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A JOURNAL GAZETTE & TIMES-COURIER SPECIAL SECTION | MAY 2010

Image ©iStockphoto.com/pavlen

EASTERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY

STUDIES FOR A BETTER WORLD A sampling of research taking place in your back yard

EIU PROVOST BLAIR LORD

PUBLISHER CARL WALWORTH

Scratch the surface and you’ll find a rich research community at Eastern

University research has implications beyond the local community

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his supplement features presentations of a sample of the research and scholarly work in which faculty members at Eastern Illinois University engage. All universities expect their faculty members not only to teach their students but to remain current in their academic discipline by engaging in research and scholarly activity. For major research institutions, such as the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, the portion of faculty time which is expected to be devoted to research and scholarly activities is significant. At a primarily teaching institution such as Eastern, LORD/Page 2

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ne way you may be familiar with the teacher education program at Eastern Illinois University is through EIU students being in classrooms in required student teaching. A less noticeable way Eastern faculty and students impact education is through research programs like one that assesses school counseling techniques. In both cases, there is interaction between the EIU campus and a school district near you. And both cases are designed to enhance K-12 education over the long term. “The engagement in scholarship like this (education research) WALWORTH/Page 2


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ABOUT THE SECTION This section on research at Eastern Illinois University is a collaborative effort between the university and the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier. At a regional university like Eastern that is focused on teaching, research may be overlooked and underplayed at times. Nonetheless, EIU faculty members are expected to contribute to their disciplines, and in the process engage in many interesting projects with broader implications. Thus, the idea emerged for a section to cover a sampling of research projects at Eastern. Two projects are included from each of the four EIU colleges. Faculty members wrote the articles. The newspaper staff completed the sales, design and production. Distribution is a joint effort, with the supplement being inserted into an edition of the newspaper as well as on and around campus. Our thanks to those at EIU who contributed to this section. We hope you enjoy the articles, and come away with an appreciation for some of the kinds of scholarship generated by local faculty.

INDEX Page 4: Britto Nathan and his students are working to understand more about a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease and a way to reverse its effects.

Page 7: Chris Kahler recalls the path he took to become a professional artist and an assistant professor of art at Eastern Illinois University.

Page 5: Biology Professor Janice Coons and her students are finding new species of plants and insects that call Illinois sand prairies their home.

Page 8: Chemistry Professor Gopal Periyannan and his students study a way to break down dying plants into chemicals to be used for manufacturing and biofuel.

Page 5: Robert Holmes, director of Astronomical Research Institute, and James Conwell, the EIU Observatory director, keep an eye out for asteroids.

LORD Continued from cover this expectation is less extensive, but still critical to the intellectual vitality of our faculty and the institution. I am confident that you will be interested — and perhaps even surprised — by the relevance of the research activities taking place “in your own back yard.” A great deal of our faculty member’s efforts address problems, issues and/or matters of intrinsic interest to

WALWORTH Continued from cover offers a lot of opportunities for students and faculty to be change agents in their discipline,” said Bob Augustine, the EIU dean of the graduate school, research and international programs. “Understanding how things work and how changes impact something like counseling techniques gives students a critical advantage.” Eastern faculty received more than 30 grants during the past two years with a total of about $1.5 million in those two years combined. Research expectations at a regional university like Eastern differ from those at a school like the University of Illinois in Urbana. Faculty at Eastern are expected to make contributions to their discipline, often in what Augustine describes as applied research

Page 10: Cindy Rich helps to archive the stories of a group of Railway Post Office clerks who trav-

eled American railroads cancelling, sorting and loading mail. Page 11: The School of Family and Consumer Sciences observes and analyzes the shopping behaviors of shoppers battling for Black Friday deals. Page 11: Assistant professors in the Department of Kinesiology and Sports Studies examine the effectiveness of a piece of exercise equipment versus traditional exercise.

our community, region and state. Several of these stories describe inquiry of obvious direct application to east central Illinois — the development of hitherto discarded plant matter as a potential bio-fuel source, for example. Beyond this, however, these areas of study provide opportunities for EIU students to become engaged in scholarly activities that greatly enrich their overall educational experiences. Involvement in a faculty member’s laboratory, in field work, in an art studio, or other creative environment

beyond the formal classroom brings deeper meaning to the learning taking place. Faculty members must be engaged in such work in order for them to effectively mentor students in similar inquiries. Finally, some of this scholarly work leads to additional funding. Federal and state support for faculty research and scholarship resulted in more than 130 separate grants for service and research during the last fiscal year. These grant funds support specific research and activities that otherwise might not be possible.

