URSINUS Fall 2011
Mapping the Mind: Neuroscience at Ursinus Do Good Looks Boost Paychecks? John Changâ€™s Inspiring Journey
“I guess the most interesting fact about the brain is that with each event an individual experiences, the brain changes. In other words, our brains never stop changing. It is a dynamic, evolving bag of chemicals.” - Joel Bish, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director, Neuroscience Program.
In This Issue Features
Mapping the Mind
Neuroscience advances are part of a fascinating discipline that will change the way we look at disease and open a door into the workings of the mind. In this field, answers lead to more questions, and that’s a good thing.
One for the Team
Ursinus Football Player Teddy Conrad’s decision to be a bone marrow donor has inspired his family and the Ursinus community.
When Dr. Jyh-Hann “John” Chang 1990 was injured in a surfing accident, his life changed forever. Read more about how his determination and humor have transformed the people in his life.
Better Looking, More Money?
What do looks have to do with it? Assistant Professor of Business and Economics Jennifer VanGilder investigates the connection between NFL quarterbacks and bigger paychecks. The truth isn’t pretty.
Pakistan in Perspective
Ambassador-in-Residence Professor Joseph Melrose 1966 writes that Pakistan’s problems are not new. In trying to understand this country’s challenges, he calls for a close look at the search for its national identity.
3 President Bobby Fong addressed the Ursinus campus during Welcome Week, outlining his plan and strategic vision for the College.
32 Linda (Giunta) Michaelson 1987 has become a top
entertainment lawyer and partner for the firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP in California.
On The Cover - "Complexity of the Mind"
Daniel Fishel is an illustrator and designer from Harrisburg, Pa. After graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in illustration and a graduate degree from The School of Visual Arts. Other publications Fishel has worked for include The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Stranger, and Nylon Guys Magazine.
Dear Friends, I bring you greetings upon formally assuming my duties as President of the College. I treasure opportunities to send news to alumni so that you may appreciate the continuity between the Ursinus you knew as students and the College today. I come to Ursinus after serving for 10 years as president of Butler University in Indiana. My experience as a faculty member and administrator, however, is rooted in liberal arts colleges, and I am excited to return to a venue intimate enough where I can know students, faculty, and many of you by name and face. I am committed to personalized undergraduate residential liberal education. Many of the warm memories you have of Ursinus stem from working cooperatively with faculty mentors, other students, and members of the staff and community. The College continues to provide such experiences for current students by deepening our commitment to the arts, extending our community service opportunities, sustaining our nationally-recognized core curriculum, and maintaining our strengths in the sciences, for which Ursinus has long been known. In this issue of Ursinus Magazine, you will read about our neuroscience major and the impressive student-faculty research that is being done on brain function. In this regard, we are fortunate to include an interview with Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman, Class of 1950. He is a stellar example of a liberal arts education that has led to pioneering work in understanding the brain. You also will enjoy reading about the people who exemplify the best of Ursinus. Our mission statement indicates the Colleges aims to educate students “to become independent, responsible, and thoughtful individuals.” We bring you a story of how a service project by the football team resulted in a player donating bone marrow to a stranger. Also profiled is a Business and Economics professor’s creative research, an alumnus who is making a distinctive mark in research on Alzheimer’s disease, and a former class president who adjusted his dreams after an accident. As a professor of English I believe that we work out our values and commitments in the stories of our lives. I hope to meet you and to hear more of your stories. Go Bears!
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Ursinus Magazine Volume CXI, No. 1 Fall 2011
Third class postage paid at Landsdale, Pa. Ursinus Magazine is published seasonally three times a year. Copyright 2011 by Ursinus College. Editorial correspondence and submissions: Ursinus Magazine, P.O. Box 1000, Collegeville, PA 19426-1000. (610) 409-3300 or e-mail: email@example.com
URSINUS CAMPUS NEWS
Director of Communications Wendy Greenberg firstname.lastname@example.org Editor Kathryn Campbell email@example.com
sharpen our sense of selves so as to enunciate the Ursinus difference,” said Dr. Fong.
Class Notes Editor and Staff Writer Ellen Cosgrove Labrecque 1995 firstname.lastname@example.org
His speech was followed by a baseball-themed picnic, complete with hotdogs, Crackerjacks and perfect weather conditions. Dr. Fong, who has a passion for baseball, was presented with an Ursinus baseball cap and ball, and staff members enjoyed a raffle that included Phillies tickets.
Contributing to this Issue Jeffrey Morgan, Joan Fairman Kanes, Jim Roese, Hunter Martin, William Thomas Cain, Erika Compton Butler 1994, Joseph Pirro 1987, Cheryl Walborn, Bob Lenz, James Moncrief Design JDM Creative Advertising, LLC www.jdmcreative.com Chair, Board of Trustees John E.F. (Jef) Corson President Dr. Bobby Fong Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean Judith Levy Senior Vice President for Advancement Jill A. Leauber Marsteller 1978 Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing Richard DiFeliciantonio Vice President for Finance and Administration Winfield Guilmette Vice President for Student Affairs Deborah Nolan The mission of Ursinus College is to enable students to become independent, responsible, and thoughtful individuals through a program of liberal education. That education prepares them to live creatively and usefully, and to provide leadership for their society in an interdependent world.
Dr. Bobby Fong and his wife Suzanne Fong celebrate at Welcome Week.
DR. FONG SPEAKS ON THE FUTURE OF URSINUS President Bobby Fong addressed the Ursinus campus during Welcome Week, outlining his plan and strategic vision for the College. Faculty and staff filled Bomberger Hall to listen to Dr. Fong highlight priorities for the future, including improvements in retention rates, a focus on academic strengths and a renewed engagement with alumni. “Liberal education enables students to master different ways of knowing: creating knowledge in the sciences is different from creating meaning in literature,” said Dr. Fong. “It is insufficient in our College for a student only to learn a particular body of knowledge; the goal is to learn how to know. Moreover, liberal education forms the dispositions as well as the intellect. We aspire to teach students how to think critically and communicate effectively,
but also to work cooperatively and act ethically.” The new president congratulated the Ursinus community on the success of its distinctive qualities, including the CIE program, and spoke of the role of the arts as the College moves forward under his leadership. “A liberal arts education would provide the sense the arts are a universal inheritance that help to provide a moral center,” he said.
PRE-LAW CENTER BEGINS AT URSINUS
Dean Judith Levy has announced the creation of a Pre-Law Center at Ursinus which brings together all aspects of the College’s assistance to its students interested in a career in the law. The Center is directed by James L. Baer Esq., 1966. Dr. Houghton Kane, Professor of Political Science, continues as the Colleges’ primary pre-law adviser. The two will work with
Carla Rinde, director of the Career Services group, a coordinating committee with representation from Admissions, Communications and seven faculty members who will serve as pre-law advisers. The Center also will house the continuing work of the student-run Haines Bernard Law Society, an informational and social group directed at students having a common interest in the law. “The creation of The Pre-Law Center will enrich pre-legal studies for our current students and for future generations of lawyers at Ursinus,” says Baer, attorney-in-residence. “We couldn’t be more excited about the Center’s inclusion of enhanced advising including LSAT preparation and law school contact, a heightened emphasis on the pre-law society, and expanded curricular offerings,” says Baer. “We have also incorporated the new initiatives of an Ursinus College Law Alumni Group with more than 70 alumni volunteers for mentoring and related service to the College and the creation of an Intercollegiate Mock Trial Team.”
The address launches a series of informal conversations which began Sept. 1 in Wismer Lower Lounge during the lunch hour. “While we will seek some new initiatives, much of our work is in better coordinating and highlighting what we already do well. We need to consolidate our gains and FALL 2011 PAGE 3
Studio art major Madeline Lesage 2013 created this piece, a bed of books and magazines displayed in Myrin Library. “I was inspired to create a bed of books by the sleeplessness brought on by the seemingly endless amount of knowledge that we as students need to consume both during semesters and as semesters draw to a close,” says Lesage.
The American Bar Association, the Law School Admissions Council and the Association of Pre-Legal Advisers have maintained that the best preparation that an undergraduate may receive for law school is in a curriculum of the liberal arts with emphasis on writing and reasoning, says Baer. “This curriculum is at the center of the Ursinus ideal and permeates the entire academic program at Ursinus,” he says.
through my involvement with the Pre-Law program. The changes to the Pre-Law program are exciting because it will create even more opportunities for Ursinus students to get a sense of what law school and a career in the law is really like while also strengthening the ties between Ursinus and our alumni who work in many different areas of the law.”
Students interested in a law career will find a variety of contacts with alumni. Nine alumni attorneys are directly involved in judging the Moot Court competition. Alumni serve as mentors for students, provide internships, provide contacts with law schools, and appear on campus to inform our students of developments in the law and in law school.
