Newsletter, August 2016

 


The College of Science: A New Chapter for the Natural and Mathematical Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University

Dear alumni and friends,

Greetings! I have the honor of being the founding dean of Eastern Kentucky University’s new College of Science and it is my pleasure and privilege to introduce you to the college and this inaugural alumni newsletter.

The College of Science came into existence on July 1, 2016 as one of two colleges created as part of the restructuring of the former College of Arts and Sciences. The College is comprised of the following academic departments: Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geosciences, Mathematics & Statistics, and Physics & Astronomy. It also houses the Division of Natural Areas.

This new organizational structure provides us with an opportunity for a greater focus on EKU’s science and math programs, giving all the programs opportunities for increased prominence.

Whereas the College is new, its constituent units are well established. We will build upon the existing strengths (people, places, and programs) of these units to establish and sustain a supportive environment where faculty and students can excel.

We have outstanding faculty who are committed to student success through excellent instruction and other high impact practices such as undergraduate research; dedicated staff willing to support our students in every way possible; students who are eager to learn and perform at their highest potential; and involved alumni and friends determined to enhance the educational experience of our students.

Places where instructional activities are conducted enhance the learning experience. Our New Science Building provides state-of-the-art laboratory and instructional spaces well suited for engaged and transformative learning and cutting-edge research. Our natural areas at Lilley Cornett Woods, Maywoods, and Taylor Fork Ecological Area provide unparalleled outdoor facilities for environmental research and education.

When all is said and done, students expect academic programs that meet their needs. The College of Science offers a broad range of degree programs in physical, life and mathematical sciences, mathematics, and computer science. The College also offers pre-professional programs in engineering, optometry, pharmacy, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pathology assistant, and physician assistant.

Highlighted in this inaugural college newsletter, as will be the case with subsequent editions, are some of the people, places, and programs that make the College of Science at Eastern Kentucky University a special place to work and learn.

With the strengths of its people, places, and programs, the College of Science should become a strong attractor for students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.Dr. Tom Otieno, Interim Dean

The support of alumni and friends is invaluable to the college as we strive to enhance the educational experiences of our students. One of my goals as dean is to facilitate communication and engagement with our alumni and friends. This newsletter is the first step in that direction. I welcome you to communicate with us and let us know how you are doing, visit with us to take part in our events or to inspire our faculty and students by sharing your experiences, and give back through philanthropy.

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our students!

E-mail: science@eku.edu

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PROGRAMS AND PLACES

A New Home for the Sciences!

It has been 12 years in the making, but every department in the College of Science will have a new home. The process began in Phase I of NSBAugust 2005 when EKU was awarded a $5 million state appropriation to plan and design a facility that would bring all four of the College’s natural science departments under one roof. A second state appropriation of $54 million and an EKU investment of $5 million resulted in construction of Phase I (completed in January 2012) where the departments of Chemistry, Physics & Astronomy, and the Division of Natural Areas are currently housed. Phase I includes 175,000 square feet of teaching and research laboratories, classrooms, workstations, and offices. The departments of Biological Sciences and Geosciences are eagerly awaiting completion of Phase II, the $66 million, 158,000 square foot addition scheduled to open for students in time for the start of the Fall 2017 semester.

Phase II under constructionThe highly-anticipated completion of the New Science Building (NSB) will bring all of the natural science departments together in one facility where scholarly collaborations can flourish. The more than 330,000 square feet of combined area means that there is more – much more – space in which to do the things that scientists do. Classrooms have been designed for flexibility and to foster hands-on teaching.

While there are 13 traditional classrooms in the building, there is even more opportunity for hands-on teaching, as the new facility will eventually house 46 teaching labs. Of course, teaching doesn’t just occur in formal classes; teaching and learning occur as students and faculty collaborate in carrying out original research. NSB includes plenty of space for that – the equivalent of 60 research labs.

According to Dr. Malcolm Frisbie, the Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences who also doubles as the Faculty Shepherd for the New Science Building, “Tallying up spaces in the new building is a bit tricky. That’s because the building has not been built along traditional lines. Faculty and staff have been integrally involved in the design process – there have been well over 300 meetings involving faculty, staff, architects and engineers. The result is a building that contains spaces that work the way faculty and staff work.”

Physics & Astronomy designed large studio laboratories that greatly facilitate their inquiry-based approach to teaching physics. Chemistry designed a suite of connected laboratories that house their precision instruments, where upper division students, graduate students, and faculty share resources as they complete research projects. Geosciences has experienced tremendous growth in demand for their instruction and services in  Geographic Information Systems (GIS); as a result, Phase II will include two state-of-the-art GIS suites. Biological Sciences has designed shared research spaces for biomedical, genomics, and ecological research.

