YSU Student Math Group Receives Award

On Friday, July 28, the YSU Association for Women in Mathematics Student Chapter was awarded the AWM Award for Professional Development at the MathFest Conference in Chicago, Illinois. The chapter was presented with a certificate and a $100 honorarium. The following students attended the event: Monica Busser, Julie Phillis, Alanis Chew, Sarah Elizabeth Odidika, Mirella Boulus, Hannah Haynie, Jacqueline Chapman, Ashley Amendol, Lexi Rager, Christine Langer, and Nathalie Halavick.

The purpose of the award was to reward a student chapter for its recruitment and development of students’ professional involvement in mathematics.

Alanis Chew, a junior Business Economics and Mathematics major, is the Secretary of YSU’s AWM Student Chapter. Speaking of the AWM Award for Professional Development, Alanis explained that “our chapter received this award because of our former president, Monica Busser, who started the AWM Bigs and Littles program.”

She also mentioned that Busser organized several events to promote women in STEM. A few of the events that YSU’s AWM was recognized for were pursuing an event that provided a more inclusive environment in STEM, the Women’s History Month Colloquium, and the Women in Math Trivia Day.

Each member that attended the conference also presented research they have worked on for the past year. Some of the research topics include Konstant’s Partition Function, Preparation for Industrial Careers in Mathematics, infinite series, bones, and muscles.

President Julie Phillis began her research in April with the assistance of a special computer system. “We were continuing the research done by Gabrielle Van Scoy, who graduated this past spring with her math degree and is now pursuing her PhD at the University of Kentucky,” said Phillis. “Gabbie succeeded in creating a mathematical simulation that accurately mimics how bone cells form bone in nature.”

Researcher Lexi Rager and her group found uses for recommender systems. “Our research uses recommender systems in the academic sphere,” said Rager. “We’ve created a program that recommends classes and professors to students based on classes and professors a student has already had and liked.”

AWM strives to promote and encourage women to be more involved in a math community. Chew said that the chapter “wants everyone to know how amazing female mathematicians are and how much fun math can be!”

AWM also helps with many events that the math department hosts like movie nights and pancake dinner nights.

“There are no qualifications to join AWM, you just have to be open to making a lot of new friends,” said Chew.

Any students that are interested in joining AWM can email Alanis Chew at ajchew@student.ysu.edu or the President of AWM, Julie Phillis at japhillis@student.ysu.edu. You can also find the organization on Facebook.

Biomedical Research Series: Dr. Michael Butcher

Within the Department of Biological Sciences at Youngstown State University, there are many areas of research being explored by faculty and students alike. In a monthly series, we will highlight faculty research that covers various aspects of biomedical efforts from DNA to bacteria, fungi, and more.

Dr. Michael Butcher is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at YSU. He earned his PhD in Zoology from the University of Calgary. Afterward, he completed a two-year NSF post-doctoral fellowship at Clemson University before becoming a full-time professor at YSU.

At YSU, Dr. Butcher conducts three different types of research with assistance from multiple graduate and undergraduate students. The main focuses of his laboratory research are the mechanical properties and shape of limb bones, fiber architecture and force production in the limb muscles, and development of muscle fiber types. His most recent work involves studies of muscle form and contraction activity in tree sloths.

Every other year, Dr. Butcher has traveled to The Sloth Sanctuary in Limón, Costa Rica. This gives him the opportunity to study species of two-toed and three-toed sloths.

On his most recent trip, he and his research team visualized live muscle contractions of the sloths using implanted fine wire electrodes. They recorded muscle activity while sloths performed combinations of walking, climbing, and hanging exercises. In addition, Dr. Butcher and his team conducted very detailed dissections on cadaver sloths to learn about their muscle architecture.

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“What we do is take geometric measurements of the muscles,” Butcher said. “For example, how long is the muscle belly, how long are the muscle fibers, at what angle are the muscle fibers? Then we apply a couple basic calculations.”

They could then estimate the force, power, and torque (strength) properties of sloth muscles. Dr. Butcher considers this approach to the study of muscle form and function “simple, but elegant.”

To understand his research interests, it is important to know some of the unusual characteristics of a sloth.

