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Ohio University


S C H O L A R S H I P, A N D C R E A T I V E A C T I V I T Y | A U T U M N / W I N T E R 2 0 0 9 ]

Get up and move! Can African dance and music bridge cultural divides?







Ohio University

[R E S E A R C H , S C H O L A R S H I P, A N D C R E AT I V E A C T I V I T Y ]



The Big Dig Jessica Patterson

The amount of data involved in analyzing the human, animal, and plant genomes can boggle the mind. The field of bioinformatics marries super computers with molecular biology to solve some of the biggest problems in medicine and science.

On the Cover: Photo by Peter Hoffman


Trailer Tales

Jessica Patterson & Andrea Gibson What does it take to make a feature film? Dozens of Ohio University students and a professional documentary filmmaker tackle the challenge of turning an award-winning collection of short stories about rural life into a full-length flick.

ISSN 1520-4375 Printed on recycled paper.


Where Are They Now?

Former Ohio University undergraduates involved in research, scholarship, and creative activity talk about how the experience paved the way for engaging careers in medicine, science, engineering, and the arts.



[c o v e r s t o r y ]



Roderick J. McDavis

The Muses of Movement Samantha Kinhan

Paschal Younge and Zelma BaduYounge bridge cultural divides by sharing African music and dance with American audiences.

[d e p a r t m e n t s ] 2 | CURRENTS Breaking News in Research Alum scientist wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

4 | ANTHOLOGY Reports in Brief Burrowing animals and climate change. History of gift giving. Music therapy in hospitals. Revisiting Jimmy Carter’s presidency. The psychology of gun collectors. Depression and diabetes. Software for cochlear implants. Space communication.

32 | THE FINAL WORD Faculty Profile Ruth Bradley offers Ohio a passport to the world of independent and international film.



We are very pleased to report that Ohio University had another productive, rewarding year for research. Our faculty, staff, and students engaged in research, scholarship, and creative activity that strengthened Ohio University’s reputation as an institution of new ideas that benefit our greater community. During the last year, the university was engaged in the process of identifying its centers of excellence, as requested by Chancellor Eric Fingerhut. All public universities were asked to participate in this process as part of the state of Ohio’s strategic plan for the University System of Ohio, which aims to raise the national profile of its higher education institutions, prioritize resources, and better meet student needs. This fall, the state will make a final determination about which programs will receive the center of excellence designation in order to guarantee a range of academic strengths throughout Ohio. The Ohio Board of Regents cites economic impact, benchmarking, the presence of a viable development plan, and sufficiency of resources as key criteria to be a center of excellence. Ohio University’s final proposal, which has been approved by the Board of Trustees, identified three centers of excellence that have synergies with Vision Ohio, the university’s strategic plan. Each program enjoys sustained academic excellence that can be benchmarked nationally or internationally. Financial indicators and capital projects further informed decision-making. Energy and the environment encompasses the research of more than 30 faculty and staff members from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health and Human Services, Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, and the Russ College of Engineering and Technology. The researchers have received more than $21 million in total external funding for fiscal years 2004 through 2008. To date, Ohio University has submitted 38 invention disclosures, 96 patent applications, and nine patents related to energy and the environment, generating $745,000 in royalty fees from energy-related technologies since 2005. In 2006, the area of energy and the environment was found to be among Ohio University’s significant research strengths, according to a study of institution-based research core competencies commissioned by the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Department of Development. Health and Wellness includes more than 100 Ohio University faculty and staff members from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health and Human Services, College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, and the Edison Biotechnology Institute. This proposed center would facilitate research in translational biosciences and health and wellness through service to underserved populations and bench-to-bedside approaches to health care. Total external funding for these initiatives at Ohio University exceeds $22 million. Research in this area has resulted in 114 invention disclosures, 62 patent applications, 29 patents, and $14.5 million in royalty fees from the drug Somavert. The center’s programs also can contribute to economic development, education, communication, and program/policy development at the regional, state, national, and international levels. Scripps College of Communication is a national point of pride for Ohio University, with its breadth, quality, and reputation for housing exceptional communication programs. The college’s excellence is upheld through its award-winning faculty and the quality of its students who become influential figures in journalism, broadcasting, television and film, and business. In the past two years, faculty have won 15 national awards, and the college’s students have received more than 75 national awards and recognitions. Recently, the college was the beneficiary of several large private gifts, including a $15 million gift from the Scripps Howard Foundation and a $7.5 million gift from alumnus Steve Schoonover, former CEO of CellXion. The college’s multidisciplinary nature, which encompasses the humanities, the social sciences, engineering, arts, and professions, and its educational outreach endeavors through the WOUB Center for Public Media, further enhances its stature. These are areas of strength that Ohio University already supports through a variety of mechanisms. These centers of excellence have the potential to enhance the university’s reputation and impact on the state, national, and international stage.




[c u r r e n t s ]

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan’s research on ribosomes could suggest important targets for new antibiotics.


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nobel research


hio University alumnus Venkatraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan, Ph.D. ‘76, has received a 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the structure and function of ribosomes.

Ramakrishnan attended Ohio University’s graduate program in physics starting in 1971, earning his Ph.D. in 1976. After completing his doctorate, Ramakrishnan shifted the direction of his research to emphasize biochemistry and molecular biology. He has since dedicated his work to the study of the function of ribosomes at the atomic level, including their relation to DNA and their binding with antibiotics. Ramakrishnan currently leads a research group at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, and is a Fellow at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. The scientist shares the Nobel Prize with Thomas Steitz of Yale University and Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. “We’re tremendously excited—it’s a great honor,” says Joseph Shields, chair and professor of Ohio University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. “We’re very proud to have an alumnus receive a Nobel Prize.” Ribosomes are found in all living cells, including bacteria, and control the chemistry in living organisms. Studying the differences between human and bacterium ribosomes, the scientists have found that ribosomes work well with antibiotics by blocking the bacteria’s ability to produce the proteins it needs to function. According to a Nobel Foundation release, understanding the ribosome’s innermost workings is important for a scientific understanding of life—many of today’s antibiotics cure various diseases by blocking the function of bacterial ribosomes. Without functional ribosomes, bacteria cannot survive, making ribosomes an important target for new antibiotics. “This year’s three Laureates have all generated 3D models that show how different antibiotics “ bind to the ribosome,” the release states. “These models are now used by scientists in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity’s suffering.” During his time at Ohio University, Ramakrishnan was mentored by Tomoyasu Tanaka, now an professor emeritus of physics and astronomy who lives in Japan. Tanaka advised the Nobel winner on his doctoral dissertation on ferroelectricity, a phenomenon observed in certain substances that can display spontaneous electric polarization that is reversible by an electric field. The work was representative of the research underway in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the 1970s, according to Professor David Drabold. Today an interdisciplinary group of scientists in Ohio University’s Condensed Matter and Surface Science Program pursue theoretical condensed matter research that has evolved with advances in computer technology, he notes. The program includes two of the university’s most recent Distinguished Professors, Drabold (2005) and Peter Jung (2009). After graduating from Ohio University, Ramakrishnan completed additional graduate studies in biology at the University of California, San Diego, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Yale University’s Department of Chemistry. He served on the faculty of Brookhaven National Laboratory and the University of Utah before joining Cambridge in 1999. Ramakrishnan has maintained ties to Ohio University over the past three decades. In 2006, he was the recipient of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Outstanding Alumni Award. He

[ above ] Ramakrishnan, with Professor Emeritus Ron Cappelletti, right, returned to Ohio University in 2008 to accept the Outstanding Alumni Award and deliver a talk about his research. Photo: Courtesy of Department of Physics and Astronomy

[ left ] While attending Ohio University’s graduate program in physics from 1971 to 1976, Ramakrishnan was

returned to campus in 2008 to present a special colloquium titled “The ribosome: The cell’s protein factory and how antibiotics sabotage it.” Ohio University faculty close to Ramakrishnan were excited but not surprised by the scientist’s Nobel Prize win. A mentor and good friend, Ron Cappelletti, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy, says Ramakrishnan is most deserving of the award. “I’m absolutely delighted that he won the Nobel Prize,” Cappelletti says. “As a scholar, it was obvious from the beginning that he was brilliant.” Drabold, who became acquainted with Ramakrishnan during a sabbatical at Trinity College, Cambridge, last academic year, also praises the scientist. “You won’t find a more humble, kind guy than Venki,” he adds. In addition the Nobel Prize, Ramakrishnan is a recipient of the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine and the Heatley Medal from the British Biochemical Society. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

mentored by Tomoyasu Tanaka, a professor emeritus of physics and astronomy. Tanaka advised the Nobel winner on his doctoral dissertation on ferroelectricity. Photo: Courtesy of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology




