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Research and creative activity

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Oil and the ocean Also in this issue: Putting veterans front and center A HEARTy hand for teens Dealing with disparities ‘Captured’ by the feds 1

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EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY Fall 2011

M e s s a g e f r o m t h e V i c e C h a n c e ll o r This issue of edge presents a small portion of the many activities that exemplify the energy and enthusiasm East Carolina University faculty, staff and students bring to some of our most pressing challenges.

www.ecu.edu PUBLISHER Dr. Deirdre M. Mageean Vice Chancellor, Research and Graduate Studies

As a result of this collective activity, in the 2010 fiscal year, we received a record amount of external grants and contracts, nearly eclipsing $50 million. These external awards build upon our support of the scholarly activities of faculty and students despite difficult budget times.

EDITOR Doug Boyd WRITERS Doug Boyd Crystal Baity Karen Shugart Mary Schulken Peggy Novotny Cindy Putnam-Evans Ernest Marshburn Jeannine Manning Hutson ART DIRECTOR Michael Litwin PHOTOGRAPHERS Cliff Hollis Ben McGlaughon Forrest Croce Edge is published by the Division of Research and Graduate Studies at East Carolina University. Any written portion of this publication may be reprinted with appropriate credit. COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS boydd@ecu.edu

© 2011 by East Carolina University

U.P. 11-236

Printed by Harperprints Printed on recycled paper.

3,500 copies of this public document were printed at a cost of $3,661.00, or $1.05 per copy.

Other indicators of research productivity also are on the rise. For example, the number of published articles by faculty has grown from roughly 1,600 in 2007-08 to more than 2,000 in 2009-10, an increase of 25 percent. Our Office of Engagement, Innovation, and Economic Development’s Innovators Academy, supported by our investment in an advanced design lab, has gained national recognition for its efforts to instill a culture of innovation on our campus and within our region. This academy is a concrete symbol of our desire to build near-seamless regional accessibility to ECU’s wealth of knowledge and creativity. From an effectiveness perspective, we constantly probe for multidisciplinary approaches to address key environmental, health and social issues. For example, our approaches to understanding coastal issues, natural hazards, health disparities, sustainable tourism and cures for disease all involve investigators from a wide spectrum of disciplines. We are cognizant of our region’s military importance, and our Operation Re-Entry illustrates our commitment to soldiers and their families. We will continue planning a new biological and life sciences building to be occupied by multidisciplinary teams working on the key issues of our time and providing solutions to problems that might have commercial value and the potential for job creation. While we have much to be proud of, the future of our region is tied to our own success as a public research university, and we are tireless in our efforts to partner with this region in attaining its full potential. We intend to do this so well that we emerge as a national model of regional transformation that others will admire and emulate. Against this backdrop of optimism and determination, we have also felt profound sadness this year. Dr. Mark Brinson, a distinguished research professor of biology and widely recognized expert on wetlands and water quality, died Jan. 3. He was 67. Not long after, on Jan. 24, Dr. Anne Kellogg, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine who had just seen an antibody she created to fight cancer move to clinical trials, lost her own battle with cancer. She was 57. We will miss these researchers and strive to build on their work to better people’s lives. I hope you enjoy and learn from this issue of edge, and please keep in touch with your university. Yours,

Deirdre M. Mageean, Ph.D. Vice Chancellor


Tabl e o f c o n t e n t s

features

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10 Oil and water don’t mix Scientists study how far up the food chain oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill will go

14 Raising the brainpower bar Project HEART helps teens aim higher

18 ‘Captured’ by the feds Five ECU faculty members work with federal agencies as part of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program

20 Collateral Damage ECU researchers help injured troops and veterans put themselves back together

profile 16

Erasing inequities Dr. Hope Landrine strives to make health disparities a thing of the past

health study A  wards and recognitions G  rant to help boost tourism plans in rural communities C  ancer drug enters clinical trials Johnson named distinguished professor E  xternal funding nears $50 million F  aculty members honored for excellence E  xperts restore battleship map of Iwo Jima W  etlands ecologist Brinson dies in January V  irus-fighting protein could lead to better HIV treatment C  asual video games can reduce depression, anxiety B  ioengineered veins could help patients needing bypass surgery, dialysis Project takes on heart disease in ‘stroke belt’ Grants aid in cancer research Professor co-creator of first interactive, remote hearing test G  rants aid in cancer research E  nglish professor tapped for Toni Morrison honor

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Researcher looks at liver disease M  ore than $600,000 funds mental

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explorations Easing the ‘ouch’ S tate honor finds Ebendorf N  IH grant aids study of prostate cancer protein M  ore than $3 million fuels study of nanomaterials  reen research cuts use of toxic G organic solvents

in print

A  look at recent publications by ECU faculty members

on the cover

ECU scientists and students are taking a close look at the impact last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is having on sea life there and could have on the waters off North Carolina. Read about their work beginning on page 10. n

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abstract

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Researcher looks at liver disease The decline of the human liver from healthy to fi brosis and cirrhosis is the focus of Dr. Ian Hines, an assistant professor of nutrition science, who’s working with the help of a $100,000 grant from the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation. “Mechanisms which govern the transition from mild liver injury to fi brosis and cirrhosis are not entirely clear,” said Hines. “We are investigating these transitions at the cellular and molecular level with the hope of defining new targets to effectively predict, treat, or prevent liver disease progression.” Liver fibrosis and cirrhosis are conditions in which the liver deteriorates over time due to chronic injury and scarring, losing the ability to control infection, filter blood and process nutrients. These conditions represent a critical turning point for a number of chronic liver diseases, including hepatitis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic liver disease. 

Dr. Ian Hines

Specifically, Hines is interested in the effect of T lymphocytes in this process. T lymphocytes are white blood cells which play a key role in the body’s fight against infection and disease. Research has shown that T cells

accumulate in the liver and produce factors that promote fibrosis induction and progression, and their function is improved by factors such as alcohol.  “Our lab is trying to define the connection between normal T cells in the liver and a specialized resident T cell called the natural killer T cell,” said Hines. “It is clear from very recent studies that NKT cells may be a key to regulating the function of traditional T cells. We also now know that NKT cells suppress fi brosis when not in the presence of alcohol, but with alcohol the NKT cells actually promote fi brosis. So, NKT cells are the good guys in some types of liver disease but the bad guys in alcohol induced liver disease.” Hines believes that therapies limiting or activating NKT cells could become part of treatment strategies in the future.  Moreover, defining these connections may allow for assessment of gene/protein interactions in human liver and predict the progression of disease in patients.

More than $600,000 funds mental health study A three-year, $624,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health is helping Dr. Heather Littleton, an assistant professor of psychology at East Carolina University, develop online cognitive-behavioral treatment for rape victims, a majority of whom don’t seek counseling. The study will focus on college women who have experienced rape as an adolescent or adult and have post-traumatic stress disorder in connection to that experience. About 25 percent of college rape victims have been found to be suffering from PTSD. “They’re fairly recent victims, so it’s a good time to intervene before the symptoms become more chronic,” Littleton said. “They are likely more comfortable than other women doing therapy online or using the Internet, so it seemed like a good place to start.” Internet-based treatment for psychological trauma is a growing area of study, Littleton said. The U.S. military has shown particular interest in online-based treatment of PTSD-affected veterans, who often live hours from a Veterans Affairs treatment facility. No model yet exists for rape victims, however. Littleton is preparing for a pilot study that will start in the fall. The full trial will start next spring and last two years. 2

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Dr. Heather Littleton

Ultimately, she said, online treatment might offer a way to reach women who don’t feel comfortable seeking face-to-face counseling. The grant’s co-investigator is Dr. Amie E. Grills-Taquechel, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston. The clinical trial will recruit women from both universities.


abstract research Awards and recognitions Dr. Laura Barber, a fellow of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the Brody School of Medicine, received the Young Investigator Award for her research presentation at Chest 2010, the annual meeting of chest physicians held in October. Barber’s research focused on the pulmonary disease sarcoidosis and found that sarcoidosis patients with reduced levels of a protein called p65 also had more severe disease, responded poorly to steroid therapy and had frequent multi-organ illness. The North Carolina Literary Review, edited by Dr. Margaret D. Bauer, Rives Chair of Southern Literature and professor of English, received the 2010 Best Journal Design Award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. This is NCLR’s fourth award from this international organization. NCLR is published by ECU and the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. Dr. Scott Curtis, associate professor of geography, received the Outstanding Research Award from the Southeast Division of the Association of American Geographers at its annual meeting in November. This award recognizes Curtis’ record of quality research and publication as well as his research leadership within the discipline. Laura Daniels, a doctoral student in clinical health psychology at ECU, received the Blue Ribbon Poster Award from Division 40 (clinical neuropsychology) of the American Psychological Association. Daniels will accept the award in August in Washington, D.C., at the APA annual convention.  Dr. Bryce Jorgensen, an assistant professor in the Department of Child Development and