“Why a sloth?” Dr. Butcher was asked. “Because they’re old and interesting mammals that do something really different from what humans are capable of doing.”

In a sloth’s body, there is only about 24% muscle mass. Dr. Butcher and his students are finding that their muscles have a high tolerance for lactic acid and rarely fatigue, unlike skeletal muscles in humans. Much to his surprise, Dr. Butcher is also learning that sloths primarily use anaerobic mechanisms to allow them to conserve energy and resist fatigue. This contributes to a sloth’s ability to hang from tree limbs for extended periods of time.

Other factors that relate to the strength and stamina of sloths are lower body temperature, lower metabolism, and slower digestion than most placental mammals.

“Sloths also have a network of blood vessels in their forearms that lowers the temperature of the muscles,” Butcher said. “This allows the muscles to remain strongly contracted for gripping branches while using energy at a slower rate.”

With these distinctive characteristics, sloths can conserve a tremendous amount of energy. For this very reason, Dr. Butcher finds sloth research remarkably insightful.

Dr. Butcher does not simply perform research to learn more about muscle structure-function in sloths, but rather to give further evidence of the performance range of muscles, in general. He wants to continue studying how muscles are put together and how they work, as functionality is diverse for animals depending on their lifestyle.

While this research has medical applications such as bioengineering artificial muscles and limbs, Dr. Butcher remains committed to fundamental science where his findings contribute towards education in the scientific community, future textbooks, and enhancement of the courses that he teaches at YSU.

Dr. Butcher stresses the immense contribution from his students. He believes that they are vital to his research efforts. To further his studies in primitive mammals Dr. Butcher plans to travel to Argentina this fall to investigate muscle properties in rare species of armadillos.

Biomedical Research Series: Dr. Gary Walker

Within the Department of Biological Sciences at Youngstown State University there are many areas of research being explored by faculty and students alike. In a new monthly series, we will highlight faculty research that covers various aspects of biomedical efforts from DNA to bacteria, fungi, and more.

Dr. Gary Walker is a professor and chairperson of Biological Sciences at YSU. He obtained a PhD in Biological Sciences from the Wayne State University of Michigan. He began graduate school with an interest in becoming a developmental biologist with focus on cell division and later in stem cells.

His interest in biomedical research began decades ago but recently changed direction when he collaborated with a local neurologist, Dr. Carl Ansevin. They wrote several papers together and heavily researched muscle proteins. Now he is mainly focusing on the basic molecular programming of muscle tissue with anticipation that he can eventually engineer a functional muscle.

Dr. Walker is currently studying the growth of muscle cell cultures to advance the fundamental understanding of muscle development and function. In addition, he is interested in tissue engineering, specifically 3D-printed structures, which will be used primarily for therapy purposes.

Given his research background, one of his goals is to create functional muscles. To create a 3D-printed tissue structure, Dr. Walker grows myoblasts in cell cultures that are then mixed with a bio gel. The bio gel aides in the suspension of the cells and maintains the 3D structure throughout the printing process. A computerized 3D fluid printer is then used to create a specific geometric structure allowing the “tissues” to transfer to culture vessels so that the myoblasts can grow.

“As you can see, these myofibers form in all sorts of directions,” said Dr. Walker. “So you can’t make a functional muscle because in a functional muscle all these fibers have to be aligned parallel.”

In the end, once the cells are understood and a live tissue is formed, Dr. Walker wants to tinker with the geometry of the tissue, making it more like a standard muscle tissue.

Once the structure is fit for usage in medical procedures, his personal hope for the 3D-printed muscle tissue is to benefit trauma patients and those who experience muscle diseases. This research project has tied together his love of growing cells and researching how functional tissues are formed. The project is also a great way to show the transition between basic and applied knowledge.

There is great potential for this research and Dr. Walker could be an important part of this advancement of biomedical technology.

Dr. Crescimanno is Awarded a Materials Research Grant

Youngstown State University’s Dr. Michael Crescimanno, in conjunction with Dr. Kenneth Singer at Case Western Reserve University, has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research.

The grant is to fund faculty and students from both universities on the project, “OP: Nonlinear Optical Properties of Organic Cavity Polaritons,” for three years.

