Discover CELEBRATING NORTHERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY RESEARCH AND CREATIVITY
Facets of the Industrial Revolution
“Green Technology” gets More Green
A Dangerous New Trend
Welcome to volume three of Northern Kentucky University’s DISCOVER, a publication designed to highlight a sampling of the outstanding research being done at NKU. Although it is impossible to capture and share information about all the extraordinary scholarship being produced by our faculty, this publication provides an opportunity to gain a glimpse into the many outstanding research activities across our campus. You will note a wide diversity of high-quality research undertaken at NKU.
Dr. Gail Wells Vice President Academic Affairs
Not only do these faculty succeed in scholarship, but they are also excellent teachers committed to NKU’s “learning and learner centered” mission. Many of these faculty have successfully engaged students in the research described in the following pages, an experience that is often transformative for students. In addition, our faculty are procuring very competitive grants to support their work; receiving recognition on the local, state, national and international levels; and producing cultural, scientific, intellectual, social and economic benefits for our society. As you read these articles, please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of these talented faculty members and congratulate them on their success.
University faculty are expected to be productive scholars, be excellent teachers and participate as leaders at the university and in the community. Discover is designed to feature and celebrate the scholarly endeavors of faculty at NKU that range from cutting-edge scientific research, through thoughtful exploration in the humanities, to activities that add beauty and enjoyment to the community in which we live and to the world as a whole.
Dr. Salina Shrofel Associate Provost for Research/Dean of Graduate Studies
NKU faculty work closely with students in their scholarly studies and provide opportunities for students to connect the theoretical world of the classroom to the worlds of basic and applied research, equipping future generations to address and solve current and future problems as they arise. In this issue you will learn about • The Industrial Revolution and literature. • Solar technology. • The effect of energy drinks when mixed with alcohol. • Teacher planning time. • Sports-related concussions. • Nursing research and lead poisoning of children. • Applied theatre. • Developing a better vaccine. • Protective privacy. • Better accounting practices.
THE NORTHERN KENTUCKY RESEARCH FOUNDATION
Discover VOLUME THREE
LOCOMOTIVES, LITERATURE AND CHANGE:
THE WIDE-RANGING EFFECTS OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
14 PROFESSIONAL HEALTH 16
TAKING THE STING OUT OF A HIT
ALL THE DRAMA!
18 PEERING INSIDE A CELL 06
LIGHT IT UP:
RESEARCH THAT COULD LEAD TO BETTER SOLAR TECHNOLOGY
MIXING IT UP:
EXAMINING A NEW DRINKING TREND INVOLVING ENERGY DRINKS
22 ADD IT UP
Discover is published annually by the Office of the Associate Provost for Research at Northern Kentucky University. Copyright 2010. Northern Kentucky University. Publisher: Salina Shrofel, Ph.D. Associate Provost for Research Editor/Writer: Designer: Visit us online:
AND YOUR PLANS ARE?
PROFESSORS STUDY BEST USE OF COMMON TEACHER PLANNING TIME
This publication was prepared by Northern Kentucky University and printed with state funds (KRS 57.375) Equal Education and Employment Opportunities M/F/D. MC00872
Feoshia Henderson Caroline Scheidler www.nku.edu/~nkudiscover
On the cover: The M. Rumely Company of La Porte, In., built the engine around 1913. This image appears in The Steam Tractor Encyclopedia. Photo courtesy of John F. Spalding.
Locomotives, literature and change: The wide-ranging effects of the Industrial Revolution What do the Industrial Revolution and American literature have in common? Or the steam tractor and North American cultural change? Perhaps more than you realize, according to one NKU professor who’s devoted decades to studying the links between American literature, social shifts and industrial modernization in the 19th and 20th centuries. When technological changes now occur so quickly that today’s must-have gadget is next month’s old news, it may be easy to forget that the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s and early 1900s was just that: a true revolution that forever changed the American outlook on work, leisure and lifestyle in what was then a largely rural, agricultural country. The Industrial Revolution changed many facets of North American work life, from farming and factories to transportation and mining.
Manufactured around 1889 by the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company of Racine, Wis. Photo courtesy John F. Spalding.
Professor of English Dr. Robert T. Rhode has investigated these changes as they were reflected in literature and has published his findings in numerous articles and books including The Harvest Story: Recollections of Old-Time Threshermen. The Harvest Story offers a scholarly study of 4
photos and writings from more than 50 volumes of The Iron-Men Album Magazine, which was published from 1950 until 2003. “Our country shifted from being a largely agricultural nation to a largely metropolitan one from 20 years before the Civil War through World War I,” Rhode said. Tying together culture, art and machinery may seem spurious, but Rhode has examined these subjects in a wide variety of formats, including in the classroom where he’s taught courses on literature and the human experience, humanity and the machine, and the literature and history of the Industrial Revolution. More of these connections are made in Rhode’s latest book, co-written with John F. Spalding, a Tennessee-based columnist with Engineers and Engines Magazine. The Steam Tractor Encyclopedia: Glory Days of the Invention That Changed Farming Forever was published in 2008 by Boston-based Quayside Group. It’s also a collection of photos and writings that the authors collected and combed through for years to tell the story of the transformation of farming techniques through the invention of the steam tractor. Described by the publisher as “one of the world’s experts on steam tractor history,” Rhode worked for more than15 years on the encyclopedia, the first of its kind. The Steam Tractor Encyclopedia and The Harvest Story are two of six books he’s published; both are written for academic and general audiences. “I looked for all kinds of records – anything from highly subjective diaries to business meeting minutes – that would
Henry Lohmyer’s farm. Photo courtesy Berry’s Camera Shop
tell me what life was like in a given decade in a given city in North America where machines were being manufactured for farming,” he said of his latest book. “I had to be a detective ferreting out important facts in the records of historical societies, libraries and private collections.”
ticized, Rhode said. “Literature began to resemble photos,” he said.
Many of the records were found in Ohio cities because the Buckeye State was the leading manufacturer of agricultural implements in the United States during that time. “The Steam Tractor Encyclopedia contains the stories of corporations in the United States during the Industrial Revolution that became major players in the American economy. It also explains what emphasis such firms placed on changes in agriculture and how those changes became reflected in our cultures,” he said. Photography, a technology born in the Industrial Revolution, lent changes to American culture and literature, helping make characters and plots more realistic and less roman-
A Closer Look
This Case engine was built around 1906. The two-wheel tender could hold up to eight barrels of water and carry half a ton of coal. Photo courtesy Robert T. Rhode.
