22 LESSONS FROM THE STAGE Students learn the art and craft of theater with new ensemble
>> ALSO FEATURED KEEPING OIL + GAS PIPELINES SAFE
COMBATING PAIN AND UNDERSTANDING AGING
AN OHIO POETâ€™S LEGACY
SPRING / SUMMER 2017
VO L 21 / ISSUE 1
FE ATU R ES
22 TANTRUM TAKES OFF How the College of Fine Arts launched a new theater experience in central Ohio B Y AN D R EA G IB SO N
Impact of a great divide
The legacy of an Ohio poet
Scholar Amritjit Singh explores the global ramifications of the Partition of India
Documentary film reveals the lasting influence of African American writer Paul Laurence Dunbar
Engineering institute examines how to keep oil and gas pipelines safe and sound
Researchers across Ohio University explore new approaches to combating pain and understanding aging
B Y ANDR E A G I B S O N
BY M A RY RE E D
BY COR IN N E CO LB ERT
BY AN DR EA GIBSO N
SP R IN G / SUMM E R 2 01 7
DE PARTM E N TS UP FRONT
LETTER FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT AND THE PRESIDENT
Presidential Research Scholars
GOT THREE MINUTES?
Business incubator creates jobs
Student entrepreneurs to launch innovation hub
Exploring therapeutic properties of natural products
Feature filmmakers take road trip
Gait Lab studies biomechanics of running
How novel compounds could fight disease
Graduate student honored for ADHD research
Student scholars learn to deliver research findings in a flash
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: email@example.com Phone: (740) 593-0370
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ISSN 1520-4375 printed on recycled paper
ON THE COVER OPPOSITE PAGE
>> Tantrum Theater featured the musical Little Shop of Horrors during its inaugural season in 2016. >> Visiting professional Cassandra Lentz, part of Tantrumâ€™s scenic design crew during summer 2017, works on the set for
Caroline, Or Change.
PHOTO: DANIEL RADER
PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
PHOTO THIS PAGE: TOP, ASHLEY STOTTLEMYER; TOP RIGHT, DANIEL OWEN; BOTTOM, BEN SIEGEL
OHI O UN IV ERSIT Y / . 01
From the Vice President for Research and President
Presidential Research Scholars Michele Fiala, Sarah Wyatt, James Thomas, Arthur Werger, and Nancy Stevens receive their 2016 awards alongside top teaching award recipients Roger Braun (far left) and Klaus Himmeldirk (far right) from OHIO administrators (back row) Howard Dewald, Joseph Shields, and Pamela Benoit. PHOTO: DANIEL OWEN
Joseph Shields VIC E P RESIDENT
Research + Creative Activity
Duane Nellis P R E S ID ENT
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Presidential research scholars hio University is home to distinguished researchers, scholars, and artists across the disciplines.To recognize the impact and success of our faculty members on a national and international stage, in 2016 we revived the Presidential Research Scholars award. Five scholars in the areas of arts/humanities and life/biomedical sciences received this honor at a ceremony that also announced the institutionâ€™s top teaching awards. This fall, we will bestow the Presidential Research Scholar award on nominees from the physical sciences/engineering and social/ behavioral sciences disciplines. Each recipient receives $3,000, to be used at the scholarsâ€™ discretion as an honorarium or to support research or creative works. These scholars have helped Ohio University build and strengthen its national and international mission as a higher education institution dedicated to developing new knowledge and pursuing creative endeavors, for the benefit of society. Biologist Sarah Wyatt has sent seeds to space to help us understand the impact of gravity on plant growth. Artist Arthur Werger is a renowned printmaker who has made major contributions to color etching printing. Paleontologist Nancy Stevens has discovered new lineages of mammals and advanced our knowledge of the history of animal diversity in Africa. Musician Michele Fiala is an accomplished oboist focused on connecting audiences to classical music. Studies by
PRESIDENTIAL RESEARCH SCHOLARS HAVE MADE SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS ON THEIR FIELDS NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY physical therapist James Thomas have offered new insights into how we can treat chronic back pain. These Presidential Research Scholars have made significant impacts on their fields nationally and internationally, but they also do important work right here at Ohio University. As educators and faculty mentors, they cultivate the next generation of scientists, artists, scholars, and innovators. We are proud that they are part of our distinguished faculty at Ohio University.
Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity / News in Brief
M A K I N G A N E C O N O M I C I M PA C T
THE INNOVATION CENTER The Innovation Center, Ohio Universityâ€™s small business incubator, has made a significant impact on economic activity, according to a new report. The analysis reflects jobs and income created directly and indirectly or induced by the Innovation Center businesses. PHOTO: ROB HARDIN >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
SUPPORTED 227 JOBS
IN 2016, STARTUP COMPANIES GENERATED
IN $10.1 MILLION EMPLOYEE
in Athens County in 2016
in state and local tax revenue
INCREASED FROM 2015-2016
29% 37% 31%
NEW JOB CREATION
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Scientists at Ohio University’s Edison Biotechnology Institute have launched a five-year study of the therapeutic properties of natural products, including STUDY EXPLORES THE cannabis, in order to determine their THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES effectiveness for treating medical OF NATURAL PRODUCTS conditions ranging from neurological disorders to diabetes to cancer. Black Elk Biotech, a company at the university’s Innovation Center business incubator, has awarded the university a $1.85 million contract to pursue the research. Black Elk Biotech is a subsidiary of Black Elk, a Westerville, Ohio-based company focused on providing safe and effective natural products and medicines backed by JOHN KOPCHICK Goll Ohio Professor of scientific research. The Ohio University team of John Molecular Biology Kopchick, Shiyong Wu, and Dhiraj PHOTO: OHIO UNIVERSITY Vattem has research expertise in dietary compounds, nutrition, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and neurodegenerative and growth disorders. Kopchick and his group’s discovery of a growth hormone receptor antagonist led to the development of SOMAVERT®, a therapy for individuals diagnosed with acromegaly that has aided thousands of people worldwide. The institute recently expanded on its track record of successful biomedical SHIYONG WU work by creating a natural products Professor of research and commercialization initiative Chemistry and Biochemistry focused on studying the effectiveness PHOTO: EDISON BIOTECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE and safety of alternative therapies to conventional medical approaches for a wide variety of diseases. Natural products are a growing market, and are estimated to generate between $75 billion and $90 billion in revenues worldwide. “The relationship with Black Elk Biotech will provide Ohio University with an entrepreneurial outlet for commercialization of our technology and will help build a natural products-based DHIRAJ VATTEM economy in Southeast Ohio,” Wu said.
Professor of Nutrition
PHOTO: COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES AND PROFESSIONS, LIZ MOUGHON
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F ROM S TA F F RE P ORT S
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O F N OTE
WALK THIS WAY Gait Lab studies biomechanics of running ait— a person’s manner of walking—is vital to overall health, as movement limitations can cause muscle overuse and injury. The Ohio University Gait Lab, located in the School of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences, was created in 2014 to measure and study this important health factor. Headed by Robert Wayner, an assistant clinical professor, the lab provides both laboratory research and consultative services for both Ohio University and those in the Athens community. The lab uses technology to both gauge the subject’s health status and understand how to improve gait. Current research is focused on female athletes at Ohio University. “We’re looking at the relationship between gait mechanics, a person’s physiology, and (how) overall health contributes to performance in collegiate cross-country runners,” Wayner says.
