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Faculty Scholarship Celebration



8:10-9:10 Witherspoon Lakeview

Keeping the Wonder in Teaching and Learning: Writing an Instructional Methods Book

Jenna Copper

What is wonder? It’s a feeling of surprise or awe, a moment that matters. In the classroom, everyday is an opportunity to create a moment that matters. In the presentation, I’ll define the academic purpose, focus, and writing process for my best-selling instructional methods book Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning. Keeping the Wonder is an instructional methods book that explains learner-centered, high-engagement educational methods. I’ll also explain how Keeping the Wonder relates to workshop-style scholarship in the field of education.


The negativity bias and the positivity effect: Changes in the processing of emotional information as we age.

Eric Fields

Younger adults tend to show a bias toward negative (compared to positive and neutral) information in attention and memory, while older adults shift away from this negativity bias and sometimes show a bias for positive information. This coincides with a trend toward greater life satisfaction and emotional well-being as we age. I will talk about research examining how this "positivity effect" in aging can be seen in how the brain responds to emotional stimuli and how age affected emotional well-being and memory during the COVID-19 pandemic.


9:20-10:20 Witherspoon Maple

Being Invisible: Scholarship and Translation in the 21st Century

Jeffrey Bersett

This presentation traces the development and implementation of a faculty sabbatical project, addressing some current issues of academic scholarship in general terms, and also with regard to translation studies and practices. In the creation of my proposal for work to be done during sabbatical leave, I considered the two basic options: continuing lines of inquiry from my previous research, or developing new ones. I also needed to determine which of my teaching fields would be the focus. Would I work in Spanish, where I have done nearly all my research, or Film Studies, where I had yet to explore possibilities? Due to the timeline of the sabbatical application process and my inability to predict where I would be with the work some 18 months in the future, I decided to propose something from each of these areas. When the time came, I opted for a new type of project (new for me) related to Spanish: a translation of works by Spanish author Antonio Muñoz Molina. My presentation will discuss the execution of the project, and the issues that were raised for me during the time that I worked on it.


Adventures in Playwriting

Andrew Ade

Creative writing at Westminster extends to playwriting for the modern stage. Crafting new plays for public presentation and competition has its attendant challenges and limitations. The prevailing practical question in the mind of a playwright today is how to create a new script for the particular work conditions and desires of the potential collaborators (companies, directors, designers, actors) asking for new work. In this talk, creative-writing instructor Dr. Andrew Ade will explain his approach to these matters as he prepares original plays for production consideration.


9:20-10:20 Witherspoon Lakeview

Accountants: An Endangered Species?

Keith B. Bittel & Undergraduate Co-Author: Jonas Clark

The convergence of the pending retirement of many accountants from the Baby Boomer generation and the steady decline of students entering the accounting profession has intensified the search for talent by CPA firms, corporations, governments, and not-for-profit organizations. The profession has identified various reasons for the decline in students choosing to enter the profession: negative perceptions of accounting, the 150-credit hour requirement to obtain a CPA license, the long hours of the “busy season” at CPA firms, and lagging salaries as compared to other professions. Our research is based on the hypothesis that a contributing factor to the decline of students choosing accounting as a field of study is a lack of exposure to accounting education at the high school level. We are working to document the decline in the number of high schools that offer accounting courses to determine whether there is correlation to the decline in accounting degrees awarded by American colleges and universities. We will also discuss the potential benefits of getting accounting education classified as part of the STEM discipline and how that might increase funding for accounting education in secondary school curriculum.


Artist Residencies

Summer Zickefoose

Artist residencies are a form of financial and community support for artists – writers, composers, visual artists, dancers, sound artists, etc. Examples of artist residencies that I have participated in will be used to show how they may initiate bodies of work and how research can be approached within various models. Examples of unique and regional artist residencies will be shown, along with examples that best fit early stages of a career. Where to find artist residencies and how to apply for them will also be addressed.


