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EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY Spring 2007

M essa g e f r o m t he V i ce C ha n cell o r

www.ecu.edu PUBLISHER Dr. Deirdre M. Mageean Vice Chancellor, Research and Graduate Studies EDITOR Doug Boyd WRITERS Crystal Baity Jeannine Manning Hutson Erica Plouffe Lazure ART DIRECTOR Lisa Kuehnle PHOTOGRAPHERS Cliff Hollis Marc Kawanishi Erica Plouffe Lazure 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 Doug Boyd East Carolina University Greenville, NC 27858-6481 boydd@ecu.edu © 2007 by East Carolina University Printed by Carter Printing & Graphics, Inc. U.P. 07-315 Printed on recycled paper 3,500 copies of this public document were printed at a cost of $6,112 or $1.75 per copy.

As I approach my two-year mark at East Carolina University, I am pleased to report that the investments we began making upon my arrival are beginning to pay off. By many measures, the quantity and quality of our university’s scholarly activity has significantly increased. Evidence of this increase can be seen in growing external recognition and increasing financial support. Last fiscal year, external funding increased 15 percent, to $38 million. In the first seven months of fiscal year 2006-2007, ECU’s external funding increased 19 percent, from $12.53 million to $19.71 million. Proposals submitted by our faculty increased 25 percent, to 348, during the same period. These trends suggest ECU’s investments and the good work of our faculty are succeeding. Research is transforming the world’s economy through the generation and application of knowledge. To help eastern North Carolina participate in this transformation, the Division of Research and Graduate Studies is developing a bold and ambitious strategic plan to double scholarship, research and creative activity over the next five years. To realize this goal, we will work to create a stimulating environment at ECU and in eastern North Carolina for research, innovation and community engagement. This plan for growth will require significantly more faculty members, graduate students and undergraduate students engaged in research, putting significant pressure on research space and financial resources. Growth in the number of faculty members at ECU is the fuel that will help drive our growth in scholarship, research and creative activity. Over the past five years, ECU has added 500 new tenuretrack faculty positions. Strategic investments in faculty start-up packages and research development grants are already helping these new faculty members become productive researchers. Anticipated growth of 400 new tenure-track positions in the next five years represents a significant opportunity for us to continue to move forward in our development as a research-intensive university. Our success will be measured by the outcomes of our efforts. During the next five years, we expect to double the rate of our scholarship (peer-reviewed publications and other measurable forms of creative and scholarly work), double enrollment in doctoral programs, double the number of research centers or institutes, and double our research space to accommodate this level of growth. To achieve these goals, we will need significant financial resources, which will come from a combination of internal and external funds. These are exciting times for East Carolina University. Our future is bright, and through strategic investment, we can be a positive force for economic and community development in eastern North Carolina.

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


Table o f c o n t e n t s

features

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 conomist examines flight E cancellations M  orrison honored ECU awards $609,000 for faculty research Doctoral student receives audiology research award Physicist measures acoustics of famed violins Three receive research honors R  acial differences in fat use focus of new study E  CU, RENCI to host coastal disaster planning database NSF grant expands computing for ECU researchers R  esearch journal calls ECU home Johnson focusing on health disparities

12 G  etting into rhythm on heart research Research will be a major part of the new East Carolina Heart Institute

16 Brushes with history Mural helps students learn lessons of yesterday and today

profile

8 She knows where the wind blows Dr. Jamie Kruse leads the Center for Natural Hazards Research

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explorations I mmunotherapy gives hope against deadly cancer Stem cells show promise in lab mice Study looks at whether doctors feel butterflies ECU researchers study effects of ‘Daily Show’ Doctor studies feeding tube placement by race

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in print  look at recent publications by A ECU faculty members

on the cover With guidance from Dr. Mark Malley in the College of Fine Arts and Communication, students are painting a mural depicting the history of Princeville, founded by freed blacks in 1865. A story about the students and the mural starts on page 16. n

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ECU economist examines flight cancellations Airline routes served by a single carrier have higher cancellation rates than routes served by multiple carriers, an East Carolina University economist has found. “Our findings suggest that flight cancellations are not random events,” said Dr. Nicholas Rupp, an assistant professor of economics at ECU. Rupp and University of North CarolinaChapel Hill colleague Dr. Mark Holmes analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics for 35 million flights from 1995 and 2001 to determine factors that relate to flight cancellations. Their findings appeared in the November edition of Economica. In addition to weather, Rupp said other reasons for flight cancellations are airline hub size, concern over revenue loss, the day of the week and the time of the flight. “Airline routes served by a single carrier are more prevalent at smaller airports, hence the increase in flight cancellations is likely due to an airport effect, such as a lack of mechanics at small airports,” Rupp said. Rupp became interested in studying the connection between lack of competition on a route and flight cancellations when his own flight from Atlanta to Valdosta, Ga., was repeatedly canceled in 2000. Smaller airports tend to have fewer resources than larger airports, said Rupp, and usually have cornered the market for regional passenger use. The researchers also found that routes with more frequent daily service are more likely to be canceled. Carriers are trying to minimize the inconvenience imposed on travelers from flight cancellations, said Holmes, and hence they are more likely to cancel flights on routes served regularly during the day. “Customers are going to be less upset if they have to wait one hour for a rescheduled flight than if they have to wait four hours,” said Holmes, a senior research fellow at UNC Chapel-Hill’s Sheps Center for Health Services Research. Canceled flights also occur because of the lack of ridership on a flight, Rupp said, which also inconveniences fewer passengers. 2

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“This is good news for travelers since the carrier is trying to minimize the number of passengers inconvenienced by a flight cancellation,” he said. “You would rather they cancel an empty flight than a full flight.” Researchers also found that flights scheduled on less busy travel days – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday – were more likely to be canceled, as are flights to airports where airlines have “use-it-or-lose-it” scheduled slots for arrivals and departures. They also found that passengers scheduled for the last flight of the day are less likely to have their flights canceled. “Carriers do this for two reasons,” Holmes said. “First, they want to get all of their aircraft to their scheduled destinations to set themselves up for normal operations the following day. And second, they don’t want to inconvenience air travelers by making them stay overnight.” While delays at larger hub airports have been extensively reported by the media, less attention has been given to the reduction in flight cancellations for flights departing from a carrier’s hub airport. “Carriers have access to more resources including replacement flight crews, mechanics, spare parts and equipment at their own hub airports, hence the reduction in cancellations,” Holmes said. The authors gave these suggestions for avoiding flight cancellations: choose a departure time earlier in the day; travel on a Thursday, Friday or Sunday; select a larger airport (preferably a carrier’s hub); and if making a connection, try to avoid an airport subject to poor weather conditions such as winter snow storms in Chicago or Denver or summer thunderstorms in Atlanta.

ECU awards $609,000 for faculty research The East Carolina University Division of Research and Graduate Studies awarded more than $609,000 in research development grants to 22 ECU professors in July. The aim of the grants is to provide researchers with the means to bolster preliminary research findings and apply for external grants. “This award program is an important investment in making our faculty more competitive in major federal and private grant competitions,” said Dr. Deirdre Mageean, vice chancellor of research and graduate studies. This year, the grant program received a one-time increase of $109,000 to $609,342. The additional funds provided four additional awards. Receiving the largest grants were Dr. Laxmansa C. Katwa, a professor of physiology at the Brody School of Medicine, who received $40,000 for his research into heart attacks; and Dr. Rachel L. Roper, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the medical school, who also received $40,000 for her research into viruses. That grants have proved effective in generating outside funding. Of the 2005 grant recipients, 14 awardees have received more than $1.15 million in external grants.


abstract research

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NSF grant expands computing for ECU researchers A $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will enable researchers from East Carolina University to purchase a large Linux computing cluster to support studies in science and engineering.  Dr. Andrew Sargent, associate professor of chemistry at ECU, said the cluster will facilitate state-of-the-art modeling studies in a variety of departments on campus, including biology, chemistry, engineering, physics and microbiology/immunology at the Brody School of Medicine. “ECU faculty are exerting significant effort to build critical campus infrastructure and forward the research mission of the university,” said Sargent, who received the grant in August with ECU colleagues Drs. Jason Bond, Gerald Micklow and Paul Fletcher and Ernest Marshburn. The award is the second NSF grant in three years to ECU that has targeted computing resources. Sargent’s research will use the powerful cluster to examine the complex reaction mechanisms of catalytic chemical processes. Such investigations will lead to the design of new, more efficient catalysts that will aid in the synthesis of commercially important molecules. The acquisition will enable Bond, an associate professor of biology, to expand studies in arthropod diversification and phylogeny that are supported through other NSF grants. Micklow, an associate professor of engineering, will conduct basic and applied research, with an eye toward technology transfer to industrial partners. His focus is on the design and development of advanced engine concepts through the application of computational fluid dynamics. Fletcher, a professor of microbiology/immunology in the Brody School of Medicine, aims to use the cluster to understand the structure and function of biological ion channels (membrane proteins) in both normal and diseased cells. Marshburn coordinated the multidisciplinary proposal through ECU’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies. The cluster should be operational this year.