Users walk on top of a treadmill with a plate located underneath that measures force. The lab uses seven infrared cameras with reflective markers that are placed on the runner or walker. These reflective markers are tracked by the cameras and modeled with three-dimensional motion analysis software that provides a visual representation of how a person walks or runs. The results of the analysis are then printed for the user or their doctor. Alongside these studies, the lab has performed physical therapy services for Ohio University athletes and coaching staff since fall 2015. Wayner and his team work with student athletes two to three times per year to measure their gait. The lab tracks the athletes’ training, performance history, and health history to determine how the athletes’ performance has changed—or not—during their time spent at Ohio University. While the lab specializes in monitoring running, it also provides services in measuring walking gait. BY SIER R A H OLT
Brooke Kinsey, OHIO cross-country runner, is tested in the Gait Lab by physical therapist Robert Wayner and exercise physiology professor Michael Clevidence. PHOTOS: LAUREN DICKEY/ COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES AND PROFESSIONS
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A Russ College of Engineering and Technology professor has received nearly $450,000 from the National Institutes of Health to fund research that potentially could help mitigate serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Doug Goetz leads an interdisciplinary team including Professors of Chemistry and Biochemistry Stephen Bergmeier and Jennifer Hines, Associate Professor of Specialty Medicine Kelly McCall, and several graduate and undergraduate students on the project. Their research focuses on glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3), a protein kinase, or enzyme, in the body that, when overactive, has been connected to a variety of diseases. “You have 500 different kinases in the body, and all of them are very important for your well-being. But if one of them starts to behave over actively, that can lead to disease,” Goetz said. “The question is, can you make a compound that will block the activity of one particular kinase out of 500 and not inhibit any of the other kinases?” The team believes it has done just that—they’ve identified a set of novel organic compounds that potently inhibits GSK-3 activity while minimally affecting the other kinases. Now, the team plans to determine just how these compounds inhibit GSK-3 and see what specific effects they have on cellular GSK-3 activity. Ultimately, the researchers hope their work will lead to a new treatment or drug for numerous diseases, including pathologies of the central nervous system, pathological inflammation, and metabolic disorders. The collaborative effort began in fall 2016, with each faculty member’s lab responsible for an aspect of the project. Bergmeier designs and synthesizes the compounds, Hines runs computational simulations to see how compounds bind to GSK-3, and McCall and Goetz complete cell-based studies to see how the compounds might affect a particular disease. “This is a great set of people to work with,” Goetz said. “The grant reviewers noted the high quality of my colleagues’ scientific achievements and that each brings something unique and important to the table. The grant wouldn’t have been funded without this.” B Y M EG A N R E E D
Doug Goetz (center) received a grant from the NIH of nearly $450,000. PHOTO: ASHLEY STOTTLEMYER
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NIH GRANT FUNDS INTERDISCIPLINARY EFFORT TO COMBAT DISEASE
O F N OTE
THE HUB OF INNOVATION C-Suite project unites student entrepreneurs tudent innovators and entrepreneurs are solving problems and cultivating great ideas across campus, but they haven’t had a common space to meet—until now. Ohio University is renovating the third floor of the Central Classroom building for the new C-Suite facility and program. C-Suite isn’t just for budding business entrepreneurs, but for the many Ohio University students who are seeking to create social change or apply business tools such as marketing and management skills to move their ideas forward, says Alex Kneier, an Ohio University alumnus who was part of the team of students who initiated the project two years ago. “It could be more than just a space—it could be our own spot where we could have people who help us out and where we can help others out,” Kneier says of the initial idea. Under the mentorship of Luke Pittaway, chair of the Department of Management in the College of Business, and David Pidwell, a Russ College of Engineering and Technology alumnus and Board of Trustees member, the student team pursued funding through the university’s Innovation Strategy program. A $16,000 planning grant allowed the team to conduct student surveys and focus groups across campus and travel to similar university sites to lay the groundwork for the creation of the campus space. “Getting across campus to meet other people has been powerful,” said Lorene Bentz, a College of Business
“IT COULD BE MORE THAN JUST A SPACE—IT COULD BE OUR OWN SPOT WHERE WE COULD HAVE PEOPLE WHO HELP US OUT AND WHERE WE CAN HELP OTHERS OUT.” ALEX KNEIER
Current and former students Lorene Bentz, Alex Kneier, Baylie Pollock, Faith Voinovich, Ben Bowald, Colin Espinosa, and Andrew Stroud have worked with the university to develop new space and programming for entrepreneurs and innovators. PHOTO: DANIEL OWEN
student who has been involved with the initiative since its early stages. “We think about numbers—I never would have thought about colors. But the fine arts students are thinking about what does it look like, what does it feel like?” Faith Voinovich, a Russ College of Engineering and Technology student involved with C-Suite, conducted research on similar programs at U.S. higher education institutions and coordinated trips to campuses such as Carnegie Mellon, Babson College, and Arizona State. The students hoped to learn best practices, but also how Ohio University can do something novel with the student innovation hub concept to make it stand apart. Pittaway and Paul Mass, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, now are working with the students on
a strategic operating plan and budget that will include programming for both for-profit and social entrepreneurship activities, mentors, and identification of additional funding, including a corporate sponsor. Completion of the construction project is slated for 2018. Mass is impressed with the cross-campus momentum the C-Suite team has generated. “The students really deserve enormous credit,” he said. “It’s probable that this wouldn’t have happened without the students leading the effort to not only raise money to get the facility off the ground but to act as a catalyst for collaboration among other groups and departments across the university.” BY AN DR EA GIBSO N
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CINEMATIC JOURNEY Rural Minnesota provides familiar location for graduate students’ road trip film
Barry Corbin stars as “Hap” in the forthcoming feature film Hap and Ashley. .08 / PE R S P E C T IV E S
O F N OTE
mbarking on the production of a full-length feature film is no easy feat. When Ohio University graduate students Kathy Swanson and Vince O’Connell considered the various screenplays they had written, they opted for a story that would give them a literal home field advantage. Hap and Ashley—which tells the tale of a retired farmer, at existential loose ends, who takes a road trip across the United States to his World War II Army reunion— is largely set in Swanson’s hometown of Tyler, Minnesota. Although the town of 1,000 residents is rural and remote, the filmmakers found that having local ties helped secure locations, extras, and other production resources they might not have had such easy access to otherwise or elsewhere. “A lot of our locations were pretty serendipitous,” Swanson says. During summer 2016, the crew spent several days shooting on the Swanson family’s dairy farm as well as at Swanson’s 84-yearold father’s house. Howard Swanson loaned the production some wardrobe items, such as his cowboy hat, as well as his motorcycle. He even served as stunt double for lead actor Barry Corbin during some of the riding scenes.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF KATHY SWANSON
B Y ANDR E A G I B S O N
LEARN MORE More information about the project, the filmmakers, and their previous work can be found at their production website, YellowHouse Films: http://yellowhousefilms.com.
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“So that was just one example of the sort of thing that happens when you shoot in your hometown,” Swanson says. Though the settings and citizens were familiar, the production still had many moving parts for the duo to manage: 24 crew members, a cast of more than 50 actors with speaking roles, almost 150 extras, and 39 locations in Minnesota and South Dakota. The production also attracted seasoned players such as Corbin, who has appeared in more than 300 feature films including Urban Cowboy and No Country for Old Men as well as the television series Northern Exposure, One Tree Hill, and Dallas. The cast also includes Mackinlee Waddell (of television’s GCB) as Ashley and Terry Kiser of Weekend at Bernie’s fame. Ohio University students, alumni, faculty, and programs supported Swanson and O’Connell throughout their first feature film endeavor. The crew included three undergraduate students and three MFA candidates from the Film Division, as well as four graduates of the program. The university provided equipment and some grant funding through a Student Enhancement Award to O’Connell. Professor Tom Hayes offered technical help. O’Connell notes that while the filmmaking duo drew on decades of experience running their own business, the feature process pushed them “out of their comfort zone” and allowed them the chance to learn new things about translating a story onto the screen while working with a large team of people. The filmmakers are now in post-production, turning the footage into a finished product with a runtime of about an hour and 40 minutes. They’re submitting Hap and Ashley to major film festivals—including Sundance, Toronto, and Berlin—hoping to land a distribution or streaming deal. “If it gets in, that gives you a certain amount of legitimacy,” says O’Connell, noting that the filmmakers would like to use the momentum from the first feature to develop additional screenplays.