To get a small glimpse of the enormous changes brought by the Industrial Revolution, take a look at these passages.The first was written in 1818 by William Cullen Bryant in the poem “To a Waterfowl”: “Soon shalt thou [the waterfowl] find a summer home, and rest, / And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend, / Soon, o’er thy sheltered nest.” Compare that to the style of Walt Whitman, who wrote “To a Locomotive in Winter” decades later in 1876: “... emblem of motion and power. Pulse of the continent. /... / Thy piercing, madly-whistled laughter.”
Research director: Dr. Robert Rhode, Professor, Department of English Research subject: Literature and history of the steam-power era Research highlights: : Authored or coauthored six books – the latest, The Steam Tractor Encyclopedia: Glory Days of the Invention That Changed Farming Forever, with John F. Spalding, published by Quayside Group in 2008. Contributed two articles, “Covington Locomotive and Manufacturing Works” and “Houston, Stanwood and Gamble Company,” to The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky, published by University Press of Kentucky in 2009. Presented original one-man plays depicting the lives of Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman. During 29 years as an NKU professor, Rhode’s writings include 122 magazine articles, 42 professional journal articles and 20 poems in refereed journals; he has also presented his research on rural American life at numerous state, regional and national conferences. On the web: http://www.nku.edu/~rhode
Light it up: Research could lead to better solar technology Today’s environmental movement is driven as much by conscience as by practicality. Often environmental practices that conserve energy both help the environment and save money. And while many so-called “green technologies” such as solar cells, which use the sun’s rays to power a myriad of products, have improved, they’re still woefully inefficient. Research at NKU could lead to better use of this abundant natural resource to power our world.
energy.You may have seen examples of the technology in solar panels on rooftops. It’s also the technology used to power outdoor solar lighting for yards.
Dr. Keith Walters, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, is leading undergraduate students in research using chemistry to emulate photosynthesis. The goal of the research is to create an easier, more efficient way of capturing sunlight and harnessing its power.
“A silicon solar cell can only interact with a fraction of the solar energy that reaches the surface of the Earth and then normally only harnesses maybe two percent of the energy that strikes it. So if you’re going to power a whole house on solar cells, you’re going to have to cover the entire roof. Think of it this way: to run all the energy needs of the U.S. on solar power, you would have to cover almost the entire state of Kansas with silicon. And if the skies are cloudy, you’re in trouble,” he said.
“These systems could be used anywhere we would want light to move charge. The most obvious option would be solar cells, but other applications could involve light-sensitive indicators or light-induced sensors for the presence of metals.” “My background is photochemistry, or how molecules interact with light (solar cells). A lot of the materials that currently exist to make solar cells are either very inefficient or very expensive,” Walters explained. Today, most commercially available solar technology is based on silicon cells. These cells convert sunlight into 6
Current solar cell technology isn’t nearly as efficient as it could be in converting or storing sunlight for processes such as running automobiles, heating homes or charging cell phones.
Walters and his students are employing supramolecular chemistry, a process of forming chemical bonds between smaller known molecules to create larger “super” ones, to find a system that could lead to a more efficient way to harness sunlight. The technology could lead to lessexpensive, better-working solar cells that convert a higher percentage of sunlight into electricity. “What we’re thinking about is how we can design supramolecular systems in a way that can tackle some of the problems of existing cells. We would love to be able to put molecules together in a way that can absorb more wavelengths of light more efficiently,” he said.
This lab work is done by his research group (normally containing six to ten students), who figure out ways to attach the small molecules together and then examine their ability to interact with light. So far, students have had significant success in both parts of their research, but they are still tweaking the systems to further improve their lightabsorbing ability. Supramolecular chemistry is an emerging research field. “If you go back as little as 10 years ago, people were still focused on discovering small molecules; it does a single thing, and it does a single thing well. There are millions of those molecules, and we’re frankly starting to run out of new things to discover. A growing field in the last decade has been finding and taking one small molecule that does
For his solar cells, the small molecules of interest to Walters are metals and fullerenes (soccer balls of carbon). Each has properties that would be good in these systems, but only together would they produce a worthwhile cell. This lab work could have big implications for the solar cell and other commercial markets. “These systems could be used anywhere we would want light to move charge. The most obvious option would be solar cells, but other applications could involve light-sensitive indicators or light-induced sensors for the presence of metals,” Walters said. For instance, the process could be used in making house paint that, in turn, could harness sunlight to power the electrical systems of the home. “The dream that everybody has is we make this paint, paint it on the side of our house, stick a couple of wires to it and we’re in business,” Walters explained, quickly adding, “We’re no where near that right now.” The actual work of turning the chemi- cal process into a commercially viable product would take several years and involve other researchers beyond his undergraduate research group. The collaboration between chemists and engineers is common in supramolecular research. Still, it’s an exciting prospect.
A CLOSER LOOK
one thing and another small molecule that does another thing and attaching them together somehow so that they work together to produce some desired goal,” Walters explained.
“I’m a chemist, so we design the molecules. Putting it into the real-world product? That’s in the world of engineers,” he said.The research is still ongoing, but it has received a $199,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Research director: Dr. Keith Walters, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry Research subject: Inorganic photochemistry, with applications for solar cells, molecular devices and computer applications Research highlights: Contributed a paper, “Just What Do You Put in a One-Semester Inorganic Course, Anyway?” for the American Chemical Society National Conference, Salt Lake City, March 2009; coauthored four other papers for the same conference. Contributed a chapter to Applications of Physical Methods to Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry, published by EIC Books in 2007. Received the NKU College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Junior Faculty Member award in 2007. Walters and his 40 undergraduate chemistry researchers have given 62 presentations at the NKU Celebration of Research and Creativity, Kentucky Academy of Science, and American Chemical Society. Research highlights: Awarded an NSF Research in Undergraduate Institutions Grant of $199,000, including NKU matching funds, for “New Supramolecular Moieties for Organometallic Supramolecular Photophysics,” August 2009-July 2012. Awarded a total of $89,000 from NKU CINSAM for a variety of research projects from January 2006 to the present. Served on a team of NKU faculty that secured $310,000 in NSF equipment funding. On the web: http://www.nku.edu/~walterske/research.htm
Mixing it up:
Research examines new drinking trend involving energy drinks
Young drinkers have discovered a new, and potentially dangerous, way of consuming alcoholic beverages by mixing them with heart-pumping energy drinks. This drinking trend is growing in popularity, but what seems like fun now could turn out to cause real, long-lasting harm. Dr. Cecile Marczinski, assistant professor of psychological sciences, is examining the effects of combining alcohol and energy drinks. She’s long researched binge drinking among college students but is taking a look at this change with the help of volunteer NKU students. “I’ve always done a lot of research on the acute effects of alcohol, but there is this new trend of mixing energy drinks with alcohol, like Red Bull and vodka. There’s virtually no research on this, so I thought someone needed to investigate these drinks,” explained Marczinski. She began the research in early 2009 with a group of NKU undergraduate students, aged 21 and up, who are paid a small amount or given partial class credit to participate in the study. They are monitored after drinking. “Before they drink, they complete tests that measure impulsivity. Then they consume a drink. The drink could 8
be vodka, vodka and red bull, or red bull alone. They don’t know what they’re drinking,” she said. Fifteen students were tested, five in each scenario. They drank to the level of intoxication, and after 45 minutes their blood-alcohol level was tested. Students also were given a questionnaire, which asked how intoxicated they perceived themselves and whether they would be willing to drive. The results show participants who consumed the energy drink/alcohol mixture were less able to gauge their level of intoxication.