Non-technical description:

The interaction of light with matter is of fundamental and long-standing scientific and technological interest. This interaction can be enhanced by using very small structures in which the light bounces back and forth multiple times, such as miniature optical cavities made of two mirrors between which is placed the light absorbing or emitting material. This structure is the basis of the laser and, at sub-wavelength thickness, the cavity polariton. The interaction between organic dyes in such a cavity and light is particularly interesting as the enhancement can be very strong, even at room temperature, leading, for example, to unusually large color changes for the dye. These same organic materials also exhibit pronounced reversible changes with light intensity.

This project is aimed at studying nonlinear optical effects in cavity polaritons in which the aforementioned enhancements in the interaction are very strong. The designed structures and special optical materials having these exceptionally strong light-matter interactions will also lead to useful changes in the temporal response, and provide the possibility of dynamically tuning the linear and nonlinear optical response. The phenomena addressed in this project have potential applications in photonic information processing and communication, and in such technologies as dynamic holographic displays.

The graduate and undergraduate students involved in this project are also involved in mentoring and outreach programs for students from underrepresented groups in the inner cities in northeast Ohio.

The official information for the award can be found on the NSF website.

Improving DNA Research on Campus

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The Molecular Biology Analytical Core Laboratory, located in Ward Beecher 4050, is a DNA sequencing facility run by Molecular Biology Specialist Ed Budde.

Until recently, the equipment in the lab was scattered around in different locations. It was brought together in this singular location to provide all of the resources in a common area.

“This room used to be a teaching lab that was used for service courses,” said Biology Chair Dr. Walker. “When we sort of changed the curriculum a bit, this became available.”

Ed Budde works in the lab full time and is trained on all of the equipment and software.

“Usually what I do over here is I support the research of the faculty members and the graduate students, and undergraduates as well because a lot of them are learning how to do things like extract DNA and purify DNA,” said Budde.

Recent projects utilizing the lab are Dr. Cooper’s work studying the genetic makeup of disease-causing fungi and Dr. Caguiat’s research involving metal resistance genes.

Some of the capabilities of the lab are gene sequencing and quantitative PCR, which are available to any students, faculty, or partners of the university.

“We’re trying to market this to outside interests that don’t know this exists,” said Dr. Walker.

The lab is a vital resource in the department that supports research at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

For more information about the lab, the technology, or available services, stop in and talk to Ed Budde or contact Dr. Walker at grwalker@ysu.edu.

QUEST & Best of QUEST 2016

On April 5, YSU undergraduate and graduate students displayed research and projects in poster sessions and oral presentations for peers, professors, community members, and judges. Every college was represented with a diverse array of research topics.

The judges were tasked with selecting one top project from each of YSU’s seven colleges. Those groups then presented at Best of QUEST, where the judges selected one winning project from an undergraduate group and one winner from the graduate student group. Other winners were selected by college.

Congratulations to those receiving a top project distinction, and to all who participated in QUEST 2016.

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Best Undergraduate Project ($1,000 Scholarship funded by YSU Foundation)

Taylor N Baum, Allison N Guerrieri, Tayah D Turocy, Rachel M Centofanti, Samantha A Mock: Determination of Protein Content and Amino Acid Composition of Farm Crickets

 

Best Graduate Project ($500 Scholarship funded by YSU Foundation)

Vinayak Sinha: Analyzing Developer Sentiment in Commit Logs

 

College Award – Graduate Studies ($200 award funded by YSU Research Foundation)

Liu Yinghui: Restoration of Melanin in Albino Mutant of Fonseace monophora can Reverse Its Pathogenicity to the Heterologous Insect Host Galleria mellonella

 

College Award – College of STEM ($200)

Jon Bancroft, Cory Merlo, Kyle Spickler: Design of a CNC Small Hole EDM

 

College Award – College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences ($200)

Megan Evans: The Debilitating Effects of Socioeconomic Status Among Elementary School Students

 

College Award – Bitonte Health and Human Services ($200)

Allison M Shay: Nutrition-Focused Physical Assessment for Malnutrition

 

College Award – Williamson College of Business Administration ($200)

Samantha Anderson: The Affordable Care Act: Financial Implications of Healthcare Mandates on Small Business

 

