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East Carolina University Research and creative activity

SPRING 2008

Coming soon: Small town revival Also in this issue:

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Student research Seeking clues to M.S. Sustainable tourism


EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY Spring 2008 www.ecu.edu PUBLISHER Dr. Deirdre M. Mageean Vice Chancellor, Research and Graduate Studies EDITOR Doug Boyd WRITERS Crystal Baity Marion Blackburn Jeannine Manning Hutson Sally Lawrence Erica Plouffe Lazure ART DIRECTOR Michael Litwin PHOTOGRAPHERS Cliff Hollis Joe Hoyt Doug Boyd 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

© 2008 by East Carolina University Printed by Theo Davis Printing. U.P. 08-293 Printed on recycled paper 3,500 copies of this public document were printed at a cost of $4,575.00 or $1.31 per copy.

M essa g e f r o m the V i ce C ha n cell o r At East Carolina University, research is more important than ever. The expansion of our research activities is leading to new discoveries, generating intellectual property, forming spin-off companies, creating jobs and helping grow the economy of eastern North Carolina. Through our university’s strategic plans, we aim to increase the rate of growth in our research activities by creating more and better research facilities, more researchers and more research funding. Our research efforts continue to focus on problems affecting our state and, in particular, eastern North Carolina. Among those efforts will be developing sustainable tourism, preserving our coastal lands, reducing health disparities among people of different ethnic and economic backgrounds, and working to spur sustainable economic and community development in the region and state. Fortunately, we have been working toward improving ECU’s research capabilities for some time, and we are seeing results. We invested $5.6 million in faculty research start-up funds from 2005 to 2007 to increase our competitiveness in recruiting strong research faculty and began internal competitive research programs to enable existing faculty to acquire preliminary data for major grants proposals. Due to those investments and other efforts, we are on our way to some of our goals. For example, faculty members received $38.6 million in external funding during the last fiscal year to further their studies and address issues of regional importance. Through the first seven months of this fiscal year, the number of funded research proposals has climbed, and we are on target to continue the trend of increased research funding. Our long-term goal is to increase that amount significantly to allow more faculty members to pursue research and attract new faculty members with promising, impactful research agendas that will transform the economy of eastern North Carolina. Graduate students working on faculty-directed research projects are a vital part of ECU’s research engine. This workforce of more than 6,000 students, up from 3,400 five years ago, can be found in our laboratories pursuing new discoveries, in our clinics developing new treatments, in our communities creating innovative development projects, and in our classrooms learning state-of-the-art methods. Through strategic investments in selected graduate programs, ECU plans to continue growing its enrollment in areas vital to eastern North Carolina’s economic development. Although graduate students now make up about 22 percent of East Carolina’s total enrollment of more than 26,000, they are not the only ones engaging in research. A growing number of our undergraduates are participating in funded research, publishing papers and making conference presentations. In short, our goals are to more than double our research funding from its current level; invest in interdisciplinary research so experts from across our university combine their skills and knowledge to further innovation; turn that innovation into practical applications; and work together with community leaders to boost economic development that benefits the people of North Carolina. Of all the benefits this increased focus on research and creative activity will bring, none is more important than the fact it will further equip our students to ask questions, seek answers and lead the way to solutions for the challenges that face our state.

Deirdre M. Mageean, Ph.D. Vice Chancellor Research and Graduate Studies


T able o f c o n te n ts

features 8 Paths to prosperity ECU and communities team up for economic development.

16 Journeys of discovery Students stake out their own research, publishing papers and winning grants.

20 A site for the ages Sustainable tourism saves favorite spots from being “loved to death.”

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A shot at M.S. Dr. Mark Mannie seeks to unlock mystery of multiple sclerosis.

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Computers propel complex research of health, chemistry and more

E  CU awards $485,000 for faculty research

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P  rojects receive $254,000 in Brody Brothers grants C  enter for Health Disparities Research takes shape C  ollege of Education launches online journal C  hristian honored E  CU chemist develops polymer for topical treatments R  esearchers study economic impact of storms $ 1.6 million funds study into stopping germ E  CU receives $1.1 million to study nanotubes’ effect on hearts Metabolic Institute receives $1 million T  hree receive university research honors

Richards dives to study shipwrecks

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G  iving the green light to researchers

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in print

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D  espite appearances, plants and animals aren’t so different Bauer looks South for literature

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on the cover

The old Columbia Theater teaches visitors about the history of this Coastal Plain community, while other businesses on Main Street show the town has a future, too. Read more about Columbia and other towns ECU is helping revive beginning on page 8. n

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Computers propel complex research of health, chemistry and more Equipped with advanced tools that can analyze complex molecular models, researchers at East Carolina University are studying problems such as cardiac disorders, heavy metal toxicity and catalytic chemical transformations. They are able to do this work thanks to the computing power available at the ECU Center for Applied Computational Studies. University researchers have leveraged nearly $1 million in National Science Foundation grants to purchase computer hardware worth almost $3 million, said Dr. Libero Bartolotti, professor of chemistry and CACS director. Computer vendor grantsin-kind account for the deep discount. The computers include a 32-processor Silicon Graphics Inc. Origin 350 server with 32 gigabytes of shared memory and 1.2 terabytes of hard disk space, installed in 2004, a 128-processor SGI Altix 4700 cluster with 258 gigabytes of shared memory and 12 terabytes of disk, installed in 2007, and an eight-processor SGI Prism

workstation with 16 gigabytes of memory that serves as the license server, scheduler and interactive test platform for the two larger machines. In addition, students learn in a lab in the Science and Technology Building that has 14 SGI Fuel workstations and 10 Dell personal computers purchased with student technology fees. Software available on the computers includes Gaussian, a quantum mechanical electronic structure program, and Accelrys, a suite of programs designed for calculations in life and material sciences. Dr. Yumin Li, an assistant professor of chemistry, uses the computers to study mutations in cardiac muscle that could lead to sudden cardiac death and to design drugs that could correct heart ailments the mutations cause. “Without these resources, we couldn’t do such high-level applied research,” Li said. ECU makes a small number of processors on the computers available to researchers and students at seven other University of North Carolina system schools and Duke University, providing access to research infrastructure that was available through the N.C. Supercomputing Center. The NCSC closed in 2003.

From left, Li, Sargent and Bartolotti

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“To some extent, ECU is filling a gap left by the closure of NCSC,” said Dr. Andrew Sargent, an associate professor of chemistry. At ECU, about half the users are students. Getting experience with these advanced computational tools gives them a significant advantage in the competitive job market, Sargent said. With a modest investment from the university, the computers can receive incremental upgrades every year to 18 months, extending their useful life. More information is available at http:// www.ecu.edu/cacs.

ECU awards $485,000 for faculty research The East Carolina University Division of Research and Graduate Studies awarded $485,208 in research development grants to 21 ECU professors last July. The aim of the grants is to provide researchers with the means to bolster promising research and support the seeking of external grants. The largest grant amount was $35,000, which went to each of four researchers: Dr. Yan-Hua Chen in the Brody School of Medicine, who’s studying kidney disease; Dr. Timothy Gavin in the College of Health and Human Performance, who’s studying diabetes; Dr. Mariavittoria Pitzalis of the Brody School of Medicine, who’s studying heart failure; and Dr. Yong Zhu, an assistant professor of biology, who’s studying steroid hormones in vertebrates. Since fiscal year 2006, the division has awarded more than $1.6 million in grants. The grants have proved effective in generating outside funding. Forty-six recipients from 2005-2007 have received more than $3.8 million in external grants.


