Newsletter, February 2018
The College of Science had an exciting and eventful fall semester. We began the semester with the departments of biological sciences, geosciences and the dean’s office relocating to their new facilities in the Science Building.
New students were welcomed to campus and to the college in August at the Big E Welcome where students were greeted by faculty and staff and had the opportunity to explore majors in the College of Science as well as play some games for prizes.
The College of Science participated in a number of activities this fall in order to draw students into STEM majors. Some of these activities included traveling to nearby cities to meet with high school students and their families at open houses. The college also participated in EKU Spotlight events, the Gear-Up program, the Madison County Major Fair for high school juniors and seniors and the Student of Scholastic Excellence Day which brings high achieving high school seniors to our campus to visit. According to Jennifer Miller, a college advisor, “Our recruiting events provide an opportunity for prospective students and parents to speak with knowledgeable college faculty and staff in regards to programs of their interest.”
In the College of Science student success is our passion. We make it our goal to help our students navigate their academic career after they arrive on campus. As is our tradition, we accomplished this last fall through tutoring and mentoring, intrusive advising, and faculty-student research collaborations in which students conduct research and, whenever possible, present the results at professional meetings in their field of study.
In September we celebrated the first-ever Science and Mathematics Week. This event highlighted the departments and programs within our college as well as our engagement with alumni, donors, retired faculty, and the broader, local community. We concluded the week with a grand dedication ceremony for the Phase II of our new science building. You may read more about the Celebrations during Science and Mathematics Week at http://science.eku.edu/newsletter-november-2017.
The highlight of our students' academic journey is their graduation. On Friday, December 15th, the College of Science was joined by the College of Education and the College of Business & Technology in Alumni Coliseum to celebrate commencement ceremonies. “Commencement is always an exciting event. I especially enjoy watching as graduates thank their professors for helping them reach this milestone in their lives," said associate dean, Dr. Karin Sehmann.
The student selected for the honor of delivering the College of Science student commencement speech was Katherine “Katt” Grasberger. Katt discussed the importance of overcoming obstacles. She came to EKU to run collegiate track, but this dream was complicated by some medical issues. She said, “Instead of dwelling on what was out of my control, I chose to channel my energy into academics.” Katt continued to encourage her fellow graduates by saying, “What really matters is that whatever you choose to do next, you have to make the most of it to get the results that you want. Keep an open mind to the opportunities around you, and don’t be afraid to create your own. You never know where they can lead you."
Katt’s family was in attendance as she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry. She plans to relocate to Denmark for the next chapter of her life.
Following the commencement ceremony, the colleges hosted a reception in the Auxiliary Gym of Alumni Coliseum, which provided graduates and families an opportunity to celebrate with faculty, staff, and college deans.
Since its inception in the 1970s, the Wildlife Management degree program offered in the Department of Biological Sciences has strived to provide the academic and hands-on training needed to enable EKU wildlife students to be competitive for wildlife-oriented jobs. A hallmark of the degree program is that it combines a strong foundation in biology with applied course and fieldwork in wildlife practices which provides graduates with a degree that automatically meets the requirements to be certified as wildlife biologists by the Wildlife Society (the professional organization of wildlife biologists).
Recent presentations at the Natural Resource Education and Employment Conference noted that across the nation student populations entering universities have become more urban, with fewer students who have traditional outdoor experiences such as hunting, fishing, and farming. Many of today’s students may have little or no direct connection with nature except through television or other media. At EKU, surveys tell us that the majority of our majors still come from a traditional outdoor-related background but, as with the national trend, a growing number of our students lack such a background. These students indicate an interest in obtaining a wildlife degree that will enable them to find employment with government agencies or in the private sector working with species not typically hunted or fished (e.g., endangered species, songbirds, reptiles, and amphibians), in habitat management and restoration or in wildlife rehabilitation.
To meet the diverse interests of today’s wildlife management students, EKU’s degree in Wildlife Management was recently revised. Starting in the 2017-2018 school year, students entering the Wildlife Management program can now choose between two concentrations; Game Management or Conservation Management. All students in the degree program continue to take the classes needed to be certified as wildlife biologists, but students interested in working with game animals can now pursue the Game Management Concentration by including three required courses in their curriculum, i.e., Game Species Management, Upland Wildlife Management, and Operation of Agricultural Equipment. Students pursuing the Conservation Management Concentration are required to take an Invasive Species Management class and two of the following classes; Environmental Land Use Planning, Advanced Geographic Information Systems, and Urban Wildlife Management.