NEW FACES ON COURT AND FIELD
The first year of law school is critical to getting the job of your choice, says Daniel Vass 2010, but many new law students are not prepared for the rigors of the first year. “The great value of Ursinus' Pre-Law program is that it not only helps you get into law school but also prepares you to be successful from the very start of your law school career,” says Vass. “I greatly benefited from knowing what law school classes and law school exams are really like PAGE 4 URSINUS MAGAZINE
Athletic Director Laura Moliken announced two additions to the Ursinus Athletic Department. Kathryn A. Hagan is the school's new women's lacrosse coach and replaces Erin Stroble 2002, who is now Associate Athletic Director. She served as an assistant coach at her alma mater Gettysburg College for the last three seasons. “Hagan will be a great fit for Ursinus,” says Moliken. “Her success Coach Katie Hagan
as a student-athlete and assistant coach at Gettysburg along with her commitment to Division III athletics will allow our women's lacrosse to continue their track record of success.” While at Gettysburg, Hagan also served as assistant strength and conditioning coach. In her role as assistant coach, she was responsible for helping with the day-today operations of the program. The program made three appearances in the NCAA Division III Semifinals, including a national championship in 2011. As a player, Hagan was a two-time captain as the Bullets won three Centennial Conference Championships from 2004 to 2006. She was the Centennial Conference Player of the Year in 2007, as the team advanced to the NCAA Semifinals. Hagan is involved in the SnellShillingford Symposium, which is designed to encourage female student-athletes from all 11 Centennial schools to find creative ways to pursue their passion for athletics after graduation. Hagan graduated from Gettysburg College in 2007 with a degree in business management and a minor in religion. In 2011 she earned her master's degree in exercise science and physical education with a concentration in sports administration.
Ursinus College head men’s basketball coach Kevin Small announced the hiring of Pat Price as an assistant coach. Price replaces Mike McGarvey 2006, who left the program in June to take an assistant position at Colgate University. “We are delighted to have someone as talented as Pat on our staff,” says Small. “His extensive basketball experience will continue to help our program.” Price has an impressive basketball pedigree, recently serving as head coach of the Neptune Basketball Club in Cork, Ireland. The team advanced to the 2011 SuperLeague Championship game. Before coaching Neptune, he led Cork’s Demons to four National Cup titles and an Irish SuperLeague crown. In addition to coaching those two teams, he was an assistant coach with the Irish National Team and spent nine years as assistant athletic director at University College Cork. He also served as director of the Irish Basketball Academy. Before heading overseas, he also coached at Connecticut College and Kean University, while also serving as an assistant director with The Hoop Group. He began his coaching career at Carbondale High School outside of Scranton, where he was an assistant coach on the 1993 PIAA Class AA Championship team that defeated George Jr. Republic High School 65-63. A cum laude graduate of Marywood University, Pat and his wife, Michelle, have two children, sevenyear-old daughter Arianna and two-year-old son Callum.
GOOD NIGHT IRENE: A RAINY MOVE-IN
Hurricane Irene made for a wet and windy start for Move-In weekend. The storm arrived August 27, damaging trees and causing a sixteenhour power outage on campus. Residents of Main Street houses were moved to the large residence halls and to the Floy Lewis Bakes Field House because those buildings
had back-up generators. Students took the rough weather in stride and enjoyed a free movie night at nearby Oaks Cineplex. When they returned from the movies at 11 p.m., the power had been restored. By midnight, Main Street residents were able to return to their houses. Despite the stormy weekend, the first day of classes was held as scheduled Aug. 29. President Fong acknowledged the efforts of all those who labored through Sunday, especially the Facilities staff, Student Affairs staff, RA’s, RD’s, and Ambassadors, the Sodexo food service staff, Athletics staff and Campus Safety.
LET’S DANCE, VISITING ARTISTS WILL TEACH
Two Visiting Artists in Dance will join the Ursinus Dance Program for the 2011-2012 academic year. Meredith Lyons received her MFA from Smith College, and has a particular interest in dance and technology. Peter DiMuro received his MFA from Connecticut College, and has been the Artistic Director of the internationally renowned Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. Peter is a nationally recognized choreographer, and has a particular focus on community-based art.
MATH AND COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT PROFESSOR AWARDED GRANT
Akshaye Dhawan, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, was awarded a curriculum initiative grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the IEEE Technical Committee of Parallel Processing (TCPP). It is one of 17 awards made worldwide, 11 to U.S. institutions.
There are over 156 million public blogs in existence. Do you stay in touch this way? If so, what are you writing about? Do you blog about your business, your research, your daily life since your Ursinus days? We want to hear about it. We’d like to share with Ursinus Magazine readers the vast and varied interests of our alumni. Please send in your blog address to email@example.com.
Meanwhile, drop in and visit some fellow alumni blogs: Author and cook Anupy Singla 1990 writes about Indian cooking at www.indianASapplepie.com; Journalism professor Dan Reimold 2003 maintains College Media Matters, the country’s top student press blog, at www.collegemediamatters.com. It’s affiliated with the Associated Collegiate Press, the largest student journalism organization in the United States; Photographer Becky Walter 2012 started a blog last semester at beckywalterphotography.blogspot.com.
Please send your blog links to firstname.lastname@example.org FALL 2011 PAGE 5
In the past decade parallel and distributed computing has become commonplace, Dhawan explains. “Most people now have a multicore processor on their laptops, desktops and even their phones. However, little has changed in the undergraduate computer science curriculum in order to keep up with these technological advances.” The NSF along with the IEEE TCPP is putting together a new curriculum recommendation in computer science that strives to introduce these topics to undergraduates.
DR. FONG RECEIVES 2011 PIONEER AWARD
Ursinus College President Dr. Bobby Fong was the recipient of a prestigious 2011 Pioneer Award from OCA. The OCA began in 1973 as the Organization for Chinese Americans and remains in establishment today as a national organization which advances the social, political and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans. The award, which was
presented Aug. 6 in New York City at the organization’s national convention, will also be presented to actor BD Wong. The Hon. Tammy L. Duckworth will be receiving the Outstanding Citizen Award.
YouTube co-founder Steve Chen and astronaut Leroy Chiao.
The award recognizes President Fong’s family’s immigration history “entering the U.S. through the Angel Island Immigration Station, growing up in Oakland and never forgetting your roots, and making a mark in higher education as one of our nation’s few Asian American Higher Education leaders,” according to Ken Lee, OCA National President, who added that Dr. Fong’s background and achievements exemplify the citizen that OCA seeks out to award the Pioneer Award. OCA is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Pioneer Award was created to recognize Asian Pacific Americans who are trailblazers. Past recipients of the award include former U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee, architect I. M. Pei, Asian American Studies Pioneer Betty Lee Sung, Nobel Laureate in Physics C. N. Yang,
Ursinus congratulates several retiring faculty this year, including Professor Roger Coleman, Math and Computer Science; Professor Donald Camp, artist in residence and assistant professor of art in the photography department; and Professor Jeanine Czubaroff, Media and Communication Studies.
FOCUS OF INTERNATIONAL MATH CONFERENCE IS DISEASE CONTROL
Mohammed Yahdi, Associate Professor of Mathematics, co-organized the “International Conference and Workshop on Mathematical Biology: Analysis and Control” held in Casablanca. The
June conference brought together close to 200 expert researchers from over 30 countries to exchange ideas and share research results about all aspects of Mathematical Biology in general and the use of optimal control theory in particular. The focus was on disease modeling for endemic and emerging diseases, and to facilitate and encourage collaborations between researchers from African countries, the US and other participating countries. The program encompassed areas including: Infectious diseases, Epidemiology, Virology and Immunology, Cancer modeling, Cancer therapies, Ecology, and System Biology and was made possible with ﬁnancial support from prestigious institutions and agencies, including The National Science Foundation ($50K grant), International Mathematics Union, The Society of Mathematical Biology, London Mathematical Society, The Army Research Oﬃce (USA), Centre National de la Recherche Scientiﬁque et Technique (Morocco).
Noise of Change on Campus This summer, the Ursinus campus shook with the din of drills and the whine of electric saws all under the watchful eye of the Facilities Management group. In addition to its Facilities staff, the College contracted with three separate construction companies to tackle the heavy summer workload. Projects included, but were not limited to, improvements to the labs in Thomas Hall and construction on Patterson Field. “We are very proud of the Strassburger Commons (see page 35) wall which has been erected at the Kaleidoscope circle,” says Andy Feick, who directs the Facilities staff of 25 skilled trades and grounds staff and 25 custodians. The curved granite wall includes A painter prepares final touches in the new Student Affairs office above the campus bookstore. a bench and is etched with “Strassburger Commons” on the side facing the Kaleidoscope, and on the side facing the commons is an inscribed quote by W.E.B. DuBois: “Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for five thousand years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.” Wismer Center now has expanded meeting space, new restroom facilities, a wider stairway and new exterior windows. “The entrance change and link to the lower lounge is dramatic,” says Feick. “The entrance canopy will be installed during winter break.” The second of three Reimert phases is nearing completion with the complete renovations of the 8, 9 and 10 suites. National Science Foundation-funded research lab renovation in Thomas Hall will wrap up in late September. The Student Life staff is dusting off boxes and settling after a move from Myrin Library to the Wismer Center where the bookstore second floor was completed in mid August. The move provides much needed room for Student Life and freed up more student study space in Myrin. PAGE 6 URSINUS MAGAZINE
The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art Exhibitions on View
L: Medicine bottles from Halle, c. 1750. Courtesy of the Francke Foundations. R: Joe Mooney, Enkidu/Marriage House, steel, 78 x 66 x 25”, courtesy of the artist.
