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University of South Carolina

March 14, 2013

A publication for faculty, staff and friends of the university




USC Times






Survey says, Christine DiStefano By Craig Brandhorst

Christine DiStefano may be a trained statistician, but the associate professor of educational research is about more than just collecting data and crunching numbers. DiStefano is applying advanced psychometrics to real-world student populations to help identify young children living in poverty who are also at risk for behavioral disabilities. “Right now in school psychology, and in schools in general, we work on a ‘wait to fail’ model,” says DiStefano, whose research has attracted more than $3.5 million in external funding to-date. “We wait until the teacher sees a number of problems and then builds a case before we refer a child. But what if you could get in there and do something preventative before a child fails?” While DiStefano’s work begins with good survey design, it carries over into the schools, where she reviews results with teachers and school psychologists — in part so that she can improve the surveys themselves and make them even more effective. “You can have the best survey in the world but if it doesn’t fit their needs or it’s too long or too cumbersome, you’re not going to get any information,” says DiStefano. Of course, just being on the front line of elementary education is a reward for DiStefano, who enjoys the opportunity to put a face on the numbers and see her efforts paying off in real ways. “I definitely want to keep a foot in the school realm,” she says. “It’s important and it’s interesting — and it’s a wonderful place to see how results are used.”

DiStefano is one of 15 junior professors selected for the 2013 class of Breakthrough Rising Stars by USC’s Office of Research. The program recognizes junior faculty whose research and scholarship demonstrates the best in academe. Look for more profiles here in the weeks ahead.

By Liz McCarthy

40 years and counting

Chemistry professor finds ‘perfect fit’ at Carolina


an Reger began his career at USC after receiving his doctorate from MIT. That was more than 40 years ago. Reger is one of the longest-serving employees at the university, a distinction he shares with nine other system-wide university faculty and staff members. When Reger first joined the Carolina faculty in 1972 in the chemistry and biochemistry department, he was teaching freshman chemistry classes to about 120 students. Today the introductory chemistry classes can exceed 280 students. That’s just one small thing that has changed through the years. Overall, Reger says teaching chemistry at USC today isn’t much different, although the students are better prepared now. The chemistry department hasn’t changed much either, he says, always focusing on research, teaching and teamwork.

Reger and nine other university employees will be recognized in April for their 40 years of service at USC. Every year the Division of Human Resources celebrates USC’s longest working employees with the State Service Award ceremony, honoring individuals with 10, 20, 30 and 40 years of service. “The culture in this chemistry department is unusually good,” he says. “People work hard and are supportive of each other. And teaching is very important to us all.” Through the years, he has taught more than 5,000 undergraduates and had 33 doctoral students graduate.

“It’s been neat to continue to work with people who are really interested in science and help them develop into high quality scientists,” Reger says. “I love the science, but what makes it really fun is working with young people as they’re developing their own skills.” What does he remember most about Carolina in the ’70s? When he first arrived in Columbia, he remembers being very eager to set up his research lab. He made his first compound within three weeks, he says. Forty years ago, he didn’t realize he’d found a place — a lab, a university, a department — ­ he wouldn’t want to leave. “It turned out to be the perfect fit for me. I really love to teach and do research,” he says. “This has been a place where I’ve been able to do them both and be successful at both.”

University of South Carolina


Crossing Campus By Steven Powell


élène Maire-Afeli loves chemistry, whether it’s teaching or research. And thanks to collaboration between USC Union and USC Columbia, she’s been able to indulge both passions. In the spring of 2012 USC’s Vice President for Research Prakash Nagarkatti and Associate Vice President for Research Tom Vogt offered the USC Union chemistry instructor an opportunity she’d been waiting for. “They asked what they could do to help with our research,” she says. Vogt, who directs the NanoCenter at USC, offered her access to an atomic force microscope, an expensive instrument not available just anywhere. He also introduced her to research professors throughout the Columbia campus. With state-of-the-art instrumentation at her disposal, Maire-Afeli worked with Goutam Koley, a professor in the

Maire-Afeli credits the administrations of USC Union and Columbia campuses for allowing her to reach her full potential, both as a teacher and a scientist. College of Engineering and Computing, the following summer. Now a co-author on a paper in Applied Physics Letters, Maire-Afeli credits intracampus cooperation for helping her to reach her full potential, both as a teacher and a scientist. “Everyone was extremely helpful,” Maire-Afeli said. “They all opened their doors, whether to the office or the lab.”

