Newsletter, February 1, 2021
Novelis Aluminum Corporation recently donated $7,000 to support the Science for Sustainable Living Initiative (SSLI) at Eastern Kentucky University. SSLI is a collaboration of the College of Science, the Division of Natural Areas, and Green Crew (a student group at EKU).
“SSLI aims to engage and educate the EKU community through outreach activities designed to promote and encourage science-based sustainability topics and support and mentor Green Crew student interns in the process of developing, organizing, and implementing outreach events,” explained Dr. Kelly Watson, associate director of education and outreach in the Division of Natural Areas and associate professor in the Department of Geosciences.
“The initiative will also create habitats for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators around the Science Building, while simultaneously creating an outdoor learning environment for STEM-based activities on campus,” Dr. Watson added.
According to Mr. Nicholas Koenig, a senior biology major and outgoing co-president of Green Crew, the group “strives to create beneficial environmental change on campus, in our community, and in the world through community service and education. We also provide a comfortable outlet for students to share activities, projects, and ideas that are of any green, environmental, or sustainable nature.”
The first two student interns supported under this program are Ms. Savannah Clark, a senior biology major and Ms. Savannah Gosney, a senior wildlife management major and incoming co-president of Green Crew. “Outreach and sustainability are both very important to me,” Ms. Gosney explained. “With the SSLI internship I have the chance to educate my fellow peers and community members on various sustainability topics. We use science in our workshops to teach people what they can do to reduce their environmental impact.”
The interns hit the ground running and presented their first workshop titled Climate Change: A Candid Conversation on December 14, 2020. According to Ms. Clark, “we had a good turnout and I think people took away a lot of valuable information about climate change. I am very excited for our next workshop about energy efficiency."
Workshops planned for the spring 2021 semester include topics on recycling and waste reduction, the value of pollinators, and practical ways to reduce your ecological footprint. For more information about these workshops please visit email@example.com.
“Novelis is very pleased to invest in this initiative because it addresses our focus areas of STEM, sustainability and recycling,” said Ms. Tammy Peyton, the environmental health and safety assistant and Novelis Neighbor coordinator at Novelis’ location in Berea, Kentucky.
Novelis, whose global headquarters is located in Atlanta, Georgia, is the leading producer of flat-rolled aluminum products and the world’s largest recycler of aluminum.
The Department of Chemistry runs more than 160 sections of laboratory courses each year that serve students from every college at the university. For those labs to run smoothly and effectively serve our students, they need a sufficient and efficient support system.
The chemistry stockroom, located on the fourth floor of the Science Building at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), helps to meet this need. This facility is a secure location that provides support to all labs, students, and faculty within the Department of Chemistry.
The stockroom consists of a main room which stores the majority of chemicals, glassware consumables, and safety equipment and two laboratory preparation rooms which also contain storage areas. A large service window opens to the hall and serves as an information and help center. A large whiteboard next to the service window contains information about the current experiments.
The facility doors remain locked at all times and access is only given to those who have a demonstrated need. A 24-hour video surveillance system has been installed in order to help maintain security. These security measures are consistent with the requirements established by the federal government for facilities which handle chemicals.
Due to the types of materials that are often used in chemistry experiments, organization is the key. In the main stockroom, solutions are clearly labeled, and arranged in groups according to their compatibilities. “In order to ensure chemistry labs operate safely and efficiently, a high degree of organization, communication and team work are essential,” remarked Mr. Joseph Bequette, Department of Chemistry laboratory manager. He continues, “The stockroom inventory is continually tracked and managed to maintain the appropriate level of supplies.” Contaminated, expired, or unsafe materials along with chemical wastes are quickly processed and removed to a secure facility for disposal.
Laboratory prep rooms allow the staff to prepare stock solutions that will be used in the laboratories during the week. They also provide a space where the staff can prepare laboratory supply sets which contain the glassware and equipment that is needed for introductory, general, and organic chemistry laboratory courses.
Students check out the pre-packaged supply sets at the beginning of the semester and return them at the end of the semester. When the sets are returned, the staff inventories, inspects the equipment for any damage, and restocks the items.
