HEALTHY AGING Ohio University researchers explore the science of longevity and wellness
>> ALSO FEATURED HELPING STUDENTS WITH ADHD
TRACKING OHIO WILDLIFE FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 1 8
VOL 2 2 / ISSUE 2
HEALTHY AGING An Ohio University research team led by Distinguished Professor John Kopchick explores the science of longevity and wellness
Head of the Class
Interdisciplinary team tackles reproductive and sexual health issues locally and globally
Engineer Jason Trembly works with industry and government partners to develop technologies that can transform energy sources and waste into new products
Ecologist Viorel Popescu and students study wildlife— from bobcats to frogs— to inform conservation decisions
Psychology researchers lead efforts to design and implement school-based programs that can help students with emotional and behavioral disorders
Distinguished Professor Susan Burgess examines how Americans participate in democracy—from radical political movements to pop culture conversations
An Alliance for Public Health
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DE PART MEN TS UP FRONT
LETTER FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT AND THE PRESIDENT
Construction starts on chemistry facility
Startup licenses bone test technology
Presidential Research Scholars announced
CoLab offers a new venue for nurturing creative ideas
Perspectives: Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Ohio University is published twice per year by the Office of Research Communications, which reports to the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity. 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 of accurate and balanced journalistic content that informs, stimulates intellectual discussion, and promotes scholarly inquiry.
EDITOR Andrea Gibson
Text, photographs, and artwork may not be reprinted without written permission from the editor. Comments and queries regarding editorial content should be addressed to:
Office of the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Web: www.ohio.edu/research Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (740) 593-0370
Andrea Gibson, editor Perspectives magazine 120 Research and Technology Center Athens, Ohio 45701 Email: email@example.com Phone: (740) 597-2166
SENIOR DESIGNER + ILLUSTRATOR Christina Ullman, Ullman Design ASSISTANT DESIGNER Alix Northrup, Ullman Design
For more information about the research program at Ohio University, please contact:
ISSN 1520-4375 PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPER
ON THE COVER Ohio University Distinguished Professor John Kopchick and several members of his team in the Edison Biotechnology Institute. (From left to right) John Kopchick, Reetobrata Basu (seated), Sam Mathes, Kevin Funk, Edward List, Silvana Duran Ortiz, and Alison Brittain. OPPOSITE PAGE Graduate student Silvana Duran Ortiz and Professor John Kopchick are taking a closer look at the mechanisms behind healthy aging. PHOTOS: COVER, BEN SIEGEL; OPPOSITE PAGE, BEN SIEGEL; THIS PAGE, TOP, BEN SIEGEL; ABOVE, BEN SIEGEL; ABOVE RIGHT, HANNAH RUHOFF
OH IO U NI VER S I T Y / .01
From the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity and President
3 OHIO DELEGATION During a recent trip to Malaysia, an Ohio University delegation visited Petronas, a global oil and gas corporation, to strengthen links to the Institute for Corrosion and Multiphase Technology in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology. From left to right: Institute Director Srdjan Nesic; President M. Duane Nellis; Petronas Chairman of the Board of Directors and OHIO alumnus Datuk Ahmad Nizam Salleh; College of Business Dean Hugh Sherman; Secretary to the Chairman Faizal Othman; and Vice President for University Advancement Nico Karagosian. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
David Koonce INTERIM VICE PRESIDENT
Research + Creative Activity
M. Duane Nellis P R E S IDENT
n fall 2018, the Ohio Department of Education launched the Ohio Innovation Exchange (OIEx), a new online research portal designed to connect the state’s research universities with industry. Ohio University is proud to have served as one of the higher education institution developers of the platform, which features more than 8,250 faculty members and 900 resources from Ohio University, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, The Ohio State University, The University of Akron, and The University of Cincinnati. These universities and the state of Ohio supported the creation of a tool that could seed new partnerships between academia and industry, which can, in turn, help advance knowledge and innovation and foster workforce and economic development. At Ohio University, our director of industry partnerships ensures that OIEx portal users can effectively link to Ohio University assets and translate their interests into valuable collaborations. The Ohio Innovation Exchange is just one way that Ohio University supports industry-academic alliances. In partnership with The Ohio State University, Ohio University will co-host the biannual University
FIND OUT MORE
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Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP) conference in Columbus, Ohio, in September 2019. The conference, “Developing 21st Century Talent through Meaningful Partnerships,” will explore how universities, industry, and government can work together to create talent management strategies for the workforce. In addition, the Industry Partnerships Office and the Foundation’s Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations have launched a new Ohio University corporate engagement portal that is intended to rapidly steer interested companies to the right resources at Ohio University. We hope that you explore these new resources and opportunities that can help build greater connections between academia and the business community in the state of Ohio. We believe that strong university-industry partnerships are critical to economic vitality.
Ohio Innovation Exchange: www.ohioinnovationexchange.org UIDP conference: www.uidp.org/event/uidp29-conference-in-columbus-ohio OHIO corporate partners portal: www.ohio.edu/corporate-partners
Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity / News in Brief
N E W C H E M I ST R Y B U I L D I N G
BREAKING GROUND Ohio University officials broke ground on a new state-of-the-art chemistry building in August 2018. The 69,000-square-foot building, which will be located on the site of the parking area adjacent to Clippinger Laboratories, will feature student and faculty collaboration spaces, research and instructional laboratories, and faculty and graduate student offices. The building is planned to open in the summer of 2020 and is the first part of a phased renovation and augmentation of Clippinger. “Ohio University’s scientists are conducting groundbreaking research, and we’re looking forward to moving some of that research into a modern facility that allows students and faculty to do their best work in a more visible environment,” said Joseph Shields, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. PHOTO: OHIO UNIVERSITY PHOTOGRAPHY >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
President M. Duane Nellis (center) joins Ohio University faculty, staff, students, and alumni in breaking ground on the new chemistry building in August 2018.