Because all faculty members and, ultimately, our students are expected to explore and inquire, the range of scholarly activities at Eastern Illinois University is enormous. The examples featured here, as wide-ranging as they are, represent only a small sampling of what is taking place on and near our campus. I am very proud of the accomplishments of our faculty and students. I believe that you, too, after reading the stories here, will be equally as proud of the timely and important work taking place right here in Coles County.

that directly impacts how something is used in the field. That might mean asking questions such as how a process would improve dietetics, how to improve results in psychology, or in business. In education, the research deals in part with providing evidence for outcomes of different types of teaching approaches. University research is a key component to a campus community with implications that go beyond the campus, Augustine said. Research across the country is behind new product development that is driving changes in the economy. “Often the public tells us we need a better way to do a particular task or function,” Augustine said. “We use that to find solutions.” The federal government is the biggest funding source for research projects at Eastern. Agencies typically will advertise that money is avail-

able for study in a broad area. Faculty who have an interest in that area submit competitive proposals. “What you want is an alignment between the characteristics of the research and the faculty member’s interests,” said Bob Chesnut, the director of the office of research and sponsored programs at Eastern. “It’s very competitive at the federal level.” The National Science Foundation, for example, rejects four of every five proposals, so faculty also have to understand to keep going when a proposal is turned away. “There is an important place for research here,” Chesnut said, noting that EIU faculty are evaluated on teaching, research and service. “The amount of research expected depends on the department and in some cases the faculty member.” Some research also may be partially funded by either state government or a private entity.

Research is beneficial for students, too. “A number of grants budget money for student help,” Chesnut said. “Students are mentored in the process. Students have sub-projects and often have their own little piece for the project.” In the best cases, students ask questions that prompt the researcher to think of something differently. “It’s a two-way street,” Chesnut said. “Good students ask questions that help with the research and as they mature develop ideas of their own.” Faculty members then follow up based on their expertise, and other research going on in their field across the country. “They develop a consistent record of follow-up on questions they’ve followed,” Chesnut said. Eight research or creative activity projects at Eastern are highlighted in this section. They are a sample of the kinds of ongoing faculty projects that are part of academic life.


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Submitted photo

Eastern Illinois University biology Professor Britto Nathan and his students are the first to show that the protein apoE4 causes stunting of brain cells, essentially destroying the communication network between brain cells. An individual who inherits two genes for apoE4 has a 91 percent chance of inheriting Alzheimer’s.

CONQUERING ALZHEIMER’S Critical research takes aim at explaining how inherited protein causes Alzheimer’s By BRITTO NATHAN Professor, EIU Department of Biology

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ust hearing the name “Alzheimer’s disease” will make the nerves shiver in anyone who has had experience with Alzheimer’s victims. AD is a memory-robbing disease that strips its victims of their human qualities: memory, reasoning, language and dignity. Approximately 5 million Americans have AD, and this number is expected to grow exponentially to as many as 20 million by the middle of this century. AD places an enormous economic burden on the U.S. health-care system. A recent study estimated that the annual national cost of caring for AD patients is slightly over $150 billion. Patients with AD show tremendous loss of nerve cells in their brain. There are about 100 billion nerve cells in a healthy human brain. These cells extend fine projections, known as neurites, which in the brain forms networks, like Internet connections, that are required for normal mental processes. AD creeps in by killing a few brain cells and their connections, jeopardizing communication lines between nerve cells. Loss of communication leads to further cell death, thus fueling a vicious cycle of nerve cell death over a period of about a decade. Brains of AD patients in the later stages of the disease show tremendous shrinkage due to nerve cell death. Ghosts of dead cells and debris clutter the brain, as if a tornado struck through a beautiful house. All of the destruction in the brain obviously affects normal human functions and disrupts daily life. The beginning stages of AD resemble normal forgetting, which every one experiences once in a while — events like forgetting a parking spot and searching for keys. But gradual progression of AD leads to tremendous memory loss. Very soon, AD patients cannot even recognize their own friends and family. In the final stages, AD patients cannot form or store memory, and they become totally dependent on others. Most of them become

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My students and I are the first ones to show that apoE4 causes stunting of brain cells, essentially destroying the communication network between brain cells.