The feature that is most visible to the public is the service window. The service window is staffed by knowledgeable individuals who can answer questions and who are trained to assist in the event of an accident. It also serves as a place for students to get protective clothing, googles, gloves, and other basic safety equipment if they do not have or have forgotten these items.
The stockroom also provides financial support and work experience to students who serve there as student workers through the university institutional work study program.
“The chemistry stockroom is an integral part of our department. The stockroom truly helps streamline services for students as it is open from morning to evening on days the labs are in session. It serves over 700 students a week in our first and second year chemistry courses,” said Dr. Tanea Reed, chair of the Department of Chemistry.
Have you ever wondered how social media seems to know what you searched for in a browser? How do Siri and Alexa answer your questions on your phone or home device? How are cars being developed to drive themselves? The answer to all of these questions is Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI makes it possible for a computer to perform tasks and learn from them, much as a human learns from experience. The Department of Computer Science recognized these trends and began offering a new undergraduate departmental certificate in Artificial Intelligence in Data Science in the Fall 2020 semester.
Recent advances in artificial intelligence make a significant impact on our lives. By integrating machine learning and big data technologies with AI, a software system gets smarter and smarter. For example, a voice assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, and Apple's Siri adopts AI to perform a variety of complex tasks to answer questions about the weather, entertainment, restaurants, shopping, Smart Home features, and so on. The AI in the voice assistant plays a major role in intelligent voice recognition and natural language, understanding service between human and machine. AI technology is responsible for providing the avenue for voice assistants to evolve.
Dr. Ka-Wing Wong, chair of the Department of Computer Science, was instrumental in bringing the new curriculum to the department. Dr. Wong states “All four courses in the certificate are required courses in the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology’s (ABET) proposed data science accreditation criteria. This is a testament to the quality of EKU’s program. The curriculum covers a wide array of topics in artificial intelligence, machine learning (ML), Big Data, and data visualization. These courses provide students with valuable programming skills in Python (or R) as well as skills to develop ML/AI applications using Google TensorFlow on the commonly used cloud platform and Google Colab on the web. They gain data-driven insights to get the AI applications working smarter using Big Data and visualization techniques. For the students who find a job position as an AI developer, our certification can help them build valuable skills that will prove the claims stated on their resume.”
Dr. Daewook Kim, assistant professor of computer science, teaches courses offered in the certificate and says, “our certificate provides students with the depth and breadth of AI technologies and hands-on projects in applying the AI technologies to design and deploy the automated systems as real-world services in the industry.”
Dr. Haley Cabaniss joined the EKU faculty in the Department of Geosciences in the Fall of 2020. Dr. Cabaniss is originally from Greenville, South Carolina. She received her B.S. degree in geology from the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC and her Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Her primary research interests lie in the areas of volcanism and marine geophysics but she is also interested in local environmental issues such as the impacts of tourism in areas like the Red River Gorge and community overdependence on single-use plastics.
Dr. Cabaniss looks forward to working with our students. “I recently learned that 40% of our student population at EKU are first generation college students. As a first-generation college graduate myself, I understand the value of a college degree and I understand how unattainable earning one can feel,” she remarked. She continued, “I am so honored to be a part of the process of turning first-generation students into first-generation graduates!”
As an undergraduate at the College of Charleston, Dr. Cabaniss was given many opportunities to do research with her professors. One of those research projects allowed to her travel to Mexico for an internship, and another provided her with the opportunity to work in a lab at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She also traveled to Vancouver, Canada to present the work she did at Woods Hole at a national conference.
“I recognized as an undergraduate that research, travel, and opportunity were intrinsically related, and I was hooked. Because of these experiences, I knew that my ideal career would involve working with undergraduate research students. I knew that I wanted to introduce them to the opportunities that a research career can provide,” she said.
The opportunity to work with undergraduate students was a major reason Dr. Cabaniss chose EKU. She is currently working with her first undergraduate student on a project bridging the homeland security and geosciences majors and is actively recruiting for summer research and beyond.