Morrison honored East Carolina University named Dr. Robert C. Morrison the 2006 distinguished professor of the Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. A longtime professor of chemistry at ECU, Morrison received the honor at the college’s annual convocation last August. Morrison arrived at ECU in 1970 and has taught chemistry since 1972. He is a past chairman of the faculty and has served on numerous committees and university taskforces. Dr. Alan White, dean of the Harriot College, said Morrison has received more than $1 million in grants, published 45 papers in scholarly journals and given many presentations at national and international meetings. Morrison studies the quantum theory of atoms and molecules, density functional theory and photoionization. He has received grants from the National

Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped. In addition to his research, Morrison was among the first to use computers to teach students with physical disabilities, White said. “He was instrumental in bringing computerbased experiments into the general chemistry laboratory and received national recognition for his work to use computer-assisted instruction for teaching chemistry to students with physical disabilities,” White said. Morrison was awarded the Pitt County Distinguished Service Award from the Governor’s Council for Persons with Disabilities in 1988. As a tri-athlete, Morrison has also achieved physical feats. He swam 2.4 miles in the ocean, rode a bicycle 112 miles and then ran a marathon — all in one day.

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Johnson looking at health disparities A family physician, Dr. Cynda Johnson is focusing on the health disparities in eastern North Carolina and organizing the university’s research efforts to combat them. Johnson, who served as the dean of the Brody School of Medicine from 2003 to 2006, is the new senior associate vice chancellor for clinical and translational research in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies at East Carolina University. She made the move in mid-November. Johnson is responsible for stimulating and encouraging collaborative research efforts and promoting the development of interdisciplinary research. Dr. Deirdre Mageean, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, asked Johnson to focus first on health disparities research. “It is exciting to be working across the entire ECU campus to bring together all the ongoing activities in health disparities research to develop a living, breathing center for health disparities research,” Johnson said. Health disparities research targets health areas where two populations differ, she said. One example is the fact that heart disease affects men and women differently. Also, access to care can be studied as a health disparity since outcomes may be worse in a particular population based on access to a health care provider. “Populations also come to the table with different health beliefs,” she said. “Disparities might occur because of that influence.” Translational research is taking scientific discoveries and translating those into practical, community outcomes. Analyzing health disparities fits perfectly into that model, she said. Johnson held an organizational meeting recently to gather all faculty and staff on campus interested in health disparities. More than 50 researchers and clinicians brought information on their work to share. Approximately two-thirds of the group had received external funding. 4

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Racial differences in fat use focus of new study at ECU Researchers at East Carolina University are looking at differences in how fat is metabolized in white and African-American women in a four-year, $1 million study. Ron Cortright Dr. Ron Cortright, associate professor of exercise and sport science in the College of Health and Human Performance and a physiology faculty member, is leading the study, which began in October. The research grew from previous studies that showed sedentary lean white women who start exercising immediately begin burning or oxidizing lipids, the group of compounds that includes fat. On the other hand, obese white and black women, and lean black women, don’t oxidize lipids as well. But after several weeks of a controlled exercise regimen, all groups increase their capacity to use fat and may improve their ability to avoid diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Cortright and his colleagues pinpointed that an enzyme, acyl-CoA synthetase, that’s required for oxidizing fatty acids doesn’t work as well in African-American women as in white women. The new study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will look for ways to activate that enzyme. Doing so will likely help people see results faster and stay motivated to continue their diet and exercise routines. “Some individuals appear to be more predisposed to obesity than others,” said Cortright. “This makes your risk multiply in terms of morbidity and mortality. Thus, ECU is trying diligently to help the people in its community. We are dedicated to that.” Working with Cortright are Dr. Hisham Barakat, a professor of internal medicine and associate director of research for the ECU Diabetes and Obesity Center; and Dr. Lynis Dohm, a professor of physiology. Cortright’s research funding in the area of fat metabolism began in 1997 while working in Dohm’s laboratory. Research on the topic was published in the July issue of the journal Obesity. Cortright pointed out his research benefits from the collaborative environment at ECU that has always included joint projects with fellow scientists and clinicians at the Human Performance Laboratory, directed by Dr. Joseph Houmard, and the Metabolic Institute at ECU, led by Dr. Walter Pories.

Now, Johnson and Mageean are honing in on where the focus of the health disparities research at ECU will lie. Next, Johnson and a small group of faculty and staff will write a proposal to the university’s administration to establish the center for health disparities research at ECU. “We already have people from outside interested in joining our work, and involvement with the community will be key,” she said. “Our intimate relationship with our community is one of our strengths at ECU that will make this research effort successful.”

Cynda Johnson


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Physicist measures acoustics of famed violins For almost two centuries, scientists have searched for the essential measurable properties that separate good violins from bad violins. In the past 30 years, East Carolina University physicist Dr. George Bissinger has made strides in this endeavor, using vibration, acoustics and computer analyses to help violin makers craft better-sounding instruments with a National Science Foundation-funded project called VIOCADEAS (VIOlin Computer Aided Design Engineering Analysis System). In September, Bissinger, a professor in the Department of Physics, worked with leading violin makers and the California-based Polytec Inc. to expand his research using the company’s 3-D laser scanning equipment. Two legendary Stradivarius violins — the 1715 “Titian” and the 1734 “Willemotte” – as well as the 1735 Guarneri del Gesu “Plowden” were brought to Greenville and tested at Bissinger’s laboratory. Violins by leading contemporary violin makers Sam Zygmuntowicz and Joseph Curtin were also tested. Experts believe old Italian violins possess certain sound qualities modern instruments do not attain. Zygmuntowicz, who works with these violins, said he was excited Polytec’s equipment would reveal the instruments’

sonic properties. “There is no visible measurement or point I’ve not seen on these violins,” Zygmuntowicz said. “The important aspects of the violin are what we can’t see. With sound, you can’t see it because it’s microscopic, but with this equipment, it all becomes very tangible. You can see and touch it.” Bissinger hopes these scans will reveal new ways that the violin vibrates and thus provide information on how it radiates sound, which will also be measured in an anechoic chamber during this experiment. “We’re getting a taste for how things move,” Bissinger said. “It’s more interesting to me from the science point of view. I can

say, ‘Here are ways you can incorporate what you do with violins.’” The violins also underwent computed tomography scans at the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center at the Brody School of Medicine.  Comparing these 3-D scans on superlative old Italian violins with previous “good” and “bad” modern violin results promises to generate new insights into violin sound production and violin quality, Bissinger said. Finally, the map of essential material properties stiffness, density, damping and shape – that govern the vibrations of any violin will be extended to these legendary violins. “Basically, a very good violin sounds loud while still sounding beautiful,” Zygmuntowicz said. “We know what it sounds like, but it won’t tell us why it’s good.” In addition to the violin makers, Violin Society of America members Fan Tao and Joseph Regh were involved in this first-ever 3-D scan of legendary violins.