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Projects receive $254,000 in Brody Brothers grants Research projects led by faculty at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, including one that exposes medical students to a summer of investigation, have received grants totaling $253,929 from the Brody Brothers Foundation Endowment Fund. “These all address the major disease issues of eastern North Carolina, which include cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity,” said Dr. John Lehman, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Brody School of Medicine. The grants were made possible through the income from an endowment established at the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation by the Brody Brothers Foundation. The following researchers received grants: Drs. Carlos Campos, Ron

Allison and Claudio Sibata of the Department of Radiation Oncology; Dr. Joseph Cory of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Dr. James deVente of the Deparment of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Dr. Edward Seidel of the Department of Physiology; Dr. Warren Knudson of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology; Dr. Mark Mannie of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Drs. Robert Lust and Jitka Virag of the Department of Physiology; Dr. Alexander Murashov of the Department of Physiology; and Dr. Maria Ruiz-Echevarria of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The Summer Scholars Student Research Program at the Brody School of Medicine

Center for Health Disparities Research takes shape East Carolina University is taking a leading role in addressing health disparities in eastern North Carolina. The new Center for Health Disparities Research, approved in September, will look for answers to questions such as why the region’s death rate is continually 10 to 12 percent greater than the rest of the state and why non-whites die at a rate 20 percent greater than whites. Dr. Chris Mansfield, director of the ECU Center for Health Services Research and Development, and Dr. Doyle “Skip” Cummings, director of the research division in the Department of Family Medicine, are interim co-directors of the center. They are recruiting faculty from across the campus, leading the search for a permanent director and organizing the center’s internal and external advisory boards. Dr. Lisa Campbell, a health psychologist and cancer disparities researcher, will serve as associate director of the center. She came to ECU from Duke University in January. She

has a joint appointment in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Deirdre Mageean, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, and Dr. Cynda Johnson, former associate vice chancellor for clinical and translational research, led the effort to establish the center. The center co-sponsored a February lecture on health disparities by Dr. George Howard of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

also received $20,000 to support research stipends. “This has been a stellar program in the past, and with the support of the Brody Brothers Endowment, it will continue,” Lehman said. The Brody Brothers Endowment Fund awarded its first grants in 2005. This year’s grants bring the three-year total awarded to more than $700,000. Research funded by previous years’ grants is already showing results, Lehman said. The Brody Brothers Foundation Endowment Fund was established in 1999 when the Brody family donated $7 million to fund research projects at the medical school for cancer, diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular disease and other prevalent health problems in eastern North Carolina.

College of Education launches online journal Faculty members of East Carolina University’s College of Education have launched the Journal of Curriculum and Instruction. The peer-reviewed, online publication will be published twice a year by the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said managing editor Katherine A. O’Connor. It will provide a forum for articles relevant to teaching and learning in primary and secondary education for teachers, college students and researchers. The second issue, “Social Studies Teaching & Learning: Preparing Citizens for a Global Society,” was published in January. Visit http://www.joci.ecu.edu to view the journal or to submit a manuscript.

Dr. Lisa Campbell

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Researchers study economic impact of storms

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East Carolina University named Dr. Robert Christian the 2007 distinguished professor in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. A biology professor since 1981, Christian received the honor at the college’s annual convocation last August. Christian’s research has focused on coastal ecosystems, particularly salt marshes, estuaries and coastal lagoons along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and in the Mediterranean. He has received more than $1 million in research grants during his career, published nearly 60 papers, written numerous book chapters and other publications, and made more than 125 presentations at scholarly meetings. Christian has also served on several university committees and task forces.

Dr. Robert Christian

ECU chemist develops polymer for topical treatments

Dr. Timothy Romack

An East Carolina University chemist is working with a Durham-based firm to produce new kinds of polyurethane coatings suitable for protecting wounds on humans. Dr. Timothy Romack, an assistant professor of chemistry, has received a second year of funding from Chesson Laboratories.

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“We are developing new ways to put polyurethane-based coatings together on a molecular level,” said Romack, who has taught at ECU since 2001. “Here, the focus is to design and make the right molecules do the job.” Romack is designing and testing polymer structures that could seal and protect wounds or injuries and repel water, have pores that are large enough for water vapor to pass through, yet still block bacteria. In the past two years, Chesson Laboratories has developed a topical application for toe fungus, and three of its products are in the process of being submitted as Food and Drug Administration-listed devices. Romack’s polymer chemistry expertise is expected to advance products for applications to treat dermatitis, wound closure and burns. ECU and Chesson are exploring other ways to collaborate.

East Carolina University scientists are studying the economic impact of natural disasters on the coast with funding from the North Carolina General Assembly. The study is part of a University of North Carolina economic development program. Dr. Stephen Culver, chairman of the ECU geology department and the co-leader of a project by the ECU Institute for Interdisciplinary Coastal Science and Policy, is lead investigator on the $288,694 grant. Titled “NC Coastal Hazards: Economic Implications of Severe Storms and Sea Level Rise,” the project will draw from the expertise of 17 researchers from five North Carolina universities. Culver said the geologists’ working knowledge of vulnerable spots along the coastline could help economists assess the impact of erosion to the communities around it. The aim is to anticipate where weak spots are along the coast and to determine the reallife impact of erosion caused by a major storm. A hurricane that creates an inlet in June, for example, would have a greater impact on tourism and the local economy than a hurricane in October. Salt water entering the sound through a new inlet, Culver said, could affect fisheries as well. The state distributed more than $3.8 million across the 16 UNC campuses, funding 18 projects in all. They were chosen from 35 proposals submitted by 13 campuses and leverage more than $4.4 million in private and federal funding. The grant follows a report issued last summer by researchers at ECU, Appalachian State University, UNCWilmington and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research that said North Carolina’s coastline will experience significant loss in land area, property and recreational value in the next 30 to 75 years due to projected changes in climate.


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$1.6 million funds study into stopping germ Researchers at the Brody School of Medicine are looking at ways to control a germ that causes serious infections in hospital patients and people who have cystic fibrosis with help from a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Everett Pesci, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology, received the grant to study Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that causes approximately 10 percent of hospital infections and chronic lung infections in approximately 90 percent of people with cystic fibrosis. Such infections are a major problem for hospitals and are the primary source of progressive lung dysfunction for C.F. patients. Pseudomonas is resistant to many antibiotics, making treatment difficult. “We really need new compounds and new drugs that could have an effect on Pseudomonas,” said Pesci, who has studied the bacteria for more than a decade. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen, meaning it infects people with weakened immune systems. It is present in water, soil, on plants and many other surfaces. Approximately 10 percent of the population carries the bug, but it does not affect healthy people. “Most of us eat it, drink it and see it every day, and it doesn’t bother us,” Pesci said.

Dr. Everett Pesci

For people with HIV, C.F., burns, cancer and other conditions that weaken immune systems, however, Pseudomonas poses a serious threat, Pesci said. To defuse that threat, Pesci is studying the chemical communication signals of Pseudomonas. Like many bacteria, Pseudomonas cells communicate with each other through chemical signals to keep track of the size of their population and the status of their environment. One chemical they use, which Pesci discovered, is the Pseudomonas Quinolone Signal. This signal controls the virulence, or ability to cause infection, of the bacteria. Without it, Pseudomonas is much

less dangerous. “They’ve sensed their population has grown to a level to allow them to do what they want to do,” Pesci said, describing how the organism uses PQS. His study aims to learn more about how Pseudomonas makes PQS with the goal of helping control the bacteria. “If we can inhibit production of the signal, we can make the organism less virulent,” he said. Dr. James Coleman, an ECU associate professor of microbiology and immunology, is collaborating with Pesci on the research and is a co-investigator on the NIH grant.