PASTORS & PATRIOTS: THE MUHLENBERG FAMILY OF PENNSYLVANIA Through December 18 Upper Gallery Opening Reception: Sunday, September 25 2 to 4 p.m. Gallery Talk by Curator Lisa Minardi 2004 Wednesday, October 26 7:00 p.m. September 6, 2011 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America and progenitor of one of the most influential Pennsylvania German families in history. This landmark exhibition is curated by Lisa Minardi 2004, Muhlenberg historian and assistant curator at Winterthur Museum. The first major exhibition to focus on the Muhlenbergs, Pastors & Patriots brings the Muhlenbergs to life using historical portraits, furniture, needlework, firearms, photographs, and many other objects associated with the family – most of them never before exhibited or published. The exhibit is supported in part by The Shelley Pennsylvania German Heritage Fund. Loans include rare artifacts from The American Revolution Museum, the Newport, Rhode Island Preservation Society, The Lutheran Seminary, Muhlenberg College, Franklin & Marshall College and private collectors. Exhibition receptions and programs are free and open to the general public. Contact 610.409.3500 for more information.
“MAKE A STATUE OF MY FRIEND”: PRESENTING ENKIDU, RE-PRESENTING THE GILGAMESH EPIC – SCULPTURE BY JOE MOONEY Through December 11 Main Gallery Artist Reception: Sunday September 18 2 to 4 p.m. Lecture by Harvard University’s David Damrosch, the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature, Department of Comparative Literature, on contemporary transformations of Gilgamesh and other classic heroes in visual art. Tuesday, September 20 at 7 p.m. in Olin Auditorium. Philadelphia sculptor Joe Mooney retells the Epic of Gilgamesh – widely known as the first recorded narrative in history – by visualizing the experiences of Gilgamesh’s companion in the story, Enkidu, at signal moments in the narrative. Mooney’s monumental steel and stainless-steel sculptures capture the weight and drama of this story of the Ancient Sumerian superhero Gilgamesh who first battled, then befriended, and was ultimately transformed by the “uncivilized” and yet strangely civilizing Enkidu. Mooney writes of his own journey with the text that “Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s companion, is the focus of a lot of my thinking. In the first half of the tale, Gilgamesh is a romantic hero. He’s half god who has great skills and he is the center of his own universe. Enkidu is more difficult to describe... He has more responsibility, more maturity and more love outside of himself. He is a hero with depth.” FALL 2011 PAGE 7
Friends old and new celebrated Alumni & Reunions Weekend June 2 - June 5, 2011 A Town Hall Meeting, Women’s Athletic Luncheon, Lobster Bake and Alumni Awards Ceremony were just some of the highlights of a weekend of reconnecting and making merry in early June.
B A: Larry Meyers 1964 with his artwork. B: Members of the 55th Reunion Committee (from left to right): Joan (Stahl) Pusey 1956; Marilyn (Durn) Chapis 1956; Martha (Bean) Kriebel 1956; and President Bobby Fong. C: Exiting tour trolley Elizabeth (Meng) Ramsey 1978 and Elizabeth (Rilling) Williams 1951. D: Eileen (Kinderman) Wilson 1956 and Joan (Bradley) Parlee 1957. E: Michael Scharff, Nancy (Craft) Scharff 1961, Harry Barlow. F: Women’s Athletics Panelists (from left to right): Sue Lubking 1960 and Adele Boyd 1953.
A warm reunion. Senior Director of Alumni & Parent Programs Sterling Garcia; Patti Lukas (George Aucott’s daughter; received award on his behalf with Don Parlee, George’s UC roommate); Senior Vice President for Advancement Jill (Leauber) Marsteller 1978; President Bobby Fong; Kyle Shelton 2011; Ellen Staurowsky 1977; Donald Parlee 1955; Carly Freedman 2011; Assistant Director of Alumni Relations and Advancement Outreach Abbie Cichowski 2010; and Aakash Shah 2010. Not pictured, but received alumni awards: Terry Connell 1972, and George Aucott 1956.
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FALL 2011 PAGE 9
MIND By Kathryn Campbell
Neuroscience is thriving at Ursinus. Faculty and alumni teach and research myriad aspects of the brain and its properties, and students have a window into this fascinating and complex field, too. Together their efforts someday may contribute to the breadth of obstacles humans face, from Alzheimerâ€™s disease to the implications of fetal alcohol syndrome.
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FALL 2011 PAGE 11
hrough the microscope, their gliding movements are shimmery, even elegant. Maybe that’s how the worm C. elegans, more accurately a nematode called Caenorhabditis elegans, earned its name. The petri dish holds a living sample of the worms, visible without the microscope if you squint. They stream over, around and past each other in what appears a soundless, mindless ballet. The intricate work of studying them happens in a Thomas Hall laboratory. Here the stacked shelves brim with plastic bottles, beakers and tubes. Rolls of bright colored tape hang from the shelf edge, a convenient labeling tool. “We are investigating whether decreased nervous system activity makes neurons more likely to undergo degeneration,” says Professor Rebecca Kohn. The project, part of collaboration with Dr. Nibaldo Inestrosa’s laboratory at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile, began while Kohn spent a semester in Dr. Inestrosa’s laboratory during a Fulbright Fellowship in 2007. “Using the C. elegans as a model, we’re specifically asking whether less active neurons are more likely to be damaged when the nervous system is impacted by oxidative stress. Some chemicals in our environment, including hydrogen peroxide and the pesticide, paraquat, can produce molecules called reactive oxidative species that damage cells, including neurons. This damage occurs when the cell can no longer neutralize the reactive oxidative species and the cell undergoes oxidative stress. Oxidative stress enhances progression of some neurodegenerative diseases.”
Transparent and Predictable, A Perfect Model
For more than a decade, Kohn has used C. elegans in her research because the nervous system in this transparent worm contains the same number of neurons in identical locations generation after generation, making it possible to track whether or not neurons are present. Dr. Phiel 1992 is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Read about his work on page 15.
“While Alzheimer’s disease may be a focus of my research, we are always looking to see how our findings could impact other areas of biology.” - Christopher J. Phiel, Ph.D.
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“We use strains of this worm in which specific neurons have been genetically modified to fluoresce under a microscope,” says Kohn, who has received prestigious National Science Foundation grants for her work with women and minorities in science. “The main question is how an active nervous system protects itself from damage. Some studies have shown if a nervous system is active, it is then protected from insults, such as oxidative stress.”
“We are investigating whether decreased nervous system activity makes neurons more likely to undergo degeneration.” - Professor Rebecca Kohn
In her lab they have a variety of strains with decreased nervous system activity. “We use genetic crosses to move the versions of genes altering nervous system activity into strains with fluorescent neurons,” says Kohn. She and her students grow the worms in the presence of chemicals that bring on the oxidative stress and then they count how many neurons are present under the microscope. If a neuron no longer fluoresces, it may have degenerated. They test to see whether this is the case. The work with undergraduate researchers has shown that a higher number of neurons stop fluorescing when the worms are exposed to oxidative stress, she says. “A small number of these neurons stop fluorescing more frequently when nervous system activity decreases. We are now considering what characteristics of these neurons could make them more likely to be damaged,” she says. All of the research lab work is done by Kohn or by undergraduate researchers. “I am continually impressed by the caliber of students at Ursinus College,” says Kohn. “As a result of their training in Ursinus research labs, they make excellent presentations when they travel to scientific conferences, often presenting their work side by side with graduate students and Ph.D.s. It’s unusual for undergraduates to be involved at this level of research at large universities. At most small liberal arts colleges they wouldn’t have these opportunities as freshman. With biology you can't always plan your time. The unpredictable nature of research means you have to plan your life, your exams or your papers, around the research. My students are very dedicated and are capable of working independently; some have truly excelled and are working at the level of a graduate student.” Kohn shares research space with Dr. Rebecca Lyczak, a developmental biologist who also works with C. elegans. “While we ask different research questions, our students use similar techniques and sharing a research space creates a dynamic environment allowing for frequent discussions among the students about their projects.” In some neurodegenerative diseases, Kohn says, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, specific neurons are more likely to degenerate. In addition, in Alzheimer’s disease, nervous system activity has been associated with delayed onset of dementia. But the mechanisms
Professor Kohn storing a sample of the research subject C. elegans in the Ultra Low Temperature Freezer which maintains a temperature of -80 degrees Celsius. FALL 2011 PAGE 13
studies this fall investigating the role of concussions on specific cognitive functions. These studies follow the currently popular debates regarding sports-related concussions and their longterm impact. While this is certainly important, I think it’s also important to investigate the focal impact on cognitive skills. When student-athletes suffer from concussions during the sports season, there is a system in place to determine whether the student is safe to compete again based on whether their neuropsychological profile returns to pre-concussion baseline. I’m more interested in what impacts the specific neuropsychological deficits may have on the student in the classroom, while recovering from the concussion.” One common misconception about the brain, says Bish, is that the two hemispheres have completely different functions. “While there is certainly hemispheric specialization, such as, that about 90 percent of people have their main language processing on the left side of their brain, and their visual-spatial processing on the right side, this idea has been exaggerated into widely false beliefs that one side of the brain is creative and the other is rational,” says Bish. “In the typical person with an intact corpus callosum, the differences between hemispheres are mostly meaningless. Its only when something goes wrong with these connections (through surgery or atypical development) that the hemispheric specialization becomes interesting.”