ECU physicist George Bissinger, left, and violin maker Sam Zygmuntowicz were among the group testing the instruments. n

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Doctoral student receives audiology research award Bruce Mock, an East Carolina University doctoral candidate in clinical audiology, has received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders at the National Institutes of Health. The award will support his dissertation research and is approximately $30,000 annually, which includes a stipend, tuition and fees, and additional money for travel or supplies. Mock’s project focuses on characterizing age-related changes in auditory and balance function and comparing changes between the two sensory systems in mouse strains with different age-related hearing loss genetic mutations. The work is expected to lead to a better understanding of inner ear aging and predisposing factors, such as genetics and sex, for age-related changes in vestibular and auditory function. Mock’s dissertation is under the direction of Dr. Sherri Jones, associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the ECU School of Allied Health Sciences. Jones has been studying the role genes may play in vestibular disorders including dizziness and imbalance through her own grant from the NIH. Her research has focused on vestibular deficits in mice, whose genes and inner ears are similar to humans.

Bruce Mock

ECU, RENCI to host coastal disaster planning database East Carolina University researchers will soon be able to synthesize their natural disaster and emergency planning data with institutions across the state. Through a $1.7 million, three-year grant from the Chapel Hill-based Renaissance Computing Institute, known as RENCI, ECU will house a database designed to keep public health, population and scientific records that focus on the region’s coastal areas. Dr. Jamie Kruse, professor of economics and director of the ECU Center for Natural Hazards Research, will direct the operations of RENCI@East Carolina University. Kruse said she looks forward to collaborating with colleagues and state officials across the state to help the region better plan for and address disasters. “This project will meld ECU’s research expertise in the area of human systems and physical processes of coastal North Carolina with high performance computing and visualization to produce truly path breaking approaches to disaster reduction,” Kruse said. RENCI@ECU will open in the Rivers Building this year. The center will be equipped with high-resolution displays for scientific modeling and visualization, audio/ video equipment and network connections to other RENCI sites and national research 6

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networks. The site also will have use of a vehicle designed to showcase new technologies and bring educational, economic development and training programs to surrounding communities. Ernest Marshburn, director of strategic initiatives in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies at ECU, said RENCI@ ECU will work with ECU’s Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling to pull together the region’s atmospheric, ecological, medical and economic data with the goal of helping the region and its residents have the tools to be better prepared. “We hope to create a large multi-hazard, multidimensional database by unifying work already underway at the Brody School of Medicine, the Institute for Coastal and Marine Resources, the Center for Natural Hazards Research and the Geographical Information Lab,” he said. The data will also prove useful for medical and emergency responders, said Dr. Lloyd Novick, director of the division of community health and preventive medicine at Brody. “The most critical problems associated with disasters are protecting the health of the public and arranging for the ongoing care of individuals with existing chronic diseases,” Novick said. “The informatics project is a

major step forward in meeting the health needs of eastern North Carolina and preparing for disaster.” RENCI director Dan Reed said he looks forward to benefiting from the expertise of universities and communities in solving problems critical to the region and state. “This is our next step in creating a statewide virtual organization that can address issues of state and national importance,” Reed said. Other RENCI locations are at UNCAsheville, N.C. State University, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill. “These sites will bring a new core of university and community expertise to bear on important problems that can’t be solved by one campus, one discipline or one region of the state,” Reed said. Other ECU researchers involved in the RENCI project are Dr. Wayne Cascio, professor of cardiology at the Brody School of Medicine; Dr. Walter Pories, head of the Metabolic Institute and professor of surgery at Brody; Dr. Ron Mitchelson, chairman of the Department of Geography; Dr. Rick Ericson, chairman of the Department of Economics; Dr. Enrique Reyes, associate professor of biology; Dr. Lee Bartolotti, professor of chemistry; and Dr. Jeff Johnson, professor of sociology.


Research journal calls ECU home The inaugural issue the University of North Carolina system’s undergraduate research journal was unveiled at a statewide research symposium in Raleigh in November. Called Explorations: The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities for the State of North Carolina and housed at East Carolina University, the journal is edited by Dr. Michael Bassman, ECU associate vice chancellor, director of the Honors Program and undergraduate research. The journal is the state’s first publication of research produced by undergraduate students across the state. “The journal runs the gamut of all disciplines. We want to show our students are pursuing studies and research in all areas, which includes creative activity,” Bassman said. “Years ago, undergraduates were not doing any research, but many today are engaged in research.” Faculty and student editors from across the UNC system received more than 100 submissions during the past year and selected 11 articles in six categories: art and design, creative writing, humanities, mathematics, natural sciences and social science. A new category, service learning, will be added for forthcoming issues. Bassman credited George Barthalmus, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at N.C. State University, with raising the funds from private donors for the inaugural issue to be published. Future journals likely will be online, Bassman said, enabling students to share musical compositions or poems in addition to written research papers. Students from private and community colleges as well as members of the UNC system are invited to participate and share research at the undergraduate symposium. Faculty interested in encouraging their students to submit research may visit www.explorationsjournal.com for details and to view the online edition of the journal.

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Three receive university research honors Three researchers at East Carolina University received the university’s 2006 Achievement for Excellence in Research/ Creative Activity awards. Dr. James McCubrey, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Brody School of Medicine, received the University Lifetime Achievement award. Dr. Derek Alderman, an associate professor of geography; and Dr. Reide Corbett, associate professor of geology, received the Five-Year Achievement awards. Dr. Deirdre Mageean, vice chancellor of research and graduate studies, said she was proud of the accomplishments of these four researchers. “These faculty represent the spirit and creativity of East Carolina University,” Mageean said. “Congratulations to these faculty for their exceptional research accomplishments.” In the past 18 years at ECU, McCubrey has received more than $3.5 million in grants to further his research in cancer. He has written more than 100 manuscripts and articles, and serves on the board of six academic journals. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Catania in Italy since October 2003. Alderman, who has taught at ECU since 2000, specializes in the politics of public commemoration and symbolic landscapes of the American South, including the politics of naming streets for Martin Luther King Jr. He also studies popular culture such as NASCAR, the Internet as electronic folklore, Graceland as a pilgrimage site, Wal-Mart and the cultural history of kudzu. Corbett, who has taught at ECU since 2000, studies the sediment and geochemical processes in coastal areas and the discharge of groundwater on the coast. In the past five years, he has worked on research grants totaling more than $3.3 million. Each researcher received a cash award and spoke at a research seminar.

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w o s where t n k e h S he w se and team pr Kru ed

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Studying the economics of wind and its

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d a n d dama e By Erica Plouffe Lazur

destructive power, Dr. Jamie Brown Kruse has built a career out of approximating and modeling uncertainty. Since arriving at East Carolina University in 2004, Kruse has launched two disaster research centers, edited a book and co-written more than two dozen articles. She has been a member of teams that have netted nearly $2 million in grants. She’s also preparing the next generation of students and scholars for careers in fields that are becoming more relevant as natural disasters and their effects continue to pose serious threats to the region and its inhabitants. Kruse, director of the Thomas Harriot Center for Natural Hazards Research and the new RENCI@ECU Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling, said her aim is to centralize the growing body of disaster research at East Carolina. “We hope these centers will contribute to solutions that will affect people’s lives,” Kruse said. “There is interest across the faculty for studying hazards and the effect of disasters on people. And given the effects of Hurricane Floyd, it should be a natural interest in this area.” Contin ed on pag u

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Kruse said she hopes to build upon the research conducted by faculty members at ECU in the wake of Hurricane Floyd. The state-of-the-art modeling and forecasting tools C-SIM provides through ECU’s $1.7 million agreement with the Renaissance Computing Institute will help researchers anticipate and predict hazards and their

planning and management to the cultural, social, and economic impacts of natural hazards, the centers’ multidisciplinary aims provide both faculty and graduate students with opportunities to conduct and share their research. “We have many fine researchers in biology and geology. And because natural disasters happen in a physical place, geography is very important. The centers try to also integrate human behavior, which is hard to model,” Kruse said. “The wild card is people, and that’s why the social sciences are such an important part of this discussion.”