Family Relations, received the Outstanding Paper Award for 2010 from the National Council on Family Relations, Religion and Family Life Section, for his paper “The Influence of Religious Contexts on Family Commitment and Time Together.” Dr. Kathryn Kolasa, a professor emeritus of family medicine at the Brody School of Medicine, was one of eight recipients nationwide of the 2010 Medallion Award from the American Dietetic Association. Dr. Mark D. Mannie, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Brody School of Medicine, was named to the 2010 Researchers Hall of Fame by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Mannie was recognized for several important contributions to MS research, including the recent development of a fusion protein that might lead to a vaccine therapy for multiple sclerosis. Dr. Christopher Mansfield, director of the Center for Health Services Research and Development at the Brody School of Medicine, received the Best Paper Award for 2010 from the International Journal of Applied Geospatial Research for his paper “Disease, Death, and the Body Politic: A Real Interpolation Example for Political Epidemiology.” Mansfield wrote the paper with a collaborator from Northern Illinois University.

briefs

Grant to help boost tourism plans in rural communities East Carolina University and the Mid-East Resource Conservation and Development Council are working together to help rural communities develop a shared vision for tourism. The North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center has awarded a $73,000 grant to Dr. Paige Schneider, assistant professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, and David Hodges of the council. This project will help 11 towns in the Roanoke River Valley region join resources to grow the area’s economy. The towns involved are Hamilton, Oak City, Hassell, Halifax, Weldon, Williamston, Plymouth, Windsor and Jamesville. Most of North Carolina’s local towns historically developed around tobacco, textile and furniture factories. As manufacturing jobs have been lost, community leaders have been challenged to find innovative approaches to retain and create jobs,” said Schneider, who also holds an affiliate faculty position in the Center for Sustainable Tourism at ECU. The project will focus on helping community leaders identify their tourism resources, services and infrastructure. The project also involves filming on location at each of the 11 municipalities. These towns will receive access to promotional videos that will help market their natural and cultural heritage. Results of the project will guide the region in planning for development and tourism ventures and projects that can create jobs and income opportunities while contributing to environmental conservation.

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Cancer drug enters clinical trials

Dr. Anne Kellogg

A potential treatment for many ovarian, breast, cervical and other cancers has entered clinical testing. The treatment, a collaboration between the biotechnology firm ImmunoGen and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-aventis, uses an antibody created by the late Dr. Anne Kellogg, an associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. Kellogg died Jan. 23 of lung cancer. The antibody seeks out and attaches to cancer cells and serves as a delivery vehicle for ImmunoGen’s Targeted Antibody Payload technology to attack the cancer cells with a potent cell-killing agent. Once inside, the cell-killing agent activates and kills the tumor cell as it divides. The technology allows the use of precise amounts of powerful cancer-killing drugs while minimizing side-effects.

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Johnson named distinguished professor Recognizing a robust career of contributions to the fields of sociology and anthropology, the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences named Dr. Jeffrey C. Johnson its distiguished professor for 2010. Throughout his nearly 30 years of academic service to ECU, Johnson has taught many courses, mentored more than 16 master’s students and 19 doctoral students and published extensively. Johnson is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Sociological Association, the American Anthropological Association, the American Fishery Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other organizations. He was the founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Quantitative Anthropology from 1989-1996. He serves on the editorial boards of Open Sociology Journal and Field Methods, and he is the associate editor of the Journal of Social Structure and co-editor of Human Organization. Johnson has received more than 50 grants, including more than $2 million in funding during the past five years. He has published a dozen books, monographs and edited

Dr. Jeffrey C. Johnson

volumes, and he has written or co-written more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, papers, technical reports, book reviews and book chapters. Johnson has a doctoral degree in social science and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, Irvine. At ECU, he serves in a number of roles including professor in the departments of sociology, anthropology, biology and biostatistics; senior scientist for the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy; director of the National Science Foundation Summer Institute for Research Design in Cultural Anthropology; and social science program manager for the Army Research Office.

External funding nears $50 million East Carolina University researchers brought in $48.6 million in external grants and contracts during fiscal year 2009-2010, a 20 percent increase over the previous year, according to the university’s Division of Research and Graduate Studies. Grants supporting research and instructional activities increased in 2010 by 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively, compared to the previous year, while service awards remained essentially flat. Faculty members at the Brody School of Medicine led the university, with more than $25 million in grants and contracts from the state and federal governments, pharmaceutical firms and other sources. Nearly 51 percent went to service, such as patient care, while the remainder went to basic science investigations,

clinical research and clinical trials of devices, medicines and procedures. Colleges and schools making significant gains in funding included the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, which increased external funding by 88 percent, and the College of Education, which increased funding by 24 percent. Through the first six months of fiscal year 2010-2011, ECU had received $19 million in external funding. Proposal submissions were up 35 percent over the same period last year, so officials are hopeful that will translate into more funding. The fiscal year ends June 30. In fiscal year 2008-2009, researchers brought in $40.8 million. Since fiscal year 2004-05, external awards have increased by 47 percent.


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Faculty members honored for excellence Three East Carolina University faculty members received Achievement for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity awards in February. Dr. William Meggs, professor of emergency medicine and chief of the toxicology division at the Brody School of Medicine, received a lifetime achievement award. Drs. Jason E. Bond, professor of biology, and T. Chris Riley-Tillman, associate professor of psychology, received five-year achievement awards. Over the past three decades, Meggs has shown innovation and creativity in medical toxicology and related areas of study. These range from the use of the drug heparin to treat anaphylactoid shock to ways to delay onset of toxicity from snakebites. Perhaps his greatest impact has been his research into the problem of irritant sensitivity, which can cause inflammation similar to asthma and other conditions. Meggs also was the first researcher to report that chronic exposure to low levels of an organophosphate insecticide could induce obesity. Meggs is also author of “The Inflammation Cure,” a book that combines scientific writings regarding fundamental processes that produce inflammation in diseases with lifestyle modifications to reduce harmful inflammatory processes in the body.

Dr. William Meggs

Meggs has a medical degree from the University of Miami and a doctorate in physics from Syracuse University. He completed residency training at Rochester (N.Y.) General Hospital and fellowships at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City and the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md. He has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Clemson University. He joined the ECU faculty in 1988. During his career at ECU, Meggs has received more than $1.5 million in research funding and written or co-written more than 125 articles, abstracts, book chapters and other publications. Bond has a master’s and doctoral degree from Virginia Tech and a bachelor’s degree

Dr. Jason E. Bond

Dr. T. Chris Riley-Tillman

from Western Carolina University. His research focuses on the questions related to the evolutionary diversification of spiders and millipedes. He has written more than 53 peer-reviewed publications and received more than $1.8 million in research funding since arriving at ECU in 2002. Riley-Tillman has master’s and doctoral degrees from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in New York. He has co-written two books and more than 65 other publications. His research focuses on applied behavior analysis, assessment and intervention. Since arriving at ECU in 2005, he has received more than $4.1 million in research funding.

Experts restore battleship map of Iwo Jima From left, maritime studies graduate student Nicole Wittig, East Carolina University director of conservation Susanne Grieve and history graduate student Emily Powell work on a map of Iwo Jima used during World War II to plan military strategy. The rubber relief map shows airstrips and key topographic features and would have been used to train military personnel. Grieve and her students worked for about six months and discovered neverbefore-seen stenciling on the reverse side of the map as well as unique construction details. Then they created an oxygen-free and UV-light filtered “microclimate” to protect it. The map was returned to the USS North Carolina in February to be part of a commemoration of the Iwo Jima landing in February 1945.

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Wetlands ecologist Brinson dies in January

Dr. Mark Brinson

East Carolina University lost a colleague and friend in January. Internationally renowned wetlands ecologist Dr. Mark Brinson died unexpectedly Jan. 3. He was 67. Brinson came to ECU as an assistant professor in 1973 after completing his doctorate at the University of Florida. At ECU, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity, was named a Distinguished Research

Professor of Biology, and was named to the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professorship. Brinson retired in September along with longtime colleague Dr. Bob Christian, another coastal ecologist and Harriot College Distinguished Professor. “Many of us have a feeling of admiration for the naturalist who can walk through a habitat and identify the various species, give information on their adaptive physiology and anatomy, and discuss co-dependence and co-evolution with other species,” Christian said. “Mark could do this, especially in coastal and riparian wetlands, but he also was a naturalist of ecosystems. He had a unique perspective on the interrelationships between their physical, chemical and biological components.” Brinson’s passion for his work was wellknown. “Having fun is being hardwired to your profession – half of the time you don’t realize how much fun it is – until you realize that an alternative career choice would be as unrealistic as being able to choose your parents,” he said at his retirement celebration. Brinson taught numerous courses and workshops on wetlands and ecosystem ecology at ECU, nationally and internationally. He co-wrote and edited

publications on wetlands with a who’s who of wetland ecology. He served as a technical consultant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institute. He also was elected to president of the Society of Wetland Scientists and served on its board for several years. Honors include the National Wetlands Award for Science Research and Fellowship of the Society of Wetland Scientists. He also used a Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Award at the University of Buenos Aires to aid in the development of the environmental management of wetlands within Argentina. In March, friends and colleagues honored Brinson and Christian by naming a laboratory after them. The Brinson-Christian Ecology Laboratory is in the Howell Science Complex, formerly Room S309. Brinson is survived by his wife of 40 years, Leslie, a son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Memorials may be made toward scholarships for ECU biology students by sending a check to the ECU Foundation Biology Scholarship Fund and include “in memory of Mark Brinson” on the memo line. Mail them to Tammy Garris, ECU Director of Gift Records, Greenville Centre, 2200 S. Charles Blvd., Greenville, N.C. 27858.