OH I O U NI VER S I T Y / .0 3
PERSP ECTIVES / NE WS I N B R I EF
TESTING BONE STRENGTH Ohio University licenses technology to company to develop non-invasive osteoporosis diagnostic device
hio University has licensed a technology that can accurately estimate bone strength to Ohio startup company AEIOU Scientific LLC. AEIOU Scientific began offering the Cortical Bone Mechanics Technology™ for sale as a scientific research product during fall 2018. It also plans to begin conducting clinical trials in 2019 to gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell the technology as a medical device for osteoporosis diagnosis, according to company founder and CEO Jeff Spitzner. The Cortical Bone Mechanics Technology™ uses a vibrating ceramic probe placed against the forearm. The bone under the skin vibrates in response. “The more it vibrates, and the more slowly it vibrates, the weaker it is,” Spitzner said. “We’ve proven scientifically that this is a very accurate indicator of the strength of the bone.” The process is non-invasive and uses no radiation, he added. Anne Loucks, a professor of biological sciences in Ohio University’s College of Arts and Sciences, initiated development of the technology almost a decade ago. While conducting research on female athletes who experienced bone fractures, Loucks discovered that existing technologies didn’t accurately measure or predict bone strength. The Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute provided seed funding to Loucks to support the project in 2014. In early 2016, Ohio University’s Innovation Strategy program awarded a team led by Loucks, co-inventor Lyn Bowman of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Brian Clark of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine an $875,000 grant to further develop the technology, which is patent-pending. Spitzner, a
The scientific market for the product includes thousands of researchers who are studying human bone for various basic or clinical science issues. . 04 / P E R SPE CT I VE S
Columbus, Ohio-based entrepreneur, offered to become an executive mentor to the faculty research team, which was accepted into the I-Corps@Ohio program. The state program helps university inventors conduct research on the market potential for their technologies and learn how to develop startup companies. AEIOU Scientific also has received a $477,000 Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop the medical device, as well as a $150,000 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier’s Technology Validation and Startup Fund to validate the scientific instrument with independent, clinical research groups in the state of Ohio, Spitzner reported. “Those two grants will prepare us for raising investments and growing the company,” he said. The scientific market for the product includes thousands of researchers who are studying human bone for various basic or clinical science issues, such as to understand osteoporosis or other bone diseases, to learn more about the impact of nutrition on bone health, or to study pharmaceuticals that could improve bone strength, Spitzner explained. AEIOU Scientific also is looking to the medical device market, as the Cortical Bone Mechanics Technology™ has
from Ohio University’s Innovation Strategy program to further develop the technology
AEIOU Scientific LLC, a startup company at the Ohio University Innovation Center, began offering the Cortical Bone Mechanics Technology™ for sale as a scientific research product during fall 2018. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
potential for helping clinicians better identify patients at risk of low-trauma bone fractures, such as from osteoporosis. The current process used by physicians measures bone mineral density, but it does not predict fractures well, Spitzner said. AEIOU Scientific became a client of the Innovation Center, Ohio University’s business incubator, where it will manufacture the new technology. FR OM STA F F R EP O RTS
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THE TEAM WAS AWARDED AN
MORGAN VIS AND BRIAN CLARK NAMED 2018 PRESIDENTIAL RESEARCH SCHOLARS Faculty members Morgan Vis and Brian Clark have been named the 2018 Ohio University Presidential Research Scholars. The awards program recognizes mid-career faculty members who have garnered national and international prominence in research, scholarship, and creative activity. Vis is an internationally known expert on the systematics of freshwater red algae, an important source of food and shelter for invertebrates in streams, and the use of algae as a monitor of water quality. She has studied the distribution of algae around the world, describing new families, genera, and species. Vis has used DNA testing to contribute new findings to her field about the evolution and relationships among algae. With an interdisciplinary team of scientists, Vis has examined how freshwater red algae can act as a biomonitor of the health of streams in Appalachia impacted by acid mine drainage. In addition, she has conducted research and consulted with engineers on how algae may be used as a source of biofuels and for carbon mitigation. Vis has a strong track record of external funding for her research, including several grants from the National Science Foundation, and has been awarded three patents. Clark is the executive director of the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute, which conducts studies on muscle function, pain, and aging issues, including for clinical trials. He has led more than $14 million in research projects funded by federal agencies, private foundations, and industry. Clark has gained prominence in his field for discovering that the nervous system plays a key role in age-related muscle weakness, which he and a colleague have termed “dynapenia.” His research has led to a greater understanding of muscle strength and function in the elderly and points to new pathways for preventing and treating disabilities. Clark also has found neurological causes and interventions for muscle atrophy that follows injury, disease, or surgery. In addition, he has published findings on the benefits of manual, non-surgical strategies to mitigate lower back pain.
MORGAN VIS Morgan Vis is a professor of environmental and plant biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
BRIAN CLARK Brian Clark is a professor of physiology and neuroscience and the Harold E. Clybourne, D.O., Endowed Research Chair in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. PHOTO: OHIO UNIVERSITY HERITAGE COLLEGE OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE
F RO M STAF F REPO RTS
OH I O U NI VER S I T Y / .0 5
Interdisciplinary team tackles reproductive and sexual health issues locally and globally
A N A L L I A N C E FO R
hio University’s Reproductive and Sexual Health Initiative (RSHI) brings together researchers and practitioners from the College of Health Sciences and Professions and the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine to study and provide solutions to a wide variety of public health issues—from the rise in sexually transmitted infections to the low rates of cervical cancer screenings and breastfeeding among some populations of women. The team, which is part of the university’s Infectious and Tropical Disease Institute, has a wide geographic scope for its work: from Appalachia to Africa and various locations in between.
The initiative encompasses faculty, staff, and students from the disciplines of epidemiology, nursing, social and public health, and clinical medicine, as well as the Campus Involvement Center at Ohio University and other higher education institutions (University of Toledo, University of West Florida, and University of Rio Grande). Caroline Kingori, an associate professor who leads the initiative, notes that working across disciplines is crucial for tackling public health issues. Such efforts require a wide understanding of science and of individual and community factors in order to analyze problems and effect changes in behavior. “We can’t sit in our own silos and expect to make a difference in our work,” she says. . 06 / P E R SPE CT I VE S
recent study findings AND RESEARCH IN THE WORKS
CERVICAL CANCER SCREENING Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer in Africa, but few women are screened for it—even though health care is accessible in urban areas, says Zelalem Haile. The Ohio University researchers found that women who are married or living with someone but engaged in unprotected sex—a risk factor for cervical cancer—were also less likely to get checked for the disease. The team now is studying the issue in central Ohio, which is home to many African immigrants, Kingori says. The researchers are currently hoping to recruit up to 250 participants, examining attitudes, access, barriers, and screening behaviors. PREGNANCY Tania Basta and colleagues are collecting data about attitudes on teen pregnancy in Ecuador— considered to be the number one health issue in communities there—and hope to conduct focus groups on the lack of communication surrounding the issue. In the United States, the team has been exploring women’s satisfaction with the pregnancy experience. They are conducting further research on initial findings that women can experience varying levels of comfort with and enjoyment of the process.