weak and bed-bound, and eventually fall prey to infections like pneumonia. Unfortunately, the causes for AD are not yet known, and sadly, there is no way to stop or slow the progression of AD. However, several risk factors for AD have been identified. One of the major ones is inheritance of a protein called apoE4. ApoE, a fattransporting protein, comes in three flavors: apoE2, apoE3 and apoE4. Each person gets one apoE gene from his father and one from his mother. Scientists have found that apoE4 carriers have a higher chance of getting AD. For example, an individual who inherits two genes for apoE4 has a 91 percent chance of inheriting the disease. However, we do not know how inheritance of apoE4 causes AD, and my research is aimed at answering this important question. My students and I are the first ones to show that apoE4 causes stunting of brain cells, essentially destroying the communication network between brain cells. Using brain cells grown on plastic plates, we showed that apoE3 promoted neuronal growth, whereas apoE4 dramatically reduced neuronal growth. Imagine a brain with this sort of stunted neurons attacked by apoE4, with rudimentary connections between neurons, and then it is clear to see why individuals with apoE4 get AD. We have now turned our attention to studying ways to control the production of apoE forms in the brain. Students in my laboratory have found that the well-known female sex hormone estrogen is one of the master regulators of apoE production in the brain. Apart from estrogen’s action on the brain, it has numerous effects on other parts of body. Estrogen treatment has also been shown to increase the incidence of cancer. So, now we are in the search for “a designer estrogen-like molecule” that reduces the production of the bad apoE, apoE4, in the brain, but increases the good apoE, apoE3, with relatively no effects on other body parts and no cancer risk — that’s our long-term dream!


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Native plant study never-ending source of wonder By JANICE COONS Professor, EIU Department of Biology

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emember how much fun you had visiting the woods or playing in your grandma’s garden when you were a child? You encountered so many wonderful things to investigate and explore, often with cousins and friends sharing the excitement. Research done by Janice Coons, a biology professor at Eastern Illinois University, allows her to experience this childhood excitement on a regular basis as she studies native plant species of Illinois in collaboration with EIU colleagues (Nancy Coutant, John Ebinger, Barbara Lawrence, Henry Owen, Thomas Over, Vince Gutowski and Barbara Carlsward), botanists from other agencies (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, Illinois Natural History Survey and Missouri Department of Conservation), and numerous students. One area of her research involves rare species of Illinois. When she first started this research in 1998, students flocked to the project, as dealing with something rare was almost like studying “sex” as far as its attractiveness. In fact, much of her work deals with “sex” of plants — their reproductive biology (i.e. how they reproduce). The rare species she has studied include Patterson bindweed (its flowers resemble those of morning glory) and silvery bladderpod (named after its silvery leaves and bladder-shaped fruits), both of which are found in sand prairies. A sand prairie is a combination of a beach (without the ocean) and a garden (complete with beautiful flowers and plants as well as fascinating insects and creatures). The consistency of soil in sand prairies allows deep holes to be dug easily by hand, which her group sometimes does when learning about how the species’ roots allow them to adapt to hot and dry conditions. The opportunities for new discoveries are frequent in Coons’ research, which allows her to maintain and share her enthusiasm with students. For example, while surveying Patterson bindweed, the group was able to collect a bee fly. The insect — which is fuzzy like a bee, but hovers, and has a long tubular mouth like a hummingbird, and is usually heard before it’s seen — had never been reported in Illinois before. While studying silvery bladderpod, she has traveled to sand prairies in Utah, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota

Eric Hiltner/Staff Photographer

Eastern Illinois University Biology Professor Janice Coons studies native plant species of Illinois in collaboration with EIU colleagues, botanists and students. Her research takes her to sand prairies where opportunities for new discoveries are frequent.

I am truly blessed to have a profession that allows me to continually work with plants and young people as well as colleagues who are friends — while still ‘playing’ outside.

and Wisconsin. Her groups’ studies of silvery bladderpod have shown that this rare Illinois species produces numerous viable seeds that are easy to germinate, but seeds quickly disappear in the sand prairie soils. They have also discovered some of the species’ interesting and unique strategies to survive in the hot, dry summer conditions of prairies. For example, evergreen leaves allow the plants to flower and develop their seeds very early, before temperatures are hot or soils are dry. Their flower stalks can be seen in March, and their seeds are totally shed by June. Findings from these studies with rare species

Astronomers part of NASA asteroid-hunting program Charleston astronomers search the skies for killer asteroids in conjunction with NASA’s ‘Near Earth Object’program By JIM CONWELL Professor, EIU Department of Physics

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he universe is a violent place out there. Between stars blowing up as supernovas, gamma ray bursts hailing the birth of black holes, and dinosaur-killing asteroids hitting Earth, it pays to keep your

