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After the flood University researchers present their findings from the historic October 2015 S.C. flooding

Also in this issue • Buying a bride • Recognizing homelessness • Rewiring the Caribbean

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pg. 18 OFFICE OF RESEARCH UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA President Harris Pastides Vice President for Research Prakash Nagarkatti Research Communications Manager Elizabeth Renedo Director of University Communications and Marketing/ Chief Communications Officer Wes Hickman

pg. 14

Office of Communications and Marketing Creative Director Bob Wertz Editor Chris Horn Magazine Designer Brandi Lariscy Avant Contributing Writers Craig Brandhorst, Chris Horn, Page Ivey, Liz McCarthy, Steven Powell Photographer Kim Truett Cover Artist Maria Fabrizio, ’08 B.F.A. Website To comment on an item in Breakthrough or to suggest an idea for a future issue, contact the University of South Carolina’s Office of Research at 803-777-5458 or email 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, sexual orientation, genetics or veteran status. 16155 UCS 10/16

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The University of South Carolina is committed to sustainability in all facets of operation, including the production of publications such as this one, which is printed on paper certified by SmartWood to the FSC standards.

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In brief


After the flood University researchers present their

findings from the historic October 2015 S.C. flooding

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Q&A with Julius Fridriksson Arnold School of

16 /

Buying a bride A closer look at the matrimonial practice that helped build the United States

18 /

A healthy new start An international health expert launches Carolina Survivors Clinic and a ‘garden of healing’

Public Health

20 /

The art of science Art professor Dawn Hunter opens a window on the work of 19th century Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

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Recognizing homelessness A data-driven glimpse

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Rewiring the Caribbean A geography professor’s

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In the pipeline The Center for Predictive Mainte-

at psychology professor Bret Kloos’ research on homelessness in Richland County

search for solutions to the Caribbean’s high electricity costs

nance in the College of Engineering and Computing launches a new chapter

Video at

Cover illustration by Maria Fabrizio

Prakash Nagarkatti, Ph.D. Vice President for Research University of South Carolina

Last October, South Carolina experienced one of the worst natural disasters in the state’s long history as floodwaters engulfed urban, suburban and rural communities from the Midlands to the Lowcountry. As the research leader for the Palmetto State’s flagship university, I felt a duty to empower USC’s outstanding faculty to gather the perishable data that would provide them the insight necessary to understand and devise strategies to improve flood impacts. As waters receded, my colleagues and I designed and initiated a flood research effort that, in two weeks’ time, put USC research dollars into the hands of the faculty members best equipped to gather a wide variety of valuable time-sensitive data on subjects such as flood experiences, infrastructure, communications and river systems, among others. In this issue of Breakthrough, we are proud to highlight USC faculty research on the thousand-year flood of October 2015. Here, we provide a broad cross-section of six flood research projects from engineering, technology, biology, human health, economics and the humanities. But this is just a small sampling. More than 80 USC faculty members undertook 34 flood research projects — far too many to fit within these pages. I encourage all readers with an interest in flood recovery and research to visit to read detailed summaries of all of the S.C. Flood Research Initiative projects. Just expand the “Internal Funding and Awards” button, and look under “Opportunities for Faculty,” where you’ll find complete information on the 2015 S.C. Flood Research Initiative projects.

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Engineering undergraduates Celin Alvarado and Adam Jordan conduct research on mixing in a stirred-tank reactor in the Unit Operations Laboratory.

Fall 2016 / 3

In brief

THE FAST CASUAL CONUNDRUM Dieters looking to cut calories may believe it’s best to pick a fast casual restaurant over a fast food chain, but research from the Arnold School of Public Health shows that might not be the best choice. Entrees at fast casual restaurants — a category that includes restaurants such as Chipotle and Panera Bread — have a higher average calorie count than fast food establishments, such as a McDonald’s or Bojangles’. In research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics this spring, researchers Danielle Schoffman, Brie TurnerMcGrievy and others showed that an average meal at a fast casual restaurant is 200 calories higher than a typical fast food meal. The fast casual restaurants also have more high-calorie options on their menus than the fast food restaurants. The researchers analyzed the menus at 34 fast food and 28 fast casual restaurants, finding that fast casual entrees had an average of 760 calories per entree compared with 561 for fast food entrees. Also, a greater proportion of fast casual restaurant entrees exceeded the median of 640 calories per entree. Because there are so many ways to customize meals at both restaurants, the researchers counted the calories of what is considered a standard order. For example, with salads they used ranch dressing because it is the most popular. “We were surprised that there were higher calories at fast casual restaurants, but one of the main takeaways from the paper is that there are a lot of high-calorie options at both kinds of restaurants,” said Schoffman, the lead researcher. The researchers hope further studies will look at topics including nutritional values and other health benefits of certain foods. It’s possible, for example, that fast casual restaurants might have higher diet quality, less sodium or more fiber. “A burger on a white bun may have fewer calories, but when you’re talking about cancer prevention or other chronic diseases, you have to look beyond calories,” Turner-McGrievy said. “We don’t want the message to be, ‘Go eat hamburgers and don’t eat guacamole and beans and brown rice.’”

