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Strength in 22 Numbers Millions of Americans suffer pain and weakness from injury, aging, disuse. Ohio University scientists unite to explore the secrets behind our muscles, brain, and nervous system and offer relief.





spring/ summer

20 11


spring/ summer

20 11



what ’s inside





14 16 18 30

S T R I N G THEORY With a rare 18th century Milanese cello at his side, Michael Carrera makes beautiful music

L I T E R ARY JUSTICE Paul Jones uncovers how antebellum authors pushed for capital punishment reform

EDITOR Andrea Gibson SENIOR DESIGNER AND ILLUSTRATOR Christina Ullman, Ullman Design

Biological Sciences


ASSISTANT DESIGNER Alix Northrup, Ullman Design

Biologist Don Miles searches for the lizards—declining on a hotter planet—that hold clues to wildlife diversity, behavior, and ecology

INTERN Milissa Hudepohl

ADVISORY COMMITTEE Kevin Crist Professor Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering


T H E P IOUS REVOLUTION Historian David Curp explores how the Polish Catholic Church helped sow the seeds of Solidarity

Steve Reilly Professor Biological Sciences

Geological Sciences

G O I N G UNDERGROUND Geologist Gregory Springer finds clues to Earth’s history of flooding, droughts, and climate change deep inside Appalachian caves


A RT U NWRAPPED Craft meets technology in a new series of work by ceramic artist Alex Hibbitt

Ellen Gerl Associate Professor Journalism Michele Morrone Associate Professor Social and Public Health Duane McDiarmid Associate Professor Art

ISSN 1520-4375 Printed on recycled paper.




Special Edition

G R A D UATE STUDENT SHOWCASE From nuclear physics to photography, a spotlight on the research, scholarship, and creative activity by Ohio University graduate students

02 U P F RO N T 40 C L A S S AC T

:: From the Office of Research | :: Student Research |




:: Research News Briefs

:: Project snapshot


Strength in 22 Numbers Back pain. Muscle weakness. Nervous system disorders. Ohio University scientists join forces to explore the health problems faced by millions of Americans.


u p fr o nt






Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate College

President of Ohio University

Discovery and progress


n the first few months of 2011, Ohio University celebrated three major developments in biotechnology research, economic devel-

opment, and entrepreneurship. Over the last several years, the Pfizer corporation has distributed a drug based on the discovery of a growth hormone antagonist by Ohio University scientist John Kopchick and former graduate student Wen Chen. The treatment, SOMAVERT® (pegvisomant for injection), has made a significant impact on thousands of individuals across the globe suffering from acromegaly, a form of gigantism. In February, the university and its inventors sold partial royalty income rights to its license for the drug to a private equity firm managed by DRI Capital Inc., pursuant to a five-year agreement that could net up to $52 million. Ohio University will invest the funds in new translational medicine research programs and efforts to commercialize faculty technologies in the areas of drug discovery and medical devices. It plans to support three to four endowed professorships and several graduate student fellowships focused on cancer and endocrine disease research at the Edison Biotechnology Institute, the home of the growth hormone antagonist discovery. A few weeks before this announcement, Ohio University learned that its Third Frontier initiative, TechGROWTH Ohio, was awarded a new round of funding in a competitive statewide process. The $3 million grant will be matched with private dollars


to allow TechGROWTH to expand services through 2012. Founded in 2007, TechGROWTH provides business advisory services, competitive grant support, and seed-stage investment capital to technology companies and entrepreneurs in southeastern Ohio. TechGROWTH has developed an expansive network of strategic partners and clients throughout the region to identify and assist aspiring new companies and entrepreneurs. It also established the region’s first angel investment network, the East Central Ohio Tech Angel Fund. To further support the university’s business and economic development efforts, in late February the Ohio University Board of Trustees approved the new Center for Entrepreneurship. This partnership between the College of Business and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs has synergies with the technology commercialization and economic development initiatives of the Vice President for Research division. The center will allow students from any college or major to earn a Certificate in Entrepreneurship beginning in fall 2012. It will provide learning opportunities outside the classroom through business plan competitions, internships, and guest lecturers. The center will play an important role in supporting technology commercialization at the university and developing regional businesses,

ranging from start-up companies to more established firms. As you can see from these examples, the work of our faculty and students can make a significant impact on society. This issue of Perspectives magazine offers many more stories—from articles on low-back pain studies to art that explores the intersection of craft and technology—that show how Ohio University research, scholarship, and creative activity enlightens, informs, and engages us in our world.

ABOUT PERSPECTIVES Perspectives: Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Ohio University is published twice a year by the Office of Research Communications, part of the Vice President for Research division. The magazine serves its readers by providing information about the research, scholarly, and creative activities of Ohio University faculty, staff, and students, and about the contributions of university research in general through the publication of accurate and balanced journalistic content that informs, stimulates intellectual discussion, and promotes scholarly inquiry. Text, photographs, and artwork may not be reprinted without written permission from the editor. Contact us for more information about the research program at Ohio University: Vice President for Research 120 Research and Technology Center Athens, OH 45701-2979 Phone: (740) 593-0370 E-mail: Web: Comments and queries regarding editorial content should be addressed to Editor, Perspectives magazine: Phone: (740) 597-2166 E-mail:





Heart hazards

Environmental pollutants could be heart disease culprits The leading cause of death in the United States and around the world, heart disease often occurs as the result of controllable risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, and diabetes. But some research suggests that 20 to 50 percent of heart disease patients don’t have these conventional causes. Recent studies by Ohio University researcher Alexander Sergeev suggest another possible factor: persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides, insecticides, and unintentional by-products from chemical reactions in factories. The list also includes polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), synthetic chlorinated compounds that were previously used in electrical equipment (such as capacitors and transformers), flame retardants, paints, and other products. “People know that smoking is a risk factor for disease, but they can make a choice to smoke or not smoke. If somebody resides in proximity to a source of POPs and has no idea about that, it makes it a very important involuntary risk factor,” he says. Sergeev, a former Russian cardiologist who treated many heart disease patients, was intrigued by experimental animal studies that suggested that exposure to POPs causes atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries that decreases blood supply to the heart, resulting in a heart attack.

“If something causes atherosclerosis in a mouse, it’s reasonable to assume that it can also cause it in human beings, which would be relevant for people such as factory workers,” says Sergeev, an assistant professor of social and public health. Sergeev began focusing on people hospitalized for heart disease and their proximity to sources of POPs. He analyzed large data samples through a program in the state of New York called SPARCS, the Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System. When patients leave a state-regulated hospital in New York, their information enters into a database. Sergeev studied 12 years of that data and compared it with the number of sources of POPs located in patient zip codes. About 20 to 25 percent of the New York state population (not including

New York City) lives in proximity to POP sources. These include hazardous waste sites and POP-contaminated bodies of water. Sergeev found that living near POP sources is associated with a statistically significant increase—between 10 and 17 percent—of hospitalization for heart disease and stroke. POPs raise particular concerns because of the length of time they can last in the environment. Some have half-lives of more than 100 years; something manufactured in 1970 could still exist in 2070. “POPs are persistent and can migrate in the environment,” Sergeev says.





“People know that smoking is a risk factor for disease, but they can make a choice to smoke or not smoke. If somebody resides in proximity to a source of POPs and has no idea about that, it makes it a very important involuntary risk factor.” ALEXANDER SERGEEV assistant professor of social and public health PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: CHRISTINA ULLMAN; IMAGES: DREAMSTIME.COM





:: E D U C AT I O N | by : R . Devin Hughes

Cool tools Texas Instruments grant puts handheld computers in Ohio math classrooms


o improve mathematics education in Ohio schools, Ohio University’s Advanced Teacher Capacity team

is providing TI-nspire handheld computers to 12 middle and high school algebra, geometry, and statistics classrooms throughout Ohio during the 2010–11 school year.

The initiative is part of the team’s Modeling and Spatial Reasoning (Modspar) professional development program (PD), which focuses on making connections between real-world experiences and mathematical concepts. Donated by Texas Instruments through a $54,000 grant, the TI-nspire computers allow students to see a math problem as a graph, table, chart, or even as a 2- or 3-dimensional geometric model— instantly. “We have been conducting professional development programs for a few years now, but one piece of feedback we heard from teachers was that they could do so much more if the students had their own technology,” explains Gregory Foley, Robert L. Morton Professor of Mathematics Education. In many classroom situations,



students are asked only to memorize and reproduce. The Modspar PD program encourages teachers to take tasks a step further, asking students to use complex and nonalgorithmic thinking and show evidence of reasoning and understanding. With TI-nspire computers, students are more easily able to make connections to the concepts or meanings that underlie the facts, rules, formulas, or definitions being memorized. The twelve teachers selected for the study participated in a two-week summer institute at Ohio University. “Four teachers received classroom sets of handheld computers at the beginning of the school year, four received their classroom sets in January, and the final four will receive them at the end of the year,” says Mary Harmison, project manager for Modspar, which is funded by the Improving

Teacher Quality program through the Ohio Board of Regents. The TI-nspire Computer Algebra System is a powerful software package that runs in a handheld format, Foley adds. “Students will have a suite of mathematical tools at their fingertips, allowing the teachers to present more intellectually demanding challenges,” he says. Foley’s team, consisting largely of doctoral students, will analyze student work samples and will visit each participant’s classroom four times during the school year to evaluate the teachers’ use of cognitively demanding tasks. Teachers also will receive ongoing follow-up support from the Modspar team, who will evaluate how the availability of handheld computer technology in the classroom changes teachers’ methods of instruction and student learning.

“We have been conducting professional development programs for a few years now, but one piece of feedback we heard from teachers was that they could do so much more if the students had their own technology.” GREGO RY F O L EY Robert L. Morton Professor of Mathematics Education



AGE OF YOUNG NEUTRON STAR that puzzled scientists by cooling fast. OHIO astrophysicist Madappa Prakash and colleagues found that a remarkable, friction-free state of matter called superfluidity was the cause.

: : J O U R N A L I S M | by Je ff Worley

Lost and Found

Journalist helps Sudanese refugees tell tale of survival, love


e went days without food, staying alive by chewing the stems of sweetgrass. He kept

moving, with the other boys, never safe from the constant threat of being killed by lions or murderous soldiers. To avoid certain death, he had to swim across crocodile-infested rivers. She was only five when soldiers attacked her village, and she had to flee with her three-year-old sister cradled in her arms. With no water, she ate mud to force moisture into her mouth. She got malaria. Another villager was shot dead on the path before her. Lost Boy, Lost Girl is the courageous story of John Bul Dau and Martha Arual Akech, southern Sudanese children who had to run for their lives when Arab army troops attacked their villages in 1987 during the Sudanese civil war. John became one of the “lost boys,” along with thousands of other southern Sudanese boys who fled. Martha’s separate journey took her hundreds of miles without sufficient food or water. “Both children eventually made it to Kakuma, a Kenyan refugee camp,” says Ohio University journalism professor Michael Sweeney, continuing the narrative. “John learned English and, in 2001, was accepted for immigration to the United States. Filmmaker Christopher Quinn had met John in the refugee camp and followed him to Syracuse, New York, to film the journey of John’s new life.” The result was the film God Grew Tired

of Us, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004. “National Geographic film producers were in the audience,” says Sweeney. “They loved the film and were immediately impressed with John when they met him.” National Geographic bought the rights to Quinn’s film and later decided to publish a book based on it. Because Sweeney had an established track record as a writer for National Geographic, the editors hired him to work with John to write the book. Lost Boy, Lost Girl is their second book collaboration. Though this newest book is a survival tale, it’s also a love story. John and Martha met in Kakuma, and John fell in love with her. She immigrated to the United States and settled in Seattle; John moved to Syracuse a year later. “They talked for hours on the phone, and eventually Martha moved to Syracuse, where they had a church wedding in 2007,” Sweeney says. John built a house for them there, which they now share with their three children and John’s mother and sister, who also were granted immigration rights.

Above, John Dau listens to a lecture during a visit to the National Geographic Society offices. Dau worked with Ohio University Professor Michael Sweeney on Lost Boy, Lost Girl.