head down. We can’t do much about the first two, but we might be able to prevent ourselves going the way of the dinosaurs — death by asteroid — but we have to find the asteroids first. EIU faculty and students are doing their part to assist in this effort. Asteroids constantly bombard Earth every day, but the Earth’s atmosphere protects us from the small stuff; anything less than a few meters will burn up in the atmosphere. The light from this can be seen many nights as meteors or “shooting stars.“ The larger ones can do real damage. A 50meter-wide meteor, about half the size of a football field, hitting at about 12 miles per second, would release the same energy as the largest nuclear weapon, about 20 million tons of TNT. It would create a mile-wide crater and destroy everything in a radius of 10 miles. An object this size, either a meteor or comet, was thought to have caused the Tunguska blast in Siberia in 1908. The object that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was 200 times wider and 8 million times more massive, the size of Mount Everest. To find these “killer asteroids,” NASA has set up the “Near Earth Object” program. Charleston is a part of this program, as two EIU physics faculty members — Robert Holmes, director of Astronomical Research Institute, and James Conwell, the EIU Observatory director — were awarded a grant from NASA to track asteroids that could hit Earth. Students from EIU’s physics department, along with others worldwide, take photos from ARI’s 24-inch and 32-inch telescopes to confirm and measure the paths of newly discovered asteroids. The purpose is to find any that cross Earth’s orbit and pose a hazard to us. The confirmation measurements are as important as the original discovery of an asteroid. Two or more measurements are needed to obtain an orbit. Without these measurements, the future path of the object cannot be predicted. On a clear night, ARI’s telescopes can take more than 1,000 photos of asteroids. The next morning, and sometimes the same night, the

search begins. The students download the picture files from ARI, and then, using the computer program Astrometrica, they search for moving objects in a series of three or more pictures. After connecting to a database at Harvard’s Minor Planet Center, students can learn whether this is a known object or a newly discovered object to be measured. They then report the shifts in the position, speed and direction — and occasionally, while measuring the paths of asteroids, some surprises can appear. On a cold Friday night in late January 2009, while measuring the asteroid 2008 EV1 to better pin down its orbit, Holmes found another high-speed object moving through the same set of photos. It turned out to be an undiscovered Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. The 314-meter-wide asteroid was given the name 2009 BD81. This object was classified a “Risk” object on the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory website, with 10 potential chances to hit Earth after March 4, 2042. That year, it will miss the earth by just 5.5 earth radii. It will make an even closer approach in 2044. After a few weeks of observations, enough was known about the orbit to determine it would be a near miss, and not a direct hit on Earth. It’s common to have several asteroids in the same picture. If any are not known and reported, the student is given credit as a co-discoverer of a new asteroid. The future holds even more potential for future discoveries. The EIU physics students, under Conwell’s direction, are refurbishing a 30-inch-diameter robotic telescope that was obtained after it had been stuck by lightning in New Mexico. This scope will be added to the hunt this year at ARI dark site along with the 24- and 32-inch telescopes already there. In addition, ARI will soon start building a new 50-inch telescope with two-and-one-half times the light-gathering power of their large 32-inch scope. More telescopes searching will mean more asteroids found and measured. The sooner and further away any potential hazardous rock is found, the more time we will have to deflect it from its dangerous path.

Submitted photo

Thanks to grant funding from NASA, EIU physics faculty members Robert Holmes, director of Astronomical Research Institute, and James Conwell, EIU Observatory director, scan the skies to find and track asteroids that could hit Earth.

are valuable for the management of the unique and precious sand prairies and their associated species. Coons also works on developing techniques for propagating native plant species for use in prairie restoration. Many native plant species are a little more particular than garden seeds about whether they will germinate or not. They have seed dormancies, which prevent them from germinating until the time of year when they have the greatest chance of surviving to maturity. Three common techniques are used to break seed dormancy: cold, cut and wait. n Her research group frequently treats seeds

with cold, moist conditions to simulate winter. n They may also break dormancy by cutting the seed coat, which may be very hard and thus prevent the germinating seed from emerging. In nature, the seed coat could be broken by freezing and thawing or by blowing sand in sand prairies, but Coons’ group uses razor blades, files or concentrated sulfuric acid to cut the seed coats. Their studies with Patterson bindweed showed that it would germinate best after soaking in concentrated sulfuric acid for two hours. n The third technique is just to wait, where seeds require an afterripening when they must lie around for a period of time until dormancy is broken. The group has also recently begun studying another fascinating way to break seed dormancy — smoke. Bee smokers are used in this work. “When you see a seed of a rare plant species germinate for the first time following a treatment that you provided, it is truly exciting,” Coons said. Many native plants that are propagated by the research group are used to restore prairies in Illinois and Missouri, as well as for use in landscaping and home gardens. “If you are tired of watering, fertilizing and treating your garden plants for pests, then native species are for you,” Coons said. “They are more environmentally friendly than exotic species commonly used for landscaping. They require less water, less fertilizer and fewer pesticides. Plus, they are adapted to Illinois conditions, as they have been growing here for thousands of years without our help.“ Native plants also attract beautiful butterflies and birds. Another advantage is that they also are less likely to become invasive species in our natural areas. Coons’ work has led to extensive outreach, including the establishment of demonstration gardens with prairie and woodland species on EIU’s campus, donation of native plants to Master Gardeners and schools, development of brochures and posters to highlight features of native species, implementation of a native plant logo in use by the Green Industry of Illinois, and presentations of workshops and talks too numerous to count. “I am truly blessed to have a profession that allows me to continually work with plants and young people as well as colleagues who are friends — while still ‘playing’ outside,” Coons said. For more information on Coons’ research, see her website at http://www.eiu.edu/~biology/personnel/coons.php.