When she is not working with students or on her classes, she enjoys spending time at Red River Gorge rock climbing. She remarked, “I spent a lot of time in Red River Gorge while I was completing my graduate degree at the University of Illinois. During that time I also had the opportunity to become familiar with Lexington. I love Kentucky and am enjoying making this area my home.”
Mr. Brandon Stone was born in Indiana, but his family moved to Richmond, KY, when he was only a few months old. He attended Madison Central High School and said, “when I was in high school, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life until I seemed to stand out among my peers in a physics course.”
Mr. Stone decided to pursue a B.S. degree in physics at EKU and hopes to continue his education in a Ph.D. degree program. He remarked “I’m currently undecided as to what field within physics I’ll be specializing in. I know I enjoy the hands-on experience of working with, learning about, and piecing together the instruments used in the lab.”
When Mr. Stone was asked why he chose EKU, he remarked, “I chose EKU for financial reasons and also there is a lot to be said for the comfort of staying close to my family and the community in which I was raised. I learned quickly that being in a smaller physics program was great for me. I’ve gotten to know the people in the department well and they’ve inspired me a lot.”
Mr. Stone was awarded the EKU Regents scholarship, as well as the Ted M. George Scholarship. He has also been on the dean’s list every semester, received the dean’s award and been on the President’s list two semesters for receiving a 4.0 GPA.
He spent the summer and fall 2020 semesters working with Dr. Thomas Jarvis, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, on a research grant funded by the Kentucky NSF EPSCoR office. “Brandon has been a great colleague to work with and for selfish reasons I’m going to be sad to see him graduate from EKU, but I’m very excited to see what he does next,” said Dr. Jarvis.
He recently started a new project with Dr. Jason Fry, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “I will be working on a project for Oak Ridge National Laboratory to improve the timing precision of their neutron “a” and “b” (Nab) experiment,” remarked Mr. Stone.
Outside of class, Mr. Stone works as a lab assistant where he assembles and codes sensor packages for a variety of purposes. He is working towards getting his research published soon. He is also a physics tutor, working with students to supplement their understanding of the course material. When not studying or tutoring, he enjoys playing games, seeking out new music, writing music, and reading.
“EKU is a path to nearly every goal, and while some paths are easier than others, no path is objectively right or wrong,” remarked Mr. Stone. He continued, “The people in this department have really taught me to listen to myself and do what’s best for me."
Dr. Paul Bland was born in Anderson, West Virginia and obtained his B.A. (1962) and M.S. (1963) degrees in mathematics from West Virginia University. His interest in mathematics was inspired by an excellent high school mathematics teacher.
After obtaining his master’s degree, Dr. Bland served for two years as an instructor of mathematics at the University of North Alabama before enrolling in graduate school at the University of South Carolina where he obtained his Ph.D. degree in Mathematics in 1969.
Dr. Bland began his career at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in the fall of 1969 as an assistant professor of mathematics, rising through the ranks to become a tenured professor. He was an active scholar and published numerous articles, manuals, and books. He was also successful in obtaining a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a computer lab for the purpose of using the software package Mathematica to enhance the teaching of calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations.
When asked what he considered his greatest job satisfaction or achievement at EKU, Dr. Bland replied, “I was able to publish several research papers and books while at Eastern. However, I consider being in a position to teach students as my greatest achievement.”
Indeed, his dedication to teaching was recognized by both peers and students. In 1999 he received the Kentucky Mathematical Association of America Distinguished Teaching Award, a recognition given for excellence in teaching mathematics.
His influence on students is illustrated by the following comment from Dr. Sally (Fisher) Hicks, professor of physics and former interim dean of the Constantin College of Liberal Arts at the University of Dallas. “As an undergraduate, I started as a mathematics major, but when I took General Physics I and II with Dr. Jerry Faughn, at the same time I took Abstract Algebra with Dr. Paul Bland, I realized that I liked problems associated with physical phenomena more than I liked pure mathematics and proofs. It was only in graduate school that I realized that group theory permeated physics as well, so I thank both men for their wisdom.”