In addition, NSB includes specialty spaces as well: an imaging suite that houses a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer (NMR) and an electron microscope; collections areas to house the University’s extensive herbarium and aquatic animal collections; rock preparation facilities; a chemical storage area; a vivarium for animal research; and a greenhouse.

Study nooksEqually important, the New Science Building is evolving into a place where students and faculty want to be. The building – concrete, brick, and zinc on the outside – also includes lots of glass. Natural light streams into hallways, classrooms, and labs. Students find benches in the corridors, soft seating in the atrium and in nooks scattered throughout the building, and study/congregating rooms provided by each of the departments. Science is not something you just study in class – the New Science Building makes it easy for students to study science in class, get their hands dirty in the lab and in the field, and have the opportunity to meet and discuss new ideas with peers, colleagues and mentors.


The Department of Computer Science: Interactive Multimedia

Novel Game InterfaceComputer gaming is both a popular pastime and powerful educational tool for millions of people around the world. To tap into this need, EKU’s Department of Computer Science developed a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science with a concentration in Interactive Multimedia; the first bachelor’s degree in the state focusing on game development.

“Students in this program develop expertise in game design, 3-D modeling and animation, graphics programming, and multimedia systems,” according to Dr. Ka-Wing Wong, the Department Chair.

Students from other majors may choose to minor in Interactive Multimedia if they want to develop skills in multimedia technology and gain experience in developing interactive software.

The Princeton Review ranked the program 50th in the world in the 2016 rankings. The program now has over 120 students enrolled and has alumni working in many Jerry Belichstates in various areas of game development and software engineering.

Extra-curricular activities of this program are coordinated through the Gaming Institute. For instance, this past spring semester, the Gaming Institute hosted a Vernon Wilson Endowed Chair in Game Design. Jerry Belich, an award-winning game designer from Minneapolis, MN, served as a guest lecturer, design consultant, and career advisor. During his time here, he also led an alternative game controls workshop and hosted additional guest lecturers from around the country.

Game Jams

The Gaming Institute works to give students numerous opportunities to make games and one of the best ways to do that, outside of class, is during a game jam. A game jam is a short game development marathon (typically 48 hours) where the games usually share a common theme.

Game JamsDr. George Landon, who oversees the Gaming Institute, had this to say about game jams, “We have been very active in supporting EKU students in participating on these very productive events. This past academic year we hosted 3 events and had additional teams participate on a train jam from Chicago to San Francisco and an AARP sponsored game jam. This led to a total 50 students producing 25 games.”

Game Production

While games developed in courses and during game jams are wonderful learning experiences, it is difficult to replicate the typical 2-year development cycle of a game during a single semester. Therefore, the Gaming Institute has started an on-site game development studio that will produce a game every 2 years.

According to Dr. Landon, the Institute’s first title, “ChooChooSpell,” is an educational technology game that requires players to control a train to collect letters while avoiding obstacles in an effort to spell words.

Vector Conference

To provide game developers a platform for sharing ideas, the Gaming Institute partnered with RunJumpDev, and Kentucky Innovation Network to host a conference titled Lisa Brown presentation“Vector Conference: Directions in Game Development.” The conference attracted close to 200 attendees from all over the country who came to hear speakers from Sony, Google, Polygon, and numerous indie studios. The conference also featured a showcase of student games from around the state and exhibitors.

Motion Capture

Motion CaptureThe Gaming Institute’s newest addition is a motion capture studio which provides performance recording for games and film and is the first studio of its kind in Kentucky. Dr. Landon has this to say about the studio: “This is an amazing facility and students in our program as well as others from various degree programs have used the studio for course work, independent studies, and game jams. We have opened the studio for rent to game development studios.”

 

 


FACULTY AND STUDENT SPOTLIGHT

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Tanea T. Reed
Dr. Tanea ReedDr. Tanea T. Reed, an associate professor at Eastern Kentucky University, finds her work particularly rewarding because smaller classes help her connect with students and she has the chance to expand the institution’s culture of research.
“EKU is an institution that genuinely cares about its students. Our students are mostly first generation college students and truly do not take their education for granted. It has been great to get to know the students on a personal level and see their eyes light up, when they realize that you are invested in their success and really want them to succeed,” Dr. Reed said.

Dr. Reed’s research interests are in the areas of proteomics (the study of the structures and functions of proteins), Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury. The research side of Dr. Reed’s work allows her to expose students to intellectual and professional opportunities they hadn’t considered before.

