (Jan. 19, 2011)   —   Lillington has been selected to be the site of an educational and patient-care facility of the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine.

Dr. Jim Hupp, dean of the ECU School of Dental Medicine, speaks Jan. 19 in Lillington. (Photos by Doug Boyd)

ECU announced today at the Harnett County Government Complex that it will build one of its community service learning centers beside the new First Choice Community Health Center off U.S. 401. There, dental students and residents will train and, together with ECU faculty members, provide care to local residents.

“This is going to be a very good site, a good collaboration with First Choice Community Health Center,” said Dr. Gregory Chadwick, associate dean for planning and extramural affairs at the dental school. The two facilities “will really have an impact on primary health care in Harnett County.”

Lillington is the fourth site to be named for what will eventually be 10 such centers across the state and the first in central North Carolina. The other sites identified so far are Ahoskie and Elizabeth City in eastern North Carolina and Sylva in the western part of the state.

The 7,700-square-foot center will be a fully functioning general dentistry office with 16 treatment rooms, X-ray equipment, educational space and more. The state will own the land, and construction could begin this year if all goes well, Chadwick said.

Sheila Simmons, executive director of First Choice, said the partnership with ECU will be important to her community. “The future consists of not just ‘make a difference’ but ‘be the difference,'” she said, “and this collaboration will allow us to be the difference.”

Full-time dental school faculty members will staff the center, along with dental hygienists and other staff members, and fourth-year dental students and residents will train at the center. Chadwick has described the centers as similar to “moving the fourth floor of the dental school — the clinical training — off campus to rural areas of our state where dental services are needed.”

Retired Lillington dentist Dr. Catherine Evans praised the plan for the education it will provide students and care it will provide for residents who might not get it any other way. “It will give access to dental care to people who cannot afford it on large basis, and I’m talking about basic care,” she said.

The school will admit its first 50 students, all North Carolina residents, in August, with plans to admit 50 each year.

North Carolina is below the national average in the ratio of dentists to population, and that ratio has declined recently as the population has increased faster than the supply of practitioners. Harnett County has one dentist for every 10,000 people, Simmons said, less than the state average of about 4 dentists for every 10,000 people.



NCLR Awarded

NCLR 2010

NCLR earns national design award

The North Carolina Literary Review won the 2010 Best Journal Design Award in the recent Council of Editors of Learned Journals competition.

NCLR is published by ECU and the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. The award was announced during the 2011 Modern Language Association annual conference held in Los Angeles.

“First and foremost, the person responsible for our receiving this award is Dana Ezzell Gay, NCLR’s Art Director, who has designed for NCLR since its beginning when she was a student at ECU, working with Eva Roberts, who created NCLR’s original design,” said NCLR Editor Dr. Margaret Bauer. “Dana approached me in 2008 about a redesign, and while my initial reaction was ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ I’ve often found myself frustrated by people who resist change. I’m glad we decided to take this chance.”

The journal was redesigned in 2009, and the 2008-2010 issues were submitted for the competition. NCLR is a large comprehensive body of work – both a scholarly journal and a literary magazine – and includes creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, and drama to interviews, literary criticism and literary news articles.

“The creation of a new design for a literary journal offers many challenges, but primarily involves developing strong, cohesive visual relationships between text and image,” Gay said. “Redesign brings text and image to life in a cohesive way and asks the reader to embrace the beauty of the words, as well as the layout.”

Announcing the award at the City Art Gallery in Greenville, Bauer also praised the efforts of graphic designers Stephanie Whitlock Dicken of Greenville and Pamela and Dave Cox of Five to Ten Design in Washington, N.C., as well as the art selections of Diane Rodman, art editor and a faculty member in the ECU English Department.

This was the second CELJ award for best design for NCLR, with the other coming in 1999. NCLR’s other CELJ awards were Best New Journal in 1994 and the Parnassus Award for Significant Editorial Achievement in 2007.

The North Carolina Literary Review is published annually and is available by subscription as well as at several retail outlets across North Carolina. For more information, visit the journal’s website at


Bioengineered Veins

Bioengineered veins could help patients needing bypass surgery, dialysis

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (2/2/11)–Thanks to research involving experts from East Carolina University, other universities and a Morrisville-based biotechnology firm, the day when a surgeon can pull a new human vein off the shelf for use in life-saving vascular surgeries is now one step closer to reality.