Virus-fighting protein could lead to better HIV treatment An East Carolina University scientist’s research involving a naturally occurring cellular protein could lead to better treatments for HIV as well as cancers and other viruses. Dr. Colin Burns, an associate professor of chemistry, with help from graduate student Chris Wilson, determined which part of the protein, prothymosinalpha, contains the highest Dr. Colin Burns concentration of virus-fighting capabilities. That finding, in turn, has helped researchers at Duke University and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine learn how the 6

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protein can block viral replication once the human immunodeficiency virus invades cells. “Some of the molecules that we’re developing will allow us to study HIV replication in a little more detail,” Burns said. “Then, once we have active molecules and we know what it’s interacting with in the cells, particularly, we have a target that we can use to design more active compounds that are even more effective or more potent.” The scientists’ findings were published in May 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Burns’ research was funded in part by a $25,000 N.C. Biotechnology Center grant. The findings may help researchers find more effective, more economical ways to combat the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus in infected people. Prothymosin-alpha appears to tell human cells to produce interferon, a substance that triggers the immune system to eradicate pathogens such as viruses.


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Casual video games can reduce depression, anxiety Casual video games help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with clinical depression, according to a one-year randomized trial at East Carolina University. Nearly 60 subjects, half of whom served as controls and all meeting the criteria of clinical depression, participated in the study, which involved three family-friendly, non-violent puzzle games: Bejeweled 2, Peggle and Bookworm Adventures. All the games are made by PopCap Games, underwriter of the study. “The results of this study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on the moods and anxiety levels of people suffering from any level of depression,” said Dr. Carmen Russoniello, director of the ECU Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic, who oversaw the study along with previous studies involving the same games’ effects on stress levels. “In my opinion the findings support the possibility of using prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or perhaps even a replacement for, standard therapies including medication,” he said.

Researchers used state-of-the-art technologies including psychophysiology, biochemical and psychological measurements. The experimental group experienced an average reduction in depression symptoms of 57 percent. The study, the first such research to measure the efficacy of video games in reducing depression and anxiety, also found significant reduction in anxiety, as well as improvements in all aspects of mood, among study subjects who played the games. Russoniello said research indicated games had short-term (after 30 minutes of game play) and long-term (after one month) effects when compared to the control group. He said the results offer convincing evidence casual video games should be widely available to those who suffer depression. “Given that only 25 percent of people who suffer from depression are receiving treatment, it seems prudent to make these low-cost, readily accessible casual games video games available to those who need them,” he said. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 14.8 million U.S. adults suffer major depression. It’s the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15 to 44.

Bioengineered veins could help patients needing bypass surgery, dialysis grafts because of the size needed for grafting. Research published in the February issue of the journal Science The bioengineered veins also show promise for patients on kidney Translational Medicine demonstrates the capability of tissue-engineered hemodialysis. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 320,000 vascular grafts that are immediately available at the time of surgery and patients are on chronic hemodialysis. Each year, are less likely to become infected or obstructed. The 110,000 new patients develop renal failure requiring bioengineering method of producing veins shows dialysis, and the number is growing by 3 percent a year. promise in large- and small-diameter applications, such as for coronary artery bypass surgery and for More than half of them lack the healthy veins necessary and must undergo an arteriovenous graft vascular access in hemodialysis. placement to have bloodstream access for hemodialysis. Humacyte, a Morrisville biotechnology company, Most arteriovenous grafts that are placed for worked with researchers at East Carolina University hemodialysis access are made of a synthetic material, and other universities to develop the veins. which suffers from significant drawbacks such as a high “This new type of bioengineered vein allows rate of infection, a propensity for blockages due to them to be easily stored in hospitals so they are clotting and a thickening of blood vessels known as readily available to surgeons at the time of need,” intimal hyperplasia, said Dr. Jeffrey H. Lawson, a said Dr. Alan P. Kypson, a cardiothoracic surgeon, surgeon and associate professor at Duke University associate professor at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU and an author of the paper. School of Medicine and an author of the research. Lawson has served as a consultant for Humacyte and “Currently, grafting using the patient’s own veins has received research support from the company remains the gold standard. But, harvesting a vein Dr. Alan P. Kypson through Duke. from the patient’s leg can lead to complications, Scientists generated the bioengineered veins in a bioreactor – a and for patients who don’t have suitable veins, the bioengineered veins device designed to support a biological environment — and then could serve as an important new way to provide a coronary bypass.” According to the American Heart Association, in 2007 in the stored them up to 12 months in refrigerated conditions. The bioengineered veins, 3 millimeters to 6 millimeters in diameter, United States, surgeons performed more than 400,000 coronary demonstrated excellent blood flow and resistance to blockage in bypass procedures. Patients requiring bypass surgery may not have suitable veins or arteries available and are not candidates for synthetic large animal models for up to a year. n

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Project takes on heart disease in ‘stroke belt’ A new $10 million grant is helping researchers at East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill collaborate with health care practitioners and community leaders in Lenoir County to tackle heart disease, the county’s leading cause of death. The UNC-ECU project aims to better understand the causes of cardiovascular health disparities and test innovative solutions. It is one of 10 Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities funded by a five-year grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The 10 centers are also supported by the National Cancer Institute and the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research. Lenoir County is on the “buckle” of the “stroke belt,” a name given to a region of the southeastern United States recognized by public health authorities for its high incidence of stroke and other forms of cardiovascular

disease. The county’s hypertension and cardiovascular disease rates are among the highest in the country, and many residents lack access to adequate medical care or opportunities that promote good health. The project is based at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. The ECU team is led by Dr. Doyle M. Cummings, a pharmacist, professor of family medicine and member of the ECU Center for Health Disparities Research, and Dr. Stephanie Jilcott, assistant professor of public health. The research will help determine genetic factors associated with cardiovascular disease risk and how clinical and public health communities can more effectively work together to reduce people’s risk of heart disease through medication, diet and physical activity. The project will also offer an intensive weight loss intervention for participants who are overweight.

Dr. Doyle M. Cummings

Dr. Stephanie Jilcott

The study will also include a partnership with a non-profit call center adding lifestyle and medication adherence coaching to its focus on jobs, employment and benefits counseling. The project will explore opportunities to create jobs while promoting health, including local food production and distribution systems in Lenoir County. The project is guided by a community advisory committee. Cummings said local physicians have agreed to work with the group to improve hypertension management in their patients.

Camp fuels girls’ interest in science, math The first STEM2 Girls Conference brought more than 85 eighth-grade girls from 11 Pitt County schools to East Carolina University on April 1 to encourage them to pursue advanced math and science courses during high school. STEM2 gives eighth-grade girls the chance to participate in science and math enrichment programs. STEM2 stands for science, technology engineering, math and medicine. “Research has shown that up to sixth grade girls want to go into science and math, but then it plateaus in the seventh and eighth grade,” said Margaret Wirth, director of the ECU Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education. “We’re trying to stop that curve.” On campus, girls heard a pep talk about career options and visited stations that focused on science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. At the math station, girls played Nim, a game of strategy, and solved logic games. 8

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At the medicine station, they touched human aorta and heart tissue. “I really liked the engineering (station),” said Mattie Ocker of E.B. Aycock Middle School in Greenville. “We crushed a can and saw physics in action.” Funding from the College of Education, College of Technology and Computer Science and the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences paid the approximate $2,800 cost of the program. The ECU Office of Equity, Diversity and Community Relations and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund also supported it. ECU has received a $6,000 Mathematics Association of America Tensor grant to expand the camp to a week in 2012. In addition, Dr. Evelyn Brown of the Department of Engineering, who helped lead the event, has received $599,894 from the National Science Foundation to help fund scholarships for 24 students majoring in engineering.

Mattie Ocker of E.B. Aycock Middle School in Greenville was one of 85 girls invited to ECU on April 1 for a special one-day camp focusing on science and math.