GRADUATE STUDENT RECOGNIZED FOR ADHD RESEARCH Raisa Ray, a doctoral student in psychology, has received the 2017 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award from the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools. She was one of two graduate students from the association’s 14-state region who was awarded for excellence in research or scholarship at a ceremony April 6 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The highly competitive award recognizes Ray’s research on the factors that help or hinder the social functioning of adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Ray is a graduate student in Ohio University’s Center for Intervention Research in Schools (CIRS), which studies how K-12 educators, administrators, and school mental health professionals can help children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral problems such as ADHD succeed academically and socially. The center is co-led by Professor of Psychology Steven Evans, Ray’s faculty mentor and nominator for the award.
For her thesis project, Ray studied 324 middle school youth with ADHD, some of whom had healthy social functioning and others who did not, as rated by the youth and their parents. She found that youth participation in team or individual hobbies, sports, or other such activities buffered against the negative effects of risk factors— such as teen conduct problems, youth depressive symptoms, and negative parenting—on adolescent social functioning. Parent involvement in and support for adolescent activities—such as driving them to sports practice, expressing interest in adolescents’ plans, or helping them pursue hobbies—is another important buffer against negative social outcomes, Ray’s study found. Negative parenting practices such as inconsistent discipline, corporal punishment, and limited monitoring/supervision of teen activities and whereabouts, however, were determined to be risk factors for poor social functioning. FRO M STAFF R EPO RTS
ABOVE Professor Steven Evans and doctoral student Raisa Ray of the Center for Intervention Research in Schools. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
OHI O UN IV ERSIT Y / . 09
Scholar Amritjit Singh explores the global ramifications of the Partition of India
of a STORY BY ANDREA GIBSON
Amritjit Singh has published widely on African American literature and the historic and contemporary literature of India. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
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he year 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of Partition, which divided India along religious-majority lines. As the British rulers left the colony, they separated it into two areas comprising primarily of Muslim citizens—East and West Pakistan—as well as another larger area in the middle with a predominantly Hindu population—the current country of India—in an apparent attempt to mitigate conflict between these groups. The latter area continued to serve as home to a sizable Muslim population, however, as it does today. A new book co-edited by Ohio University’s Langston Hughes Professor of English and African American Studies Amritjit Singh, Revisiting India’s Partition (Lexington Books), explores the long-term ramifications of this geographic divide. The passage of decades has not quelled tensions arising from the forced separation and migration of citizens to either side of the Partition line, Singh notes, as the religious factions continue to lay blame, express hostility, and commit violence toward each other. The transformation of the landscape also did not end in 1947; continued discord prompted ongoing border skirmishes and wars that led to the 1971 creation of Bangladesh and the still divided and disputed region of Kashmir.
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“It’s become a national trauma, not of just one or two regions,” Singh says. He adds that the impacted geographic region encompasses 2 billion people, roughly one-fourth of the world’s population. Singh was born on the Pakistan side of the Partition border, but his family moved a few months ahead of the divide and accompanying violence to the Indian side, where his mother had been raised. As Singh and his co-authors Nalini Iyer and Rahul K. Gairola recount in the introduction to the new book, about 14 million individuals were displaced by the new border, and 1 million were killed or died of disease during the migration. While Singh has no direct memory of Partition, his parents and grandmother passed on oral history from their experiences, and he also recalls growing up watching the consequences of Partition in the lives of Hindu and Sikh refugees in his small-town neighborhood in Ambala. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in his homeland, Singh came to the United States in 1968 for the first time as a graduate student on a Fulbright scholarship. After earning a doctoral degree in English at New York University, he returned to India to pursue an academic career. In the mid-1980s he came back to the United States and taught at Rhode Island College for 20 years before joining Ohio University in 2006. Singh has published widely on African American literature, including on subjects such as the Harlem Renaissance, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Wallace Thurman, as well as on the historic and contemporary literature of India. He sees a connection between his scholarship on African American and Partition issues, noting that both concern cultures that have dealt with oppression, racism, and traumatic pasts that have had a lasting influence. Singh is not alone in identifying this synergy. University of Delhi faculty members Tapan Basu and Tasneem Shahnaaz recently edited a book of essays, Crossing Borders: Essays on Literature, Culture and Society in Honor of Amritjit Singh (published by the Fairleigh Dickinson University Press in May 2017), that explored these issues, inspired by the Ohio University scholar’s work and mentorship.
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A WIDER FOCUS In October 2013, Singh, Iyer, and Gairola organized a one-day symposium about the impact of the Partition at the Annual South Asia Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. The enthusiastic response from scholars led the trio to develop the concept for the book. Although much has been written about Partition over the last 70 years—in the form of poetry, essays, fiction, and screenplays—Singh and his collaborators felt that a major gap in scholarship remained. Much of the existing Partition analysis focuses on the regions of Punjab and Bengal and not the other geographic areas of the former Indian nation, Singh notes. In addition, the trio wanted to discuss the global ripple effect of long-standing tensions among various religious and ethnic groups. Singh and his colleagues strongly believe that the problem not only dominates the lives of citizens in South Asia and its worldwide diaspora, he says, but it also has relevance to the current discussion and real issues of conflict, war, and terrorism here in the United States and around the globe. To cultivate a book of essays that would contribute something new to the Partition conversation, Singh and colleagues reached out to a wide array of scholars who could write about the impact through various academic and geographic lenses. Singh and Iyer both point out that the effort is notable for including essays about Kashmir, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as regions such as southern and northeastern India, in one book. “Ours is a truly global perspective. That was a challenge for our book, and it remains a challenge in real life, given the
SINGH’S NEW BOOK Revisiting India’s Partition was published in 2017 by Lexington Books. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
deep political rifts in the subcontinent,” says Iyer, a professor of English at Seattle University. The book’s essays cover topics such as the impact of Partition on democracy and politics, communal disharmony and violence, women, and individual identity and belonging. The volume refers to these collective issues with the term “Long Partition,” as defined by Brown University scholar Vazira Zamindar. Many of the contributors hold faculty appointments in literature or history departments, and a number of the essays examine how these various social and political issues manifest themselves in the literature of South Asia and its emigrants. Singh’s chapter—co-authored with Shahnaaz, a former visiting faculty member at Ohio University—focuses on Pakistani novelist Intizar Husain’s struggles with national identity, while Iyer’s piece explores the writings of authors in her native south India who were not directly impacted by Partition. Gairola, an assistant professor of English and comparative literature at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, India, discusses how CocaCola and Google recently have coopted Partition narratives in their advertising of beverage and digital products. The unease over the subject of Partition was evident in the book’s initial reception, as a few scholars from Pakistan immediately asked Singh if the collection (which was published first in the United States before a South Asian release by Orient Blackswan) was advocating the reunification of India and Pakistan. Singh quickly assured these scholars that the book did not represent an “India point of view,” but instead strived to represent a wide range of perspectives and had no hidden agenda. He reports that the book has subsequently been received well and widely reviewed in South Asian newspapers and journals. In his work on Revisiting India’s Partition, Singh is interested in reaching not only scholars, but also in opening a dialogue with the broader community. The legacy of Partition, in the form of hatred and violence between different groups, is alive and tearing the citizenry apart, he notes. In addition to publishing the essay collection, Singh actively gives talks about the subject in the United States and in South Asia, and he is eager to engage his students at Ohio University and elsewhere in conversation about what he feels are very relevant issues—regardless of what their experience with or awareness of Partition may be. “My colleagues and I want to bring these unresolved issues to the surface, hoping that we can all re-examine history and memory, so that the furniture inside our minds and hearts can be rearranged,” Singh says. “Partition is done—we cannot undo it. We need to have more supportive relationships with our neighbors. If we can learn to look ourselves in the mirror, we may stop blaming the others.” n
BEYOND THE PARTITION The poetry of Gurcharan Rampuri, a well-known Punjabi writer, is highly regarded in India, but for many years few Americans and Canadians knew of his work—even though the writer has lived in Vancouver, Canada, since 1964, according to Amritjit Singh’s preface to a recent collection of Rampuri’s poems. Singh and collaborator Judy Ray introduced North American audiences to Rampuri by translating 50 of his poems from Punjabi into English in The Circle of Illusion. First published in 2011, the book recently has been updated for a second edition, which includes reviews and responses to Rampuri’s work. In his author’s note in the collection, Rampuri echoes the themes of Revisiting India’s Partition, as he acknowledges the powerful influence of Partition and its aftermath on his creative work. Singh notes how Rampuri’s perspectives were shaped by worldwide freedom movements during World War II and by India’s Partition in particular, pointing out several poems in The Circle of Illusion that reference or allude to these historical events and their impact. The legacy of Partition also is a theme in Singh’s new book in progress, which examines the scholar’s own life of multiple border-crossings and the broader state of the South Asian community in and around four pivotal years: 1948, immediately after Partition; 1968, a time of immense cultural and political changes in India and America; 1983, when Singh returned to the United States on a fellowship at Yale University and was forced to watch the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India from afar; and 2001, with the global tumult after 9/11. “It’s a personal book,” Singh says, “but not an autobiography.” The scholar hopes to complete the book in 2018.