College Award – College of Creative Arts and Communication ($200)

Gina Mancini: Reflection of Personality in Social Media

 

College Award – Beeghley College of Education ($200)

Mackenzi Brozovich: Digital Literacy in Special Education: An Analysis and Compilation of the Resources Available in the Classroom

STEM Showcase

In Moser Hall, engineering projects such as the concrete canoe, steel bridge, and moon rover, competed for space with posters including one which described research that developed a mathematical modeling of fracking, for example, as approximately  30 student projects were on display at the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Showcase held on Sunday, April 22. The three-hour event provided an opportunity for STEM students to present their projects to peers, faculty, and the community.

In addition, Dr. Nathan Ritchey, chair of the Mathematics department, welcomed roughly 40 outstanding high school seniors into the STEM Leadership Society (SLS). These incoming fall 2012 students, among the best graduates from their high schools, were selected based on their written application and in-person interview. These outstanding student leaders will have the chance to be engaged in community service, research, and internships through their four year program as STEM majors at YSU.

Upcoming member Matt Pelch, senior at Howland High school will be majoring in computer engineering, and said that computer courses and interest in video games lead to his decision to enroll at YSU. Pelch added that he looks forward to be a part of SLS and YSU.

STEM students spent months, or longer on projects, typically in teams. A part of NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race, Mike Uhaus and his team were on hand to show their moonbuggy rover, which was a part of a national competition. The event is held in Huntsville Alabama, and high school and college students may participate. Two riders, one male and one female, face away from each other to pedal this human-powered vehicle. Uhaus noted that “last year the team experienced a suspension failure” so for this year’s competition the team focused primarily on suspension design.

Senior mechanical engineering student Chris Fenstermaker and his team worked with Canfield, Ohio, Linde Hydraulics, on the hydraulic system for wind turbine. The team, found, researched, and purchased a small- scale wind turbine then “designed a hydraulic system to fit the turbine size that we purchased.”

Junior Mechanical Engineering student Ken Minteer worked with art student Chris Kamykowski on a Collaborative Learning (CoLab) project. CoLab is an effort from the College of Fine and Performing Arts and STEM to bring art and engineering together.

Minteer described how Kamykowski wanted to make a barrel of monkeys cast out of bronze. With Kamykowski’s design, Minteer made templates on SolidWorks, a 3D program. “From there” Minteer said “we printed them out on our thermal jet printer.” In Bliss Hall, Kamykowski was able to finish the process by baking the molds and pouring the bronze from the two-coil induction furnace located in the art department.

The 2012 Showcase marked a hike in attendance. STEM students were able to present their hard work to families, media, and the community, who were able to see first-hand the capabilities of STEM College students. Also, high school students from area schools were in attendance to learn more about the YSU STEM program, and opportunities for research and project activities.

STEM Showcase

On April 22, Moser Hall was the location for the annual College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Showcase. The three hour event serves as a way for undergraduate STEM students to present their research projects to the campus community, as well as have high school students see, first hand, the opportunities available at the College and YSU.

The Moser Hall atrium buzzes with activity.

About 30 projects were on display, such as the concrete canoe and moon rover. STEM faculty was also present to guide tours through research laboratories and answer questions.

In addition, Dr. Nathan Ritchey, chair of the Mathematics & Statistics Department, welcomed incoming Fall 2012 YSU students who will be inducted into the STEM Leadership Society (SLS).  Through an application process, SLS accepts exceptional high schools students majoring in any STEM discipline.  The students will be involved in community service, internships, and various research initiatives.

Dr. Steven R. Little

Professor Steven Little, PhD Photo by Joshua Franzos

The Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh is proud to announce that Associate Professor Steven Little, PhD has been appointed Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, effective May 1, 2012.

Dr. Little’s research focuses on the controlled release of drugs. He holds the Bicentennial Board of Visitors Endowed Faculty Fellowship and also retains appointments in the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine and in the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering. Recently, he was elected Chair of the Drug Delivery Special Interest Group in the Society for Biomaterials.

Dr. Little joined the Swanson School of Engineering in 2006 where his research focuses on the controlled release of drugs. He holds the Bicentennial Board of Visitors Endowed Faculty Fellowship and also retains appointments in the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine and in the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering. Recently, he was elected Chair of the Drug Delivery Special Interest Group in the Society for Biomaterials.