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Professor co-creator of first interactive, remote hearing test An East Carolina University professor is among the creators of the first real-time, remote diagnostic hearing assessment that allows interaction between clinician and patient — a low-cost development that could bring much-needed treatment to rural and low-income patients around the world. “There are people throughout the world who have no access to professional hearing health care,” said Dr. Gregg Givens, chairman of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and a practicing clinical audiologist. “This gives clinicians the ability to remotely diagnose and treat hearing loss.” ECU and Otovation, a leading provider of audiometer products for hearing professionals and care providers worldwide, are working together to make the system available, with a projected release date of this spring or summer. “Dr. Givens and his colleagues were visionary in seeing this many years ago as a potential improvement in assisting and delivering care for patients,” said Dave Davis, founder and president of Otovation. “We at Otovation believe very strongly in the quality of what they have developed, and we look forward to continuing to work with ECU in developing and bringing this important service to market.” Hearing loss often goes untreated. The National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a federal agency, estimates that only one in five people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wears one. For rural and low-income populations, access to hearing health care can be scarce. In eastern North Carolina, for instance, some counties have no audiologist. “Hearing health care in some of these communities just doesn’t exist,” Givens said. With this new hearing system, clinicians can remotely test patients around the world through local or area-wide networks as well as the Internet. Assessments can even be performed using smart phones and tablet PCs. The hearing test system will be suitable for use in varied settings, including nursing

Dr. Gregg Givens

homes, schools, hospitals, correctional facilities and military settings. Givens and his colleagues began working on the project in the early 1990s as a way to get hearing care to people in rural and underserved areas. In the early years of development, they were stymied by hurdles

in software and hardware development. The first Internet-based test on campus was conducted in the late 1990s, Givens said. The first of two patents was issued in 2005. “It’s exciting to see something you envisioned finally coming to reality,” Givens said.

English professor tapped for Toni Morrison honor Dr. Joyce Irene Middleton, associate professor of English at East Carolina University, was invited by the Toni Morrison Society to write a scholarly essay for a festschrift in celebration of Morrison’s 80th birthday. A festschrift is a book of original contributions compiled to honor a respected academic teacher and writer during his or her lifetime. Morrison, a Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, was honored at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in February, when she was presented with the festschrift. Middleton is a respected Morrison scholar.

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Scientists study how far up the food chain oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill will go By Doug Boyd Off Onslow Bay, a group of East Carolina University researchers have been looking for oil. But unlike most in this world of $112-a-barrel crude, they aren’t hoping to find a gusher of Texas tea. In fact, they hope to see nothing but salt water. Sailing into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, a number of ECU scientists are piecing together clues to determine what effects the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill had on the Gulf and its sea life as well as whether that oil has made its way to the North Carolina coast. continued on page 12

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Graduate student Ben McGlaughon prepares to deploy a laser optical plankton counter last summer on the Gulf of Mexico.

“One of the concerns with this spill is that it vanished so quickly,” said Dr. David Kimmel, an assistant professor in the department of biology and the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy at ECU. “We all know…4.9 million barrels is a tremendous amount of oil, so the question is where did it go?” The answers could be valuable for advancing the technology of oil spill cleanups as well as setting a baseline of oil presence for the North Carolina coast in case a future spill does reach the area.

Kimmel’s grant is a collaboration with colleagues at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences and Oregon State University. Between 2003 and 2009, they conducted five summer cruises in the northern Gulf of Mexico to collect and analyze samples. “Thus, we possessed an extremely valuable dataset to compare the possible effects of the BP oil spill on the ecosystem of the gulf,” Kimmel said. Specifically, Kimmel is working to determine if the spill has altered the distribution of plankton, important organisms that form the base of the food chain. According to Kimmel, an alteration of plankton distribution or abundance could dramatically impact fisheries production in the gulf. Dr. Siddhartha Mitra’s organic geochemistry lab is “fingerprinting” some of the organic compounds that are associated with the oil from the BP spill. That fingerprint is necessary in order to proceed with further research or natural resource damage assessments that might hold BP liable. Following last year’s oil spill, Mitra took rainwater samples in the gulf and water and sediment samples off the N.C. coast. He’s also been working with zooplankton Kimmel and his team collected. Analysis is showing the BP oil fingerprint in zooplankton tissue. Their group is working on articles that document that analysis and expect to publish them this year. Mitra and scientists and staff at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington are determining background levels of hydrocarbons in water samples from coastal North Carolina. This information would be important if an oil spill from elsewhere did make its way to the N.C. coast. Though Kimmel and Mitra have separate NSF awards, during the past few months they have begun collaborating to look for the presence of that hydrocarbon signature within zooplankton from the Gulf of Mexico. Their preliminary results suggest that zooplankton in the gulf have been impacted by the oil spill. Zooplankton collected from the gulf last August and September contain chemicals that can be traced directly to the BP spill using Mitra’s fingerprinting methods.

Building on prior research Last summer, Kimmel and a team of researchers spent several days on the Gulf of Mexico using devices such as a laser optical plankton counter and other methods to assess the number, condition and migration patterns of zooplankton and other sea life. The findings help determine the oil spill’s impact on the ocean ecosystem. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Kimmel is studying the tiny animals that act as a direct link between two levels of the food web: the primary producers, phytoplankton, similar to plants on land that fix carbon, and upper level organisms, such as fish, that are consumed by humans. 12

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Drs. David Kimmel, left, and Siddhartha Mitra are studying the effects of oil on the ocean food chain.


This finding is important because certain chemicals that make up oil might accumulate within the food web, potentially presenting a threat to humans who consume these fish. Some speculate that oil exploration off the coast of North Carolina is imminent. That is why Kimmel and Mitra, with funding from N.C. Sea Grant, are sampling water and zooplankton to determine water quality and the health of the ecosystem. Such information is critical to have before any drilling begins off the Carolina coast.

I think a lot of people are taking an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ opinion regarding the gulf oil, which I don’t think is a great mindset to have. Ben McGlaughon

Kimmel and Mitra aren’t the only ECU researchers studying oil. Drs. Ed Stellwag, Anthony Overton, Xiaoping Pan and Baohong Zhang of the ECU biology department also received a one-year NSF grant for $199,477 to study the influence of crude oil exposure on genetic mechanisms of fish development. In the field and lab, researchers have looked at the developmental effects of exposure to dispersant-treated crude oil. They are using next-generation DNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatics analysis methods to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the developmental defects related to crude oil exposure. They hope their results will be useful in establishing measures to mitigate the damaging effects of environmental pollutants on this sensitive stage of life. A ‘natural’ partnership Mitra said the collaboration across departments – geology and biology in the case of Kimmel and himself – has worked well. “It’s very natural because we’re both trained as marine scientists,” he said, adding they each trained on the Chesapeake Bay. They are also giving students a close-up look at field research. Graduate student Ben McGlaughon worked around the clock on the gulf collecting samples. Working at sea presented a lot of challenges and opportunities for creative solutions. It also helped him focus on career goals. “Being involved with research on one of the worst environmental disasters in human history really helped me realize that these are the kinds of issues I want to be sure we can avoid in the future,” McGlaughon said. On the gulf today, the water has that certain blue sparkle. Less certain – to scientists and students alike – is where 4.9 million barrels of oil went.

Oil’s effect on tourism and business East Carolina University researchers want to know what tourism businesses and organizations perceive as the potential effects of an oil spill or leak off the coast. Researchers are analyzing data collected in the fall for a study funded by North Carolina Sea Grant that will provide a baseline for future comparison if oil becomes present on the coast. They made their findings available in June. A key factor in the state’s economy, tourism businesses and organizations seek to maintain stable income under uncertain conditions. Risk managers, tourism authorities and businesses could use the results to address concerns if tourism businesses are affected by future oil spills or leaks. The results may also help state and local governments and industry leaders to be proactive in setting policies and procedures to deal with such an event. The ECU team has researchers and graduate students from the Center for Sustainable Tourism, the English department and the sociology department. It also involved undergraduate students who conducted telephone interviews with employers and managers of tourism businesses and organizations.

“I’m not entirely sure what happened to the oil in the gulf,” McGlaughon said. “I believe it definitely made its way into the system, most likely as a combination of uptake by zooplankton and other marine organisms and through sedimentation into the seafloor. I think a lot of people are taking an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ opinion regarding the gulf oil, which I don’t think is a great mindset to have.” n

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Ra sing the brainpower bar Project HEART helps teens aim higher By Mary Schulken The questions fly in Learning Center 343 at East Carolina University’s Science and Technology Building. Corey Monaghan, 23, a tutor for Project HEART, is trying to unlock a better understanding of a basic chemistry process. “What are the characteristics of condensation?” he asked. His pupil hesitated. “Think about it,” Monaghan said. “You’re sitting outside on a warm day with a cold soda, what’s happening to it?” More hesitation. “In condensation you’re forming water, so where is that water coming from?” he asked. Project HEART stands for High Expectations for At-Risk Teens. For 10 years this program has placed tutors in schools, on college campuses and in afterschool programs to help high-risk kids in eastern North Carolina. continued on page 15

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Alvin Tsang is a Project HEART tutor who hopes to enter medical school.