As she notes, “I have seen firsthand the impact that research has had on our students overall. It opens up a new world for our students and literally gives them the opportunity to not only enhance their basic research skills but piques their interest in science and going into scientific careers. One hundred percent of these students have gone on to industry, academia, or professional and graduate school. Seeing these students reach their full potential and have their dreams become a reality is my biggest accomplishment.”

Dr. Reed views the students not as “student workers”, but as “junior scientists” that need to be nurtured. She requires her research students to spend one full year in the lab. This length of time allows her to provide them with guidance not only in research, but scientific writing, knowledge on foundational and specialized biochemical topics, goal setting for the future, and presentational skills. This kind of training greatly helps the students in their remaining classes and on professional entrance exams, where critical thinking is deeply stressed as well as makes them less anxious giving oral presentations.

Working with students has tangible benefits to the professor as well. Due to Dr. Reed’s exemplary work mentoring students, she was awarded the inaugural Outstanding Mentor Award by the College of Arts and Sciences in 2015. Moreover, her research students produced data that laid the foundations for research grant proposals and resulted in publications and conference presentations.

Dr. Reed has secured over $500,000 in research grants from external sources since coming to EKU. She has nearly thirty publications including journal articles and book chapters, and numerous conference presentations. Several of her students are co-authors or co-presenters in her publications and presentations, respectively.

According to Dr. Tom Otieno, the Interim Dean for the College of Science, “Tanea’s professional growth since coming to EKU in 2008 has been phenomenal. She is an exemplary faculty member who has excelled in teaching, research and service. Her dedication to mentoring students in and outside the classroom is truly amazing.”

Dr. Reed has been recognized beyond EKU, and indeed internationally. In 2010, she received the Hermann Esterbauer Award for outstanding research in the field of 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE) given by the International HNE-Club. Between 2011 and 2013 she served as a mentor for the Society for Neuroscience Diversity Scholars Program; a program whose goal is to increase the likelihood that diverse trainees who enter the neuroscience field continue to advance successfully in their careers.


Student Spotlight:  Bethany Breakall

For Bethany Breakall, a senior in the Honors Program pursuing a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Biology Pre-Medical Science, attending EKU is all in the family.  She grew up near EKU and her mother recently graduated with a B.S.N. in Nursing and her father graduated in 2001 with a B.S. in Mathematics.Bethany Breakall

An awardee of EKU’s Founders Award (a four-year award which covers her tuition), Bethany based her choice of major on a strong desire to become a physician.  Since her sophomore year, she has worked in Dr. Lindsay Calderon’s biomedical laboratory, focusing on a research project entitled “The role of iPLA2beta in breast cancer tumor formation and metastasis.”

 Bethany worked on the in-vivo portion of the research and the data she collected was used to write a National Science Foundation grant proposal that was successfully funded.  She is also a co-author of the recently published article, “Bromoenol Lactone Attentuates Nicotine-Induced Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation and Migration,” that is available on PLOS One.

In addition, Bethany has received the following academic awards:  Outstanding Sophomore & Junior of Biological Sciences, Outstanding Undergraduate Research Project Award, and the LaFuze Scholarship (the most prestigious award in the Department of Biological Sciences), as well as being a member of several honor societies. 

According to her mentor, Dr. Calderon, “It was obvious to me that Bethany has the intelligence and drive to become an innovator in the biomedical sciences…I am personally excited to see where her career leads.”

Studying biology is not Bethany’s only passion.  She is an accomplished violinist who has won several competitions throughout the southern states.  Bethany attended EKU’s Stephen Foster music camp during her middle and high school years, where she became familiar with faculty and the campus and states, “I really enjoyed the small class size and beauty of the campus.”

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Bethany has played with the EKU Symphony Orchestra and EKU Bluegrass Band, as well as performed at EKU’s Center for the Arts.  She also manages her family band, String Theory, and was invited to play for the 100th anniversary of the Kentucky Governor’s mansion and Louisville’s Centennial Festival of Riverboats.


ALUMNI AND FRIENDS

Dr. Michael L. McKinney
Dr. Michael L. McKinney“I have many fond memories of EKU, from the beautiful campus to performing research with Dr. Meisenheimer to Dr. Ramey’s zoology class as a freshman, which to this day is still one of the most challenging yet rewarding classes that I have taken.” These are the words of Michael L. McKinney, MD, who still affectionately remembers his alma mater, twenty seven years after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University.

However, Dr. McKinney’s best memories are of the people with whom he interacted and who became and remain, in many cases, his friends and colleagues. As he observes, “Eastern had a family atmosphere which was instrumental in helping me succeed through college, into medical school and even further into my professional career. Every professor and teacher was interested in helping students reach their potential. Thanks to the education that I received at Eastern, I was very prepared for medical school and the lifelong learning process that followed.”