“If there’s anything I can do well, it’s putting puzzle pieces together. It’s important for our research centers to have experts from across the disciplines who can form strong teams.” –Dr. Jamie Brown Kruse Director of the Center for Natural Hazards Research

effects on communities and the environment. The multi-institution consortium, based in Chapel Hill, opens the center at ECU this spring. From coastal preservation and disaster

Collaboration is key Whether people are the subject of study or are alongside her doing the research, they have always played a major role in Kruse’s professional life. Her colleagues

credit her success not only to her skills as a researcher and administrator, but also how she creates opportunities for collaboration and connection. “The research centers are very unique. We’ve never done anything like this at ECU,” said Dr. Okmyung “Paul” Bin, ECU assistant professor of economics. “When she came from Texas, she brought leadership, and she has brought people together and ideas for us to work together as well.” Bin, who has worked at ECU since 2000, cited as an example the two grants the Natural Hazards Center received in 2004 from the National Science Foundation to study attitudes toward rebuilding New Orleans and the economic impact of Katrina on evacuees and their communities. The team of investigators on the projects includes Kruse, ECU faculty members Dr. Harold Stone (planning), Dr. Kenneth R. Wilson (sociology), Bin and Dr. Craig E. Landry (economics), and Dr. John Whitehead, a former ECU faculty member now at Appalachian State University. For the second NSF grant, the Center for Natural Hazards Research is working with partners at Texas Tech University, Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and Mississippi State University-Gulfport. Through his association with the Center for Natural Hazards Research, Bin also

Center for Natural Hazards Research studies and grant amounts The ‘New’ New Orleans: Evaluating Preferences for Rebuilding Plans after Hurricane Katrina

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$170,000

Spatial, Environmental and Behavioral Determinants of Valuation of Coastal Erosion Risk

$30,000

Collecting Economic Impact Data: Implications for Disaster Areas and Host Regions

$29,881

Natural Disasters and Bank Performance

$10,000


worked with Whitehead and other North Carolina researchers to assess the longterm economic threat of sea level rise to the North Carolina coastline, funded by the federal Department of Energy. Bin has also worked on research projects with Kruse, Landry and Dr. Thomas Crawford, an ECU assistant professor of geology, including an assessment of the value of ocean-view properties, made possible through a $30,000 seed grant from the ECU Division of Research and Graduate Studies. Crawford said Kruse’s interest and respect for other disciplines, particularly in the social sciences, is what makes for strong, collaborative research such as the ocean-view properties project. “[Ocean-view homes] are nice, but they put you in a high-risk environment. This study had both geographic and economic components that isolate the independent effects of each, versus the value of the pleasing view,” said Crawford, who uses geographic information systems in his research. “That’s something we couldn’t have done independently.” Kruse said the relationships that surface as a result of collaborative research are among the most rewarding aspects of her career. “If there’s anything I can do well, it’s putting puzzle pieces together,” Kruse said. “It’s important for our

research centers to have experts from across the disciplines who can form strong teams.” Wind-blown economics For Kruse, it all started in 1996 in Lubbock, Texas. A professor at the University of Colorado, Kruse was asked to come to Texas to offer an economic perspective on the impact of wind as a member of Texas Tech’s multidisciplinary Wind Science and Engineering Research Center. Texas Tech faculty came together to study tornado damage and structural mitigation after a tornado tore through the town about 20 years earlier. “How can we apply the best economic tools to the problem of risk and the decisions we make to mitigate risk?” Kruse said. “We looked at wind hazards from a completely different perspective. We looked at what happens with the labor and housing markets. Because the methods of economics are model-based, you can describe these

decisions through mathematics.” That initial question led to several multi-million dollar grants from the National Science Foundation and nearly 10 years of work analyzing the economic impacts of disaster. Kruse studied under Dr. Vernon Smith, the 2002 Nobel Laureate for Economics, and earned her doctorate in economics in 1988 from the University of Arizona. She has a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska. While Kruse has yet to live through a hurricane or other natural disaster, unless she counts being snowbound in January with her family in Colorado, she knows as a denizen of North Carolina and a researcher of natural hazards that it’s only a matter of time before the East Coast encounters another strong storm season. The key, she said, is to do everything possible, through research, modeling, forecasting and public awareness, to anticipate and lessen its impact. “We know disasters will occur. The sea is rising. There are changes in weather patterns. There are a lot of variables,” Kruse said. “(W)e know there is a hurricane in the future of North Carolina. We just don’t know when.”

Jamie Brown Kruse Birthplace

Sacramento, Calif.

Education

Bachelor’s degree, University of Nebraska Master’s degree in agricultural economics, Colorado State University Doctorate in economics, University of Arizona

Previous position

Professor of economics at Texas Tech University

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By Nancy McGillicuddy

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Getting into rhythm on heart research

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By Doug Boyd

On a machine in a third-floor lab in the Brody Medical Sciences Building, a tiny heart beats in response to a nutrient-rich solution it’s getting after suffering a myocardial infarction – a heart attack to everyday folks. What Dr. Timothy Johnson, a biomedical engineer, and other East Carolina University researchers learn from that tiny heart could have implications for the health of thousands of eastern North Carolina residents who suffer heart attacks each year. That’s just one example of the heart and blood vessel research going on at ECU. With the East Carolina Heart Institute rising on the health sciences campus, expect that research to continue blooming. For eastern North Carolinians, understanding, treating and ultimately preventing heart and blood vessel disease is vital. “Our best hope of achieving this is through research,” said Dr. Wayne Cascio, a professor and chief of cardiology. Cascio came to ECU three years ago from the University of North Carolina and brought two more Chapel Hill researchers

with him: Johnson and Barbara Muller-Borer, who also has a doctorate in biomedical engineering. Another physician and scientist who’s come to ECU since Cascio’s arrival is Dr. Mariavittoria Pitzalis, an expert in heart rhythm and heart failure. She previously was at the University of Bari in Italy. As a professor and medical director of the heart failure program at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, Pitzalis is implementing a “hub-andspoke” model for managing heart failure patients in eastern North Carolina. The aim is n

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From left, Drs. Timothy Johnson, Wayne Cascio and Barbara Muller-Borer are leading studies to better understand the heart and how to treat it. Previous page: Johnson and research specialist Jessica Matthews study nitric oxide and hearts.

to improve the quality of life and decrease costs. As recently as 2004, 6,000 people in eastern North Carolina were hospitalized for heart failure, a condition in which the heart is no longer able to pump blood sufficiently. Her project received $40,000 last year from the Brody Brothers Foundation. “Generally speaking, patients are far from Greenville,” Pitzalis said, adding that getting to the medical center can mean spending one or two hours on the road. “This is very difficult, particularly for patients with heart failure.” In Pitzalis’ model, local health centers and primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are the spokes, and the Brody School of Medicine and Pitt County Memorial Hospital are the hub. Providers in the spokes give most of the care and case management and stay in contact with the hub via telemedicine. When patients become sicker and need the resources of a major medical center, they will come to Greenville. Setting up new ways to manage heart failure isn’t all Pitzalis has done. Her work on cardiac resynchronization therapy is internationally recognized, with papers published last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and this year in the European Journal of Heart Failure. Her research into Brugada syndrome and hypertension were published last year in Circulation and the Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, respectively. Brugada syndrome is a type of severe cardiac arrhythmia that can cause 14