Dr. Little holds eight US patents and provisional applications for patents including new methods to fabricate controlled release vehicles in a high throughput fashion; dissolvable synthetic-vasculature; novel complex delivery vehicles; and a description of the first degradable, artificial cell. Since joining Pitt, Dr. Little has received funding from the National Institutes for Health, the National Science Foundation, the US Army, the US Department of Defense, the American Heart Association, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, and several industrial sources that total almost $5 million.

Dr. Little received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 2005 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he held three National Graduate Fellowships and received the American Association for the Advancement of Science Excellence in Research Award for his work on engineered therapies that interface with the human immune system. He received a bachelor of engineering in Chemical Engineering from Youngstown State University in 2000.

NSF STEM Research Poster Session

YSU undergraduate students Kristen Hernandez, Nikki Rendziniak, Nick Ragan, Brian Stahl and Hannah Rebraca presented “Extraction and Characterization of Intermetallic Fe-Al particles from Aluminum Alloys” at the 4th Annual Success in Math and NSF STEM Research Poster Session. Together with Dr. Matt Zeller, YSU Research Staff Scientist at the College of STEM, the students analyzed an aluminum rich Al-Fe melt sample that was sent for analysis by Fireline, Inc., of Youngstown, OH. Fireline, a prime manufacturer of ceramic and refractory materials as well as ceramic-metallic composites, was interested in the exact composition of the melt which is used during the fabrication of metal matrix composite materials.

Students with their posters in the Moser Hall atrium.

Optical microscopy of a polished piece of the solidified indicated the presence of two compounds, a silvery matrix with small black needles and plates embedded. Using X-ray diffraction, the students identified the silvery matrix as aluminum metal. To determine the nature of the black needles, the Al-Fe melt was cut into small pieces and the aluminum matrix was dissolved using a chemical extraction processes – an iodine tartaric acid method and a method using boiling phenol. The latter method succeeded in selectively dissolving the Al matrix. The students analyzed the extracted black needles and plates using powder and single crystal X-ray diffraction and were able to identify them as an Al-Fe alloy of the composition Al13Fe4. The alloy, which initially was thought to be potentially unstable over time based on the tables published by the American Society for Metals (ASM International), which would have had implications for the stability and strength of products containing this Al-Fe alloy, was confirmed to be the most stable Al-Fe alloy of this composition.

For their presentation, the YSU students were awarded one out of only two First Place Prizes from a total of 112 contributions from over 300 students from Case Western University, University of Akron, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, and Cuyahoga Community College.

WISE Career Day for Girls in Grades 6-12

Women in the science and engineering fields are underrepresented; however, one program at Youngstown State University is bringing exposure in these areas to the forefront.

Panelists lead discussion.

The fifteenth annual Women in Science and Engineering Career Day (WISE) will be held on YSU’s campus Saturday, March 3, 2012. This free all day event is open to girls in grades 6-12.

The program is filled with educational, hands-on activities throughout campus, and presentations from a keynote speaker and panelists of industry professionals.
YSU Professor and Director of WISE, Diana Fagan, said the program began because participation in these fields is low, and WISE wants to “reach” the girls “before they attend college.” The first year of WISE saw 56-80 girls from twenty different schools come for the event; these numbers have dramatically increased. Within the past five years, 120-140 girls from 99 schools have partaken in WISE each year, and come anywhere from Akron to Pittsburgh, Fagan noted.

Young girls participate in science activity.

Dr. Pamela L. Gay is this year’s opening keynote speaker, and is an assistant research professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Gay’s educational background is extensive: she received her B.S. in astrophysics from Michigan State University, and her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Texas.

On her blog, Star Stryder, Gay states that she is …”focused on using new media to engage people in science & technology.” Another way she furthers this is by co-hosting Astronomy Cast; a weekly program that answers listeners questions, and discusses various scientific topics.

One of the many benefits of WISE is that the girls simply will have “fun” Fagan said. Workshops are designed to be very interactive, and may include activities such as investigating a crime scene, fingerprinting, or involvement with chemistry, physical therapy, and bioengineering. The girls can also choose from various panel discussions, and will be linked with women in science and engineering disciplines that have provided their information in order to serve as mentors.