[a n t h o l o g y ] GEOLOGICAL SCIENCES

[ the dir t on climate change ] BURROWING CRITTERS SHED LIGHT ON ENVIRONMENTAL TRENDS The small creatures known as terrestrial arthropods—grubs, scorpions, millipedes, and spiders—have disproportionately big jobs. The critters are responsible for churning and developing soil. If arthropods can’t survive in a certain climate, the soil quality suffers. “These animals are closely tied to soil formation and are pretty important for plants and our productivity. The food that we eat depends on the soil animal,” says Dan Hembree, an Ohio University assistant professor of geological sciences. Hembree studies the burrows, tracks, and trails of the arthropods to shed light on how climate change impacts organisms. In his lab, he places arthropods such as emperor scorpions, six-inch African millipedes, grubs, and tarantulas into tanks filled with sediment, and then observes them dig and excavate new burrows. The arthropods churn sediment and bring organic matter from the surface down into the soil, where it can decompose and nourish plants and other burrowers. Once the creatures have dug, Hembree removes them from the tank and creates a plaster cast of their burrow. He compares these modern-day castings to fossil burrows from the Pennsylvanian Period, about 300 million years ago. This period featured organisms and a climate similar to today’s environment. Scientists have been comparing trace fossils to the burrows of modern animals for about 80 years, but they’ve primarily focused on marine animals. And while they can easily identify a trace fossil as the burrow of a former soil-dwelling organism, researchers struggle to identify specific creatures. Hembree hopes to solve the problem by comparing more of these fossils to modern burrows of known organisms. “Trying to interpret those trace fossils has often been about storytelling,” he says. “You look at the form and you devise some possible explanation as to why it was made and what made it.” By comparing burrows from his lab to fossil burrows, Hembree and other scientists may be able to make predictions about the future of our environment and the fate of the creatures that inhabit it. JESSICA PATTERSON

[ right ] Dan Hembree searches for clues in the tracks of African giant millipedes.

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4 | Burrowing critters

8 | American gun collectors

5 | History of gift giving

9 | Depression and diabetes

6 | Music therapy in hospitals

10 | Improving cochlear implants

7 | Revisiting Jimmy Carter

10 | Space communication


[gift exchange] SCHOLARS EXPLORE THE HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF GIFT GIVING In 18th-century England, there was no such thing as a no-strings-attached gift. Landowners and statesmen provided benevolence and patronage in exchange for displays of deference and support from those of lower social ranking. Although the rise of capitalism appeared to change that, the concept of “gift giving” is still an essential part of everyday life—even in a culture that’s centered on commodity exchange, says Linda Zionkowski, an Ohio University professor of English. “We like to think of the market economy and gift giving as separate, but they are always involved in each other,” says Zionkowski. “The split that you begin to see in the 18th century was never entire.” Zionkowski and Cynthia Klekar, an assistant professor of English at Western Michigan University, co-edited a recent collection of essays, The Culture of the Gift in Eighteenth-Century England, that examines the evolution of gift giving. The scholars chose 11 essays that focus on topics such as the philosophy of commercial and noncommercial transactions, the relationship of gifts to commerce, the gift’s function in erotic exchanges, and the gift and social conduct. Zionkowski became interested in the effect of gift giving on social roles after serving as a caregiver for aging parents and a daughter. Her offers of gifts such as time, energy, and attention—and the sense of obligation that prompted these gifts—defined her gender role at home and as an educator. “When a capitalist society begins to see (the gift) as tangential to the workings of a new competitive system, it often becomes the province of women,” she says. Women have become the principal gift laborers—those who dispense charity take care of people in need in neighborhoods, engage in unpaid labor, and provide education for students, she explains. Men take on the roles of gift laborers too, she says, but not to the same extent. Zionkowski also argues that paternalistic gift giving hasn’t disappeared from the capitalist system; it’s been re-directed to philanthropic foundations and developing nations. Richer populations provide gifts of aid that come with mandates to develop educational systems, improve infrastructure, and create a responsible citizenry in the image of the benefactors. Gift giving also lives on in corporate-funded entertainment. The television show “Oprah’s Big Give,” for example, was sponsored by three major companies—Ford, Sprint, and Target. “It’s a marketing technique to showcase their benevolence,” says Zionkowski. “It makes them appear generous because not only are businesses involved in the market economy, but the gift economy as well.” SAMANTHA KINHAN

Photo: Kevin Riddell perspectives


[ anthology] REPORTS IN BRIEF

Illustration: Christina Ullman, Ullman Design


[tuneful treatment] STUDENTS USE MUSIC THERAPY TO SOOTHE HOSPITAL PATIENTS AND VISITORS Music therapy, which began as a field of study more than 60 years ago, is finding a niche in hospital settings in Ohio and across the nation, in areas ranging from burn centers, oncology, cardiac care, palliative care, children’s care, and hospice. “It’s a hot item, combining arts and health care,” says Louise Steele, associate professor and director of the music therapy department at Ohio University. She notes that many music therapy professionals in Ohio hospitals are Ohio University alumni. Professionals in the field can point to ongoing studies—including at Ohio University—that confirm the effectiveness of music therapy on patients. In 2004, undergraduate and master’s degree students in music therapy began conducting sessions at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens. The sessions are supervised by board-certified music therapists who are also professors and graduate assistants, Steele says. Several clinical studies have grown from this service to the hospital, with increasing numbers of participants in the past five years. In summer 2007, students examined the effects of live music performance and participation on visitor satisfaction in hospital waiting areas.

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The students engaged visitors to the outpatient surgery and emergency departments in singing and playing instruments, with occasional guitar lessons for willing teen visitors. Study findings showed that music therapy can act as an inexpensive way to decrease boredom, increase the comfort of hospital visitors, and contribute to an overall positive experience. Students now participate in studies at O’Bleness on a weekly basis, Steele says. “We’ve expanded, as O’Bleness asked us to consider placing students in the birthing center to work with mothers pre- and postdelivery,” she says. Graduate student Mayumi Kobayashi is studying the most effective way to engage new mothers in music therapy. She teaches the mothers music-assisted relaxation techniques to reduce high blood pressure levels or to reduce anxiety, as well as songs that will help calm their newborns. In the oncology department, graduate student Caitlin Nicholas was invited to work with groups of patients receiving chemo therapy, as well as their families. “She is conducting a small study to gauge whether or not more passive interactive music techniques elicit a higher response from patients as compared to more active music interventions, such as playing instruments,” Steele says. The Ohio Chapter of the American Music Therapy Association of Students intermittently visits O’Bleness to provide entertainment in waiting areas, Steele says, which is a direct result of the 2007 summer project. SAMANTHA KINHAN


[ days of malaise ] HISTORIAN TAKES A SECOND LOOK AT PRESIDENT CARTER’S INFAMOUS ENERGY SPEECH In Jimmy Carter’s infamous 1979 “malaise” speech (which never used that actual word), the president presented the energy crisis as the moral equivalent of war and challenged the American values of consumerism and individualism. He proposed that 20 percent of the nation’s energy be generated by solar by the year 2000. He asked Americans to carpool and to turn down their thermostats. He had a sincerity in his tone that today seems downright old-fashioned. “The speech, I would argue, was successful,” says Kevin Mattson, Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at Ohio University. “If you look at the reaction to this speech, it was resoundingly positive; Carter bumped up 11 percent (in approval polls).” Mattson boldly compares the speech to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and FDR’s first inaugural speech. “I think that great historical speeches usually have something to do with trying to get a read on the nation’s psyche and its soul, and try to get Americans to unite around some sort of national purpose,” he says. So what happened? That’s the subject of Mattson’s recent book What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President? Jimmy Carter, America’s “Malaise,” and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country, which has received national media coverage in outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Colbert Report. Just days after the speech, Carter fired his entire cabinet. That, Mattson maintains, drew the nation’s attention away from fighting the energy crisis to scratching their heads at the disarray in the White House. “Then the term malaise and the projected idea of what the speech is about becomes fodder for his enemies,” Mattson explains. “And of course it’s Reagan who can craft almost his entire political persona around the idea that he’s optimistic and that Carter is this negative, pessimistic man.” In the book, Mattson sets out to disentangle the speech, which he calls prophetic, from the rest of Carter’s term. For research, he surveyed newspapers and magazines from the time and spent almost a month at the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta. “He was a president who governed by memos,” Mattson says, which made the historian’s job easier. Mattson also interviewed some of the key players from the time, including Carter press secretary Jody Powell and speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg. He was not able to secure an interview with Carter himself, but Mattson says that most people’s memories are not a reliable source. “’Do your interviews late,’ I always tell my students,” he says. “You want to have a hand on the historical record. (Your sources) may mislead you, because if they have any agenda, it’s that they want to look like the heroes of the story.” Mattson believes historians should address big questions and remind us of how people in the past grappled with them. He also thinks historians are on the cusp of reevaluating Carter, at a time when we are again facing an energy crisis. “People who might have been losers in history might have had the right ideas about what to do at the moment,” he says, “and the danger is that we don’t pay attention.” MARY REED Photo: Getty Images perspectives