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Documentary film reveals the lasting influence of African American writer Paul Laurence Dunbar STORY BY MARY REED
of an Ohio Poet hile most Americans are familiar with the works of literary giants Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, relatively few know that these writers were directly inspired by Ohio native Paul Laurence Dunbar, considered by some to be the father of African American literature. A new documentary by three Ohio University professors is the first fulllength video treatment of the life and influence of Dunbar. Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond the Mask tells the story of Dunbar’s life in late 19th and early 20th century America, as well as the writer’s legacy in contemporary culture, specifically among African American artists. The documentary, produced by Scripps College professors Frederick Lewis, Joseph Slade, and Judith Yaross Lee, was released in early 2017 to public television stations and is screening at various venues in Ohio and elsewhere. Born in Dayton in 1872, Dunbar was the son of parents who were former slaves—including a mother who vigorously pursued a good education for her son. Post-Civil War Dayton provided Dunbar some unexpected opportunities for an African American at the time. He attended integrated schools and was a classmate of Orville Wright of Wright brothers aviation fame.
THE POET Dayton-born poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION VIA FREDERICK LEWIS
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ON THE BIG SCREEN The documentary has screened at venues such as the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in Dayton, and at the Ohio University Schoonover Center during Comm Week (above). PHOTO: JORGE CASTILLO-CASTRO; COURTESY OF THE SCRIPPS COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION
Excelling as a writer and poet at a young age—he had his first public recitation at age 12—Dunbar began his newspaper career at an early age as well. The Wright brothers built a printing press and published Dunbar’s short-lived Dayton Tattler newspaper. Today, Dunbar and the Wright brothers are still linked—Dunbar’s home is now a historic site operated by the National Park Service in what is known as the Wright-Dunbar Village district of Dayton. “There’s a standard biography of Dunbar you can get in books and online,” says Lewis, producer, writer, and director of the film. “The (documentary) is not just about Dunbar, it’s also about the African American experience around the turn of the century. I’m providing a lot of context that I think a lot of people don’t really know much about.” A big part of the context of Dunbar’s life was racism. After graduating from high school, he could secure work only as an elevator operator. Still, he soldiered on with his writing and attempts to make a living by his pen. He self-published his first book of poems, Oak and Ivy, and sold copies to elevator riders. This first volume of Dunbar’s poetry, like its successors, included poems in both standard literary English and representations of African American dialects.
A STORY OF LEGACY n the African American community, he’s still very much alive, especially if you’re over 40,” says Slade, emeritus professor of media arts and studies as well as the documentary’s executive producer. “It’s part of our intent (in the documentary) to trace some of his legacies and how he still inspires a lot of drama and art and ballet.” Indeed, a number of contemporary scholars, artists, and musicians—both African American and white— appear on camera to discuss Dunbar’s influence on themselves and others. Dunbar scholars discuss his place in the literary canon, while contemporary artists—writers, sculptors, painters—present work influenced by and even about Dunbar himself. One of the most striking moments of the documentary is a clip of Maya Angelou in a television interview when she spontaneously recites Dunbar’s “Caged Bird,” whose last line Angelou borrowed for the title of her memoir: “I know why the caged bird sings!” With the help of some benefactors—the Wright brothers, other writers, famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and
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more—Dunbar was able to pursue writing full force. His next major book of poetry, Majors and Minors, was glowingly reviewed and brought to a national audience by Atlantic Monthly editor William Dean Howells. It too contained poems written in literary English and representations of African American dialect. The front of the book contained a photograph of Dunbar. “He did that to identify himself as a black man,” says Slade. “Dunbar had a strong visual sense and sort of wanted to advance the notion of blackness toward the mainstream.” Dunbar was in fact becoming known nationally and internationally for not only his poems, but essays and novels as well. Slade also points out that Dunbar has a firm place in the canon of American literature. “Any compendium of American literature is going to have at least three or four poems by Dunbar included,” Slade says. “He is on one hand a canonical writer … on the other hand, there are writers—and sometimes the same ones—who are beloved. They have established their place in the literary canon but also the popular consciousness … that was also true of Dunbar.” Still, the documentary doesn’t lionize Dunbar— his tumultuous marriage ended in violence and divorce. After living in several major U.S. cities, Dunbar returned to Dayton. He died at age 33 of tuberculosis, leaving his mother alone in their home.
“The (documentary) is not just about Dunbar, it’s also about the African American experience around the turn of the century.” FREDERICK LEWIS
>> Promotional poster
for Beyond the Mask featuring Dunbar painting by Ronnie Williams. IMAGE: COURTESY OF FREDERICK LEWIS
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A REGIONAL STORY he idea of a documentary about Dunbar grew from the Ohio University-based Central Region Humanities Center, which covers a five-state region. Slade and Lee spearheaded the development of the center in 2001 with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and private donors to the Ohio University Foundation. Dunbar was one of the center’s main projects. “Dunbar had tentacles reaching out to all five of the states in the NEH-defined Central Region,” says Lee, Distinguished Professor of communication studies. “While he was born here (in Ohio), his parents were slaves in Kentucky. His poetry influenced African American poets both in West Virginia and in Michigan. … He himself had been influenced by James Whitcomb Riley, the ‘Hoosier poet,’ from Indiana.” Lee believes the dominant coverage of the arts in New York and Los Angeles overshadows the many Midwest writers and artists, past and present, who have contributed significantly to American culture. “We started out telling a regional story,” she says. “It’s become a story of legacy, of influence, and so in that sense it’s a broadly American cultural story.” Lee refers to herself as a “utility player” in the Dunbar documentary. She assembled the national group of scholars who consulted on the documentary and other components of the Dunbar Project. Lee joined Slade in traveling to the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Ohio Historical Society, among other places, to find letters and photos of Dunbar or those of his wife, the writer Alice Ruth Moore, and of other people and events that set the context for Dunbar’s life: turn-of-the-century Dayton, the New York black elite, Frederick Douglass, and so on. Lee teaches archival research methods; her expertise in American cultural history of Dunbar’s period allows her to efficiently identify relevant materials and then pore through letters from an earlier time. Even a familiarity with the handwriting style of the 19th century comes in handy, she says, but jokes, “By the time you get really, really good at it, your eyes aren’t so good anymore.” The center purchased a microfilm collection of Dunbar’s papers from the Ohio Historical Society and has made them available through Ohio University’s Alden Library.