“I think that what Lost Boy, Lost Girl emphasizes is a new perspective on living in the United States,” Sweeney notes. “John now gives lectures frequently at colleges in this country to raise money for the foundation he established to build clinics and schools in southern Sudan, and one of his main themes when he talks to students is just how lucky we are to live in this country. People tell me after they read this book that they have a new appreciation for the simple things in life.”

“I think that what Lost Boy, Lost Girl emphasizes is a new perspective on living in the United States… People tell me after they read this book that they have a new appreciation for the simple things in life.” M I C H A E L S W E E N E Y, professor of journalism






:: C H E M I S T RY A N D B I O C H EMISTRY | by Andrea Gibson

Speedy Science

Greg Van Patten and Jeff Rack now lead one

New laser lab equipment to aid studies of next generation light-sensitive materials


of only 12 labs in North

or uses ranging from computer technology to

America with this

green energy, scientists are seeking new materials

particular spectrometer,

that quickly react to light. How fast? With the aid of a new spectrometer, Ohio University researchers now can study changes on the time scale of femtoseconds, which

which can track ultraGREG VAN PAT TEN associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry

JEFF RACK associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry

are a millionth of a billionth of a second. “Comparing femtoseconds to seconds is like comparing seconds to the age of the universe,” Greg Van Patten explains. Van Patten and Jeff Rack, both associate professors of chemistry and biochemistry, now lead one of only 12 labs in North America with this particular spectrometer, which can track ultrafast processes in photosensitive materials. The equipment was funded with a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Rack uses the spectrometer to study photochromic compounds, which can change color and structure when exposed to light, a useful quality for applications ranging from computer optics and military protection gear to commercial sunglasses. Measurements from the new instrument will help Rack develop new types of these chameleonlike materials. Rack opens the top of the machine to reveal a maze of delicate crystal lenses through which a laser passes before hitting its target. The process can yield clues to how well the particular photochromic material under study changes and responds to light, and how well it maintains those changes, which could point to candidates for new, stable materials. Ten years ago, this experiment took several days to complete rather than seconds, and would require pulling all-nighters in the lab, Rack recalls. Only certain wavelengths of light could be

The spectrometer features a maze of delicate crystal lenses through which a laser passes before hitting its target.



studied, due to technology limitations. The new spectrometer allows ready access to a broad range of wavelengths, from the ultraviolet, through the visible region, and into the mid-infrared. Van Patten will take advantage of the new equipment’s attributes to further his research on quantum dots, nanometersized crystals of semiconductor material that could be a smaller, faster alternative to current materials used in solar energy applications. The spectrometer will allow scientists to observe a key event in solar energy conversion called photoinduced charge transfer in a matter of picoseconds, if not faster. Previously, the research group could collect only indirect evidence of the process, Van Patten says. Direct observation will help scientists learn how the size, shape, and composition of their quantum dots can be used to improve solar conversion efficiency in real devices, he notes. The scientists’ laser lab also features equipment that makes measurements of

light-induced changes on much longer time scales—nanoseconds, which is a million times slower than femtoseconds. These existing instruments, coupled with the new spectrometer, can generate a complete understanding of photoinduced processes that occur in the materials under study. The spectrometer also will be used for other lines of research on campus. Physicist Eric Stinaff plans to conduct additional nanoscience experiments, and chemist Jennifer Hines will pursue biomedical research on RNA.

fast processes in photosensitive materials.





:: CIVIL ENGINEERING | by Andrea Gibson

The breaking point About 17 percent of bridges in the state of Ohio are box beam bridges—concrete structures with steel reinforcement embedded inside. They’re commonly used on county roads around Athens, Ohio, says Eric Steinberg, an Ohio University associate professor of civil engineering. Though the Ohio Department of Transportation can visually examine most types of bridges for deterioration, the box beam bridge’s unique construction poses an inspection challenge. That’s becoming a problem, Steinberg says, as many of these bridges are now 50 years old and nearing the end of their projected life spans. Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati had previously tested individual beams removed from a box beam bridge to gauge durability, but no one had explored how the whole system worked—or failed. The dilemma prompted Steinberg, his team of graduate students and engineers, and colleagues from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Toledo to take the unusual step of demolishing a real bridge in the field.

for the “GreenBox,” invented by OHIO engineer Gerardine Botte, to power a commercial building with 300 employees.

How do you test the safety and stability of a box beam bridge? Civil engineers suggested a simple but dramatic solution: Demolish an existing bridge to see how it breaks.

The engineers found a candidate for their experiment near Washington Courthouse, Ohio. The bridge, which showed evidence of corrosion, featured three spans. After attaching dozens of sensors to the structure and employing ground-penetrating radar, the engineers simulated different types of loads on each of the spans until the bridge failed and collapsed into the creek below it. The data, which engineers continue to analyze, will show transportation officials the types of strengths and weaknesses in box beam bridges and how they hold up to forces such as winter road salt and heavy truck traffic. “That can help ODOT inspectors decide when to replace these bridges or determine how much of a load can be placed on the bridges,” explains Steinberg, a member of the university’s Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment (ORITE). The study findings also could be useful for companies that manufacture and construct the prestressed concrete box beams and other materials used in the bridges’ construction.

Engineers simulated different types of loads on each of the three spans of this bridge near Washington Courthouse, Ohio, until the structure failed and collapsed.

“(Our data) can help ODOT inspectors decide when to replace these bridges or determine how much of a load can be placed on the bridges.” E R I C S T E I N B E RG associate professor of civil engineering






: : N U R S I N G | by A n d re a Gibson

Sugar stories

From comic books to community dialogue, diabetes educators use creative communication in Appalachia


n Appalachia, everyone knows someone who’s been diagnosed with “sugar,” or type 2

diabetes. The prevalence of the disease is 33 percent higher than the national average in this often rural, disadvantaged region of the United States.

Sharon Denham, an emeritus professor of nursing at Ohio University, was part of the team of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers that discovered this alarming statistic. In the last several years, she’s been working to combat the problem by developing a series of public education and outreach programs called “Diabetes: A Family Matter,” which address the specific cultural and socioeconomic needs of people with type 2 diabetes, their families, and communities in this region. With funding from the CDC, Denham launched The SUGAR (Support to Unite Generations in the Appalachian Region) Helpers program, which trains community volunteers to provide educational materials and create a dialogue in their neighborhoods, churches, and schools about prevention and treatment of diabetes. The program complements the work of health care providers, who may not have the time, expertise, or numbers to provide such outreach, Denham says. The Helpers are equipped with a series of informational brochures that not only debunk common myths about diabetes—you can’t eat sweets; there’s little patients can do to care for the condition—but provide stories and photos of real Appalachian families struggling with the illness. “I think we’re making a difference because it’s really something

Images shot by Ohio University Assistant Professor Larry Hamel-Lambert help illustrate the daily struggles of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

“If we reduce diabetes risks and the numbers of people with type 2 diabetes, we will impact other health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, cancer, and other diseases.” S H A R O N D E N H A M , emeritus professor of nursing


culturally sensitive—the people in the materials look like people they know,” Denham says. Some of the materials read like comic books, telling familiar stories about newly diagnosed diabetes patients who struggle to adopt healthy lifestyles. The tales illustrate the personal and social pressures these individuals face when family members still expect fried foods to be prepared for dinner or sugary cakes baked for the church potluck. Denham’s outreach also includes a 35-minute documentary film called “Living with Diabetes in Appalachia” by Athens videographer Steve Fetsch, photo documentaries by Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Larry Hamel-Lambert, and a series of plays that students of Distinguished Professor of Theater Charles Smith have penned to tell more real-life tales of the struggle of living with diabetes and the journey to wellness. Much of the material is available on Denham’s website, The CDC now has awarded $2.5 million to Denham and colleagues to expand the diabetes prevention and education program to 11 rural counties in five states (Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Mississippi.) The project aims to build strong, sustainable diabetes coalition groups that will examine behaviors, policies, and environments in an effort to make positive changes in the health of residents, she says. Partners are the Center for Appalachian Philanthropy, a non-profit group in Portsmouth, Ohio, Lesli Johnson and Laura Milazzo of the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, and Richard Crespo of Marshall University. The need for diabetes outreach is crucial, Denham adds, as studies project that, without intervention, up to 50 percent of the Appalachian population could be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the upcoming years. “If we reduce diabetes risks and the numbers of people with type 2 diabetes, we will impact other health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, cancer, and other diseases,” she says. “We also can reduce complications such as blindness, kidney disease, and nerve disease.”



PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE ENROLLED in a migraine headache management study conducted by Distinguished Professor Ken Holroyd who found relief through a combination of preventive medicine and behavioral changes.

Leaping leiopelmatids land on their chins or bellies. The frogs usually dive into water or land on moist vegetation surrounding the cascading streams in their native habitat of the Pacific Northwest and New Zealand.

:: BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES by K at i e Br a n d t

Great leap forward World’s oldest frogs show evolution of jumping in action


tiny frog leaps through the air, sailing in a graceful arc over a few inches of land. But there’s something different about this amphibian’s movement: Instead of rotating its arms forward to land forearms-first like most frogs, this frog’s front limbs remain at its sides. It crashes into the ground belly-first and then folds up its arms and legs. An internet search for “belly-flopping frogs” brings up videos on websites ranging from the BBC and Discovery Magazine to YouTube, where one fan set the jumping critters to an epic Star Wars soundtrack. The footage was captured by Ohio University Professor of Biological Sciences Stephen Reilly and his

“The frogs’ bizarre landing behavior hasn’t changed much in 125 million years. … They’re also the only frogs to have ‘abdominal ribs’ in their belly that appear to help take the impacts.” STEPHEN REILLY professor of biological sciences

colleagues at Southern Illinois University and the University of Otago, New Zealand, in an effort to learn about the evolution of locomotion in amphibians. The team studied several frogs, including the leiopelmatids, the oldest known frogs. They exist in only two places in the world: the cold, cascading streams of the Pacific Northwest and New Zealand, which were once connected by land masses in earlier geological times. Videos of the North American species and the New Zealand frogs show similar jumping patterns in both native habitats. “The frogs’ bizarre landing behavior hasn’t changed much in 125 million years,” Reilly says. The leiopelmatids also swim in an unusual way, he notes. They use a trot-like gait, similar to a dog paddle, instead of using a typical frog-kick with both legs extended. The animals do jump with a leg extension, however, like other types of frogs. It’s the landing action that differs. “Sometimes they land on their chin, sometimes on their belly,” Reilly says, explaining that the frogs usually dive into water or land on the moist vegetation surrounding cascading

streams. “They’re also the only frogs to have ‘abdominal ribs’ in their belly that appear to help take the impacts.” The leiopelmatids show that jumping in frogs happened in stages. Frogs first learned how to jump with their hind legs, and later added controlled landing by extending their arms and legs. Research by Reilly’s graduate student Mike Jorgensen on the anatomy of the frogs’ muscles and pelvic bones further supports the two-step pattern of jumping evolution. Leiopelmatids have a more primitive pelvis and simpler muscles in their legs compared to frogs that land on their limbs, he explains. “The leiopelmatids are the best model of the first original frogs that could jump but hadn’t perfected landing,” Reilly says. The belly-flopping frogs research was published earlier this year in the German journal Naturwissenschaften, which is similar to the American journal Science. Another paper on the pelvic anatomy was published in the Journal of Morphology. In the next stage of the research, Reilly and his team will use new 3-dimensional X-ray video cameras to watch how the limbs and pelvic bones move during jumping, landing, and swimming. IMAGES: COURTESY OF STEPHEN REILLY


“I have to train myself to do things so many times that when it’s time to perform, I’m not scared to do things differently.” MICHAEL CARRERA associate professor of cello





by A N I TA M A N D E R F I E L D

In the office of musician Michael Carrera is a framed photograph of a man getting soaked by rain while he holds an umbrella over a cello case.