Five questions with

Pamela Robinson, director of Pro Bono Program at USC School of Law


How has pro bono at USC changed since it was established in 1989?


What is a common misconception about pro bono work?

3 4 5

In two ways, the Internet — students can now engage in pro bono activities remotely — and the scope of volunteer opportunities, which have greatly increased over the last 22 years.

Many people believe that pro bono means “for free” when it is actually part of a Latin phrase that means “for the public good.” The other common misconception is that law students can give legal advice or just help people pick out the right forms to file. This is considered the practice of law in South Carolina and until licensed is not allowed by any law student. Is there a pro bono service that you’re particularly proud of? This would be like asking me to pick my favorite niece or nephew. My favorite is the one that fits with the personal goals of the volunteer law student. Our Pro Bono Program is personal, addressing what the student wants to get out of the experience. How did you get involved in pro bono work? Pro bono involvement is part of the obligation of every lawyer, and I have taken that responsibility seriously since the day I was sworn in. But in reality, the pro bono work I do as a lawyer is simply an extension of the service ethic I grew up with. Unconditional service to others carried me through childhood, high school, college and work.  I found there was a void during law school and as a result, I pushed to establish the current Pro Bono Program. What is the most gratifying part of pro bono work for you? There is tremendous satisfaction in knowing that with each graduating class there is a group of dedicated law students who understand and value the importance of the ethic of pro bono service.

I’ll have the usual

By Thom Harman

The Russell House’s Grand Market Place has seen myriad changes since I was an undergrad here in the 1990s. The GMP has been renovated extensively, both in décor and meal options, but there are still some constants. Like Darrell Jones. Darrell started at the GMP’s grill in 1991. Technically I beat him on campus by a few months, but he does get credit for staying here the entire time while I had a few years away from campus before getting a job at USC. When I returned to campus in 2000, I made a point of going to the GMP to get my old favorite. And there was Darrell, telling me it had been a long time since he’d seen me and asking how I was. He took me by surprise. I was one of thousands of students he’d served. And although I remembered him too — and all the short talks we’d have while he was preparing my order — I didn’t really expect him to remember me. But Darrell is still flipping things at the GMP, just like he was in ’91. “I always liked to be around college life, and I always loved my Gamecocks,” he says. “So this seemed like a good fit for me.” And I’m not the only person who has built friendships over the years with Darrell and his co-workers. “There are a lot of students who went here, graduated and are working here,” he says. “They’ll be so surprised that I can remember them. It just shocks them. You should see the expression on their faces.” I still head over to the grill every few months, partly for the good food but really just to say hello to my favorite cook.

“There are a lot of students who went here, graduated and are working here,” he says. “They’ll be so surprised that I can remember them. It just shocks them. You should see the expression on their faces.”

Everyone has a story on campus. Share your perspective with us:

USC Times

March 14, 2013


Labor of love School of Medicine student sets sights on making childbirth safer for mothers and newborns By Matt Splett


n a remote village in Ethiopia, a laboring mother lies on her home’s dirt floor. The nearest hospital is dozens of miles away. Observing the occasion is Anna Handley. In Ethiopian a baby’s pending arrival is cause for celebration. But too often in rural Ethiopia, deliveries are marred by deadly complications. Thousands of Ethiopian women and many more newborns die every year because of inadequate health care during deliveries. Handley, now a second-year medical student at the School of Medicine, cites her Ethiopian experience as an example in global health where the answers for improved medical care are known, but health services are not reaching people in need. “In our country, it’s really safe to have a baby in the hospital, and complications can be managed very well,” Handley says. “In other countries, it’s not so simple. Women often give birth in their homes, where even a small and manageable complication can become deadly for the mother and her newborn.” Handley was recently named a global health fellow by the American Medical Women’s Association. She is one of four students nationally to receive the fellowship.