[ anthology]


[the stor y of the gun] SOCIOLOGIST PAINTS NEW PORTRAIT OF AMERICAN GUN COLLECTORS Gun owners have been stereotyped in the media as passionate defenders of the right to bear arms, suspicious of the government, vigilant about protecting their families, and, at worst, potentially trigger-happy. And while sociologists argue that guns appeal to many collectors for their masculine symbolism, “no one has really explored that,” says Ohio University researcher Jimmy Taylor. “Are gun owners indeed using them that way, to exhibit some kind of textbook, Clint Eastwood masculinity?” Taylor, a sociologist who specializes in masculinity studies, started investigating the world of gun collectors to find out. In his new book, American Gun Culture: Collectors, Shows, and the Story of the Gun, published by LFB Scholarly Publishing in July, he discovers that gun owners have a much more complex relationship with their weapons than popular culture portrays. Over the course of three years, Taylor, an assistant professor at Ohio University’s Zanesville campus, spoke to 130 gun owners, conducting 52 formal interviews primarily with middle-class men between the ages of 30 and 60. With the nation’s second largest gun advocacy group, the People’s Rights Organization (PRO), located nearby in Columbus, Ohio, Taylor easily found gun enthusiasts at local shows and shooting events. He also traveled to one of the world’s largest gun and knife shows in Texas for the project. Though the subjects were easy to find, they weren’t always open to talking to Taylor about their collections, as many argued that academia and the media have stigmatized gun ownership. That’s surprising, Taylor notes, because a vast number of Americans—about 100 million, or about 40 percent of all U.S. households—report owning guns, making them a rather large minority. Most subjects started the interview with assurances that they were just average Americans. “About 90 percent of the people I approached would say, ‘I’m not nuts; I don’t have any screws loose,’” says Taylor, whose book was the best-selling gun control title on for several weeks this summer. Though gun owners are proud of their firearms, they’re also subdued about showing it. As one subject from Cleveland explained, you can be a deeply spiritual person who spends every Sunday morning in prayer at church, but you don’t necessarily come to the office Monday to evangelize. Gun collectors may be similarly discreet. “You may not want your co-workers or neighbors to know that you have a basement full of weapons,” Taylor says. When Taylor asked why these men collect guns, he found that some of the conventional reasons such as self-protection or hunting hold true. But gun owners also collect weapons as keepsakes from relationships with fathers or grandfathers. In fact, Taylor found that handling or cleaning the guns offered an emotional connection to meaningful people in their lives. Men with tough exteriors often would get choked up while reminiscing. “I can’t overstate enough how surprised I was about the emotional intensity they felt about the guns,” Taylor says. “They were caressing them like the guns were babies—in a very meticulous, loving sort of way.” Owners often maintained those guns differently, too. A weapon with sentimental value might be proudly on display in a living room case, while guns with less symbolic value were typically stowed away in basements or in locked gun safes.


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“This has some interesting implications for making blanket policies about gun ownership,” Taylor says, “as each gun owner may see each individual gun differently—as an object of death, a piece of art, or a family heirloom.” Many of the gun collectors stressed that they aren’t interested in using guns for violence, he says. Taylor, who developed the sociology of masculinity course for Ohio University, adds that he’d like to see other sociologists conduct further research on that issue. But for now the professor is deep in research for his next book, which will explore masculinity in another iconic segment of American society: the world of rodeo cowboys and bull riding. KELLY KETTERING AND ANDREA GIBSON




[ above ] Why are some people drawn to collect guns? A new book suggests that gun owners have a much more complex relationship with their collections than popular culture portrays. Photo: Getty Images

“This has some interesting implications for making blanket policies about gun ownership, as each gun owner may see each individual gun differently—as an object of death, a piece of art, or a family heirloom.” — J I M M Y TAY L O R

People with diabetes are twice as likely to experience depression, and those in Appalachia may not have access to resources for treatment. But researchers now have found that depression in people with type 2 diabetes can be combated with a combination of exercise and talk therapy, components of an Ohio University initiative called Program ACTIVE (Appalachians Coming Together to Increase Vital Exercise). “This group can be one of the hardest to treat, but we saw significant improvements in depression and glucose control,” says Jay Shubrook, an associate professor of family medicine at Ohio University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine who specializes in diabetes treatment. He and colleagues Frank Schwartz and Michael Kushnick collaborated on the study led by Mary de Groot, an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine who launched the program while at Ohio University. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, the team created Program ACTIVE as a pilot treatment study. The project recruited 50 volunteers with an average age of 57. The volunteers completed 150 minutes of exercise at local community centers for 12 weeks and participated in 10 weeks of counseling. The researchers created walking maps of the community, and participants logged and reported their daily exercise back to the researchers. Participants collectively walked 8,885 miles during the program, which is the equivalent of four round trips on the Appalachian Trail. All that walking and talking turned out to be highly beneficial. Twothirds of participants showed remission rates of depression immediately after the study, as well as three months later. Participants also experienced significant decreases in blood sugar and fasting glucose, as well as major gains in cardiovascular health during a stress test on an exercise bike. Volunteers also reported higher levels of social and emotional well-being and increased support from family and healthcare providers. “Combined intervention is better than approaching one problem or the other alone,” says Schwartz, J.O. Watson Endowed Diabetes Research Chair and professor of endocrinology in Ohio University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Early intervention with exercise for either diabetes or depression would not only help that condition, but might reduce the risk of developing the other associated condition.” Because the treatment doesn’t require medication, it’s also potentially more cost-effective, Shubrook adds. The team plans to expand Program ACTIVE to four to five additional sites in Appalachia—where the overall incidence of diabetes is higher than the national average, the Ohio University researchers have found—and other rural areas in the Midwest. It may be especially useful in medically underserved areas, de Groot says. “We have too few psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists in the Appalachian region, but we know that depression is out there,” she says. “This study was designed to begin to create tools that could be used for a larger scale program for treatment.” JACLYN LIPP



[ anthology]


[ per fect pitch ] SOFTWARE MAY IMPROVE HEARING IMPLANTS No rising and falling of chattering voices fills your ears, no music in the distance dances into your head. That’s what it’s like for people living with cochlear implants: muffled words and sounds are the closest technology comes to living in a world with hearing. But Ohio University doctoral student Ning Zhou is striving to improve the way sounds are processed through these implants, with support from a new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Cochlear implants are electronic devices for the profoundly deaf. The implants are placed into the ears via surgery and stimulate the auditory nerve. According to the Food and Drug Administration, by the end of 2008, more than 150,000 people around the world had received the implants. Zhou is developing a new speech processing strategy for the software in the bilateral implant devices. The strategy would affect how sounds enter the ears in order to improve the perception of pitch. Different sounds would reach each ear and combine to allow the implant user to hear more variations of pitch. In current bilateral implants, the same sound information travels to both ears. “I want the electrodes in each ear to get unique information so it can fuse for a much better frequency resolution. If that works, it will contribute greatly to the field,” Zhou says. A higher frequency resolution provides better pitch discrimination. This could be especially beneficial for users who speak tonal languages. In these languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, Zhou’s native tongue, the same syllable spoken in various pitches has different meanings. Those who can’t distinguish pitch have a hard time appreciating music or singing on key, explains Zhou, who works with Li Xu, an Ohio University associate professor of hearing, speech, and language sciences. The NIH National Research Service Award for Individual Predoctoral Fellows, which Zhou received this spring, will help her advance the research, which she hopes to commercialize one day. Zhou previously has studied the singing abilities of children and music and tone perception of adults in China, with and without cochlear implants. In another project, she’s determining what factors contribute to how well cochlear implants impact tonal development in the children. Throughout her work, she’s observed the potentially lifechanging impact of cochlear implants on people with hearing impairments. “People who were used to reading lips for communication, people who could never use a telephone, people who were isolated from their communities now can hear,” Zhou says. “Because of that, they can have a better quality of life.” JACLYN LIPP

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[ connecting the cosmos ] CAN NASA USE THE INTERNET IN SPACE? RESEARCHERS HELP DESIGN THE INTERPLANETARY TECHNOLOGY Though the internet pervades life on Earth, the astronauts and satellites patrolling space can’t simply point, click, and communicate data via the terrestrial “information superhighway.” A planet, the moon, or sun spots frequently interfere with internet protocols. Service is spotty. “It’s a very different environment,” says Shawn Ostermann, Ohio University chair and associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science. “In space you might need to talk to Mars, but it’s on the other side of the sun. You may not be able to send a message there for another day, a week, or a month.” Ostermann and Hans Kruse, Ohio University professor of information and telecommunication systems, have been working with the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland the last three years to solve that problem. The researchers, aided by a team of graduate students from the Scripps College of Communication and Russ College of Engineering and Technology, are developing