It’s a reminder that while artists notoriously suffer for their art, cellists set an industry standard for sacrifice—if not in money, time, and emotion spent, in simply getting from point A to point B. This past year, as Carrera flew back and forth for a major recording project in Moldova, his instrument took its usual seat next to him on the plane. A couple of times, says Carrera, upon finding out that “Cello” is not just a creative first name, “(airlines have) wanted to kick me off a flight.” Considering that cellos made in the early 1700s, like Carrera’s, range in value between $500,000 and $6 million, these toils of transit have little to do with sentimentality. Carrera’s means of making art, a roughly four-foot tall instrument originally crafted in early 18th century Milan, is itself a rare and stunning work of art. Even his bows, which date back as far, cost around $40,000. In short, to be a cellist, you need great skill, passion, discipline, and either independent wealth or a benefactor, like Carrera’s: Daniel Ng, chair of Hong Kong McDonalds. This is not to say that Carrera lacks sentimentality. “Here is one of the most beautiful cellos you’ll ever see,” he says, pulling the honey-hued antique from its case to point out the knotted grain of its spruce front and the delicacy of its original scroll. Carrera’s affection for cellos began at age six, “the minute I started lessons.” It survived fickle childhood years to blossom in high school, when he began to truly listen to classical music.

Today Carrera, an Ohio University associate professor of cello, produces an ambitious recording, tour, or other major creative project about once a year. This year it’s a recording of concert works by the prolific Hungarian film and concert composer Miklós Rózsa, best known for his Oscar-winning scores for films like Ben-Hur and Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound. Carrera’s Ohio colleagues, composer Steven Huang, director of orchestras, and Marjorie Bagley, violinist and former string division chair, helped him to realize this particular vision with support from a $12,000 Baker Fund award and $8,000 from the Ohio University Research Committee. Unlike many other Hollywood composers, Rózsa simultaneously launched a robust concert career, writing symphonic works for leading concert musicians, including cello virtuoso Gregor Piatigorsky. Carrera’s interest in Rózsa lies in the composer’s deft versatility: his rare ability to impress both the general public and classical musicians. “The difference between Rózsa and others that tried to get into both scenes was that Rózsa was trained for concert,” Carrera says. “His film scores may be accessible to moviegoers, but they were also highly difficult and complex

compositions that would take a trained musician weeks, months, or even years to learn.” With this recording, Carrera hopes to expose more people to the energy and originality of Rózsa’s concert work. The idea gained steam when the trio performed Rózsa’s double concerto at the School of Music in 2009. “People went crazy,” Carrera recalls, describing the double concerto they played as “pure energy—there’s not one moment when you can fully relax.” Bagley and Huang have worked with Carrera on several previous projects, but he considers the Rózsa CD, which will come out this spring, one of the best they’ve done. “When you make a CD, it’s for the rest of your life and beyond,” Carrera says. And not just for him, Huang, and Bagley, but also for the composer and every soloist and orchestra member of the Moldova Philharmonic, not to mention the producer and sound engineers. “There is a lot of vested interest, and ultimately, we have to compromise.” Unlike with most popular music, for which musicians often record in isolation and then mix the elements later, orchestral music must be recorded live, altogether. So arriving at a compromise requires many hours, divided into painstaking cycles: record (with microphones

on each orchestra section and soloist) for about 20 minutes, go to the lab to listen, determine weaknesses, re-record… repeat. Days to weeks later, when the music has been recorded to everyone’s relative satisfaction, the editing begins. This can take months of meticulous work, even though the digital age has greatly eased the process, says Carrera, who plans to record the complete works that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for cello, including six solo suites and three sonatas with harpsichord, for his next project. Before the Rózsa CD, Carrera directed a 2008 concert tour called “Remembering Tiananmen Square,” performed with the Juniper Chamber Music Festival in Utah. For this concert, performed in Utah, Columbus, and Athens, Carrera played as the lone cellist amid five percussionists in the concerto “Elegy: Snow in June,” by composer Tan Dun. Last June, Carrera traveled to China to perform and teach master classes. Inspired by the Chinese public’s appreciation for classical music, he hopes to cultivate ties with his Chinese colleagues into an ongoing cultural exchange. Carrera books many of his concerts one to three years in advance. With his Arcata String Quartet, he has performed more than 400 concerts in the United States and Europe, including Carnegie Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, and the Beijing Concert Hall, among many other prestigious venues and music festivals. Carrera carefully balances his professional activity with teaching, setting his rehearsal and performance schedule first. “When I protect time for my cello like that, it helps students realize that ‘he has to work as hard as he tells us to,’” he explains. He’s been playing his Milanese cello for 12 years—since before he left Utah State University to join the Ohio University School of Music in 2002, and he plans to keep it for the rest of his life. But his relationship to the music constantly changes. “When I was younger, I just showed up and played—and I was flashy,” he says. “Now, I want to figure out how to get a person in the front row to cry.” Collaborator Huang notes that as a musician, Carrera’s strong suit is often finding those quiet, sensitive moments. “I’ve never heard such a beautiful soft-held tone on the cello,” Huang says. “I think that his intensity is necessary to be able to perform those quiet moments with such concentrated focus. If his leg were to catch on fire during a performance, I don’t think he’d notice.” The trick to such artful performance? Carrera’s students may be disappointed to hear his answer: hours of daily and diligent practice. He draws a parallel to tennis star Andre Agassi. “How many forehands does Agassi practice every day so that he won’t miss a shot in the game? … I have to train myself to do things so many times that when it’s time to perform, I’m not scared to do things differently.”


lite ra ry





Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1843 TALE “THE NEW ADAM


Though puzzled by the contraption’s use, Adam “shudder(s) with a nameless horror” and Eve announces that her “heart is sick.” Scenes like these—and the social commentary behind them—were common in 19th century literature, says Ohio University scholar Paul Jones. Hawthorne was one of many American novelists, poets, and essayists whose writing reflected the public’s growing anxiety about the death penalty during this era. Jones details the issue in the forthcoming book Against the Gallows: Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment (University of Iowa Press). “Someone had written about every other reform movement of the pre-Civil War era— slavery, women’s rights, and even the anti-alcohol movement—and how literature had played a role,” but no one had penned an exhaustive review of the anti-capital punishment campaign, explains Jones, an associate professor of English. Though public execution at the gallows was common practice at the time, some American politicians, religious leaders, and newspaper editors objected to what they viewed as a brutal relic of the European monarchies that had no place in their new republic. By the mid-1830s, antigallows activists had scored some key victories: New England and mid-Atlantic states began to end public executions (though hangings continued behind prison doors). A few years later, the reformers started a campaign to abolish capital punishment across the United States. They moved beyond newspaper editorials, public pamphlets, and Sunday sermons and reached out to poets, novelists, and essayists. Writers ranging from the legendary Walt Whitman to the best-selling E.D.E.N. Southworth (the most widely read American novelist of the 19th century) took up the cause in their literature. Anti-gallows activists made several arguments against the practice. Instead of deterring crime, public executions often worked the masses into a frenzy, sparking brawls, domestic violence, suicide, and even the torture of pets by impressionable children. And while some religious leaders supported capital punishment for its “eye for an eye” philosophy, others gave sermons that argued that the practice wasn’t supported by the New

Testament and didn’t reflect Christian values. “Even writers we don’t think of as religious— such as Walt Whitman—were interested in making these Christian arguments,” Jones says. Whitman’s anti-gallows work hasn’t been written about much previously, Jones notes, because he explored the subject primarily as a fiction writer, newspaper editor, and journalist covering criminal trials. But even his much-celebrated poetry incorporated anti-capital punishment sentiments. Whitman’s writing represents another central theme of the reformers’ cause: sympathy for criminals. Anti-death penalty advocates noted that individuals who wound up at the gallows sometimes were wrongly convicted or were “born to” a life of crime through poverty. These writers also argued that sympathy was the proper Christian response to these transgressors, and that sympathetic feeling had the power to transform the criminal, the public, and even the justice system. Though writers of both genders focused on such sentimentalism, Jones devotes a whole chapter to the little-discussed power of bestselling women’s authors of the era. The prolific and popular Southworth wrote about capital punishment for decades, most memorably in the 1859 novel The Hidden Hand. Her stories featured sentimental depictions of criminals, both guilty and innocent, and characters who turn against the death penalty because of a formative experience with the convicted. Jones uncovered much of this archival material

during a 2008 fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, which had preserved the “cheaper, more formulaic genre books” of the era that he couldn’t find at traditional libraries. “These books were very popular, and were kind of like the Harlequin romance novels of their day,” he says. Jones notes that even the work of writers who were more ambivalent than ardent about the anticapital punishment movement often reflected the debate. He includes Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe in this camp, even though some of Poe’s more famous works from this era, such as “The Black Cat,” feature disturbing imagery and the language of the gallows reformers. The movement wound down by 1860, as the slavery debate and Civil War took center stage. Although the reformers didn’t eliminate capital punishment in America, they succeeded in moving executions out of the public limelight in the northern states, and three states abolished the practice entirely. “I think that literature hitting those points over and over did have an effect,” Jones says. While there isn’t a broad literary movement against capital punishment today, Jones points out that several influential contemporary writers such as Truman Capote (In Cold Blood), Norman Mailer (The Executioner’s Song), John Grisham (The Chamber), and Stephen King (The Green Mile) have continued to raise the issue in their work. Katy Ryan, an associate professor of English at West Virginia University, says Jones’ book is notable for its ability to detail the anti-death penalty writings of well-known and obscure authors of the antebellum era while making a connection to these contemporary works. “It’s an elegantly composed and important book about a subject that has been neglected in literary studies,” Ryan says. An interest in literature as activism fuels Jones’ scholarship. His previous book, Unwelcome Voices: Subversive Fiction in the Antebellum South, explored subversive writing that challenged conventional notions about slavery, democracy, and women’s rights in the pre-Civil War era. And his latest book, Against the Gallows, doesn’t restrict its analysis to only fiction writers and poets. Jones explores the power of early journalists, news editors, and contemporary songwriters such as Johnny Cash and Steve Earle, who champion the anti-capital punishment cause. “I think it’s gratifying that people think art can still do something,” Jones says, “even when people tell them to shut up and just sing.”

Writers ranging from the legendary Walt Whitman to the best-selling E.D.E.N. Southworth (the most widely read American novelist of the 19th century) took up the anti-gallows cause in their literature, according to a forthcoming book by Associate Professor of English Paul Jones. IMAGE (TOP): THE HANGMAN, 1845; PORTRAIT: KEVIN RIDDELL; IMAGES (OPPOSITE PAGE): DREAMSTIME.COM







From the bogs of Buzy, France, to the deserts outside Mexico City, a group of biologists searched for the lizards they’d seen a few years before. Though it should have taken 5 to 10 minutes to spot a native spiny lizard or common lizard, they spent fruitless hours peering at cacti or clumps of heather. “Everything looks like it should support a lizard population, and yet they’re not there,” says Ohio University biologist Don Miles. Miles and an international team of colleagues suspected that climate change was to blame. They already had begun monitoring lizard populations around the world to determine the consequences of climate warming, from shifts in breeding behavior to changes in the patterns of light-absorbing melanin that decorate many lizards’ backs. “We thought there would be adaptation,” Miles says. Instead, they were looking at extinctions. When the data rolled in from Australia to California to Madagascar, as many as 21 percent of local lizard populations had disappeared. A computer model they built predicted that 20 percent of all lizard species will be gone by 2080. The team’s combination of field research and a survey of global data online showed definitively that climate change was the culprit. They made sure to “quadruple” their lizard search efforts at each site to avoid recording false extinctions, Miles says, and avoided sites where the habitats themselves had been disrupted by human activity, in order to exclude factors other than a warming environment. “What is alarming to us is the speed with which we’re seeing populations vanish,” he says. “To witness the decline and extirpation of populations in a few years is frightening and depressing.” The team reported its results in the journal Science in May 2010. Previous work had shown that amphibians are going extinct globally, but this was the first study to show a similar decline in lizards—and tie it directly to climate change. “A lot of us had been thinking about what the impacts of climate warming would be on lizards in the future,” says Raymond Huey, a professor and chair of biology at the University of Washington who wrote a review of the Science paper. “But I think none of us was expecting that it’s already had major impacts.” More than lizards are at risk, too. “Entire

ecosystems are collapsing,” says University of California, Santa Cruz ecologist and evolutionary biologist Barry Sinervo, a longtime collaborator of Miles’ and lead author on the Science study. “The lizards are just a harbinger of things to come.” Many herpetologists had thought that lizards could take the heat. However, as Miles discovered, they’re “being hammered by rising temperatures,” which limits their ability to hunt and impacts their reproductive success. In Mexico, Miles observed that temperatures climbed most significantly from January to April, when female viviparous lizards carry their developing young in utero. The females’ body temperatures rise, in turn, damaging the unborn lizards. Meanwhile, in Europe—which suffers not only from hotter temperatures, but longer and more frequent warm spells—the nests of the genus Lacerta heat up and can kill the embryos inside. Miles and colleagues already are documenting additional climate-driven changes in lizard populations on five continents. He received a grant from the National Science Foundation to determine whether climate change is affecting when lizards lay their eggs and how well their hatchlings survive. He’s trying to find out what happens if lizards don’t hibernate during higher winter temperatures. Miles continues to revisit sites across the southwestern United States and Mexico to check if lizards are still there, and is building a database with information about each location. In addition, he’s measuring and comparing temperatures at sites where lizards have and haven’t gone extinct. Ultimately, Miles says, “We’re hoping to achieve a model to explain the risk of extinction of a population as a consequence of rising temperatures, and to find the critical stage of a life cycle that allows a species to persist or not.” Because lizards have an important role in the many ecosystems in which they occur, their absence could reverberate up and down the food chain—from the insects they eat to the birds, snakes, and mammals that eat lizards. Scientists also might lose key information on species diversification. Studying the “remarkable diversity of shapes and colors” that allow lizards to exploit their specific habitats can teach us about the behavior and ecology of other species— including our own, Miles says. In addition, understanding how different lizard lineages have diversified will allow biologists to look for patterns across many kinds of animals and explain why there are so many species on the planet. “We can learn a lot about how the world is structured by looking at lizards,” he notes.