COR E FACU LTY
CAROLINE KINGORI Associate professor of community and public health, Department of Social and Public Health, College of Health Sciences and Professions
TANIA BASTA Associate professor of community and public health and chair of the Department of Social and Public Health, College of Health Sciences and Professions
ZELALEM HAILE Assistant professor of epidemiology, Department of Social Medicine, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
PHOTO: OHIO UNIVERSITY HERITAGE COLLEGE OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE, RICH-JOSEPH FACUN
C-SECTIONS Women who have gained more weight than recommended during their pregnancies are more likely to have unplanned or emergency C-sections, Haile reports. Knowing that only one-third of U.S. women gain the recommended weight during their pregnancies, the team hopes to study how physicians can better track patient weight and counsel them about the consequences of excess weight (which also includes delayed lactation and diabetes) and insufficient weight gain (which can lead to underweight babies). Haile also is looking at the issue in Africa. Data on gestational weight gain there is nonexistent, he notes, but the issue is becoming more common: 42 percent of women 15 to 49 are obese or overweight. BREASTFEEDING Women in both the United States and rural Ghana were more likely to breastfeed if a midwife attended the birth of their babies. This is most likely due to the time midwives spend with expectant and new mothers, and also because they often attend low-risk births to women with no pre-existing health conditions that prohibit them from breastfeeding, Haile says. HORMONAL CONTRACEPTION Several studies conducted in Africa have found that the use of hormonal contraceptives—such as pills, shots, or implants—can protect women against Vitamin A and iron deficiency. Haile and other colleagues are exploring married men’s perceptions of contraception in Africa, as their attitudes can influence their wives’ use of these methods.
SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS College students don’t think they are at risk of contracting HIV and don’t have a strong grasp of how to protect themselves from it, according to another study. An initial survey found that only 4 percent of students could accurately describe how HIV was transmitted, Kingori says. Rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV are rising, but the ready availability of medical treatments for these diseases seems to have reduced students’ concerns about acquiring them, Kingori notes. Condom use has declined even as other birth control use has remained steady. While the initiative continues to study the issue in the United States, Basta has presented findings from research conducted in Ecuador that found that individuals who have a greater understanding of how HIV is transmitted have lower levels of stigma about the disease. CHRONIC DISEASES IN HIV PATIENTS Anti-Retroviral Treatment can successfully treat HIV and is now accessible to patients around the world. But those who use the treatment have experienced an increase in chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. Kingori, Haile, and colleagues from the University of Ghana are examining biomarkers that can help identify why patients are developing these diseases and also point to ways to prevent them. n — BY ANDREA GIBSON
WA NT TO C OLL A BOR A TE ? The initiative welcomes new academic and clinical collaborators. Learn more: www.ohio.edu/medicine/itdi/research/reproductive/index.cfm OH I O U NI VER S I T Y / .0 7
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ason Trembly first developed an interest in creating cleaner sources of energy as a student intern with American Electric Power (AEP). The company was exploring how to produce electrical power with syngas made from coal—but with zero emissions. His quest to answer that question took Trembly to a fellowship with the U.S. Department of Energy, work with an internationally renowned research institute, and finally back to his alma mater of Ohio University, where he is now Russ Professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment. > > > > >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Russ Professor Jason Trembly works with industry and government
Trembly continues to search for new uses for energy sources—including coal—and their waste and transform them into new, high-value products. “There’s a theme in my work of environmental sustainability—let’s do things cleaner and more effectively that make sense,” he says. While Trembly has continued some work on coal technology solutions, his efforts to efficiently clean and reuse the wastewater that comes from the oil and gas industry’s hydraulic fracturing operations have garnered him attention in recent years. He invented a technology that places wastewater in a supercritical state, in which is it is both liquid and gas. This process removes contaminants from the water, which would allow the oil and gas industry to reuse it instead of disposing of it. In partnership with West Virginia University, Trembly’s lab is exploring how to use the technology to also effectively separate and remove high-value byproducts—such as salt for industrial applications, as well as nutrient-rich solids and hydrogen—from the wastewater. In the last few years, Trembly has received almost $5 million from industry partners, federal agencies, and the Ohio Third Frontier program to develop the technology for the oil and gas industry’s hydraulic fracturing operations. Trembly and his team of research staff, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate and undergraduate students have built prototypes of the technology to test its feasibility and capacity.
partners to develop technologies that can transform energy sources and waste into new products
3TURNING WASTE TO PRODUCTS
Coal plastic composites made by a research team led by Jason Trembly (inset) offer a new, potentially carbon emissions-free use of coal. If successful, such products could create new manufacturing jobs within the region, Trembly says. PHOTOS: ASHLEY STOTTLEMYER
OH IO U NI VER S I T Y / .0 9
5 Professor Jason
Trembly and Russ College undergraduate student Michelle Srisupan conduct an electrochemical test to recover nutrients as a reusable fertilizer from animal waste, in an effort to prevent watershed pollution.
4The Trembly team tests the flexure strength of the coal plastic composite material in the lab.
“We’ve demonstrated the mechanism—we’ve shown it works,” he reports. The prototype has been able to treat wastewater at a supercritical state and extract salt from test batches of brine. In August the researchers received new funding to test the technology at a hydraulic fracturing site in Ohio, most likely during spring 2019, to begin to study its effectiveness in the field. Trembly also has started working with an industry partner to reduce the amount of energy required to generate a barrel of clean water, and is seeking federal funding opportunities to build a commercial pilot plant unit in the field. Trembly has attracted interest from government and industry about how his technology could be applied to other energy or environmental problems. The Ohio Water Development Authority awarded him a grant to study how the innovation could clean wastewater from agricultural operations; nutrient runoff from farms can infiltrate waterways and develop algae blooms in lakes. Although the technique used for the hydraulic fracturing project didn’t turn out to be the right fit for the agricultural question, Trembly’s team now is exploring development of another, electrochemical-based process. > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
4 4Russ College students Eric Marcum (left) and Clive Chirume (right) prepare coal plastic composite samples for property testing. PHOTOS: ASHLEY STOTTLEMYER
TREMBLY HAS RECEIVED ALMOST
$5 MILLION from industry partners, federal agencies, and the Ohio Third Frontier program to develop the
TECHNOLOGY FOR THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY’S HYDRAULIC FRACTURING OPERATIONS.