Dr. McKinney, a two-time recipient (1987 and 1988) of the Meredith J. Cox Scholarship, graduated from EKU in 1989 with a BA degree in Chemistry before proceeding to medical school at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. McKinney completed a residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and is now board certified in both Adult Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. He has more than 23 years of diverse experiences and practices Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in Lexington and Nicholasville, Kentucky. He is affiliated with Baptist Health Lexington.

The Meredith J. Cox Scholarship was established in honor of Meredith James Cox, who served as a professor of Chemistry at EKU from 1924-1965 and actively served both his institution and his community.

“Receiving the Meredith J. Cox Scholarship was an honor that I cherish to this day. In addition to providing much-needed financial assistance, it let me know that I had the support, encouragement and trust of the faculty at Eastern Kentucky University,” Dr. McKinney remarks.

For students who are entering or considering medical school, Dr. McKinney offers the following advice: “Be well rounded. Take classes that interest you or that may not be directly related to medicine. Learn how to learn. No matter how much you learn in college and medical school, medical knowledge is exploding at a staggering rate. You will need to be able to study and learn over your entire career. What you learn today might be outdated next week and will certainly be outdated next year. So learn how to motivate yourself to keep up with current literature, knowledge and advances. Finally, enjoy what you are doing and aspiring to. You will have the opportunity to positively impact peoples’ lives every single day. Enjoy every minute of the lifelong journey that you are about to embark upon.”


Gary and Jane Booth

Many of the household products he helped develop and promote during a distinguished 31-year career with Procter & Gamble are, indeed, household names.Gary and Jane Booth

You can thank Dr. Gary Booth, in part, for Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet tissue, Folgers coffee, Pringles potato chips, Jif peanut butter, Vicks cough and cold products, Crest toothpaste and Pantene shampoo, among others.

Now retired, the 1962 EKU graduate and his wife, Jane, have turned their attention to helping today’s students gain the math and science skills that might change tomorrow’s world.

They established the Booth Scholars Program to enhance the undergraduate educational experience of students from EKU’s service region who are majoring in science or mathematics.

It all goes back to Dr. Booth’s time at Eastern, where the Campton, Kentucky, native experienced “a feeling of excitement that developed and grew about math and science. As is the case now, the professors were excellent and provided an excellent foundation for graduate school. The education I received at EKU and Ohio State (where he earned a doctoral degree in organic chemistry) allowed me to have a fabulous career.”

For the last decade of his career with P&G, Dr. Booth served as Vice President for Research and Development for Personal Care Products for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. When barriers began to fall in Russia and China in the early 1990s, it was Dr. Booth who led efforts to recruit scientists from those nations and persuade universities and research institutes to perform contact research for P&G. Throughout his career he was involved in the development and world expansion of myriad well-known brands, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and bridge-building goodwill that spanned four continents.

“I enjoyed going to work every single day,” Dr. Booth said. “I worked with highly talented people, got to meet and talk with consumers from all over the world who used P&G products, and helped develop products that improved people’s lives.”

Now, the Booths are focused on helping the current generation of EKU students achieve an education that allows math and science careers. “The scholarships Jane (a Richmond native) and I provide hopefully contribute toward that. I also think that it is important that the state and country generate more scientists and mathematicians. A personal benefit is that meeting and sharing thoughts and experiences with these bright young scholarship recipients keeps Jane and me connected with students and their education.”

Dr. Booth received an honorary doctoral degree from EKU when he addressed the Spring 2005 graduating class, nine years after he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree and professorship in chemistry from St. Petersburg University in Russia. He recently joined the EKU Foundation Board because of his “excitement” about the University’s direction and the “need, and opportunity, to dramatically increase alumni involvement and commitment to Eastern. Specifically, I hope that I can be instrumental in increasing the involvement of math and science alumni, and in dramatically increasing the scholarships available in this field.”

The Booths have also given freely of their time to mentor EKU students through the years. One, Latanya Roberts, is currently a senior.
“In my opinion, EKU is the premier venue for high quality undergraduate education in Kentucky,” Dr. Booth added. “President Benson’s vision and direction will make that distinction even more visible and compelling, and that is very exciting.”


UPCOMING EVENTS

  • August 17, 2016: Move-In Volunteer/Traditions Night
  • October 5, 2016: Computer Science Job Fair
  • October 8, 2016: Spotlight (If you are interested in finding out more about attending EKU, visit the Richmond Campus for Spotlights).
  • October 21-31, 2016: Homecoming & Reunion Weekend
  • October 29, 2016: Spotlight
  • November 19, 2016: Spotlight

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