The Color of Science

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Isabelle Malouf was so into science she wore it to prom. The gown that she made with organza and sequins had a bubble-type skirt that resembled a bacteriophage. A dress and a virus, it was part of the Daring Night Attire – or DNA – collection she created for a high school design class. “It was fun taking something like that and making it pretty,” said Malouf, a University of Mary Washington senior. “A lot of molecular biology stuff is gorgeous.” These days, rather than fashion, she channels her passion for science into zebrafish. Through them, she’s studying an herbicide that’s been linked to cancer. Her research, along with her hair color – she changes it weekly –make Malouf a standout on campus. And, as a face in UMW’s new branded photos, she hopes to make science seem more accessible, especially for women. “Girls aren’t expected to be good at science,” said Malouf, a biology major with a chemistry minor. Growing up in Boston, she learned to expect the unexpected, … [Read more...]

Research Rocks

(from left): David Phillips '14, Carter Moore '14, and Chiara Tornabene '14 are working on research projects with Professor Neil Tibert (standing, left) and Professor Jodie Hayob.
Photo by Kimmie Barkley '14

Faculty and students at the University of Mary Washington are breaking ground, literally, at historically significant geological sites. This past July, Associate Professor of Geology Neil Tibert and Professor of Geology Jodie Hayob ventured with students to the Atlantic Canadian province of Nova Scotia for data collection and study on two different research projects. Tibert’s work focuses on sedimentary rocks that contain microfossils providing insight into the evolution of coastal and lake ecosystems of eastern North America, while Hayob is studying volcanic rocks that formed when the Atlantic Ocean was rifting open. “The world changed significantly at this time,” Tibert said. Tibert has roots in Nova Scotia dating back to childhood. He completed undergraduate and graduate programs at Dalhousie University in Halifax, in pursuit of research that two of his students are now tracking two decades later. Senior geology and classics major and Italian international student … [Read more...]

In Search of Turtles

Senior Bryan Finch measures a turtle he found near the Fredericksburg Canal.

An uncommon turtle discovery has sparked detective work between a University of Mary Washington professor and his students that will help shed light on the species in the Fredericksburg region. More than two years ago, Professor of Biology Werner Wieland asked students in one of his classes to bring in a local animal. Much to Wieland’s surprise, one student brought in a species of turtle – a yellow-bellied slider – that is not known to occur in the Fredericksburg area. The find brought up questions for Wieland— was this turtle an isolated case or is there a bigger population established? With the help of seniors Yoshi Takeda and Bryan Finch, Wieland has spent the last two summers finding out. Wieland’s project is one of dozens funded through UMW’s Summer Science Institute, a 10-week undergraduate research program started in 1999. The students and professors will present their work at an all-day symposium on Wednesday, July 24. This summer, Wieland and his students … [Read more...]

Chemistry Connections

Nicole Crowder, assistant professor of chemistry, works with Karmel James '13 on a research project.

When Assistant Professor of Chemistry Nicole Crowder attends national conferences, her peers often mistake her University of Mary Washington students for master’s or Ph.D. students. “They are shocked at the caliber of our undergraduate students,” Crowder said. Senior Karmel James and junior Eric Johnson, chemistry majors and seasoned conference presenters, are two such students. Both James and Johnson are working with Crowder this semester through UMW’s undergraduate research program. Their projects aim to reduce carbon dioxide through manipulating various substances. Johnson is exploring “click chemistry,” while James is using a different method. “It’s about taking something that is viewed as a waste gas and turning it into something useful,” Crowder said. Research like Johnson and James’ can have large potential implications, from turning carbon dioxide into alternate fuel sources to finding ways to remove the gas from the atmosphere. Both students will present … [Read more...]

Culturing Independent Inquiry

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In the tissue culture lab in the University of Mary Washington’s Jepson Hall, Chloe Fusselman donned a white lab coat, put on gloves and carefully picked up a beaker of liquid. She was practicing her sterile lab techniques with her adviser, Professor of Biology Deborah O’Dell, since the methods are critical to her research project this semester. Fusselman and fellow senior biology major Kara Arbogast are both researching the chemical bisphenol A, known as BPA, in separate projects. Both students received undergraduate research grants from UMW for their work. Fusselman’s project looks at the effect of BPA, a chemical found in many everyday household products, on healthy prostate cells. BPA, O’Dell explained, mimics the hormone estrogen and is frequently linked to breast cancer. “In the literature, there are some references that BPA could be linked to prostate cancer, too,” O’Dell said. Research like Fusselman’s will help scientists find out. As Fusselman developed her … [Read more...]