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BLOOD OF THE VINE IS WINE GOD’S GIFT TO MANKIND OR A DANGEROUS TEMPTATION LEADING HUMANITY INTO SIN? In medieval Europe, both beliefs existed side by side. And it’s that apparent contradiction that helps explain how Christine Ames, whose primary research area is Inquisition history, came to explore the history of wine. For Ames, both topics are vehicles for exploring the question that drives all of her scholarly work — how Christianity changes over time. Her shift to wine, she says, came from realizing that “wine is an agent of change.” It changes the value of the land on which it’s produced, “it changes people’s behavior, it changes people’s status,” says Ames, an

NO RESERVATIONS STUDENT BUILDS A FOUR-STAR HOTEL FOR GARDEN GUESTS Andrew O’Flaherty has built his version of a luxury hotel at the Sustainable Carolina garden outside the Green Quad residence hall, and he’s hoping skinks, lizards, ladybugs and bumblebees will think of it as a home away from home. Those are the organisms that will help keep the garden free from unwanted pests, such as roaches, mice, mosquitoes and aphids. It’s an eco-friendly way to make the garden pest-free.

associate professor in the Department of History. All of these themes will be explored in her forthcoming book, “Blood of the Vine: A Religious History of Wine in Medieval Europe.” In the Middle Ages, people would donate land to vineyards owned by bishops and monasteries in order to improve their earthly status or the status of their souls. “What we see is that people are really explicit: ‘I am giving you this to save my soul, or to save my mother’s soul, or because I want to join your monastery,’” Ames says. People made all sorts of deals with the church, Ames says, “but what is different about wine is that wine is always about the future. You see this in the language of the donations. ‘The vineyard now is desiccated, but we will make it florid again.’ ‘Here’s the vineyard; it will turn into this sort

“The goal is attract pollinators and other beneficial insects

of wine.’ With wine, you have these particular resonances.”

while repelling pests,” says O’Flaherty, a senior environmental

Ames is especially interested in how an idea can embody contradictions,

science major and assistant manager of the Sustainable Carolina garden. “The plants are not getting eaten as much, and we can do less artificial pest-management. The goal is to make the garden as self-sustaining as possible.” O’Flaherty used old pallets to create a first floor of tiles and other items that would provide cool shade for skinks and lizards that will reduce the number of mice, cockroaches and mosquitoes. The second floor has things that spiders like — a pair of old shoes — and ladybug havens of decaying plant material. For the bees, there’s bamboo. “The lizards really help with mosquitoes, which are a big nuisance for the gardeners,” he says. For O’Flaherty, the experiment in creating natural, selfsustaining pest control is all part of using nature to help nur-

and how it can evolve over time. Take, for example, the conception of wine as both a gift from God and as a dangerous temptation. “This is something that theologians and churchmen talked about all the time,” Ames says. The church itself was a major wine producer, but at the same time “you have these churchmen saying that wine changes your spiritual status in a bad way because it makes you drunk.” Ames’ shift to researching wine has taken her into entirely new scholarly areas. “So often in history we are compartmentalized,” Ames says. “What I love about this is that it’s everything — science, environment, theology, society, business, capitalism, economy.” It’s also a more positive subject than her usual Inquisition stomping grounds.

ture things that humans want. “The concept of permaculture

“Inquisition is fascinating, but in some ways it is fascinating for all the

is to find ways to minimize my impact on the environment,”

wrong reasons,” she says. “Wine is just a different eye on human behav-

O’Flaherty says. “And it incorporates more life into the area.”

ior and human experience that is more cheerful.”

Fall 2016 / 5

In brief

THE ION CHANNEL Aaron Provence’s doctoral research is focused on a very specific disorder — overactive bladder — but he hopes the scientific insight he’s gaining in the College of Pharmacy will have a broad medical impact. “Statistics say that it affects about 17 percent of the Western population,” says Provence. “And they say it’s underreported as well.” That works out to well over 50 million people in the U.S. dealing with overactive bladder, which becomes more prevalent with age and sometimes forces the elderly to move into nursing homes. Provence is studying retigabine, a medication approved in the U.S. as an anticonvulsive that has the side effect of causing retention of urine. Working in pharmacy professor Georgi Petkov’s lab, Provence has been researching the drug’s effects on a fundamental cog in the bio-machinery of a bladder: the ion channel. An ion channel is a collection of proteins that form a tiny tube that floats in a cell’s membrane, the barrier between the cell’s contents and the rest of the world. One end of the tube is inside the cell and the other faces outward. Petkov and Provence have shown that a particular subtype of ion channel, Kv7, is an important part of bladder function and activity. The drug retigabine makes the Kv7


ion channel more susceptible to opening, and Provence is determining how many and in what pattern the cells in bladder tissue produce the Kv7 ion channels that go into their membranes. “We want to know how the expression pattern is different from other tissue systems,” Provence says. “That way we can gear the drug discovery efforts to make a more specific therapeutic drug, so that you can target the bladder with minimum collateral effects elsewhere.” Provence received a SPARC grant from the Office of the Vice President for Research, which led to a threeyear NIH fellowship. He’s planning to continue studying ion channels after completing his doctoral studies at Carolina. “The science can be applied to other conditions, like

6 / Breakthrough

1. channel domains (typically four per channel), 2. outer vestibule, 3. selectivity filter, 4. diameter of selectivity

seizures, hypertension, cerebral vasospasm. It’s a good

filter, 5. phosphorylation site, 6. cell membrane

foundation for where I want to go.”

Source: Wikipedia

MOVING BEYOND CANCER There’s nothing easy about surviving cancer, but when

“They enjoy talking to somebody who has been

a patient is handed a cancer-free diagnosis, the next

through an experience like theirs, and can start helping

question is often, “What can I do now?”

them to become active,” Pinto says. “Having survivors as

The prescription these days is to get moving,

coaches helps, because they can relate to the patients

says Bernardine Pinto, a professor in USC’s College of

in a different way because they themselves have been

Nursing. “Exercise has been shown to improve people’s


physical functioning, their mood, their sense of vigor,

Later, Pinto and her research team plan to move

and it helps them recover from some of the effects of

beyond that 12-week success period, with a six-month

the treatment,” she says. “Research has also suggested

follow-up aimed at helping survivors maintain their

that exercise may help improve survival of cancer

exercise routine.

survivors.” Exercise is well and good, but many people have

“The research shows how exercise can help cancer survivors with quality of life,” she says, “and in this

trouble getting even a modest dose. And that’s partic-

partnership with the American Cancer Society, we hope

ularly true of cancer survivors, who typically emerge as

to show how community-based organizations will be

survivors after physically grueling treatment.

able to implement the program.”