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sudden death. Related to Pitzalis’ hub-and-spoke idea is research Cascio is doing with UNC on heart failure treatments and outcomes among people of different races. Cascio’s work is funded by $165,333 from UNC. The overall study is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Her hub-and-spoke model is a way to capture and identify those patients and give them the best possible care,” Cascio said. While death is the worst outcome of a heart condition, a severe heart attack can leave people with so much damage that they become unable to work or do much that requires exertion. Getting heart attack victims to the hospital and opening their blood vessels with drugs or angioplasty within 90 minutes are the best ways to save heart muscle. Much longer, and the percentage of muscle that can’t be salvaged starts to creep up; “time is muscle,” as the saying goes. Ironically, opening those blocked vessels and restoring blood flow, called reperfusion, can also damage heart muscle. That’s where Johnson is focusing his microscope. Using rat hearts, he’s studying how to deliver nitric oxide, a valuable reperfusion agent, to specific areas. The inner lining of blood vessels uses nitric oxide to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax, thus dilating the artery and increasing blood flow. If nitric oxide sounds familiar, that

might be because people experiencing chest pain due to reduced blood flow are frequently given nitroglycerin, which the body converts to nitric oxide. In Johnson’s laboratory, a tiny heart is suspended by tubes and electrodes on a machine that mimics ischemia, or reduced blood flow. The heart gradually goes into cardiac arrest. After a prescribed time, generally 20 minutes, a laboratory assistant releases a pH-balanced reperfusion solution of salts and sugars to the heart, and it begins beating – tentatively at first, then normally. After 60 to 90 minutes of reperfusion, the assistant removes the heart from the machine, dissects it and compares the amount of damaged tissue to undamaged tissue. Tests have shown about 13 percent of tissue is damaged using a normal reperfusion solution. Damage drops as low as 4.5 percent with a nitric oxide “donor” added to the solution. “You’ve got to transport it to the right place at the right time and then get it to leave,” Johnson said. “How do you deliver it? That’s where the nanoparticles come in.” Nanoparticles are smaller than 100 nanometers and are engineered to deliver bulk items – in this case, nitric oxide – to the blood vessels and muscle cells in the affected areas. The donor substance he’s tried most recently is S-nitroso-N-acetylpenacillamine, or SNAP for short. Johnson’s research is funded by $121,992 from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. He and his collaborators have submitted their first article on the research, which is currently in review. Johnson and Cascio are also working with Drs. Christopher Wingard, Robert Lust, Laxmansa Katwa, Ruth Ann Henrikson and Michael Van Scott of the Department of Physiology to study how fine particulate matter in air pollution might play a role in the high incidence of heart attacks in developed countries. Previous research at ECU has shown a link between asthma-related inflammation and heart or blood vessel disease. Particulates in indoor or outdoor air pollution might have similar effects on the cardiovascular system. The nucleoside adenosine is known to relax smooth muscle inside artery walls, causing them to dilate and increase blood flow. The ECU researchers are looking at whether particulate matter interrupts the adenosine action, possibly leading to blockages in blood flow and heart attacks. That research is funded by $258,341 from


the Phillip Morris Research Management Group. Earlier research was published last year in the American Journal of Physiology. Similar to that research is work Cascio is doing with researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles to determine how harmful fine and ultrafine particles, in this case, diesel emissions on California freeways, are to the heart. One might wonder how this cross-country collaboration came about. Cascio has studied the effects of air pollution on the heart before, and he has overseen the installation of a $30,000 system to read and analyze the findings from research subjects in California. The Brody School of Medicine also has a Luminex 200 instrument to measure human cytokines. Cytokines are a group of proteins and peptides organisms use as signaling compounds, allowing cells to communicate with each other. In the heart, they can cause inflammation and restrict blood flow. The freeway study will assess the relative health effects of emission particles from gasoline and diesel engines and compare the effects. Specifically, it will address the role of cytokines as a primary response of humans to particulate matter exposure and might determine whether diesel particles are more likely to start an inflammatory response. Moreover, researchers will be able to determine the connection between cytokine signaling and the response. They might also clarify the relationship between particulate exposure from different combustion sources and cytokine production and cardiovascular risk. In the study, Dr. William Hinds of the UCLA Department of Environmental Health will examine the responses of a group of healthy middle-aged men and women while commuting on two freeways in Los Angeles, Interstates 405 and the 710. The 405 is primarily a commuter route traveled by cars with gasoline engines. The 710, ending at the Long Beach Port, has more heavy trucks burning diesel fuel. Particles measuring less than one-thirtieth the width of a human hair appear to pose the greatest risk and are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular death, Cascio said. Hospitalizations for heart attacks, strokes, abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure also increase when particles increase in

Dr. Mariavittoria Pitzalis led the creation of an Italian Web site about heart health, www.cuore.rai.it. Now, she’s working to improve care for people with congestive heart failure.

the atmosphere. While researchers don’t know the specific sources of the most toxic particles, some studies point to traffic, Cascio said. The ECU research is supported by $134,676 from UCLA. Overall, the study is funded by the California Air Resources Board. These studies are looking at ways to reduce heart damage, but scientists are also looking at ways to repair it once damage occurs. In the Laboratory for Cell-Based Therapies and Tissue Engineering, Muller-Borer is studying how adult stem cells can be used to rebuild damaged heart muscle. Her research with Dr. Nadia Malouf of UNC was published in February in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Muller-Borer takes adult rat stem cells from liver tissue and puts them with neonatal rat heart cells. “We’re able to study how this one cell interacts with heart cells and if they can become heart cells,” she said. Muller-Borer is also working with adult human bone marrow stem cells. The human stem cells are provided by the Tulane University Center for Gene Therapy. These stem cells are being used in studies to evaluate tissue repair in collaboration with Dr. Jitka Virag in the ECU Department of Physiology and in studies to evaluate efficient methods to deliver stem cells to injured heart tissue in collaboration with Dr. Alan Kypson in the ECU Department of Surgery. Ongoing clinical trials in Europe are assessing stem cell transplantation therapy in humans. Patients undergoing heart surgery or

other procedures have had stem cells delivered to their hearts to see if they help reduce scar tissue, repair tissue that’s injured and improve heart function. Muller-Borer’s work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Murray & Sydell Rosenberg Foundation and ECU Division of Research and Graduate Studies. Aside from centering on the heart, these studies have something else in common: collaboration. In some cases, ECU cardiologists are working together. In other cases, ECU researchers from different areas, such as cardiology, physiology and surgery collaborate. In still other cases, researchers from different institutions combine their knowledge and resources. “It’s absolutely mandatory,” Pitzalis said of collaboration. “This is the smartest thing you can do. It’s not a solo job. You have to have strong teamwork.”

Heartfelt problem In the 29-county region of eastern North Carolina, the mortality rate from coronary heart disease, which includes heart attack, is 12.9 percent greater than in the rest of the state. The age-adjusted coronary heart disease death rate is 185.8 for every 100,000 people. If the region were a state, that rate would rank it 13th worst in the country.

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By Doug Boyd

Mural helps students learn lessons of yesterday and today

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By Doug Boyd

Facing the river that has defined Princeville for 150 years, wooden posts and crossbeams on a February day awaited a mural painted by a native daughter showing the genesis of this town. The artist is Dazzala Knight, an East Carolina University graduate who grew up in this small eastern North Carolina town and will always call it home. A history of floods Princeville is the oldest black town in America. Helped across the river by Union soldiers to a floodplain near a Union encampment, freed blacks established Freedom Hill in 1865. The town incorporated as Princeville in 1885, taking its name from Turner Price, born a slave in 1843 and instrumental in the town’s early settlement. Though on most days it flows serenely

From left, artists Dazzala Knight, Cameron Jackson and Randall Leach, under the guidance of Dr. Mark Malley, are hoping their work makes a lasting impression.

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along the western edge of town, the Tar River hasn’t always been kind to Princeville. After numerous floods, a levee was built in 1965 to protect the town. But in 1999, swollen from Tropical Storm Dennis and Hurricane Floyd, the Tar went around and through the levee and inundated the town with water up to the eaves of homes. The river eventually crested at 24 feet above flood stage. Months later, the 2000 census put the town’s population at 940; many residents had moved away temporarily or for good. Knight was among those who had to get out. “Basically, we lost everything,” she said of her family’s home. “We only had an opportunity to get a bag full of clothes and that was it.” Before Hurricane Floyd, Princeville had been a town of 2,000 people, 650 homes, 30 businesses and three churches.

After Hurricane Floyd, the residents faced a decision. The federal government would buy out their ruined homes and move the town to higher ground. Or, the government would repair the levee but not offer buyouts. The residents chose to keep their town where it was. New homes now line streets, and people have moved back. A 2004 special census put the population at 2,020 residents in 818 housing units. Ninety-eight percent of the population is African-American. As her town grew back, the seeds of the mural began sprouting in Knight’s mind. Dr. Mark Malley, an ECU assistant professor of art, had told Knight about his curriculum on the famed Amistad mural, which depicts the 1839 revolt by Africans on the ship Amistad. Knight thought a mural depicting her town’s founding might be a good idea, and began sketching how it might look.