“You’re drunker than you think. It will lead you to possibly drink more or make bad decisions like driving home when you are impaired. In my opinion, these drinks are riskier than vodka mixed with something else like soda or juice.”
“People who are given alcohol mixed with an energy drink think they’re less intoxicated than people given alcohol alone. They say things like ‘I feel less intoxicated; I’m a little bit more willing to drive.’ But when we measure performance on computer tasks, people drinking alcohol and people mixing it with energy drinks are both impaired. But people drinking alcohol mixed with the energy drink feel less impaired,” she said. The resulting problems are obvious: “You’re drunker than you think. It will lead you to possibly drink more or make bad decisions like driving home when you are impaired. In my opinion, these drinks are riskier than vodka mixed with something else like soda or juice,” Marczinski said. “This type of drinking appears to be widespread and acceptable among college-age drinkers,” she added. “We did a risk-data survey of college-aged students at the university in the fall of 2009. Fifty-five percent said they used energy drinks as a mixer at least once. Twelve percent did it in the last two weeks,” she said. “Those rates are sufficiently high enough to show that it’s pretty common.” Toward the end of 2009, Marczinski was still collecting data and preparing to conduct additional research. Her results will be published by the end of 2010 or early 2011.
Binge drinking Marczinski’s work in examining the effects of binge drinking (consuming four to five drinks in a row) was published in a
2009 book Binge Drinking in Adolescents and College Students. The book, published by Nova Publishers, was coauthored by Dr. Estee Grant and Dr.Vincent Grant at the Alberta Children’s Hospital at the University of Calgary. “There are lots of books on alcohol use and alcoholism, but binge drinking is this middle ground. People sometimes binge drink as an extension of social drinking to the extreme, but they generally aren’t addicted to alcohol,” Marczinski said. Binge drinking is most common among college-age adults and adolescents as young as 13, with one out of two college-age students estimated to have participated in it. The book includes Marczinski’s original research involving college students at the University of Kentucky as well as outside studies like one involving animals that shows binge drinking may be more damaging to an adolescent brain than an adult brain. It includes studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Harvard School of Public Health and others. Binge drinking has been associated with memory loss and may be associated with compulsiveness, depression, anxiety or early deviant behavior, according to the book. “It causes temporary damage especially in adolescence, when your brain is growing and developing until about the age of 21,” Marczinski said. “A lot of people have this mistaken notion that kids and teenagers binge drink, but it’s just a phase they’ll grow out of it. It is a phase for a lot of people, but the damage they’re causing while they’re going through this phase is not innocuous,” she said.
A Closer Look Research director: Dr. Cecile Marczinski, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences Research subject: Binge drinking among American college students Research highlights: A first book, coauthored with E.C. Grant and V.J. Grant: Binge Drinking in Adolescents and College Students, published by Nova in 2009. She gave two presentations and 10 poster presentations on the effects of alcohol at professional meetings across North America during the last eight years. She has also published 24 scientific journal articles, 14 of which are on her binge-drinking research.. Funding highlights: Awarded a $54,000 NIH-KBRIN Faculty Fellowship Research Grant to study the effects of alcohol and energy drinks on behavior, December 2009-June 2011. Also awarded a $6,000 NKU Faculty Project Grant to study implications of mixing alcohol and energy drinks on subjective feelings of intoxication and behavior control among college student social drinkers. On the web: http://psychology.nku.edu/facpages/marczinski/index.php; on Marczinski’s book: https://www.novapublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=9351
And your plans are?
Professors study best use of common teacher planning time A well-planned school day makes for a more productive school day, right? It makes sense, and most schools do give teachers some time to plan their day, week or month. But why are some teachers more prepared to handle each school day than others, and how can planning time be used most effectively to better instruction? Two NKU professors in the College of Education and Human Services are examining top schools in the northern Kentucky region, working to find some answers by studying the use of common planning time by teachers. Dr. Shawn Faulkner and Dr. Chris Cook, both professors of middle grades education, have taken up Kentucky’s cause in an ongoing state-by-state review of planning times in middle-level schools.
The professors, who often collaborate on projects, decided to tackle their first research project together as a way to better understand the region’s teaching professionals. Both came to NKU in 2004 from other parts of the country. 10
“We were new to the area.We needed to get a sense of what was going on in the middle schools that we were going to be working with.That started the initial survey,” Faulkner said. They’re conducting their current work on the use of common planning time by teachers as part of the National Middle Grades Research Program. The research program is sponsored by Middle Level Education Research, an American Educational Research Association special interest group that seeks to “improve, promote and disseminate educational research reflecting early adolescence and middle-level education.” Each researcher that participates in the National Middle Grades Research Program receives training and instruction from Middle Level Education Research group at conferences throughout the year. Researchers from eight states are participating so far, with the goal that the research will eventually be conducted in all 50 states. In the first phase, they examined common teacher planning time at two northern Kentucky schools designated “Kentucky Schools to Watch.” Student outcomes at these schools were compared with some Kentucky middle schools that did not have the “Schools to Watch” designation. “These are schools that have been identified as being on a trajectory to excellence.They’re doing these excellent things in terms of the academics, developmental responsiveness
and social equity, and they have the organizational structures in place to accomplish those things,” Cook said.
countability and leadership from teachers in using it wisely,” Faulkner said.
Those organizational structures include common planning time, the focus of this research.The professors spent two days each at the schools, watching planning sessions and interviewing teachers and administrators about their process.