Pinto’s upcoming study, dubbed Moving Forward Together III, will pair new breast cancer survivors with fellow survivors, who will act as coaches and mentors. Through weekly telephone calls, the mentor and mentee will develop a 12-week exercise program. Pinto led a pilot study in Rhode Island before coming to Carolina in 2014, and the early results showed how effective having a telephone mentor was in getting cancer survivors on an exercise regimen.

Fall 7 Fall 2016 2016 / /7

Front & Center

AFTER THE FLOOD South Carolina’s thousand-year rainfall event and catastrophic flooding in October 2015 caused several deaths, scores of dam breaches, extensive property damage, drinking water contamination and agricultural loss. Immediately after the catastrophe, the Office of the Vice President for Research created internal funding opportunities to support relevant faculty research. Thirty-four projects, led by more than 80 faculty researchers, were funded, and reports from each project were presented in November at the S.C. Floods Conference. Here are six stories from a cross-section of the projects.

TWEETS AND POSTS Measuring social media’s effectiveness during and after the flood In their personal experiences in Columbia during last October’s flooding, the Arnold School of Public Health’s Heather Brandt and Brie Turner-McGrievy were struck by how well many individuals worked together in responding to the disaster. “When you woke up on Sunday morning during the flooding here, people were in the boats that they had unhooked from their own trailers, and were off rescuing people. These were citizens doing that,” Brandt says. “Within 24 hours, huge teams of self-organized neighbors had gone into flooded homes and said, ‘We have to get this drywall out of your house because mold sets in within a very short period of time.’” Five days of incessant downpours had struck the Palmetto State hard, and South Carolinians responded with months of highly orchestrated rescue, repair and recovery operations, with an almost preternatural collective sense for finding those who needed help most. That level of self-organization, Brandt and Turner-McGrievy hypothesized, probably had some roots in social media, a tool employed by emergency responders, government agencies, nonprofit groups, media and everyday citizens during the storm and its aftermath. But when they organized a team to document and analyze the social media response to the flooding, they found that, like the flood itself, its volume was overwhelming. “The sheer number of tweets and Facebook posts would break a computer,” Brandt says. So they scaled back their approach, but even when they focused solely on the Twitter platform, restricted the scope to Midlands tweets, considered tweets only from a limited number of hashtags and included just one in every 10 in the analysis, the team still had thousands more tweets to consider. The heft of that dataset, representing just a sliver of all of the social media response, underscored the amount of engagement that online platforms supported during the crisis. In the preliminary stages of coding the data, the team recognized just how much value social media brought to many facets of the recovery.

8 / Breakthrough

Social media was a key part of informing the community about the forecasts concerning the approach and ongoing severity of the rainfall, which were remarkable in their accuracy, they found. Social media was integral in organizing volunteering, FEMA assistance, resource distribution, cleanup and fundraising. It also played an important part in helping people understand road conditions and avoid danger while traveling. As Brandt and Turner-McGrievy work through the data, they’re identifying organizations that exhibited highly effective use of social media during the flooding. One of the most prominent is the S.C. Emergency Management Division, which not only spread valuable information as it was needed, but also helped refute misinformation (such as the erroneous notion that the Lake Murray dam was at risk) as it arose on social media channels. Looking at the disaster through a public health lens, the team is working to develop a guide to best practices along with documenting the social media response that accompanied last year’s disaster. An avid Twitter aficionado herself, Brandt (@BlondeScientist) wants the success she saw firsthand to propagate even further. “My husband and I worked with the My Carolina Alumni Association during the recovery, and we used Facebook and Twitter to guide donations and deliveries,” Brandt says. “We would find somebody who said, ‘We need water, or we need this here.’ And I would reply and say we would be happy to help you, can you direct message me a street address? And then we’d send a truck off with the supplies. “That wouldn’t have happened maybe even five years ago. But it’s definitely happening now, so let’s figure out how we can use it most effectively.”

CLOSING TOMORROW’S FLOODGATES Destruction from the flooding was exacerbated by numerous dam and levee breaches in Lexington and Richland counties. Hanif Chaudhry, a civil engineering professor and associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, is leading a team of researchers who aim to learn as much as they can from the dams that failed. The researchers didn’t have a moment to spare once the rain stopped falling. “It was very time-sensitive,” Chaudhry says. “When there is a failure, if they want to rebuild, they will start right away with construction. Or if the dam is gone, the flow of water will change the characteristics of the site. Or if some of the structure is left, it might present a hazard that the owner will move in quickly to remove.” Fortunately, Chaudhry and his engineering colleagues were already in the midst of two similar studies of dam breaches, including a $3 million project funded by the National Science Foundation. They had the manpower, training and laboratory equipment to quickly collect and analyze field samples. As part of the S.C. Floods Initiative funded by the university’s Office of the Vice President for Research, Chaudhry’s team visited 14 sites with major damage to earthen levees, nine of which involved total failures. Data collection included dimensional measurements and samples of the materials present in the remnants of the structures. The full analysis is still in progress, but the consequence of overwhelming the capacity of a dam’s spillway to

Fall 2016 / 9

Front & Center

Breach at Old Mill Pond Dam

move excessive inflow to the downstream side of the embankment was clear. The result, Chaudhry says, was “overtopping. That’s why most of the dams failed.” He hopes that a complete analysis of the dam materials and the failure conditions might lead to design recommendations that will mitigate damage in future flooding events. Moreover, hydrological modeling of levee capacities at the point of failure should provide leaders with the capacity to better manage dams and levees that are highly connected. “Some of these dams were in series,” Chaudhry says. “So even if a given dam is in good shape, if an upper dam fails, it comes down as a major wave, and if that cannot be handled it overtops, and then the next one. So it can become a cascade. The dams are a system that we need to properly manage.”