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carried a lot of weight for me and I really admired my dad and his work. I thought going to museums and galleries was a normal part of everyone’s family vacations. I was an obsessive drawer for as long as I can remember and was always encouraged to be involved with art. Once in high school, I had early success my freshman year with local and national competitions. Then one of my favorite stories occurred at this stage of my life — my father was the president of the Milwaukee Art Museum for a few years, and he got the rare opportunity to sit down with artistic legend Georgia O’Keefe. He mentioned to her that he had a son who was an aspiring artist and wondered if she had any advice. “Don’t do it,” she replied. “I would not wish this life on anyone.”

My parents took this very seriously and decided to encourage me to focus more on my other studies and stop taking art classes for my sophomore and junior year. I returned to art class in my senior year after a lot of begging, but compromised in my selection of an undergraduate degree and entered Ohio Wesleyan University as an English major. I had a trick up my sleeve; I went to the first day of registration and tried to get in a drawing class. It was a turning point in my life. Marty Kalb was the professor of painting and drawing, and he looked me coolly in the eye and said I could not sign up for drawing without the prerequisite of 2-D Design. The catch was that all the 2-D classes were full. KAHLER/Page 8

Chris Kahler

AN ARTIST’S JOURNEY By CHRIS KAHLER Associate Professor, EIU Department of Art

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ow did I get to this point in my career? A simple motto that seems to be working so far: hard work and blind faith in my ability to make things work out in the end. As an artist, nothing is predictable and it is important to stay focused on your goals. I grew up in Milwaukee, with two brothers and one sister. None of them had artistic interests, but my mother has always been a hard-working watercolor artist who was in it for the fun of taking classes, not making it a career choice. My father was the president of Kahler Slater Architects, one of the best firms in Wisconsin. This


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BREAKING DOWN TO BUILD UP Turning plant materials into chemicals, biofuels goal of research at Eastern By GOPAL PERIYANNAN Professor, EIU Department of Chemistry

As local farmers go about the task of spring planting, few realize that research taking place in a nearby laboratory may, eventually, help put a few extra dollars in their pockets. Gopal Periyannan, a chemistry professor at Eastern Illinois University, believes that certain dead plant materials — corn stalks, for example, or even saw dust — can be broken down into useful chemicals for the manufacturing of items such as plastics or biofuel products. In addition, he believes the conversions can be done at a microbiological level, allowing the procedure to be done with minimal energy and with few, if any, chemicals. “It would be an economical and environmentally friendly process,” Periyannan said. “And a process that could add to the economical value of a crop.” It’s not a new idea. Accord-

Gopal Periyannan tive research by early career scientists, both individually and in teams crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Cottrell College Science Award has the added goal of promoting the opportunity for undergraduate stu-

I think the long-term implications of our research could be significant. Especially given the increased need and interest for renewable resources.

ing to Periyannan, scientists worldwide have been actively pursuing this field of study for some time. In fact, he and many of his students have worked on their portion of the research for at least two years, he added. And that research recently resulted in a $41,175 Single Investigator Cottrell College Science Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. RCSA, created in 1912, is America’s second-oldest foundation and the first dedicated solely to science. Through its various programs, RCSA funds innova-

dents to participate in cutting-edge research and experience that gives them a head start in learning to think like scientists. The foundation’s goal is to build and improve the scientific workforce to ensure 21stcentury America’s prosperity and security. “The funding has a strong educational component of research,” Periyannan said. “It allows us to provide research opportunities to our students, including two paid summer internships.” Matthew Payea, a chemistry major from Naperville, appreciates such opportuni-