Poring over pourers Linda Darty, associate professor of art, is shown working on goblets similar to ones she made that are part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, where they are part of the exhibit “Cheers! A MAD Collection of Goblets.” Darty, an enameling expert, also sent a collection of fish servers to the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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ECU receives $1.1 million to study nanotubes’ effect on hearts East Carolina University researchers have received $1.1 million from the National Institutes of Health to study how a new type of manufacturing material affects the human cardiovascular system. Dr. Christopher Wingard, associate professor of physiology, is the lead researcher in a study of carbon nanotubes, atomic

Dr. Christopher Wingard

structures that can be used as building blocks for materials as diverse as racing bicycles and semiconductors. Wingard’s team will look at how the particles, when inhaled as dust, affect cardiac function and blood flow. “Because it’s such a new technology, we don’t know what the long-term impact will be on exposure,” Wingard said. Wingard added that particles from some nanotubes might restrict blood flow, while others might increase it. Findings from the research will help determine what types of respiratory equipment people should wear when working with materials made from nanotubes. It could also uncover if certain nanotubes could be used to deliver life-saving medicines to restricted blood vessels. Nanotechnology such as nanotubes encompasses materials, tools and devices engineered at the nanoscale, or smaller than 1/1000th of a millimeter. At this scale, elements can undergo drastic changes in their characteristics and yield new properties such as super strength, ultra-high thermal conductivity and super electrical conductivity

not seen in the macrocounterparts of the same element. Scientists have known about carbon nanotubes for more than 50 years, according to some sources. Methods to produce and use nanotubes in manufacturing arose in the 1990s. Wingard and other ECU researchers have studied air pollution’s effect on the cardiovascular system for the past three years with a grant from Phillip Morris USA and the International Research Foundation. Wingard thinks this research helped ECU land the NIH grant. The ECU team will get its nanotubes from Wake Forest University though a collaboration with NanoTech Labs of Yadkinville. Other researchers working on the project are Drs. Robert Lust, Robert Wardle and Michael Van Scott of the ECU Department of Physiology; Dr. Timothy Johnson, a biomedical engineer and professor of internal medicine at ECU; and Dr. Benjamin Harrison, a chemist at Wake Forest University.

Metabolic Institute receives $1 million Research into the causes and potential cures for diabetes received a boost in the form of a $1 million grant last summer to the Metabolic Institute at East Carolina University from the Golden LEAF Foundation. Established in 2004, the Metabolic Institute includes physicians and scientists who are pioneers in gastric-bypass surgery to reduce obesity. The group was the first to report that exclusion of part of the intestine produces full remission of type 2 diabetes. This reversal lasts as long as 20 years and includes a sharp reduction in complications and mortality, said Dr. Walter Pories, a professor of surgery and biochemistry at the

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Brody School of Medicine at ECU and leader of the institute. This discovery is the stimulus for research worldwide to identify how the intestine causes type 2 diabetes and how to stop the responsible molecules, Pories said. Altogether, researchers studying obesity, diabetes and related conditions are funded by approximately $12.4 million in grants, Pories said. That includes a contract of $491,000 in 2006 from Johnson & Johnson to look for medicines that could mimic the effect of gastric-bypass surgery in alleviating diabetes. “The great thing about the Golden LEAF grant is that it will provide additional technologies and upgrading of

space to allow us to continue our work at the level required for international competition,” Pories said. “The return will be more jobs, more grant dollars (and) better care with a high potential for patents and spin-off companies.” The grant follows recognition Pories received at a 2007 “diabetes summit” in Rome after his findings about diabetes and gastric-bypass surgery were backed up by studies in animals and humans in Mexico, Brazil and India. Pories’ work was also recognized with the lifetime achievement award from the American Society for Bariatric Surgery at that group’s 2007 meeting in San Diego.


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Five receive university research honors

Award-winning art Gunnar Swanson, who teaches graphic arts at ECU, received an award of excellence from the University & College Designers Association for this recruitment poster. The poster is featured in Print magazine’s 2007 design awards and appeared in a special awards issue of “Graphic Design: USA” and “Big Book of Design Ideas 3” by David Carter, both released earlier this year.

Dr. Jeffery Johnson

Five researchers at East Carolina University have received the university’s Achievement for Excellence in Research/ Creative Activity awards. Dr. Jeffrey C. Johnson, a professor of sociology, received the University Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Erik Everhart, assistant professor of psychology; Dr. Michael R. Van Scott, professor of physiology; Dr. Margaret Bauer, the Rives Chair of Southern Literature and a professor in the English department; and Dr. Ron Cortright, assistant professor of exercise science and physiology, received Five-Year Achievement Awards. Since arriving at ECU in 1981, Johnson has focused on marine resource conservation and management. He has been a principal or co-investigator on approximately $4.6 million in funded research and has written or edited nearly 100 articles, manuscripts and book chapters. Everhart came to ECU in 2000. Since then, he has focused on understanding the neuronal systems associated with processing emotion and the relationship among hostility, the brain and the cardiovascular system. He has written or co-written 35 academic articles along with other publications and presentations and received more than $600,000 in research grants. Everhart is also director of research at the Pitt County Memorial Hospital Sleep Center and an adjunct professor of communication sciences and disorders. In the past five years, Van Scott has received more than $8 million in research

Dr. Erik Everhart

Dr. Michael R. Van Scott

grants and published 18 peer-reviewed manuscripts as well as other publications and presentations. He research focuses on airways, looking into subjects such as asthma and pollutants and their effects on the cardiovascular system. Bauer, who came to ECU in 1996, is the editor of the North Carolina Literary Review and the author of three books on Southern literature that examine the work of Ellen Gilchrist, William Faulkner and the playwright Paul Green. She has also written dozens of articles and book reviews and presented many conference papers. Since 2002, she has orchestrated five annual Literary Homecoming events, bringing together writers with ties to North Carolina. She has received the Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Teacher-Scholar Award and two departmental awards. Cortright came to ECU in 1995 to complete post-doctoral study in biochemistry and joined the faculty in 1998. He has received more than $1.3 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health to study obesity, type II diabetes and metabolism. Recent work has focused on health disparities, in particular understanding the higher incidence of diabetes and insulin resistance in black women compared to their white counterparts. He has received the College of Health and Human Performance’s Teacher-Scholar Award and a departmental teaching award. Each researcher received a cash award and spoke at a research seminar.

Dr. Margaret Bauer

Dr. Ronald Cortright

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Prosperity ECU AND COMMUNITIES TEAM UP FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT By Doug Boyd Showing images of John Wayne and Andy Griffith, the movie bills in the old Columbia Theater hark back to days gone by. But with a script to rebuild its economic base, Columbia may be the Coastal Plains’ next big act. Cars, people and bicycles bustle on Main Street. Shoppers buy goods at the hardware store and other stores. Diners enjoy sandwiches in a new restaurant. The 92-year-old barber has no plans to hang up his shears. continued on page 10


Lancaster of the OED. “Once it’s discovered by tourists, they won’t be able to get enough.” Columbia is one of four eastern North Carolina communities ECU experts are coaching through a N.C. Small Town Economic Prosperity grant from the N.C. Rural Center. The other three communities are Grifton, Plymouth and Swan Quarter. The $10.5 million Small Towns Initiative is helping hard-pressed small towns create new economic opportunities. Its strategies include helping towns plan and implement projects, stimulate job-creating investments and develop public policy recommendations, according to its Web site. The Rural Center launched the program in 2005. “They’ve been serving as coaches and resources, facilitators,” Columbia town manager Rhett White said of staff members from the OED. “You need someone outside to guide discussion and move you along in a planning process. Otherwise, you may not move very fast and get bogged down and never get where you want to go.” After the golden leaf

Columbia is banking on its natural surroundings to be a major part of its economic turnaround.