One thing led to another, and now she’s working on three 8-foot-by-48-foot panels. She said it seems a little overwhelming at times. The work of creating art Murals bring art into the public, sometimes with a political or historical goal in mind. The Princeville mural might be said to have a bit of both. Murals also show community pride and accomplishment, Malley said. “It’s a way to document the history of any town, but especially Princeville,” he said. “When you give back like this, it’s a very civic thing, and it’s great for the visual arts in general.” Randall Leach of Salisbury, who’s working on his master’s of fine arts degree, learned about Princeville from Knight. “She’s very proud of her hometown,” Leach said. “She talks like it’s Washington, D.C., or something. When I rode into Princeville and rode out in about two seconds, I was shocked from all I heard from Daz,” he said with a laugh. Knight, Leach and graduate student Cameron Jackson are painting the mural on MDO, or medium density overlay plywood. It’s engineered plywood with a resin-treated fi ber applied to both faces. This gives a smooth finish that’s easy to paint. In addition, it’s rated for exterior use, which means it is safe from the elements, insects or other outdoor hazards. It’s commonly used for outdoor signs, and is sometimes called sign-painters board, Malley said. Over the MDO goes a coat of Gesso primer, which seals the board, preventing resins from leaking through and helping paint adhere. Paints come from Golden Artists Colors as part of a materials grant. “It’s another way to support the artists’ community,” said Jodi O’Dell, Golden corporate communications specialist. Malley assembled the team of artists, acquired the MDO, obtained the grant from Golden and secured the studio space for painting the mural panels. He also researched how to design the structure that will support the mural and obtained those materials. It’s all part of helping the School of Art and Design attract underrepresented students and create a mentoring model to help retain students from similar backgrounds.

“Are we doing all we should be doing, and if we’re not, how can we do it better?” Malley asked. The mural project is also part of a larger effort to record the history and traditions of Princeville. “More and more people are curious about it. It’s sort of taken on a life of its own,” Malley said. “It’s all history-driven.” Working on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in a studio on the ground floor of the Jenkins Fine Arts Building, the artists first outline their work, then layer the color

before working in the details of facial expressions, clothing prints and more. Jazz, R&B or gospel – a favorite of Knight’s – plays in the background, and periods of silence get broken up by jokes and laughter. “Anytime it gets too serious, leave it to Daz,” said Leach. Knight said the three build on each other’s strengths. “We just have that underlying connection where I’ll paint something, and Cam will come fix it. Cam will add some shadow, and Randall will add some texture,” she said. n

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Princeville likely to flood again As town residents rebuild Princeville, they might want to keep one eye on the Tar River. If history is a guide, it will come over its banks and into town again. That’s the prediction of Dr. Stanley Riggs, a professor of geology at East Carolina University and expert on eastern North Carolina waterways. “Yes, it will happen again,” Riggs said. “But no one knows when this will take place. Rivers flood, and they are in the floodplain with an imperfect dike with definite limits.” Records show Princeville flooded nine times between 1795 and 1940. In the 1960s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a levee 2 miles long and 22 feet high to protect the town from the Tar. But it had at least two weaknesses, according to Riggs. First, it didn’t extend far enough to keep the river from flowing around its low end north of town. Secondly, a train track cut through the dike. When the Tar swelled in 1999 after Hurricane Floyd, Riggs, said, centrifugal force helped push the river over a bend in its eastern bank and around the north end of the levee. Water also poured through the railroad opening. Riggs said those two factors flooded Princeville before the river overtopped the levee, letting even more water into town. As an added insult, the levee kept the water from flowing back into the Tar as the river returned to normal. Pumps had to do that job. Floyd’s destruction was called a “500-year flood.” That’s not a flood that happens once every 500 years, but one with a two-tenths percent chance of happening every year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Indeed, in 2000, the remnants of tropical Storm Helene and Hurricane Gordon passed over North Carolina between Sept. 19 and 24, dropping moderate amounts of rain and putting the Tar River above flood stage. On Sept. 29, Hurricane Isaac, with winds reaching 120 mph, was headed west across the Atlantic toward North Carolina when it turned northeast, passing east of Bermuda. If not, the flood scenario could have been similar to 1999, when Floyd followed Hurricane Dennis, which made landfall in North Carolina as a tropical storm and dropped 6-10 inches of rain. “In 2000, the gun was loaded, cocked and pointed right at us,” Riggs said. “ We would’ve been in exactly the same place one year later. We were that close to having two 500-year storms in two years. There are cycles within these natural systems that statistics ignore.” Princeville Mayor Delia Perkins is proud of the progress her town has made in rebuilding and said she will concentrate on evacuating and rebuilding again if another flood comes. “There’s really nothing we can do about it other than move out and move back in,” she said. Riggs says people must learn to live with the planet and the dynamics of water. “Levees and other engineered structures do not eliminate flooding in floodplains,” he said, “but rather, they often exacerbate the problems by producing a false sense of security as we recently witnessed in New Orleans.” - Doug Boyd

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Malley said the artists are inspiring. “It puts you in a different frame of mind to be associated with Dazzala and Cameron and Randall and see what’s evolving and coming forth from their creative talents,” he said. “It’s quite an amazing thing to watch three young adults work like this. It’s almost like a spiritual connection with the founding of the town in 1865.” Malley will conduct ethnography research with Princeville students and adult residents during the next 12 months to obtain a fuller understanding of his ongoing research on helping minority art students attain their educational and career goals.


Finishing touches Princeville Mayor Delia Perkins is looking forward to getting the mural installed this spring. She has known Knight since she was a baby and worked with Knight’s mother in the local school system. “I knew she would be successful, I just didn’t know in what,” Perkins said about Knight. The mural will go in Riverside Heritage Park, which the town is building on 11 acres with help from a $165,750 matching grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. It will be the anchor park of the Princeville Heritage Trail. The land used to be a trailer park where some of Knight’s friends lived before the flood. She’s pretty sure it will flood again someday. “If it does, we’ll touch up the mural and keep on going,” Knight said. “Princeville’s not going anywhere. We’re good at picking up the pieces and starting over again.” Knight completed her bachelor’s of fine arts degree in December and plans to go to graduate school. One day, Knight said, she would like to move back to Princeville, teach art to children, open a studio and travel the world showing her work, but always return home – the home whose history she’s putting down in living color. In the Jenkins studio, Knight looked across the workbench at the mural panels and recalled her mother, who died in 2005. “My mom would’ve been so proud of it,” she said. n

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Drs. Jonathan Morris, left, and Jody Baumgartner say satirists such as Jon Stewart influence young people’s political views.

ECU researchers study effects of ‘Daily Show’ on students’ views College students who watch the satirical TV program “The Daily Show” are more skeptical and knowledgeable about politics and media, according to two East Carolina University political science professors. Drs. Jonathan Morris and Jody Baumgartner, assistant professors of political science, found students in their political science classes regularly cited the TV program on Comedy Central. Their research was published in the May 2006 issue of American Politics Research, and they were interviewed by media outlets across the country. “We found some of our students viewed (show host) Jon Stewart as one of their major sources of news,” said Morris. “We started to think about that show and what the consequences might be if someone relied on it as a news source.” Known for its biting satire and irreverent treatment of politics of current events, “The Daily Show” is considered soft or 22

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entertainment news. Many viewers are in their teens and 20s. “One learns even through entertainmentbased programs. Soft news can educate people and provide information about an event,” Baumgartner said. “Even with fake news, people can learn current events from ‘The Daily Show.’” In 2004, Morris and Baumgartner asked 732 students, mostly freshmen and sophomores in introductory-level political science classes, to answer a survey. One-third of the students watched an eight-minute clip of “The Daily Show,” another third watched a segment of CBS Nightly News and the rest had no video prompt. They found the students who watched “The Daily Show” were more likely to respond that they were cynical about politics and the media and felt confident about their knowledge of current events. “Previous research links cynicism to political disengagement; others say having a healthy

skepticism about politics and the media can get people more involved,” Morris said. While cynicism can lead to apathy and a feeling of alienation from the political process, Baumgartner and Morris say there is no direct link between cynical attitudes and voting. Cynicism can lead to apathy, they said, but it can also be the spark to get more people involved. “It’s not just whether to vote or not vote,” Baumgartner said. “People can talk with their friends, volunteer on a campaign, donate money, write letters, organize a protest.” In addition to their research about the role soft news plays with the presidential elections in 2008, Baumgartner and Morris are editing a book about the role of humor in American politics, to be published this year. “It’s obviously resonating with young adults. No one relies on Mark Twain or ‘The Onion’ (a weekly satirical newspaper) for their political news,” Morris said. “He’s the most trusted name in news by a mile.”