KAHLER Continued from 7 I was devastated, but I looked him in the eye and asked, “Then why don’t you let me into drawing with the understanding I will take 2-D in the spring?” He had a very curious look and asked to see if I had any portfolio with me to prove my worth to be bumped forward. Luckily for me, he thought I might be up to the challenge and was willing to take the gamble. Marty turned out to be my mentor for four years, and he changed the course of my life. When I went on to Northwestern University for my MFA degree, I had the amazing opportunity to be mentored by Ed Paschke, William Conger and James Valerio. They had vastly different interests and styles of working with a common link of contagious optimism in the potential of painting. After graduating from Northwestern, I went out to the Vermont Studio Center for a threemonth residency that proved to be a turning point in my artwork. I then moved to New York City and got a job at an architecture firm scanning images for the marketing department. Within a few weeks, the head of the graphic design department started asking me to help with small projects; within a few months, I was a full-time graphic designer for the firm. Within a year, I was the marketing coordinator for the office, designing all of the brochures, etc., for the company. The problem was, I missed being a full-time artist, and teaching still was on my mind. I applied to an open position at EIU and arrived in Charleston with an annually contracted job. My first year at EIU was very exciting, but nerve-wracking due to the uncertainty of a job the following school year. Meanwhile, the firm I worked for in NYC offered me a job as the marketing manager of the firm and gave me triple the salary I was making at EIU. This was a life-changing decision, but I had faith in my career as an artist/educator. Yes, it was a tough choice, but I know it was

ties. He admitted that he didn’t expect to work so closely with his professors when he first came to Eastern. “I always thought that was something reserved for students at research-oriented institutions like UIUC (University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign),” he said. And now, having experienced the one-on-one learning opportunity, “I wouldn’t trade any of it.” “It’s a great experience,” Payea added. “As a student in the field of bio-chemistry, I appreciate this chance to work with Dr. Periyannan and others to learn the technology and skills that will help me in my ‘real life.’ I’m learning much more than I ever could in just a traditional classroom environment. “It’s a form of integrative learning that will help me become a much better chemist,” he said. Periyannan noted that some students actually get to present their findings before audiences at scientific conferences and other events. Payea recently presented his research at the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research. In addition to the educational advantages such presentations provide, it also proves how relevant the research is to the scientific world at large. “I think the long-term implications of our research could be significant,” he said. “Especially given the increased need and interest for renewable resources.” Periyannan doesn’t expect any quick completion to his research, or that of the subject as a whole. For example, scientists still need to determine the long-term impact of removing residual corn stalks from working fields. “The soil obtains some of its nutrients from decaying plant materials,” he said. “We need to determine how the removal of that plant material might affect subsequent crops.”

Uncertainty is part of the game, but having faith in your abilities and moving forward no matter how difficult it gets is what separates you from the crowd.

the right one. I am in my 11th year of teaching at EIU, and I have the best of both worlds. The past few years have been incredibly fortunate for my art career. This past October, I had my third solo show at Bruno David Gallery in St Louis. It got a lot of local critical attention and culminated in my first review in Art in America, arguably one of the best art magazines in the world. It has been a life goal for me to get in that magazine, and I am hoping that I am able to continue on this path. The success of this show has earned me the attention of a new contemporary art gallery opening in Sante Fe, N.M., this summer. I will be having a solo show opening the end of August, and then a solo show in Orlando, Fla., in January. As artists, we are required to be incredibly selfish, and we have demanding schedules. The artwork does not make itself, and we have responsibilities to our job and families. It is a juggling act that can be very overwhelming at times, but very rewarding. I am very fortunate to have an amazingly supportive wife and daughter. Teaching and being an active artist offers me the opportunity to not only pursue my career goals, but also mentor students to follow their life goals and mature as artists. Uncertainty is part of the game, but having faith in your abilities and moving forward no matter how difficult it gets is what separates you from the crowd.


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CONSTANT

MOTION Team tasked with documenting tales, artifacts of Railway Post Office clerks By CINDY RICH Director of EIU Teaching with Primary Sources

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ach family has a box of keepsakes gathering dust in an attic or basement. Some items, like those at the Library of Congress, have historical significance and are shared electronically with the world. Some are private, like a letter shared within a family or a photo passed through generations. Sharing these items offers a glimpse into our daily lives and local events that may not be preserved in other places. Primary sources are original items that have survived from the past, such as documents, letters and photographs. They were part of a direct personal experience of a specific time or event. Every object has a creator, and every creator has a unique perspective. Sharing primary sources with future generations connects them to our personal histories. Teaching with Primary Sources is an initiative of the Library of Congress that celebrates the power of teaching with primary sources — engaging students by showing them that history is REAL and that the people, places and events of the past impact who they and their communities are today. This spring, 11 former railway post office clerks came to Eastern Illinois University to share personal stories and artifacts. For more than 100 years, Railway Post Office cars carrying clerks cancelling, sorting and loading mail were found on American railroads. RPO clerks were considered to be the elite of the mail service, in constant motion, spending days away from home working the mail into pouches and slots at 60-80 mph. They spent time off studying schemes to learn exact locations of thousands of towns, villages and connecting communities. Clerks were held at the highest level of accountability and took great pride in their work. When we think of mail trains, we imagine blackand-white film showing gun-wielding bandits or