It’s an AmeriCorps program — the only one of its kind in the state — based in ECU’s College of Education. Chancellor Steve Ballard cited its work in his February State of the University speech. He used its accomplishments as an example of how ECU changes lives and transforms the rural region it serves. “While institutional reputations usually depend on such factors as federal support for research and the size of the endowment, the impact of a university comes from what we do for people and communities,” Ballard said. ‘A service you provide’ “It has changed my view of how I will approach being a doctor,” said Alvin Tsang, 21, a Project HEART tutor, psychology major at ECU and aspiring student at the Brody School of Medicine. “It’s really not a job; it’s a service you provide.” Project HEART aims to help struggling students stay in school, graduate, go to college and return to their community to help others. Since the program began in 2000, its tutors have worked with more than 20,000 students in as many as 10 counties in the east. And, more than 5,000 college and high school students have served as “members,” as tutors are called, committing up to 900 hours of time in a year. In 2010, AmeriCorps selected Project HEART as one of the 52 most innovative programs in the nation. “We really have developed a model that works,” said Dr. Betty Beacham, the director. “We’ve had the time to do that which is really good, and somewhat rare.” The test scores of teens served track a growing record of success. In its first year, 48 percent of the elementary and high school students served by Project HEART passed end-of-grade tests and were promoted, said Beacham. In 2010, more than 98 percent of elementary and high school students passed end-of-grade tests and were promoted. Since 2005, that rate has remained at 97 percent or higher. Strong community partnerships and the program’s personal, coaching-based approach are the keys, she said. “I think the relationship our tutors build with the kids whom they serve is a dynamic piece of what we do,” said Beacham. Project HEART tutors work in small groups. In orientation they get a bag of

instructional tools and learn how to apply them. They get introduced to differing learning styles so they can recognize them and reinforce instruction. The focus is on science and math, with the expectation those literacy skills will transfer to other subjects, Beacham said. “We are trying to take that child where he or she is and build that piece.” Training the region’s leaders The program also teaches its young tutors how to be leaders and build in them a habit of service and helping others. “The expectation is that they are going to internalize this and they are always going to give back to their communities, they are going to be the leaders in their communities,” said Beacham. In the learning center, Monaghan works with a college student one on one, writing on the board, pulling out books, sitting down with her. He searches for direct ways to get across how condensation works. “What state is water?” he asked. “It’s going to be liquid,” his pupil answered in a low voice. “Good,” he said. “That’s right.” At the next table Tsang waited for potential pupils to arrive. “If you can help someone else figure out how to figure out their problems, then you know you understand the information,” he said. “If I understand it one way and someone else understands it another, I have to be able to communicate in the way they understand.” Madison Mayo, 18, of Battleboro is a senior at Rocky Mount Senior High School. He helps tutor algebra I students as a “minimum time” Project HEART member. He said explaining things is the hardest part. “To be effective you have to be more receptive to what they are receptive to, and if they are not receptive you have to alter your methods,” he said. He plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, eyeing a career in exercise and sport science but keeping his options open. Whatever path he chooses will include lessons from Project HEART, he said. “It’s opened my eyes and helped me see I can do a lot more than just sit in the classroom,” he said. “I can get involved and help other people with my involvement.” Stefon Johns, 18, a high school senior in Goldsboro who plans to attend ECU, serves

as a tutor in Wayne County. The experience has taught him the toughest cases often are the people you help the most. “I have learned that once you open up those few people they become the easiest and most willing to learn more of what you have to say,” he said. A statewide model Beacham sees Project HEART’s second decade as a time of expansion. She wants it to become a statewide model. “I would like this program to be accessible to every child across our state who is not succeeding in school,” she said. “We are beginning. Next year is our first entre.” In the 2011-2012 academic year, Project HEART will add numbers and counties. Beacham has planned for 170 tutors: 50 college students and 120 high school students. The program will serve eight counties in the region instead of five, adding Edgecombe, Halifax and Greene. Meanwhile, the more than $757,000 in federal funding for the project is not likely to expand and could shrink. That money pays three program coordinators, underwrites a $540-a-month living stipend for tutors with what is called a “half-time” service contract and supports a $5,400-a-year education award those Project HEART members are eligible to receive. The local match required for that money comes from in-kind contributions and small payments from school systems served. It is equally uncertain. Yet that doesn’t deter Beacham. She points out there are examples of statewide AmeriCorps programs funded at the national level. Project HEART’s approach also mirrors the school reform approach the state Department of Public Instruction uses for low-performing schools, she said. The state offers so-called “transformation” coaches for school administrators, central office workers and teachers. “What I didn’t hear was a coach for the kids,” she said. “To complete this circle, this is what I think we need, and this is what I think Project HEART can bring to the table.” For tutors such as Tsang, the biggest impact of the program is the personal growth of those who serve. “It’s not about a paycheck or a salary,” he said. “It’s about you wanting to help other people.” n

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Erasing

inequities Dr. Hope Landrine strives to make health disparities a thing of the past By Karen Shugart

Growing up just outside the Bronx, Dr. Hope Landrine witnessed the damage that chronic diseases wreaked upon her community. “Everyone was sick,” she recalled. Landrine knew she wanted to do something about it. Now at East Carolina University, she’s doing just that. Since August, Landrine has been director of the ECU Center for Health Disparities Research (http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/rgs/disparities). She’s the center’s first director, which has put a

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heavy weight on her shoulders to get it running strong and solid — obtaining grants, developing programs and making inroads on the significant health inequities that have long plagued eastern North Carolina. “She really came out of the gate very quickly,” said Dr. Robert Hickner, a professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science who is co-leader of the research core group of the center. Before she arrived, he said, she was putting plans in place and bringing faculty aboard. Landrine is excited about the opportunities. “It’s hard not to be optimistic when your name is Hope,” she joked.


Over the course of her career, Landrine has studied racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in rates of chronic disease and cigarette smoking as well as the pernicious health effects of residential segregation of racial and ethnic groups. Her current research and grant proposals focus on interdisciplinary efforts to reduce diabetes and cancer disparities in eastern North Carolina. She came to ECU from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, where from 2007 to 2010 she was director of multicultural research. There, she dealt with urban health disparities in a city filled with resources — the ACS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as medical schools at Morehouse College and Emory University. Before that, she was research director of the Behavioral Health Institute at San Diego State University. There, she studied the disparities that abounded among the myriad ethnic and racial groups of the region. From 1993 to 2000, she was senior research scientist at the Public Health Foundation of Los Angeles County. At ECU, in addition to her role with the center, she is also a professor of psychology. Landrine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Westminster College in Pennsylvania and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Rhode Island. While the places she’s lived, learned and worked seem very different from eastern North Carolina, the problems populations face here are similar to problems faced elsewhere. Those include some of Landrine’s research specialties: geographic and sociocultural factors, health behavior, arealevel segregation and poverty, and individuallevel acculturation and discrimination. Mostly rural and with higher rates of poverty than other parts of the state, eastern North Carolina faces formidable challenges. According to the ECU Center for Health Services Research and Development, eastern North Carolina has a greater mortality rate than the rest of the state in 15 of 19 types of illness and injury. For example, the mortality rate for heart disease is 20 percent greater as are risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity – for the region as a whole and particularly for minorities. Breast and prostate cancer also affect blacks disproportionately. Coupled with that is a scarcity of primary care physicians, mental health services, dental care and other necessities for good health.

At

a

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D R . H O P E L A N D R IN E Director, ECU Center for Health Disparities Research Professor of psychology Bachelor’s degree in psychology, Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pa. Doctorate in clinical psychology, University of Rhode Island Postdoctoral training in social psychology, Stanford University Postdoctoral training in cancer prevention and control, University of Southern California Medical School Landrine has received $11 million in research funding and published 105 works. Her latest book is “Cancer Disparities: Nature, Causes, Evidence-Based Solutions,” edited by Landrine and Ronit Elk (Springer Publishing, in press).

“The disparities are so extreme and the resources are so limited,” Landrine said. Nevertheless, she believes the center’s 67 affiliated faculty, assembled from divisions and departments throughout the university, are up for the task. “I came because there are such great people here to work with that I was convinced we could make a difference,” Landrine said. The need to reduce health disparities is not only a scientific challenge, but also a financial one. Between 2003 and 2006, health disparities cost the nation $1.24 trillion dollars, Landrine said, citing data from the American Journal of Public Health and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on issues of particular concern to African-Americans and other people of color. Within five years, Landrine said, she hopes the center can apply for federal funding to become self-sustaining. Health disparities research has been a growing field in recent decades. In 2000, Congress authorized the establishment of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Last September, the national center was elevated to full institute status within the National Institutes of Health, and its name was changed to the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities. Theoretically, the development could mean more available research dollars.

Dr. Doyle Cummings, a pharmacist and co-leader of the ECU center’s research core, said funding could be the biggest challenge facing the center. “There’s some possibility that NIH and other major funders are going to get their budgets cut, so while we really want to see the center grow, its research mission, that’s going to be increasingly challenging if the economy doesn’t improve substantially,” Cummings said. Already, the center has created pilot study grant research programs for faculty and communities, and has awarded eight small grants. As of March, affiliated faculty members have been awarded at least 14 grants from various external funding sources — a tally that is expected to grow quickly. The center, the University of North Carolina system’s newest, is also the only one in the system to use the arts to improve health disparities. Plays, videos and songs, Landrine said, will capture people’s attention — and stay lodged in their memories — far longer than statistics in a pamphlet. While the statistics are daunting, Landrine is ready to make a difference in the region among a variety of racial, ethnic, income and geographical groups. “This is a challenge unlike any other I’ve faced,” she said. “Trying to improve the health among people who have not only many, many health problems but who live in rural isolated communities is the challenge here.”