While the girls join their sessions, parents or guardians will have the opportunity for a tour of YSU’s campus, as well as attend financial aid informational sessions.

WISE will be expanding in the future, thanks to the generous support of the Edward W. Powers Educational Charitable Fund. Senior Development Officer, Heather Chunn, conveyed that a public announcement of a new endowment for the program will be held on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 2:00pm.

Girls coming to the Women in Science and Engineering Career Day receive real exposure to occupations in science and engineering fields. If they continue with their interest and work hard, they may become future students at Youngstown State University.

More information and registration for WISE is available on the College of STEM website.

STEM Leadership Society provides opportunities for students

Being involved in campus activities is an integral part of the college experience, and students in the STEM Leadership Society (SLS) have the opportunity to do just that. The SLS focuses on bringing the most highly qualified high school seniors to YSU’s STEM College. Currently at 45 members, the SLS provides opportunities in leadership, academic enrichment and community service. By promoting interaction with faculty and business leaders, the SLS provides students with “access to all of the opportunities that would be available at a large, major research institution, but remains small enough so that students actually can take advantage of those opportunities” according to Martin Abraham, Dean of the College.

For active students in the SLS, the benefits are largely rewarding. Darrell Wallace, Associate Professor in Industrial Engineering and the new Director of the program, said students gain an advantage by having “…close interaction with faculty, exclusive academic enrichment opportunities, social activities, and access to experiences with SLS industrial partners.” Internships that provide real work experience enhance student’s job prospects, and the close connection that SLS students have with potential employers enhances their placement opportunities.

Vice President of SLS and mechanical engineering major Teresa McKinney noted, “I was even given the opportunity to meet with a large number of representatives from companies in the area and I am currently speaking with them about internship opportunities. By being a part of this group, I am gaining valuable networking connections.”

The goal of the organization, Wallace said, is to “create a strong, student-centric organization that provides unique and attractive opportunities for exceptional STEM students.” SLS Secretary and biology major Ashley Bowers confirmed that “SLS provides opportunities that otherwise students may not have.” In the future, SLS would like to host events with professionals in the community, to further promote student networking opportunities. As SLS continues to grow, so does their overall mission.

SLS members gathered at social event.

The SLS focuses on recruiting highly qualified incoming STEM freshmen. An initial application is used to provide information on those interested, and then a smaller group is selected for interviews by a faculty panel. The faculty is trying to identify those students who can excel at YSU, as evidenced by the students’ high school grades, participation in extracurricular activities, and teacher’s recommendation.

High school seniors who will be enrolling in a STEM program for Fall 2012 may apply for the SLS no later than March 1, 2012. The round of finalists will be scheduled for an interview on March 17, 2012, and the selected students will be announced by April 1, 2012.

More information on the STEM Leadership society is available on the STEM College website, and an application can be found here.

CUTC Meeting and Outstanding Student Awards Dinner

Washington, D.C. was the destination of YSU’s Center for Transportation and Materials Engineering (CTME) Director, Joann Esenwein, and awards winner, Matthew Coppage, this past weekend, Jan. 21 – 22, 2012.

Matthew Coppage holds his award.

Matt, a senior in Civil Engineering, was selected for this award based on his ability to work with a team as well as individually, focusing on his leadership and problem solving skills. He has worked on various transportation-related research projects including the Center’s outreach programs and has assisted with various lab assignments. An active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)  student chapter, Matt participated in Contractor for a Day.

The Council of University Transportation Centers was established in 1979 by major transportation research centers and institutes in the United States and provides a forum for Universities and Centers to interact collectively with government and industry. Currently, there are over 130 academic institutions involved in membership representing the nation’s leading university-based transportation research and education programs whose members work to advance the state of the art in all modes and disciplines of transportation.

Science Day

Student poses with research poster. *The accompanying photos are provided by Dr. Felicia Armstrong.

Science is bringing area students to Youngstown State University.