Breakthroughs and Some Basics of the Brain
Joel Bish, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director, Neuroscience Program, is confident new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases will be among the breakthroughs in the field of brain studies that will mark the next decade. “Despite the amazing leaps technology has given in terms of brain imaging, every current modality has a serious limitation either in figuring out where its signal is coming from (spatial resolution) or in when the source was truly active (temporal resolution),” says Bish. “From the clinical perspective, I hope a new treatment will be developed that greatly alleviates the suffering that goes along with those diseases.” His guess is that this treatment will be non-pharmaceutical. “From the research perspective, a new brain imaging technology will develop that will allow for both high spatial resolution and high temporal resolution.” When Bish arrived at Ursinus in 2005, he was hired as the Coordinator of the Neuroscience program. There were 14 students PAGE 14 URSINUS MAGAZINE
in the program and three faculty members, within the Biology and Psychology departments. The faculty collectively taught classes and supported Neuroscience student research. “Now, we have over 60 student majors and six full time faculty members who support the program,” says Bish. “It’s been a lot of fun watching the program blossom.” On the whole, neuroscience has advanced at blistering speed in the last 100 years. “The field has come unimaginably far in a short time,” says Bish. “While humans have probably been introspecting about the relationship between the body and mind for all of history, the history of neuroscience is relatively short. For example, Aristotle believed that thought and consciousness had its origins in the heart and that the role of the brain was to cool the blood. Strangely, people often still talk in those same terms. When referring to something emotional, individuals will point to their chest and say something like ‘that came from the heart’ or ‘I love you with all my heart’, instead of ‘my amygdala is responding to you and my meso-limbic dopamine pathway finds it pleasurable to be around you.’ ” The changing nature of the field of neuroscience is energizing, he says. “Each time I complete an experiment to answer a question of interest, it opens up the door for many more questions that need to be answered as well,” says Bish. “I hope to begin a new set of
Today, Phiel’s research is focused on getting a foothold into how signals from outside of the cell are translated into changes in gene expression (how genes are turned on and off) in the nucleus, which is inside of the cell. “Changes in gene expression are often at the heart of many diseases, so studying how this process occurs normally can lead to a better understanding of why diseases arise when this process goes awry. The specific genes we work on, called Gsk-3 (there are two highly related genes - Gsk-3α and Gsk-3β), are central players in this process of signal transduction, and therefore are important in a variety of cell types and diseases. We have been studying the function of Gsk-3 in the context of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Phiel, who has been focused on this type of experimentation since 2001. The underlying goal of all people who perform biomedical research, Phiel believes, is to cure human disease. “We are lucky in the sense that there is currently a drug, lithium, used in humans to treat bipolar disorder that inhibits Gsk-3 activity. So the work we do on Gsk-3 has direct relevance to mental illness. In addition, it opens up the prospect of using lithium to prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” he says. But, neurodegenerative diseases have proven to be full of twists and turns.
Professor Ellen Dawley shows Professor Becky Kohn a red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus), one of the amphibians she uses in her research investigating spinal cord regeneration in amphibians.
in the nervous system that make certain neurons more likely to be damaged are not completely understood, she says. “A better understanding of how the damage occurs could contribute to future treatments of neurodegenerative diseases.”
It turns out, Phiel says, that small molecules that affect chromatin were showing promise in the treatment in a variety of cancers. “Based on our findings, valproic acid is now finding new success in the treatment of cancer, especially certain types of leukemia. I think this study epitomizes my approach to science, and shows that understanding fundamental aspects of biology can have an effect on a completely different field. So while Alzheimer’s disease may be a focus of my research, we are always looking to see how our findings could impact other areas of biology.”
“Many different attempts to slow the onset of disease have been met with failure. So there is no great expectation on my part that
Paths Cross, Discoveries Made
Valproic acid, also called Depakote, is a medication commonly used for the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder, but the way that this drug actually worked was a mystery. When Christopher J. Phiel, Ph.D. was a postdoctoral fellow with Peter Klein at the University of Pennsylvania, they unraveled the mechanism. “Unexpectedly, the proteins that are inhibited by valproic acid are important regulators of chromatin structure (chromatin is DNA and the proteins DNA is wrapped around, called histones), and thus affect gene expression,” says Phiel, who is now at the Center for Molecular and Human Genetics, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
Professor Kathryn Goddard-Doms (above left) and Professor Carlita Favero (above right) talk between classes. "Carlita teaches, conducts research with students, is an academic adviser and teaches in the Crigler Institute," says Goddard-Doms, who has taught at Ursinus since 1992. "It's been wonderful to have her join the department.” The two recently gave a joint presentation to postdoctoral fellows at the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania about careers in science at liberal arts colleges.
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lithium will be the answer to Alzheimer’s disease. But understanding why lithium may be beneficial could be a stepping stone toward reaching the ultimate goal of finding a viable therapy.”
Small, Crafty and Growing their own Tails
For Professor Ellen Dawley, basic research is the foundation upon which medical research, and all applied research rests. Insight into other organisms, Dawley says, leads to insight into the human condition. Her research centers on the remarkable regenerative abilities of amphibians. Her doctoral work was on evolution and behavior, but she shifted to the morphology involved in behaviors, which led to her interest in neural stem cells. Amphibians can regenerate entire limbs, tails (including spinal cord), and jaws, says Dawley. It is a feat that no mammal can match, she says.
which is having a major influence on how medical researchers attempt to treat diseases and ameliorate human health,” says Dawley. “I agree with the words of the eminent theoretical biologist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, who said ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.’ I’d like to think that I am contributing to that enlightenment in the biomedical field.”
a college, Weber vowed to find one that offered the best undergraduate degree in the sciences for medical school. “In the beginning I thought I wanted to major in biology, but I learned of the great neuroscience professors and classes offered here and did some research into requirements. I felt it could answer a lot of the ‘why’ questions that I’ve always had about the brain. Even more amazing is that Ursinus could give me the opportunity to find some of those answers on my own by doing research.”
In each cell, proteins that are damaged or no longer needed are eventually degraded through a system called the ubiquitin proteasome system, or UPS for short. This helps to minimalize the damaging effects of having misfolded proteins build up within a cell. Functioning as the “garbage disposal system” of the cell, the UPS is a focal point of Cameron’s research. “Part of what we are studying is whether the UPS simply degrades misfolded proteins, including prions, or if it is involved in a more complex way.” Neuroscientists must be at once adventurous and circumspect. The nature of the field is to plod, equipped with net and waders, into the murky, mysterious and wonderful mind. And to accept, and maybe even relish, that with every roadblock brings the prospect of discovery.
Today her research is focused on the path axons take during development from the thalamus to the cortex of the forebrain as well
A neighbor to neuroscience, Biology Professor Dale Cameron is doing work that might someday help to identify the causes of neurodegenerative diseases. His work in molecular biology focuses on the role of self-propagating misfolding proteins – or prions – in yeast. Yeast cells are a powerful (not to mention cheap and easy to grow) genetic model organism wherein he and his students can observe, and often manipulate, the consequences of misshapen proteins that accumulate in cells. The long-term implications of
as the birth and death of the cells there during this time (thalamocortical development). In looking at the fetal alcohol model, she says, very few scientists are looking closely at the axons. “Most studies are descriptive, but people aren’t looking at ‘how is this happening.’ ”
his research could help illuminate why diseases like “mad cow” disease and Alzheimer’s happen and might even show that these complicated misfolding proteins possess, not just a destructive and infectious quality, but a yet undiscovered role that may be beneficial to cells.
Especially interesting is her work in studying the development in mouse embryos that have been prenatally exposed to ethanol. Favero and her students hope that their research someday will aid other scientists in creating therapies for children affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Cameron’s research students are also at work developing a new approach to measure the growth rate of yeast cells in order to detect subtle differences in those rates. “This work will examine how misshapen proteins are handled by a particular quality control system within the cell,” says Dr. Cameron. “Millions of proteins are always being made in our cells, and sometimes they twist into the wrong shape. Yeast cells, which are organized much like human cells, can help us understand protein misfolding, which is associated with diseases of aging.”
A few doors away from Dawley, Dr. Carlita Favero, Assistant Professor of Biology, is at work examining axons - picture a long “tail” that connects neurons. “The brain is a fascinating place,” says Favero. As a biology major at The College of William & Mary, Favero decided to take a neurobiology course. “It changed my whole world,” recalls Favero.