(left) Madagascar, where 2 1 percent of local lizard populations have disappeared, is an extinction hotspot. Species in five lizard families, including chameleons and gekkos, have been impacted.

Miles, who has studied lizards since he was a boy, is especially fascinated with how lizards, birds, and other animals adapt to their environments, and how various processes—such as time, natural selection, reproductive isolation, and invasions of new species—affect their diversity. He specializes in studying how lizards’ forms, or morphologies, determine their function, such as head shape (which impacts bite force) and limb shape (which affects how lizards move). He has spent countless hours observing in the field, from the birthplace of evolutionary theory— the Galapagos Islands—to Namibia, the Amazon, and the Sonoran desert. And he has taken thousands of lizards back to the lab to run them on miniature treadmills and racetracks to measure their speed and endurance. He has also worked with Sinervo to characterize “rock-paper-scissors” dynamics in certain lizard communities, in which three belly or throat colors correspond to three types of male reproductive behavior. One current project investigates why different families of iguana have different numbers of species. Miles wants to know if the key to adapting to a variety of ecological niches is having a variety of morphologies. Back home, Miles loves teaching his students about how “wicked awesome” lizards are and gives public lectures about climate change. He’s hired students as field assistants for his lizard research, and also has been taking students on ornithology field trips to locations such as South Carolina since the late 1980s. The excursions highlight endangered species and field exercises that can prepare students for jobs as wildlife biologists or graduate school, he says. From field work to education, he “brings not only his natural history and ecological skills, but just a love of doing biology that’s infectious,” Huey says. “He’s an all-around biologist. He’s good in the field, he knows how to design an experiment that is relevant to the animals he’s studying, he has good analytical skills, and he understands conceptually what’s important.” Although Miles may be thinking big, he always comes back to the basics. For him, the best part of the job is “learning about the wonder of life. It’s amazing to learn the intimate details of species. There’s always a sense of awe for me.”

“What is alarming to us is the speed with which we’re seeing populations vanish. To witness the decline and extirpation of populations in a few years is frightening and depressing.” DON MILES professor of biological sciences







On Oct obe r 19 , 1984 ,



His body was dumped into a water reservoir. Popieluszko was targeted by the communist security service because he was popular with the people and was associated with the Solidarity union. Marianna Popieluszko (above), mother of late Catholic priest Jerzy Popieluszko, looks at a picture in Warsaw portraying her son saying his last mass before he disappeared and was murdered in 1984. The picture on the right shows Popieluszko's hand after his bound remains were found. The images were displayed as part of a special mass held June 6, 2010, in which the late priest was deemed worthy of public religious veneration. PHOTO: JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP / GETTY IMAGES


“Killing Father Jerzy was a way for the authorities to tell all of us—see, we can do this and there is nothing you can do, we are in charge.” This retrospective testimony is from Tomasz Wiscicki, a Catholic journalist with the monthly magazine Wiez based in Warsaw, and is taken from one of the interviews David Curp conducted recently for a new book that will focus on how and why people embraced religion as an alternative to communist doctrine. Curp, an associate professor of history at Ohio University, is using both archival sources and oral histories to chronicle the roles and influence of religious culture in Poland over the last 40 years. It’s an ambitious project, he admits, which will take from five to 10 years to complete. “I take faith seriously on a personal and professional level,” Curp says about the motivation behind the project. “I’m intensely interested in belief and how it plays a role in the contemporary world. Especially after 9/11, religion isn’t just a quaint interest. It can be terrifyingly relevant.” Supported by a Fulbright Fellowship, Curp spent the 2009 academic year in Warsaw combing through Polish secret police documents housed at the Institute of National Memory and also doing oral interviews with Catholic church officials as well as lay people. He was no stranger to archival work, having spent many hundreds of hours at the institute in researching his first book, A Clean Sweep: The Politics of Ethnic Cleansing in Western Poland, 1945-1960, which focused on how communist authorities drove out the vast majority of Poland’s Germans at the end of the Second World War. “Going back to the archives was a good starting point for my new project,” Curp explains. “It was fascinating to read this history created by the secret police of so much that happened,” he adds, pointing out that he has a solid and “hard-won” fluency in Polish after studying the language over the course of the last 15 years. In reading through thousands of pages of the official documents, he was repeatedly struck by one recurrent theme: the fact that the secret police considered religion to be the communist state’s number one enemy.

“Harassment and discrimination against believers varied in its intensity,” Curp says. It included unofficial but pervasive blackballing for employment of people who went to Catholic University of Lublin from the 1940s to the 1950s and throughout the period of communist rule. The authorities harassed the institutional church by forbidding processions, pilgrimages, and religious celebrations, and monitoring the sermons and conduct of all clergy. “There was a constant surveillance of active believers, and people were pressured to become informants. People’s homes were bugged, phone calls monitored, and letters intercepted—all illegally according to the constitution,” Curp adds. “And the murder of Jerzy Popieluszko was not an isolated incident. In the 1980s several other priests were murdered and many more beaten by ‘unknown perpetrators’ and ‘hooligans’ who often were members of the Security Services.” In their monitoring of various church activities, the authorities were constantly looking for the political conspiracy. “What became crystal clear is that secret police officials just didn’t get it,” Curp says. “They were fixated on the assumption that in these gatherings people must be plotting to create some political movement.” Curp adds that the authorities could easily find out who was involved in religious activity, and where and when they were meeting, but had no sense of why people wanted to do this, of what moved people to be religious. “The secret police were incapable of empathizing with people— getting to know their heart and soul—because they were propagating a system that denied the whole concept of a soul.” To understand the heart and soul of the people during this time, Curp knew he needed to employ a different research tool—oral histories. Interviewees were identified with the help of historical societies in Warsaw and Lublin, about 200 miles east of Warsaw, and through Curp’s own personal contacts. Everyone he interviewed was in some way involved in religious activities during the 1970s and 1980s. They not only attended Catholic church services, but some also worked at Catholic youth centers and summer camps. Some took part in lectures and panel discussions on topics ranging from sex and relationships to Polish history and contemporary social problems, programs sponsored by pastoral centers. One commonality in his interviews so far, Curp says, is that the subjects are willing and eager to talk about their religious experiences under communism; they seem highly motivated to “get it right” for the record. Though he is near the beginning of the project—Curp has done 30 interviews so far and hopes to conduct several hundred—a common theme has already emerged from his discussions with church officials and others: People were working to develop their character, their sense of themselves, and their relationship with God. “What authorities continually missed was how this ‘God talk’ was creating a sense of

“What authorities continually missed was how this ‘God talk’ was creating a sense of solidarity.” DAVID CURP associate professor of history

solidarity,” Curp says. “People more and more came to believe the life they were living was unworthy of them, and their turn to religion is what reinforced that for many of them.” He adds that not all the dissidents were religious, but that both religious and secular people worked together in Poland from the 1970s on to find a common language of human rights and human dignity. Interest in organized religion in Poland, especially Catholicism, grew after the Second World War, Curp explains, and was “helped” by the ruling powers in the 1970s and 1980s because communism became increasingly discredited culturally, socially, and economically. The result was that religious values, with their emphasis on human dignity and human rights, became even more attractive to many Poles. Not all historians are sold on the value of oral histories, Curp points out. What about the failings of human memory? The self-serving motives of the storyteller? “Well, the documentary records—the archives—are also prone to all of those kinds of problems,” he says. “When the secret police were chronicling daily events, there was always an overlay of official ideology. All of the limitations and fallacies accorded to oral histories are duplicated in these official records. It’s also worth noting that much of this archival record is, in effect, second hand oral testimony, mediated to us by the Security Services.” Curp is a strong believer, however, in how oral histories can help shape the full historical record. “In a sense what I’m doing is what historians are always accused of doing: writing history from the perspective of the winners,” he says. “The supreme irony of this history, however, is that the people who left the largest documentary record are the ‘losers’—the Security Services and official apparatus of power. Oral history allows me to get at the experiences and values of the people who transformed Poland and helped change the world in 1989.”




by M A RY R E E D

regory Springer crawls through a tubeshaped limestone cave, on hands and knees, crunching the sticks and twigs that cover the floor. He continues like this for some 300 feet in a space that is not big enough for him to carry a backpack, so he drags a line pulling a dry bag full of supplies behind him. The entrance to this cave is situated alongside the north bank of West Virginia’s Greenbrier River. The carpeting of organic matter is courtesy of a flood that swept the material into the cavern. When Springer finally enters a room big enough to stand in, his headlamp illuminates his breath in the 55-degree air. Before it has time to fog up, he grabs his camera and takes a picture of the high-water mark left by a flood just this year. The mark is above his head, and well above the height of the entryway leading to this spot. Springer acknowledges that the only thing he still fears in a cave like this is drowning. The recently flooded cave’s next-door neighbor, Greenbrier River Cave, has been productive for the geologist’s research. Its higher elevation allows Springer to record the rarest of floods—those that occur so infrequently they can be measured in geologic time. “The formal flood records are relatively short, and we rely on those to estimate the likelihood of the big floods,” he says. “But as you can imagine, if you have a short period of record and you’re really interested in the extreme events, then that lack of data greatly decreases the accuracy of your predictions.” Just ask the people in the nearby town of Alderson, which got hammered by a 100year flood in 1985 and then again in 1996. Boosting the accuracy of flood predictions is just one reason why Springer, associate professor of geological sciences at Ohio University, goes underground to unlock the mystery of these caves. He is likely the only person in the field to use a

combination of cave sediments, stalagmites, and archaeological data to explain human impacts on landscape and climate, as well as the response of land and water to environmental changes. His work has yielded data on droughts and floods that date back not hundreds, but thousands of years, which informs the current science on climate change. Springer’s passion for unearthing such mysteries of the region’s caves began at an early age. A native of Paden City, West Virginia, which is on the banks of the Ohio River, Springer first conducted cave research as an undergraduate at West Virginia University. He had caved with his father as a teenager, but once he arrived at college, Springer quickly joined the student grotto (caving club) and soon enough was caving nearly every weekend. He became president of the grotto, switched his major to geology, and started exploring rarely entered caves along the nearby Cheat River. A 1985 flood had also impacted communities along the Cheat, and Springer asked his adviser if he could research the impact of floods on those caves and nearby areas. In the meantime, he worked on overcoming his fear of the dark. It took 10 years. Today Springer fearlessly walks through Greenbrier River Cave holding a cake cutter he uses as a trowel, pointing to easily visible bathtubstyle rings left by the so-called slackwater deposits from the 1996 and 1985 floods. Inside a higher passage is evidence of a considerably earlier flood visible only to the trained eye. Springer checks in on a trench dug by one of his graduate students. It looks like the site of an archaeological dig, which is essentially what it is.. He points to a section of mud 10 centimeters thick that has a “clearly laminated, classic slackwater” appearance. That is, it looks like the pages of a closed book made of thin horizontal lines of sediment rather than sheets of paper. In this case, it means the flood waters were high for an extended period of time. Springer knew this was worth investigating, and when he sent off a

“I don’t see all cave dirt as being the same,” says geologist Gregory Springer (above). “It allows me to see a richer picture.”