“(Administrators) stated their expectations and then backed off and expected that teachers were going to perform in a professional manner and were going to do what needed to
“We know there’s supposed to be value in common planning time for teachers, but we didn’t have a sense of what they were doing during that time,” Faulkner said. The professors examined which issues teachers addressed, how they addressed them and how they were resolved.They also wanted to know the level of support teachers received from school administrators in creating planning time. “The ultimate goal in what we looked at is figuring out how this time was being utilized, what factors influenced using this time in an effective manner. It wasn’t just ‘Let’s give this to teachers and hope for the best’ but ‘Let’s utilize this in a way that makes sure that our teachers are able to provide quality learning for these students,’” Cook said. What Cook and Faulkner found could provide a valuable lesson in planning for almost any organization. For example, one school had three planning teams: an interdisciplinary team (where all teachers met), a grade-level team and a subject-matter team (focused on instruction and assessment). Each team met on different schedules based on need, ranging from once a week to as needed.
A CLOSER LOOK
“Each meeting had a planned agenda and minute-taking,” Faulkner said. “The schools’ administrative leaders were protective of these planning times but also expected ac-
“Teachers approach each day maximizing the amount of time they’ve been given to impact student learning,” Cook said. be done,” Faulkner explained. “When teachers came to a meeting there were certain things they needed to do.Their professional judgment was valued.” The time was important in handling issues about student discipline problems, to instructional planning, to taking field trips.“They approach each day maximizing the amount of time they’ve been given to impact student learning,” Cook said. Schools to Watch were much more likely than their counterparts to have team planning time (80.3 percent to 59.5 percent, respectively).These Schools to Watch also had higher reading, writing and math test scores overall. In addition to their research in middle schools, Faulkner and Cook lead the NKU chapter of the Collegiate Middle Level Association, which supports and promotes middle-level teaching (generally sixth to eighth grades). Their research will better help them instruct NKU teacher education students.
Research director: Dr. Christopher M. Cook, Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education; Dr. Shawn A. Faulkner, Assistant Chair for Graduate Programs, Department of Teacher Education; Assistant Professor of Middle Grades Education Research subject: The outcomes of common practices in middle-grades education Research highlights: Presented on middle-level education at conferences of the European League for Middle-Level Education in Zurich, Switzerland (2007) and Vienna, Austria (2008). Presented on middle-grades implementation and student achievement at Kentucky’s Schools to Watch at the annual Schools to Watch conference, Arlington,Va., June 2009. Presented on common planning time at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, April 2009. Presented on student-centered discussion at the National Middle School Association Conference, Denver, October 2008. Wrote “Student-Led Conferences: Involving the Most Important Player” for the October 2009 issue of Middle Ground:The Magazine of Middle Level Education. Coauthored, with L. Kinne, “Indicators of Middle School Implementation: How do Kentucky’s ‘Schools to Watch’ Measure Up?” for a 2009 issue of Research in Middle Level Education Online. Coauthored, with R. Kinne, “Testing Versus Teaching: The Perceived Impact of Assessment Demands on Middle Grades Instructional Practices” for a 2006 issue of Research in Middle Level Education Online. Contributed “Assessing the Implementation of the Middle School Concept: A Regional Study” to Current Issues in Middle Level Education, fall 2006. On the web: http://coehs.nku.edu/facultystaff/members/cook.php; http://coehs.nku.edu/facultystaff/members/ faulkner.php
Taking the sting out of a hit:
Examining effects of sports-related concussions
Concussions, and their potentially long-lasting effects, are getting a lot of media attention in NFL and other professional sports circles. A significant blow to the head can lead to head trauma, and that can happen to pros and amateurs alike. Nationally, researchers are discovering that having your “bell rung,” more accurately called mild traumatic brain injury, can cause serious health problems down the road. Dr. Pamela J. Hoyes Beehler, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Health, is monitoring NKU athletes to better understand athletic concussions, including how frequently trauma occurs and when it’s safe for players to return to play after being diagnosed with a concussion. “The real question is: When is it safe to come back to practice or to compete after you’ve suffered a concussion? Everybody is different. It would be good if you had data on them prior to their injury to know what was normal for each athlete in terms of movement, control and cognition,” Beehler said. She monitors athletes by testing both neurocognitive and neuromotor skills, or how quickly the brain responds to various computer-driven tests. Beehler, a former Penn State basketball player, brought an expertise in this type of research to NKU. She uses the Immediate Post-Con12
cussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) program developed at the University of Pittsburgh, which many NFL teams employ to monitor athletes who’ve been diagnosed with a concussion. The 20-minute computer test measures cognitive processing speed along with visual motor and memory skills. At NKU, with the backing of the university’s sports medicine program, Beehler gathered baseline neurocognitive and neuromotor information on NKU athletes during 2009 and 2010. She collected data from university athletes who play baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer, tennis, softball and volleyball. The men and women voluntarily take part, a total of approximately 200 student-athletes to date. “We find out where they are before the season starts. Even if they’ve had a previous head injury, we can see what is normal for them right now,” she explained. In the 12 years since she began this research at NKU and at other institutions, Beehler has found an alarming number of student-athletes who have suffered concussions. Once the baseline information was captured, those student-athletes diagnosed with a concussion retake these tests. Their neurocognitive and neuromotor skills are then compared with their baseline scores. It’s impor-
tant to test these skills because traditional neurological brain scans won’t necessarily pick up neurocognitive and neuromotor problems. “If the injured athletes don’t move as fast as they used to, then they’re really not ready to compete or practice. The athletic trainers need to be informed that they’re not back to normal,” she said.
about 10 days to fully recover from the neurocognitive and neuromotor injuries. To raise awareness, Beehler has spoken about her work at athletic training conferences including the Athletic Training Association of Kentucky. Her goal is to educate high school and college coaches and athletic trainers, urging them to take concussions seriously. She advises them to at least use baseline testing such as ImPACT.
Concussion symptoms include: confusion, loss of balance, vomiting, blurred vision or “seeing stars,” concentration loss, headaches, loss of information processing and slurred speech. If an athlete gets a second concussion before fully recovering, the outcome can be even more dangerous. They can suffer what’s called “second impact syndrome,” which can lead to permanent, severe brain damage or even death. Beehler’s testing is not a substitute for formal medical monitoring but a complement to it. She doesn’t give final clearance to athletes; that determination is made by the university’s sports medicine doctor, based on these and other tests. Still, neurocognitive and neuromotor testing is important because athletes are competitors. They want to get back into the game as soon as possible and sometimes may hide lingering symptoms. “You get real data to support where they are cognitively and movement wise, because an athlete may try to mask symptoms. They’ll say, ‘I’m OK; put me back in.’ With this you can respond with, ‘No, you’re not ready yet, and here are the data to support that.’You’re really just helping the athlete,” Beehler said.