“We’re hoping to save NASA a lot of money, solve problems, and allow them to do new things they couldn’t do otherwise.” — S H AW N OSTERMANN

standards and protocols for new software called Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN), which some have called the “interplanetary internet.” “DTN is actually more like e-mail than the web,” Kruse notes. “So if I send a DTN message and it doesn’t arrive, what happened to it? How can we find the problem that’s holding up the message? Under our grant with NASA, Ohio University is working on creating the tools and procedures to make that possible.” The new technology aims to automate the delivery of information to spacecraft. Right now, NASA must transfer data manually, which can be time-consuming, Kruse explains. Ohio University has worked with NASA to develop new protocols for the DTN system to resolve these issues. The researchers also wrote some of the software for the current system, which was largely produced by JPL. The software already is running experimentally on the international space station, Kruse reports, but the team is moving closer to implementing it more widely for NASA deep space missions. In July, Ohio University researchers successfully completed the first major terrestrial trial of the system, a two-day test that called for collaboration with project partners as far away as Stockholm, Sweden. “It was really exciting, as this test was several months in the making,” Kruse says. “It showed us what works, but what we still need to fix. From our perspective it was very successful.” The test was also a great real-world experience for the team’s nine gradu-

ate students, who learned how to manage large software systems, fix glitches without creating more bugs, and navigate relationships with the partner government agencies, Ostermann says. And the stakes for success are high. “Ten years from now, a line of computer code they wrote might be circling Saturn, so it needs to work,” Ostermann says. Both faculty and students are excited to watch NASA deploy the software, he adds. The project should be complete by the end of 2010. “We’re hoping to save NASA a lot of money, solve problems, and allow them to do new things they couldn’t do otherwise,” Ostermann says. Ostermann and Kruse have worked on research projects that call for their joint expertise in space communications and network protocols since the mid-1990s. Their work led to a memorandum of understanding with NASA Glenn Research Center, which now regularly calls on the team to solve such research questions. “Ohio University has a unique mix of computer science and networking technology expertise, skill sets that don’t exist anywhere else,” Kruse says. ANDREA GIBSON

[ above ] The software is running experimentally on the international space station, above, and the Ohio University team is moving closer to implementing it for NASA deep space missions. Photos: NASA


| 11

The amount of data involved in analyzing the human, animal, and plant genomes can boggle the mind. The field of bioinformatics marries super computers with molecular biology to solve some of the biggest problems in medicine and science.

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f Sarah Wyatt and fellow scientists were to decipher the genetic code buried in plants that programs how they respond to gravity, the world might have the secret to growing enough food—even in the zero-gravity environment of space. It’s hard to think that a seemingly simple thing like controlling how roots find water or what direction a flower blooms could make that much difference. But Wyatt, associate professor of plant physiology and molecular biology, is one of many scientists on the Ohio University campus intensely interested in looking into basic biological processes that could revolutionize agriculture, medicine, and many other aspects of modern society. Wyatt is studying a plant genome made up of 126,000 genetic “letters”— a quest that calls for digging through a huge collection of data. It’s the same kind of quest that has scientists combing through vast amounts of information to pinpoint the genes responsible for everything from diabetes to aging and even the identifying marks of the best and brightest service dog. It’s the same quest that inspires researchers to boost the effectiveness of antibiotics and change the way doctors treat cancer. “We are only beginning to see the opportunities of sorting through all the possibilities that the molecular biology data can show us,” says Lonnie Welch, Stuckey Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “Everybody is screaming for help in analyzing the mountains of data that continue to get higher and higher.” Welch and his colleagues in the Bioinformatics Laboratory help researchers handle all that information through bioinformatics—a new use of computers to solve information problems in the life sciences. They have teamed up with scientists across campus to create extensive electronic databases on genomes and protein sequences, as well as advanced techniques such as three-dimensional modeling of biomolecules and biological systems.

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Scientists at Ohio University are interested in bioinformatics because it lets them sort through information much too vast for the human mind alone to grasp. Through a computer program he developed called Wordseeker, Welch already has helped Wyatt pinpoint some of the genes that code for gravity response in plants, and is helping researchers, both at Ohio University and at other institutions, solve biological conundrums in at least a dozen other projects in cellular and molecular biology, biomedical science, and pharmaceutical chemistry, among other disciplines. “People think all the bioinformatics technology is complex,” says Welch, who for 20 years used his supercomputing expertise to coordinate intricate systems on satellites and battleships before discovering compelling computer applications six years ago in the biological sciences. “But in comparison, studying the human cell is far more complex. Taking bioinformatics to the biological sciences could lead to huge improvements in how we live.” Biological scientists at Ohio University are using bioinformatics to explore possibilities that could change how physicians treat patients. John Kopchick, Goll Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor of molecular biology in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Edison Biotechnology Institute, began working with Welch two years ago to develop algorithms that sort through proteins and RNA in a search for a cure for diabetes. Once scientists determine what gene sequences and mutations cause disease, doctors can use such information to deliver personalized medicine based on clear identification of each patient’s unique genetic predisposition to specific health conditions and disease risks. “Physicians will know how to proactively treat disease instead of reacting to it,” says Kopchick. “Medicine care is primarily reactive now. Soon doctors will be able to think about what they can do for a person before they become ill.” Bioinformatics gives Ohio University scientists a research tool that helps them not only answer old questions but also ask new ones. With a bridge between scientific data and the technology that makes sense of the data, Kopchick can investigate novel properties of protein regulators, and colleague Robert Colvin, professor of biological sciences, can study the mechanisms underlying the neurodegeneration that occurs in stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Shawn Chen, assistant professor of

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“People think all the bioinformatics technology is complex. But in comparison, studying the human cell is far more complex. Taking bioinformatics to the biological sciences could lead to huge improvements in how we live.” L O NNIE WELCH

biological sciences, uses bioinformatics to study the genes in Streptomyces, common soil bacteria found in many antibiotic drugs, and to find a cheaper and environmentally cleaner way to make antibiotics. “You can see the potential, and that’s what gets people excited,” says Welch, who founded the Ohio Bioinformatics Consortium and The Ohio Collaborative Conference on Bioinformatics. “There are a lot of ideas out there.” By joining forces, biologists and computer scientists can make quicker advances in the field, Welch believes. Laura Elnitski, a leading biologist with the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health, has contracted with Welch to work on cancer research with her. Together, they are building bioinformatics tools to gain insight into cellular processes that are turned on in ovarian cancer. Their investigation could lead to methods for studying other forms of cancer and disease. Victor Chan, a senior research biologist with the Air Force Research Laboratory at The Wright Patterson Air Force Base, works with Welch to develop advanced data mining algorithms for identification of genetic markers associated with superior intelligence that will allow the military to select the brightest dogs for training and service and ultimately for breeding. Welch hopes these findings also could apply to service dogs, which typically take two years and as much as $20,000 to train to work with people with disabilities. Welch wants to make sure Ohio University scientists take full advantage of bioinformatics, both as a research tool and as a field of research in its own right. More than $9 million supports the Choose Ohio First for Bioinformatics scholarship program. Supported by state contributions and the 12 universities in the Ohio Consortium for Bioinformatics, it provides 150 scholarships each year for bioinformatics students. The scholarships promote interdisciplinary learning and include students from both the computer science and the biological areas of study. That way, biologists learn enough about computer science to explore and navigate the applications of bioinformatics, and that knowledge puts them a step ahead when seeking employment, Welch says. “And computer scientists benefit in similar ways,” Welch says. “Understanding the biological side of the equation inspires productive and innovative work and thinking in bioinformatics research.”

Welch recently finished a proposal to develop an internship program in connection with Ohio University’s certificate and scholarship programs for students to gain professional as well as educational experience. He hopes that a program like this will help retain bioinformatics graduates in the state of Ohio, and, since the bioinformatics industry is expected to garner more than $2 billion by 2010, that Ohio would benefit from an influx of trained bioinformatics professionals in its work force. Brian Keppler, recipient of a Choose Ohio First scholarship in bioinformatics, worked with bioinformatics analysis intensively as an undergraduate, and now, as an Ohio University graduate student in environmental and plant biology, works in the laboratory with Professor Allan Showalter. Showalter studies genes that code for proteins that build plant cell walls, and through Keppler’s bioinformatics findings, has bred a drought-resistant strain of Arabidopsis, a mustard plant. The discovery could help other scientists breed drought-resistant strains of crops like corn, rice, and wheat. “This is a good example of how bioinformatics work can lead to something else that we probably otherwise would have never pursued on a research level,” Showalter says. Bioinformatics often helps scientists with preliminary legwork. For example, Welch works with Erich Grotewold, professor of plant biology at Ohio State University, to predict how the genes of the Arabidopsis plant communicate. Discovering these communication patterns would allow other scientists to ask even more specific questions involving the plant genome. That collaborative work is the most important instance of bioinformatics compelling scientists to think in new ways, Welch believes. “As life science researchers continue to expand measurement capabilities and increase the fidelity of their instruments, the data will continue to grow exponentially, and processing that data is what bioinformatics is all about,” Welch says. Welch acknowledges that those who control and manipulate these mountains of data have enormous responsibility—and maybe even the power to change the quality of life for people around the world. “There’s talk of using bioinformatics to cure disease,” he says. “I think most scientists recognize the transformation potential. It will be fascinating to see what they do with it.”