SHOW, DON’T TELL riter and director Lewis came to academia from a background in producing, writing, and directing for both commercial and public television—including documentaries. Lewis, an associate professor of media arts and studies, dove into the Dunbar research with as much gusto as his collaborators. He read and cross-referenced a half dozen biographies of Dunbar and worked with more than 80 archives or collections to obtain articles, letters, and photos. He even
PRODUCERS Scripps College professors (from left) Frederick Lewis, Judith Yaross Lee, and Joseph Slade produced the documentary about Paul Laurence Dunbar. PHOTO: JORGE CASTILLO-CASTRO; COURTESY OF THE SCRIPPS COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION
bought some images and ephemera using eBay. All told, it was hundreds of hours spent just looking for the right photos. “One thing I don’t do is just write a script and try to fill in the visuals later. For me, it’s a back and forth process—you want to write to the photos,” Lewis says. “It’s kind of a ‘less is more’ and ‘show, don’t tell’ sort of thing. … It’s writing not with just words; it’s writing with images, music, sound effects, sound bites from the transcripts.” Lewis teaches a course called “Contemporary American Documentary.” In it, he tries to get his students to think about structure. “The good (documentaries) are shot with a structure in mind—you can’t impose a structure later,” he says. “I think the tendency of students is to gather everything and think they can handle it in editing.” Lewis is popular with his students—he has won the university’s Presidential Teacher Award—and his relationships with them extend beyond the classroom to study abroad programs and collaborations after they’ve graduated. For example, Lewis employed a former student on the documentary as one of the composers for the score and another for editing. He was able to tap into his network of former students to shoot footage for the piece in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and elsewhere. With the help of students, Lewis also produced the hip-hop song “We ALL Wear The Mask” and directed
the related music video that appears in the documentary. “I do take great satisfaction that more than 25 of my students and former students made contributions along the way,” Lewis says. All told, the documentary cost some $100,000 to make. In addition to funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities award, the Ohio Humanities Council contributed financial support with the stipulation that the documentary be made available to PBS stations. During Black History Month in February, dozens of PBS stations in Ohio and beyond picked it up. By late summer 2017, the Dunbar documentary had aired on more than 30 PBS stations— from Philadelphia to San Francisco—and screened at venues such as the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, and the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in Dayton. Other viewings continue to be scheduled. Lewis’ inbox has been filling up with thank you notes and positive reviews of the documentary. “The response has been incredibly gratifying,” he says. “The comments I have received from some of the expert participants let me know that the documentary will be a longlasting historical document that will lead viewers to a profound understanding of who Paul Laurence Dunbar was and where his rightful place should be in American arts and letters, and the history of African American culture.” n
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Engineering institute examines how to keep oil and gas pipelines safe and sound
THE SAFEST WAY TO MOVE OIL AND GAS—AND WE’RE GOING TO BE MOVING OIL AND GAS FOR A LONG TIME—IS BY PIPELINES. WE TRY TO MAKE SURE THAT THESE THINGS DON’T FALL APART.” SRDJAN NESIC
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STORY BY CORINNE COLBERT
More than 2 million miles of oil and gas pipeline snake across the Earth’s surface, with nearly 84,000 more under construction or being planned in 2017. Inside each mile of pipe, made of mild steel, is a mix of crude oil and natural gas, definitely better kept in the pipe than leaking out. What keeps petroleum engineers and oil executives awake at night, though, isn’t the oil and the gas in the pipeline; it’s water. “Oil and gas carry some water and carbon dioxide, which makes it like soda water,” says Srdjan Nesic, director of the Ohio University Institute for Corrosion and Multiphase Technology. “It’s acidic and very corrosive to mild steel. All the pipelines are built of mild steel, and acidic water eats the steel from within.” Worldwide, pipeline corrosion costs the oil and gas industry nearly $1.4 billion a year, according to NACE International, the primary professional society for the corrosion control industry. The Institute for Corrosion and Multiphase Technology, part of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, is the world’s largest research facility dedicated to the study of pipeline corrosion; Nesic is one of the field’s foremost researchers. And the world’s oil and gas giants rely on Nesic and his team of engineering professors, postdoctoral scholars, and international graduate students to help them keep their pipelines intact. The institute was founded in 1993 with a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to form an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center. These cooperatives allow companies to partner with academic institutions to conduct research that benefits the private sector. The industry sponsors get the first look at what the researchers discover and the researchers get a steady flow of funding.
EXPERIMENTAL STUDY Then chemical engineering graduate student Joshua Addis works on an experimental study on the effect of flow alterations on erosion-corrosion of carbon steel pipeline. Addis is a 2008 alumnus who now works at Nalco. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE RUSS COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY
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he original NSF research project remains basically in place today as the Corrosion Center Joint Industry Project, or CC-JIP. The institute’s work is entirely funded by oil and gas companies, which pay from $45,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to get the inside line on corrosion research. Its current roster of 20+ sponsors includes BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Shell, TOTAL, TransCanada, and many others. When oil prices were more than $100 a barrel (peaking at $154 in June 2008), the institute had more than 30 industry sponsors. “Our sponsorship correlates to oil prices,” says Marc Singer, the institute’s associate director for project development. Although the institute has grown accustomed to fluctuations in oil prices and sponsor activity, he adds, it’s exploring how to use its considerable infrastructure and expertise to pursue additional types of research, diversifying its portfolio of work. COMBATING CORROSION Inside the institute’s facility are hundreds of meters of miniature pipelines. One can be slanted at different angles, up to 90 degrees, in a four-story tower. Another sits in a separately vented structure because it involves highly flammable and toxic hydrogen sulfide. Each is used to simulate corrosion under different conditions. To reduce corrosion, oil and gas producers inject surfactant chemicals called inhibitors into the flow. “Inhibitors have an affinity for a surface—in this case, metal,” Singer explains. The surfactant molecules make a physical bond with the steel surface, forming a protective layer that inhibits corrosion. Why use inhibitors? Stainless steel pipes are too expensive; lining the pipes isn’t an option because the lining would be destroyed wherever sections of pipe are welded together, Singer says. “You could patch it, but a patched interior liner is worse than no liner at all,” he says. Since its launch, the institute’s primary lure for sponsors was the experimental data generated in the research projects. Nesic brought a new approach: a way to use that data. Nesic’s vision—which began when he was a researcher at Norway’s Institute for Energy Technology—was to develop a computer model to simulate corrosion under a variety of conditions. The result was MULTICORP™, a corrosion prediction software built on data from institute research. Field engineers can enter data about their specific pipeline situation and what is flowing through it in order to get the model’s estimation about when and how quickly the pipe will corrode. Then they can alter the operational variables—such as the pressure, temperature, kind, and quantity of inhibitor used—to find the best performance. The software is a work in constant progress, says Bruce Brown, project leader of the CC-JIP. “Each student works on one small part of the puzzle that we can add to the model when it is figured out,” he says. A simplified version of the software, FREECORP, has been downloaded more than 8,000 times since its release in 2008. Available free of charge, the software is based on the same theoretical approach that is publicly available in journal articles—many of them written by institute faculty and students. In a given year, institute researchers publish more than 10 peer-reviewed papers and present as many or more conference papers, Nesic says.