STAGES OF LOSS AND RESILIENCE Peter Duffy didn’t think words on paper could adequately convey the personal stories of loss, struggle and resilience in the face of last fall’s flooding. That’s why the USC theatre professor assembled a creative team to document the human suffering that followed the flood. “It’s one thing to know that 11 trillion gallons of water fell, and that it’s enough water to have quenched the drought in California,” Duffy says. “But it’s another thing to hear what the flood has meant for people, and for so many people it’s still going on. You can’t really convey that information to the public without mediating it.” Duffy led a team that interviewed three dozen Columbia residents hit hard by the disaster. The goal is to use art to express those experiences to the rest of the community, with three performances planned for a one-year commemoration of the flood in early October. Working through transcribed and coded interviews, the team identified recurring themes, and Duffy created composite characters who will take the stage in the upcoming performances. Dance and photography will be part of the presentations.

10 / Breakthrough

Listening to people tell their stories revealed challenges the researchers never anticipated. “Some people had family come from out of state to help out at the drop of a hat, but for others that wasn’t the case,” Duffy says. “When you think about devastation of the flood, you’re thinking about shoveling out mud, not necessarily another layer of heartbreak on top of all that: having to deal with your family not being disinterested but they’re just not here.” Resilience is a recurring theme in the interviews, Duffy says. “That’s been an important question: ‘What has gotten you through this?’” he says. “And what does the city still need to know?” It won’t just be the city of Columbia that will get those answers. The team is working with C&T, an England-based theatre company, that is providing an online platform to create a map highlighting similar projects around the world. “We’re going to have a video of our play, which will be pinned to South Carolina,” Duffy says. “There are lots of similar projects happening around the world, looking at the impacts of weather-related phenomena or climate change related phenomena. “Each performance will get pinned, so we’re creating a global interactive map that uses arts-based methodologies to share what’s happening globally.”

EBB AND FLOW The flood as economic stimulus First came the rain, then — in one tumultuous weekend — the flooding. But the economic effects of last fall’s weather event lingered long after. Economists Doug Woodward and Joey Von Nessen at the Darla Moore School of Business are using data from the S.C. Department of Insurance and FEMA to better understand how the flooding has affected the state’s economy. Those organizations track money flowing into the state to cover losses in agriculture, infrastructure and real estate, and the researchers have seen, in their preliminary data, that significant funding has arrived already. In terms of how those dollars might still affect South Carolina’s economy, though, it’s a question of when they will be spent.

SCHOOL SENTINELS The S.C. floodwaters in October 2015 took away life and property, but they also claimed something you can’t see as readily: peace of mind. Looking to assess impacts on some of the most psychologically vulnerable victims of the disaster, College of Education faculty member Jonathan Ohrt is leading a team of researchers focused on the Richland and Lexington county school systems. “In a natural disaster, schools tend to be a meeting place where there are resources for students and their families as well,” Ohrt says. “It’s just a place that people from the community have come to rely on.” Interviewing mental health professionals who were primarily school counselors, Ohrt’s team is documenting some of the invisible long-term wounds that the flooding imprinted on young psyches. “One student, whenever it rains, now gets very nervous because she’s wondering if something bad is going to happen. ‘Are we going to have to leave our house?’” Ohrt says. “Another counselor is working with a family that still isn’t in a stable place. They’re having to live in hotels — eight months after the event. Most of us, I wouldn’t say we’ve forgotten, but we’ve moved on in many ways.” Members of Ohrt’s team, which included Department of Educational Studies colleagues Dodie Limberg and Ryan Carlson, can readily empathize with students and understand the school professionals helping them work through the situation, as well. Two team members were school counselors and another was a mental health counselor in K-12 systems before moving into academia. Coincidentally, all three were in central Florida (in different locations) in 2005 and experienced Hurricane Wilma as it plowed across the state. “So we were kind of on the front lines before, and now we’re looking at it from a researcher’s perspective as well,” Ohrt says. “We all had some personal experience and actual work experience, which is one of the reasons we felt compelled to work on the project.”

Fall 2016 / 11

Front & Center

North Inlet

The North Inlet, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the combined river output of the Pee Dee River basin in Winyah Bay, is an estuary that has remained essentially untouched by commercial human activity. Located just east of Georgetown, S.C., its salt marsh has been the subject of meticulously detailed study since 1981 by Baruch Institute scientists, who think that the marine ecosystem has existed largely as it is now for hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of years. That combination — a lack of human influence and a meticulously detailed, 35-year record of scientific study that has shown evidence of small perturbations more recently — is almost unmatched globally, making the North Inlet one of the world’s most important sentinels for climate change study.