10:30-11:30 Witherspoon Maple

Studying RNA/protein interactions in the lab and on the computer

Patrick Lackey

Histone mRNA is a unique amongst mRNA molecules in animals due to a highly conserved element known as the 3’ stem-loop. This element replaces the vastly more common poly(A) tail. This unique structure and its binding partner, the Stem-Loop Binding Protein (SLBP), combine to regulate the expression of histone mRNA, a key event for maintaining the proper stability of DNA in cells. Being able to rapidly degrade histone mRNA is an especially key event, as over-expression of the mRNA leads to DNA packaging instability, which has catastrophic events during cell division. Dr. Lackey’s research focuses specifically on an important step in the early stages of histone mRNA degradation called uridylation; a small modification to the 3’ end of the RNA molecules that takes place shortly before degradation begins. Dr. Lackey and his students use a combination of biophysical lab techniques and computational simulations to better understand the way that this small modification affects the stability of both the stem-loop itself and the stem-loop/SLBP complex during the degradation of histone mRNA.


Can salamanders provide us with clues for enhancing wound healing and tissue regeneration in humans?

Joshua Corrette-Bennett

I am intrigued with the cellular and genetic processes that regulate wound healing and tissue regeneration in the Mexican salamander (Axolotl). Amphibians (Order Urodel) have the amazing ability to regenerate adult tissues such as limbs and tails, as well as heart, brain, and lung tissue after they have been damaged. My lab looks at chemical and biological factors that might affect (positively or negatively) wounding healing and regenerative abilities in the axolotl. We also analyze a few of the underlying genetic mechanisms that contribute to wound healing and tissue regeneration by studying gene expressions patterns following amputation of a limb and treatment with a chemical.


10:30-11:30 Witherspoon Lakeview

Glacier Erasure: Stories, Speculation, Surveys, and Soil Science in Potawatomi Homelands

David Horst Lehman

People of the Potawatomi nation have been impactful stewards of their homelands for centuries. However, soil science, geology, geomorphology, geography, and other historical sciences have often left Potawatomi people out of the stories they tell about Potawatomi homelands. At times, scientists and engineers involved in these fields reinforce U.S. settler colonial ideas that Native nations and their land use practices could simply be erased and replaced. Throughout the 19th century land surveyors and land speculators in the U.S. Midwest worked to extract private capital from the process of treatymaking between the U.S. government and the Potawatomi by regarding the land as in a state of nature. In the early 20th century, soil scientists, funded through land-grant schools, conducted soil surveys not only to gain general knowledge but specifically to help settler landowners’ productivity and profitability. Publishers of Midwestern local history in the same era were equally happy to include glaciers and settler farmers in their accounts while skimming over the deep, specific histories of the Potawatomi Nation. Taking the Potawatomi nation’s land use practices over time into account is an important corrective to Earth science that has been conducted under U.S. sovereignty.


The Obama Legacy: Some Early Perspectives

James C. Rhoads

The purpose of this study is to examine early understandings of the Obama legacy among presidential scholars. From the vast commentary on Obama and his legacy, we abstracted hundreds of statements and then sampled 40 of these representing various aspects of the Obama presidency. This 40 item Q sample and detailed instructions were sent to presidential scholars who were asked to render their opinion on the Obama Legacy by ranking the 40 items. Responses were received from 26 academics and the analysis produced four competing narratives on the Obama legacy.


11:40-12:40 Witherspoon Maple

Extreme Makeover: Learning Experiences and Extreme Deadline Projects

Bradley Weaver & Kandice Hartner

In the fast-paced media, our School of Communication faculty proactively integrates high-pressure, extreme deadline projects into our courses, fostering creativity, critical thinking, technical skill, leadership, problem-solving, and teamwork—essential traits for media professionals. We underscore the industry's demand for preparedness, where missed deadlines lead to significant losses. Two key projects exemplify this approach: the 72-Hour Music Video Competition, cultivating resource and time management skills, and the 48-Hour Film Project, promoting critical thinking and teamwork. These experiences bridge theory and practice, uniquely preparing students for high-pressure media careers.


The Westminster College Apiary - Research, rewards, and a persistent rash

Patrick D Krantz & Undergraduate Co-Author: Avery Keenan

Bees...scary...dangerous...creepy...but critically important! No doubt we all have experiences with bees. Some interactions are positive while others are not. This presentation will focus on how the establishment of Westminster’s bee yard grew from a couple of hives and a bad idea to a working apiary with supporting coursework, student researchers using state of the art technology, our social media buzz, and curriculum integration. Learn about the role of pollinators in the environment and how you can get involved in supporting this vitally important ecosystem service!