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“DEVELOPING A SOLUTION IS ONE THING, BUT DEVELOPING A COST-EFFECTIVE SOLUTION THAT SOMEONE IN THE FIELD WANTS TO USE AND INCORPORATE INTO THEIR INDUSTRY IS ANOTHER.” JASON TREMBLY
Trembly notes that dialogue with industry and government partners has helped him and his team learn to address real-world needs. “Developing a solution is one thing, but developing a cost-effective solution that someone in the field wants to use and incorporate into their industry is another,” he says. Critical thinking and keeping an eye on the big picture are other lessons he teaches students and engineering professionals in his lab. Take his most recent project, which brings the Trembly lab back to his original interest in developing new markets for coal. Trembly recalls that he was building a new deck in his backyard when he wondered if he could develop a composite material from wood and coal that could provide better performance and be easier to recycle than the current wood-plastic composite on the market. The idea—originally supported by a grant from the Ohio University Foundation’s 1804 Fund—recently attracted a $250,000 award from the Ohio Development Services Agency for further development. Trembly also is working with industry partners. Although the concept wouldn’t generate as many coal mining jobs as the energy industry provides, it could create manufacturing jobs, Trembly notes. Boards for home decks is just one application for coal composite material; the engineer sees potential for construction materials and other products. The idea is an example of Trembly’s commitment— seeded in that early internship with AEP—to create sustainable coal-based materials that don’t generate greenhouse gases or other pollutant emissions. The inventor has worked with the Ohio University Technology Transfer Office to patent his technologies and explore new research partnerships and market opportunities. “You never know where someone will have an interest,” Trembly says of potential users of the technology. “You learn to keep your options open and consider the applications of the technology from a wide array of perspectives.” n — BY ANDREA GIBSON
NEW $1 MILLION GRANT TO SUPPORT RESEARCH ON PRODUCTS FOR CHEMICAL AND ENERGY SECTORS In late 2018, Trembly received $800,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and $200,000 from the Russ College of Engineering and Technology to develop a novel laboratory-scale process to simultaneously convert two of the energy industry’s most problematic substances into high-value products for the chemical and energy sectors. Using a strategy known as chemical process intensification, Trembly aims to transform ethane found in wet shale gas into liquid chemicals/fuels via first converting it into ethylene. He and his team also will convert carbon dioxide found in industrial emissions into carbon monoxide. Trembly will use chemical engineering principles to develop a substantially smaller, cleaner, safer, and more energyefficient technology than what is currently available on the market. The Ohio University funds will support graduate students on the project. At full scale, the system’s equipment would be about the size of a semi-trailer, which could be used on-site at energy production facilities. These smaller units also would represent a much lower initial investment than with large processing facilities, such as mid-stream separation and cracker plants. Not only does the process save energy for both industry and the environment, but it also keeps the ethane conversion process in Appalachia instead of the Gulf of Mexico, where cracker plants are more prevalent. —PETE SHO O NER AND C O LLEEN CAROW
OHI O U NI VER S I T Y / .1 1
Ecologist Viorel Popescu and students study wildlifeâ€”from bobcats to frogsâ€” to inform conservation decisions
FOR HELLBENDERS Undergraduate students Christine Hanson and Andrew Travers and lab manager Julia Golias search for hellbenders, an endangered salamander, to understand how well conservation efforts are working to revive the species in Ohio. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
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fter decades of infrequent sightings, the bobcats were coming back in Ohio. The population of the wild felines appeared to be so robust, in fact, that the question of whether they could be legally trapped in the Buckeye State became a source of public debate in early 2018. While the decision to allow trapping has been postponed, Ohio University conservation biologist Viorel Popescu continues to gather data—through a four-year study funded by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources—to paint a more accurate picture of the status and sustainability of the bobcat population.
Conservation Ecology Lab Manager Julia Golias baits a camera trap using a skunkysmelling lure for bobcats. The lab has captured images of adult bobcats and kittens as part of its population study. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
The controversy over whether to prohibit or promote the trapping of wildlife came as no surprise to Popescu, who has watched conservation debates play out in various geographic locations. While some members of the public want to protect a certain species, others argue for their right to trap and hunt animals or to use land for industry rather than wildlife habitat. How can society reach a consensus on these issues? Popescu believes his Conservation Ecology Lab at Ohio University can contribute to these conversations, pursuing “objective science that all parties can use,” he says. Conservation decisions aren’t always based on the latest research, in part because wildlife data are hard to get, Popescu notes. A development in industry—such as the boom in oil and gas companies’ use of hydraulic fracturing techniques to extract natural resources—may move faster than the science that studies the impacts of such activity on the ecosystem. “Natural systems are always subject to random variation and continuous change, which challenges scientists’ ability to predict
the effects of human actions on wildlife,” Popescu says. He points to the California spotted owl as an example. For several years he’s been working with the U.S. Forest Service to develop a cost-effective monitoring plan for this bird population, which is dwindling in numbers. But climate change—in this case, in the form of wildfires that have devastated large regions of California—has forced conservation scientists to adapt their plans, Popescu reports. Despite these obstacles, Popescu is a strong advocate for pursuing such scientific data for the benefit of society, and notes that policymaking and regulatory organizations are eager for the information. In addition to the study on bobcats, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is funding a project on hellbenders, an endangered salamander, to learn about population size, threats, and the effectiveness of conservation strategies designed to help the species recover in the state. The National Science Foundation also has supported his lab’s research on how climate change is affecting the survival of frogs.
OH I O U NI VER S I T Y / .13
BOBCATS To more accurately gauge the size of the bobcat population in Ohio and determine whether the state could implement a trapping season, the Popescu lab has set up cameras in forested areas to capture images of the animals, and has collected their hair and scat. Student researchers rub a musky, aromatic lure around the base of trees to attract the animals to locations where they can be photographed and may leave biological samples. Graduate student Marissa Dyck is analyzing a freezer full of collected scat to learn more about diet and genetic makeup. The team also is working to document the relationships between bobcat populations as well as their interactions with other wildlife such as coyotes. In addition, one of Popescu’s graduate students, Heidi Bencin, studied how often and where bobcats are being killed on Ohio’s roadways. She found that it’s many times more likely for the animals to die on the I-77 and I-70 interstates—compared to county or township roads—and that road mortality is the top threat to Ohio bobcats, he says. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Researchers are capturing images of bobcats in order to gain a better understanding of the current size of the Ohio population, which will help inform state wildlife management decisions. PHOTO: COURTESY OF VIOREL POPESCU
FROGS Scientists have been concerned about the impact of climate change on amphibians such as wood frogs, which rely on shallow ponds as breeding grounds. Changes in weather patterns can cause these small bodies of water to dry out faster, threatening the survival of tadpoles. A study by Popescu lab graduate student Cassandra Thompson took a new view of the issue, tracking the heartiness of the frogs over a longer time span. The scientist documented a much higher level of amphibian survival than other studies had, suggesting that the animals are more adaptable to habitat change than previously believed, Popescu notes. With a $50,000 grant from the Ohio University 1804 Fund, Popescu and collaborators from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs recently built a permanent facility to continue this aquatic research and provide hands-on learning for students. Scientists and engineers across the university also will use the facility to study related issues, such as algae blooms.