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Paschal Younge and Zelma Badu-Younge use African music and dance to foster cultural awareness


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5 Members of the Azaguno dance troupe perform Bata during a spring 2009 Aza concert at Ohio University’s Templeton Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. Bata is a traditionally distinct ritual form of expression for Shango, the Yoruba deity of thunder and lightning. The Yoruba people are an ethnic group in southwestern Nigeria. Bata dance drumming plays an essential part in the ritual process of the worship, connecting deity to devotees. perspectives

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When dancers leave the stage and swirl in their vibrant costumes through the aisles of Ohio University’s Margaret Walter Hall Rotunda, audience members are not quite sure how to react. At first, that is. Before long, many of them are swept up in the revelry and join the dancers as they move to traditional music from the west African country of Ghana. Such is the power of African dance music to touch the emotions of anyone who hears its rhythms, according to the directors responsible for the performance this evening in early spring. “If you can walk, you can dance!” says Paschal Younge, associate professor of multicultural music education.

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Younge and Zelma Badu-Younge, associate professor of dance, lead the Ohio University African Ensemble. The ensemble is part of Younge and Badu-Younge’s far-ranging venture to bridge the cultural gap between western and African cultures through stage performance, classroom instruction, and academic research. Since 2005, they have directed the ensemble in performances year-round for a wide variety of audiences across the Ohio University campus and in the Athens community. They use their classrooms to promote multicultural awareness in the universal language of music and dance, and Younge has developed a curriculum guide for other educators interested in teaching about African culture. In many African villages, people come together in response to the beating of a drum as an opportunity to give one another a sense of belonging and of solidarity, according Younge. That idea is reflected in the makeup of the ensemble, which is open to any Ohio University student, regardless of major, who might feel compelled to get up and dance, pick up a jembe drum, or simply learn more about African culture.

5 Bamaaya, which means “the river (valley) is wet,� is the most popular social dance drumming of the Dagbamba people of northern Ghana. It began as a religious music and dance performance but now functions during funerals, festivals, national day celebrations, and other social occasions. 6 Zelma Badu-Younge, center, and Kalie Metzger, right, take a bow with the Ohio University African Ensemble and Azaguno at the end of the performance.


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5 Bamaaya calls for intricate footwork by the Azaguno dancers. 4 Nick Ungar and Amos Adomowim, members of Azaguno, perform Bata. 44 Guest Artist Sogbety Diomande performs solo jembe during Bademalor, a woman’s dance drumming from the Mahouka ethnic group.  This dance is performed at night after a hard day’s work or at weddings and other social gatherings.

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“There is no specific term for music in Africa as it is known in western cultures. It’s more than what you hear ; it involves — PASCHAL YOUNGE what you see and feel.”



ounge and Badu-Younge trace their interest in enlarging the world’s understanding of its many traditions to early experiences of their own with cultural clashes. When Younge first arrived in the United States as a music student from Ghana, an American classmate asked how many lions Younge had killed, leaving Younge with the distinct impression that Americans knew little, if anything, about his homeland. Badu-Younge, born in New York but raised and educated in Canada, was trained in traditional western dance forms such as ballet and jazz. One day, then-U.N. Ambassador for Ghana and family friend Victor Gbeno asked her when she was going to start studying “real dance.” “By that, he meant Ghanaian dance,” Badu-Younge says. Something about those early experiences got under their skin. Long before coming to Ohio University, both Younge and Badu-Younge became determined to find ways of using art to teach the world about their culture. Badu-Younge studied music and dance in Ghana, and won awards for her own African dance performances for the Badu Dance Company in Toronto. Younge became an expert in African choral and brass band music and sub-Saharan African music and dance. He performed at festivals around the world, and taught and directed music ensembles at the University of Ghana and West Virginia University.



n Younge’s “Music & Arts” class in Robert Glidden Hall, students not only learn how to improvise on percussion instruments but also receive an introduction to other forms of African culture, such as storytelling, that fold into the continent’s music traditions. Reading through the story of Ananse the Trickster, for example, the students take turns reading the parts of characters while also setting up an accompanying rhythm on drums. “You see all your smiles?” Younge asks his students after one particular exercise. “That’s the concept of music; you have to do it for enjoyment.” Westerners, especially in classical music traditions, he says, emphasize learning music from written scores and strive for “note-perfect performances.” But others, such as Africans, create their traditional music and dance with more improvisation and spontaneity. “There is no specific term for music in African cultures as it is known in western cultures,” Younge says. “It’s more than what you hear; it involves what you see and feel.” Younge’s classes are not entirely focused on performance; he guides his students through the rich cultural territory that surrounds African music. Students learn about the use of traditional instruments in African cultures, the importance of music and dance in church, and the differences and similarities between African church music and western religions. perspectives

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“They are inseparable. One cannot just teach the dance without the drumming or the drumming without the dance. From an African’s point of view, it would not be complete.” — ZELMA BADU-YOUNGE 5 Ohio University students, including Kalie Metzger, Sarah Hildebrand, and Grace Butler, members of the Ohio University African Ensemble, learn a Pan-African dance technique from Badu-Younge during a rehearsal at the Ridges Auditorium for the 2009 Aza concert. 4 Paschal Younge demonstrates the technique of playing the Dumdum drum from Nigeria at the Ridges Auditorium. 22 | a u t u m n

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“Music is a cultural phenomenon,” he later remarks. “You cannot separate the music from the culture. Different cultures have their own ideas about music. Learning about the music of a particular culture means learning about the people.” Younge has spent the past 15 years conducting research on Ghanaian music. With support from Ohio University’s Baker Fund, he’s developed a three-volume multimedia guide called Musical Traditions of Ghana (to be published in late 2009) to help other teachers develop their own curricula in African music.



adu-Younge helps her students see the cultural context of African dance by giving them the hands-on experience of building instruments, making costumes, designing cloth, and choreographing dances based on African traditions. She begins her class with a Pan-African dance warm-up activity designed to familiarize students with proper dance posture, stance, and movement.

have an understanding of certain fundamental movements, they must also learn to apply these movements differently in African dance. A course in African dance became a requirement for all Ohio University dance majors in the 2009-2010 school year. “Choreographers are working with such a blend of cultures and styles of dance. For students to be competitive in the field, it’s important for them to have exposure to these forms of dance,” says Travis Gatling, the interim director of the School of Dance, who is also interested in seeing the school include in its curriculum newer dance forms such as hip-hop.



“My feet are grounded and the rest of my body relaxed,” Badu-Younge says. “I am humbled by this posture, but I also feel a sense of openness, a sense of reverence, and a feeling that African dance is more than just about me.” Badu-Younge teaches her students about the aesthetic differences between African dance and western forms. For example, African dancers incorporate into their posture a softened “S” curve quite unlike the strong vertical line between the torso and hips that is de rigueur for western ballet dancers. African dancers also move from multiple “centers” of their bodies—moving different parts of the body in new ways and to different rhythms at the same time. The backbone of African dance is the drumming. “They are inseparable,” says Badu-Younge. “One cannot just teach the dance without the drumming or the drumming without the dance. From an African’s point of view, it would not be complete.” African music and dance is offered to all Ohio University students regardless of major. Non-majors are often easier to teach, according to Younge and Badu-Younge, because while majors

ounge and Badu-Younge also manage the international dance company Azaguno. In the language of the Ewe people of Ghana, the name means “a master drummer.” Founded in 2001, Azaguno provides a venue for research, preservation, education, and performance of traditional African music and dance, African American music and dance, and other styles from the Caribbean and Latin America. The group is made up of no more than 25 members who come from locations ranging from New York to Canada, but with the majority from Ohio University. Successful members from the Ohio University African Ensemble often go on to become members of Azaguno, which performs across the country and around the world. In 2002, Azaguno represented the United States at the FIFA World Cup Opening Ceremony in Seoul, Korea. “Azaguno provides opportunities for students who may not have a career in performance or dance,” explains Badu-Younge. “It gives them experience, and allows them to learn the culture.” In addition to performing around the world with Azaguno, Badu-Younge and Younge hope to expand the reach of their teaching, research, and creative work through several endeavors. Those include the university’s new African dance course requirement for dance majors, a certificate course in African music and dance through the African Studies program, and an expanded Ohio University study abroad program in Cuba, Kenya, Canada, and Australia that may include performance opportunities at the Sydney Opera House. “The African dance form is inviting and gives opportunities for students who might never have ventured into this rich culture from another part of the world,” Badu-Younge says. “They may make some discoveries, including that they have talent they never knew they had.” perspectives