Dr. Alan P. Kypson

“This new type of bioengineered vein allows them to be easily stored in hospitals so they are readily available to surgeons at the time of need,” said Dr. Alan P. Kypson, a cardiothoracic surgeon, associate professor at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU and an author of the paper. “Currently, grafting using the patient’s own veins remains the gold standard. But, harvesting a vein from the patient’s leg can lead to complications, and for patients who don’t have suitable veins, the bioengineered veins could serve as an important new way to provide a coronary bypass.”

The American Heart Association Update on Heart Disease Statistics reports that in 2007, in the United States, surgeons performed more than 400,000 coronary bypass procedures. Patients requiring bypass surgery may not have suitable veins or arteries available and are not candidates for synthetic grafts because of the size needed for grafting.

The bioengineered veins also show promise for patients on kidney hemodialysis. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 320,000 patients are on chronic hemodialysis. Each year, 110,000 new patients develop renal failure requiring dialysis, and the number is growing by 3 percent a year. More than half of dialysis patients lack the healthy veins necessary and must undergo an arteriovenous graft placement to have bloodstream access for hemodialysis.

Most arteriovenous grafts that are placed for hemodialysis access are made of a synthetic material, which suffers from significant drawbacks including a high rate of infection, a propensity for blockages due to clotting and a thickening of blood vessels known as intimal hyperplasia, said Dr. Jeffrey H. Lawson, a surgeon and associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine and an author of the research.

“Due to high complication rates, each A.V. dialysis graft requires an average of 2.8 interventions over its lifetime just to keep it functioning,” Lawson said. “Hence, there is a huge clinical need for a functionally superior, off-the-shelf A.V. graft that suffers from fewer complications than current materials.”

Lawson has served as a consultant for Humacyte and has received research support from the company through Duke.

In this research, scientists generated bioengineered veins in a bioreactor — a device designed to support a biological environment — and then stored them up to 12 months in refrigerated conditions. The bioengineered veins, 3 millimeters to 6 millimeters in diameter, demonstrated excellent blood flow and resistance to blockage in large animal models for up to a year.

Scientists from Duke, ECU, Yale University and Humacyte conducted the research, and Humacyte, a leader in regenerative medicine, funded it. Overseeing the research and serving as senior author of the article was Dr. Laura Niklason, founder of Humacyte and professor of anesthesiology and biomedical engineering at Yale. Niklason is an authority in regenerative medicine for arterial engineering and led the team that recently created a functioning rat lung in a laboratory.

Shannon L. M. Dahl, senior director of scientific operations and co-founder of Humacyte, is lead author on the paper. “Not only are bioengineered veins available at the time of patient need, but the ability to generate a significant number of grafts from a cell bank will allow for a reduction in the final production costs, as compared to other regenerative medicine strategies,” Dahl said. “While there is still considerable research to be done before a product is available for widespread use, we are highly encouraged by the results outlined in this paper and eager to move forward with additional study.”

Humacyte, a privately held company, is primarily focused on developing products for vascular disease and for dermal filling and soft tissue repair. The company uses its innovative and proprietary platform technology to engineer human extracellular matrix-based tissues that can be shaped into tubes, sheets or particulate conformations with properties similar to native tissues.

These can then be used in many specific applications, with the potential to significantly improve treatment outcomes for a variety of patients, including those with diabetes and on hemodialysis. The company’s proprietary technologies are designed to result in off-the-shelf products that can be used in any patient.



Youth Arts Festival

The annual Youth Arts Festival at ECU provides an opportunity for artists to show their work with eastern North Carolina youth.

Annual Youth Arts Festival seeks artists

The Seventh Annual Youth Arts Festival at ECU is seeking artists to participate in its annual show 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 2.

The goal of the East Carolina Annual Youth Arts Festival is to promote the visual and performing arts to the region’s children.

Visual and performing artists present their art forms to the youth of Pitt County and eastern North Carolina. Some artists showcase their talents and demonstrate the media they work in, while others work with the children doing hands-on projects.

The festival strives to feature multicultural and multiethnic artists from the university community, Greenville and the region.

Artists are not charged booth fees and no commission is taken on any work that is sold.

This festival is geared towards elementary and middle school children but is open to all.

For more information or to participate, contact Dindy Reich, coordinator of the Youth Arts Festival, at 252-328-5749 or More information about the festival can be found at