A Closer Look
So far, Beehler has retested three student-athletes who have suffered from a concussion at NKU. It took each athlete
“We’re trying to prevent serious head injury as well as second impact syndrome and to get the word out about both, particularly in youth sports,” she said. Her research could have wider implications, because concussions aren’t limited to the athletic field. In fact, only 10 percent of all head injuries are related to sports. Falls, automobile accidents, violence and other things can lead to the brain injury. “The risk for the general population is more than you think,” Beehler said.
Research director: : Dr. Pamela Beehler, Chair, Department of Kinesiology and Health, Associate Professor of Exercise Science Research subject: Neurocognitive and neuromotor human performance functioning of athletes with concussions Research highlights: Research pointed to the benefits of baseline neurocognitive and neuromotor testing for athletes and how these tests allow allied health personnel to help coaches and players make objective return-to-play decisions. Results led Beehler to develop concussion programs for student athletes at NKU, Wichita State University and University of Texas at Arlington. Contributed nine articles on brain injury and baseline testing to the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology and other professional journals. Presented performance assessment comparisons of injured and non-injured athletes at conferences of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, Clearwater, Fla., June 2005; San Diego, June 2007; Austin, Texas, June 2009: and Tucson, Ariz., June 2010. For more information on athletes and concussion: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/sports/football/21concussions.html; http://video.nytimes.com/video/2007/09/15/sports/1194817092469/high-school-football-s-hidden-danger.html
professional health Nursing program marries student research, community action
In the increasingly complicated and overworked world of healthcare workers, the nursing profession is becoming increasingly vital and skilled. Registered nurses are at the bedside, in long-term healthcare facilities, testifying before Congress on important health issues, and conducting their own research. A pair of NKU nursing professors successfully married two projects aimed at bettering northern Kentucky: increasing nurse-led research and developing a lead poisoning prevention initiative combating the region’s childhood lead poisoning problem. Both projects’ goals strengthen the northern Kentucky nursing profession and improve the lives of area children and families. Professors Kim Dinsey-Read, an assistant professor in the College of Health Professions, and Judi Frerick, a past assistant professor, started each program individually before merging them at the request of their funder, The George A. Renaker Charitable Foundation. One of these efforts, the Northern Kentucky Nursing Research Collaborative, teaches local nurses and nursing students the importance and the mechanics of nursing research. The goal is to develop and support more highly skilled nurses in northern Kentucky. Nurse-led research has been shown to result in better patient care and improved health outcomes. Both professors served on nursing research boards for St. Elizabeth and St. Luke hospitals and saw a real need for developing nurses as researchers. Local hospitals, healthcare agencies and NKU’s School of Nursing and Health Professions (now the College of Health Professions) jointly committed to a plan that would attract nurses and spark their interest in research.
This is a challenge for many hospitals, because nearly 68 percent of nurses are trained at the associate degree level and don’t get a chance to learn research skills or to apply them on the job. The work has resulted in an annual nursing research conference where students, faculty and clinical nurses can attend free of charge. Topics include the basics of qualitative and quantitative research and how to design a research plan, use electronic databases to conduct literature reviews, interpret nursing research, and develop professional research and project posters. “The interest is there. The need is there. Every year we expand our conference (including such sessions as “How to Get Published”) in response to our nurses’ and partners’ requests,” Frerick said.
Coalition aims to stop lead poisoning among region’s most vulnerable Lead poisoning isn’t an illness of the past. Today one of 11 children has an elevated blood level, and up to 4,200 in Kentucky may be affected by lead poisoning, according to the Northern Kentucky Health District. Lead enters the body through the mouth, and children who live in older homes that contain lead paint are most susceptible to poisoning. Depending on the amount and duration of lead contact, it can cause damage in the liver, kidneys, lungs, brain, spleen, muscles and heart. Within a few weeks, the body will store lead in bones and teeth. Children 6 years and under are most at risk of brain and nervous system damage. In adults, 99 percent of lead in the body will be eliminated through waste; in children that number drops to 32 percent. Among the current research projects is the Lead Exposure Reduction Initiative, operated out of NKU and supported by the Northern Kentucky Lead Coalition, yet another grant-funded initiative led by Frerick and Dinsey-Read. This work is carried out alongside the Northern Kentucky Independent Health Department and Newport Independent Schools. Programs are being developed that will test children for lead poisoning onsite as they enter school.
With the older housing stock in the urban areas of northern Kentucky, lead poisoning, generally from lead-based house paint, is still a big problem for families. The coalition’s goal is to eliminate lead poisoning in northern Kentucky’s children. This can be accomplished by increasing lead screenings in young children and raising awareness about how lead poisoning occurs and, most importantly, how to prevent it, Dinsey-Read explained. “In older houses, lead frequently comes from paint as it breaks down into a fine dust.The amount of lead dust contained in the size of a little packet of sweetener that you would put in your coffee, spread through six houses, would provide enough lead to poison a child. Even a minute amount of toxin is difficult to manage,” Dinsey-Read said. “Part of school readiness should be testing for lead poisoning. But there can often be little, or delayed, follow-up because lead-contaminated housing stock is frequently rental property, and its residents are transient and difficult to track.” This pilot program is working to make a change.The coalition is composed of NKU students and faculty, St. Elizabeth Medical Center, St. Luke Hospitals, the Northern Kentucky Independent Health Department, Health Point Family Care and Riverhills Health Care.
A CLOSER LOOK
NKU student nurses have conducted numerous lead educational (Lead Ed) programs to the children of Newport. Nursing students choose instructional methods appropriate for the developmental stage of the children and then take their message to the school. Nursing students also train the
trainers by instructing Newport teachers how to bring lead poisoning education into the classroom as part of the effort to reduce lead poisoning rates. The program provides student nurses with real-world research and service experience that is highly valued in the workplace. So far, 24 students have participated in the Lead Ed program and contributed to the development of a Lead Ed website, online instructional modules that will be accessible to local schoolteachers, and even a book that teaches children how to become “lead detectives.” The NKNRC website can be found at http://healthprofessions.nku.edu/RhoTheta/ResearchCollaborative/ NKNRC_home.htm.The Lead Coalition website can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/kentuckyleadcoalition/Home.