Mold DETECTIVE By Jeff Stensland

Thousands of Ethiopian women and many more newborns die every year because of inadequate health care during deliveries. As a fellow, Handley will establish a global health project in Columbia, connecting students to the health needs of the city’s underserved, international population. “Columbia has a significant refugee population, and my hope is that through working with them, medical students can develop their interest in global health regardless of their ability to finance international travel,” she says. Handley, who received her undergraduate degree in anthropology from USC, first developed an interest in global public health during a six-month study abroad experience. The experience abroad introduced her to the many health challenges that people face and how access to quality health care can play a role in one’s quality of life.

Most people choose to avoid mold at all costs, but Anindya Chanda is making it his life’s work. “I always say I didn’t choose to study fungus, the fungus chose me,” said Chanda, who directs the new Laboratory of Fungal Pathogenesis and Secondary Metabolism at the USC’s Arnold School of Public Health. Chanda learned to love mold while earning his doctoral degree at Michigan State University with the goal of working for a corporation as a food technologist. His career path changed after he discovered a unique cellular compartment dedicated to making toxins in a particular strain — the Aspergillus parasiticus — of mold. “At first I thought this (mold) was very boring,” Chanda said. “The more I read and learned about it, I thought, oh my God, this is such a smart organism. You can look at this your whole life and never say you know all about it.” To those who study mold, it so much more than nasty stuff growing on shower walls and in dirty coffee mugs. On the highest level, molds are types of fungi that spread by dispersing millions of tiny surface spores that become airborne. Things get a lot trickier from there because molds are in fact extremely complex living organisms with an almost innate survival instinct, fine-tuned over millions of years of evolution. Because of their complexity, molds never develop in exactly the same way and have the ability to change their internal metabolism processes depending on slight variations in external environments. Some molds, like Aspergillus, also can produce powerful toxins, possibly as a primal defensive mechanism. Understanding the conditions under which toxins are

Handley can’t help but look forward to a return trip. She is eager to apply her newly acquired clinical skills in helping women, this time in Uganda. “I have friends who have children and it’s such a joyful experience for them; they are so happy,” Handley says. “My wish is that everyone could feel that way no matter where in the world they deliver their child.”

produced is still a mystery, which is a problem since they can be extremely dangerous. And despite the popular warnings about the dangers of “black mold,” Chanda says it’s impossible to judge a mold’s toxicity level based solely on its color. “There is no way of telling by looking at it,” he said. “Some fungal metabolites have wonderful medicinal qualities, like penicillin; others are killers. When I see a mold that produces green spores or black spores, I treat it with respect.”

“The more I read and learned about it, I thought, oh my God, this is such a smart organism. You can look at this your whole life and never say you know all about it.” Chanda’s current research focuses on developing techniques to gain a clearer picture of when and how toxins are produced. Along with researchers from USC’s mechanical engineering and statistics departments, he’s using a stateof-the-art microscope that utilizes both light and sound waves to study A. parasiticus cells on new levels. The goal is create predictive models for when molds will become toxic, and ultimately how to prevent it. “This has never been done before and has the potential to revolutionize the field. We may never be able to say for 100 percent because this is fungus were dealing with, after all,” he said.

