ECU FoodMASTER Camp instills a love for food, science, and math

By Nicole Wood
College of Human Ecology

Twenty-eight middle grade students from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pitt County will receive hands-on math and science experience through ECU’s FoodMASTER Summer Science Camp in June (6/24-28) and July (7/8-12).

The students will cook and garden under the direction of hospitality leadership and

Dr. Melani Duffrin

Dr. Melani Duffrin

nutrition science faculty and students. Students will spend the week learning the science and math concepts involved in cooking, gardening, and nutrition.  By the end of the week they have will have reviewed concepts in the fields of biology, chemistry, horticulture, nutrition science and math all while having fun in the kitchen and garden.

FoodMASTER Summer Science Camp partners with Boys and Girls Club; A Time for Science, the nature and science learning center in southern Pitt County; and Save a Sea Turtle Foundation to offer the camp. Prior to FoodMASTER Camp, the children spend a week at A Time for Science learning about water quality and conservation.

Melani Duffrin, FoodMASTER principal investigator and ECU professor of nutrition science, and Virginia Carraway-Stage, FoodMASTER director and assistant professor of nutrition science, are leading the initiative to create and test a FoodMASTER curriculum for middle graders in North Carolina. The summer science camp is part of that project.

FoodMASTER Summer Science Camp Director Jacqueline De Chabert-Rios is an assistant professor of hospitality leadership.  David Rivera, Jr., associate professor of hospitality leadership, also helps with camp efforts.

FoodMASTER has received over $2.7 million in funding from the National Institutes for Health’s (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) to develop, implement, and disseminate food-based curriculums and materials to K-12 teachers in North Carolina and beyond. The FoodMASTER curriculum incorporates food activities into Common Core Standards for math and science.

FoodMASTER was created in 1999 by Duffrin along with Sharon Phillips, an Ohio elementary school teacher, to bring science, math, and nutrition concepts to life through activities using common household items such as measuring cups and spoons, cereals, flour, fruits, vegetables, and milk.

Learn more at


ECU ecologist’s wetlands research in major publications

Research by ECU professor Marcelo Ardón-Sayao, assistant professor of ecology in the Department of Biology, has appeared in two major science publications this summer. His work on soil and surface water runoff from natural and restored wetlands in North Carolina has been featured in the journal Global Change Biology and in the science journal Nature.

Dr. Marcelo Ardón-Sayao,

Marcelo Ardón-Sayao

Dr. Jeff McKinnon, chair of the Department of Biology in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, said Ardón’s research is directly relevant to the people of Eastern North Carolina, as well as having national and international implications.

“His work highlights the complexity of the effects of more frequent salt-water incursions due to droughts and sea-level rise on both natural and restored wetland ecosystems,” said McKinnon.

Coastal freshwater wetlands diminish nitrogen delivery to sensitive coastal waters, but according to Ardón, increased salinity from droughts and sea-level rise may threaten this important service.

To test for salinity effects on nitrogen cycling, Ardón and collaborators from Duke University studied two natural and one restored coastal wetland in North Carolina over a period of five years.

Ardón’s research indicates the wetlands experienced episodes of increased surface water salinity due to droughts that occurred from 2007 to 2012.

“The increased salinity caused nitrogen release from all wetlands, with the highest releases in the restored wetland, potentially due to its fertilizer legacy from past agricultural use,” said Ardón. “Our results suggest that increased salinity in coastal wetlands could lead to large nitrogen losses from freshwater wetlands worldwide.”

For additional information, contact Ardón at 252-328-6307, or email him at More details about Ardón are available at

To read the summary written by Nature, go to The abstract for Ardón’s paper may be viewed online at


Board of Trustees vice chair joins Charlotte firm

East Carolina University Board of Trustees vice chair Robert Brinkley, an ECU alumnus, has joined the Charlotte real estate firm Womble Carlyle.



“Womble Carlyle is known for its outstanding real estate practice, and the firm has a strong presence in Charlotte, so this will be a good fit for me and my clients,” Brinkley said. “I believe my clients will appreciate Womble Carlyle’s client-focused, value-centered approach.”

He is the Past Chair of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Real Property Section, and has been a Member of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce’s Land Use Committee and is a previous Chair of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Land Use Committee.

In addition to his work as a real estate attorney, Brinkley practices in the areas of banking, corporate and educational law. He also is very engaged in many community, civic and charitable activities. He currently is completing his second term as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of Providence Day School and his second term as a Member of the Wake Forest Law Board of Visitors.

Brinkley brings more than 30 years of real estate law experience to Womble Carlyle. He has led numerous major commercial development projects in the region, including bringing mixed-use developments to Uptown Charlotte, helping a Fortune 200 relocate a major division to Charlotte and developing a 950,000-square-foot high-rise office building in Uptown Charlotte. He also has worked extensively on high-profile economic development projects, working with government, community and business leaders to help bring jobs and investment to the region.

He has served on ECU’s Board of Trustees since 2007.


ECU grad named ‘hottest dad’ on Today Show

ECU Brody School of Medicine graduate Andrew Ungaro was featured on the Today Show as winner of the iVillage hottest dad contest.

ECU Brody School of Medicine graduate Andrew Ungaro was featured on the Today Show as winner of the iVillage hottest dad contest.

ECU medical school graduate Andrew Ungaro was featured June 14 on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb as winner of the iVillage Hottest Dad in America contest.  Ungaro is a Navy doctor who lives in Portsmouth, Va. with his wife, Marley, and children Langley, 14, and Grey, 10. He was selected from among 1,500 entries narrowed down to nine categories that received 150,000 votes online.

Ungaro is a 2006 graduate in biology and a 2010 graduate from the Brody School of Medicine.

He received a week-long vacation for two to Scrub Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands, along with a $100 American Express gift card and a $250 spa credit at the resort.

Watch a video of the Today Show announcement at

Read more about the contest at iVillage,