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Dr. Lisa Clough worked in Antarctica as part of a two-year stint with the National Science Foundation. 18

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‘Captured’

bythefeds

Five ECU faculty members have been working with different federal agencies as part of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program, illustrating the respect and reputation of ECU’s growing research enterprise. By Ernest Marshburn Dr. Lisa Clough can now say she has been to both ends of the earth. Clough, an associate professor of biology, is winding up a two-year stint with the National Science Foundation. She’s been working as program director for the Antarctica Integrated System Science program and also traveled to South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Among the rewards of working in Antarctica, she said, is “being an effective manager such that you can keep the research moving as efficiently as possible. But, selfishly, getting to go to South Pole was pretty cool, too.” She was working with the NSF in Arlington, Va., in May and will return to ECU Aug. 1. Clough, who has also been to the North Pole, is one of five ECU faculty members who have spent all or part of the last two years working with the Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program, which provides for the temporary assignment of personnel between the federal government and state and local governments, colleges and universities, and other eligible organizations. Dr. Jeff Johnson, a professor of sociology and faculty member in the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, is working with the Army, developing modeling systems regarding human adaptation/ response to societal disruptions including mass migration, revolutions and war. Johnson’s work exposes him to high-risk environments, but he believes it is essential to creating systems for tactical decision-making, increasing the predictability of adversarial intent, and aiding rapid socio-cultural assessment in conflict zones and in humanitarian efforts. Dr. Jamie Kruse, a professor of economics, recently completed an assignment as chief economist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She represented NOAA on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Subcommittee for

Social, Behavioral and Economic Science and the Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology Policy. She also co-chaired the Interagency Working Group on Ocean Social Science and served on the National Incident Command Economic Solutions Team assessing the socioeconomic impacts of the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Lesley Lutes, an assistant professor of psychology, is on assignment with Veterans Affairs, addressing why veterans are more likely to be overweight than other Americans. Lutes received a $1.5 million grant from the VA to conduct clinical trials on her “small changes” weight management plan with trials in progress in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Cleveland. Lutes hopes to include a VA site near Greenville in the next round. Dr. Tim Runyan, a research associate in the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, recently returned from assignment as manager of NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Program. Among his projects was supporting Voyage to Discovery, a multimedia educational initiative highlighting AfricanAmerican contributions to U.S. maritime heritage while fostering increased participation in marine careers and ocean conservation. Runyan also served as scientific advisor on a $3 million project investigating shipwrecks on hard-bottom canyon environments that was sponsored by the Department of Interior. The IPA experience, Clough said, provides a look behind the scenes of federal agencies and allows participants to bring that information back to ECU. “It also provides some good visibility for ECU at the national level, she said. Clough also said the work will help her become a better proposal writer and a more patient and efficient leader. n

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An infrared video camera records Benjamin McHugh’s eye movements in response to computer-generated simulation of his vestibular system.


Collateral

damage

ECU researchers help injured troops and veterans put themselves back together By Crystal Baity Benjamin McHugh is adjusting to his new normal while searching for a cure for his dizziness. The 23-year-old corporal suffered a blast injury in June 2010 while on patrol in Afghanistan after his four-man team hit an improvised explosive device. A mild traumatic brain injury has left him with short-term memory loss, dizziness, constant headaches and balance problems. “I didn’t notice most of it at first,” he said. After returning to Camp Lejeune from his only combat deployment, friends noticed his lack of agility, his forgetfulness and his inability to walk straight. “They said, ‘what’s wrong with you?’“ Now McHugh is in physical therapy three times a week and sees a neurologist, speech therapist and other rehabilitation specialists. His doctors at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune referred him to East Carolina University’s speech and hearing clinic, where he is being evaluated by Dr. Sherri Jones, an expert in inner ear disorders and associate professor of communication sciences and disorders. continued on page 22

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A computer program called “Virtual Iraq” can recreate a soldier’s wartime experiences, from patrolling on a road to riding in a Humvee. Russoniello’s biofeedback training helps service members recognize and control their reactions in the simulated scenario, which they can use when they feel stressed or anxious in everyday life. In the College of Human Ecology, child development and family relations experts have been holding workshops for families of reservists coping with deployment for the past four years. ECU interior design and merchandising students helped in the design of the wounded warrior barracks project at Camp Lejeune. Studying the signature injury

Doctoral student Kristal Mills adjusts the headset and camera that Marine Benjamin McHugh is wearing as part of a balance assessment as he sits in a rotary chair in ECU’s speech and hearing clinic.

Jones and doctoral student Kristal Mills are conducting a clinical research project to pinpoint the damaged part of the complex vestibular and balance system to provide the best treatment possible. “My hope is just to find out what’s wrong,” McHugh said. “If you can’t figure out the problem, you can’t fix it.” Through Operation Re-entry North Carolina, ECU aims to study and treat the problems of combat Marines such as McHugh and thousands of other military service personnel.  The $2.4 million federally earmarked project involves different departments on campus and a five-year agreement between the U.S. Army and ECU. Dr. David Cistola, project director, said it addresses the three “R’s:” reintegration, reentry and resilience of military personnel. 22

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Some of the clinical treatment and research into traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder was already being developed in various departments when Cistola joined ECU in 2008 as associate dean of research in the College of Allied Health Sciences. One of his duties was to build collaborative projects. He found a focus with eastern North Carolina’s heavy concentration of military bases and population of active duty and retired soldiers. His task was to bring it all together and keep the momentum going. Already in place was the Training for Optimal Performance Program started by Dr. Carmen Russoniello in the psychophysiology lab and biofeedback clinic in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies.

Traumatic brain injury from blasts is the signature injury of today’s war, Cistola said, and causes concussion-like symptoms that often overlap with post traumatic stress disorder. Service members, many with lengthy and multiple deployments, are surviving physical injuries that they might not have in previous wars due to advances in protective gear and training. In Jones’ lab, McHugh is put through a two-to-three-hour comprehensive battery to evaluate his inner ear. Part of the assessment involves strapping on an infrared video camera to record McHugh’s eye movements in response to computer-generated stimulation of his vestibular system while he sits in a rotary chair. Other tests require him to move his head or body in different positions or wear electrodes on the skin overlying his neck muscles or at his ears. Some of the tests, done in silent, darkened control rooms, are so monotonous that he falls asleep. Jones’ team has evaluated more than 100 Marines with blast-induced dizziness or other balance problems referred from Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, and every week brings new referrals. ECU now has one of the largest databases on vestibular function following blast injury in the country, Jones said. Already there are some unexpected preliminary findings.  “When a person is exposed to a blast, the theory was the pressure wave damages the air and fluid-filled organs, which the inner ear fits in that category,” Jones said. But so far data show only a small percentage of individuals exposed to blast have inner ear damage. “If it’s not the inner ear, then what is it?” Jones said.


Defense funding will allow Jones to start a new study in collaboration with military physicians and Drs. Blaise Williams and Leslie Allison in ECU’s physical therapy department to see how the brain integrates all its sensory information for balance. “Our hypothesis is the brain is weighting those sensory inputs differently after blast exposure,” Jones said. “The brain isn’t looking at the information properly. If it focuses on vision when it should be using vestibular, a person can become off balance.” Many wounded service members go through a standard vestibular rehabilitation program but don’t see progress beyond a certain level, Jones said. For a Marine, that might be 50 percent to 75 percent of normal. “These individuals are very physically fit and active. They’re not used to not feeling well or being sedentary,” Jones said. McHugh is among them though, to the average eye, he looks in tip-top condition. “I can’t run. I get way too dizzy and light headed,” he said. “I used to love to run. I’ve gotten way out of shape.” There is a lot more to learn about what happens when someone is exposed to blast. “It’s a combination of expertise that’s necessary to solve these problems,” she said. A new tool coming to Greenville that will be available to researchers throughout the UNC system will be a blast simulator laboratory. One of six in the world, researchers will be able to study the impact of blast on blood, tissue and other body parts. Findings eventually may lead to a quick and reliable test for mild traumatic brain injury closer to the battlefield, Cistola said. The point of diagnosis matters in determining treatment, documentation and discharge. “And it determines what happens when they walk into a VA hospital three years from now,” Cistola said. Funding and pending projects ECU Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies Dr. Deirdre Mageean coined the term “Operation Re-entry,” and she and Cistola gained the support of U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who championed it in Congress. While $2.4 million in Department of Defense funds was allocated in the 2010 budget, none has been released to ECU. Another $2.2 million is expected, but not guaranteed, this year. Operation Re-entry will begin with about 10 projects, but has

Dr. David Cistola, project director for Operation Re-entry North Carolina, readies serum in his lab. He is developing diagnostic markers for blast exposure.

the potential to expand to 30 projects a year throughout the UNC system. “There is so much support for caring for returning veterans,” Cistola said. “We won’t stop trying if it happens, and we’ll do it anyway if it doesn’t.” Some “shovel-ready” projects can’t begin until federal funding arrives. In occupational therapy, department chair Dr. Leonard Trujillo, a veteran himself, will use the Interactive Metronome, a computerized assessment and treatment tool that prompts users to match repetitive rhythmic patterns while tapping their feet or clapping their hands. The therapy will help active duty service members with mild traumatic brain injury improve hand-eye coordination, fine and gross motor skills and mental organization. Trujillo’s past work with stroke patients and the Interactive Metronome have shown improvement. Occupational therapy graduate students also will use TRX training, a portable exercise system adopted by the military, to help service members improve strength and coordination. The sessions can be done anywhere. “When you’re active and feel you’re engaged, the outlook on life is much more positive,” Trujillo said. “This will help them return to a sense of urgency and place.” Dr. Paul Toriello and two doctoral students in the Department of Rehabilitation Studies will pilot a computerized screening test and brief intervention for substance abuse, mental illness and mild traumatic brain injury with Pitt County veterans.