“Amphibians have very active neural stem cells as adults. I discovered that the stem cells that produce new olfactory (smell) receptor neurons are active on a seasonal basis, producing bursts of new cells every year, which is probably correlated with their use of smell to locate mates,” says Dawley, the Brownback-Wagner Chair in Health Sciences. “Now I am investigating spinal cord regeneration in amphibians that autotomize their tails when attacked by predators (yes, it’s true they can drop that part of the tail that the predator grabs, then escape). All components of their tails are then regenerated. Spinal cord regeneration in amphibians is a fairly easily accessible system to use for undergraduate students,” says Dawley, who has been working with neural stem cells for 22 years. After graduate school for a master’s degree at University of Michigan, she earned her Ph.D. at University of Connecticut. While doing post doctorate work at Cornell University she started to work more with morphology. Her love of, and interest in, the natural world was inherited from her mother, who was an amateur naturalist. “I realized that I wanted to be a biologist by the time I was in high school.” Although she maintains a deep appreciation for the adaptations of other organisms, she doesn’t assume her students will “carry the torch of amphibian regeneration.” She does, though, hope that their time spent doing research in her lab will lay important groundwork. “I want them to experience the excitement, pleasure, tedium, responsibility, and, finally, fulfillment of research,” says Dawley. “I’m very proud of those students who have gone on to graduate school and become practicing scientists. Many of my student researchers have been pre-med students who have gone on to medical school. With their research experiences, they are better able to gauge the results of the biomedical research that goes into diagnosing and treating humans.” Because of Dawley’s evolutionary focus (which is the major part of Bio 101), Ursinus pre-med students gain a particular view. “They go on to consider medicine with the lens of evolutionary theory, PAGE 16 URSINUS MAGAZINE
Summer Fellows Christopher Howard 2012 and Jennilyn Weber 2013 worked closely with Favero this summer. When deciding on
A common misconception about the brain, says Bish, is that it has two hemispheres. “While there is certainly hemispheric specialization, such as, that about 90 percent of people have their main language processing on the left side of their brain, and their visual-spatial processing on the right side, this idea has been exaggerated into widely false beliefs that one side of the brain is creative and the other is rational,” says Bish. “How much there is to be done, it’s amazing,” says Nobel Laureate Dr. Gerald Edelman. “If you look at the cortex of the brain, which is the wrinkled source you will see in the usual popular diagrams, we are talking about a structure that has thirty billion nerve cells or neurons, one million billion connections. And if you count one connection per second, you will have just finished counting them thirty-two million years later. That’s not doing anything but counting them. It doesn’t tell you about all the possible paths. And if you look at that, it’s so inspiring. It far beats astronomy in terms of the numbers involved. So, there’s a lot to be done.” FALL 2011 PAGE 17
Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman Neuroscience Researcher and Ursinus Graduate
A member of the Class of 1950, Dr. Gerald Edelman received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on antibodies, which transformed our understanding of the immune response. His subsequent work led to the discovery of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs), which have been found to guide the fundamental processes by which an animal achieves its shape and form and by which nervous systems are built. To understand higher brain functions, Edelman and his colleagues constructed a series of mobile devices with simulated brains. These brain-based devices (BBDs) were shown to be capable of learning, operant conditioning, and episodic memory. Dr. Edelman has also formulated a detailed theory to explain the development and organization of higher brain functions. This theory was presented in his volume “Neural Darwinism” (Basic Books, New York, 1987). More recently, he described a theory of consciousness in his book “Wider Than The Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness” (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2004). His latest book, “Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge” (Yale University Press), appeared in October 2006. Dr. Edelman is Founding Director of The Neurosciences Institute. Separately, he is professor at The Scripps Research Institute and chairman of the Department of Neurobiology at that institution. Since 1981, over 900 scientists from 140 institutions and 24 countries have participated in workshops, conferences and courses at the The Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California.
What will be the biggest breakthrough in the field of brain studies that we can hope to experience within the next decade?
Well, all prediction is hazardous except in nuclear physics. So I wouldn’t say there’s a single one. There are areas where I think some breakthrough will be extremely important. A practical one is that diagnostic methods are being improved in a remarkable way. And that’s very important in diseases like Alzheimer’s, where you otherwise rely upon history rather than specific facts and techniques. As a result of improvement in imaging devices, we can improve that inquiry and get a diagnosis earlier in the disease, so we can do something about it. The other promising area has to do with the problems relating to motor control. How in fact do you wiggle fingers? How does the brain’s connection with your body help you pay attention to things? Presently, in neuroscience the studies of motor control still lack a satisfactory analysis of how we actually regulate, remember, and use motor commands to tell our body what to do. The third breakthrough, I expect, is even more ‘way out,’ and that’s something we are working on. Is it possible to construct a conscious artifact when we understand enough about consciousness to embed it in a device? Now that sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? But it’s something that I’m indulging in, late in my life.
Do you think that the findings in genetics will come into play in the future?
Yes. However, a single-minded approach that has to do mainly with the statistics of gene variation will not work in all likelihood. Because it turns out that it’s not a situation in which we have one PAGE 18 URSINUS MAGAZINE
gene, one protein, one disease. Indeed, there are some specific diseases that are evoked by different combinations of genes in different people. Evolution is so rich, it really doesn’t care too much about how selection occurs. And that makes our job of understanding rich but also sometimes confusing.
What has most surprised you about your research?
First of all, how much there is to be done. It’s amazing. If you look, for example, at the cortex of the brain, which is the wrinkled structure you will see in the usual popular diagrams, we are talking about a structure that has at least thirty billion nerve cells or neurons, and one million billion connections. If you count one connection or synapse per second, you will just finish counting them thirty-two million years later. That’s not doing anything but counting them. It doesn’t tell you about all the possible combinations of connection paths. And if you look at that, it’s awe inspiring. It far beats astronomy in terms of the numbers involved. So there’s a lot to be done. That is one of the various surprises I had after moving to brain science from a relatively simple field called immunology.
What is your vision for The Neurosciences Institute and the projects that excite you the most right now?
My vision for The Neurosciences Institute has not changed; I wish to have a place in which talented young people can, in fact, be free of too many bureaucratic burdens, so that they can be imaginative. There’s a wonderful essay by Van’t Hoff, who was much maligned by other chemists in the late 19th century, because he thought of chemistry as being a matter of shape. And in fact, he finally turned out to be correct and was given the first Nobel Prize in chemistry. He produced a wonderful article called Imagination
in Science. In it, he said he wanted to talk about science as imagination in the service of the verifiable truth. He wanted to talk mostly about imagination, not verification. When he considered imagination, he wanted to find out how ‘crazy’ some imaginative scientists were. I thought that was rather a beautiful notion. Crazy is a metaphor for saying, be free to try out things and don’t just be experts. That’s the vision I have for the Institute. Of course, one pays for that vision because it’s not one which is commonly supported in present times. The projects I am most excited about have to do with two areas. One concerns building a conscious artifact. Is it possible to find out what consciousness is about in the brain, beyond the philosopher’s description? And second of all, I want to learn a little bit more about learning in the invertebrate kingdom – for example, in the octopus species. Those are invertebrates that I think may be revealing. The second interest is a little crazy because one might say why not just study people? Well in considering the evolution of species, you never know where your next idea is going to come from.
Can you define the relationship between music and the brain?
We have people who are doing that here at the Institute. What we found out is, when you give a simple sequence of notes or beats that are temporally regular, you can notice responses in the parts of the brain that involve auditory cortex – the hearing part. Those parts line up, but so do the ones that have to do with motor control. So if you give a human subject a series of equally spaced taps, and then you ask them to emphasize the first or the second in their mind, you can actually watch the motor centers of the brain light up. The fact is, that the frontiers of music and the structure of speech are handled in different parts of the brain. Some people believe that the study of responses to music in the brain is a royal road to understanding language. That is one thing we have that’s unique; no other species has a true language. Snowball is the name of a parrot we have studied here at the Institute. We once thought that the ability to synchronize responses to any rhythm was something unique to human beings. But it turns out that’s wrong. In fact, our colleagues here have discovered that for Snowball there’s no rhythmic combination of jazz that she doesn’t dance to, even syncopated jazz. That finding is really worth showing your students as a warning against human arrogance.
What advice would you give a small liberal arts college today about teaching science or preparing scientists? I would say to faculty, don’t emphasize the lectures but rather emphasize the extraordinary challenges in scientific research. Consider the kinds of thinking you have to apply to those challenges when you’re trying to create, discover, or prove something. Set the students up so that they appreciate the extraordinary challenges that are involved in critical thinking.