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3 For an especially dramatic scene in Trailerpark, the crew burned a trailer purchased exclusively for the film. Images: Courtesy of Frederick Lewis and Samuel Emerson perspectives

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or a year and a half before the summer screening, that student production became a life-changing project for the 70 undergraduates led by Frederick Lewis, an associate professor of media arts and studies. Lewis, a documentary film director, has been teaching Ohio University students how to make films for the last nine years. In his course MDIA 419: Narrative Production, he typically breaks 30-35 students into teams of five pre-production units during winter, which expand to about 100 students who complete five short films in the spring. By October 2007, however, Lewis decided to raise the bar by asking the students to tackle a feature-length film. “I just felt that we were ready,” Lewis says. “We had the right combination of experience and talent and the right skill sets and temperaments to pull this off.” He already had Trailerpark in mind for the source material. The 13 connected stories follow the lives of rural people who reside in a run-down trailer park. The film adaptation chronicles a woman obsessed with raising guinea pigs, a man who wins the lottery, a hippie who finds his way into some dangerous business, and a young couple struggling to make their relationship work. Lewis first became a fan of Trailerpark while a graduate student at Brown University. He met Banks in 2004 when Lewis screened his documentary film about the artist Rockwell Kent at the Lake Placid Film Forum. The encounter rekindled his interest in the book, and in 2007 he asked the author about adapting it for film. HBO had tried to make a series from the book, but had recently dropped it. The timing was right, and Banks agreed to give Lewis restricted rights for $1. Lewis tapped a team of students to begin writing the screenplay in January 2008. Co-directors and scriptwriters Patrick Muhlberger and Jonny Look, as well as writers Jeff Bowers and Nick Knittel, would play key roles in the development of the project. It would take more than a year to draft, write, and finalize the 95-page script. Conor Hogan was eager to be a major player in Trailerpark as well, and Lewis named him coordinating producer. Hogan worked tirelessly to manage and raise funds for the project, Lewis says. Other students took responsibility for art direction, audio production, equipment rentals, cinematography, lighting, and visual effects. “We have 70 kids from video and audio production, eight public relations students, four visual communications students, one accountant, and five graduate and undergraduate students from the School of Theater,” Hogan said last spring when the project was still in production. “We really tried to collaborate and get everyone doing what they’re trying to do in the future. It’s so awesome to feel like you’re doing something entirely relevant to what you want to do.” The students raised the necessary $55,000 and petitioned equipment companies to sponsor the film project by loaning them high-end video production equipment for the duration of the shoot. The crew faced challenges they wouldn’t have encountered in a classroom or while working on smaller, more personal projects. These responsibilities included obtaining short-term insurance, working with the Screen Actors Guild and casting companies, building sets, scouting locations, and bringing in an American Humane Association representative for the guinea pigs on set. And the set for Trailerpark was indeed a trailer park—procured, created, and developed by the students. This process included creating unique and convincing interiors for each of the eight rented trailers camped out in the RV park at Lake Snowden in Albany, Ohio. For an especially dramatic scene, they worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and Hocking College’s fire-safety program to burn a ninth trailer purchased exclusively for the film. 26 | a u t u m n

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33The entire Trailerpark shoot took 35 days over the course of 13 weeks from January to April 2009. Many scenes were filmed at Lake Snowden in Albany, Ohio, though cast and crew also journeyed to Michigan to shoot on a frozen lake. 3 Professor Frederick Lewis commissioned Nelsonville, Ohio, artist Aaron Smith to create paintings of the Trailerpark set to be used in the design of the movie poster. 6 Co-directors of photography Andrew Poland (left) and John Veleta (right) worked closely to create and maintain a consistent visual look to the film. Images: Courtesy of Frederick Lewis and Samuel Emerson

“The local volunteer fire department also was on hand at Hocking College, advising us,” Lewis recalls. “The students handled it beautifully. It was pulled off with almost military precision.” The script also called for a scene on a frozen lake, an uncertain occurrence in southeast Ohio. To solve the problem, Lewis and a team of students made two nine-hour treks to Michigan to search for locations. Michigan native Jan Poland, mother of co-director of photography Andrew Poland, assisted the group. They found an appropriate lake and a family who volunteered their heated garage as headquarters. The students then dragged their cast, crew, and equipment—including an icefishing house—onto the ice for two days of shooting. And, as they filmed, they chronicled all of their experiences on a blog and posted behind-the-scenes videos, set photography, actors’ bios, art direction sketches, and more (see Despite such arduous tasks, the students involved with Trailerpark were fully committed to the project. While many of their peers spent spring break on white sandy beaches, the film crew spent sometimes dreary, drizzly March days home in Ohio, filming at the trailer park set at Lake Snowden. The entire shoot took 35 days over the course of 13 weeks from January to April. (The total production time took only 4 ½ months, which is astounding, Lewis notes.) “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing this weekend,” co-director Muhlberger said during a break from behind the camera. Muhlberger and his fellow Trailerpark crew were grateful for an experience that they wouldn’t have found at most other universities. “I think we can safely say that we’re one of the few schools in the country, maybe the only one at the undergrad level, that’s doing a project like this. The difference really is the degree of difficulty— we’re not just shooting in dormitories or student apartments—and it’s not for the faint of heart,” Lewis said. “I think they all understand the gravity of the situation and what we’re doing. It’s a high-profile project—all eyes are on us, so they’re dealing with that kind of pressure too.” In the film’s full-color program that was printed and distributed at the June 7 Athens premiere, the students testified to the unique personal and professional learning experience. “In order for this movie to get made we had to grow confident in our characters, our roles on set, our strengths, our dreams, even our shortcomings,” Muhlberger wrote. Look praised the team effort for pushing him out of a creative comfort zone. “As we went on from the writing stage into the pre-production, we became more in tune with each other, sometimes even having the same ideas, creating a collaboration that would invent concepts I could never have created alone,” he wrote. “In the end what has been made is not just Patrick’s and mine. It’s not the vision I set out to make either. It’s much better.” As Lewis and the crew submit Trailerpark to film festivals this fall, they’re encouraged by the fact that both Banks and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and screenwriter Richard Russo—who also gave the student film high marks after viewing it at the Lake Placid forum—have given Lewis permission to adapt any of their short stories for future projects. And Lewis knows that his students learned new skills and grew as individuals through the feature experience, whether they go to Hollywood to pursue filmmaking—as a number of their predecessors in Lewis’ program have done—or not. “We have no idea where their careers will take them, but I hope they leave here with a better idea of who they are and how they can handle stress—it’s character building,” Lewis said. “Some people say sports build character, but I think filmmaking builds character.”

“I think we can safely say that we’re one of the few schools in the country, maybe the only one at the undergrad level, that’s doing a project like this. The difference really is the degree of difficulty—we’re not just shooting in dormitories or student apartments—and it’s not for the faint of heart.” — FREDERICK LEWIS


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Former Ohio University undergraduates involved in research, scholarship, and creative activity talk about how the experience paved the way for engaging careers in medicine, science, engineering, and the arts.

ASHLEY WOOD Radical brain surgery is something most children will never go through, but at the Cleveland Clinic, it’s not an uncommon procedure. Child life specialist Ashley (Moszkowicz) Wood, an Ohio University alumna, is there to help. “My job is to help the patients to cope with their hospitalization and their diagnosis by supporting their developmental needs,” Wood says. She does this largely by helping kids express themselves through play. “Just last week I had a patient who expressed her emotions by telling me how worried her baby doll was about having surgery.” Wood also educates medical professionals on how to interact with children who are coping with their impending surgery—whether it’s for removal of a mole or removal of part of their brain. She counsels surgeons to take off their masks and sit down at eye level with the children. She also recommends age-appropriate language. A stretcher doesn’t stretch anybody; it’s just a bed with wheels. Anesthesiologists don’t put kids to sleep. “For some kids who may have lost a pet, they get worried that they’ll go to sleep and never wake up,” she says. Seven years ago, Wood was an undecided major at Ohio University. She took a career test, and “child life” kept appearing. By the time she was a senior, Wood was a child and family studies major enrolled in a departmental honors program. With money from the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fund and guidance from faculty mentor Jenny Chabot, she was able to present a poster at the 2006 Student Research and Creativity Expo summarizing a manuscript titled “A Child Life Workshop for Second-Year Medical Students at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine.” The manuscript included a literature review of the child life field and a curriculum, complete with handouts and step-by-step activities to educate physicians about how to best interact with young patients. This project set Wood on her path to her current profession. “It just added to the education I got at Ohio University,” she says. “I feel like it gave me one step ahead.” MARY REED