In addition to revising the academic degree, faculty in the Wildlife Management program have developed opportunities for students to obtain wildland firefighter training and experience. Faculty have engaged in cooperative efforts with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky Division of Forestry, and The Nature Conservancy to develop a program consisting of online classes and field training, which results in students being certified as Type II Wildland Firefighters. Some of these students are employed with the Kentucky Division of Forestry as a weekend wildland fire crew. This crew also includes students from the EKU Fire and Safety Program.
Other hands-on opportunities for students emerge from participating in one of the active wildlife clubs, including EKU student chapters of The Wildlife Society, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Students participating in these groups work on habitat improvement projects, deer and bobwhite population monitoring, an alternative Spring Break event at the Clay Wildlife Management Area, and an annual wildlife conclave, among other activities. Students in the Wildlife Management program are also actively involved in the management of EKU’s Taylor Fork Ecological Area where they can gain hands-on experience.
At a recent meeting of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, a speaker reported the results of a survey in which hiring officials of fish and game departments were asked what they found lacking in job applicants. The most common response was a need for better written and oral communication skills. To better develop student’s writing skills, EKU requires every undergraduate student to complete a writing-intensive class. As part of the Wildlife Management degree program revision, a required writing-intensive course designed specifically for wildlife majors was developed. In WLD 489W (Wildlife Research and Writing), students conduct an independent research project. In conjunction with a faculty mentor, each student develops a research idea, writes a research proposal, conducts the research, analyzes the data and writes a report (in the format of an article in the Journal of Wildlife Management) describing the research and its findings.
In addition, students discuss their research in an oral presentation given to fellow students and faculty and prepare a research project-based poster. Notably, the WLD 489W course provides a vehicle to take research experiences further, with students encouraged to present their research at local and regional meetings, such as EKU’s University Poster Showcase and the annual meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science.
Faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences provide a wide variety of research opportunities for students that range from occasional shadowing of graduate students to immersive experiences that span multiple years and culminate in presentations or publications. Often, student research experiences are associated with the required WLD 489W course or Honors Program requirements, but some students also work as paid technicians to conduct research alongside faculty.
Recent research projects include studies of bat acoustics in forests and urban settings, amphibian populations in isolated wetlands, winter songbird use of shrublands, carnivore surveys using trail cameras, and endangered species of plants and fish. Faculty associated with the Wildlife Management program have a strong record of external grant support and collaborations with state and federal agencies, which helps to strengthen student research experiences. In addition to opportunities at EKU, students from the program also pursue research experiences and management internships outside of EKU during summer months and for graduate studies.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists is projected to grow 4% from now until 2024. The Wildlife Society has reported that the majority of graduates with wildlife management degrees continue to find employment with state and federal agencies, but also note that an increasing number of graduates are finding employment in the private sector with nonprofit organizations and consulting companies. With the recent revisions to EKU’s Wildlife Management degree program, it is anticipated that the Department of Biological Sciences will continue to maintain the long tradition of developing the knowledge and skills needed to make EKU wildlife students competitive in future job markets.
In the College of Science, student success is our passion. Efforts to help our students succeed reach beyond classroom instruction with such services as free mentoring and tutoring. The Mathematics and Statistics Tutoring Center, located in Room 342 of the Wallace building is one such service. This center provides peer tutoring in a wide variety of mathematics and statistics courses taught at EKU.
Modern technology allows the center to offer tutoring services to students both on- and off-campus. With the use of Skype, a program that uses the internet to allow people to make and receive free voice and video calls online, students can receive help from anywhere they have an internet connection if they prefer or are unable to physically visit the center. The center’s Skype name is ekumath and students are welcome to call anytime during center hours. The center also has the capability of using a screen share feature during these calls to better help students understand concepts the tutor is conveying.
Appointments are not necessary and walk-ins are welcome during center hours. If students want more targeted help, they can make an appointment to meet one-on-one with a tutor. This one-on-one relationship allows a student and tutor to develop a more meaningful relationship which leads to more effective tutoring sessions. Many times, these more targeted sessions reveal that a student is not understanding the material because they have an inadequate understanding of pre-requisite material. If this is the case, the tutor can then help them better understand this material which ultimately helps them be more successful in the class.