When I went to Ursinus, it was a preparatory school for two careers: religion and medicine. What’s happened in John Strassburger’s day, as you well know, and now with Bobby Fong taking on the presidency, is that it has been transformed into a truly deep liberal arts organization, which I think is a wonderful thing. It relates very well, I think, to what I said about language and science. If you select smart kids, it doesn’t matter that they aren’t going to, say Berkeley, where you have a B.S. degree and following that you stay to get a Ph.D. At such a university, the paths are all linked in some way, a way that you cannot achieve at a liberal arts college like Haverford or Swarthmore or Ursinus. Besides giving students the idea that you must be imaginative in science, it’s important for students to see what the constrictions are on the actual performance of research. At Berkeley, you don’t have to worry about that, because they’re all a bunch of hot shots and specialists. At Ursinus, you couldn’t possibly afford to do that. But if your students are smart enough, they can pick up the professional issues later. It’s very encouraging and exciting that Ursinus has expanded its horizons as a liberal arts college. And that’s what I found when I met Bobby Fong – he resonates enormously to this idea. It’s not an idea that’s easy to realize. Given the economics of our time – it’s a wide open challenge. It’s certainly a worthy one. Dr. Gerald Edelman 1950
Do you still play the violin?
I haven’t practiced the violin in quite a long time because I find, unlike a cheerful amateur, that once you’ve been professionally trained, you can play in tune but you won’t be playing music unless you practice for six months.
FALL 2011 PAGE 19
Teddy Conrad at home with his family in Bucks County, Pa. “I’m so proud of him,” says his mom, Terri Shelton.
One for the Team By Erika Compton Butler 1994
As he was enjoying the surf and sun of spring break vacation, Teddy Conrad 2013 got a call that would change two lives. Conrad, a business and economics major, had registered to be a bone marrow donor. The Ursinus football team held a bone marrow registry drive in 2009 through the Be the Match Registry sponsored by the National Marrow Donor Program. PAGE 20 URSINUS MAGAZINE
FALL 2011 PAGE 21
e all signed up as a team,” says Conrad, of Doylestown, Pa. “They told us the chances of getting picked were slim. I didn’t think I would ever get called.” The first hint that he was a possible match came in December 2010. “Once I got the call that I was a potential donor, I had a whole new view on it. I was pretty excited,” says Conrad, 20. The spring break phone call from the National Marrow Donor Program representative was a confirmation that he was a definite match. All he would learn about the woman who would receive his bone marrow was she was 63 years old and battling leukemia. On average, one in 540 registry members goes on to donate to a patient, according to Catherine Scott of the National Marrow Donor Program, which is based in Minneapolis. To be on the registry, potential donors must meet age and health guidelines. Thousands of people with life-threatening diseases like leukemia, lymphoma or sickle cell anemia need a marrow transplant, but don’t have a match in their family, says Scott. Regardless of whether a person is ever called to be a donor, she says, just being on the registry helps. “Every person who joins the Be the Match Registry gives patients hope, and new patient searches begin every day. You may never be identified as a match for someone, or you might be one of a number of potential matches,” she says. “But you may also be the only one on the registry who can save a particular patient’s life.” While still on vacation in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Conrad underwent a physical examination and spoke at length to a representative from NMDP, who filled him on what would happen in the next few weeks. When he returned to Philadelphia, he had more blood tests at Hahnemann University Hospital and yet another physical. Each of the five days leading up to the donation, Conrad received shots that sped up the white blood cell count to produce more stem cells. One of those shots was given at Hahnemann, but the other days a nurse came to Ursinus to administer the injection. On the day of his donation, Conrad and his mom, Terri Shelton, arrived at the hospital in the early morning. He was given yet another shot, then spent the next almost six hours giving the gift of life. “I had a needle in one arm at my elbow, my arm was immobile,” says Conrad, who has a mass of blonde curls and bright blue eyes. “There were tubes running into a crazy-looking machine. The blood goes in, separates, and takes out what it needs and the tube runs it back into the other arm.” And that was it. No invasive surgeries that could lead to complications or put him out of commission for a while. With the stem cell process, Conrad was back on his feet the same day, albeit extremely tired. He was tired for the next few weeks and restricted from participating in Ursinus’ spring football camp. But that was PAGE 22 URSINUS MAGAZINE
fine with him. “I’m laid back,” says Conrad. “I go with the flow. If I have the opportunity to help someone I’m going to do it.” Her son has always been attuned to the feelings of others, says Terri Shelton. "I am so proud of him. It's just been an amazing experience for him," she says. "It doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s just a special kid. He's always been very giving. It's kind of like he was born that way. I have three kids and he's the one who, as a toddler, who would share his candy." A running back and fullback on the Ursinus football team, Conrad is also on the wrestling team with an 8-2 mark. The people who know him best are not surprised that Conrad made this decision. “Teddy is a selfless person who always puts the team in front of himself, so it is no surprise that he has sacrificed his time to save a life,” says Ursinus football coach Peter Gallagher. “He is one of the best and brightest student athletes I have ever been around. He is a role model for his teammates and the entire Ursinus community.” Conrad is anticipating the first anniversary of his donation when he can contact the woman who received his bone marrow. The only thing he knows is that her procedure went perfectly and that she was back at home. “I just want to talk to her and get to know her,” says Conrad, who spent his summer working for a construction company. “It’s not every day you get to save a life. “Just to be able to say I’ve done that is awesome.”
“Teddy is a selfless person who always puts the team in front of himself, so it is no surprise that he has sacrificed his time to save a life,” says Ursinus football coach Peter Gallagher. “He is one of the best and brightest student athletes I have ever been around. He is a role model for his teammates and the entire Ursinus community.”
Conrad hopes others will be inspired to become donors. “Do it,” he says. “I feel a lot better about myself. It’s a really simple procedure. Not many people get to say they saved a life from something that simple. It’s definitely a life-changing experience for you and the donor.”
More information is available at
www.bethematch.org Erika Compton Butler graduated from Ursinus in 1994 with a degree in economics and business administration. She last wrote for Ursinus Magazine in 2010 about veterinarian Rob Teti 1995. Erika is a news editor for The Aegis in Harford County, Md., where she lives with her husband, Chris, son, Henry and daughter, Emily.
Right: Ursinus Football Coach Peter Gallagher. FALL 2011 PAGE 23
What One Teacher
Has Learned By Wendy Greenberg
In the summer of 1985, Jyh-Hann “John” Chang couldn’t wait to begin his freshman year at Ursinus. The hit summer movie was Back to the Future, and young Chang contemplated his own future. One decision the star high school wrestler made was to forgo wrestling to focus only on pre-medical studies, so great was his desire to practice medicine. His freshman year was everything he hoped it would be. The next summer, a week before his sophomore year began, the athletic Chang tried surfing in Ocean City, Md. A powerful wave crashed over him and the fall broke his neck. His world crashed in, too.
PAGE 24 URSINUS MAGAZINE
rying to get back to the life he knew was not possible, he would learn. But Chang, who did eventually return to Ursinus and graduate, has, in some ways, surpassed that life. Professor Chang, fully confined to a wheelchair and assisted by two student aides, returned to visit Ursinus this spring. He noticed right away how easy it is to move around campus in his wheelchair. As a student, his classes had to be on the first floors of buildings because most of them had no elevators. There were no automated doors. To enable him to attend the 1990 Baccalaureate service, a small lift was attached on the back of Bomberger Hall. While he never did attend medical school, he earned a Ph.D. in psychology and today is on the faculty at East Stroudsburg University. What Chang has surmounted during the years since his accident have taught him that isolation from interpersonal relations can be more limiting than a physical disability itself. Like the butterflies he collects, he has evolved into a different and stronger version of himself. After the accident Chang spent five months in the University of Maryland Trauma Center and Jefferson Hospital, and five months at his parents’ home in Walnutport, Pa. He had expected to return to Ursinus, but the administration refused, saying the campus was not prepared to handle a tetraplegic student who needed extensive assistance. He cringes recalling the reaction of his parents who were devastated and scared. “It was one of the first times I had seen my father cry,” says Chang. After repeated requests and some intervention by faculty and staff, especially the college Chaplain, the administration relented. “They said that if I couldn’t handle it, I would [have to] move on,” says Chang. Former College Chaplain Scott Landis, now pastor of Mission Hills United Church of Christ in San Diego, Calif., helped him to handle the transition. “As college chaplain I saw this as a justice and pastoral care issue and insisted we give it a try,” Landis recalls. “When John returned, I have to
FALL 2011 PAGE 25
admit, I thought I had bit off way more than I could chew. He came with boxes of equipment, wheelchairs, and medicines and needs I had never heard of before. I was uncertain, but thought that this student deserves a chance to achieve his goal. When I opened myself to what was possible, John began to teach me. I entered a whole new world of the ‘differently-abled’ and began to see life from that perspective.”
versity of Florida and Wright State University before landing his present position on the faculty of East Stroudsburg University.
them. He told his college’s student newspaper: “I am just a sexy, Asian quadriplegic that has a Ph.D.”
He had always imparted wisdom to those around him, and soon found college teaching a natural fit. At ESU, students have nominated him seven times as the “most inspirational teacher.” He sits before a class and commands attention. “First I tell them to get the hell out if they are not registered,” he says. “Then I bring it back and humanize myself. Like a psychologist, I am meeting their needs, and I make them more comfortable by talking about my accident and answering questions.”