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CARA DINGUS BROOK For Cara Dingus Brook, the opportunity to learn how to serve her community was the high point of her college career. “It was one of the most important experiences of my life,” says Brook of her time as a Voinovich Research Scholar with the George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. Faculty and students in the school work with business, nonprofit, and government partners on projects that benefit Appalachian Ohio. Brook, who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in 2002 and a master’s degree in public administration in 2006, was a student in the Honors Tutorial College when she began working with the Voinovich School during her third year at Ohio University. She learned how to write grants—something that isn’t usually taught in an undergraduate classroom—and learned how to use her writing to share information and persuade people. She says she was “exhilarated” that as a Voinovich Research Scholar, her writing was for real-world purposes, not just to “get a grade.” “I walked into that organization not really knowing what a regional community foundation was,” she says. “I had never thought about this kind of career opportunity. It was a powerful shaping experience for me.” After graduation, Brook worked for four years as a regional representative for U.S. Senator George Voinovich. Today, she is the president and CEO of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO), a nonprofit community foundation created in 1998 to enhance educational and other opportunities in the 32 Appalachian counties of Ohio. Brook, who grew up in Lawrence County, says that many children in Appalachia experience “aspirational barriers” that keep them from reaching their full potential. Many also lack the financial resources to take the SATs and pursue other educational opportunities. To combat this problem, FAO raises funds from foundation, private, and corporate donors and then distributes those funds as grants and scholarships. The foundation gives many mini-grants to Appalachian teachers, K-12 and beyond, who undertake special classroom projects with their students. Brook says that FAO also provides leadership in the region, sponsoring the “I’m a Child of Appalachia” program and administering a conservation fund and an environmental education endowment. Brook says that her experiences at Ohio University led her to her dream career. “It was the access to the opportunity to serve that made such a difference to me,” she says. “I’m so grateful that I get to do this.” KAREN SOTTOSANTI

Cara Dingus Brook, a former Voinovich Research Scholar, now leads the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

Photo: Kevin Riddell

SADIE ROTH Sadie Roth is an industrial engineer, but you won’t find her on the ground floor of a factory. In a career inspired by a student research project at Ohio University, she manages a computer simulation program that has improved the efficiency of Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio. This program simulates the patient’s arrival at the hospital, registration, the waiting room experience, the room assignment, and doctor interaction, says Roth, who earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Ohio University in 2006 and her master’s degree in 2008. Knowing how long this process will take and how many patients the hospital can process in a certain period of time can help the hospital calculate the number of staff needed to run effectively. “It allows you to run a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios,” Roth says of the software. “For example, if we think we need to build more X-ray rooms, this program will show whether that’s really what will improve efficiency.” Roth got her start with computer simulation work as an undergraduate student. During an independent study senior year, she worked with two other students to model a fictitious emergency department for a simulation competition. The program was designed to answer questions about how the department could best save money while maintaining customer service levels. Such projects take a lot of time to be developed and tested, but they can provide invaluable information, she says. Especially when it could potentially save a life, as is the case with Roth’s simulation model at the hospital. “I love non-traditional applications beyond the factory floor,” says Roth. “The hospital never had an industrial engineer with them before—I’m the first one.” KELLY KETTERING perspectives

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MAURA GAHAN When Maura Gahan began her studies at Ohio University, she never dreamed that dancing puppets were in her future. Initially a theater major, Gahan soon fell in love with dance. She took her first class in puppetry freshman year, which led to an interest in incorporating the art into her choreography. A grant from the Honors Tutorial College Dean’s Discretionary Fund allowed her to attend a week-long giant puppetry workshop in Morinesio, Italy. “It was a pretty wild thing,” Gahan recalls. “I had this huge epiphany. I came back totally stunned.” Gahan also traveled to Ghana, Italy, France, and Spain to research dance and puppetry. She says that besides teaching her about the constructions of both large and small puppets, her travels “provided backbones of understanding different cultural movement patterns, the role of art in different communities and cultures, and how lifestyles affect the art one makes.” While she was in Italy, Gahan says, she kept hearing about the Bread & Puppet Theater, a political puppet and dance theater based in Glover, Vermont. After she received her bachelor’s degree in 2006, Gahan interned at the theater, and in 2007, she toured with the company. During the summer of 2007, she joined the full-time company as a puppeteer—although, she says, everyone in the company wears many hats. She says that her experience in Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College of being encouraged to “focus interests and have the discipline and self-motivation to grab hold of my education” helped her in her new career, where “to sit and wait to be told what to do does not work.” In 2008, Gahan began taking the Lubberland National Dance Company—the dance company of Bread & Puppet—on the road for spring and fall tours. Lubberland shows are, in a word, different from traditional dance recitals. Gahan books Lubberland into towns with “anyone who wants a show there,” from arts organizers to local farmers. She then spends about four hours teaching a preconceived show

to 10 to 20 volunteers. “The range of people we meet—moms, dads, teachers, truck drivers, lawyers—is so beautiful,” Gahan says. After a break, the volunteer dancers perform for the community. Gahan revels in a career that, she says, is about “bringing power back to the people, making art and dance more accessible, and getting movement back into people’s bodies. That’s political in itself. This theater has taught me a lot about the importance of art, not for art’s sake, but for the sake of humanity.” In addition to the university and her family, Gahan credits fellow student musicians, dancers, artists, poets, and activists for her success. Those collaborations not only provided important early learning experiences, she says, but continue to nurture her professionally today. “Having the opportunity and support to develop an education that encompassed ‘actual’ situations and experiences instead of theorized or discussed situations changed my life, my art, and my work,” she says of her experience at Ohio University. “Life and learning equals 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory.” KAREN SOTTOSANTI

Maura Gahan’s (center, both photos) undergraduate research and creative experiences with dance and puppetry led to a career with the innovative Bread & Puppet Theater, a political puppet and dance troupe in Vermont. Photos courtesy of Maura Gahan

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MATT HUENTELMAN More than 10 years ago, Ohio University scientist Robert Colvin and colleagues tried to find the genes responsible for the memory loss that comes with aging. In an experiment led by now-retired faculty member Linda Bellush, the team tested how well older mice with and without signs of cognitive decline could remember how to swim a water maze. But after collecting tissues for analysis, the project hit a roadblock. The technology needed to examine the RNA was expensive, and funding was difficult to secure. The tissue sat in a freezer until last year, when Colvin had a fateful meeting with scientist and Ohio University alumnus Matt Huentelman. Huentelman had conducted research while an undergraduate student in the lab of chemistry professor Peter Johnson, and today works at TGen, a Phoenix, Arizona, nonprofit research institute focused on leveraging the discoveries from the human genome project into advances in diagnosis and treatment of disease. On the eve of Johnson’s retirement from Ohio University, Huentelman returned to give a guest lecture on new micro-array based technologies that have opened the door to advances in genetics research. The talk inspired Colvin to ask the former student for a second look at the aging data. “Ten years ago, the hope of finding one gene from the tissue was very ambitious,” says Colvin, a professor of biological sciences who also studies the mechanisms behind stroke. “But the way the technology is advancing in this area today—it’s growing by leaps and bounds—things that would have taken years to analyze now take only months or weeks.” Using TGen’s technology infrastructure, the team successfully identified several genes that were “switched off” in the animals that had difficulty navigating the laboratory maze. The study, which the team published in the journal Brain Research earlier this year, reinforced findings that other researchers have observed in rats, but also uncovered additional genes that may be responsible for cognitive decline. The experiment also was highly controlled, Colvin says, as the mice were genetically identical and raised in the same environment. Colvin and Huentelman agree that scientists must conduct much more work to determine whether the genes could be new targets for the treatment of human memory loss. But Huentelman says that the potential discovery is worth the long days in the lab. “It’s a blue sky vision that’s still probably far down the line,” he says, “but it’s the logical next step in our attempt to prevent age-related cognitive decline.” ANDREA GIBSON

Matt Huentelman studies the human genome to advance diagnosis and treatment of disease. Photo by Mark Skalny / Mark Skalny Photography perspectives