Research director: Kim Dinsey-Read, Assistant Professor of Nursing, College of Health Professions, Judi Frerick, Adjunct Professor of Nursing, College of Health Professions, and Instructor, University of Hawaii School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene Research subject: Preparing nurses as researchers and reducing lead exposures in children Research highlights: Presented to community, government and academic groups on the prevention and treatment of lead exposure since 2005. Presentations have also included: Council on Graduate Education at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; American Nurses’ Credentialing Center Magnet Conference, San Antonio, Texas; National League of Nurses Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. NKU’s Rho Theta Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society won the International Research Advancement Award during Frerick’s 2005-08 presidency and won a second consecutive time during Dinsey-Read’s 2007-09 presidency. The award recognized Rho Theta’s outstanding community partnership through NKNRC (Northern Kentucky Nursing Research Collaborative). Funding highlights: 2008-present: Frerick, J. and Dinsey-Read, K. The Northern Kentucky Nursing Research Collaborative: Lead exposure reduction initiative. Funded for $49,000 by The George A. Renaker Charitable Foundation. On the web: http://healthprofessions.nku.edu/RhoTheta/ResearchCollaborative/NKNRC_home.htm; http://healthprofessions.nku.edu/RhoTheta/Officers/KDinseyRead.htm; http://healthprofessions.nku.edu/RhoTheta/Officers/JFrerick.htm
“There are certain things you learn about the world and who we are through travel that puts you in a position to see the world’s cultures in a balanced way.”
Cave exploration could lead to medical breakthrough
All the From Shakespeare’s everyman plays in 16th-century London, to a dramatic 19th-century Japanese Kabuki performance, to a sold-out Broadway show today, theater is a universal art, spanning cultures, centuries and economic status.
Dr. Daryl Harris, associate professor in NKU’s Department of Theatre and Dance, has seen first-hand the transcultural power of theater. He’s traveled extensively, lecturing and learning in Canada, Scandinavia, West Africa, Romania and China.
“All cultures on the planet have a history of someone sitting around the campfire telling their story or reenacting their story. That’s true with Western theater in particular, but all theater evolved from those telling of stories. That is something we have in common,” Harris said. Harris came to Northern Kentucky University in 2003, teaching courses on race and gender, African-American dramatic literature, and theater for social change. He has more than 40 years of experience in alternative, traditional, academic and applied theater.
“My focus has been on ethnic programming and applied theater for social justice,” he said. Since arriving at the university, among productions Harris has staged are Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf and a play by Pulitzer and Tony Award-nominated playwright Quiara Hudes, her semi-autobiographical Coconut Therapy. This marked his second collaboration with Hudes. He will be directing a production of To Kill a Mockingbird, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, in the fall. Students from the Bamako National Institute of the Arts performing “Middle Passage” scene from Harris’ Shango IV: Motherland in the Millennium — Back to the Future, 2002.
For Harris, theatre is not an insular profession, which shows in the projects he’s developed while at NKU.
performance. “The United States has the potential for the strongest theatre in the world. We should have the most powerful and far-reaching theater in the world, embracing the core of theater to cut through cultures,” Harris said. “My secondary focus on applied theater specializes in using theater in venues other than the stage,” he said. For instance, Harris cofounded the First-Person Historical Interpreter Internship Program in collaboration with Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “Interns (NKU students at NURFC) research a specific local person who had some kind of impact on the Underground Railroad, someone who may not be well known. Then they write a narrative of the person and perform that narrative at the freedom center,” he said.
The major would require a first for NKU: two studyabroad trips to disparate countries. “There are certain things you learn about the world and who we are through travel that puts you in a position to see the world’s cultures in a balanced way. Not in a presumptive way, but in a way that learning is supposed to.
The students perform in a way similar to “living history” actors who take on the persona of an important historic figure at a war reenactment or other historic events. Harris’ experiences have helped him understand the world, which is growing smaller every day with advances in communication and technology. That’s why Harris is working to bring that wider world – in a distinctly American way – to NKU. In collaboration with his department chair, Ken Jones, who initiated the idea, he’s developing a new, innovative ethnic theatre major that could add a new dimension to the university’s theatre department. With the blessing of his department, Harris is developing an American ethnic theater major that would pull from the myriad of ethnicities that make up American culture and
An afterschool English enhancement workshop for pre-schoolers in Xiamen, PR China, 2008.
This type of course would promote the ideal of being a world citizen, which would help us to move forward as a society,” explained Harris of the importance of the travelabroad component. Initially, the degree is planned as an acting major with an ethnic theater emphasis. It would draw from current NKU programs in the sociology, anthropology, history, languages and theatre departments. So far he’s identified about 30 hours of courses.
A Closer Look Research director: Dr. Daryl Harris, Associate Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance; Faculty Associate at NKU’s Institute for Freedom Studies Research subject: Developing a new ethnic studies theatre major at NKU Research highlights: In talks with LSU Press for the publication of his doctoral dissertation, New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs and Their Costumes: Trans-cultural, Communal Icons. Collaborating with faculty in NKU’s Department of Education and International Studies in the creation of LISTS (Language Integrative Skills through Theatre Skills). Eighteen international fellows participated in a pilot workshop in spring 2010, gathering research on English language learning during LISTS’ implementation. Presented “African-American Theatre Goes Global” at Black Theatre Network’s National Conference, August 2008. Presented “All the World’s a Stage: Bringing Theater into Reflection” at the Community College National Center for Community Engagement’s National Conference, Scottsdale, Ariz., May 2008. Lecturer for the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers’ Bureau since 2006; lecture subjects include the Underground Railroad and culinary history. On the web: : http://theatre.nku.edu/callboard/index.php/faculty/userprofile/harrisda; http://www.nku.edu/~freedomchronicle/ Daryl_Harris.php
Peering inside a cell:
Developing a better vaccine The recent bird and swine flu epidemics show that influenza is more than just an inconvenience; it can be deadly and spread quickly. But apart from the hazards of pandemic flu, the more common “seasonal flu” also can prove dangerous. In the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications, and 36,000 die from seasonal flu each year. Since there is widespread resistance to antiviral drugs used to treat flu, the main line of defense against its spread is an annual vaccination. But even those aren’t foolproof. Only about a third of adults are vaccinated, and recent scientific studies have questioned the effectiveness of vaccines, especially in protecting the elderly from illness and death. But what if a better vaccine were built? Would more people get it, and would they be better protected once vaccinated? Dr. Joseph Mester, along with several NKU undergraduates, is researching the body’s immune response to several flu strains to better understand how people react to viruses contained in vaccines. They’re examining why some viruses trigger a positive immune response (mobilizing the body’s infection-fighting antibodies) while others are ineffective or even suppress the immune system, making it weaker. The answer could lead to better or new flu vaccines. 18