explorations explore Study looks at whether doctors feel butterflies Researchers at East Carolina University hope to help doctors think more like athletes when they prepare for high-performance medical procedures. Dr. Carmen Russoniello, and professor of recreation and leisure studies and director of ECU’s Psychophysiology Lab, is working with Dr. Joe Khoury, a gastroenterology fellow at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, to gauge stress and skill level in physicians during endoscopic and colonospic procedures. “We are trying to see the stress, as marked by heart rate variability, when the residents perform medical procedures,” Russoniello said. “We want to bring HRV into a medical setting and get a sense of how doctors manage stress under pressure and during procedures. If you can control your nervous system you can, to an extent, limit unpredictability.” Heart rate variability is a measure of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity in the body that provides information about bodily functions such as stress, Russoniello said. Bluetooth-powered sensory devices attached to the residents during medical procedures enable real-time tracking of HRV. “If we can identify stress levels, we can hopefully reduce medical errors,” said Khoury, who is the study’s principle investigator and a participant. “If the results show I’m stressed, I’m happy to try techniques to improve my performance.” Since August, a half-dozen gastroenterology residents at PCMH have volunteered to participate in the pilot study. They have undergone baseline stress tests in Russoniello’s lab, and their HRV has been tracked and recorded during practice-session simulators and actual endoscopic and colonoscopy procedures with patients. The goal is to discover the variables – such as skill level, age of physician and type of procedure – that can contribute to stress. Dr. Dennis Sinar, a professor of medicine at the Brody School of Medicine and director of

Dr. Joseph Khoury, left, and Dr. Nicholas Murray are studying stress among gastroenterologists.

the gastroenterology fellowship program, said the study could provide doctors with valuable information about themselves that could provide better service to patients. “We want our residents to be much less anxious and more comfortable and confident with these procedures,” Sinar said. “With interventions like these, our goal is to have better, more efficient and confident trainees in the medical profession.” Khoury, Russoniello and Sinar are working with Dr. Nicholas Murray, assistant professor of exercise and sports science, to track and record HRV. Eventually, they hope to integrate relaxation and preparation strategies from sports into doctors’ preprocedure routines. “In sport, what we look at is how people manage stress through some pre-event or preperformance routines,” Murray said. Strategies to reduce stress, such as visualization, yoga and deep breathing, help professional athletes in high-performance situations reduce the risk of error in competition. “We think the best performance occurs

when you’re in what is called ‘flow,’ or when skill is equal to the task minus anxiety,” Russoniello said. “We think your best performance occurs with the least amount of errors in this state.” The pilot study could extend these preparation strategies to doctors about to perform surgery. While the sample of medical residents tested is too small and too premature for a statistical analysis, Russoniello said, there is a general correlation between an increase in stress and an increase in the complexity of the procedure. He said the age of the residents could also play a factor in stress and recovery, because younger bodies tend to be more resilient in managing stress. Plans are now in the works to expand the study to doctors in other specialties. “Our hope is that once we get a sense of this, we can develop some powerful normative data of what a physician would look like under normal conditions and under stress,” Russoniello said. “We could predict, ideally, who might need intervention strategies, like breathing or yoga, to help control their autonomic nervous system.” n

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Stem cells show promise in lab mice

From left, Elena Pak, Dr. Alexander Murashov, Dr. Kori Brewer

Immunotherapy gives hope against deadly cancer Some cancer patients may benefit from a therapy being studied and practiced at East Carolina University that boosts their own immune system to fight the disease. Dr. Walter Quan, an associate professor and director of cancer immunotherapy in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine, is helping patients with melanoma – the deadliest form 24

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of skin cancer – and kidney cancer through the use of interleukins and studying ways to make them more effective. “Twenty years ago, we would say to people with melanoma that is metastatic (spread to other parts of the body), there’s not any treatment that can make your cancer go away, there isn’t any treatment that can make you live longer,” Quan said. “The good news is there is something we can do. This is the most exciting thing I’ve seen in my career.” Quan is a nationally recognized expert in the use of the immune system to treat metastatic kidney cancer and melanoma. It

Research at East Carolina University has shown some stem cells can restore sensory function and reduce chronic pain in laboratory mice following spinal cord injury. A team led by Dr. Alexander Murashov, associate professor of physiology at the Brody School of Medicine, injected mouse embryonic stem cells into mice with spinal cord injury. They found the mice that received the stem cell injections did not develop pain syndromes associated with spinal cord injury. Moreover, three days after the injection, the mice showed less sensitivity to pain compared to untreated mice.

uses the body’s white blood cells to attack cancer, particularly through the use of messenger proteins called interleukins. Interleukin-2 does not kill tumor cells as chemotherapy does but instead stimulates the growth of immune cells, including T-cells and natural killer cells, that can destroy cancer cells directly. Eddy McCoy, a 65-year-old farmer from Hugo, had never been sick before feeling a small lump on his neck in 2002. The lump turned out to be melanoma. Dr. Rosa Cuenca, an ECU surgeon, removed the lump and a satellite tumor. Evidence showed the cancer


explore explorations Murashov said the therapeutic effects of the stem cells might be due to a release of factors, or proteins, caused by the stem cells. Not all stem cells are the same and not all have the same potential to turn into tissue. The most versatile are totipotent stem cells, which can become almost any tissue. Next are pluripotent cells that can give rise to most, but not all, of the tissues necessary for fetal development. Pluripotent cells undergo further specialization into multipotent cells that give rise to cells that have a particular function. For example, multipotent blood stem cells give rise to the red cells, white cells and platelets in the blood, but not other tissues. “Our bone marrow stem cells don’t differentiate into nerve cells, for instance,” Murashov said. In addition, injured central nervous system tissue does not repair itself or regenerate as other tissue can, he said. But embryonic stem cells do have this ability to generate different types of tissue. Theoretically, they could be used to generate particular nerve cells in vitro that could be transplanted into injured areas to restore function and reduce pain associated with spinal cord injury. An estimated 60 to 80 percent of people with spinal cord injury suffer from chronic pain, Murashov said, and no treatments exist for it. Dr. Kori Brewer of the Department of

Emergency Medicine also participated in the research. She has done previous research in spinal cord injury and pain. She said many growth factors and peptides, or molecules of amino acids, are known to alter an animal’s sensitivity to painful stimuli or protect against secondary cell death after injury. “It will be important to determine if the stem cells that are implanted into the injured spinal cord may be releasing some of these factors,” she said. How the research may apply to humans with spinal cord injury will require further investigation. Murashov is looking for ways to treat spinal cord injury. Brewer is studying ways to reduce chronic pain associated with it. “If successful, we may then be able to suggest new therapeutic strategies that would be reasonable to study in humans suffering from this condition,” Brewer said. Murashov is working to identify the genes responsible for the stem cells’ therapeutic effect. Such research is vital to understanding how and why stem cells behave the way they do. “There is always a danger that stem cells may choose to develop into something we did not really want or expect, for example, a tumor,” Murashov said. “In other words, a lot of basic research still needs to be performed in order to use stem cells smartly and in the most efficient and safe way for

had spread to McCoy’s lungs. That’s when he started receiving treatment from Dr. Quan. “I feel pretty good most of the time,” McCoy said recently while in Pitt County Memorial Hospital receiving a regular treatment. “I ain’t dead yet. According to what they told me, and they didn’t tell me till four years later, I was supposed to be gone.” While chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are all effective cancer treatments, they also can carry significant discomfort and side effects. Immunotherapy has fewer and less severe side effects. “Quality of life is good,” Quan said. “We have

some people able to work. We’re happy with what this quality is, but we want it to be better.” Immunotherapy also give people hope where before none existed. “We tell folks, ‘We think you have a fighting chance,’” Quan said. “What they’re looking for is a fighting chance. People are looking for hope. This therapy provides that.” Quan’s research is supported in part by a $17,000 grant from the Brody Brothers Foundation Endowment Fund at ECU. Last year, Quan published an article on his latest findings in the journal Cancer Biotherapy & Radiopharmaceuticals.

the patient.” Murashov’s stem cell research was supported in part by a two-year, $122,176 grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center and was published last year in Molecular Medicine. His team’s work was published last year in the journal Molecular Medicine. Murashov is in the process of applying for National Institutes of Health funding to further the research. Other researchers involved in the study are Elena Pak of the ECU Department of Physiology and Dr. Margarita Glazova, formerly with the department.