(left) Stalagmites, the column-shaped formations protruding from the cave floor, can hold ancient climate records. A 2-foot-tall stalagmite can be 1,000 to 150,000 years old. (above) Sedimentary records of Native American land use are examined in a cave in West Virginia.

the caffeine that keeps his energy from flagging. “But also, there’s a lot of physical erosion,” he adds, noting that there’s surprisingly little research on the topic.

(inset) A ceiling bell with organic-coated lip was found in Buckeye Creek Cave in West Virginia. This part of the cave floods to the ceiling. Air gets trapped in the ceiling bell and prevents water from filling the bell, which is why it is free of organic debris.



sample to get a radio carbon date on the sediment, it turned out in fact to be evidence of a flood that dated back approximately 2,000 years. “A 2,000-year-old flood that was 37 percent larger than any historic flood,” he says, calling into question our current understanding of what constitutes a flood with a 100-year recurrence interval, determined by extrapolating probability from historic flood events. These cave sediments are Springer’s area of expertise—so much so that he is writing the entry on them for the upcoming second volume of Encyclopedia of Caves. “I don’t see all cave dirt as being the same. I see it as unique,” Springer says.“It allows me to see a richer picture.” Other research, funded by the National Speleological Foundation, has Springer examining the mechanisms by which cave streams enlarge cave passages, such as a rise in water velocity, which can cause structural damage. Previously, Springer discovered that intense water eddies— similar to miniature underwater tornadoes—could cause significant erosion by creating “potholes” in the walls of the cave. “Conceptually, I think of caves being dissolved by natural acids, like carbonic acid, which is in Mountain Dew,” Springer says, using an example at hand—he chain drinks diet Mountain Dew for

he sediments aren’t the only clues to the past that caves offer. Springer has made discoveries about the planet’s drought cycles and early land use patterns by analyzing the stalagmites in the Buckeye Creek Cave. Stalagmites, the column-shaped formations protruding from the cave floor—a stalagmite 2 feet tall can be 1,000 to 150,000 years old—hold ancient climate records. “Using stalagmites allows us to see things that would otherwise be missed because the evidence doesn’t survive on the surface,” Springer says. “Stalagmites are a gold standard for paleoclimate work. They can supersede existing climate records if you can correctly interpret them.” The calcite deposits that form the stalagmites contain stable oxygen isotopes, which are types of oxygen that differ only in their weight. These isotopes can indicate three things about the water that deposited the calcium carbonate. One, the source—for example, did that water originate in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean before being rained out in West Virginia? Two, air temperature outside the cave. And three, seasonality—did more rain fall in the summer or winter? “Our paleoclimate records indicate wet-dry cycles. If we can get a detailed enough history of paleofloods unobserved by science, we can get an effect of climate on flooding in the past,” Springer says, noting that floods are recorded in magnitude and frequency—both of which may be affected by human-made climate change. “Climate change at least hypothetically will change one or both of those so that the floods may get bigger, they may get smaller, or you may get the same-sized floods, but they may happen more or less often.”

A study Springer and colleagues published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters using stalagmite data offered the most detailed geological record to date on climate cycles in eastern North America over the past 7,000 years. The research yielded evidence of at least seven major drought periods during the Holocene era. Geologist Gerald Bond suggested that every 1,500 years, weak solar activity caused by fluctuations in the sun’s magnetic fields cools the North Atlantic Ocean and creates more icebergs and ice rafting, or the movement of sediment to ocean floors. Other scientists have sought more evidence of these so-called “Bond events” to examine their possible impact on droughts and precipitation, but have been hampered by incomplete records, Springer explains. Springer and collaborator Harold Rowe of the University of Texas at Arlington found a much more detailed record from a stalagmite in Buckeye Creek Cave. They cut and polished the stalagmite, examined the growth layers, and then used a drill to take 200 samples along the growth axis. They weighed and analyzed the metals and isotopes to determine their concentrations over time. The data from the study were consistent with the Bond events, which showed the connection between weak solar activity and ice rafting. The study also confirmed that this climate cycle triggers droughts, including some that were particularly pronounced during the midHolocene period, about 6,200 to 4,200 years ago. These droughts lasted for decades or even entire centuries. he stalagmite in this study also revealed another surprise related to ancient climate: Early Native Americans left a bigger carbon footprint than previously thought, providing more evidence that humans impacted global warming long before the modern industrial age. “The highest concentrations of charcoal are in the last 2,000 years, with the highest concentration being at the same time as Native Americans making the most use of the watershed and the cave next door—which seems awfully suggestive. The second highest concentration of charcoal was in the 1800s, when the landscape was being fundamentally altered by post-Europeans,” Springer says. The early Native Americans burned trees to actively manage the forests to yield the nuts and fruit that were a large part of their diets. Though better land stewards than the European colonialists who followed, these early residents contributed a significant level of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. “They had achieved a pretty sophisticated level of living that I don’t think people have fully appreciated,” says Springer, who published the study with Rowe in the journal The Holocene. “They were very advanced, and they knew how to get the most out of the forests and landscapes they lived in. This was all across North America, not just a few locations.” The geological research complements work

“Using stalagmites allows us to that would otherwise

see things

be missed because the evidence

doesn’t survive on the surface.”

that archaeologists have pursued on Native Americans in the region. “There’s only so much we can tell from material culture—artifacts—about how much (Native Americans) were impacting their environment. He’s looking at the geologic record that indicates that they were doing large-scale burning that impacted the environment,” says Sarah Sherwood, an assistant professor of anthropology/archaeology at Dickson College who also has worked in and around caves in the Greenbrier River valley. She points out that Springer’s work on the surface processes of river valleys is also of importance to archaeologists. “Archaeologists have a tendency to not grasp how much landscapes have changed over time. Or that they change so significantly over a fairly brief time


period,” she says. “He’s getting a finer chronology of the behavior of these rivers, which is very helpful to us… Have these (archaeological) sites been buried? Or is the river cutting back and forth and eroding those deposits?” The ability to impact big-picture scientific questions such as these keeps Springer coming back to the underground world. And now as president of the West Virginia Association of Cave Studies, Springer continues to spend as many summers and weekends as possible beneath the Earth’s surface, mostly for science but also to occasionally explore virgin cave passages. “I like the puzzle, from the scientific perspective,” he says. “The caving? That’s just the exploration—to explore a place no one’s been before? It’s rewarding.”

(top) Potholes, with a pencil used to illustrate scale. (inset, left) Students experience the adventures of caving through Springer's classes and field research trips. (inset right) Draperies suspended from a cave ceiling.


C o ve r st o ry story by K A R E N S O T TO S A N T I illustrations by CHRISTINA ULLMAN


n n n

to understand

the low back pain that plagues millions of Americans, Jim Thomas turned to the same technology behind Hollywood hit Avatar. In his Motor Control Laboratory at Ohio University, he’s tracked and recorded the movements of healthy and aching study subjects with motion-capture cameras. Thomas uses such high-tech tools to understand the physical and neurological mechanisms of our muscles—as well as problems such as back pain—and to explore therapies that might bring sufferers relief.





Millions of Americans suffer pain and weakness from injury, aging, and disuse. Two dozen Ohio

University scientists explore the secrets behind our

muscles, brain, and nervous system to provide relief.


n a recent study funded by a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health grant, Thomas and colleague Christopher France focused on a phenomenon called “fear avoidance.” In this self-fulfilling prophecy, people who fear reinjuring their backs after a painful accident move in restricted, unnatural ways that eventually can lead to reinjury—and further back pain.

“We’ve been able to identify the relationship between fear and movement,” says Thomas, an associate professor of physical therapy, explaining how test subjects were divided into groups based on their degree of fear of reinjury. France, a professor of psychology, and Thomas asked the subjects to perform motions such as leaning forward to touch a post or bending over to reach a box, using machines that Thomas custom built in his lab. The motioncapturing cameras recorded their movements. The researchers discovered that people who were extremely afraid of reinjury—even if they no longer had pain from their original injury— showed all the symptoms of fear avoidance. “They’re still moving differently; they’re still protecting the spine,” Thomas says, noting that people suffering from fear avoidance often end up with less endurance, strength, and range of motion in their backs. “We suspect that this could be driving the reoccurrence of low-back pain,” he explains. In order to help patients fully recover from back injuries, Thomas says, any therapies used to help people who show strong fear avoidance must take their fear into account. France and Thomas are two of the principal investigators of the Ohio Musculoskeletal & Neurological Institute (OMNI), an Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine institute devoted to understanding the causes, treatment, and prevention of musculoskeletal and neurological disorders brought on by such factors as aging, injury, and disuse. The institute brings together more than 20 Ohio University scientists from eight departments in four colleges. Over the past decade, OMNI’s five principal investigators alone have been awarded more than $6 million in federal funding, and published more than 250 peer-reviewed articles. In 2005, the institute received infrastructure funding from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations. “OMNI breaks down departmental barriers. The collaboration has raised the bar on all the work,” says Brian Clark, director and principal investigator of OMNI and an assistant professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Physical therapist Jim Thomas uses motion-capture technology to learn more about how people who’ve experienced back pain move differently than healthy subjects.

"OMNI breaks down departmental barriers. The collaboration has raised the bar on all the work." BRIAN CL ARK director and principal investigator of OMNI

“It’s a more complex and 360-degree approach,” agrees Thomas. “We all think about things in a different way. It’s where the sum of the parts is really quite greater than the individual.” OMNI has its work cut out for it. Musculoskeletal disorders and diseases are the leading cause of disability in the United States, accounting for more than half of all chronic conditions in people older than 50. Each year, these disorders cost the United States more than $850 billion in health care costs and lost wages, or 7.7 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product—five times more than the costs associated with diabetes. Neurological disorders and diseases have similarly bleak numbers: One in nine people worldwide die of a disorder of the nervous system. These burdens are expected to increase as people lead more sedentary lifestyles and as the U.S. population ages.


o get a leg up on these alarming trends, Clark says, during the next five years OMNI intends to focus its resources and endeavors on research programs in the following areas: low back and chronic pain disorders; sarcopenia (age-related loss of muscle mass) and dynapenia (agerelated loss of muscle strength); exercise physiology and rehabilitation medicine; the biology of manual therapies; and connective tissue, bone, and cutaneous biology. It’s an important societal issue, he says, to discover the physiological causes of musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. “If we figure out the mechanism,” Clark explains, “then we can develop the correct therapies.” In their work on low back and chronic pain disorders, OMNI scientists are



People who fear reinjuring their

backs after a painful accident move in restricted, unnatural ways that eventually can lead to reinjury.


OMNI researchers are tackling a looming issue in American health care: understanding

muscle weakness and fatigue in the growing population of older adults.

finding should be examined in patients with low back pain, Clark says, as understanding the mechanisms underlying back fatigue following injury could help clinicians prescribe specific rehabilitation exercises.