Uncovering the Past

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Growing up in the Republic of Georgia, Ana Tkabladze was surrounded by remnants and relics of the ancient world. She dreamed of someday learning about the sites and making her own discoveries. Now a junior at the University of Mary Washington, Tkabladze, a classics major with a concentration in classical archeology, is already leaving her mark. This summer, she spent three weeks on the Spanish island of Menorca and in Portugal as part of a team excavating and analyzing thousand-year-old artifacts. “I’m basically helping real archeologists find out about that era,” she said. “That’ll go in history later which is pretty exciting.” Tkabladze is one of several UMW students who received an undergraduate research grant for the summer, a time when many students study abroad, intern or work on research. In fact, two to three students in the classics, philosophy and religion department go on excavations each year, either through undergraduate research grants like Tkabladze or as … [Read more...]

Rock Star 101

Mark Snyder (center) performs with two of his students during a class session

If UMW offered a Rock Star 101 course, Mark Snyder would be the undisputed choice to teach it. The assistant professor of music and 1997 Mary Washington alum has performed with nearly 100 bands in the past 30 years, from rock to jazz to classical. Today, he plays in six different musical ventures, all while teaching classes in composition, electronic music and music theory. Through his music, Snyder gives his students the opportunity to experience the music business firsthand. In fact, three of his six current projects involve UMW student and alumni musicians. Nature Boy Explorer, an eclectic pop/rock group with a self-titled album, features Snyder on guitar and vocals, junior Becky Brown on the harp, junior Paige Naylor on the keyboards and 2012 graduate Joanna Smith on bass. Brown, Naylor and Smith all had a hand in the recording or production of the album, as well as Natasha Smoot, a 2011 graduate, who played accordion on the tracks. The band plays regionally, including … [Read more...]

Growing a New Generation of Educators

Laurie Abeel

Grades aren’t foremost on the mind of Laurie Abeel. The College of Education associate professor focuses more on the journey for her graduate-level students. “My approach in every single class deals with growth, not grades,” said Abeel, who teaches gifted education courses. “I’m more concerned with ‘do they understand what I’m trying to teach’ and ‘have they shown growth by the end of the course?’” Some of her students have gone on to use her strategies and methods in their own classrooms. Abeel credits much of her classroom philosophy to her involvement with Destination Imagination, known as DI, an international program focused on the creative process, critical thinking, leadership and team work. For almost the past decade, she has served as Virginia affiliate director of DI, volunteering to coordinate Virginia’s programs and the state tournament. “It influences almost everything I do. All the skills we try to teach the kids [in DI], I use in my classes,” she said, … [Read more...]

Around the World in Nine Apps

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Nine applications in a year; thousands of downloads from all over the world; one dedicated UMW professor. Jennifer Polack-Wahl, professor of computer science, leads a small group of student researchers who in just 12 months is making a sizeable impact in elementary schools in the Commonwealth and across the nation. Polack-Wahl and the team, known as S.M.A.R.T. (Student Made Applications and Researching Technology), has created applications, or “apps,” for iPads, iPhones and iTouches specifically geared toward addressing Virginia SOL math and literacy requirements for elementary school students. This semester, the group released an app that focuses on the history of ancient Egypt. Apps on money and life science are in the works. Polack-Wahl is collaborating with the Charlottesville, Va., school district, which is using the apps, to make sure the content and format are effective. And with Apple technologymaking its way into elementary school classrooms, the S.M.A.R.T. team is … [Read more...]

UMW Alumna’s Research is “Eye-Opening” Experience

Shirin Afsous (right) is assisting Leila Asadi with human rights research

For Shirin Afsous, the problem of sex trafficking in the Middle East hits home. The 2012 graduate of the University of Mary Washington was born in Iran and grew up making occasional visits to the country with her family. When Afsous learned that human rights activist Leila Asadi wanted help with research on gender and sexuality issues, Afsous jumped at the opportunity. Asadi is visiting professor at UMW this semester, where she’s continuing the research she began in the Middle East. Although hundreds of UMW students study abroad every year, undergraduate research like Afsous’ work with Asadi provides a way for students to make global connections without ever leaving the Fredericksburg campus. In Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, Afsous explained, research has shown that, in some cases, girls as young as 12 years old are engaged in prostitution rings. Some girls may see it as their only way out of poverty. Asadi, herself, fled Iran after one of her friends was … [Read more...]