Dr. Walter Quan’s research into helping the body’s immune system fight cancer is helping patients such as Eddy McCoy. n

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

Doctor studies feeding tube placement by race A Brody School of Medicine physician is studying whether race plays a role in the placement of feeding tubes in elderly patients with dementia. Dr. Seema Modi, assistant professor of family medicine at East Carolina University, said little data exist to support the placement of percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, or a permanent feeding tube, in people with advanced dementia. But it is common in African-American patients and in southern states like North Carolina. A long-term feeding tube allows liquid food or medicine to be given when a patient can’t take anything by mouth, helping prevent dehydration and malnutrition in some patients. Benefits are seen more often in younger patients who are alert and don’t suffer from a progressive disease or are at the end of life. Insufficient scientific evidence exists to show elderly people with dementia who receive feeding tubes live longer or the device prevents 26

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aspiration, which is when food or liquid is breathed into the lungs, Modi said. Modi examined whether physicians recommend feeding tube placement more for black patients than white patients and identified physician characteristics related to the recommendation for a feeding tube. She presented a research poster at the annual Jean Mills Health Symposium in February and has received poster awards at two national conferences, the American Medical Directors Association and the American Geriatrics Society. The study is in the April issue of the Journal of Palliative Medicine. In 2004, Modi surveyed internists and family physicians in the N.C. Medical Society about a case patient with advanced dementia. Two versions of the case patient, varying only by race, were randomly assigned. Respondents gave demographic data and their recommendation for feeding tube placement. Of 2,058 physicians, 1,083, or 53 percent, responded. Of 981 responses with complete data, 18 percent recommended a long-term feeding tube. Overall,

recommendations for the feeding tube did not differ significantly by patient race, Modi said. Physicians recommended feeding tube placement in 19.6 percent of AfricanAmerican patients versus 16.4 percent of white patients. Significantly fewer recommendations for PEG were made by white physicians, internists and geriatricians. Among black physicians, 51 percent recommended a long-term feeding tube for the black patient and 24 percent for the white patient. The research found African-American physicians were three times more likely to recommend a long-term feeding tube than white doctors, Modi said. “In this survey, recommendation for PEG differed significantly by physician race and specialty and not by the race of the case patient,” Modi said. “It’s hard to draw further conclusions because the total number of African-American physician respondents is small though representative of physician demographics in North Carolina.” Modi wonders whether physicians make generalizations about what patients may want based on previous experience or if AfricanAmerican physicians are more sensitive to what their black patients have historically wanted. She also found in the study that Asian physicians were more likely to recommend a feeding tube for the white patient than the black patient. The study was funded in part by a fiveyear Geriatric Academic Career Award, part of federal Title VII budget allocations. The annual $57,000 allocation was cut in 2005 after only the second year of funding. Modi plans to conduct more research into the impact of clinician demographic factors on decision-making, especially where there is a race or sex concordance between physician and patient. She has begun a four-year National Institutes of Health-funded study of tube feeding decision-making in area nursing homes with researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She recently received an ECU Research and Graduate Studies Research Development Award to develop an educational video on tube feeding for the elderly.


in print

in print

“Conceiving a New Republic: The Republican Party and the Southern Question, 1869-1900” (University of Kansas, 2006) by Dr. Charles Calhoun Calhoun revisits the question of the role Republicans played to extend voting rights to blacks in the South during the years following the Civil War. Calhoun, a professor of history at East Carolina University, argues Republican leaders had set out, through the enactment of the 15th Amendment, to recreate the ideals of the Declaration of Independence but encountered opposition from white Southern voters. Calhoun’s books include “The Gilded Age” and “Benjamin Harrison.”

“Jihad and International Security” (Palgrave Macmillan) by Dr. Jalil Roshandel This book focuses on the emergence of jihad as a war strategy and its effects on global stability. Jihad is an Islamic term meaning to strive or struggle in the way of God, and is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam, although it has no official status. Jihad is also used to mean the struggle for or defense of Islam, or the holy war. Roshandel, a native of Iran who joined ECU last August, cowrote the book with Sharon Chadha, an independent Middle East scholar.

“Down in the Flood” (Iris Press, 2006) by Luke Whisnant Whisnant, a professor of creative writing at ECU, offers 14 short stories about love and family, life in the South and surviving disaster. Whisnant’s stories have appeared in “New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best,” “This is Where We Live: Short Stories by 25 Contemporary North Carolina Writers,” and “Racing Home.” He is the author of “Watching TV with the Red Chinese.” n

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in print

in print

“Naval Engagements: Patriotism, Cultural Politics and the Royal Navy, 1793-1815” (Oxford University Press, 2006) by Dr. Timothy Jenks Jenks, an assistant professor of history at ECU, looks at ways different segment of society gave meaning to that symbol of Britishness: the Royal Navy. Jenks presents a cultural history of national identity, a social history of naval commemoration and a political history of struggles over patriotism. The book establishes the centrality of naval symbolism to the political culture of Georgian Britain. Patriotism was contested, this study argues, rather than consensual, and British national identity in the period ebbed and flowed with naval successes or lack thereof.

“Promises Kept: East Carolina University 19802007” and “No Time for Ivy: East Carolina University 1907-2007” (BW&A Books, 2006) by Dr. Henry Ferrell Ferrell, official university historian, published these books to commemorate the centennial of East Carolina University. “Promises” looks at the university inside and out through the eyes of faculty and staff members. “Ivy,” a pictorial history, is about students, Greenville residents and ECU administrators. ECU archivist Suellyn Lathrop assisted Ferrell.

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“The Future of Organized Labor in American Politics” (Columbia University Press, 2006) By Dr. Peter L. Francia Francia, an assistant professor of political science, discusses the effects of John Sweeney’s controversial tenure as president of the AFL-CIO and assesses labor’s influence on American political elections and legislation. Drawing on interviews with union and business leaders, as well as campaign-finance and public-opinion data, Francia argues that Sweeney has employed a more effective and expansive grassroots political operation than his predecessors. He challenges critics who dismiss Sweeney’s efforts as a failure but cautions that the decline in union membership presents a serious crisis for the labor movement.

“Criminals of the Bible: Twentyfive Case Studies of Biblical Outlaws” (FaithWalk Publishing, 2006.) by Dr. Mark Jones With his book, Jones, a professor of criminal justice at ECU blends his two loves: criminal justice and the Bible. Among others, Jones cited Daniel with civil disobedience, John the Baptist with sedition, Joseph’s brothers with human trafficking and Jesus with blasphemy. Jones covers each case study using biblical text and some modern-day interpretation. Most chapters cover the following points: the scriptural reference for the crime; a short biography of the principle character or characters; the legal, social and political definition and context of the crime for that era; the same crime viewed through a modern legal, social and political lens; and the lessons that can be learned from the crime on a societal or individual level. Jones’ previous books are “Community Corrections” and “Criminal Justice Pioneers in U.S. History.” He has also published numerous academic journal articles.


ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard was among the speakers at a service forum March 8, one of the events of Founders Week. The week was special this year as it kicked off a two-year celebration of ECU’s centennial. The celebration culminates in late 2009 with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the first students to arrive in Greenville.

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East Carolina University Greenville, NC 27858-4353

Edge Spring 2007  

The research and creative activity magazine of East Carolina University.