12 / Breakthrough

And there are plenty of places to spend. “We see most of the damage in the Midlands and in Charleston, but approximately half of all of South Carolina’s 46 counties had some sort of damage associated with the flood,” Von Nessen says. “We are going to see unambiguous losses in wealth as a result because there were a lot of uninsured individuals who were affected that are not being reimbursed for any damages. In many cases property is going unrepaired altogether.” The overall reduction in net wealth should, however, be accompanied by a stimulus to the economy, the economists believe, at least in the short run. After Hurricane Hugo in 1989, for example, economic activity ramped up, Von Nessen says, and he and Woodward are seeing some of the same in the early data from the recent flooding. “Usually in natural disasters like these, you see a stimulus in two sectors. One is construction because damaged infrastructure is repaired and firms are brought in to do that work,” he says. “But we also are tentatively seeing a boost in retail activity as well, and a lot of that is housing-related goods and services.” One specific example of the stimulus that they expect to see in the final analysis is an increase in hiring. “Looking at employment going forward, we’re expecting about 2.7 percent employment growth — our current rate now — to persist for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017, and our anticipation is that the stimulus from the flood may have as much as about a quarter to a half of a percentage point bump on that baseline employment growth,” Von Nessen says. “So we might expect perhaps 3 percent employment growth or slightly more.” That kind of economic bonus is nice in the short term, but is expected to be followed by an eventual downside, Von Nessen adds. “It is a stimulus, but I think it would also be appropriate to think of it as almost a mini-bubble,” he says. “Many of the repairs are to damaged property that in some cases needed renovations anyway, repairs that people may have been looking to make down the road. “So in a sense we see a borrowed future demand: you see a bump up, a short-term stimulus, and then a bump down, below the long-term averages, later on.”


“I guess the good news for North Inlet is, it weathered the storm.”

One of the most scientifically important marine ecosystems in the world got a desalinizing wallop from last fall’s deluge: The creeks of the North Inlet of Winyah Bay had low-tide salt concentrations drop to levels never before seen in 34 years of measurement. Since then, researchers at the Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences have stepped up their monitoring of the North Inlet’s salt marsh, looking for signs that the freshwater inundation might have fundamentally changed the estuary. With funding from the S.C. Flood Initiative, the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory has augmented existing monitoring stations and collected samples more frequently to assess population changes in shrimp, crabs, fish, plankton and microbes dwelling in the estuary. Baruch researchers found that, in the days and weeks soon after the flooding, the altered estuary provided ideal conditions for some new visitors. “We saw a number of species of fish and at least one shrimp that were records for North Inlet. They had never been seen there before,” says Dennis Allen,, co-director of the field laboratory. “They include channel catfish, white perch, white catfish, juvenile herrings and shads — organisms that are much more typical of the rivers.” The low-salinity waters at low tide that were hospitable to those more freshwater-oriented newcomers did return to normal saltiness by mid-to-late October 2015, but the effects of the deluge were far from over, Allen says. A wet El Niño winter followed, and several storm systems — though each released considerably less precipitation than the original flooding event — caused salt levels to repeatedly crash, with extremely low readings still being recorded into March 2016, some seven months after the initial deluge. “Normally there wouldn’t have been much of a signal in terms of salinity depression,” Allen says, “but because of the October flood the soils throughout the watershed were so saturated that almost anything that hit the ground ran off.” By April, salinity levels had returned to what scientists deemed normal, and they turned their focus to the question of whether the flooding event might have caused long-term changes in the estuary. Early returns indicate otherwise. “Pending the full analysis, I think what we’ve seen here was a short and intense perturbation, but one that was not enough to reset the system at a different level of organization or function,” Allen says. “So it was a shock to the system, but it appears to have recovered, and at least is on its way to returning to what we recognize as typical over the past 35 years. “I guess the good news for North Inlet is, it weathered the storm.”

Fall 2016 / 13


Health Sciences

First, can you define aphasia — in the simplest terms? At the most basic level, aphasia is a communication problem. It’s caused, almost always, by damage to the left hemisphere of the brain. Certain areas of the brain are involved in processing speech


and language, both comprehending and speech production. When stroke affects these areas, it causes an impairment. Also, it ranges from very mild — difficulty coming up with the right words — to more severe forms where the person is almost mute and/or has a difficult time understanding other people when they speak. There are different types of aphasia, and they are very much related to what parts of the brain are affected. This latest NIH grant involves several participating institutions.

With Julius Fridriksson

Can you break down the different studies this grant will fund at

Arnold School of Public Health

The grant includes four projects — two here, one at Johns Hopkins


and one at the University of California, Irvine. My main project here at USC is focused on chronic patients who had a stroke a year or more ago. We do an intensive work-up, look at all aspects of their brain structure and function, and use both behavioral data and brain imaging data to predict outcome. That takes eight weeks, and we’ll do about 150 patients over five years — a very large patient

Earlier this year, a group of researchers led by Arnold

sample when it comes to aphasia treatment studies.

School of Public Health professor Julius Fridriksson

The other project at USC is with Chris Rorden, my main collabo-

received an $11 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study aphasia therapy. It was the latest in a string of high-dollar research grants Fridriksson has helped land in his ongoing effort to understand and improve treatment for the disorder, which adversely affects a patient’s ability to use language, usually following a stroke.

rator here. That’s a project to use all of the data we’re collecting. When you include both behavioral data and neuroimaging data, you’re talking about millions of data points. We’re trying to predict outcome in the same way that Google uses algorithms to search online except that we are searching our database to come up with the best prognosis for treatment outcome. The Johns Hopkins trial is a direct replication of a trial we have ongoing in my lab and at MUSC. It deals with acute and sub-acute patients — patients who just had a stroke — to see whether we can use electrical brain stimulation to enhance the outcome of aphasia treatment. The idea is to try to increase activation in areas of the brain that we think are crucial for language. We hope we’re improving the atmosphere in that part of the brain for taking over certain functions that were lost due to stroke. Our trial was funded by a $5 million grant from the NIH four years go and will conclude next March. The goal was 74 patients, and we’re now enrolling the 64th. What are you hoping to accomplish as you take your research to the next level? We now understand that the brain is very plastic, that you can sometimes recover years after brain injury. That recovery never

14 / Breakthrough

stops unless you start to become demented. That has changed

the right hemisphere takes over for the function that was lost.

our outlook. Therapy has not improved nearly as much as I

We think that the residual areas of the left hemisphere are

think it should, and that is because we have been limited by

what have to be retrained. What are those areas exactly? We

these very small studies. That’s why this big grant is so crucial.

have a very poor understanding of that.