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BROWN BEARS In his native Romania, Popescu has been studying the population of brown bears in order to inform government decisions about hunting quotas for the animals. Brown bears flourished under the Communist regime because only top party officials could hunt them, and large portions of forest were closed to logging, Popescu explains. But when political tides changed in the late 1980s, wildlife management agencies set large quotas of animals that could be hunted—without any corresponding data on the number of bears in the wild. Popescu’s research team published a paper last year “that made some waves in Europe,” he reports, as it suggested that the government had overestimated the population of brown bears and made the quotas too high. The government banned hunting for one year and is revising the wildlife management plan while the researchers gather more data. In the meantime, the issue has generated debate between hunting lobbying groups and conservationists. “Hunting is still a useful management tool, especially for problem animals,” says Popescu, who explains that some bears have eaten crops and attacked livestock and sometimes people, “but it has to be done sustainably and be informed by the best available data.”
Graduate student Cassandra Thompson is conducting research on how climate change impacts the survival of tadpoles and frogs. PHOTOS: BEN SIEGEL
WITH A $50,000 GRANT FROM THE OHIO UNIVERSITY
1804 FUND, >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Popescu and collaborators from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs recently built a permanent facility to continue aquatic research.
OH IO U NI VER S I T Y / .15
HELLBENDERS The state of Ohio hopes to revitalize the population of an endangered salamander called the hellbender, which can grow up to 2 feet in length. A large team of biologists from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Ohio University, Columbus Zoo, and Toledo Zoo are raising the animals in captivity, releasing them into streams and rivers, and monitoring their ability to thrive and breed in Ohio streams. Native populations of the aquatic animals have been declining, most likely due to sensitivity to environmental pollutants, Popescu explains. Popescu recently received a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to study how 75-pound concrete nests embedded in the waterways could give hellbenders a safe place to lay and nurture their eggs, and monitor captive-bred and released animals in order to evaluate the success of these conservation efforts. A student team led by doctoral student Matthew Kaunert also is examining hellbenders in Pennsylvaniaâ€”where the salamanders are more plentifulâ€”to determine if these healthy populations can provide useful information for the Ohio recovery efforts.
54HELPING AN ENDANGERED SPECIES
At right, Popescu lab members Andrew Travers, Julia Golias, and Christine Hanson participate in the hellbender study. The hellbenders, like the one above, can grow up to 2 feet in length. Native populations have been declining, most likely due to sensitivity to environmental pollutants, Popescu says. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
POPESCU RECEIVED AN ODNR GRANT TO CREATE, STUDY, AND EVALUATE >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >
SAFE HAVENS for endangered hellbenders to lay and nurture their eggs
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FUNDING NOTE: The Ohio Department of Natural Resources projects are funded by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program (W-134-P-20, Wildlife Management in Ohio), administered jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
TURTLES While she was a graduate student in the Popescu lab, Marcel Weigand completed a study on the impact of the new U.S. Rte. 33 Bypass in the area of Nelsonville, Ohio, on the native eastern box turtle population. It’s a species of concern for the state of Ohio, Popescu explains, as the animals are vulnerable to roadway mortality. After tracking their behavior over time, Weigand found that the box turtles didn’t attempt to cross the highway, but created nesting and habitat sites on the fresh cut in the side of the road. While this behavior keeps them safe from road threats, the pavement seems to act as a complete barrier, limiting opportunities for movement and exchange of genes between turtles living on either side of the Bypass, he notes.
Viorel Popescu, head of the Conservation Ecology Lab, and his team studied the impact of a new roadway on a local turtle population. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
BIODIVERSITY To build a map of the communities of animals that call rural southwest China home, a team led by a scientist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology of Yunnan China is collecting tropical terrestrial leeches and extracting genetic material from them. The leeches feast on whatever wildlife they encounter and are easy to collect, so they become “perfect receptacles of wildlife DNA data,” Popescu explains. That makes them a useful barometer of the diversity and density of animals in the region below the Himalayan Mountains, notes Popescu, who is working on the team with scientists from China and Harvard University who are conducting genetic analyses. “This unusual wildlife monitoring method shows a lot of promise, and once we work out the math behind it, it can be deployed in many tropical countries worldwide at a relatively low cost,” he says. n — BY ANDREA GIBSON OHI O U NI VER S I T Y / .17
An Ohio University research team led by Distinguished Professor John Kopchick explores the science of longevity and wellness
Scientists, policymakers, public health experts, and senior citizen advocates worldwide are concerned about wellness among a rapidly aging population. We may be living longer, but we spend more of those later years saddled with disease and debilitation, notes Ohio University Distinguished Professor John Kopchick. n Kopchick and his team of researchers at Ohio University’s Edison Biotechnology Institute and Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine have been exploring biological mechanisms that could help people age in good health. The scientist, who has a successful background in drug development, is determined to build on his lab’s decades of scientific research on growth hormone, cancer, diabetes, and aging to find a new therapy that could be a game changer for the golden years.
5AGING SCIENCE The mouse on the left has too much growth hormone in its circulatory system and grows about 50 percent larger than a typical mouse. But it also is more likely to die prematurely due to a variety of diseases, including disorders of the heart, liver, and kidneys. The mouse on the right lacks growth hormone action in its body, is smaller than a typical mouse by about 60 percent, and outlives those individuals by nearly 100 percent.