The tutoring center also houses a computer lab which is available for student use. Many mathematics and statistics classes offer homework assignments online and if students choose to use the center’s computer lab, they have the added advantage of receiving immediate tutoring help on concepts they are struggling with. This allows the student to grasp concepts much more effectively. All peer tutors are required to have a 3.0 or higher GPA and 30 or more credit hours earned at EKU. They must be proficient in one of the following areas: math service courses, math education courses, trigonometry, pre-calculus or first- semester calculus, or first semester statistics. They also need to understand the mathematics covered in introductory level courses and be familiar with instructor and textbook methods. Finally, they must become proficient with the TI-83/84/86 graphing calculators and pass a test covering areas such as college algebra, word problems, finance math, and non-routine problem-solving. Training for the tutors throughout the semester helps them stay current with the concepts taught in the classes which they tutor. According to Dr. Shawn Clift, the center’s director, “My main criteria in hiring tutors are friendliness, mathematical ability and the variety of math classes they can tutor.”
Tutoring not only benefits students but the tutors themselves. One math tutor said, “Being a tutor is great because it teaches you discipline, to look at something in more ways than one, to better manage your time, and most of all you get to help people.”
The Mathematics and Statistics Tutoring Center recently acquired new furniture through funds provided by the College of Science dean’s office. According to one of the tutors, “The new furniture, having the ability to be easily reconfigured, allows us to rearrange the room on the fly based on the needs of the students present. This has allowed us to be much more efficient because we can easily group students together that are taking the same courses. And, we aren’t distracted by the old, wobbly furniture and trying to catch pencils as they roll off the table!”
The tutoring center also has resources to help students with anxiety, study skills and test-taking skills. There are books, videos and of course the tutors themselves. This information can be found on the center’s website at: mathtutor.eku.edu.
“From an early age, I was very interested in computers and electronics. I always liked taking things apart and I typically failed at putting them back together. As I got older, I realized that I could completely change the functionality of a gadget just by changing the computer code on it, instead of taking it apart, and I became fascinated with programming. From middle-school on, I knew I wanted to go into computer science as a field,” said Dr. George Landon, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science.
Dr. Landon was born and raised on a farm in Campbell County, close to Alexandria, KY. He completed both his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Kentucky and was hired at EKU in 2007. “I really like EKU's focus on students. Our students have the great advantage of interacting with faculty on a daily basis starting from their first semester at EKU. This is a unique experience in higher education,” Landon said.
Dr. Landon also serves as the Director of the Gaming Institute at EKU. The institute was established in 2014 and has quickly become nationally recognized. The EKU game design program was ranked 47th internationally in 2016 by the Princeton Review, based on a survey of 150 institutions offering game design coursework and/or degrees in the United States, Canada, and some other countries. Responding to this ranking, Dr. Landon said, “The top-50 label demonstrates that we are consistently providing our students a world-class education in game development.”
Dr. Landon’s research focuses in computer vision, computer graphics, and interactive multimedia. In addition to over 20 publications and presentations in this area, he has applied for a patent for his work in 3-D imaging. He has also received nearly $200,000 in external funding from the National Science Foundation, Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, and Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation to support his research. Students have been a constant part of Dr. Landon’s research. He finds it beneficial to get a student’s perspective of a problem because they have not yet been inundated by the current research problems. He said “I have had some wonderful student researchers work with me during my 10 years at EKU. They have helped me do everything from developing prototype document scanners to new video game controller interfaces.”
Part of Landon’s work has led him to explore experimental game ideas. One of the games he developed for Android devices is called Para-Bull-A and can be downloaded at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.PARA_BULL_A.PARA_BULL_A.
Dr. Landon also enjoys the flexibility of his job. He has been able to teach courses in Virtual Reality, Computer Vision, 3-D Printing, and Game Design as well as core computer science classes. At EKU he has the ability to create new courses based on trends in the field of computer science. This is just one of the reasons that the game design curriculum has been consistently ranked among the top-50 worldwide.
One of the highlights of Dr. Landon’s activities is the annual Vector gaming conference which he has organized since 2015. This year’s conference will be held April 20-21st. The conference brings game developers from the midwest and the southeast United States together, allowing them a chance to network with leaders and peers in the field of game design and development.