S exploring how and why the low back muscles fatigue. Historically, this type of work has been complicated because of the miniscule size and complexity of the muscles involved. “There’s a reason no one has yet done extensive research on lower back muscles,” Thomas says, explaining that as technology advances, he expects that to change. The muscles of the lower back, he added, work—and fatigue—in a completely different way than the muscles of the arms and legs. To overcome these issues, OMNI researchers are examining how to improve studies of muscle fatigue in the lower back. “It turns out that one of the great predictors of lower back pain is essentially a fatigue test,” Clark says, explaining that since 1984, a test called the Sorensen has been used to evaluate muscle fatigue. A subject performing this test lies face down on a table. Then he moves forward until his upper body is unsupported by the table but still horizontal with it. The length of time the subject can hold that position is predictive of whether the subject will develop back pain. A problem with this test is that scientists are not sure how a person’s body mass affected the results. Thomas recently built a machine to improve on the Sorensen test. It counters the mass of a person’s trunk, removing gravity from the equation. He and other OMNI scientists are using the device in experiments to compare how long it takes subjects’ trunk muscles to fatigue while supporting a load versus pushing back against a restraint. Clark, Thomas, and fellow OMNI principal investigator David Russ, an assistant professor of physical therapy, also have used a commercially available exercise machine—one in which subjects sit upright—to run the same kind of tests. The researchers found that the test subjects were able to push back at a given level of force with their trunk muscles longer than they could simply hold a position while supporting a load of the same magnitude. This


ome back pain sufferers turn to osteopathic physicians or physical therapists for manipulation treatments to ease their discomfort. According to a national survey, more than 18 million adults received manipulative therapies in 2007. Scientists, however, still don’t fully understand the mechanisms behind these treatments. Clark, Thomas, and Steven Walkowski, an assistant professor of family medicine in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, recently completed a study, funded by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations, on the neurophysiologic effects of manipulation on the back muscles. The researchers performed tests on the muscles, brains, and reflexes of both healthy individuals and people who have chronic back pain. “There’s very little data out there on dosage,” Thomas says, noting that important questions sometimes are not even asked before a sufferer of chronic back pain begins a manipulation therapy. Those questions include: What type of manipulation should be used? How often should the back be manipulated? And, perhaps the most important question: Should an individual undergo manipulation at all? The researchers found that if the clinician— not the test subject, but the clinician— manipulating a subject’s back heard a “pop” during the treatment, there was a 20 percent decrease in the subject’s low back muscle stretch reflex excitability. Researchers observed this effect even in the healthy people, Clark says. This finding may indicate that manipulation lessens the “spasm” effect—

Nervous disorders

which sometimes accompanies back pain— and could help better identify which patients may benefit from manipulative treatment. In addition to studying the mechanics of these therapies, OMNI researchers have worked for the past decade on a new method of training medical students in manipulation skills. Robert Williams, professor of mechanical engineering, and John Howell, associate professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, have developed a virtual reality program that simulates the experience of palpating and diagnosing musculoskeletal dysfunctions of the spine. This work has been funded by numerous private foundations, including more than $1 million in grant support from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations. The program has now been formally integrated into the curriculum for first-year Ohio University medical students.


hough solving the nation’s back pain problems is a huge task itself, the OMNI researchers are simultaneously tackling another looming issue in American health care: understanding muscle weakness and fatigue in the growing population of older adults. For the past 20 years, scientists generally believed that older adults became weaker because they lost muscle mass. However, “loss of mass explains only about 10 percent,” Russ says, pointing out studies that have shown growth of muscle does not lessen fatigue rates or increase strength. In recognizing OMNI’s unique approach to this issue, the NIH recently awarded a $426,000 grant to Clark, Russ, Thomas, and Janet Taylor from the University of New South



Aside from muscle strength and aches, OMNI scientists are involved in several projects that explore the origins of medical conditions—from the common to the rare—in the nervous system. Thad Wilson, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Osteopathic Medicine who is one of the five principal OMNI investigators, studies the role of the autonomic nervous system in the common skin disorder rosacea. Individuals with rosacea experience facial flushing activated by changes in skin blood flow. The condition can be triggered by events such as hot and cold weather extremes or emotional stress, which are associated with the “fight or flight” stressors that increase nervous activity to the skin. Wilson’s research, funded by the National Rosacea Society, is exploring whether individuals with rosacea have higher sympathetic nerve activity in the facial region. The findings could help identify new therapies and possibly prevent progression of the disease. Clark, Wilson, Thomas, and Russ are looking to the neurological origins of a very rare condition as well. Mal de debarquement syndrome is a balance disorder that occurs in a small percentage of people after travel, such as on an ocean cruise or long flight. These individuals continue to experience a phantom sense of motion that may persist for months or years. The mechanics of this condition are poorly understood, but the symptoms—dizziness, confusion, fatigue, anxiety—can be debilitating. With a grant from the Mal de Debarquement Syndrome Balance Disorder Foundation, the OMNI team is using transcranial magnetic stimulation to assess the excitability of a subject’s motor cortex. The scientists also will explore the ability of the patients’ autonomic nervous systems to adjust to certain environmental conditions. Because the condition is so rare, subjects have traveled from as far as California and Canada to participate in the research, Clark says. The project aims to identify differences in brain and nervous system activity in these patients, which could help with future diagnosis and treatment.





n n n (above) Transcranial magnetic stimulation can help determine the neurological origins of muscle weakness and fatigue. (top) Thad Wilson studies the role of the autonomic nervous system in the skin disorder rosacea. PHOTOS THIS PAGE: KEVIN RIDDELL, TOP; JOHN SATTLER, BOTTOM


Physical t he r a p y

Wales in Australia. The team will work to identify inhibiting properties and functions of the brain that might be the cause of muscle weakness that comes with aging and with immobilization in a cast. The researchers will use a procedure called transcranial magnetic stimulation, which Clark uses to pursue his main research focus on determining the possible neurological origins of muscle weakness and fatigue. The procedure features a hat-like device made of superpowered coils that produce a rapidly changing magnetic field; the coils introduce noninvasive electrical current to the brain. In his Neuromuscular Physiology Laboratory, Clark demonstrates how the stimulation of different parts of the brain causes corresponding muscles to contract and explains that—his research uses aside— the procedure can also be used to treat depression and chronic pain. OMNI scientists are not only investigating the neurologic mechanisms of muscle weakness, but are looking into the role of skeletal muscle. In his Laboratory for Integrative Muscle Biology, Russ studies the muscle tissue of young and old rats, as well as human muscle biopsies, to investigate the possibility that proteins in older adults’ cells become less effective at releasing calcium. The release of calcium causes muscles to contract. If that release is impaired, muscles


become less able to do their job, leading to fatigue and weakness. Russ’ most recent work has confirmed such an impairment in aging rats.


ecause many musculoskeletal and neurological conditions respond favorably to exercise, OMNI researchers also are focused on exercise physiology and rehabilitation medicine. Russ, for example, is studying how sprint exercise enhances muscle function and alters the calcium release process in muscle. However, since sprinting may not be beneficial (or even possible) for many older adults, OMNI researchers are investigating other exercise interventions. For example, through a grant awarded by the American College of Sports Medicine, Clark is investigating the effectiveness of blood flowrestricted exercise—a type of low-intensity resistance exercise done while wearing a device resembling a blood-pressure cuff on the thigh. The cuff, which applies modest pressure to the limb, “reduces the amount of blood going to the muscle and restricts some of the blood from going back to the heart,” and “causes the muscle to sit there in its metabolic by-products, in a manner similar to that which occurs with sprinting,” Clark explains. Recently, Clark and colleagues found that blood flow-restricted exercise can improve muscle size and strength—perhaps not as well as high-intensity exercise, but enough to show a benefit to study subjects such as older adults or those with injuries or diseases that preclude them performing high-intensity exercise. Blood flow-restricted exercises did not appear to cause vascular issues, such as blood clots or stiffened arteries. Now, Russ and Clark want to know whether blood flow-restricted exercise and other novel therapies such as electrical muscle stimulation can increase the ability of proteins to release the calcium that muscles need to contract. These are just some of many questions that OMNI researchers expect will keep them busy in their labs into the next decade. If OMNI researchers can discover the “whys” of certain musculoskeletal and neurological disorders, they can eventually develop appropriate therapies, ranging from specific types of exercise to manipulation and pharmacological solutions. Judging from the dire picture painted by the most recent economic and disability statistics, OMNI’s work has the potential to be a relief to aching backs and strained health care budgets everywhere.


Walk this way Capturing the movements of physical therapy patients on high-definition film could lead to better treatments

> > V I D E O A N A LY SIS

Media arts and studies students helped create graphics for the DVDs that explain the biomechanics of walking.

> > O N T H E M OV E

Whether they’re working with stroke survivors, injured athletes, or patients recovering from knee surgery, physical therapists must have a keen eye for detail. The subtle movements patients make when lifting a heel or putting weight on an ankle when walking can mean a big difference in the type of treatments and orthotics a therapist prescribes. Physical therapy students primarily learn the art of diagnosis by carefully watching a wide variety of patients. Training videos exist, but—shot 30 to 40 years ago with a static camera— they offer limited insight into the human gait. A team of physical therapists and video production experts at Ohio University hope to change that through a new project that uses multiple slow-motion, high-definition cameras to better capture the

movements of patients in treatment. The project could result in a new series of DVDs marketed to medical and physical therapy schools that could speed and enhance student learning. “Students are telling us that this is helping them to catch small issues in the field,” says project leader Petra Williams, an assistant professor of physical therapy. “Students don’t always see things right away—such as a 2 millimeter change in a patient’s




professor of physical therapy

assistant professor of physical therapy

assistant professor of media arts and studies

Physical therapy students learn the art of filming patients for a new instructional DVD project.

arch, for example—but that can impact the orthotic interventions.” Williams, Gary Chleboun, professor of physical therapy, and Eric Williams, an assistant professor of media arts and studies, received a grant from the Ohio University 1804 Fund two years ago to purchase HD video cameras and editing stations for the project, which was integrated into the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders’ graduate student curriculum. Williams recruited video and multimedia students to assist with filming and post-production work, including editing and the creation of information graphics. The physical therapy students, however, don’t sit on the sidelines during shoots. Part of the goal of the project is to train these future clinicians to get comfortable with the cameras so that they might continue this high-tech observation and analysis in their careers. “The technology is now more accessible than it used to be— cameras cost about $1,000 compared to $10,000 a piece in the past,” says Eric Williams, who adds that the quality of slow-motion video footage has improved as well. For an early Friday morning shoot last fall, the project team has transformed a physical therapy classroom into a film studio. Dark curtains create a neutral backdrop; long pieces of white Charlotte pipe are laid across the floor to serve as tracks for the two cameras. A volunteer who walks with a limp stands ready in gym shorts and sneakers. A physical therapy student claps her hands together to help line up audio and video in postproduction, and Eric Williams calls out “Action!” The volunteer walks across the room, the two physical therapy

student camera operators following behind and at the side of the subject to capture multiple views. The process calls for a few takes—sometimes the timing of the clap or the camera movements aren’t quite in sync—but soon the team has finished the shoot and has moved on to a elderly stroke survivor and a college student with an injured knee. Several third-year graduate students confirm that participation in the shoots and access to the footage has made a positive impact on their learning to diagnose and work with patients. The project also directly benefits patients, too, Petra Williams says, as viewing the footage can help them identify areas for change. The team was able to show one woman, for example, that she walked with greater confidence and ease when she lifted her head and looked forward, instead of staring at her feet. The initiative already has helped match better orthotics to patients as well. The Ohio University team sent the video to a collaborator who fabricates the orthotics, which allowed her to design more effective devices for 12 clients in treatment, Petra Williams says. The team sees huge potential for the DVDs that will result from the project, given the growing need for physical therapists in the medical field. Since those early, grainy training videos were shot in the 1970s or 1980s, patient needs have changed, Petra Williams notes. More people are surviving strokes and spinal cord injuries, and new surgeries are available for total knee and hip replacements. Many of these patients require short- or long-term physical therapy to aid in their recovery.



story and photography by S A R A H L AU B AC H E R


Our computer and television screens transport us to places without actually taking us there; virtual reality saturates our daily life, notes ceramic artist Alex Hibbitt. “Our environment is constructed and designed completely,” she says. “Even landscapes that appear natural are manicured and staged.”


EXERCISE #1, 2010. Porcelain, waterjet cut felt. 26” w x 25” h x 7”d. This piece highlights felt, a material traditionally used in DIY crafts, and alludes to the tactile nature of craft materials. The porcelain piece is hand carved from simplified renderings, made in the Blender computer program, of an original handmade ceramic form. The intent of the work is to challenge conceptions of perfection and precision within the handmade and the industrially made.

In a world dominated by digital innovation, where does handmade art and craft fit? In a new series of work titled “Neither Architecture or Landscape,” Hibbitt uses and manipulates technological tools to create pieces that are both handcrafted and born of the digital age. “I wanted this work to speak very much about the relationship between art, design, craft, the industrial, and the virtual,” says Hibbitt, an associate professor of art at Ohio University. “It’s about simplification, reduction, how we understand information, and how information is translated.” Hibbitt’s creative process for the series begins with the creation of an original, three-dimensional handmade clay sculpture. Using a 3D scanner and program called “Blender” at the university’s Aesthetics Technology Lab, she next translates this object into a two-dimensional drawing. “The machine takes a whole series of images, and you end up with this three-dimensional object on the screen that you can move in any direction, make bigger or smaller, and look at from every side. But the thing I was really interested in was taking this scanned object and then ‘unwrapping’ it,” says Hibbitt, referring to an artistic deconstruction process that is central to her latest series of works. To “flatten” the 3D form, Blender divides the virtual object into triangles. The object can then be “unwrapped” at the “seams” where the triangles meet in order to produce a geometric mapping.