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Kopchick came to aging research on an unexpected path: The scientist is internationally known for discovering how to block growth hormone action in the body. The 1987 breakthrough led to the development of the Pfizer drug SOMAVERT®, which is designed to treat adults with acromegaly, a form of gigantism that can pose serious health problems. To study the role and action of growth hormone, Kopchick and his team of scientists work with genetically modified laboratory mice that lack normal growth hormone receptors. The animals are, as one might expect, smaller than the average mouse. But the researchers were surprised to discover that the mice had other unique aspects to their biology. “These animals were very obese but didn’t get diabetes,” says Kopchick, the Goll-Ohio Professor of Molecular Biology in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. “As we continued, we also found that they were very resistant to cancers.” The scientists were just as amazed to realize that these mice were reaching 3 ½ years of age or more. The average mouse typically lives to be 2 ½ years old, Kopchick explains. “We found that they lived longer whether they were male or female,” he adds, and continued to show few signs of disease. PHOTOS: THIS PAGE AND OPPOSITE PAGE, BEN SIEGEL
John Kopchickâ€™s longevity research landed him an invitation to a meeting of 50 of the worldâ€™s experts on aging in Italy, where the scientists identified pharmacological inhibition of growth hormone as a promising intervention for healthy aging. OH IO U NI VER S I T Y / .19
he Kopchick lab began a series of studies on these mice to understand the mechanisms behind the animals’ unusual biology— and the possible implications for human health. Kopchick sent the mice to fellow researchers in more than 15 countries so that other labs could examine these remarkable models of long, healthy lives. To promote research on aging, the scientific journal Nature created a Methuselah prize for the rodent with the greatest longevity. The Ohio University mouse nabbed the first award—and years later still holds the record. This dwarf mouse died just short of its 5th birthday. “We have the longest-lived laboratory mouse,” Kopchick says. Medical researchers often study the mechanisms of and possible therapies for disorders in laboratory mice before applying such findings to human subjects. But scientists already have seen how growth hormone can be a factor in disease prevalence by looking at a small population of people with Laron syndrome. These individuals lack growth hormone activity due to a genetic mutation. Like Kopchick’s mice, they are dwarf and obese—but they also don’t get cancer or diabetes. In 2011, Kopchick co-edited a book on what scientists had learned about Laron syndrome from mice and human studies with Dr. Zvi Laron, the namesake of the medical condition and an internationally recognized leader in pediatric endocrinology. The next year, a French documentary film titled “Secrets to a Long Life” further raised the issue’s profile in the scientific community. In 2013, Kopchick’s longevity research landed him an invitation to a meeting of 50 of the world’s experts on aging in Italy. The scientists identified the six most promising interventions for healthy aging, which included both dietary and drug treatments. Pharmacological inhibition of growth hormone was at the top of the list. The team published their analysis of these strategies in the journal Aging Cell in 2015. While scientists study the effectiveness of these proposed interventions, Kopchick notes that entities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will need to make a “paradigm shift” in how they view pharmaceutical treatments for elderly populations in order for such strategies to gain acceptance. “Are we ready to start treating normal, older individuals with medications if they’re not sick—just old?” Kopchick says of the central question the scientists discussed.
ver the last decade, the Kopchick team has continued to research the role of growth hormone in longevity, with a renewed focus on the potential impact of specific pharmaceutical interventions during old age. Earlier studies examined the health and longevity of mice that had been born with growth hormone inhibited. In 2016, Kopchick’s team published findings in the journal Endocrinology that showed that lab animals with growth hormone disrupted at a later age, six weeks, also avoided disease, with the females in particular achieving longer lifespans than mice in the control group. The findings attracted attention in the research community, Kopchick recalls. Last year, Kopchick and co-investigators Darlene Berryman and Edward List at the Edison Biotechnology Institute and Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine landed a $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to advance this work, examining the impacts of growth hormone inhibition at an even later age—six months (an age equivalent to early adulthood for humans)—in normal mice. In addition, the scientists are studying the impact of treating the mice with rapamycin, which has been shown in other research to demonstrate anti-aging effects. Berryman, an Ohio University professor of biomedical sciences, explains that the scientists are interested in learning whether a new combination of therapeutic approaches could be effective in the human population. The other key question is at what point in life such treatments can start in order for seniors to reap the rewards. “What’s the window in time in which we can make the most impact, from a clinical perspective?” she asks. Not only is the aging population growing, but the incidence of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other such diseases are rising in tandem, notes Berryman, who also serves as the associate dean for research and innovation in the university’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. “If we can impede that progress, at least for a few of (these diseases), we can improve the quality of life for a lot of people,” she says.
“If we can impede that progress, at least for a few of (these diseases), we can improve the quality of life for a lot of people.” DA R LE NE B ERRYM A N
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF HERITAGE COLLEGE OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE
hiyong Wu, Edison Biotechnology Institute director and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, notes that Kopchick’s focus on the role of growth hormone in healthy aging offers synergies with other research initiatives at the institute. In the last few years, Kopchick, Wu, and institute principal investigator Dhiraj Vattem, a professor of nutrition in the College of Health Sciences and Professions, have been exploring how natural products could mitigate diseases that become more prevalent with age, including
TH E TEA M WA S A WA R DE D A
$2.2 MILLION NIH GRANT
to examine the impacts of growth hormone inhibition on aging
cancer and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. “It’s a very exciting time here,” Wu says, noting that the scientists also are filing patent applications to help move lab discoveries into the marketplace. As for the development and commercialization of a drug that can promote healthy aging, Kopchick notes that it must be inexpensive, taken orally, and have no side effects in order for it to be broadly used. The team already is drafting plans for the next phase of the research that they can pursue after the current National Institutes of Health grant is complete; they expect to be busy for years to come. “ (John Kopchick) is a naturally curious and scholarly person. That’s not waning—it’s getting more intense,” Berryman says. “And that’s why he’ll continue to get grants and make discoveries that will make a difference in people’s lives.” n — BY ANDREA GIBSON
5THE RESEARCH TEAM
John Kopchick (top) works with a team of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty and staff researchers (including Yanrong Qian, right, and Sam Mathes, left, in image above) at Edison Biotechnology Institute. The institute was established to support interdisciplinary research that advances basic science knowledge as well as new technologies that can benefit society. PHOTOS: BEN SIEGEL
FU NDING NOTE Kopchick’s research also has been funded by the Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar Award and Edison Biotechnology Institute.