It will give us much more reliable results as far as outcome and who is a good candidate for therapy.

But your idea when it comes to aphasia therapy is that the

The other thing that has been huge for us is the improvement

focus does need to be on the left hemisphere as opposed

in neuroscience. Once you start understanding how the brain

to the right.

works, you’re better able to offer treatment.

Yes, but this is a great controversy. I’m one of the people that

The South is often referred to as the Stroke Belt. How does

thinks that the right hemisphere actually hinders improvement.

the incidence of stroke here affect your research? Being here is fantastic for my research, but it’s fantastic for a really bad reason. We have a lot of participants in our studies because the stroke rate here is so high. Another unfortunate distinction is that half of all strokes that happen in S.C. happen to people who are under the age of 60. Most of the people who get involved in our research are 65 and younger, and the youngest are in their 20s, which is really bad. If you have a stroke and you’re just 27 years old, you will live with a disability for the rest of your life. You might live another 50 years, but

It just does not seem capable of taking over lost language functions. What remains of the left hemisphere after brain injury — that’s what needs to take over for what was lost. There’s already been some progress made in aphasia therapy, and your previous studies have been promising enough to warrant greater and greater funding, including this latest grant. In the long term, how might future stroke patients benefit from the work you and your collaborators are doing now?

your quality of life has just gone completely out the window —

When we find people who really won’t benefit from

and not just your quality of life but your family’s quality of life.

therapy, we want to focus on counseling. Counseling is extremely beneficial, not just for the patient but

It can be difficult for someone unfamiliar with stroke and

also for caregivers and loved ones. It can sig-

aphasia to understand what’s happening in the brain of a

nificantly improve quality of life. When people

stroke patient. As they struggle to communicate, are we wit-

come to the hospital, they don’t have any

nessing a cognitive problem or a retrieval problem?

previous experience with this. They have a lot of

That’s a great question. The chief complaint that we get from people with aphasia is that they know what they want to say; they just can’t get the words out. A family member or loved

questions, and they need something more than 20 minutes with the neurologist or the speech pathologist.

one will say, “Well, he’s lost his memory.” No, he can remember

Now, for people with a lot of potential, we want to put

that this is a magazine or that’s a chair. He just can’t remem-

our resources toward therapy — one-on-one therapy —

ber the word for magazine or for chair. In most people those

because it could make the difference between having to

words are still intact, the person just cannot pull them out. So

live in a nursing home or getting discharged and living at

it’s more of a retrieval problem than a capacity problem. Hav-

home. It could make the difference between staying at

ing said that, there are people who have lost the words, but

home or going back to work or back to school.

those people are fewer than the people who still have them. At the risk of oversimplifying your research, is the basic idea to try to get the part of the brain that is normally used for comprehension to take over for the part that has been damaged? That’s a really tough one. This has been debated for about 150 years, since that first case that described speech impairment as related to left frontal lobe damage. Some people think that

Fall 2016 / 15

Book Corner


16 / Breakthrough

BUYING A BRIDE A closer look at the matrimonial practice that helped build the United States


any argue that, without marriage, there could be no stable family units, no children and no future. And without mail-order brides, one could argue, there might not be a United States of America. “The entire colonial endeavor hinged on marriage,” says University of South Carolina law professor Marcia Yablon-Zug, whose new book, “Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches,” traces the phenomenon as far back as our nation’s first permanent English settlement, Jamestown. Zug explains that mail-order brides were brought to the colonies with the express purpose of growing the population and ensuring the survival of the settlements. Because of that, she believes these women were heroes and should be remembered as such in American history. “They were taking incredible risks, and as a result, the country reaped great benefits,” she says. Certainly, the overwhelming perception of mail-order brides doesn’t reflect this attitude, and Zug admits it wasn’t her perception either when she first started looking into the topic. “When I began researching this book, I thought I would discover that mail-order marriage was bad and had always been bad, but it turns out more often than not to be beneficial and even empowering for women,” says Zug, whose legal research focuses on the intersection of family law and immigration law.

Today, the mail-order marriage industry continues to thrive, but perhaps for slightly different reasons. In recent years, American women have experienced significant improvements in their educational and financial prospects. During this same period, the prospects for many middle- and working-class men have stagnated. As Zug points out, the result of this disparity is that increasing numbers of men are viewed as unsuitable partners. “With dwindling local marriage prospects, many of these rejected men consider mail-order marriages,” says Zug. “What interests me most is the women they are marrying are the same kind of women who are rejecting them here. Most of these women are doctors, lawyers, accountants — and most of them want to work. They expect to. The difference is they also expect to be wives first.” Overall, Zug believes mailorder marriage is nothing like the grim stereotype prevalent in today’s culture. In her book, she argues that the practice has actually improved the lives of many of these women — and the men they marry.

“Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches” is published through New York University Press.

Fall 2016 / 17

A HEALTHY NEW START International health expert launches Carolina Survivors Clinic and a ‘garden of healing’


he School of Medicine recently recruited an international health expert from Queens, N.Y., Dr. Rajeev Bais, who says that one path to expanding the school’s global mission leads right back to Columbia. “You really don’t need to go abroad to start a global health initiative,” Bais says. “We have global health right here in our backyard. All of the problems of the world, both politically and health-wise, are manifested in these patients.” The patients he’s talking about are refugees who have been settled in S.C. Columbia itself has about a thousand international refugees or asylum seekers, he says. And they’ve been through a lot. “Refugees are probably the most vulnerable people in the world,” Bais says. “There’s nobody who has gone through more trauma and witnessed the worst that humanity has to offer than a refugee.” Many have endured suffering that most Americans can hardly imagine. “There is one girl whose father was murdered, whose mom was raped. Her sisters were raped and she was raped, and this was not just once, but multiple times,” Bais says. “All of her sisters got pregnant from rapes. She got pregnant and had a kid, and then she found out she was HIV-positive. And this is a 17-year-old girl. Can you imagine?” Since arriving in Columbia in September, Bais has opened the Carolina Survivors Clinic, an outreach program originally focused on victims of torture and human rights abuse. But seeing the dearth of medical and psychological services dedicated to refugees in the area, the team decided to expand their services to all comers among refugees.