The Ohio Academy of Science (OAS) District 15 Lake-to-River Science day will make its way to Beeghly arena (Roselli court) on Saturday March 31, 2012. Science Day is a yearly regional event that brings hundreds of students from parochial, public, and private schools in grades 5-12 for presentations in scientific research. District 15, which includes Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull Counties are just one of 16 districts that participate in the all day science fair. The accompanying photos are provided by Dr. Felicia Armstrong.

According to Stephen E. Rodabaugh, YSU’s Science Day council member and Associate Dean of the STEM College, students must adhere to strict guidelines set by the OAS. Students begin their research months in advance in one of thirteen categories and will have to log their research, create an abstract/hypothesis and complete a poster board presentation. Projects cannot be demonstrated, but students may have photos, graphs and charts that describe their work. Two judges are assigned to each project, and participants are rated on a 40-point scale. Those with a minimum score of 36 will advance to the State Science Day, held on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at The Ohio State University. Participants at this level compete for substantial prizes and scholarship dollars.

Science fairs have been on the decline across the nation, especially in District 15. However, grants awarded by Dominion Gas and General Motors have aided in bringing these events back to the schools in various ways. Due to their generosity, Rodabaugh noted that many of these funds help students with materials and in cases of need waive the $30.00 registration fee. Teachers also benefit through science workshop trainings and assistance with how to bring science fairs back to the schools. Grants received for Science Day also allow YSU STEM students to travel to participating schools as coaches, assisting with project research. Students from Trumbull County’s Neal Middle School and McGuffey Elementary, and Volney Rogers Middle School in Youngstown will represent their schools at YSU, with 20-25 students expected to participate.

Science Day is not only a day of academic enrichment, but also an opportunity to learn more about STEM at YSU. Students and their families will have time to explore YSU’s campus, and are invited to the awards ceremony that will close out the day’s festivities. Rodabaugh conveyed that Science Day is very beneficial to District 15, as well as it is “engaging students not otherwise engaged.”

YSU Materials students work with NSF Research Center through Case connection

A growing new research effort at YSU originates in the Photonic, Optical, and Electronic Materials (POEM) group, begun by YSU physics faculty and now including engineering and chemistry faculty. In physics, for example, the POEM group has been actively recruiting students for the past three summers in cutting-edge research supported by multiple National Science Foundation grants, as well as grants from the State of Ohio Third Frontier Program. Ongoing support for YSU student research into polymers as photonic and optical materials has been provided through YSU’s affiliation with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Science & Technology Center for Layered Polymeric Systems (CLiPS). CLiPS is a multi-institution collaborative research and education Center begun in 2007 with now ten years of pledged NSF support at nearly $40M. Four YSU faculty members have participated in CLiPS, including Drs. Andrews, Crescimanno, and Oder in Physics and Dr. Price in Chemical Engineering. In addition to material support, research collaboration opportunities, and support for off-campus research experiences for YSU students, direct support to YSU as an affiliate of CLiPS is anticipated to total over $300k. Since 2008, YSU faculty has co-authored at least seven refereed publications partially supported through CLiPS with several more in preparation and many including YSU students as co-authors.

The POEM group with staff and students.

A major component of CLiPS programs is the training of undergraduate students at Affiliates Programs, like YSU, and the recruitment of undergraduates into summer research experiences and, eventually, graduate research in polymer science & engineering. In addition to their research at YSU, POEM students have participated each summer in research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) at nearby Case Western Reserve University, the lead institution for CLiPS. The REU program introduces students to CLiPS technologies, polymer science and STEM research and serves as an important pipeline for American students into CLiPS graduate programs. This year the first four American students accepted into the CWRU PhD program in Macromolecular Science & Engineering were REU alumni, including James Aldridge, graduate of Youngstown State University, who joined the prestigious research group of Dr. Eric Baer, Director of CLiPS, in June, 2011. As part of the REU experience, students work as members of CLiPS Layered Research Teams for ten weeks under the mentorship of a graduate student. In addition to daily research activities, REU students participate in weekly program meetings during which they hone their presentation skills, attend lectures in various areas of polymer science and engineering, and discuss professional ethics. The summer program culminates in the Northeast Ohio Undergraduate Polymer Symposium, an event showcasing the summer research work of undergraduates from CWRU, the University of Akron, Kent State University, and NASA.