On the Scuppernong River, Columbia is one of the last stops on the way to the Outer Banks. Surrounding it is one of the nation’s leading agricultural areas, but nearly all of it is operated by huge, far-off corporations. The little town could have dwindled to no more than a gas stop on the way to and from the beach. Community leaders had other ideas. They commissioned a plan to beautify Main Street, and extended the design to the new U.S. 64 bridge. They built a boardwalk along 10

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the Scuppernong. They secured federal funds for a visitor center and convinced the government to locate its headquarters for the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge there. In short, Columbia accomplished nearly everything on its list, and now, with help from East Carolina University’s Office of Economic Development (http://www. ecu.edu/csecu/economic_development. cfm), is working on its next plan. “It’s like a little star on the coast or the ‘Inner Banks,’” said Mandee Foushee

Many eastern North Carolina towns have had to look elsewhere for economic prosperity as the number of people making a living from tobacco has declined and the once-ubiquitous textile factories have closed their doors. “You’re not going to ever have another silver bullet like tobacco that benefits so many in the region,” said Ted Morris, head of the OED. “We’re going to have a more fragmented economy. It’s going to be more diverse.” Helping towns diversify is one of the jobs of the OED, formerly Regional Development Services. The new name emphasizes a renewed focus on improving the region and the state. Morris came to ECU last year as associate vice chancellor of economic development and director of the office. He previously worked at N.C. State University in the Office of Extension, Engagement and Economic Development. He has bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from N.C. State. At ECU, Morris and other OED professionals connect faculty, staff and students with business, government and communities to foster economic growth. The office serves as the front door for ECU’s services.


“We work to link groups outside of the campus with the folks at ECU who actually do the research and the work that can help these communities,” he said. “Our definition (of economic development) includes environmental sustainability, leadership capacity, health and welfare, education, economic vitality of communities, and the university contributes to all of that and much more.” Morris said that although ECU is not a land-grant university as is N.C. State, with an active cooperative extension service that helps individuals and businesses succeed, ECU has a similar character, summed up in the university motto, “Servire.” “ECU has always behaved like a landgrant,” Morris said. “It’s just our heritage. It’s our culture.” Though the university will not directly recruit business, it will help bring higherskilled, higher-paying jobs to the region, Morris said. Here are the five ways he plans to do that: • Aim ECU’s research, education and outreach efforts at economic development needs. • Bring about higher-skilled, higher-wage job creation and new investments with targeted business recruitment and innovation. • Lead efforts to create sustainable, inclusive models for regional prosperity. • Improve kindergarten through high school education to drive student achievement and produce a globally competitive workforce. • Partner with communities to build their leadership capacity, physical infrastructure, cultural vitality, environmental sustainability, health and welfare to improve the quality of life for all residents. Improving education is a point of emphasis, not only to produce effective workers but also to provide good schools for the families of new workers who move in. “If you’re not competitive in education, you die on the vine,” said Kenny Flowers, director of community and regional development in the OED. The office is also urging the federal government to create the SouthEast Crescent Authority to promote economic growth and alleviate poverty and unemployment in distressed areas of the southeastern United States. ECU, N.C. State, N.C. A&T State

Dr. Ted Morris

University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the regional development organizations from the seven states in the proposed SECA region have been working to obtain federal authorization and funding for SECA. A hopeful future While tourism and services will be an important piece of the economic pie, North Carolina doesn’t have to forgo the manufacturing that for generations was the second staple, after farming, for many towns.

“We need manufacturing,” Morris said. “I don’t think any of us want to be an entirely service economy. Manufacturing jobs pay more. They have better benefits. I think North Carolina is incredibly well-positioned for advanced manufacturing.” For example, a site along Interstate 95 near Rocky Mount is said to be on the list for a new Volkswagen assembly plant. The region might still benefit from the state’s investment in the Global Transpark near Kinston. “It’s a tremendous piece of infrastructure,” Morris said of the GTP. Towns can also gain prosperity from their larger neighbors. In Columbia, town manager White said being just a half-hour from the Outer Banks is making it sort of a bedroom community for workers who can’t afford million-dollar homes. ECU can help there, too. “The way your community looks is important to attracting people. We need some professional planning in that process to do some visualizations, and we’ll probably turn to the university for that,” White said. With its downtown that offers more than T-shirts and trinkets, a vibrant crab processing plant that supplies Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores, and other endeavors such as a new vineyard along the Scuppernong, Columbia, with help from ECU, is a model for what small towns can become, with a little help.

Rhett White, left, directs economic development in Columbia, while George Haislip has opened a new restaurant there.

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A shot at MS Dr. Mark Mannie’s research holds promise in fight against autoimmune disorder By Crystal Baity

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Years of study and experimentation at East Carolina University may soon give people with multiple sclerosis hope for overcoming the neuromuscular disease. Dr. Mark Mannie is working toward development of a radically unique vaccine to fight multiple sclerosis and possibly other autoimmune diseases. continued on page 14

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Dr. Mark Mannie

Mannie, a professor of microbiology and immunology in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, has devoted almost two decades to the study of M.S. During this time, his focus has been on the molecular and cellular basis of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, or EAE, which is an animal model of M.S. Mice afflicted with EAE exhibit a paralyzing autoimmune attack against myelin, the protective insulation surrounding nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Mannie’s primary research has involved characterizing the immunological pathway responsible for EAE. The immune system normally has many tools to destroy foreign entities that enter the body. But when someone has an autoimmune disorder, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune 14

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disorders, including Graves’ disease, rheumatoid arthritis and M.S. The exact cause of M.S. is unknown, but the disease leads to scattered demyelination, causing damage to underlying nerve fi bers. This damage disrupts the ability of nerves to transmit electrical impulses to and from the brain, causing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Symptoms vary from person to person, and attacks often come and go, although some attacks may be long lasting. The symptoms range from extreme fatigue to blurred or lost vision, poor coordination and balance, bladder or bowel dysfunction, slurred speech, numbness, memory and concentration loss, and more. Mannie, supported in part by a recent three-year, $414,548 research grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, is

working to design a vaccine that will induce a suppressive immunity to neuro-antigens, or self-antigens, which are the targets of the autoimmune disorder. “Most people think of a shot in the arm as providing immunity,” Mannie said. “I’m interested in a fundamentally different vaccine. The recipient of the vaccine will develop a suppressive response. Instead of inducing immunity, we suppress immunity. “The idea of specificity is key,” Mannie said. “We want to shut off the autoimmune response without affecting adaptive immunity against infectious agents. The other key here is that we want to induce specific suppressive immunity that has longterm memory.” Mannie, doctoral student Lori Blanchfield and research specialists Derek Abbott and Andrea Juliani have had success in animal models of M.S. and are at the beginning of translational research. “The success of research programs is a reflection of people in the lab,” Mannie said. “They are the unsung heroes.” While the work may take another five to 10 years, Mannie’s goal remains steadfast. “Long term, we want to develop something of use for people with M.S.,” he said. An estimated one in 1,000 people between the ages of 20 and 50 are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis each year. While many people live a normal life expectancy, M.S. is chronic, and the debilitating attacks of M.S. strike randomly between periods of remission. Current treatments reduce the attack rate by about 30 percent, and patients must self-inject a drug one to three times a week to see results. Mannie’s work is hailed by ECU colleagues and by Dr. John Richert, executive vice president of research and clinical programs for the M.S. Society. A longtime funder, the society presented Mannie with a symbolic check during its annual eastern meeting on Feb. 23 in Greenville. “Dr. Mannie has applied his extraordinary skills in immunology to push forward our understanding of the cause of M.S. and the development of new therapies. In addition, he has devoted countless hours serving on the society’s research grant review committees, an essential part of the M.S.