OH IO U NI VER S I T Y / . 21
Researchers Julie Owens and Steven Evans have attracted funding from organizations including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Education, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Students with ADHD are more likely to drop out of school, not go to college, have difficulty holding jobs, and experience substance abuse issues. STE VE N E VAN S
of the Researchers Julie Owens and Steven Evans lead efforts to design and implement school-based programs that can help students with emotional and behavioral disorders
ducators can face challenges managing K-12 students, as 60 percent of students with special needs now spend much of their day in a regular classroom. Those students may have emotional and behavioral problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which can trigger a range of disruptive activities: frequently getting out of their seats, asking many off-task questions, crying in frustration, or having difficulty listening and paying attention. “Teachers are struggling to manage all of that as well as the typical students and gifted students,” says researcher Julie Owens. Helping these children succeed academically and socially can be a struggle for school administrators, too. They may have a high load of administrative tasks, mandates to focus on standardized testing, and fluctuating funding for counseling and mental health services. Educators also may not know which intervention strategies have been scientifically demonstrated to help students, explains researcher Steven Evans. The stakes are high: The students with ADHD are more likely to drop out of school, not go to college, have difficulty holding jobs, and experience substance abuse issues, Evans notes. “The long-term outcomes for adolescents with ADHD paint a pretty troubling picture for them,” he says. Enter Owens and Evans, professors of psychology who lead Ohio University’s Center for Intervention Research in Schools (CIRS). Over the course of their careers, they have studied the effectiveness of various school-based
OH I O U NI VER S I T Y / .23
JULIE OWENS + STEVEN EVANS were named Ohio University Presidential Research Scholars in 2017 in recognition of their
impact on K-12 education
THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF STUDENTS IN THE
Challenging Horizons Program improved significantly more than students in a control group
of teachers surveyed were likely to use the
DAILY REPORT CARD ONLINE
The outcomes of the students who are receiving these services at school exceed the benefit of other psychosocial interventions available. The gains get even bigger as time goes on.â€? STE VEN E VA NS
STEVEN EVANS AND BR AND ON SCHULTZ OF EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSIT Y
MILLION GRANT from the U.S. Department of Education to design a video game to help students learn and practice skills
RESEARCH WITH A SCHOOL DISTRICT IN CANADA FOUND
of teachers trained on the Daily Report Card Online used it, with strong positive outcomes for their students
interventions for students with ADHD, consulted with schools across North America on how to implement them, and expanded the network of scholars and educators equipped with this expertise by mentoring graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.Â Owens and Evans, who were both named Ohio University Presidential Research Scholars in 2017 in recognition of their impact on K-12 education, have consistently attracted funding from organizations including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Education, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They have worked with school districts as close to home as Cincinnati and Logan, Ohio, and as far away as Calgary, Canada. NEW HORIZONS FOR STUDENTS
One project, the Challenging Horizons Program, was designed to help students improve their study and organizational skills to boost their academic performance and succeed in higher grade levels. The Ohio University researchers found that the intervention had a documented positive impact on teens with ADHD immediately after the study was complete, as well as a year later. Parents whose children participated in the study reported that their teens were more attentive, and more organized with their school work, and got along better with peers after participating in the Challenging Horizons Program. But one of the biggest benefits was
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academic outcomes, Evans notes—the grade point averages of the teens in the study improved significantly more than the students in a control group. “The outcomes of the students who are receiving these services at school exceed the benefit of other psychosocial interventions available. The gains get even bigger as time goes on,” Evans says. One problem that the Ohio University research has uncovered, however, is that teachers can struggle to sustain classroom interventions over the long term. “It’s unrealistic to say to a teacher, ‘You need to do this 100 percent of the time or 90 percent of the time.’ They have so many demands,” Owens notes. To help, the researchers are creating various online and digital tools that educators can readily and consistently access. TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS
Owens and a former graduate student created a website called the Daily Report Card Online that can help teachers target problem student behaviors, identify intervention tactics, and monitor progress. The program is designed to help educators make difficult decisions, Owens notes. Her student’s research showed that at least 50 percent of teachers studied were likely to use the tool. Subsequent research with a school district in Canada found that 30 percent of teachers trained on the Daily Report Card Online used it, with strong positive outcomes for their students, Owens reports. “We think we are able to reach a significant portion of the teaching population through technology,” she notes. The success of the Daily Report Card Online prompted Owens and Evans to develop a second technology platform, Beacon, for a more comprehensive range of K-12 classroom issues. With funding from Ohio University’s Innovation Strategy program, they are currently working with information technology, design, and marketing experts to provide a custom analysis and plan for individual student needs, based on research that demonstrates what works. The researchers also are developing technologies that students can use directly. Evans and Brandon Schultz of East Carolina University received a $1.38 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to design a video game to help students learn and practice skills such as organizing materials in their book bags or taking better notes in class. The game, which is under development in Ohio University’s Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, uses a fun premise, which includes interactions with extraterrestrial aliens, to drive home lessons. “Many young adolescents tend to be engaged in video games and want to play them over and over, and that’s consistent with our goal of getting them to practice,” Evans explains about the concept.
I think one of the things that people should understand is how difficult it is for teachers to meet the needs of students with emotional and behavioral problems.” JUL I E OWE N S
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
In addition to conducting their own studies, the CIRS researchers recently were commissioned by the American Psychological Association to review the field’s ADHD study findings from the last six years. The review clearly showed that the interventions that are successful with preschool and elementary school students are distinctly different from those that are successful with older adolescents, Owens says. It’s a finding that echoes conclusions that Owens and Evans have made in their own work. But regardless of age, interventions can make a difference, the researchers argue. Owens and Evans hope to spend the next few years piloting their new technologies and working with schools to more systematically adopt and test the effectiveness of their strategies. “I think one of the things that people should understand is how difficult it is for teachers to meet the needs of students with emotional and behavioral problems,” Owens says, “and how much research we probably need to understand how we can best support teachers to meet those needs and get positive outcomes.” n — BY ANDREA GIBSON
FIND OU T M ORE Center for Intervention Research in Schools: www.oucirs.org
OH I O U NI VER S I T Y / .2 5
2018 Distinguished Professor Susan Burgess examines how Americans participate in democracy— from radical political movements to pop culture conversations
Ohio University honored College of Arts and Sciences Professor Susan Burgess at the Distinguished Professor Portrait Unveiling and Lecture in February 2019. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
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usan Burgess saw the era of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders coming. Having watched the Tea Party and Occupy movements emerge, the political science professor decided to write about how unconventional political ideas migrate to the mainstream. The resulting book, Radical Politics in the United States (CQ/SAGE), co-authored with Kate Leeman of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, explores the history of activist movements—from early worker, communist, and socialist rebellions to more modern pushes for environmental protections, white supremacy, women’s reproductive rights, and Black Lives Matter. It was published immediately before the 2016 presidential election.