He has procured three Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation grants under which he developed a video protocol for a more interactive classroom experience, and allowed East Stroudsburg to purchase equipment to connect classrooms to the homes of the severely disabled. He considers distance learning isolating, and favors making education interactive. One of the grants set up a pilot project using a television connection so that students can participate in a class in real time. Chang, a clinical psychologist, has an independent practice and is board-certified in rehabilitation psychology and sports psychol-
“It took two days to type a paper,” says Chang, who lost use of limbs and torso, defining that he is a quadriplegic or today’s term, tetraplegic. His friends and, by then, the administration too, encouraged him. He was elected student body president in his junior and in his senior year. “The Ursinus community was so supportive,” he says. “Originally, yes, they were scared. Then they started rearranging my classes so they were all on first floors, and gave me help and assistance. That is why I have achieved so much. It feels like a true family here.”
Chang is the first person to have won a National Science Foundation grant at his institution. Under the grant, with New Mexico State University, Project Enable introduces participants with mobility impairments to computer programming using a more visual language called Alice. “People with spinal cord injuries have a low incidence of employment in the work force,” he explains. “Even with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) it is hard to get hired. Our unemployment rate is 60 to 80 percent. It is difficult to have regular work hours because of personal care. Transportation is difficult. Project Enable gets people interested in computer sciences, because it is easy for them to adapt to it.
Rev. Landis organized a team of student volunteers who helped with waking and nighttime regimens of personal care. “What happened was amazing,” says Landis. “John’s humor and determination helped us all become comfortable with his severe physical limitations. He opened our eyes to the fact that he was still John but he was John with a new sensitivity and insight into a world we had yet to discover.”
Bonnie Green, an associate professor in the ESU Psychology Department, shares a hall with Chang. “John is an incredible teacher, scholar and professional collaborator simply because he has the perfect combination of caring about the human person and a tremendous intellect,” she says. “He is well studied in the areas he teaches and researches. But his passion for the human person helps him look past typical biases that others may see.”
Yet, there were difficult days, admits Rev. Landis. “Snow and hills make mobility in a wheelchair nearly impossible. Infections and colds are much worse for a quadriplegic. And the personal frustration of not being able to do what he once could became overwhelming to John at times. John finally admitted that he had to let go of some of his dreams.”
She describes many of the students as “diamonds in the rough.” Yet, she says, “John can look past all of the surface markings and see the underlying shine. He takes such students and actively mentors them, whether they are ESU wrestlers preparing for a conference or national championship, or they are students who aren’t even thinking Ph.D., but the next thing you know they are heading off to grad school, accepted into a doctoral program.”
Chang moved into a first floor room in Wilkinson Hall, which had a door on the flat, Main Street side at the time. The room is now a common kitchen and the door no longer exists. But Chang, who could now enter the building via a wheelchair ramp, was happy to reflect out the window again.
Today he is sure that Ursinus helped his recovery. “I had enough worries; it was nice to know the environment was accepting. A larger institution might have had accessible dorms, but all the rest might not have been as possible.” It was a triumphant day when Chang, as student body president, spoke from the podium at his 1990 graduation. But despite having scored well on medical school exams, he had not yet been accepted to a medical school. “Medical school was a fiasco,” he says. Thirteen schools turned him down, telling him that he did not meet a physical requirement clause to perform emergency care. He redefined his goals, and obtained his master’s degree in counseling at Arcadia University. Then, he earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Connecticut. He completed an internship and post-doctoral work at the Veteran’s Hospital in Gainesville, Fla., and taught at the UniPAGE 26 URSINUS MAGAZINE
ogy. His postdoctoral fellowship was in gerontology. He has consulted with professional and Division I athletes, and worked with the para-Olympic team. Time has been helpful to his supportive family. “I think they seem, on one hand, grateful I have achieved a ‘normal’ life. But it is also still disheartening for them. I don’t want to paint the perfect picture. There is evolution of process. Parents have aspirations and expectations and one never gets over the whole thing.” His own aspirations of medical school long left behind, his goal now is simply, to live as full a life as possible. “It’s ok,” he assures. “I am in a better place. I get to teach great kids and work with my patients. We are always evolving. We find a way to adapt as we go along.”
“I am in a better place. I get to teach great kids and work with my patients. We are always evolving. We find a way to adapt as we go along,” says Professor John Chang.
In a way, Chang was prepared to be different. He moved from Taiwan when he was seven, one of two Asians in a small, western Pennsylvania town (the other was his sister). Other kids derided this son of restaurant owners, but he gained a second identity as an athlete. As captain of the wrestling team he led the team to the state championship meet and won the state title as a power lifter. He was ranked at the top of his high school class. When he gives presentations, it seems some of the athletic confidence is back. “We’ve co-presented at conferences and for invited talks,” says Dr. Green. “John can hold an audience in his hands. He has to be one of the best public speakers I have ever seen.” “I feel good,” he says, “because the surveys say that ‘Dr. Chang makes the class interesting.’” And, his wry humor can disarm FALL 2011 PAGE 27
More Money? By Ellen Cosgrove Labrecque 1995
When it comes to NFL quarterbacks, Professor Jennifer VanGilder says it pays to be handsome. Her research measures the correlation between facial features and high salaries. NFL Films and the Wall Street Journal have covered her work.
everal years ago, Dr. Jennifer VanGilder was chatting about football with a friend and colleague at Cal State Bakersfield, David Berri. A Pittsburgh Steelers fan, VanGilder commented on how unusually handsome NFL quarterbacks seemed to be. Berri, now an Associate Professor of Economics at Southern Utah University, upped the ante. He speculated that the best-looking quarterbacks were also the highest paid. A research study was born. The questions: Are quarterbacks better looking than most people? Do the better-looking signal callers get paid more? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. “We discovered quarterbacks are much better looking than the average person and there is a premium to being more attractive,” explains VanGilder, an assistant professor of economics at Ursinus. “The premium on good looks? An eight percent increase in salary.” VanGilder and Berri realized something else through their research. Shakespeare wasn’t right after all: Beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder. Attractiveness can indeed be measured: The more symmetrical a person’s face, the more empirically attractive they are to other humans. “We investigated how to measure attractiveness,” VanGilder says. “We even studied plastic surgery literature to see what surgeons do for facelifts and reconstruction. They try to make faces as symmetrical as possible. Research supports that people are drawn to symmetrical objects.”
Using a web program called Symmeter, VanGilder and Berri scanned 138 headshots of NFL quarterbacks who played from 1995 to 2009. (They added QBs from the remaining years since then). The program splits the photo in half, and then presents a quantifiable number of attractiveness from zero to 100 – with the higher number being the best. The average person measures in the high 80s to low 90s. In VanGilder’s and Berri’s study, almost all the NFL quarterbacks measured in the high 90’s. (Brett Favre ranked the best of the best). “For comparison, we also ran the measurements on NFL running backs as well as NBA MVPs,” VanGilder says. “Most of the top athletes are more attractive than the average person. But the quarterbacks are freakishly attractive. They ranked the highest at 98 percent.” This wasn’t surprising to VanGilder or Berri. According to Berri, most pro quarterbacks start playing their position when they are 10 years old. And, they weren’t picked to play QB at that age because they were the most talented; it was in part because they were a good-looking kid. “In other athletic endeavors, you actually have to have the talent first before you play the game,” says Berri. “But at age 10, no player is developed enough to whip passes down the field. They were chosen because they were good looking, and good-looking people are looked at as leaders which is an essential skill for a quarterback. From this group, coaches eventually discover who
NFL Quarterback Salaries 1. Peyton Manning 23.0 2. Michael Vick 15.9 3. Mark Sanchez 13.5 4. Matt Cassell 12.2 PAGE 28 URSINUS MAGAZINE
5. Ben Roethlisberger 11.6 6. Matt Ryan 11.25 7. Drew Brees 9.8 8. Tony Romo 9.0
9. Matt Stafford 9.0 10. Eli Manning 8.5 11. David Garrard 7.9 12. Jay Cutler 7.6
Jennifer VanGilder, Assistant Professor of Business and Economics, stands with Greg Martell, who is a captain on the Bears football team and plays linebacker on defense.
has the talent to continue playing. But, the whole crop was attractive to start.”
dise, and attract more women to the game. There is a reason quarterbacks are called the face of the franchise.”
Once their attractive theory was proven, the two economists looked next at the correlation between looks and salary. They factored in career statistics, experience, Pro Bowl appearances and draft positions which are all things that determine how much a player earns. They were floored by the results. Better-looking quarterbacks made as much as $300,000 more per year.
The more attractive the face, she says, the better. Michael Cunningham, an expert on the impact of attractiveness and a psychologist in the communications department at the University of Louisville, couldn’t agree more.