“We’re looking at influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Those are the No. 1 and No. 2 viral respiratory pathogens in humans,” Mester said. “We’ve been contrasting how the immune response reacts to killed versions of these viruses.” RSV infection is fairly common and usually mild, but it can be particularly deadly in babies and elders. RSV, unlike influenza, has no vaccine. And in the 1960s when an experimental vaccine was given to children, it actually made most symptoms worse. A few children died. Vaccines are made from altered viruses that in small, controlled doses can be injected into (or inhaled by) a patient, triggering an immune response to illness or disease. But sometimes a viral vaccine can cause the opposite response, making someone more disease prone.Vaccines are made from live or killed versions of the influenza virus. Though the killed version of the virus is most often used in vaccines, the live virus is thought to offer better protection, especially in younger people. “In biology, in the host-parasite interaction, there’s always a tug of war between the cells of the immune response seeking to protect the host and the virus seeking to persist
and spread. Successful viruses evade the immune response or push the immune response in ways that actually help them infect and invade,” Mester explained. Mester’s research is looking closely at this cell-virus interaction using a technology called real-time PCR. In lab studies, students used a killed version of the virus, or virus proteins, to stimulate the immune response to Influenza A and RSV from four different immune cell lineages. “We compare what the immune cell is doing without the virus in the mix. Then we add in the virus for a couple of hours and see what that cell will do,” he said. “In some way this is just a safe-vaccine screening tool. The safety and ability of a vaccine to produce a protective immune response is tested by this system. It’s a substitute for injecting people, but we think it’s fairly realistic.” The research has found that each immune cell type responds differently to the virus. Some have a protective immune response while others have potentially adverse responses. To further get a grip on what those reactions mean and why they occur, Mester and his students are delving deeper. They’re breaking the virus proteins down into smaller groups, testing the immune cells’ responses to specific parts of the broken down virus. “This could lead to making vaccines safer and more effective,” he said. “By looking at the response to all the proteins, we can look at
which we think are the good ones and which ones we think are bad. “These tests could lead to designing better, more efficient vaccines that remove the harmful parts of the virus that target immune cells,” Mester said. “This could lead to
Successful viruses evade the immune response or push the immune response in ways that actually help them infect and invade,” Mester explained. better influenza vaccines with fewer side effects. In addition, it could bring researchers closer to creating a safe, effective vaccine for RSV.” During the research, Mester and his students also discovered a potential link between extreme RSV infection in children and increased instances of bronchitis. If an effective RSV vaccine is developed, Mester believes it could lower chances of some children developing asthma. “If we can figure out what is triggering a bad (immune system response) and categorize it, we can try to block it,” he said. The research is still in its mid-stages and is receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health and KYEPSCoR.
A Closer Look Research director: Dr. Joseph Mester, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences Research subject: Viral modulation and the human immune response to viruses Research highlights: Advises a group of undergraduates conducting virology research. In the last year, Mester and his students have presented their findings at conferences in Ithaca, N.Y.; Lexington, Ky.; and Birmingham, Ala. Coauthored, with J.C. Pommerville and J. Revie, Student Study Guide to Accompany Alcamo’s Fundamentals of Microbiology, Body Systems Edition, published by Jones and Bartlett in 2009. Wrote an article, “Integrated Design of a Virology Course Develops Lifelong Learners,” for New Directions in Teaching and Learning in 2009. Funding highlights: Awarded $150,000 from the National Institutes of Health for study of Influenza A and RSV viruses from May 2009 to April 2011. This was an increase from $12,500 awarded by NIH for study of the two viruses in 2008-09. Also awarded $75,000 from KY-EPSCoR to establish a virology/immunology lab 2006-08. On the web: http://biology.nku.edu/people/faculty/mester.php; http://ky-brin.nku.edu/Faculty_and_Students/Mester/Index.html
privately public: Protecting privacy in the information age
Use of personal gadgets such as cell phones and laptops has exploded in a few short years, along with social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter that connect mobile users. At the same time, there’s a major national push to move private records like health history and banking records from paper to computer. It’s an exciting but potentially dangerous time in technology. Public policy, privacy, technology, marketing and research are clashing in ways never seen before.
mation can be accessed by public researchers, government agencies and even marketing companies. But that information is supposed to be distributed in a way that cannot personally identify any individual, according to state law. HIPAA made individuals’ information safer but not failsafe.
This new era gives computer scientists plenty of challenges as our society navigates through a fast-changing cultural and informational shift. At Northern Kentucky University, Dr. Traian Marius Truta is leading research examining the best ways to protect privacy while simultaneously allowing information to flow as freely and effectively as possible. The work could lead to new software programs that manage data privacy.
“Let’s say ‘X’ has a particular disease, AIDS, and he’s in a huge database with a lot of personal information. This database cannot provide that information to a pharmaceutical company as it is because the name ‘X’ would be associated with the disease, and this isn’t allowed,” Truta explained.
“Data privacy is a new field in computer science. It’s mainly here because of the new privacy regulations that are currently in place,” Truta said. Among those regulations is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which Congress passed in the mid-1990s. It sets national standards for how medical information can be used and accessed by outside interests. Many might be surprised to know that medical information isn’t just between patient and doctor. Certain infor-
That’s where Truta’s research comes in. He’s working to find how personal data can be safely distributed within the bounds of the law.
But ‘X’ still could be identified without blatant personal identifiers. The same technology that allows us to quickly and easily store, retrieve and share information also makes it harder to protect privacy. “That pharmaceutical company won’t have the name or the Social Security number of person ‘X’, but they will know a lot about the person. They may know their age, date of birth, sex, race and other information. The problem is that this information is linked to other data sets that are linked to the person’s name. By merging two data sets, the pharmaceutical company or anyone that wants to try is able to actually identify that person,” he said. Sound farfetched? It’s not.
“In the United States, 87 percent of the population was identified by using ZIP code, date of birth and gender. This is a real problem,” Truta said. What he and other researchers now are doing is manipulating microdata (such as data in an Excel spreadsheet) in a way that preserves the integrity of the information while protecting individual identities when the information is stored and distributed. A safe algorithm is being worked out for medical records, but it could have implications far beyond the medical field. Similar algorithms could be used for financial information or even seemingly innocuous information such as what you purchase at a store with those loyalty discount cards. “This is still not an exact science. This is why people in computer science and statistics have tried to fill in the gaps and solve this problem, to find solutions or algorithms that will guarantee these individuals will not be identified by bad people,” he said.
What can you keep to yourself or friends?
especially to marketers who buy information from these sites to target advertising. To advertisers, knowing who you interact with on these social networking sites is important too. And privacy in the social networking world presents a new and ever-changing wrinkle in the effort to shield individuals and their friends from unwanted marketing and other public uses. “You can find political views, what television shows someone is watching. Then a company can target that person, and who knows, maybe even do some harm to the individual.You have protected a social media user by removing a name, but the user is not protected enough,” he added.
Not all, or even most, data mining is sinister; it’s used for government statistics, scientific research, advertising and more. But Americans do have a right to privacy. It’s a delicate balance still being explored.
Like his medical records research, Truta’s work in social networking could lead to the development of software programs that could more easily restore the information gathering/privacy balance.