“I’m interested in power and how it works— that’s what political scientists study—but I’m also interested in the cracks in the power. Because that’s where changes emerge.” SUSAN B UR G E SS
FIND O UT M O RE OHIO Distinguished Professor Award: www.ohio.edu/distinguishedprofessor
Although some write off radical political movements as marginal and unsuccessful, such initiatives influence general opinion and policy more often than we realize, the authors argue. Ideas such as a woman’s right to vote or to access birth control, or the ability for samesex couples to marry, once were controversial and improbable, Burgess notes. Economic and political conditions, such as the emergence of extreme wage gaps between segments of society or the fragmenting of a political party’s supporting coalitions, can help radical ideas gain currency, she explains. Burgess, Ohio University’s 2018 Distinguished Professor, is an expert on the U.S. Constitution and how Congress, the executive branch, the courts, and the public have interpreted it. She argues that modern radical movements have inherited political DNA from the Constitution, which many people forget was revolutionary for its time. The notion of all men created equal and the concept of the right to rebellion rejected the divine right of kings, she notes. “That’s an important part of U.S. tradition that has been overlooked,” she says. A recent collection of essays co-edited by the Distinguished Professor, LGBTQ Politics:
A Critical Reader (NYU), highlighted another aspect of American politics that she felt needed more analysis and attention. Before 2016 no one had published a comprehensive look at how the field had studied LGBTQ issues, even though scholarship had grown substantially over the past 20 years, she explains. The book features 35 essays from scholars across the discipline. “What we found was that political science and the way it is studied in the U.S. shapes how we study LGBTQ issues, but LGBTQ issues can challenge some of the assumptions about how we study politics,” she says. For example, the standard ways that political scientists have tracked shifts in public opinion cannot adequately explain the relatively rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage in the country, she argues. Burgess plans to further explore the dynamic evolution of LGBTQ issues—from the despair of the 1980s AIDS crisis and the debate over LGBTQ military service, to the future for transgender rights—in a forthcoming book. “I’m interested in power and how it works— that’s what political scientists study—but I’m also interested in the cracks in the power. Because that’s where changes emerge,” she says. One issue that Burgess has continually examined—in her work on LGBTQ issues, radical politics, and interpretations of the Constitution—is how popular culture has reflected and influenced political issues and public opinion. During their presidential campaigns, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton used rock ‘n’ roll to communicate to voters, she notes. Reagan turned Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” into an anthem of American pride, and Clinton raised his profile by playing saxophone on the Arsenio Hall talk show. Television shows that skewer American politics, such as Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, “have become a major base of political knowledge and information” for the public,
she notes, because they give viewers an easily accessible way to engage with topical issues. Popular culture—created by people in power, for the public to interpret—can support or challenge the status quo, Burgess says. The same year that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a same-sex sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas—the first time the high court ruled in favor of gay rights—the Bravo cable television network debuted Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Burgess argues that while the show presented some stereotypes about gay men— their love of fashion, grooming, and interior design—“the idea of gay men giving advice to straight men is a reversal of power.” In addition to studying LGBTQ and radical politics in the United States, Burgess continues to explore popular interpretations of constitutional issues, including internationally. She recently published an article examining Iceland’s use of social media to crowdsource a new constitution after the 2008 global financial crash brought down the traditional, colonial government. “It was interesting to see the way that economic dislocation came together with social media to produce what really is a different form of democracy,” she says, adding that there are signs of such new types of democracy emerging in locations around the world. The Distinguished Professor’s scholarship topics are of high interest to the undergraduates in the courses she teaches at Ohio University, as well as older generations who attend her public talks. “We’re in a very politically unstable time,” she notes, and everyone wants to make sense of it. Burgess emphasizes that America has pulled through at least six major periods of political upheaval—from the Civil War to the cultural revolutions of the 1960s. “Those are times, like the ones we’re in, where it’s very uncertain what will happen next.” But, she adds, “we’ve come through it.” n — BY ANDREA GIBSON OH I O U NI VER S I T Y / .2 7
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CLOSE U P
SPACE TO INNOVATE
CoLab offers Ohio University students a new venue for nurturing creative ideas hio University’s new CoLab, a space designed as a physical hub for student innovation and entrepreneurship activities across campus, officially opened during a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 18 on the third floor of Alden Library. “CoLab is designed to foster creativity and advance collaboration across campus,” said President M. Duane Nellis. “I imagine the concept as a hub and spoke, with this advanced space acting as the center of activity to make a linkage with many other spaces and resources on campus and offering students an entrée for cross collaboration on projects and innovation.” Approved by the Ohio University Board of Trustees in January 2017, CoLab was first introduced as the C-Suite and later named CoLab through a university contest. The space was initially conceptualized four years ago by students in the Center for Entrepreneurship. The project gained momentum over the past several years, and thanks to the generous donation of Board of Trustees member and Russ College of Engineering alumnus David Pidwell, his spouse, Tina, and alumni Winston and Tricia Breeden, students were able to make the space a reality to help advance OHIO’s core academic mission. . 28 / P E RSPE CT I VE S
“We are here today to celebrate the opening of this wonderful new incubator for student entrepreneurship,” said Pidwell. “What we have before us far exceeds the earliest concept. It’s a gateway, a place where students can reach out to the business community and a place where the business community can engage with the University. And, it’s here, thanks to the entrepreneurial students doing what they do best: innovation.” The area will serve as a center to unite students from all backgrounds, giving them the opportunity to be collaborative and innovative. — STAF F REPO RTS
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Ohio University students from across campus use the CoLab space on the third floor of Alden Library to collaborate on projects. CoLab also offers special programming, including guest talks from university and community experts in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. PHOTOS: FAR LEFT AND LEFT, HANNAH RUHOFF; BELOW, BEN SIEGEL
Student Andrew Stroud (at left, standing) has participated in the national University Innovation Fellows program, which offers leadership training for students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. The CoLab was founded in 2015 by Fellows Alex Kneier and Lori Bentz. PHOTOS: LEFT AND ABOVE RIGHT, HANNAH RUHOFF
OH IO U NI VER S I T Y / .2 9
Non-Profit Organization US Postage Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Perspectives magazine Research and Technology Center 120 1 Ohio University Athens OH 45701-2979
WILDL IFE RESEA RC H / O N T H E H U N T FO R H ELLB END E R S
A team of Ohio University students, including Andrew Travers, from Viorel Popescu’s Conservation Ecology Lab search for signs of hellbenders, a type of salamander that has been declining in numbers in Ohio’s rivers and streams. The lab is part of a state-wide effort to repopulate waterways with hellbenders and monitor their breeding and survival. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
Athens, OH Permit No. 100
>> SECOND LOOK (See story on page 12)
Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Ohio University