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EXPERIMENT PREPARATION PhD students Saba Navabzadeh Esmaeely and Wei Li prepare a glass cell system for corrosion experimentation. PHOTO: ABOVE, COURTESY OF THE RUSS COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY; TOP, RICK FATICA, OHIO UNIVERSITY
MEASURING FLOW PhD students Jing Ning and Marian Babic perform measurements on a high pressure corrosion flow system.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE RUSS COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY
“Our sponsors understand that we are a public institution and our students have to write theses that will appear in the public domain,” Nesic says. “The sponsors have the right to first access, then one or two years later we publish. Even in a proprietary project, we can publish part of the research results.” NURTURING THE NEXT GENERATION Industry sponsors get a first look at more than research. In their semiannual meetings with institute staff, sponsors get to know the two dozen or so graduate students who are working on their projects. Students get some assistance in preparing presentations, but on meeting day, they’re on their own as they take their turns talking about their progress. “It’s a huge benefit for them,” Brown says. “They get to know people in the industry, which is a tight-knit community. The industry people watch them grow and mature, and usually ask them to apply for a position with their company.” Nearly all of the institute’s graduates go on to work directly in the oil and gas industry, Nesic says. And the jobs pay well: “With a master’s degree, you might start at $80,000 to $90,000,” Brown says. “With a PhD, if you don’t start at $100,000, you’re there soon after.” Although the work of these students and faculty members clearly benefits the oil and gas industry, Nesic points to ways the research also serves the general public and protects the environment. “The safest way to move oil and gas—and we’re going to be moving oil and gas for a long time—is by pipelines,” Nesic says. “We try to make sure that these things don’t fall apart. Every release is a human disaster, an environmental disaster, and an economic disaster. If we abandon everything that is dangerous, we’ll have nothing left. Until then, we have to make safe what we can.” n
THE INDUSTRY PEOPLE WATCH (THE STUDENTS) GROW AND MATURE, AND USUALLY ASK THEM TO APPLY FOR A POSITION WITH THEIR COMPANY.” BRUCE BROWN
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STORY BY ANDREA GIBSON
STUDENTS LEARN THE ART AND CRAFT OF THEATER WITH NEW ENSEMBLE
ALL HANDS ON SET
At Ohio University’s Kantner Hall in Athens, Cassandra Lentz, a visiting professional with Tantrum Theater’s summer 2017 scenic design crew, paints a key set piece for Caroline, or Change. Backdrops were created in the scenic shops on campus before being moved to the Abbey Theater in Dublin, Ohio, for the production of the show. PHOTOS: BEN SIEGEL
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acob Brown was working as a scenic designer in California, preparing for graduate school at Ohio University, when he learned that he could come to Ohio before classes started to take part in the debut season of a new theater company. He headed to the Midwest, attracted to the opportunity to be a scenic artist for a regional venue that would unite professionals and Ohio University students learning the art and craft of theater. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>
Brown was one of 50 students who participated in the inaugural season of Tantrum Theater, Ohio University’s professional summer theater located in Dublin, Ohio, in 2016. The graduate student is one of several who returned for the 2017 season—in total, close to 60 students are involved in the company of 150 this year—in production and performance roles. This year, Brown is the assistant scenic designer for the season’s three-show run, where he works alongside not only fellow Ohio University students and faculty, but professional directors, designers, and actors who work full-time for regional playhouses and for Broadway. “This is a great opportunity for students to work with someone professionally and get that one-on-one, to see how other people design,” Brown says.
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antrum Theater was born from the university’s need for a new summer experience for its graduate and undergraduate students and a serendipitous interest by Dublin to establish a professional theater for its growing community. Daniel Dennis, the theater’s artistic director, notes that the location is a good fit for the program, as it “creates another front porch for Ohio University” in the Columbus metropolitan area, home to many current students and alumni. Dublin is also the site of a new Ohio University campus that currently features medical, nursing, business, and public administration graduate and professional programs, with more degree offerings to come in future years. The city has worked closely with university officials to develop the campus and provide a facility for Tantrum within the Abbey Theater. “(Dublin city officials) annually invest in the arts a great deal—they are looking at the long-term cultural life of the community,” Dennis says. The project receives support from the university—including a recent grant from the 1804 Fund for new lighting—as well as individual and corporate donor contributions. The name “Tantrum” was chosen because the word describes a group of bobcats (the mascot of Ohio University). Tantrum Theater’s goal is to feature shows that provide artistically challenging work for its students and professional talent while also cultivating an audience, he explains. “The quality of the experience is of paramount importance—we’re attempting to produce the most riveting experience we can, but at the same time our pedagogical goals are foremost in the decisions,” says Dennis, an alumnus of the university’s doctoral program in interdisciplinary arts. Tantrum’s first season featured the musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors, the play Tammy Faye’s Final Audition (penned by Ohio University alumna Merri Biechler), and the family drama Dancing at Lughnasa. The fact that the latter show is Irish and set during a Celtic festival is not a
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coincidence—Dancing’s run was synergistic with the Dublin Irish Festival, an arts and culture showcase held each August. For season two, Tantrum developed a slate of shows with bigger production values that could provide more creative lessons for students while growing the audience base, says Rachel Cornish, the theater’s founding producing director. The 2017 season featured William Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Tony Kushner musical Caroline, or Change, and the Irish adventure tale Into the West. The university also has offered youth arts education camps during both seasons. “What’s exciting about this season is that it’s hugely artistically challenging—and we are meeting those challenges,” Cornish says. “It’s a much bigger season, and there are expanded opportunities for everyone involved.” Brown’s role has grown significantly this year; he’s now working with a team of designers to draw and build models of sets and acquire props and scenery for each of the three different shows. Caroline, or Change, set in Louisiana in 1963, put Brown on a nationwide hunt for period washer and dryer appliances, which feature prominently in the plot and musical numbers. Into the West calls for the crew to build a giant plastic wave, which prompted questions about choosing the right materials and construction techniques. He’s also
BEHIND THE SCENES
(Top left) Undergraduate students Emma Havranek and Camila Benencia work as stitchers in the costume shop with Head of Costume Crafts Joanna Koefoed. (Top right) Visiting professional Chris Eicher, working as a technical director in the scenic shop, takes the lead in bringing stage design concepts to reality ahead of opening night. PHOTOS: BEN SIEGEL
“WHAT’S EXCITING ABOUT THIS SEASON IS THAT IT’S HUGELY ARTISTICALLY CHALLENGING—AND WE ARE MEETING THOSE CHALLENGES.” RACHEL CORNISH
REHEARSAL (From left to right) Alaina Kai, a recent OHIO alumna, and visiting professionals Colleen Longshaw and Mariah Burks rehearse a scene for Caroline, or Change at Ohio University’s Kantner Hall. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
PERFECT FIT Kenneth Rainey, visiting professional costumer, and Julie McGill, instructor with the Theater Division and costume shop manager, fit Mariah Burks, visiting professional actor, for her costume as The Moon in Caroline, or Change. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL OHI O UN IV ERSIT Y / . 25
(Above) Director Robert Barry Fleming observes Caroline, or Change rehearsals with Assistant Director Allison Epperson, a graduate student in the Theater Division. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
> > > > > > >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> > > > > > >
PERFORMING AT THE TANTRUM
(Clockwise, from top) The musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors launched Tantrum Theater’s inaugural season in 2016. PHOTO: DANIEL RADER
Season two kicked off with William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, followed by Tony Kushner’s musical Caroline, or Change. PHOTOS: DANIEL R. WINTERS
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“TANTRUM THEATER—IF WE’RE SUCCESSFUL—WILL BE A GAME CHANGER FOR THE THEATER DIVISION AND THE PROGRAMS WE OFFER HERE...” DANIEL DENNIS
relishing working with professionals such as Jason Ardizzone-West, the scenic designer for Caroline, or Change, who has worked on Broadway shows such as Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 and Harry Potter & The Cursed Child. “It’s a rare opportunity to work this close with someone like this,” he notes. Kristin Yates, a rising senior at Ohio University, also is back for a second year at Tantrum. Last year she performed as a street urchin in Little Shop of Horrors, while this year she served as the understudy for the role of Emmie Thibodeaux in Caroline, or Change. The latter role required her to study the character and script on her own while also observing cast rehearsals. Prep time for Tantrum shows is shorter and more intense than school year productions, but was a good learning lesson, she says. “It enhanced my work ethic and the way I approached managing my time,” Yates notes. Little Shop of Horrors was directed by Dennis, who also teaches acting at Ohio University during the school year. For Caroline, or Change, Tantrum recruited Robert Barry Fleming of the Cleveland Play House. “To work with someone I haven’t before—it’s helpful to see their process and get a glimpse of what it will be like outside of school,” Yates says. Tantrum has been able to attract theater professionals from around the country who want to work on interesting shows—Caroline, or Change and Into the West haven’t been staged extensively in the United States—and embrace serving in mentorship roles for the students, Dennis says. The opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to work with professionals in Ohio University’s home region is an important learning experience and good way to build contacts in the industry. “The analogy we have used in the last year—and it’s very apt—is that Tantrum Theater is in many ways a ‘teaching hospital.’ We have ‘residents’ that are interning with doctors and professionals, and that’s how they learn,” Dennis says. Planning for season three of Tantrum—and well beyond—is now underway. “We’re in it for the long haul,” Dennis says. “Every decision we make, we’re looking at 10-15 years down the road. Tantrum Theater—if we’re successful— will be a game changer for the Theater Division and the programs we offer here, for the College of Fine Arts, and for Ohio University.” n
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Researchers across Ohio University explore new approaches to combating pain and understanding aging
HEALTH CONNECTIONS STORY BY ANDREA GIBSON
early all of us will experience aging and pain in our lives. These big, complex issues constitute perhaps a third of our modern health care industry, notes Ohio University researcher Brian Clark—and are the focus of the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI) at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.