18 / Breakthrough

Physicians are skilled at treating the body, but often there are injuries that they can’t see, Bais says. The refugees come from war-torn areas, where witnessing horrific events is common and torture is prevalent. “When refugees arrive here, they get a screening exam, and they look for medical problems like tuberculosis, syphilis, intestinal parasites and that sort of thing,” Bais says. “But what they don’t screen for, and they should, is torture. So we decided to do the health screenings also and look for [evidence of ] torture and other things in a more comprehensive way.” Beyond the physical and psychological prescriptions that modern medicine can offer, the Carolina Survivors Clinic is building an outreach program that brings refugees in touch with a surrounding community that Bais has found can be eager to find out about their lives. The team has worked with the Sustainable Carolina Farm & Gardens, managed by the university’s Office of Sustainability, to develop a garden where refugees can grow foods that remind them of their faraway homes. It helps draw out older refugees who can get isolated, Bais says, and the students in the residence hall are often touched by their stories and eager to learn about their lives and culture. The team is currently trying to develop a scholastic soccer program for kids. It involves after-school tutoring followed by soccer instruction, with the hope that down the road there might be academic or athletic scholarships for children of refugees. They’re also working with the public library system to provide English conversation classes. The model is a program Bais became familiar with while he was completing a fellowship in Lexington, Ky., and involves bringing people from the community into conversations with refugees. Friendships often develop, with learning both ways, he says. Many Americans are struck by the positive outlook of folks who have been through so much. “That’s the amazing thing: the resilience,” Bais says. “Obviously it’s a spectrum, and some people have a very hard time, especially if they’ve lost children. But most people, they look to start a new life, to work to become part of the community. They have a lot of hope for the future.”

(above) This unique species of cucumber, native to Africa, is called a “jelly cucumber” or Kiwano horned cucumber and was grown by one of the Carolina Survivor Garden’s participants; (below) a young papaya tree takes root in one of the garden boxes adjacent to the Green Quad

Allison Marsh

Fall 2016 / 19

20 / Breakthrough


CEREBRAL PERSPECTIVE Several years ago, Dawn Hunter stumbled upon the medical drawings of 19th century Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Since then, her artwork has taken a completely new turn. Where the associate professor of studio art once focused on representations of gender in mass media, now she is digging deep into Cajal, who won a Nobel Prize in 1906 and is best known for his work on the structure of the brain. Hunter’s artwork, along with a presentation she gave last fall at the National Institutes of Health, is helping to expand conceptions about Cajal’s life and his work. Hunter wants people to know about how his childhood affected his outlook, and that his drawings not only have scientific merit, but also are works of art in their own right. In her recent work, Hunter has illustrated themes from Cajal’s life as well as studied his drawings and worked to re-create them. Through her work, she’s also helping neuroscientists learn more about one of their own field’s pioneers.

“Cajal among Dragon Birds” (ink and pen on paper) explores the juxtaposition of symbolism and Cajal’s neural drawings.

Fall 2016 / 21

RECOGNIZING HOMELESSNESS Psychologist Bret Kloos is well known in Columbia as a bridge connecting the university to the community with regard to efforts to address homelessness. The initiatives and partnerships he has established have helped build the foundation for a more holistic, data-driven approach to the issue locally. Recently, Kloos and two doctoral candidates were commissioned by local nonprofit Homeless No More to survey the local landscape of family homelessness. The result is the 54-page report “Family Homelessness in Richland County.� Following are some findings of that report.


The number of people who used family homeless services in Richland County between 2004 and 2015.


The percentage of those who used family homeless services only once between 2004 and 2015.


The percentage of those who used family homeless services three or more times between 2004 and 2015.

19 :1

Ratio of estimated demand for emergency shelter to supply.


Ratio of estimated demand for affordable housing to supply.

22 / Breakthrough



REWIRING THE CARIBBEAN For the past year, economic geographer Conor Harrison has been working on a puzzle: Why aren’t Caribbean countries moving more quickly to adopt renewable energy? On the surface, the case for change is clear, even without the obvious concern of climate change and sea-level rise. For starters, Caribbean countries pay a lot for their electricity — about three times as much as in the United States. Secondly, these countries have an abundance of solar, wind and geothermal power potential. Lastly, there is a wide network of international development organizations, including the World Bank, that is pushing the transition to renewables. And yet, “So far not much has happened — so something is not working,” says Harrison, an assistant professor of geography. In search of an answer, Harrison has visited Jamaica, Grenada, Saint Vincent, Saint Lucia and Dominica and interviewed government officials, utility operators and development specialists. What he’s found are complex answers — and underlying assumptions that don’t always fit the context of the Caribbean energy market. The trend right now is unbundling, a process of deregulating monopolies that is supposed to lead to private investment in renewable energy projects. To jumpstart the process, development groups are offering loan guarantees. “So there is all this money circulating, but it’s all based on this ideology that there will be competition,” Harrison says. The problem is that Caribbean countries are small, and so are their energy projects. “A lot of big companies that do this sort of thing around the world look at this and say, ‘Do I want to do a 1-megawatt solar installation in the Caribbean, where there’s all kinds of