STUBBY Z, 2010. Coiled earthenware, waterjet cut rubber. 40” h x 78” w x 40” d. Hibbitt used traditional ceramic techniques to handcraft this piece, coiling ropes of clay. What appears to be a shadow pinned to the floor is a 2D translation of the original form, precisely cut from rubber by computer.


SMALL TWIG. Porcelain and MDF. 5” h x 7” w x 5” d. This small porcelain form is the original used to create Stubby Z (previous page). Sitting on the wall juxtaposed with its larger counterpoint, the relationship between the two plays on the expansive nature of the virtual environment.

(Left) Taking down her show at the Carnegie, Hibbitt first removes a small, porcelain sculpture, which is one of the objects she originally scanned to obtain two-dimensional mappings. (Right) The web of triangles created from the deconstruction process is represented in felt.


epending on the number of triangles recognized during the translation, the 2D mapping could end up looking more like a disgruntled math student’s trigonometry project (hundreds of triangles scribbled on top of each other) than a neat and tidy “dress pattern,” which is one reason why Hibbitt likes to regain control at this stage of the morphing. “Alex chooses where the triangle’s edges are (to delineate the parting lines for the pattern), so there are artistic choices going on as she applies the software, as the computer renders the form,” says Robert Silberman, an art history professor at the University of Minnesota. Silberman is writing the catalogue essay on Hibbitt for the 2011 McKnight Foundation Exhibition, which is held annually at the Northern Clay Center and features work from the previous year’s resident artists, including Hibbitt. In the last stage of the process, Hibbitt then uses the 2D drawings as the blueprints for a new phase of 3D objects made of materials such as aluminum and felt. “I am particularly interested in how translation between these processes allows for error, addresses redundancy and the worth of labor, and possibly identifies the hand of

the maker,” says Hibbitt, who debuted the first collection in this series at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, Kentucky, in fall 2010. She received support from the Ohio University Research Committee for the project. Hibbitt explains that the work is about the value of craft and labor, “such as how we value the hours spent working with our hands in clay, wood, or other materials differently than hours spent designing on the computer, as well as the value of objects that can travel between the handmade and the machine produced. Can we tell if something is handmade, and how? Do we expect a handmade object to look a certain way?” Hibbitt also is interested in how the viewer might react to works made from materials considered unconventional in the ceramics discipline. She explains that her early ceramics education in her native England focused on concepts such as “form follows function” and “truth to materials.” “Both of these statements presume there are appropriate, or more valued ways to deal with clay as a material, and I have always enjoyed unpacking what these kind of notions mean in relation to how people in general think about what ceramics is,” Hibbitt says. “Coming from this background, my

work always begins from the point of view of ceramics, letting the ideas behind the work propel it into a variety of materials that have different associations, and that can actually reveal the character of the clay in a new way.” In earlier works, such as the installation “Louisiana Topographies,” Hibbitt’s focus was on the idea of place and the connection between place and cultural identity—as well as how we romanticize and cling to these identities as our surroundings change. The minimalistic ceramic forms featured in this installation looked like a morphing between plants and television screens, a statement that the medium of television itself is a homogenizing and globalizing force. “Where these works are interested in how the computer or TV screen transports us to real places without us actually ever going there, the new work deals with the

landscape or place of the virtual itself: the space inside the 3D program, where there are no landmarks except what we input into the program,” Hibbitt says. Hibbitt’s work has garnered her exhibitions around the world, including at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, De Witte Voet gallery in Amsterdam, and the Soap Factory in Minneapolis. Her pieces are featured in private and public collections both in Europe and the United States. “I think she represents a new generation. She has a commitment to craft tradition, to handmade ceramics, but she’s using very modern technology,” Silberman says. “She’s very smart about what’s going on and her position within both the ceramics world and the larger art world.”

Handcrafted from porcelain and painted gray, this organic form is framed on the wall by two “unwrappings.” One silhouette is made of dark felt, following the contours of the original sculpture. The other is orange felt cut from the pattern of the form simplified in the 3D software program. Entomology pins fix the felt floating off the wall and emphasize shadows.


A faceted porcelain twig perches upon a landscape made of waterbased resin shaped over a skeleton of insulation foam.


Hibbitt’s handmade sculpture is scanned by a rudimentary 3D scanner. The software “Blender” analyzes the scanned object.


The “Blender” simplifies the original objects, then creates an "unwrapping."


The finished product: virtual object and one of its “unwrappings” represented in the gallery.



Special Edition


amiano Cinque, a Venezuelan graduate student in film production, hopes to raise awareness about his native culture through his new film, “The Decapitated Chicken.” Based on a short story by noted Latin American writer Horacio Quiroga, Cinque chose the tale for its illustration of how people deal with things beyond their control.



Damiano Cinque Damiano Cinque (below, center) and crew searched for props, costumes, and locations around Southeast Ohio that fit the film’s 1930s time period.

“The Decapitated Chicken” was filmed with university students and local actors.



“The Decapitated Chicken,” set in the early 1900s, is about a family whose four sons develop a mysterious disease that causes mental retardation. Unable to cope, the parents neglect the boys and devote their affections to the only healthy child, a daughter. Tragedy ensues after the boys witness their grandmother decapitating a chicken for dinner. Cinque filmed the movie using long shots, which is a break from the contemporary film industry style of frequent, quickly paced shots. “I want to give the audience time to feel rather than just absorb the information. I want people to embrace the story,” says Cinque, who received an Ohio University Student Enhancement Award for the production. For practical purposes, his interpretation of the story is set in the 1930s and includes only two sons and a daughter. The movie, which took 14 days to shoot, was filmed with university students and local actors and was adapted for locations in rural Southeast Ohio. Finding places and props to use for a 1930s setting still posed a challenge, Cinque notes, though he and his crew eventually found costumes at area antique shops and rented items from the university’s School of Theater. They studied hundreds of period photos and chose dark colors such as brown, black, and green, to express the film’s mood. The only character to wear bright colors was the daughter, to represent the family’s sole source of happiness. Cinque plans to screen the film this summer and send it to several film festivals worldwide. Milissa Hudepohl

Andrew Kouse + William Broach BIOLOGY

DISEASE DETECTIVES pread through water and food, Shigella dysenteriae is one of the most common causes of diarrheal diseases in the world. As the bacteria become increasingly antibiotic resistant, two molecular biology graduate students are studying the secrets of its function. They also hope to learn about the pathogenesis of other potentially fatal bacterial diseases such as E. coli. Andrew Kouse and William Broach study different aspects of Shigella with Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences Erin Murphy in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. Both said they took an interest in the research because of its clinical relevance. “It makes it a little more than basic research,” Broach says. Broach studies RyhB—a small, noncoding RNA—and how it controls the genes that Shigella requires to cause disease. He looks at environmental factors that tell the organism whether or

not it is inside the host, and how the RNA changes gene expression depending on where it is. Because this particular bacterium infects only humans, Broach uses tissue cultures from a human colon cell line to test the organism’s capabilities. Learning what causes RyhB to signal could enable scientists to block or manipulate those signals. Kouse focuses on how the bacterium uses the human host as a source for iron, a nutrient essential to Shigella’s survival. By using a protein called ShuA, the bacterium acquires iron from heme, which carries iron through the human blood stream. So far Kouse has learned that Shigella ShuA production increases at higher body temperatures. “Right now there’s no real vaccine for Shigella and it’s becoming antibiotic resistant,” Kouse says. “If we can make it so it can’t use iron, then we can keep it from growing in the body.”

Studying the function of Shigella dysenteriae has clinical relevance because the bacterium has become increasingly antibiotic resistant.

Katie Brandt


Special Edition




o study something that might not exist, physics doctoral student Shloka Chandavar uses particles that do exist—such as protons and mesons. By tracking their interactions, she reconstructs theoretical collections of particles called glueballs. “Glueballs are a totally different type of particle,” she says. “They’ve never been seen before.” Some physicists theorize that glueballs occur when two or more elementary particles called gluons orbit each other. Gluons exist inside protons and neutrons. They carry a force called the strong force (one of four forces in nature, such as electromagnetism and gravity), which holds the nucleus together. Many physicists believe that combinations of gluons cannot exist outside of the particles they hold together. Chandavar is not one of those physicists. With Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ken Hicks, she set out in 2009 to prove that combinations of gluons can exist outside of a particle—a theory stemming from the 1970s. If they are correct and glueballs are found, the student explains, scientists will learn more about the fundamental theory of the strong force called Quantum Chromodynamics. Glueballs pose a problem, however, because they decay

so rapidly—within a few 100-millionths of a second. To study them more in depth, Chandavar traveled to the Jefferson Laboratory in Virginia, where she uses data from an accelerator to expose protons to high-energy gamma rays. Theoretically, this produces glueballs coupled with particles called mesons, which decay into lighter particles. A detector picks up on those particles, and Chandavar works backward using computational equations to reconstruct the glueballs coupled with mesons. She also measures the decay products’ momentum to estimate mass. That work won first prize in the physics and astronomy category at the Ohio University Student Research and Creativity Expo last spring. But there remains plenty to learn. “If glueballs do exist and we find them,” she says, “it would be very different physics.” Katie Brandt

Joe Venosa HISTORY

Shloka Chandavar Shloka Chandavar traveled to the Jefferson Laboratory in Virginia to continue her research on glueballs.

If they are correct and glueballs are found, scientists will learn more about the fundamental theory of the strong force called Quantum Chromodynamics.



NAT I ONA L I DE N T I T Y istory graduate student Joe Venosa isn’t welcome in Eritrea, an African nation the size of Pennsylvania. Though he based his 320-page dissertation on the country and learned its two official languages (Tigrinya and Arabic), its government has

denied his entry since Venosa’s last trip in 2007. “The government is extremely repressive, recently ranked last in Reporters Without Borders’ 2010 press freedom index, just


R E A DY TO L E A D ow can nonprofit board members make the best contributions to their organizations? Judy Millesen, a faculty member with Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and director of the master of public administration program, proposed developing an instructional DVD on board governance to better prepare regional board members with critical skills for fundraising, time management, and strategy. Millesen recruited public administration graduate student Renee Steffen, students from the Scripps College of Communication, regional nonprofit board members, and a local musician for the effort. “It turned into the biggest project I’ve ever been involved with,” Steffen says. With funding from the Sugar Bush Foundation, the team created a DVD that consists of five 12-minute sections: fundraising, planning and strategy, roles and responsibilities, making meetings count, and financial management. “Board members should be able to articulate how they will contribute to the mission and vision of the organization, as well as how they will play a vital role in helping to raise funds,” Steffen explains. As project manager, Steffen coordinated schedules, scouted film locations, and guided the film students who taped interviews and edited footage. The team filmed interviews at the Kennedy Museum of Art and the Voinovich School, and local musician Bruce Dalzell provided a soundtrack. Steffen called the final product “easily understandable, engaging, and fast-paced.” The team released 500 free copies of the DVD in August—following 10 listening sessions, 21 board member interviews, and hundreds of hours of editing. Local and national nonprofit boards for the arts, animal welfare, human services, environment, and youth have received the DVD, and board members have given very positive feedback so far. “The great thing about the DVD is that it has a broad-based appeal,” says Steffen, noting that the project helped her land a job with the Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Akron, Ohio. “The information is applicable to any type of nonprofit seeking to strengthen its board despite its particular mission.” Katie Brandt

Hounded by one empire after another for centuries, the people of Eritrea— about 50 percent Sunni Muslim, 50 percent Orthodox Tewahado Christian— have developed a unique national identity.

below North Korea,” Venosa says. “But even today, there really are no religious or sectarian problems.” Hounded by one empire after another for centuries, the people of Eritrea—about 50 percent Sunni