gnarled piles of wreckage. While these images may reflect early days, this project studies mail by rail in the mid-1900s — a time of growth and change. Long before cell phones, text messages and email, it was the U.S. Mail that connected the nation. As recently as 1950, 93 percent of non-local mail was processed over 600,000 route miles daily with clerks working and sometimes catching and delivering “on the fly.“ The end of the RPO is linked to growth and changes in the entire country. In the 1960s, post offices were built in communities off the railway, being developed on new highway systems. Passage of the 1956 National Defense Highways Act led to affordable automobiles and the development of interstate highways and rail passengers decreased sharply. Because mail cars were part of passenger trains, the number of trains available dropped. The U.S. Postal Service knew it was time for a change and

skilled RPO clerks were transferred to other assignments. The goal of this project — titled “Constant Motion: The Job of Railway Post Office Clerks” — is to create a collection of resources to help educators teach about the jobs of RPO clerks at a fascinating time of American history using primary sources. Products being created include a website of digitized resources such as short videos and collections of digitized primary sources like photographs, documents and tools. A documentary being produced by WEIU-TV will feature highlights of the interviews; it is to air in May. Now through the end of May, an exhibit at EIU’s Booth Library features personal items shared by some of the clerks. These resources will be shared beyond EIU. The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program reaches educators throughout the nation. The Smithsonian Institute National Postal Museum has expressed interest in the materials for their Railway Mail Service division, as has the United States Postal Service Archival Programs, Railway Mail Service Library and various local historical societies and associations. Originally the idea of EIU Teaching with Primary Sources team, Cindy Rich and Melissa Carr, the project became a reality with support from academic departments, Booth Library and WEIU. Students of Jay Bickford in the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary and Middle Level Education participated by researching railway post offices and roles of the clerks, interviewing clerks and digitizing primary sources. Students experienced firsthand the power of teaching with primary sources and will hopefully engage students in their classrooms through oral histories, personal artifacts and local history. Lori Casey and Kate Pleasant, producers with WEIU, assisted Department of Communication Studies students as they directed, filmed and edited recorded interviews. The project website is currently being developed, but is available at http://www.eiu.edu/~eiutps/clerks.


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FOR A BETTER WORLD | APRIL 2010

Eric Hiltner/Staff Photographer

Jeff Willardson, left, and Mark Kattenbraker, right, both assistant professors in the EIU Department of Kinesiology and Sports Studies, and graduate student Maranda Rehg studied the effectiveness of the popular exercise machine the Ab Circle versus traditional exercise.

FIT OR FAD? Fitness equipment put to the test against traditional exercise without machines By JEFFREY M. WILLARDSON and MARK S. KATTENBRAKER Assistant Professors, EIU Department of Kinesiology and Sports Studies

T

hrough the years, there has been a steady stream of exercise devices offered for sale to the public, and one Eastern Illinois University student — with the help of two faculty members — recently decided to test the effectiveness of one highly popular infomercial offering, the Ab Circle. When participating in an exercise program, one of the most targeted muscle groups is the abdominals. Everyone seems to desire fit-looking abdominals more than any other muscle group. These muscles are considered part of what is collectively referred to as the “core” of the body. Maintaining or increasing the fitness of the core muscles is important for alleviating low back pain, efficient posture and aesthetics. Dozens of devices have been developed over the past 30 years that claim to better train the core muscles (and

particularly the abdominals) vs. traditional exercises like the basic crunch. Some of the common claims made by manufacturers of these devices include: “greater overall effectiveness than traditional exercises,” “greater sports specificity,” “greater muscle activation,” “greater trunk range of movement,” “greater spinal support” and “simultaneous and effective cardiovascular conditioning.” The Ab Circle is a popular exercise device that has recently sold over 1 million units and has been advertised heavily on a television infomercial. Described as a “treadmill for your abs,” the Ab Circle is intended to activate the core muscles through continuous trunk lateral flexion that alternates on each side of the body. An individual is positioned on the machine with the knees supported on the pads, while grasping the handles. The individual then pulls on the handles to initiate a half-circular motion. This continuous movement is intended to train the cardiovascular system as well as stimulate activity of the core muscles.