Research has shown 46 percent of veterans have a substance use disorder, 11 percent have mental illness and 60 percent report symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury. “Of particular concern is how these three conditions interact to impair veterans’ lives,” Toriello said. Studies show more than 34 percent of veterans with a primary substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental illness. Half with mild traumatic brain disorder also have substance use issues. In fact, alcohol use by someone with brain injury can exacerbate symptoms of aggression and memory loss, Toriello said. According to Pitt County Veterans Service, more than 10,500 veterans live in Pitt County. Data from earlier studies suggest “a majority of Pitt County veterans may be attempting to cope with these three conditions, any one of which can cause serious problems and, when experienced in combination, can be significantly debilitating,” Toriello said. McHugh will leave the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Division after five years in June. He plans to go to college and into the reserves. For now, he carries a day planner filled with doctor appointments and other important dates to remember since his short-term memory is affected. A car enthusiast and mechanic, McHugh, at the good-natured ribbing of friends, will double- and triplecheck his work when asked if he remembered a repair step.

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explore

explorations

Easing the ‘ouch’ By Marion Blackburn

A developmental health psychologist at East Carolina University is looking for ways to help sick or injured children lead fuller lives. Dr. Cecelia Valrie, an assistant professor of psychology at ECU, is using a $600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to create a novel research program using technology such as smart phones, iPods and even wristwatch computers to collect information from kids about what makes them feel better. She’ll combine that with what she knows about developmental psychology — the science of how people mature emotionally and intellectually — to craft approaches that allow children to grow and thrive despite long-term pain or medical conditions. “Sick children experience acute pain and have to undergo intensive medical procedures,” said Valrie. “They miss school and have physical and psychological complications because of their illnesses. If they’re going to lead good lives, they need people who understand these stressors and who can assist them in the process.” After graduating from ECU summa cum laude with a dual degree in psychology and math in 1999, she received master’s and

doctoral degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill in developmental psychology. She joined the ECU psychology department in 2006. Sickle cell disease is Valrie’s research focus. With medical advances helping people with the disease live into their 60s and beyond, they need to have healthy development along the way. Sickle cell disease in this country mostly affects African-Americans. The trait creates sickle-shaped red blood cells that cannot pass through vessels properly and become clogged, leading to pain and tissue death. Pain can begin as early as 6 months old, with childhood strokes a possible complication. While it’s hard on children, it’s also tough for parents, Valrie said. By showing parents how to work with their children on specific goals despite the discomforts of illness, they can usher their kids forward developmentally. Strong families, she said, raise strong, happy children. “We want to make sure families don’t feel they’re all alone,” she said. “We want to give them, and their children, a sense of hope, that that they can plan for adulthood while they also understand the struggles of their disease.” She’s interested in evaluating all types of pain management methods and sleep disorders in children, since pain disrupts a child’s nighttime rest, compounding the effects of the illness. Sooner or later, health problems take a toll on a child’s ability to learn and grow.

Dr. Cecelia Valrie

Her interest in childhood development takes her into other research areas, including blood diseases, obesity and chronic pain. Dr. Charles W. Daeschner II, chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at the Brody School of Medicine, is a mentor on her NIH grant. “I’ve known Dr. Valrie since she was a student at Chapel Hill,” he said. “She has a strong interest in children with chronic illnesses and has brought a new depth to our comprehensive sickle cell clinic. We’re hoping to find some things that will show us how to better work with our kids, because living with a chronic disease is very emotionally stressful.”

NIH grant aids study of prostate cancer protein By Doug Boyd

With help from a grant of more than $400,000, Dr. Maria Ruiz-Echevarria is looking at ways a protein could help the prognosis, treatment and detection of prostate cancer. Ruiz-Echevarria, a scientist and assistant professor of hematology/oncology, received the three-year, $423,803 grant from the National Institutes of Health in December. The funds will help her and her team determine the role of the TMEFF2 protein in prostate-specific tumor development. TMEFF2 is a protein involved in prostate cancer.

Dr. Maria Ruiz-Echevarria

Ruiz-Echevarria came to ECU in 2007 with her husband, Dr. Adam Asch, chief of hematology/oncology at ECU. She has a doctorate from Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas in Madrid, Spain. Her previous research centered on the post-transcriptional control of gene expression – more specifically in the mechanisms and factors that regulate the synthesis of proteins. While searching for proteins involved in stem cell differentiation, she ran across one called TMEFF2.


explore explorations State honor finds Ebendorf By Jeannine Manning Hutson

For years, Robert “Bob” Ebendorf has taken a little something from here, a piece from there and put them together into stunning pieces of art. Now, the state of North Carolina has recognized those pieces of art as worthy of the state’s highest honor. Gov. Beverly Perdue and Linda Carlisle, secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, presented Ebendorf with the North Carolina Award last fall. For Ebendorf the honor was a complete surprise. “I had no idea. This came totally out of the blue. I don’t even know anyone on the committee,” he said in his home studio, where his workbench is covered in the tools of his trade along with broken pieces of jewelry and a blue-and-white porcelain plate, found objects such as buttons, and gemstones. “I didn’t even know much about the award and what an honor it is until you look at the past recipients, the leaders in their fields, the scholars and their contributions to the state of North Carolina,” he said. Previous honorees in fine arts include painter Francis Speight, jazz great Billy Taylor, actor Andy Griffith, painter Bob Timberlake, and folk and bluegrass music legend “Doc” Watson. Ebendorf has been a leader in the studio jewelry movement since the early 1960s and

is world renowned as an artist and teacher. In addition to gold, silver and bronze, unusual materials such as fossils, animal claws or even soft drink can pull tops find their way into his creations. Ebendorf ’s work is found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Smithsonian Institution, the Mint Museum in Charlotte and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Ebendorf was the recipient of a Fulbright grant to study in Norway in 1963, and three years later was awarded a Louis Comfort Tiffany grant to work for Norway Silver Design. He has a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Kansas and was one of the founding members of the Society of North American Goldsmiths.   He came to ECU in 1997 as a visiting lecturer and was named the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Art in 1999. As part of that position, Ebendorf teaches graduate and undergraduate classes, including design and metals. A trained goldsmith, Ebendorf began his career producing pieces for temples and churches along with university office medallions. “In the 1960s, I began working with found materials – broken jewelry, broken glass, found metal, even chicken bones –

“This project turned out to be a very good source of information,” she said. The results demonstrated that translation regulation is an important mechanism during stem cell differentiation and provided several interesting factors to focus on, among them TMEFF2, a transmembrane protein expressed only in the brain and prostate. Ruiz-Echevarria’s team has determined that TMEFF2 interacts with the enzyme sarcosine dehydrogenase and regulates the level of sarcosine, recently described as a regulator of cell invasion and metastasis.

That suggests the studies on TMEFF2 and the pathways involved in its mechanism of action might provide important clues into the biology of prostate cancer and the ability to treat it. Interestingly, the results of RuizEchevarria’s team suggest that the protein has multiple effects that depend upon whether it is expressed by the cell or cleaved from it. Full-length TMEFF2, expressed in the cell suppresses tumor formation; however, when the protein is cleaved from the cell membrane, it promotes deregulated growth

Bob Ebendorf

taking those materials that would have gone to the landfill and using those as I did gold. Some museum curators have called me an ‘outlaw,’” he said. “I’m always gathering found objects, usually while walking between home and the School of Art. It’s not unusual that they will find their way into my jewelry,” he said. At ECU, a scholarship to honor Ebendorf is planned for the School of Art to benefit an outstanding student entering the graduate-level metal design program. Created by the General Assembly in 1961, the North Carolina Awards have been presented annually since 1964. The award recognizes significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine arts, literature, public service and science.

of prostate cells, which can lead to cancer. Ruiz-Echevarria points out that there are many different types of cancer and many factors that affect cancer. “There are so many things in the cancer cells that aren’t working the way they should be,” she said, “and, therefore, finding a cure is not straightforward task, but we hope to make a substantial contribution. TMEFF2 expression may be a marker of prostate cancer disease or may itself be a viable target to which prostate cancer therapy might be developed.” n

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More than $3 million fuels study of nanomaterials By Karen Shugart

It was in graduate school that Dr. Jared Brown began the work that would just six years later net him and his colleagues more than $3 million for research. First came a $75,000 grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center in June 2010. That same month, Brown, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Brody School of Medicine, learned he received a $2.2 million grant as one of a half-dozen researchers to be awarded an Outstanding New Environmental Scientist Award. Awarded to early career scientists, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ program since 2006 has annually identified and supported scientists who intend to dedicate their careers to environmental science research. Dr. Jared Brown Then, in early September, Brown learned that he and Dr. Christopher Wingard, associate professor of physiology, will share in a $3.75 million, five-year, multi-project grant funded by the National Institutes of Health. Brown and Wingard will each lead $700,000 projects. It’s a slate of accomplishments that’s not too shabby for someone just six years out of graduate school. Even more impressive, perhaps, is the area of his research: carbon nanotubes and the nascent study of nanomaterials’ effects on the human body. Smaller than 1/1000th of a millimeter, carbon nanotubes are tube-shaped fi bers that have proved useful in products as varied as cosmetics, sunscreens, bicycle frames, electronics, sailboats, space shuttles and pills. They’ve even been used to clean up oil spills. “This is probably one of the most rapidly growing commercial applications of material science,” said Wingard. “There’s more than 800 registered nanomaterials out there in commercial use.” Until recent years, however, their effects on human health have gone largely unexamined and unregulated. Now, agencies including the NIH, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are pushing for answers. “Are these things toxic and, if they are, what levels are we exposed to? And if we are exposed, what level is safe, and what level is not safe?” said Brown, citing some scientists’ questions.