Society’s strong research funding program,” Richert said. “I’m very grateful for this generous award,” Mannie said. “We’re excited about the research. We are testing things that have never been tested before.” Dr. Tom McConnell, interim chairman of biology, and Mannie came to ECU within one month of each other in summer of 1990. They soon began working together. “We were both immunologists, so it was a natural link-up,” said McConnell, who also is an adjunct faculty member of microbiology and immunology in the Brody School of Medicine. McConnell and Mannie have collaborated on numerous projects, including some of Mannie’s protein expression systems and cytokine assays.

M.S. affects myelin, which protects nerve fibers and helps them conduct electrical impulses. Image courtesy Jill K. Gregory for the National MS Society

Mannie and graduate student Lori Blanchfield

“I’m very impressed with Mark, not just with his skills in molecular immunology but his appreciation of the scientific method and his ethics in approaching science and working with people,” McConnell said. “He’s an extremely sharp guy, and we’re lucky to have him at ECU.” Blanchfield, who is in her fourth year of a five-year doctoral program at ECU, said Mannie is an exceptional mentor. “It’s rare for principal investigators to want to spend time with you,” said Blanchfield, originally from Yorktown, Va. “If you’re not getting it, he helps you understand.” Away from the bench, one of Mannie’s longtime passions is running. He won the Brody School of Medicine Medical Student Council’s 13th annual Hamstring

Hustle 5K race in 2007. Besides the health benefits, Mannie said running also provides time for contemplation which is part of the enjoyment. “Life can be very hectic, and the first thing that typically goes is time to spend just thinking. I have had some of my best ideas for research and teaching while I am out in the early morning ‘pounding the pavement,’” said Mannie, who started running in sixth grade. He has competed in a couple of marathons, including Chicago in 1984. Mannie was born in North Dakota and grew up in Michigan, Indiana and Arkansas. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and a doctoral degree from Northwestern University. He and his wife, Dr. Ann Mannie, have two daughters, Laura, 19, and Emily, 15. n

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at ry begin early e v o c is d d n a arch topic, research ositions as rese p Whatever the ld o h ts n e d own University. Stu ing for their d n East Carolina fu t n ra g y are win universit vel, students le l assistants and ra to c o d d tive e master’s an ics, from crea m e projects. At th d a c a f o m e full spectru . investigating th ing in between th ry e ev to y tr chemis on page 18 continued writing to bio 16

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“In lecture courses, we convey knowledge, and that’s the basis of learning,” said Dr. Paul Gemperline, associate vice chancellor for research and graduate studies. “Another aspect is how to apply acquired knowledge. Ultimately, that’s more important.” Heart failure mystery Among ECU’s standout student researchers is Mohit Mathur, 30, a doctoral student at the Brody School of Medicine. His grant for $160,000 from the National Institutes of Health for three years is allowing him to study a type of heart disease that strikes suddenly and can kill young, often claiming those who have no sign of illness. He’s one of three graduate students who have received their own external research grants. Mathur is researching hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, believed to arise from inherited problems in heart muscle related to the proteins that govern beating and resting. “The heart muscle should contract in a certain way, but there are some genetic mutations that can affect the way the heart contracts,” said Mathur, who holds a medical degree and is pursuing a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology. “The heart muscle becomes thicker and is not as efficient.” This disease is often to blame when apparently healthy people, including athletes, die suddenly. Early diagnosis is difficult, since athletes’ hearts may appear larger because of their training or physical size. Mathur is working with Dr. Joseph Chalovich, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, to better understand how these muscle proteins affect normal hearts, as well as defective ones. “All of our research goes toward the same goal,” Chalovich said. “It’s like building a house. If one of my contractors finds a new way to build a foundation, I’ll say go for it. It will be a better house than we planned it to be.” The methods of science In all, ECU offers 74 master’s degree programs, four specialist degree programs, a medical degree program and 17 doctoral programs. Of 26,000 students, about 6,000 are graduate students, with about 375 in doctoral programs and 290 pursuing a medical degree. Approximately one-third are engaged in research. Even among 18

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undergraduates, an estimated 5 percent are involved in research. While they won’t all produce a thesis or dissertation, most will create papers with a research component. Student investigators in biology are examining cancer and DNA mutations, while in chemistry, a study of ozone depletion is under way. In geology, a student study is looking at the effects of urban land use on coastal streams. In anthropology, it’s the perceptions of wealth in contemporary China. Though research encompasses nearly every discipline, much of it still revolves around

Dr. Paul Gemperline

scientific topics examined with the traditional scientific method: researchers pose a question, gather evidence and reach conclusions. Whether student investigators become future scientists may not be as important as what they learn by doing, said Dr. Ronald Newton, who coordinated the university’s second annual Student Research Week in the spring. “All universities are encouraging undergraduates to have experience in research,” Newton said. “No matter what

field they’re in, it’s important for them to understand the role of science in their everyday lives. There’s no better way to understand science than to do research.” That’s certainly the opinion of Virginia Carraway-Stage, a registered dietitian working toward a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics in the College of Human Ecology . Her main area of interest is nutrition marketing, specifically, how cartoon characters affect children’s food choices. In her study, she shows children several pictures: processed foods with characters such as Shrek or Dora the Explorer; character-free food images; and pictures of healthy items such as apples. Next, she observes children’s selections as they “shop” for food pictures. “As a professional dietitian, I have to be up-to-date in an area that’s changing all the time,” said Carraway-Stage. “Anyone studying this field needs to learn research principles early, how to read articles and how to decipher information. They’ll need to determine the value of new studies so they better serve their clients.” Hitting the right notes Though much research takes place in the sciences, it’s also thriving in unexpected areas such as music. Graduate students of Dr. Ed Jacobs, a composer and associate professor of music, are spending time in middle schools helping young minds write music. By more fully understanding human creation in others, Jacobs said, his students have a better sense of how to compose music themselves. “When my students sit down and try to develop their ideas, I don’t want them to be overly self-conscious about their work,” Jacobs said. “When they see younger students at work and learn to make

Mohit Mathur, left, is working on his doctorate with Dr. Joseph Chalovich.


Student projects across the spectrum Keeley J. Pratt, a first-year doctoral student in medical family therapy, is examining the behavior, financial status, weight and exercise habits of parents to better understand their role in their children’s weight with hopes of determining better prevention and treatment methods for childhood obesity.

Megan Roberts, a graduate student in English, has published short stories, short fiction and essays in several notable publications, including Encore Magazine.