Truta’s work has expanded into the emerging social networking world. Personal information, supplied freely to sites like MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, is valuable,
“The ultimate goal of this research is to find a method that is easily used by a company and will help them to provide a data set to other companies that is truly protected,” he said.
A CLOS E R LOOK
Research director: : Dr. Traian Marius Truta, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science Research subject: Establishing data privacy with minimum loss of data utility; protecting privacy in social networks Research highlights: A paper, “User-Controlled Generalization Boundaries for P-Sensitive K-Anonymity,” with coauthors A. Campan and N. Cooper, was presented at the ACM Symposium on Applied Computing, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 2010. Coauthored, with A. Campan, a paper, “A Clustering Approach for Data and Structural Anonymity in Social Networks,” which won Yahoo Research Best Paper Award at PinKDD2008/SIGKDD International Conference, Las Vegas, 2008. Introduced the P-Sensitive K-Anonymity privacy model in a paper presented at the Privacy Data Management Workshop, Atlanta, 2006. This paper has currently more than 60 citations. Since 2008, Truta organizes, with Dr. Li Xiong, Emory University, and Dr. Farshad Fotouhi, Wayne State University, an annual research workshop titled “Privacy and Anonymity in an Information Society.” In the last three years, papers coauthored by Truta have been presented at professional conferences in Australia, Korea, France, Austria, Romania, Switzerland and the United States. Funding highlights: Directed an $11,712 NKU CINSAM grant, “Achieving Privacy While Preserving Data Utility,” January-December 2009. Directed a $30,181 NSF EPSCoR Research Enhancement Grant for study of anonymity properties for microdata, June 2006-December 2007. Also directed a 2007 NKU Summer Faculty Fellowship on anonymity properties. On the web: : http://www.nku.edu/~trutat1/research.html; http://cscdb.nku.edu/dataprivacy
Add it up:
Research aims to tighten accounting processes
In the fallout of the recent global economic meltdown, plenty of blame for financial problems spread throughout the financial community. Some of the toughest criticism was reserved for auditors, the people who are supposed to have their eyes on the books. As the financial systems stabilizes and readies for growth, tighter regulations and better auditing processes will be among the improvements the public and investors expect from corporations, and work by NKU’s Dr.Vincent Owhoso could help foster better public confidence in the nation’s largest financial services firms. This particular project is part of Owhoso’s 13-year research effort exploring best practices in auditing. Some of his most recent work centers on bettering the process of reviewing corporate financial statements. These statements provide crucial information about the financial health of a business. They’re among top documents that a wide range of people – including bankers, investors, employees and owners – use to make business decisions. Financial statements are the backbone of publicly traded companies, used for everything from making investment decisions and granting a loan to making collective bargaining agreements and determining credit worthiness. So it’s important that these complicated statements are as accurate as possible. Owhoso’s current work looks at audit partners (owners of the outside audit firms), their chain of com-
mand and the accuracy of audit partners in predicting the competence of those tasked with finding and correcting mistakes in financial statements during an audit. “Audit partners have a team of auditors from new hires to supervisors. The issue I raise is, since the partners themselves do not participate in the detailed audit, at what point do they make sure that if people miss a mistake, they are able to catch it,” Owhoso explained. His research was sponsored by KPMG, a global network of professional financial services firms. Owhoso worked with 72 audit partners. The partners head auditing teams where each member of the team is responsible for catching certain levels of errors. Owhoso’s work involves real-world testing. He developed a sample financial statement research case (along with input from KPMG) that contained planted errors for each level of auditor to find and correct. Then in a separate survey, he asked each audit partner to assess his or her level of confidence that those down the chain of command actually would be able to find those planted errors. “I gave everybody on the team a document with certain errors – a mix of simple and hard errors,” Owhoso said. “The audit partners indicated that if the errors were complex, they were more likely to detect the errors than anyone else.”
Afterward, he compared the partners’ level of confidence in their subordinate’s abilities to the subordinate’s actual performance. It’s important that the partners’ prediction match actual ability in order to assure a high level of confidence in the review of financial statement. “The partner has to make sure the audit is efficient and effective, because if something goes wrong in the process, they should be able to detect it,” Owhoso said. What Owhoso’s research found is that often audit partners were overconfident in their subordinates’ abilities. “There’s kind of a missing link between perceptions and how subordinates do their work. It’s important that if you rely on a person, your perception is very close to how they do their work,” he said.
“The issue I raise is, since the partners themselves do not participate in the detailed audit, at what point do they make sure that if people miss a mistake, that they
There were some positive findings. “In general, the perception gap shrunk further up the chain of command,” he added.
are able to catch it,”
“The good news is that partners were more able to accurately predict the ability of managers or immediate subordinates. They were more accurate in predicting their immediate assistants (audit managers) who have more complex tasks,” he said.
Owhoso’s research led to a recommendation that partners strengthen their training for certain auditors in order to assure that the partners’ level of confidence in their work was warranted.
“If the people farther down the chain aren’t working at expected levels, that shows a change is needed. That should lead to getting them training of what is expected and bringing standards up,” he said.
This work has been presented and published in several journals in 2008, including in the Journal of Accounting Research, one of the top two accounting journals in world.
A Closer Look Research director: Dr.Vincent Owhoso, Professor, Department of Accountancy Research subject: Best practices for audits, particularly practices aimed at preventing material misstatements in audited financial statements Research highlights: Contributed a paper, “Auditors’ Self-Perceived Abilities in Conducting Domain Audits,” with coauthor K. Weickgenannt, to Critical Perspectives on Accounting in 2009. Presented Do Audit Partners Overstate Ability to Detect Errors? at the American Accounting Association’s National Meeting, New York, N.Y., August 2009. From the same research stream, Owhoso and co-researchers W.F. Messier, Jr., and C. Rakovski wrote “Can Audit Partners Predict Subordinates’ Ability to Detect Errors?” for Journal of Accounting Research, an elite journal in accounting, December 2008. Owhoso presented these findings at accounting conferences in Maastricht, Netherlands, and Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2004. Coauthored an article, with L. Turner, “The Use of ERP Internal Control Exception Reports to Insure Internal Control Effectiveness and Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance,” for Management Accounting Quarterly, spring 2009. During the last decade, Owhoso has coauthored 12 articles for peer-reviewed journals. Subjects include risk reduction, gender bias, ERP systems and African business development. Funding highlights: Inaugural recipient of an NKU Haile Faculty Fellowship for Excellence in Research – $10,000 per academic year for 2009-10 and 2010-11. On the web: http://cob.nku.edu/departments/accountancy/faculty/owhoso.php
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