Among the changes Dr. Bland observed during his time at EKU were an increase in student enrollment and increased emphasis on research. “When Dr. Donald Batch became dean there was more of an emphasis placed on research. Also, at that time, a student could write a thesis as part of their undergraduate or graduate program in mathematics. Whether or not this continued, I don’t know. However, I believe that both students and faculty benefit when such programs are in place,” he said.
Dr. Bland participated in sabbatical leaves or faculty exchange programs at University of North Florida, Bucknell University, University of Otago (New Zealand) and University of Glasgow (Scotland) during his tenure at EKU.
Dr. Bland’s advice to new faculty beginning their career at EKU is to be active in their chosen teaching area and make an effort to publish.
Dr. Bland retired from EKU in 2003 but continued to teach part time at EKU for three more years under the university’s Retirement Transition Program. He and his wife of 58 years, Carole Bland, live in Danville, Kentucky. He is currently writing a research book on graded rings and modules. He is interested in continuing to be engaged with EKU and enjoys attending talks given by faculty in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
“As an undergraduate and graduate researcher, I never pictured myself as an entomologist – my primary interest was bats. But my work with bats led to a passion for the moths they eat, and my interest in moths led to an interest in butterflies. Now, insects and other invertebrates are the foundation of my career.” Ms. Shelby Fulton
Ms. Shelby Fulton, an Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) alumna, was born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Pittsburgh) but was raised in Winfield, West Virginia. She graduated in 2017 with a M.S. degree in Biology. She also holds a B.S. degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Science from the University of Kentucky.
When asked about her fondest memories of EKU, Ms. Fulton responded, “The Department of Biological Sciences' events such as holiday potlucks, the annual crawfish boil, and Friday morning seminars contributed to a strong sense of community that I remember fondly. Despite the stress of graduate school, I had a great time with my cohort. We spent a lot of time together, organizing bonfires, cookouts, hikes, and other activities. I remember going to Taylor Fork Ecological Area with my fellow graduate students to watch the American Woodcocks dance on spring evenings.”
Ms. Fulton appreciated the partial tuition waiver she received at EKU through a research assistantship. “This significantly eased the financial burden of graduate school and allowed me to focus on my studies without the need for an external part-time job,” she said.
Ms. Fulton offers the following advice to current students aspiring to major in biology. “Be open-minded. You may have begun pursuing a degree in wildlife, biology, or a related field because of an interest in deer, birds, snakes, bumblebees, etc., but Kentucky is full of incredible animals that are all ecologically connected. As an undergraduate and graduate researcher, I never pictured myself as an entomologist – my primary interest was bats. But my work with bats led to a passion for the moths they eat, and my interest in moths led to an interest in butterflies. Now, insects and other invertebrates are the foundation of my career.”
Ms. Fulton currently serves as the terrestrial zoologist for the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves in Frankfort, KY. She works with various groups of vertebrates and invertebrates that live on land for at least part of their life cycle. Her specialties are butterflies and moths, but she also regularly surveys for snails, native bees, frogs, salamanders, bats (via acoustic detection), and other animals. She conducts biological inventories, monitors rare species populations, maintains occurrence records in the state’s natural heritage database, collects and curates insect specimens, collaborates with natural areas staff to achieve management and conservation goals, and educates the public through webinars, presentations, and citizen science initiatives.
There is no typical day in her work schedule. “Every day is different. Depending on the animal I’m working with, I may work during the day or late at night. I might be driving backroads in the Jackson Purchase while listening for frog calls or hiking on Pine Mountain with my butterfly net. Back in the office, I might be creating database records, identifying insects under the microscope, sifting soil samples to look for tiny snail shells, writing reports, or using specialized software to identify bat calls recorded using ultrasonic microphones,” she explained.
“Shelby was a fantastic student; her hard work and diligence was second to none! I count myself lucky to have worked with such a great scientist, and I’m so proud to see her in her current role within the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves,” remarked Dr. Luke Dodd, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.