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There’s reason to be asking questions. Experiments have shown that rodents, when exposed to nanotubes in the lungs, developed pulmonary inflammation and fi brosis, Brown said. “What’s not known is how that might occur,” he said. Brown has studied how response to nanotubes is affected by mast cells, which play an important role in allergic reactions. He’s studied two groups of mice, one with the cells and one without, and found that the mice with mast cells developed pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis when exposed to nanotubes. The ones lacking the cells did not. “It was a completely different response, almost like night and day,” Brown said. He suspects nanotubes damage the lung through the epithelium or through a macrophage. Those cells, he hypothesized, release interleukin 33, a protein that acts as a signaler between immune system cells, which in turn activates the mast cell. If mast cells provide key answers to understanding the body’s response to certain nanotubes, then perhaps scientists have a leg up already on preventing adverse effects, Brown said. An array of drugs targeting mast cells or mast cell products such as antihistamines is available that address allergic reactions. Studying the effects of nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes is complicated by the abundance of types available. With already more than 800 nanomaterials registered and many more in development for commercial use, there are a lot of unknown effects, Wingard said.


explore explorations Green research cuts use of toxic organic solvents By Karen Shugart

An East Carolina University professor is working with Procter & Gamble to significantly reduce the use of toxic organic solvents in the chemical analysis of everyday consumer goods. Dr. Yu “Frank” Yang, a professor of chemistry, and his team of student researchers are finding more environmentally friendly ways to perform quality control tests — methods that could be used for chemical analysis of food, drink, health and beauty products. As a result, manufacturers like P&G could save money and sharply reduce the amount of hazardous solvents such as methanol and acetonitrile used in their analytical laboratories. “There is a chain of environmental impacts,” Yang said. P&G, the world’s largest consumer packaged-goods company, recently funded Yang’s research to study the industrial application of subcritical water chromatography. Since joining ECU in 1997, Yang has received more than $400,000 from various agencies and institutions supporting his green subcritical water research. Like many companies, P&G uses high performance liquid chromatography, a technique that separates compounds dissolved in solutions, to test products before they hit store shelves. The organic solvents used in such tests are toxic and must be disposed of carefully. Yang has been pioneering a way to minimize and even eliminate the use of hazardous organic solvents in HPLC methods. By substituting organic solvents with subcritical water — water that’s heated past the boiling point but below 374 degrees Celsius (705.2 degrees Fahrenheit) and at 218 atmospheres of pressure, he’s developed processes that can offer a green alternative. Yang and his team have developed three methods of “subcritical water chromatography” for P&G. Two work without using any organic solvents. A third cuts their use by more than 80 percent, Yang said.

Now, P&G is in the process of adopting one of the methods that eliminates the organic solvents for analysis of niacinamide — a compound related to Vitamin B3. Once put in place, the measure will improve the company’s environmental impact and save money, Yang said. The basic principles of subcritical water chromatography could be applied to many more existing industrial methods, he said. “There are hundreds of HPLC methods in the industry, and 30 percent of them, my honest opinion is, can be replaced by this green separation technique,” Yang said. Dr. Rickey Hicks, chair of the chemistry department, said Yang is one of the top scientists in the world in subcritical water research. “It’s not only an impact on the environment, which will be better off because of this technology, but it also will

save companies money,” Hicks said. “It would cut down on the organic solvents that are potential pollutants that could end up in the groundwater, the water supply or as an atmospheric pollution.” Yang completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in China and his doctorate in Germany. He joined ECU from the Energy and Environmental Research Center in North Dakota. He has published 57 peer-reviewed journal articles, reviews and book chapters. Yang serves as a technical reviewer for 17 national and international journals. He’s been honored for his research and teaching by ECU and the UNC Board of Governors. His 2011 research team working on the P&G project includes a doctoral student, Brahmam Kapalavavi; a master’s student, Leena Gujjar; and an undergraduate student, Amandeep Gujral.

From left, Leena Gujjar, Amandeep Gujral, Dr. Yu “Frank” Yang and Brahmam Kapalavavi pose in Yang’s lab, where they are studying green solvents.

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in print

in print

“The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast” (University of North Carolina Press, 2011) by Dr. Stanley Riggs, Dorothea Ames, Dr. Stephen Culver and Dr. David Mallinson The 325-mile-long string of narrow sand islands that forms the North Carolina coast is one of the most beloved areas to live and visit in the United States. However, extensive barrier island segments and their associated wetlands are in jeopardy. In “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast,” ECU geology faculty members Riggs, Ames, Culver and Mallinson examine the issues that threaten the islands, including their mobile nature and the effects of major storms. They present a hopeful vision of the future of the N.C. coastline, but one that will require a radical change in thinking about coastal development.

“Enterprise 2.0: How Technology, eCommerce, and Web 2.0 Are Transforming Business Virtually” (Praeger Publishers, 2010) edited by Dr. Tracy Tuten Tuten, an associate professor of marketing at ECU, explores how the latest Internet innovations continue to impact business. In “Enterprise 2.0,” Tuten sets out to find the top experts in their respective areas ‒ all tied together by the theme of Web 2.0’s influence on business. In addition to being the book’s title, Enterprise 2.0 is the industry term for the business tools and processes that are made possible by Web 2.0 technology, which involves social networking as well as more dynamic and shareable content.

“The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.–Mexico Border” (Texas Tech University Press, 2011) by Dr. Lee Maril Through interviews with defense contractors, border residents, American military, Minutemen, customs and border protection agents, environmental activists and others, Maril, a professor of sociology, uncovers fiscal mismanagement by Congress, wasteful defense contracts and broken political promises along the U.S.-Mexico border. As drug violence mounts in border cities and increasing numbers of illegal migrants die from heat exhaustion in the Arizona desert, Maril argues how the fence may even be making the situation worse and proposes new policies that take into consideration human issues, political negotiation and the need for compromise.

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“Eternal Light” (Gothic Records, 2010) by the ECU Chamber Singers “Eternal Light” is the second compact disk from the award-winning Chamber Singers. Recorded at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville and internationally distributed on the Gothic recording label, the recording features mostly 20thcentury sacred works for unaccompanied choir. In addition, three selections are premiere recordings of works for choir with single instrument obbligato featuring instrumental ECU faculty members. The major premiere is a 25-minute, fourmovement setting of the Angus Dei by Norwegian composer Egil Hovland.

“From Diplomas to Doctorates: The Success of Black Women in Higher Education and its Implications for Equal Educational Opportunities for All” (2010, Stylus Publishing) edited by Drs. Crystal Renee Chambers, V. Barbara Bush and Mary Beth Walpole Chambers, an assistant professor in the ECU College of Education, and her co-editors illuminate the educational experiences of black women, from the time they earn their high school diplomas through graduate study, with a particular focus on their doctoral studies. The original research presented here not only deepens understanding of the experiences of African-American women in the academy, but also seeks to strengthen the academic pipeline.

“How New Humans are Made” (World Scientific Publishing Co., 2010) by Dr. Charles Boklage One should not call something a miracle without even trying to understand it. That’s according to Boklage, a geneticist and professor of pediatrics at ECU. He presents human developmental biology for everyone curious enough to see it through, from the perspective of the business of becoming human as individuals and as species; making new humans; how it happens; and common variations of the process, particularly twinning and chimerism.

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East Carolina University Greenville, NC 27858-4353

Dr. Stanley Riggs poses next to ECU’s new research vessel, which is named for the retired geology professor. The boat provides safer and more flexible water transportation and research support to ECU scientists and students – and it’s named for one of the university’s pioneers in coastal research. The twin-engine R/V Stanley R. Riggs is a 34-foot Munson PackCat that includes a bow ramp for beach landings and can carry more than 10 people. When not in use, the R/V Riggs is docked near the N.C. Estuarium in Washington.


Edge Fall 2011  

The research and creative activity magazine of East Carolina University.

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