David Russ (left) and Brian Clark (right) collaborate with Ohio University researchers to explore new approaches to widespread problems such as low back pain and aging-related muscle weakness.
PHOTOS: ABOVE, BEN SIEGEL; RIGHT, OHIO UNIVERSITY HERITAGE COLLEGE OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE
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Although aging and pain are common, the institute’s approach to studying and combating them is unconventional. OMNI’s team of researchers from disciplines such as physical therapy, physiology, neuroscience, anatomy, biomedical engineering, computer science, and psychology collaborate to explore new approaches to widespread problems such as low back pain and aging-related muscle weakness, as well as specific concerns such as nerve damage from dental surgery and recovering from injuries. They primarily pursue scientific studies that can impact clinical practice and public health, explains Clark, OMNI executive director and the Harold E. Clybourne, D.O., Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Endowed Research Chair in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. “We are one of the leading groups in the world driving research forward in the musculoskeletal rehabilitation as well as frailty and fracture spaces,” he says. A major investment through the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation’s 2011 Vision 2020 award to the Heritage College boosted OMNI’s infrastructure and funding for pilot projects, which in turn helped researchers leverage larger grants from external entities such as the National Institutes of Health. The institute watched its active research funding climb from $500,000 to about $14 million today, Clark says.
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“WE CAN APPROACH A PROBLEM FROM A LOT OF DIFFERENT ANGLES; YOU CAN GET TUNNEL VISION FROM LOOKING AT ISSUES FROM JUST YOUR LITTLE WORLD. (OMNI) CENTRALIZES RESOURCES THAT WE CAN TAP INTO.” DAVID RUSS
While OMNI scientists conduct various research studies, in the last few years the institute also has been selected as a site for a number of early-phase, randomized clinical drug trials for the pharmaceutical industry. It recently was one of five sites of a national study of the safety and effectiveness of a myostatin-inhibitor compound on older adults who experience age-related muscle degeneration. All of these studies wouldn’t be possible without the participation of a local community of volunteers, Clark says. In addition to the college students and area adults who participate in research projects, OMNI draws on an active pool of senior citizen volunteers dedicated to advancing our knowledge of the aging process. Since the 1970s, the conventional wisdom has been that older people weaken as they age because their muscles shrink, Clark says, but new data is beginning to dispute this. OMNI has focused on studying the neurological roots of the problem, as well as other physiological factors associated with muscle that may be at play. OMNI takes a similar out-of-the-box approach to pain issues, especially back pain. Most researchers study the effectiveness of surgery, Clark notes. The Ohio University team, however, is focused on nonsurgical alternatives such as manipulative therapies and video game-based interventions that have fewer negative effects than major surgery. The institute currently has almost three dozen Ohio University scientists affiliated with it; several of those are principal investigators such as David Russ, an associate professor of physical therapy in the College of Health Sciences and Professions. “We can approach a problem from a lot of different angles; you can get tunnel vision from looking at issues from just your little world,” Russ says about the benefits of working with the institute collaborators. “(OMNI) centralizes resources that we can tap into.” For a closer look at OMNI’s activities, we provide a series of snapshots of some of the projects underway.
COMBATING BACK PAIN
ed by Professor of Physical Therapy James Thomas, the RELIEF study is in its final phase of recruiting subjects for its fiveyear, National Institutes of Health-funded research on nonsurgical alternatives to back pain. Participants are randomly assigned to either spinal manipulation, mobilization, or laser treatments; researchers will study the short- and long-term effects of these treatments on subject pain and disability. In addition, Thomas and Distinguished Professor of Psychology Christopher France have recently
MOVE THIS WAY Professor of Physical Therapy James Thomas (at right) conducts studies in the Ohio University Motor Control Lab that explore ways to mitigate back pain. PHOTO: LAUREN DICKEY/COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES AND PROFESSIONS
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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PAIN ENDURANCE
he toll of pain—whether acute or mild, short- or long-term—is more than physical. Some sufferers dwell on catastrophic thoughts about their ability to work and enjoy leisure time. But even those who fear the worst can show resiliency in the face of the actual pain—which, in turn, can help them push through the discomfort and get on with their lives, according to new Ohio University research. Working with Distinguished Professor Christopher France, graduate students Max Slepian and Brett Ankawi developed a resilience scale to learn more about how individuals persevere through pain, such as by focusing on hopefulness and joy, staying physically active, or sticking to life goals. To determine how the resilience scale corresponded to a real-time pain experience, the team exposed participants to a brief, uncomfortable physical sensation (a tight blood pressure cuff on the arm). Study subjects who reported higher levels of psychological resilience experienced slower increases in pain and a lower level of pain overall throughout the test. Although pain treatments traditionally focus on helping patients reduce negative thoughts, the research suggests that simultaneously encouraging positive thoughts boosts resilience, helping patients lessen the trauma of chronic pain. In more recent work, the team found that highly resilient individuals “seem to cope better with their condition as indicated by a combination of lower pain, higher quality of life, and a decreased likelihood of being unemployed or receiving disability benefits,” France reports.
completed the LEARNING study, which explores how playing an athletic video game with virtual reality headgear may help individuals with low back pain become more mobile. Individuals with chronic pain may alter the way they walk or move, out of fear of triggering further discomfort. However, this can actually exacerbate problems, putting wear and tear on other parts of the body. The LEARNING study found that the team’s virtual dodgeball game is a safe and effective way to engage individuals with back pain in exercise. Study subjects increased lumbar spine flexion and experienced no significant increases in pain or adverse side effects, according to the researchers, who published their results in the Journal of Pain. Next, the team will launch a five-year randomized clinical trial, VIGOR, to study the effectiveness of using the virtual dodgeball game to treat chronic back pain. In addition to these projects, Thomas and David Russ have been collecting data to determine whether the ability of the back muscle to withstand fatigue predicts the recurrence of low back pain.
PAIN PERCEPTION Graduate students Max Slepian and Brett Ankawi worked with Distinguished Professor Christopher France (below) to develop a resilience scale to learn more about how individuals persevere through pain. PHOTO: JOEL PRINCE
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HEALTHY CELLS IN AGING MUSCLE
esearch has shown that as we age, a process called autophagy—which ensures that the cells in our muscles function properly—begins to break down, says David Russ, an associate professor of physical therapy. “It’s like taking out the trash—your system can’t make new stuff without taking the old stuff out,” he explains. Cells that can’t maintain autophagy can lead to certain neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and problems with skeletal muscle. Russ is examining how to stimulate the process in older laboratory animals and in human subjects. Exercise—no matter what specific type—can trigger it. But what about elderly individuals with heart or arthritis problems who can’t go for a run or a brisk walk? Russ is studying how applying electrical stimulation to muscles might mimic the benefits of exercise. A pilot study of young and older adults showed that doing so can trigger effects in the muscle similar to that seen in individuals who participate in high-intensity exercise.