Muslim, 50 percent Orthodox Tewahado Christian—have developed a unique national identity. Religion played a major role in that development, as well as in Venosa’s research. His work centers on the country’s Muslim intellectual class and how their contributions from 1941 to 1961 inside and outside Eritrea created a nationalist identity. To fight the European colonial powers and Ethiopian government, Muslims in Eritrea partnered with Christian activists to resist Ethiopian influence. Ethiopia took over Eritrea during this period, outlawing

ethnic languages and independent media. Many Eritreans fled to neighboring Sudan, where they built opposition groups that fueled a nationalist movement to rally Eritrea’s two million citizens. An independent country since 1993, today the highly militarized Eritrean government consists of both Muslims and Christians. Despite its many challenges and authoritarian policies, Venosa says, the country itself maintains relative religious harmony. It controls virtually every facet of life, however, which has driven away many Eritreans. Now

instead of creating a national identity, opposition groups in the United States, Canada, Northern Europe, and the Middle East are building a government in exile. Still, Venosa has hope for future generations. “If the people of Eritrea have shown anything in recent decades, it has been an ability to persevere against a seemingly hopeless political climate,” he says. “You cannot look at the current situation and simply say that it’s somehow a lost cause.” Katie Brandt



Special Edition



PICTURES OF A DDI C T I ON photo documentary by Angela Shoemaker, a graduate student in visual communication, spotlights The Netherlands’ unique approach to handling drug addiction: state-sponsored nursing homes for disabled, homeless addicts. With funding from a Fulbright Scholarship, Shoemaker followed aging individuals living in a nursing facility who had been using drugs for 20 to 30 years. The government recognizes that some addicts aren’t able to or don’t want to be rehabilitated, and so provides treatment, care, and education instead of incarceration, the student explains. Many of the women Shoemaker photographed used drugs because they were sexually and physically abused in their youth. Several women turned to prostitution to support their drug addiction, and later developed diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. The residents of the nursing home are considered the first generation to use crack, which didn’t exist before the 1970s. They used the drug recreationally without realizing its addictive qualities; one man at the facility described crack as “a sentence to hell.” Shoemaker, who plans to display her work in America and The Netherlands, hopes her photographs will change people’s perspectives of drug addiction. She believes that too often people view drug addiction as a choice, blaming the drug addict, and fail to look at the societal influences that contributed to the problem. “I hope to promote empathy and understanding for people who have fallen through the cracks, for people who make different choices in life,” Shoemaker says. “Many of the drug addicts’ lives were tragic. Drugs were their outlet.” Milissa Hudepohl

The photographer followed individuals who had been using drugs for 20 to 30 years.

Jeff Lovett


M I N I N G FO R A RT eff Lovett makes some of the most unsightly, tragic parts of Appalachia appear beautiful. A graduate student in sculpture and expanded practice, he spent last summer capturing images of acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines, which can pollute regional watersheds.




Shoemaker, who plans to display her work in America and The Netherlands, hopes her photographs will change people’s perspectives of drug addiction.

Angela Shoemaker

“Attention needs to be drawn to this,” Lovett says. “These towns became this way because of short-term, profit-driven thinking. One hundred years later we’re suffering environmental damage.” Lovett displayed this work last fall in “The Crude and the Rare,” a group exhibition on extractive industries and the value of natural resources at the Cooper Union, a college in New York City. The runoff from century-old mines is highly acidic and full of heavy metals, which can give the streams an orange or white tint. Lovett wanted to document that damage “in a way that’s fair and that also shows problems with documentation,” he says. To create the most neutral images possible, he removed his point-of-view. He took the lid off his scanner, Velcroed it to the back of his tablet PC, and connected the two. He next placed the laptop beside streams and scanned the three-dimensional environment. The resulting images combine rich textures and colors with lines and errors from the machine. “There’s a really nice honesty in that record,” Lovett says. The act of creating art out of the region’s concerns was also a way of going beyond himself. Because he tends to view art as self-referential and self-involved, Lovett says he favors science. However, science has its disadvantages as well, he notes: “Science fails because it describes things in too much detail, in a way you can’t relate to. Art gives you a portal.” Katie Brandt

Conventional autopilots have been used in military aircraft and commercial airliners for decades, but they have their limitations. Most systems—which actually require pilot intervention—guide the aircraft by plotting points along their course and flying from point to point until they arrive at the final destination. If a pilot loses control of the aircraft, conventional autopilots often aren’t able to help. Tony Adami, an engineering graduate student and Avionics Engineering Center research engineer, and Professor J. Jim Zhu are designing a new and improved autopilot controller that could dramatically reduce the cost of this technology and increase the safety of flying airplanes. Their design, called Trajectory Linearization Control, could be used in aircraft ranging from unmanned air vehicles to commercial passenger flights. It can guide an aircraft along a line directly from point A to B using sensors to monitor the actual flight path, and can make adjustments without human intervention, explains Adami, one of several graduate students who has helped realize Zhu’s vision. The new autopilot could be especially useful for pilots of general aviation aircraft, which have a higher accident fatality rate compared to commercial airlines. Many can’t afford today’s autopilot systems, which can make these pilots more prone to fatigue during long flights and increase the risk of mistakes. “Our autopilot will be affordable and functional in virtually any flight condition, and can aid a pilot when he needs it most,” Adami says, explaining that it can provide increased agility and the ability to recover from overcorrections. The student, who plans to test the controller this spring in an unmanned airplane, says that the technology could help the Federal Aviation Administration develop the next generation of airspace, which would feature aircraft that can fly closer together and land more frequently. “If we present the FAA with a technology that can guide an aircraft precisely along a given path,” he says, “that’s going to make it much safer and easier.” Katie Brandt

“Attention needs to be drawn to this. These towns became this way because of short-term, profit-driven thinking. One hundred years later we’re suffering environmental damage.” J E F F L OV E T T

Jeff Lovett exhibited his art work on acid mine drainage at a group show at the Cooper Union in New York City last fall.


Class act




NICOLE GRAMS meteorology student

:: H E A LT H | by Mi l i s s a Hudepohl

Fast treatment Medical team studies new way to manage type 2 diabetes

Doctors typically prescribe more insulin for patients with type 2 diabetes who have trouble keeping their sugar levels under control with diet, exercise, and oral medications. But it doesn’t work for everyone. Ohio University pre-med student Kayla Bober recently examined an alternative treatment option: fasting to improve insulin sensitivity. Under the guidance of Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine clinicians Randall Colucci and Jay Shubrook, Bober helped conduct a study in which patients drank only carb-free liquids over the course of 60 to 72 hours to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce their insulin intake, and lose weight. The patients recorded their blood sugar levels four to six times per day. Bober collected this data daily and kept track of their insulin intake. After the fast, the patients slowly reintroduced carbohydrates into their diet over the course of one month. Every patient showed drastic improvements in their insulin dosage, as well as significant weight loss. Some results were shorter-lived than others, however. “Their results not only depended on how strictly they followed the fast and transition diet, but also on their condition before the fast,” says Bober, who presented the results of her research at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s “Research Day” event. Patients who were the most overweight and needed the highest doses of insulin before the fast lost the most weight and experienced the most drastic reduction in insulin

intake, she explains. However, these patients needed the most adjustments in insulin during the post-fast transition month. The study helped Bober, who hopes to attend an osteopathic medical school after graduation, better understand type 2 diabetes and appreciate the patients who struggle with it every day. The project also showed her both the opportunities and the limitations clinicians face in helping patients with chronic disease. “I want the patients to continue to be healthy,” Bober says. “I can tell them what to do, but I can’t force them to do it. I have high hopes for them, but I can’t stop them from making certain nutrition choices, and that is the biggest challenge for me.”

“I want the patients to continue to be healthy. I can tell them what to do, but I can’t force them to do it.” KAYL A BOBER pre-med student



:: GEOGRAPHY | by Milissa Hudepohl

Storm tracker Meteorology student predicts impacts of hurricanes

How much will a storm surge affect the coast when a hurricane hits? Ohio University meteorology student Nicole Grams is helping the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, answer that question. Grams, recipient of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Scholarship, interned with the center’s Storm Surge Unit last summer. These experts use a computer model, the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH), to forecast storm surges in particular geographic areas. After a hurricane occurs, they perform post-storm analysis and determine the accuracy of SLOSH’s predictions. When asked to examine the storm tide levels after hurricanes Gustav, Ike, Rita, Katrina, and Wilma, Grams offered the hurricane experts a new technological twist. She suggested using Geographic Information Systems, specifically ArcGIS, a program that can analyze and create a visual map of geographic data. The National Hurricane Center hadn’t used it for SLOSH verification before. “I took a GIS course Spring Quarter and wanted to apply it to the research I would be doing,” Grams explains. The GIS will allow researchers to identify trends in the SLOSH predictions, such as whether the model tends to forecast too great or too little surge in certain locations. This could help experts better interpret the model to make more accurate warnings and estimates of sea and lake rises. At the end of the 10-week internship, Grams presented her research at the NOAA Headquarters in Maryland, along with the rest of the national NOAA Hollings scholars, and received first place. As part of her senior thesis project, she’ll continue her study on how GIS can analyze more aspects of storm surge data. Grams hopes the research experience will lead to a graduate program in physical oceanography or geography, and a career in science and administration at NOAA.

Nicole Grams worked with the National Hurricane Center to forecast storm surges following hurricanes, such as this one over Florida.

:: M U S I C | by Mi l i s s a Hudepohl

Stage presence Wind instrumentalist makes mark on Carnegie Hall

At the last rehearsal before the concert at Carnegie Hall, renowned conductor Robert H. Reynolds advised the students in the National Collegiate Wind Ensemble that they might be distracted by playing in the prestigious venue. Ohio University student Stephanie Dumais, who performed on piccolo, agrees that the glamorous architecture and framed photos of renowned musicians was a bit overwhelming—but also exciting. “I couldn’t believe I was standing on the same stage that so many famous musicians have stood on as well. Frank Sinatra, Elton John, the Beatles, Louis Armstrong, and so many others had been there before me,” says Dumais, a senior majoring in music education and flute performance. Funded by an Ohio University Student Enhancement Award, Dumais earned an invitation to play in the National Collegiate Wind Ensemble, which features the top 50 to 60 collegiate musicians across the nation. The experience of playing with new student musicians pushed Dumais out of her comfort zone, says the student, who serves as first chair in Ohio University’s Symphony Orchestra and the Wind Ensemble. In the national ensemble, Dumais was tapped to play piccolo, a prestigious position that requires mastering the finger technique and intonation of the flute. The piccolo is the highest voice heard in the wind ensemble, and one must be able to stay in tune with the rest

of the flute section. The rehearsals in New York City were more challenging than the ones Dumais was used to at Ohio University, where students rehearse, on average, four hours per week. For the national performance, the ensemble rehearsed six hours per day for three days, and Dumais had to learn four to five technically challenging pieces. “It was a lot of music to become proficient at in such a short time before the final concert, especially at Carnegie Hall,” she says. But performing as part of the National Collegiate Wind Ensemble was the highlight of Dumais’ career so far, and could lead to more opportunities in the field. “Performing at Carnegie Hall opened Stephanie’s eyes to how many good musicians are out there,” says Alison Sincoff, the student’s faculty adviser. She noted that the experience has solidified the student’s plans to apply for graduate studies in flute performance.

“I couldn’t believe I was standing on the same stage that so many famous musicians have stood on as well. Frank Sinatra, Elton John, the Beatles, Louis Armstrong, and so many others had been there before me.” STEPHANIE DUMAIS music student PHOTO: KEVIN RIDDELL


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These small, shelled marine animals—from top left, a crustacean, a bivalve, and two types of brachiopods—once thrived in the Earth’s ancient oceans. That changed when sea levels rose and the continents merged, prompting an influx of invasive species so prolific that local critters like these struggled to survive and new species were slow to take their place. That’s the conclusion of new research by Alycia Stigall, Ohio University associate professor of geological sciences, on one of Earth’s five major mass extinction events 378 to 375 million years ago. Stigall’s study of the collapse of Earth’s ancient marine life suggests that the planet’s current ecosystem could meet a similar fate. Human activity has introduced a high number of invasive species into new ecosystems and has destroyed natural habitats, Stigall notes, creating a global biodiversity crisis.

Perspectives Spring/Summer 2011  

Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Ohio University

Perspectives Spring/Summer 2011  

Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Ohio University