Exercise intensity can be regulated by increasing the angle for greater gravitational pull. Whereas most other devices involve trunk flexion and extension, the Ab Circle involves trunk lateral flexion. The effectiveness of the Ab Circle was recently studied by Maranda Rehg, a graduate student at EIU, working with Jeffrey M. Willardson and Mark S. Kattenbraker, both assistant professors in the EIU Department of Kinesiology and Sports Studies. The purpose of this study was to compare the activation of specific core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, external oblique abdominis, lower abdominal stabilizers and lumbar erector spinae during performance of traditional exercises (i.e. crunch, side bridge and quadruped) vs. exercising on the Ab Circle device. Caloric expenditure during treadmill walking vs. exercising on the Ab Circle was also investigated. Twelve healthy people (six men, six women) between the ages of 19 and 37 were recruited to participate in this study. Muscle activation was studied

using surface electromyography (EMG). All three levels of the Ab Circle device were tested against the crunch, side bridge and quadruped exercises. Caloric expenditure was studied using a portable metabolic measurement system. All three levels of the Ab Circle device were tested against walking on a treadmill at 3 mph and 5 percent incline. All exercise modes were monitored for three minutes to assess the calories expended. The researchers found that the Ab Circle produced equal or superior muscle activity vs. the crunch, side bridge and quadruped. The Ab Circle provided a highly efficient workout that addressed all core muscles simultaneously. Additionally, the real advantage in using the Ab Circle might be the fact that an equal number of calories were expended as walking on a treadmill. Therefore, the study found, the Ab Circle provided an efficient combination of muscle conditioning and calorie-burning benefits all in one machine.

Study examines mannerisms of Black Friday shoppers By LINDA SIMPSON, KATHLEEN O’ROURKE, LISA TAYLOR, KATIE SHAW, JILL BOWERS, DEBORAH REIFSTECK EIU School of Family and Consumer Sciences

I

was here first, move!” “I don’t even want to be here. It’s crazy.” “If anyone gets in my way, they better watch out. That’s all I’m saying.” “You have to fight for what you want or go home empty handed.” “There’s no sign. That’s stupid!” Attention all shoppers: Welcome to the day after Thanksgiving and the Black Friday experience! When thinking of shopping on Black Friday, the things that come to mind are getting up at the crack of dawn, finding that perfect parking spot, long lines, waiting, bargains, crowds and chaos. Black Friday signifies the start of the Christmas holiday shopping season, which runs from the Friday after Thanksgiving Day and continues until Dec. 24. It has become a tradition for many families and friends to shop together on Black Friday — even going so far as to wearing matching Tshirts sporting Black Friday designs and using walkie-talkies to communicate with each other when bargains are found. In recent years, the media has reported serious injuries, and even deaths, associated with the aggressive shoppers on this day. In 2008, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death and others were injured after an out-ofcontrol mob of shoppers smashed through the front doors when the store opened. Other less serious injuries of shoppers also have been reported over the years. A class discussion by students who were sharing their personal Black Friday shopping experiences after Thanksgiving break inspired a research study to take a closer look at this shopping day. The year 2007 marked the first study. Why does this shopping day bring about

Kevin Kilhoffer/Staff Photographer

Kathleen O’Rourke, Linda Simpson and Lisa Taylor helped to lead a study to observe and analyze the shopping behaviors of Black Friday shoppers, which was inspired by a class discussion at Eastern Illinois University.

Competitiveness of getting something that someone else wants also plays a role in the increased aggression of the shopper. Many shoppers have admitted to a competitive mindset prior to entering stores on Black Friday.

extreme behavior? People tend to be more stressed during the holiday season, with time constraints for shopping for gifts and attend-

ing more social functions. In addition, Black Friday is known for long lines, customers waiting outdoors in cold

weather for stores to open, confusion and chaos, heavily crowded stores, long checkout lines, and the lack of availability of advertised sale products — all of which can lead to frustration and aggression for consumers who are already experiencing high stress. Competitiveness of getting something that someone else wants also plays a role in the increased aggression of the shopper. Many shoppers have admitted to a competitive mindset prior to entering stores on Black Friday. One shopper even mentioned the “crazy looks” in other shoppers’ eyes. This study was developed to observe and analyze the shopping behaviors of the Black Friday customer. Undergraduate and graduate students were trained to observe shoppers and document behaviors and emotions that included aggression, anger, anxiety, belligerence, boredom, bumping other carts, calmness, choking, courteousness, cursing, disgust, distress, dominance, excitement, fear, grabbing products or other customers, happiness, holding other customers, irritability, kicking other customers, maternal/paternal aggression, punching/pushing/shoving/tripping other customers, sadness, tension, territorial or irritable aggression, tiredness, weapon usage, whining, and yelling or name-calling. Results showed that emotions and behaviors of Black Friday shoppers ranged from calm, courteous and happy to anxious and irritable. While the current research suggests that relatively few shoppers demonstrated aggressiveness, even this small number could result in potentially dangerous behaviors and pose a safety concern to store employees and shoppers. In the past, retailers have been posting weak profits during the holiday season; therefore, it is important for retailers to understand shoppers’ motives on Black Friday to develop strategies to minimize frustration and aggression and, in turn, increase holiday sales.


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FOR A BETTER WORLD | APRIL 2010

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