Carrie Carman, pursuing a master’s degree in international studies, is investigating the testimonial narratives of indigenous women in Central America as part of her graduate certificate in Hispanic studies. Dr. Michael Bassman

suggestions that will help them move forward, it’s very instructive for them as composers. It has an enormous benefit.” Other projects are examining topics outside the traditional sciences. In the School of Communication, the first master’s thesis, completed by Shekinah Thomas, examined images of sexuality in magazine advertisements. In geography, master’s student E. Arnold Modlin Jr. is considering the extent and manner in which North Carolina’s historic plantation sites discuss or do not discuss slavery. Any subject, any class Throughout the university, research is more important than ever. Faculty members pursue their own research and creative projects and received $38.6 million in external funding during the 2006-2007 fiscal year. Officials expect that amount to grow. In years to come, more ECU students likely will stake out new fields for their own study. Whether part of a larger project led by professors or their own projects, they’ll participate fully in the work of discovery. They will also become inventors, creating films, dance, short stories and other arts. What’s more, the students leading these journeys of discovery will be younger than ever. “Research was once something reserved for just graduate students,” said Dr. Michael Bassman, assistant vice chancellor and director of university honors, EC Scholars and undergraduate research. “Now, it’s almost taken for granted that if you’re going to attend a strong graduate school, you’re going to have already undertaken your own research.”

Donna L. Wolfe, a doctoral student in Communication Sciences and Disorders, is examining treatments for children who begin speaking at a late age to see which are more effective in helping children develop language skills.

Susan Morgan, a second-year medical student, is studying the role of a peptide known as insulinomimetic visfatin in human pregnancy, part of a larger study examining whether this chemical messenger may serve as an insulin substitute and possibly lead to new diabetes treatments.

Emma Hardison, a master’s student in biology, is working on a project to quantify the effects of urban land use on Coastal Plain streams and riparian zones. She has found that the number of watershed-impervious areas such as parking lots, rooftops and roads is a good indicator of the degree of stream degradation.

Liu Lu, a master’s student in anthropology from China, has been a research assistant in the National Science Foundation-funded project studying concepts of justice and fairness in China. She designed an associated project to examine the perceived markers of wealth in rural China and how “rich” and “poor” are determined.

Sol Wuensch is a master’s student in geography with NASA funding to develop a quantitative description of extreme precipitation in the Carolinas using rain gauge and satellite data.

Ahmed Salahuddin, a doctoral candidate in coastal resources management, is working with Malaysian scientists to determine the climatology of storms in that part of the world with the hope of improving El Nino predictions.

Diana Gliga is an undergraduate whose senior honors project is comparing eye-care health disparities between similar groups of people from former communist countries and economically developed countries, particularly at Belvoir Elementary School in Pitt County.

Patrick O’Shea is an undergraduate whose senior honors project focuses on exercise modification among young people in Pitt County. 

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A the

Sustainable tourism saves favorite spots from being ‘loved to death’

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By Jeannine Manning Hutson

A colorful flyer for a lecture on tourism shows the pre-Columbian ruins of Machu Picchu in the mountains of Peru. It’s one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and it’s on the Smithsonian magazine’s recent list of 28 places to see before you die. But according to Pat Long, this centuries-old “Lost City of the Incas” could someday die out from the thousands of people who flock there to see it. continued on page 22 n

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Pat Long

“Machu Picchu is one of the world’s special places, but like so many unique tourism destinations, it faces many challenges,” said Long, director of the N.C. Center for Sustainable Tourism. “It’s a great example of people loving a place to death.” Sustainable tourism represents a management approach to tourism that

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focuses on balancing economic viability with the protection of the environment and local culture. It is tourism that helps generate income, jobs and business development while conserving local ecosystems. “It is responsible tourism that is both ecologically and culturally sensitive,” said Long, who joined ECU in October as the establishing director of the tourism center. “Tourism is a phenomenon that we as travelers don’t think a lot about. People don’t realize how large the industry is and the level of impact it has,” Long said. “People want to visit special places, but oftentimes we overwhelm them. And there are new approaches that are driving change, such as new public policies, business practices and personal traveler behaviors.” The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is an example of a destination that faces immense challenges and is striving to implement thoughtful planning. “How do you allow tourists to continue to visit in such great numbers considering

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Sustainable tourism seeks to balance the need for access and economic development with preserving natural and historic resources, such as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

the current level of car emissions and ensure in twenty years it’s retained its beauty?” Long said. Or Machu Picchu. “Today, there are helicopter flights to bring in tourists contributing to both air and noise pollution, but the travelers’ spending in that economy is so important. Today we are asking travelers to be more conscious of the impacts they have on both the physical and cultural environment,” he said. Other aspects Long suggests travelers consider are the amount of water they use during their trip, how they interact with the local culture and the amount of fossil fuel they must use to get to their destination. “There’s an emerging industry for carbon offset vouchers,” he said, indicating that the sustainable tourism industry is in its early stages of development. Long and graduate students working with the center are looking to identify “green” practices across the state’s tourism industry, including hotels and restaurants using locally


grown produce. “Ultimately we will have an interactive map of North Carolina so that people can make choices based on specific travel desires and needs, such as if they want to stay in a hotel that caters to people with high allergy sensitivity,” he said. Long seems to truly enjoy the interaction with graduate students and guest lecturing in undergraduate courses on campus. He’s been teaching on college campuses for almost 30 years. In his office, he displays teaching awards from the University of Colorado in Boulder. There, he was on faculty at the Leeds School of Business, where he established the nation’s first sustainable tourism center. At ECU, he is a faculty member in the College of Business and will be responsible for developing the plans for a new master’s degree in sustainable tourism. That degree is designed as an interdisciplinary degree with heavy emphasis on sustainable tourism research, policy, development and management, bringing together the College of Health and Human Performance, College of Human Ecology, the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business. If approved, it will be the first and only graduate degree of its kind in the country, he said. “No North Carolina school has the number of faculty dedicated to the various dimensions of tourism as does ECU,” Long said. Dr. Deirdre Mageean, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, said it was a natural progression for ECU to build a multidisciplinary program focusing on sustainable tourism. “We knew what was possible,” she said. “This university has the faculty in the areas needed, the structure and resources, and they worked to establish the center. That speaks volumes to the different areas brought together. Interdisciplinary programs here are faculty driven.” She said after it was determined that ECU would launch a sustainable tourism center, the question became what to name it. “Let’s just claim the high ground and call it the N.C. Center for Sustainable Tourism,” she said. “And people are taking note of it and the focus of its name. We got there first, and we’ll be the best.”

North Carolina’s mountain streams are key tourist attractions, yet they suffer from pollution and litter tourists leave behind.

Mageean added: “To make a program or center work, you need good faculty and students and a good leader. I’m happy we were able to lure Pat away from the University of Colorado.” One of the graduate students working with Long in the center is Ryan Covington, who is pursuing a master’s degree in geography. A native of Georgia, Covington has an undergraduate degree in geography from ECU. He is looking at the connections between geography and people. “How ecotourism affects places and development is my primary focus,” he said. “Climate and tourism have a relationship in that. The climate is going to affect tourism, and tourism is one of the biggest culprits in carbon emissions and uses a lot of our resources, such as electricity. “I’m looking at the two-way relationship between climate and tourism, and that’s what geography is.” Covington said he’s been fortunate to visit Europe and to live in the western

United States. “I think the reason I’m interested is that I’ve been lucky to see some really beautiful places, and you come to realize how important it is to protect them. I’ve been to Europe. You go and recognize how beautiful these places are, and you have to take care of them for future generations.” That line of thinking is what Long hopes the center will bring to the forefront for travelers as they plan to visit a destination on their list of places to see, whether it’s Machu Picchu or the mountains of North Carolina. And the center will work to convince businesses that thinking about the sustainability of a destination should be an important part of their business strategy. “The world’s largest industry is tourism, and it needs to be a big player in the Earth’s stewardship,” Long said. “We are trying to show tourism businesses that it is economically feasible to do this now, and it will help their bottom line later.”