risk involved?’” Harrison asks rhetorically. “‘Or do I want to do it in South Carolina where it’s a 10-megawatt project and it’s going to be done just like that?’” The Caribbean brings with it other challenges, too — hurricanes, lack of infrastructure, salt corrosion. Transmission and distribution costs are high because of difficult terrain and power grids that are not interconnected. Harrison mentions a company that had to undertake a major road-widening project just to get a turbine up to a mountain ridge, and another that had to transport a crane from one island to another. Harrison’s current research project has brought him into an entirely new realm from his previous work, in which he examined how Jim Crow segregation affected electric utilities in North Carolina. The Caribbean wasn’t where he expected to go next, but the opportunity came along when an economic geographer at East Carolina University invited Harrison to join him. “I knew the energy stuff and very little about the Caribbean, and he knew the Caribbean and not much about energy,” Harrison says. At this stage, Harrison is not ready to give policy recommendations. Instead, he’s planning to write a series of papers laying out exactly what’s going on — who the players are, what the challenges are and how these utility markets came to be the way they are. Still, he’s hopeful that the ingenuity and resilience of the people he’s met, along with diligent academic efforts to understand the region’s particular challenges, will eventually help Caribbean countries move in the right direction. “One of the things that’s really inspiring to me is when you see how clever and smart everyday people can be in challenging circumstances — how people are able to make things work,” he says.

Fall 2016 / 23

In the Pipeline

READY FOR TAKEOFF Center for Predictive Maintenance launches new chapter

One of USC’s most successful homegrown research programs now has a new name and a new commercial partner and will soon move to a new building. The College of Engineering and Computing’s Condition-Based Maintenance program is now the Center for Predictive Maintenance, and the research group will move into a 30,000-square-foot space on Catawba Street late next spring. The facility upgrade will accommodate a dramatically expanded mission. Moving from the CBM’s orginal focus on developing cutting-edge military helicopter maintenance protocols, the CPM will now offer training and education in aerospace, aviation, automotive and heavy industries, gas, oil, chemical refining, nuclear power and water resources. Center director Abdel Bayoumi, who came to USC to chair the Department of Mechanical Engineering and direct the newly organized CBM program in 1998, says the center was focused on refining what has proven to be a highly effective tool. Working closely with the S.C. Army National Guard, Bayoumi’s team has developed a health-monitoring system for helicopters that annually saves the U.S. Army millions of dollars. Installing sensors in an AH-64 Apache airframe 24 / Breakthrough

and analyzing data in an advanced tail rotor drivetrain test facility, the research group developed insights into the aircraft’s mechanical operation. USC engineers have refined their knowledge into a condition-based approach to maintenance, one that they’ve applied to other rotorcraft in the Army’s fleet. Their approach monitors and replaces parts when needed, rather than on a rigid schedule that sometimes calls for removing parts with significant service life remaining but which might also fail to replace parts on the verge of premature failure. The schedule-based approach can lead to fatalities; Bayoumi cites military researchers who confirm that soldiers’ lives have been saved because of USC’s innovations in the field. The CBM program has the highest return on investment, 20:1, of any Armyfunded project, Bayoumi adds. And he believes one key to the program’s success is the close relationship between the researchers and the people who benefit the most from their work. “What made it successful is that when you get results, you can share it immediately with the crew chief, the maintenance team and the pilot,” Bayoumi says. “Then they implement it and can come right back and say, ‘Yeah, we’re happy with this.’” The center plans to spread that approach into new industries.

“Condition-based maintenance was a tool, and predictive maintenance is a culture that will encapsulate a value-added, cost-benefit analysis,” Bayoumi says. Aviation, aerospace, automotive and similar industries involve innumerable gears, bearings and shafts that are still being replaced on costly time-based schedules. Petroleum, refining, chemical processing, energy and related industries rely on control valves, all of which stand to gain from health monitoring to reduce down-time and replacement costs. The water purification and desalination industries are experiencing enormous growth worldwide, Bayoumi says, and they involve pumps and valves for which predictive maintenance should prove highly beneficial. University partner IBM is part of the mix, providing software that will organize the prodigious quantities of data collected by sensors and help researchers develop predictive maintenance algorithms that allow factories and operations to operate at peak efficiency. When the new facility opens, the research team will have demonstration and classroom space for training, certifications and short courses needed to help propagate the predictive maintenance culture. And they have a lot to offer. “This is totally unique,” Bayoumi says. “There is no other program like this one in the United States.”







Award Dollars by Source In Millions

Award Dollars by Purpose In Millions 9%








31% 32% 5%



Major Funding Sources In Millions $53.1

Health and Human Services (excl. NIH) $46.0

National Institutes of Health $18.7

National Science Foundation $10.1

Department of Energy $8.4

Department of Education $3.7

Department of Defense

ANOTHER RECORD-SETTING YEAR FOR RESEARCH AND SPONSORED AWARD FUNDING! The Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to congratulate our outstanding faculty for breaking two funding records in fiscal year 2016. • Total research and sponsored awards reached $250.1 million, USC’s highest total ever. This represents a 3 percent increase over FY2015’s $242.8 million, which had previously been the record high. • Federal awards totaled $160.8 million, the third record-breaking federal funding level in as many years. Read more about this exciting milestone at, in the news section.

Fall 2016 / 25

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Permit #766 Columbia, SC

Columbia, SC 29208







We make South Carolina healthier. Most of us assume the water where we live, work and play is safe. Catherine Heigel and the agency she leads make it their business to ensure that’s the case. She’s leading DHEC’s efforts to enforce drinking water standards and improve recreational water quality across the state, keeping South Carolinians and their communities healthy and vibrant.


CATHERINE HEIGEL, ’92 Agency Director S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control




Breakthrough Research Magazine - Fall 2016 Issue  
Breakthrough Research Magazine - Fall 2016 Issue