Dr. Ka-Wing Wong, chair of the Department of Computer Science, said: “Dr. Landon is very dedicated to computer gaming education and has a great vision of how game education will benefit the community as a whole.”
Meranda Quijas has lived in Kentucky for seven years, the longest she has ever lived in one place. “I'm a military brat due to both of my parents being in the Army, so I was raised in multiple different places throughout my childhood,” says Meranda. Meranda’s parents now reside in Kentucky and her younger sister attends Bellarmine College in Louisville, KY.
Meranda came to Eastern Kentucky University in Fall 2014 in order to be a part of the Honors Program. She is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science and a minor in chemistry and wishes to pursue a Ph.D. degree and work as a medical or clinical researcher. In 2017, Meranda was awarded a Battelle-EKU Science Undergraduate Research Scholarship, which provided her with support to do research with Dr. Tanea Reed from the Department of Chemistry on traumatic brain injury. These funds supported her research as well as travel expenses to conferences in order to present the results of her research. “I wrote my honors thesis on my research in traumatic brain injury and I want to continue my career with similar work,” says Meranda. She also works in the Department of Biological Sciences ecology research lab with Dr. Cy Mott researching trophic cascades in salamander populations.
In addition to her academic work and research, Meranda is active in extracurricular activities, work study, and service to the Madison County community. She has been a member of the EKU Women’s Rugby team for the last three years and currently serves as the team’s secretary. Meranda also served on the University’s Student Advisory Board and currently works on campus as Lead Guru for the Student Success Center. She is also an active member of the PartnerCorps STEM program which is a program that focuses on improving educational outcomes through in-school and out-of-school math tutoring. As a member of this program, Meranda is assigned to EKU where she fulfills her three hundred hours of service as a mentor and tutor for students from Gear Up counties in Kentucky. She is currently in the process of applying for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award which is a post-service benefit earned by individuals who complete a term of national service in approved AmeriCorps programs.
During her tenure at EKU, Meranda has been recognized for her academic success by receiving the Regents Scholarship, the Battelle Scholarship, and, in 2017, was asked to speak at the New Student Convocation.
When asked what she learned while attending EKU, Meranda states, “I've learned how important it is to be a part of a strong community. I've made so many wonderful connections at EKU and each one has pushed me to work harder towards my goals. My thesis mentor, my boss, and so many wonderful professors have helped me find my full potential. I love how caring the population of EKU is and how supported I have felt throughout my time here.”
Meranda plans to graduate in May of 2019.
Timothy L. Crumbie, an Eastern Kentucky University alumnus (B.S. Geology, 1986), serves as the President of GeoScience Consultants Incorporated, a privately owned environmental consulting firm located in Georgetown, Kentucky. Prior to assuming this position in 2001, Mr. Crumbie served as Executive Vice President in the same firm.
Mr. Crumbie enjoyed the social interaction at Eastern more than he thought he would. He found that EKU is small enough to allow students to receive personal attention in the classroom and not feel like they are just a number, but large enough to allow them to expand their horizons and meet people from all over the world. “I was also pleasantly surprised when some of my instructors/professors took a personal interest in my education. For me, college was a memorable experience that marked my transition to adulthood and independence.”
According to Dr. Gary Kuhnhenn, a retired EKU faculty member and administrator, who was one of Mr. Crumbie’s professors, “Tim has served as the quintessential model for being a student, an athlete (Tim was a triple jumper) and a practicing professional geologist.”
Dr. Kuhnhenn especially remembers Mr. Crumbie’s tireless enthusiasm for doing field geology. “Tim’s idea of field geology was to personally examine every outcrop in the study area. Keep in mind that one study area was approximately nine square miles.”
The road to the top was not easy for Mr. Crumbie. Scholarships awarded by his hometown of Paris and Kentucky (Boy's Fund), Pell Grants, and contributions from his parents provided all of the funding he needed to finish his education. He has four siblings, three of whom attended EKU at the same time. He credits his parents for helping all of them through college. “Funding our education required a lot of sacrifice on their part, but they managed to make it work and I can’t express my gratitude enough.”