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[ t h e f i nal word ]



t’s 11 p.m. on the last night of the weeklong Athens International Film and Video Festival in early May and Ruth Bradley, the festival’s director, is outside the Athena Cinema, changing the letters on the movie marquee. She’s been on the job since early this morning. Among today’s tasks were opening the theater, “wrangling” festival judges, mailing films to their next destinations, and squeezing in a popcorn dinner during her shift at the concession stand. “You never want to see laws or sausages being made,” Bradley says, paraphrasing the famous adage. “Well, the same thing pertains to a film festival.” To the 7,200 film fest goers, however, the 36th annual festival was another resounding success. Viewers had 170 movies to choose from, from full-length features to shorts. The award categories indicate the diversity of films the festival showcases: documentary, experimental, narrative, and animation. “For better or for worse, we try to do a little bit of everything,” Bradley says. The common thread in what she looks for in films to show—and she’s the only prescreener who looks at every one of the nearly 1,000 entries—is the filmmaker’s personal involvement with the medium. For example, she points to this year’s winning documentary film, Beauty of the Fight by director John Urbano, which takes place in Panama. “You could feel the hand of the filmmaker, his point of view,” she says, comparing it to a great opinion essay. Although directors whose films have shown at the Athens fest include Robert Altman and Gus Van Sant, this isn’t Bradley’s claim to fame. “What I think is our strength is that we take chances on younger artists and emerging artists—we are the first festival that shows their movies,” she says. Bradley is always on the hunt for new work through contact with festivals, blogs, distributors, and filmmakers. “Because of the film festival,” she says, “I’m able to keep very current with new developments in the world of film.” She shares this work with students enrolled in her courses on experimental film and documentary film. She recognizes that today’s students have been raised on the language of film and video, and so are somewhat sophisticated in their viewing, but they also have been fed a fairly restricted diet of mainstream Hollywood narrative films. Not only do her students learn to deconstruct narrative films, they learn to appreciate abstract and experimental films as well. “I explain to them Beethoven’s fifth doesn’t have words but it has meaning,” she says. “A film can have the same kind of impact.” Bradley, who worked the Ann Arbor Film Festival while earning her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, splits her time as an associate professor of film and director of the university’s Athens Center for Film and Video, a sponsored program of the College of Fine Arts. She no longer has time for Wide Angle, a film journal she edited and contributed to in the late 1990s, but she still sits on thesis committees and arts funding boards. And, of course, she oversees the 40 or so students who work on the film festival as promoters, box office attendants, and prescreeners for the films that will eventually make it to the theater.

[credits] ISSN 1520-4375 Printed on recycled paper.

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Perspectives: Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Ohio University is published twice a year by the Office of Research Communications, part of the Vice President for Research division. The magazine serves its readers by providing information about the research, scholarly, and creative activities of Ohio University faculty, staff, and students, and about the contributions of university research in general through the publication

But the biggest change for Bradley in the last year has been her new role managing the day-to-day operations of the Athena Cinema, which is now owned and operated by Ohio University. The Athena aspires to be the premier art house cinema in the region, showcasing the latest in independent and international film. An average bill might include the latest features from indie darlings Jim Jarmusch and Woody Allen as well as political documentaries and collections of short animated films. “It’s really an extension of the film festival into year-round programming,” Bradley says. The week following the fest, Bradley is sitting in her oversized office that’s piled high with stacks of papers, envelopes, boxes, and films. Her wan smile rarely makes an appearance, but she exudes a calm persona around her students. As she answers interview questions, she puts her white-framed Ray Ban glasses on her nose to check her e-mail and also dispenses orders to the students who call her by first name and pop in and out of the office: “Would you go fetch that movie for me … Don’t lose that key; I’ll have to kill you.”

of accurate and balanced journalistic content that informs, stimulates intellectual discussion, and promotes scholarly inquiry.

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Text, photographs, and artwork may not be reprinted without written permission from the editor. More information about the research program at Ohio University is available from the Vice President for Research, 120 Research and Technology Center,

Comments and queries regarding editorial content should be addressed to Editor, Perspectives, 120 Research and Technology Center, Athens, OH 45701-2979; Phone: (740) 597-2166, E-mail:

[ in the works ] New Projects Under Way THE SCIENCE OF AGING

Ben Rist, an undergraduate recreation management major, is in Bradley’s office, packing up films to be mailed. He is wearing a Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon sweatshirt. “It’s event planning,” he says of his work for the film fest. He hopes to apply this experience some day as a race director for a marathon. Roxana Gilani is an undergraduate film student who worked the festival this year. She looks up to Bradley. “She’s assertive, she’s tough, she always gets what she wants,” Gilani says. “I hope to achieve that status one day.” Bradley is not a filmmaker herself (“I wouldn’t dream of it”), but rather, she calls herself an arts enabler, someone who helps gather people to watch art together. “I think the best thing is standing in the back of the theater with a lot of people in it. You can just feel the pulse of the audience,” she says. “It’s vital, interesting, and comforting.” MARY REED 5Bradley

and 40 students pick the festival’s flicks.

EDITOR Andrea Gibson CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Gary Kuhlmann SENIOR DESIGNER AND ILLUSTRATOR Christina Ullman, Ullman Design CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Jaclyn Lipp, Kelly Kettering, Samantha Kinhan, Jessica Patterson, Mary Reed, Karen Sottosanti

Photo: Rick Fatica

ADVISORY COMMITTEE Gerardine Botte Associate Professor Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Terry Eiler Professor and Director School of Visual Communication

Ohio University researchers have received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to learn more about the science of why we age. The grant, one of the largest NIH awards received by Ohio University, is part of a larger, $8.6 million cooperative initiative that includes researchers at Southern Illinois University, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The scientists hope to determine the impact of growth hormone on longevity. The project has its roots at Ohio University, where researchers at the Edison Biotechnology Institute have created the world’s longest-living mouse. At five years of age, the critter has survived 2 ½ times longer than its litter mates. The secret? Scientists have blocked the animal’s ability to use growth hormone, said John Kopchick, the Goll Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor of molecular biology in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Edison Biotechnology Institute. “Though the mouse is smaller and fatter than the average rodent, it survives much longer than normal mice and is free of disease,” he says. “This is in direct contrast to the conventional wisdom that obesity shortens your life.” Scientists in 20 countries have since requested the mouse’s offspring for use in studies on aging, Kopchick reports. The project stems from a finding Kopchick and colleagues made 20 years ago, when they determined a mechanism to block the body’s growth hormone receptors. The research became the platform for a novel class of compounds called Growth Hormone Receptor Antagonists. Somavert, an FDA-approved drug derived from this compound, is marketed by Pfizer for use in the treatment of acromegaly. Acromegaly is a form of gigantism in which high levels of growth hormone create abnormal organ and bone growth, which causes medical complications that can lead to premature death. Continued research on growth hormone antagonists by Kopchick and his team led to the discovery of the oldest-living mouse, he said. Though growth hormone is often viewed by the lay public as an anti-aging compound— it’s sometimes prescribed to the elderly for improved muscle tone—laboratory studies show that too much growth hormone in mice and humans can shorten lifespan, said Ed List, a researcher at the Edison Biotechnology Institute involved with the research. With the new funding from the NIH, Kopchick, List, and Darlene Berryman, an Ohio University associate professor of human and consumer sciences, will examine how inhibiting the growth hormone receptor in specific tissue types—the liver, muscle, and white adipose tissue—impacts longevity, and if there are any negative health effects. “If you remove growth hormone’s action from only those particular tissues, what would happen to the body composition of the mice? Would they still be fat? Would the mice live longer?” Kopchick says. “If any of these mice happen to live longer, then that’s the tissue we will aggressively study.” The five-year study may help shed more light on the genetic factors that contribute to aging, he says. In addition, it could have implications for Kopchick’s related research on the impact of growth hormone on diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

Karla Hackenmiller Associate Professor Printmaking

2008 CASE, Silver, Visual Design in Print; CASE (District V), Silver, Best Specialized or Unit-Level Magazine; Print magazine 2008 Regional Design Annual, Editorial Design

Gold Medal for Organizational Magazine or Newsletter; CASE, Silver, Research Magazines; AWC Clarion Award, Feature Articles; CASE, Bronze, Best Articles of the Year

Lynne Lancaster Associate Professor Classics and World Religions

2007 CASE (District V) Gold, Research Magazines; CASE, Silver, Research Magazines; CASE, Silver, Visual Design in Print

2002 CASE, Bronze, Periodical Staff Writing; AWC Clarion Award, Feature Articles

2006 CASE (District V) Silver, Research Magazines

1999 CASE, Silver, Best Articles of the Year

Steve Reilly Professor Biological Sciences

2003 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards; League of American Communications Professionals

1998 CASE, Silver, Periodical Staff Writing; CASE, Bronze, Special Constituency Magazines

2001 CASE Gold, Research Magazines


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[ l a s t glance ] CLOSEUP ON RESEARCH

CRACKING UP Tired of navigating potholes on your work commute? A new invention by Ohio University engineer Sang-Soo Kim might help. Kim developed the Asphalt Binder Cracking Device (ABCD) to find a reliable way to determine which types of pavement hold up to cold weather extremes. State transportation departments spend billions of dollars annually to repair cracks, ruts, and potholes on the nation’s roadways. Kim patented the technology, licensed it from Ohio University, and founded his own company, EZ Asphalt, housed in the university’s Innovation Center, to commercialize the invention. The ABCD is about the size and shape of a round beverage coaster and contains a metal testing ring. Kim pours different types of asphalt into the device, and places it in a cooling chamber that resembles a small stainless steel refrigerator. An off-the-shelf computer program records the coldest temperature at which the asphalt will crack. Kim, who has received funding from the Federal Highway Administration for the project, is marketing the device to government agencies, asphalt producers, and university research laboratories. Photo: Courtesy of Sang-Soo Kim

Perspectives magazine  

Fall/Winter 2009 issue Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity at Ohio University

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