HOW STABLE IS YOUR SPINE?
ne issue physicians must consider when treating patients with serious back pain is the stability of the spine. Physicians may recommend spinal fusion, a major surgery, to seek to alleviate chronic pain and mobility problems. But physicians must have as much information as possible about the spine’s condition to identify the best course of treatment, says Niladri Mahato, who earned a doctoral degree from and served in a postdoctoral position with Ohio University. Mahato, Brian Clark, and colleagues are studying the effectiveness of using MRI screenings to get a better sense of how a patient’s spine moves and specifically how weight bearing affects the spine. Their novel MRI approach, which was recently published in the journal Magnetic Resonance Imaging, investigates the feasibility of assessing real-time spine motion. It’s safer than the conventional method of spine screening—X-rays—which cannot be used frequently or with some patients at all because of the level of radiation emitted, Mahato explains. In most cases, X-ray screening also only generates a static image of the spine. While at Ohio University, Mahato developed the imaging approach and verified its accuracy using animal spines. OMNI researchers now are testing its reliability on human subjects to determine if they can get consistent spinal measurements over time.
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MEASURING BONE STRENGTH TO BETTER DIAGNOSE OSTEOPOROSIS
steoporosis is another condition that causes frailty in the elderly— by weakening the skeleton. OMNI scientists note that current clinical methods of predicting which seniors are at risk of bone fracture aren’t highly accurate. A team led by Brian Clark with Lyn Bowman and Anne Loucks of the Department of Biological Sciences has been working on a new device that could give scientists a better measure of bone strength. The device, now in its second prototype, uses a noninvasive method by applying a vibrating metal probe to a bone in the arm to quantify its level of stiffness. Their data indicate that bone stiffness is a good predictor of bone strength. The team received funding from Ohio University’s Innovation Strategy program to commercialize the device. Participation in the state of Ohio’s I-Corps program—which helps university professors turn science and engineering discoveries into marketable products—showed that the device may find the most immediate commercial use in scientific labs, with possible later development for clinical use, Clark reports.
A team led by Brian Clark with Lyn Bowman and Anne Loucks (opposite page) of the Department of Biological Sciences has been working on a new device that could give scientists a better measure of bone strength. Joe Oberhauser, mechatronic design engineer (above), and John Cotton, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology (this page, left), lend their expertise to the project.
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DEFEATING DENTAL PAIN
SUSAN WILLIAMS RECEIVED NIH FUNDING TO STUDY THE RANGE AND SEVERITY OF PROBLEMS THAT CAN STEM FROM LINGUAL NERVE INJURY.
GETTING ON THE NERVE Susan Williams, a professor in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, sets up an experiment that explores chewing and swallowing. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
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uring a routine dental procedure, the lingual nerve can get compressed or cut, as it lies close under the surface of the lining of the mouth, says Susan Williams, a professor of anatomy. Numbed by anesthesia, patients might not notice the problem right away, but soon can experience a loss of sensation, differences in taste, and pain while talking and eating. If caught quickly, the problem can be resolved with surgery or anti-inflammatories, but the damage can go undiagnosed and is underreported. “People aren’t aware that the nerve is as susceptible to injury as it is,” she notes. The National Institutes of Health awarded Williams funding to study the range and severity of problems that can stem from lingual nerve injury to learn more about the issue and inform treatments. She and her research team are studying the feeding process of pigs, which have a very similar dental anatomy to humans, to understand how lingual nerve injuries impact the coordination of chewing and swallowing.
THE BRAIN'S CONNECTION TO MUSCLE WEAKNESS
he physical weakness that older individuals experience as they age isn’t just about shrinking muscles—the brain plays a large part too, OMNI scientists have found. Using a noninvasive process called transcranial magnetic stimulation, researchers stimulated the muscles of study subjects and then tracked what was happening in the brain. They found that a certain function of the nervous system, called excitability, was low in individuals who were experiencing muscle weakness. Other OMNI studies revealed this brain-muscle relationship in other contexts: When young study subjects with casts on a limb lost muscle strength from inactivity, their brains also showed low excitability, Brian Clark says. With a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the OMNI team is now exploring interventions for elderly muscle weakness— such as weight lifting a few times per week—that may build muscle but also activate the parts of the brain necessary for muscle health.
VISUALIZING KNEE THERAPY
A A NEW VIEW
Dustin Grooms (background) reviews brain images with Phil Long of the Holzer Health System. PHOTO: LAUREN DICKEY/COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES AND PROFESSIONS
torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee is a common problem for athletes, but patients can have long recovery times and are susceptible to further injury, says Dustin Grooms, an assistant professor of athletic training. Seeking better treatments, Grooms looked beyond the physical mechanics of the knee to explore the neurological factors at play. He found that the brain’s sensory-visual-motor integration system is altered after injury and can be targeted in therapy to help patients rehabilitate and strengthen their knees. Now he’s working with Brian Clark to apply his expertise in brain imaging to questions about back pain. The team recently was awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop an approach to determine the brain activity associated with contractions of the low back muscles. They’re working in partnership with Holzer Health System’s Athens-based clinic, which houses an MRI scanner that offers advanced brain imaging. n OHI O UN IV ERSIT Y / . 35
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CLOS E U P
GOT THREE MINUTES? Scholars learn to deliver research findings in a flash
magine you have your house key, and you want to make a copy. You go to the hardware store, you hand the employee your key,” begins graduate student Ian Armstrong. Much in the way that a locksmith uses a blank key template to create dozens of copies, chemistry researchers are creating a series of molecular “keys” that could unlock biological processes—opening the door to new disease treatments. Armstrong’s lock-and-key analogy scored him the top prize in Ohio University’s second annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition in February. The program, developed by the University of Queensland and now hosted at 350 universities worldwide, is designed to help graduate students translate their academic work to the general public. Students are challenged to turn what might be an 80,000-word thesis into an engaging, brief overview of their research—with the aid of only one visual. “Now, more than ever, researchers must convey the importance of their work to lay audiences,” says David Koonce, associate dean of the Graduate College, the Ohio University sponsor of the program. “Events like the 3MT® stress the need for students to break out of the pattern of only presenting at a technical level to their faculty and peers.” Each discipline has its own jargon that students must master in order to work with and write for their academic peers and mentors. But students often need to switch gears to explain their research, scholarship, or creative endeavors to the general public, from politicians and donors to prospective undergraduates or elementary kids on an educational field trip. Students are stepping up to the plate—in 2017, 19 graduate students competed in Ohio University’s 3MT®, more than double the participation of the inaugural event. In addition to Armstrong, the event’s winners include Rebecca Totton, psychology, who landed second place for a presentation on the emotions that drive people to react negatively to transgendered individuals. The third place prize was shared by two Scripps College of Communication
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graduate students, Steffi Shook and Enakshi Roy, who discussed their research on video games and social media censorship, respectively. Audience members awarded Pornchanok Ruengvirayudh, education, and Karie Whitman, environmental studies, with the “People’s Choice” vote for their respective presentations on test data analysis and evaluating agricultural innovations in Africa. BY AN DR EA GIBSO N
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(Clockwise from left to right): Ohio University graduate students Manindra Singh, Ian Armstrong, and Pornchanok Ruengvirayudh concisely present their research to a panel of faculty and staff judges (center) and members of the university community. PHOTOS: DANIEL OWEN
OHI O UN IV ERSIT Y / . 37
Non-Profit Organization US Postage
Vice President for Research and Creative Activity
Athens, OH Permit No. 100
Perspectives magazine Research and Technology Center 120 1 Ohio University Athens OH 45701-2979
MEDIC I N E / OHIO MU SC U LOSKEL ETA L A N D N EU R O LO G I C A L I N STI TU TE
>> SECOND LOOK
across Ohio University explore new approaches to combating pain and understanding aging as >> Researchers part of the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute. A team led by Brian Clark with Lyn Bowman and Anne Loucks of the Department of Biological Sciences has been working to develop better methods to diagnose osteoporosis. Joe Oberhauser, mechatronic design engineer (above), lends his expertise to the project. PHOTO: BEN SIEGEL
(See story on page 28)
Research, scholarship, and creative activity at Ohio University.