USC Times

March 14, 2013

Having it all


By Liz McCarthy

Karen Mallia has lived her research. It wasn’t something she read about in textbooks. At 38 the advertising creative director had a serious choice to make — stay in the business she loved and sacrifice time with her family or well, get creative. Mallia had been working in the creative side of advertising in New York for almost 20 years. She had put in the late hours in the office that is so often required in the field. But as a new mother, she faced that daunting decision so many working women have to confront. Mallia discovered her chosen career path isn’t as friendly to working moms as other careers. Advertising creative directors have told stories about women driving from the hospital with newborn baby in tow, stopping to meet the nanny and continuing back to the office, always at the mercy of a field that is known for its “mad men.” “We know from anecdotal evidence, even if we’ve just watched ‘Mad Men,’ that there’s a boys club culture in a creative department, which is quite different from the rest of the agency,” said Mallia, now an associate professor in the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. “There’s a certain protocol and unique cultural codes to the creative profession. It’s decidedly not like working in a bank.” Mallia chose her family, freelancing in the New York market for a few years before turning to academia. Then she found her research passion — why are so many women leaving the creative side of advertising? “Curiosity and passion drove me,” she said. “Why would I spend years researching something I have no strong feeling about? It’s engrossing because it affected me personally and because it’s such a mystery.” Women make up 69 percent of the students in undergraduate advertising majors, almost 73 percent in graduate programs and over half of those in specialized portfolio programs. Yet they make up just 28 percent of the total creative workforce in advertising agencies and just 3 to 4 percent of creative director or management positions. The representation of women is much greater in every other agency department. So why are so many ambitious, talented women checking out? Is it gender bias or children, or is something bigger at play? Mallia found more than just an “old golf club.” She found a­ n industry stacked to reward the male career model. She discovered the factors driving women to exit creative careers are much more complex and complicated — hitting on the nature of the job, hiring and work practices, personality factors, award competitions and account assignments to name a few.

“It’s engrossing because it affected me personally and because it’s such a mystery.”


Mallia and Visual Communications instructor Scott Farrand are currently planning USC’s first CreateAthon, a 24-hour marathon for students to create brand communications for local nonprofits. They want to engage contributors from every corner of the university for the event Oct. 25 – 26. CreateAthon on Campus volunteers can take many forms — from vetting applications from nonprofits, to serving as mentors for students in writing, design and digital production, to helping coordinate pro bono printing and production. They even need dance instructors and bands to jolt the creative teams in the middle of the night and keep them going. Contact Mallia at for more information or to get involved. And because advertising is naturally more cutthroat and consuming, typical workforce issues, such as work-family balance, are escalated. Mallia’s research has had an impact, drawing attention from an industry that’s typically unconcerned with academia, she said. Her work fueled and helped frame the first industry conference for women creative directors: The 3% Conference. “The idea of women in advertising still being under-represented 50 years after the issue was raised is hitting a nerve,” Mallia said. In academia, and her research, Mallia has found a career that lets her better balance her work and home life — and contribute professional service as well. “Teaching creative strategy is everything I love about the business and none of the stuff I don’t,” she said. “I have the excitement of the creative challenge and the problem-solving I love in every class project. I curate my students’ work and nurture talent, so I’m still a creative director.”

USC TIMES Vol. 24, No. 5 | March 14, 2013 USC Times is published 20 times a year for the faculty and staff of the

Extra Green Most asparagus consumed in South Carolina is grown elsewhere, but that wasn’t always the case. At the peak of production in the 1930s, more than

University of South Carolina by the Division of Communications. Managing editor: Liz McCarthy Designer: Linda Dodge Contributors: Peggy Binette, Craig Brandhorst, Frenché Brewer, Glenn Hare, Thom Harman, Chris Horn,

10,000 acres of Palmetto State farmland were

Page Ivey, Steven Powell, Megan

planted with the springtime favorite, and colorful

Sexton, Jeff Stensland and Marshall Swanson

labels like this one graced produce baskets

Photographers: Kim Truett

bound for markets up the Eastern Seaboard.

To reach us: 803-777-2848

This particular label, courtesy of the South

or Campus correspondents:

Caroliniana Library, was found in a processing

Patti McGrath, Aiken

barn in Johnston, S.C.

Shana Dry, Lancaster

Candace Brasseur, Beaufort Jane Brewer, Salkehatchie

Speaking of veggies, the Healthy Carolina Farmers Market is back. Load up on the green

Misty Hatfield, Sumter Tammy Whaley, Upstate Annie Houston, Union

stuff from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., Tuesdays beginning March 19 in front of the Russell House.

The University of South Carolina does not discriminate in educational or employment opportunities or decisions for qualified persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetics, sexual orientation or veteran status.

USC Times March 14, 2013  
USC Times March 14, 2013  

The publication for faculty, staff and friends of the University of South Carolina