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Richards dives to study shipwrecks By Erica Plouffe Lazure

An East Carolina University researcher is working his way across the seven seas exploring sunken ships with colleagues and students. Dr. Nathan Richards, an assistant professor of maritime studies, led dive teams to wrecks in Bermuda and Hawaii last year. They spent September in Hawaii learning about and documenting a pair of iron ships from the 1800s: the now-sunken Ivanhoe and its sister ship, Falls of the Clyde. The Ivanhoe was built in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1868, and the circumstances of its 1915 sinking are unknown. Richards aimed to document what remains of the ship and answer some of the questions surrounding the last few years of its existence. Richards received a $40,000 grant from the ECU Division of Research and Graduate Studies for the fieldwork. In Bermuda, the team spent December working to determine the origin and history of a shipwreck in the Great Sound. The team’s main goal there was to determine the impact of a proposed cruise ship terminal off Ireland Island. Richards said the shipwrecks are useful to his growing body of research about iron

ships and shipbuilding traditions. “There is an ‘applied’ aspect to this project,” Richards said, “but this is a part of our ongoing research, and is sort of a followup to the work we’d done in Hawaii.” Richards’ team used underwater cameras and surveillance tools to document the 65-foot-long iron vessel, believed to be one of the original tugboats used to build parts of the Royal Naval Dockyard in the late 19th century. Richards said the group is testing a new tool that would enable them to build an underwater 3-D model of the site. The model will allow non-divers to view and interact with the site, he said. The Bermuda Maritime Museum paid $27,000 in expenses for the ECU team to conduct the research and produce a documentary about it. Other team members include Michael Dermody, a visiting instructor in the ECU School of Communications; Dr. Bradley Rodgers, associate professor of maritime studies; Dr. Craig Landry, assistant professor of economics; and graduate students Joseph Hoyt, Calvin Mires and Mark Keusenkothen. More information, including photos and videos, is available online at http://www. ecumaritimestudies.com. Doug Boyd contributed to this story. Matthew De Felice records the remains of the Ivanhoe.

Defibrillator fears focus of psychologist’s work By Jeannine Manning Hutson

Helping people with implantable cardiac devices overcome their angst about the tiny electric machines is the work of a new East Carolina University faculty member. Dr. Sam Sears is director of health psychology. He holds appointments in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the Brody School of Medicine and the Department of Psychology. He joined ECU last year. A native of Florida, Sears worked and taught for more than 12 years at the University of 24

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Florida, where he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees, before coming to Greenville. While there, he received five teaching awards from the students in his department. Sears’ research focuses on implantable cardioverter defibrillators, which are used by cardiologists to treat more than 200,000 patients annually who have potentially lifethreatening irregular heartbeats. However, many of these patients have high levels of anxiety about receiving a significant shock, 750 volts, to restore a normal cardiac rhythm. “This technology is fantastic. The

downside is part of the overall comprehensive care of the patient: behavioral and psychological needs. That’s the kind of care we want to provide at the East Carolina Heart Institute,” he said. A significant percentage of implant recipients are at risk for developing psychological problems based on their history or their experience when the devices shock their heart into normal rhythm, Sears said. Dr. Wayne Cascio, professor of internal medicine and chief of cardiology at the Brody School of Medicine, said Sears is a perfect fit for the clinical and research work already


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several entities. Cistola’s job is to keep the process moving and speed it up when possible. “The regulatory environment surrounding research grants is becoming more and more complex. We help faculty understand those regulations and stay on track,” Cistola said.  

Since joining ECU last July, he has concentrated on three areas: pre- and postaward support, building collaborative projects, and continuing his own research into proteins and their roles in Alzheimer’s and diabetes.  In addition to serving as associate dean for research, Cistola wears many other hats. He’s a physician, a scientist, a professor of clinical laboratory science in the college and a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Brody School of Medicine. “Grants are awarded to universities, not simply to investigators. University officials take the ultimate responsibility and must sign off on all projects, no matter how big or how small,” Cistola said. “Our goal is to streamline the process and free up faculty members to do their work.” His office manages grants already approved, provides accountability in budgeting and reporting, and works closely with the Division of Health Sciences Grants and Contracts Office and the Division of Research and Graduate Studies. Cistola said his office is part of the developing infrastructure in transforming ECU from a historically educational institution to a more researchoriented university. Dr. Stephen Thomas, dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences, said the college was ready for the creation of a research office because 60 percent of its 743 students are at master’s and doctoral levels. “We wanted to bring in a strong research

under way at ECU. “He brings expertise that allows us to develop patient- and family-focused research on how our modern technologies affect the emotional and psychological aspects of our patients,” Cascio said. People with ICDs need psychological care as well as medical care as they work to return to their day-to-day activities after surviving a heart attack, Sears said. Their worries include ICD shock, device malfunction, device recall and fears of pain, embarrassment and death. Some of these concerns can be addressed in a cardiology clinic, while others need to be

referred for more extensive psychosocial treatment, he said. “Cardiac patients like this are courageous. They have to go beyond their anxiety and have a little more swagger in their step. They have to live with this technology their whole life. Not ‘been there, done that,’ but living it every day,” Sears said. He has published more than 75 articles in medical literature on the psychological aspects of cardiology and co-wrote “You Can Make a Difference: Brief Psychological Interventions for ICD Patients and Families” with WinstonSalem psychologist Dr. Wayne Sotile.

Giving the green light to researchers By Crystal Baity

Dr. David Cistola helps navigate the red tape for faculty members in the College of Allied Health Sciences who seek research funding. From idea to submission, the development of a grant proposal can take three to six months, sometimes a year or more if it involves

Dr. David Cistola guides researchers seeking grants.

leader to expand and support the research enterprise to challenge our talented faculty and students,” Thomas said. “He has cast a wide net in terms of his openness to collaboration with departments across campus. He is looking at everyone in the college in every department and what they are doing and who faculty can work with to make their research a reality.” Cistola wants to strengthen existing projects and build new ones. “Some collaborations form on their own. Others require intervention and support,” he said. For instance, he spotted an opportunity with the Brody School of Medicine Telemedicine Center to provide counseling services to Fort Bragg soldiers. “I recognized the opportunity for our rehabilitation studies faculty and students to play an important role. It’s just one of many possibilities,” he said. Other projects under Cistola’s scope include community service and health delivery, health care disparities and graduate educational training.

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Dr. Sam Sears


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Despite appearances, plants and animals aren’t so different By Erica Plouffe Lazure

Dr. John Stiller doesn’t just want people to know plants and animals are more genetically linked than they thought. Stiller, an assistant professor of biology at East Carolina University, wants his findings to illustrate the larger concern he has about the methods biologists are using to track and classify genetic material and the trees that order and organize them. “Plants and animals share molecular, biochemical and genomic-level features that suggest a relatively close relationship between the two groups,” Stiller said. Stiller’s findings appeared last August in the journal Trends in Plant Science. The most common methods that compare only DNA sequences, Stiller believes, tend to obscure a “relatively close evolutionary relationship between plants and animals.” Creating a genomic analysis from a set of cells (multicellular eukaryotes) that had a function known to Stiller and his research associates, Stiller found at least five key areas in which the function of plant cells and animal cells were far more similar than those of fungi. Scientists have long believed that fungi and animals are more closely related. Stiller’s study now suggests that plants are closer to animals than previously thought. “In both green plants and animals, cell cycles are controlled by master switches,” he said. “These function, and malfunction, similarly in both groups.” Other similarities in plants and animals include overall content of protein families and domains; cancerous cells that divide rapidly if left unchecked; pathways for sensing external stimuli; and unique enzymes that process RNA so it functions properly. The links Stiller highlights between the plant and animal kingdoms are contained in genetic material that many biologists concerned with classification have long disregarded as anomalies. But, said Stiller, these anomalies are where he discovered the similarities among the 26

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Dr. Seema Modi is studying differences in how often doctors prescribe feeding tubes for their patients.