“When we evaluate other people, a lot of the ways we evaluate them has nothing to do with performance,” says VanGilder. “We don’t think we are that way, but this is how we act. We are taught to look for and respect beautiful things.” The idea that better-looking people get paid more money isn’t a new one. In an economic study on this subject in April 2009, researchers from the federal reserve bank of St. Louis found a person with below-average looks earn nine percent less than those with average looks. It is called the “plainness penalty.” And for people with an above-average appearance, there is a “beauty premium” of five percent. One might think this wouldn’t translate over into the sports arena, where winning is the gold standard, but it does. “We are not saying a coach is going to try to get the most attractive player on the field,” says VanGilder. “But there is always the revenue aspect in the back of everybody’s mind. If they have two equally productive QBs, they may pick the more attractive one thinking he could fill the stands, increase the sales of merchan-
“People always tend to prefer better looking people in all walks of life,” he explains. “This has a lot to do with the halo effect. People assume because a person’s good looking, he’ll also have more talent and more skills than another person who isn’t as good looking. In the case of the quarterbacks, teams assume he’ll be a better leader, better in interviews and on sports shows. He’ll even have a more winning smile.” VanGilder and Berri plan to continue exploring the connection with looks and an athlete’s salary. Next up is to study the NFL offensive linemen. (Their hypothesis is that they will rank lower than QBs because, though they’re the backbone of the team, they toil in obscurity). At some point, VanGilder and Berri also plan to study whether tennis players get better placement and better courts at tournaments because they are good looking. But, whatever they choose to study next, they have certainly made clear that looks matter, in life and on the athletic fields. “This type of research is so much fun and also a bit sad,” says VanGilder. Our society judges and picks books by their cover, much more than we perhaps ever knew.” FALL 2011 PAGE 29
Pakistan in Perspective
Unfortunately, what started as a political disagreement among independence movement elites on the nature of postindependence democracy soon gave rise to fear and mistrust. Rhetorical arguments made by the legally trained Jinnah and Nehru which were meant to strengthen their bargaining positions before a negotiated compromise were amplified by what can only be described as weak journalism. As fear gave rise to physical violence, it became clear that each side had opened a Pandora’s Box of old rivalries and resentments and that a twostate solution was inevitable.
Pakistan Searches for its Identity in a Time of Crisis By Ambassador-in-Residence Hon. Joseph H. Melrose 1966 Professor of International Relations
Originally printed in the Journal of International Peace Operations, Volume 5 Number 2, copyright ISOA 2009
eptember 11th is a day that will forever live in infamy for Ameri cans. For the past decade it has been the prism through which we in the West have viewed the unrest and precarious security situation in Pakistan. On that day in 2001, we were reminded of the deadly consequences that untamed rhetoric, disillusionment and economic poverty can reap. However, in Pakistan, September 11th has a different significance, no less influential and no less meaningful. It is the day in 1948 that Mohammed Ali Jinnah lost his private battle with tuberculosis; many of the issues left unresolved by his passing continue to influence the politics of the region. Jinnah’s death, one short year after the wrenching events of partition, left the nascent country he was instrumental in founding without its primary transformational figure. In many ways it is that earlier 9/11, in the wake of partition and its impact on the formation of Pakistani national identity, that has had an equally significant - though far less realized by Americans - influence on events in Pakistan today. The current problems in Pakistan are not new, despite what many on all sides of the political and cultural divide would like us to think; they are not primarily related to American foreign policy, the Cold War or Osama Bin Laden. To try and understand the web of motivations and challenges facing Pakistan today, we must look closely at the events surrounding the movement for Indian independence and the fallout from partition. Most of the issues that threaten to tear Pakistan apart are rooted in a failure to address the consequences of 1947. Quaid-e-Azam (the honorary name given Jinnah) is still a revered figure 60 years after his death. As Stephen Phillip Cohen says in “The Idea of Pakistan”, he was both the Thomas Paine and the PAGE 30 URSINUS MAGAZINE
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joseph McLeon/U.S.A.F.
George Washington of Pakistani independence and is perhaps the only person beloved by all the ethnicities, sects, classes and divisions of Pakistani society. Yet, he was an unlikely candidate for that role. A Karachi-born son of Gujarati Muslim immigrants, themselves descended from an elite Hindu warrior-king caste, he was educated in London and spent most of his formative years in Bombay. Urbane, sophisticated and brilliant, he became one of the most prominent lawyers in turn-of-the-century India. His rhetorical skill, intellectual heft, pragmatism and political sensibility led him to become a leading figure in and stirring advocate for the burgeoning Indian home rule movement. As an activist for the rights of the minority Muslim population, his logical arguments for home rule appealed across sectarian lines and he became an important and respected member of the Indian National Congress. Although Jinnah left the Congress Party in 1920 over a political disagreement regarding the First World War, his influence on the broader independence movement increased as he devoted himself fulltime to the Muslim League. His broad argument in favor of increased provincial autonomy, combined with formalized protection of minority rights, is one that should be looked at anew. It is important to note that, at the beginning, the idea of Pakistan was not envisioned as a separate, independent country, but as a regional grouping inside a federal system with provincial autonomy. This idea had originally gained traction among many Muslim leaders throughout India because it provided a means to ensure a level of political protection from the domination of the Hindu majority without the threat of domination by a provincial majority, which in the case of Sindh in particular, meant Punjabi.
The areas that make up Pakistan today were never unified, and therefore, the idea of Pakistan did not begin with the call for an independent state. Each area (putting aside the issue of Bangladesh), has its own unique culture, language and political traditions. While there are similarities, particularly between Sindh and Baluchistan as well as Punjab and NWFP, they had different economies, levels of sectarian integration, and views on traditional roles and experiences with the colonial government. In general, the economies and culture of the region were not connected north-south but rather east-west; Karachi had more in common with Bombay than with Lahore. Jinnah was one of the few people able to transcend these divisions. The most traumatic event of partition was the massive migration of people across both sides of the new border. An estimated 14.5 million, evenly split between Hindu and Muslim, left their homes in fear. Untold millions were killed during a maelstrom of violence unleashed by the chaos of dividing an integrated administrative structure. Everything was left rudderless in anticipation of partition; reprisals begat reprisals, and with colonial administration busy dividing flashlights in a precise 80-20 split, it became clear that there were no individual consequences for violence. Moreover, when these new immigrants settled, local provinces were taxed with trying to handle their integration. In Karachi the population tripled in the span of five years. The whole economy was uprooted - by mid-1947, £250 million had been taken out of Punjabi banks and deposited in India. Even the irrigation system straddled the border. In Sindh, the tension was pronounced because, unlike Punjab and NWFP, the new immigrants were of different ethnicities. Expectations were high, but fear of the newcomer was overwhelming, the economy was in turmoil and resentments thrived. As is often the case, middle and upper class political games had been played with the lives of the lower classes. Against this backdrop, Jinnah became the first Governor-General of an independent Pakistan. Unfortunately, as his health began to fail, he increasingly spent his time at his official retreat preoccupied with the remaining political questions of territory. Following his death the issue of Kashmir, which had not been resolved, overtook practical issues relating to the integration of the new immigrants, muhajirs. It was easier for his successors to use resentments to gain popularity than to deal with the hard issues raised by economic and social upheaval. The new state of Pakistan was left not only without a leader but without a unifying national identity or a vision beyond Islam and separation from India. As
time passed, resentments metastasized and differences, instead of commonalities, were highlighted. The problems facing Pakistan today are real and they are basic. Whether they involve the preservation of local autonomy and culture or the lack of economic opportunity, they are, in many ways, left over from the upheaval of partition. When local issues relating to culture or economics flare up, such as the seemingly cyclical Karachi riots, the answer has been to “double down,” increasing or decreasing central authority depending on the location. This has tended to only temporarily relieve the problem and little has been done to breach the huge gap between the economic classes. That is not to say nothing has been done, merely that short term needs often take precedence.
The current problems in Pakistan are not new, despite what many on all sides of the political and cultural divide would like us to think; they are not primarily related to American foreign policy, the Cold War or Osama Bin Laden. In general, the political leadership, whether military or civilian, has not been willing or able to develop, let alone act on, a long term vision of the disparate parts of Pakistan working together. The foreign elements currently causing disruptions in Baluchistan and NWFP are able to gain support by playing upon the same resentments that the political class has always fanned, compounding the problem. Unfortunately, there is no quickly implemented answer; any solution requires steps that neither the Pakistani political leadership nor the West will find advantageous in the short term. Pakistan must find a national identity beyond opposition to India that is neither ethnically or religiously defined. In short, the only people who can “fix” Pakistan are the Pakistanis themselves. Someone or some group must continue the work of Jinnah and provide a unifying national vision. In that regard, there is some cause for hope. The tragedy of the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto unified, if only temporarily, the country in grief. The Lawyers’ Movement, whose protests restored democracy, was able to transcend ethnic boundaries in support of the rule of law. Perhaps this time it will be the lawyers that unify, and not divide. FALL 2011 PAGE 31
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“There’s nothing in my experience so remarkable and satisfying as being a mentor. I’ve looked in a young person’s eyes, or face, when they make their first discovery. It’s an extraordinary response that you can’t describe in words. You have to have the experience. It’s a worthy goal to create an environment that makes that possible.” - Nobel Laureate Dr. Gerald Edelman 1950
See full interview on page 18.