Another obstacle Mr. Crumbie faced was not being hired as a geologist immediately upon graduation. He first worked at Claiborne Farm, a local thoroughbred horse farm for a year following graduation. From there, he took a job as a telephone operator at GTE. It was not until his third job that he was able to find work as a geologist and, in that position, he spent most of his time in the field collecting data. “Students should know that it’s ok if they don’t get hired as a geologist immediately following graduation. Keep trying.” Mr. Crumbie said.
According to Mr. Crumbie, Geology offers unique opportunities to those who decide to pursue it as a profession. Within the field, there are numerous disciplines with the potential for travel and continued learning. His advice to students majoring in this field is for them to concentrate on learning the fundamentals of geology and gain a thorough understanding of its principles. “These principles will be used repeatedly throughout their professional careers.”
He also suggests that students may want to concentrate on one or more specific areas of interest because the field is so broad. Additionally, he stresses the importance of communication skills. “I can say without hesitation, that students MUST learn to write. I was floored when my professors told me how much writing I would be required to do when I entered the workforce, and they were absolutely correct. Professionals are required to report their findings in a clear and concise manner. The majority of my time at work is spent writing. A report that is poorly written and poorly organized is useless.”
Mr. Crumbie also has advice for students on the path to success after college. “Obtaining a degree is only part of the process. Once in the workforce, you should be prepared to put in the work to gain a foothold in the industry and establish a name for yourself. In addition to the educational background, a strong work ethic, positive attitude and the willingness to continue learning are attributes that employers look for in potential candidates. These traits can carry you a long way in the profession.”
Mr. Crumbie is an active member of the Geological Society of Kentucky (GSK), National Groundwater Association (NGWA), and the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG), where he has held several positions including Vice President, President, Treasurer, Secretary and Past President.
He is married to a wonderfully supportive wife, Donna, who encourages him to tackle challenges that are outside of his level of comfort, which ultimately promotes personal and professional growth. Mr, Crumbie concludes with a sense of humor, “Although we don’t have any children together, I do have two, young, energetic grandchildren who frequently, although unintentionally, remind me that I’m not getting any younger.”
While working on her physics degree, Ms. Ray was awarded the Allen Company scholarship. As a single mother trying to better herself, the scholarship was crucial in allowing her to focus on her studies.
Indeed, her determination to succeed left a lasting impression on Mary Lamb, the Administrative Assistant in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “I was impressed with Kari’s determination to succeed. She was a single mother with two goals in mind: to become a medical physicist and to be a role model for her young daughter. She accomplished what she set out to do and I couldn’t be happier for her!”
When asked about her fondest memories as a student at EKU, Ms. Ray replied: “I loved working in the physics tutoring center. It was challenging and kept me sharp. I also loved the faculty, led by Dr. Jerry Cook, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the time. They really cared about the students. I always knew I could come to them with anything.”
The love between her and the faculty was mutual. “Kari was a joy to have in our department. She constantly amazed me with her ability to juggle everything and still be a top performer in my classes. We are very proud of her accomplishments and to have her out in the world as a representative of the EKU Department of Physics and Astronomy,” said Dr. Jessica Lair, an associate professor of physics and astronomy.
After obtaining her physics degree from EKU, Ms. Ray pursued a M.S. degree in Radiological Medical Physics at the University of Kentucky (UK). She then did her residency for UK but was based at the Hux Cancer Center in Terre Haute, IN.
Currently, Ms. Ray works as a medical physicist for Charleston Area Radiation Therapy in West Virginia. There are many aspects of her job but her primary responsibility is to keep her patients and staff safe. She checks over patient plans to make sure that they are what is best for them and she also ensures that all of their machinery is calibrated correctly.
Ms. Ray’s advice to students who are interested in pursuing a career in medical physics is to shadow many different people in different working environments to see if that is what they are truly interested in and committed to doing. “It isn’t an easy road, but it is very rewarding,” she said.
Ms. Ray is very grateful for the support she has received from her parents over the years. “I started this journey with my daughter, Camma (9), when she was 2 years old. I started graduate school when she started kindergarten. If it weren’t for the help and support of my father and mother, Bill and Sandy Napier, I would never have been able to make such a life for my daughter and myself. They took us in and helped me raise her for 9 years.”
Ms. Ray recently married Jason Delph and added to her family his two sons, Alex (21) and Josh (16).
ASSOCIATION FOR COMPUTING MACHINERY, SOUTHEAST SECTION CONFERENCE
2018 VECTOR CONFERENCE