Links between plants and animals are a focus of Dr. John Stiller.

plant and animal kingdoms. Stiller says he does not have a problem with naming and ordering the biological world. He sees it as a useful tool for education and research. He does, however, believe the classification system must be as accurate and precise as possible. “Naming groups is a powerful tool,” Stiller said. “It goes back to Aristotle and Linnaeus. People always have been very concerned with how nature is ordered.” Stiller is hopeful his findings will

encourage those who develop the trees of life using DNA sequencing methods not to disregard the conflicts but rather embrace them to get the most accurate picture of the natural world. “I think we should suspend belief in the dogma of the tree and look where these [organisms] really fit in to see if there is a unifying message,” he said. “I’m in favor of a global signal. Let us emphasize the conflicts in the data, not ignore them. They may be telling us more than we think.”


explore explorations Bauer looks South for literature By Sally Lawrence

Tim Gautreaux, a Louisiana author, writes about contemporary working-class Southerners who take action, solve problems and view their homeland with pride — a significant departure from the characters in traditional Southern fiction. “Understanding Tim Gautreaux” is the next book of southern Louisiana native Dr. Margaret D. Bauer. Editor of the North Carolina Literary Review, she’s an East Carolina University English professor and the Ralph Hardee Rives Chair of Southern Literature. “I love literature, so it seemed only natural that I’d focus on my region and my culture,” Bauer said. The Gautreaux manuscript, forthcoming from the University of South Carolina Press, evolved from a chapter about Gautreaux’s “men of action” in her book, “William Faulkner’s Legacy: ‘What Shadow, What Stain, What Mark.’” That chapter and the resulting book manuscript focus on the contrast between the moribund characters of the Old South aristocracy and Gautreaux’s blue-collar narrators. In Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose for Emily,” the nameless narrator simply watches Emily, a daughter of the Old South aristocracy, suffer. “How Gautreaux’s narrators differ from these Faulkner characters,” said Bauer, “is to approach the Emily character with sympathy and ask what might have happened had those Faulkner men helped Emily before she kills her fiancé instead of waiting until after she was dead to tell her story.” In “The Piano Tuner,” Gautreaux’s take on Faulkner’s story, the piano tuner steps in and helps the Emily character find a job instead of merely watching her fall further into decay. “Gautreaux writes about the everyday, normal guy who barely makes a living. Instead of being mere background characters, these men are now the protagonists,” Bauer said. “Earlier writers try to apologize for the South, but Gautreaux likes his home and his

Dr. Margaret Bauer explores Southern writers.

characters,” Bauer added. “He’s not defending or idealizing life in the South, but he’s not apologizing either. Gautreaux’s obvious love for his region comes through as his protagonists look outside their windows at the immediate world. It’s not as if these men and women are forgetting their history. It’s still there, but they aren’t immobilized by it. He shows them building a more tolerant society that accepts ethnic and racial differences.” In addition to this manuscript work, Bauer is researching Paul Green’s relationship with Richard Wright, for

whom Green wrote the Broadway script of “Native Son.” Her Mississippi Quarterly article about this relationship appeared last spring, and she delivered a keynote-panelist paper for the Richard Wright Centennial Event at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in April. She also recently received the Council of Editors of Learned Journals’ Parnassus Award for Significant Editorial Achievement for her work, “Commemorating 100 Years of Writers and Writing at East Carolina University” in the 2007 issue of NCLR. n

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“Self Regulated Learning and Epistemological BeliefsA Predictive Model for Undergraduate Asynchronous Web-based Learning” (VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller e.K., 2007) by Dr. Paul D. Bell Bell, an associate professor of health information management, aims this book at post-secondary education professionals and researchers who are involved in the planning, design and administration of asynchronous Web-based undergraduate courses. The book examines evidence that learning in Web-based courses is different from learning in face-to-face classes.

“The Wilmington Shipyard: Welding a Fleet for Victory in World War II” (History Press, 2007) by Ralph Scott In his new book, Scott, a professor who curates the rare book collection at Joyner Library, examines the impact naval shipbuilding has had on this coastal North Carolina city. The book focuses on the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co., which built 243 ships that helped Allied forces win World War II. The impact the shipyard made transformed the city into a major industrial center that still stands tall today.

“Managing the Infosphere: Governance, Technology, and Cultural Practice in Motion” (Temple University Press, 2007) by Dr. Tami Tomasello Tomasello, an assistant professor of communications, co-wrote this book with Drs. Stephen D. McDowell and Philip E. Steinberg of Florida State University. The book examines how technology, such as cell phones and the Internet, shape and challenge traditional notions of space. Drawing from geography, political science, international relations and communications, the authors explore problems specific to the networked world, from telecommunications and global tourism to business travel and the Internet. It also explores how wireless technology has changed people’s perception of communication spaces. The book was nominated for the Julian Minghi Outstanding Research Award by the Association of American Geographers’ Political Geography Specialty Group.

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“Curriculum and Imagination: Process Theory, Pedagogy and Action Research” (Routledge, 2007) by Dr. James McKernan In this book aimed at education students and teachers, McKernan describes an alternative process for designing and implementing educational curricula for students that would eliminate an objectivesbased approach to learning. The approach would promote creativity and problem-solving and serve as an alternative to “teaching to the test,” according to McKernan, a professor in the College of Education.

“Molecular Motors: Methods and Protocols” (Humana Press, 2007) edited by Dr. Ann O. Sperry This book is part of an ongoing series called “Methods in Molecular Biology.” It contains 16 chapters written by U.S. and international scientists describing protocols to investigate the three different classes of molecular motors that produce force inside cells: myosin, kinesin and dynein. Dr. Joseph Chalovich, an ECU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, contributed a chapter describing methods to measure binding of proteins to actin. Other chapters describe methods to investigate proteinproteins interactions, motor structure, and motor function using biochemical, molecular biological, and genetic techniques. Sperry is an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology.

“Lyric Preludes in Romantic Style” (Alfred Publishing 2008) by Dr. Henry Doskey Alfred Publishing Co., one of the world’s largest publishers of piano music, has just released a new 50th Anniversary Edition of William Gillock’s Lyric Preludes in Romantic Style that includes a compact disc of the pieces recorded by Doskey of the ECU School of Music. Doskey was Gillock’s student during the late 1950s, when the preludes were written. He joined the School of Music faculty in 1976. Shortly before he died, Gillock named Doskey “the authoritative judge of authenticity of artistic treatment” in his music. Doskey subsequently recorded all of Gillock’s solo piano music for the Green Mill Recordings label. The new Alfred publication will be marketed internationally and includes brief biographies of Gillock and Doskey, notes on the pieces by Gillock that were in Doskey’s possession and a short bibliography on Gillock.

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Several state lawmakers attended the Feb. 22 groundbreaking for the ECU School of Dentistry. From left, Rep. Russell Tucker, N.C. Speaker of the House Joe Hackney, Reps. Arthur Williams, Edith Warren, Tim Spear and Marian McLawhorn joined Bob Greczyn, chairman of the ECU Board of Trustees, ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard, and Reps. Bill Owens, Joe Tolson and Van Braxton at the historic event.

East Carolina University Greenville, NC 27858-4353


Edge Spring 2008