11:40-12:40 Witherspoon Lakeview

Morphology - On a Musical Plane

John Robertson & Undergraduate Co-Author: Amy Tutt

The Liberal Arts advocates appreciation for different ways of knowing in better understanding the human experience. This presentation looks to celebrate that approach by bringing together structural biology, data visualization, and music. Recent advances have made it possible to apply x-ray analysis at very fine scales (known as Micro-CT scanning). Development of software that can combine and animate digital x-ray imaging has created a new way to look at bodies, organs, and tissues. We will discuss how these techniques are applied to the study of structures in juvenile paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) in the Department of Biology at Westminster College. Beyond providing a valuable way for a biologist to explore an organism’s morphology, these renderings are creative expressions of data. Just as film is enriched by a musical score, we suggest that image-based data visualizations are amenable to music accompaniment. To that end, biology major and music minor Amy Tutt will score several short CT “movies”. Amy will explain her creative choices and inspirations, as well as her perspectives on how the music accompanies and enhances the data visualizations.


This is the brain on stress: what systems affect how vaping, diet, and exercise affect animal stress?

Deanne Buffalari & Undergraduate Co-Author: Taylor Harman

Stress, anxiety, and drug addiction are problems that affect the lives of millions of individuals each year. Yet our understanding of these issues, and ability to treat them, is limited. Ethical guidelines limit the degree to which we can perform research in human populations, so the use of animal models is important to help us understand how stress drives anxiety and addiction, and the ways in which drugs promote addiction. Our questions in the field of neuroscience ask things like: why is nicotine so addictive? How does exposure to marijuana-related compounds affect stress and anxiety? Does exposure to drugs like cocaine, marijuana, or methylphenidate during adolescence increase the risk of anxiety later in life? If we understand how stress, anxiety, and drugs interact, we may be able to improve treatment for individuals affected by these factors.


12:50-1:50 Witherspoon Maple

Mysterious radio sources in our Galaxy

Matteo Luisi & Undergraduate Co-Author: Haley Simcic

The Green Bank Telescope Diffuse Ionized Gas Survey (GDIGS) is a large-scale survey of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, at radio wavelengths. The survey has resulted in the detection of numerous regions, where stars are in the process of being formed. It has also allowed us to learn more about the interstellar medium, the diffuse gas and dust that lives in the space between stars. We detected ten bright compact sources in the GDIGS data, whose properties are unlike that of other star-forming regions. I will discuss these objects, provide context, and hypothesize on their type and possible origin.


A Small Fib: Exploring the Fibonacci Sequence

John Bonomo

The problem of finding a Fibonacci sequence which contains a specified number and has the smallest second element is investigated. This is research I did with an undergraduate Math major a few years ago and was recently published in the College Math Journal.


12:50-1:50 Witherspoon Lakeview

Translation and Meaning--Insights from the Trenches of an Ongoing Research Project

Russell Martin

The short book by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco (1896–1966, canonized 1994)--The Origins of the Law of Succession in Russia--is a well-known work, but it has never been translated into English or studied for its vital insights into the mentalité of the Russian émigré community after the 1917 Revolution. My work to produce a translation and study of the book has yielded some new and striking results about how this St. John helped to shape the way Russians living in exile in the early and mid-20th century coped with the unthinkable reality of their world having been destroyed by revolution and persecution. This talk explores the text for these insights, and discusses the challenges of conveying these insights into serviceable English.


Bringing Horror Back: Researching Monstrous Literature

Trisha Cowen & Undergraduate Co-Author: Grace Phillips, Anni McCabe

This panel will explore the different ways literary scholars study the historical and cultural symbolism of monsters in contemporary fiction and film. Dr. Cowen researches, teaches, and writes about supernatural manifestations in literature to probe into what humans fear and why. Academic debates tend to explore how social and cultural threats come to be embodied in the figure of a monster and their actions portray our deepest fears. Inspired by this area of academic inquiry, Dr. Cowen’s students Grace Phillips and Anni McCabe spent the summer at Westminster as research fellows investigating contemporary societal fears through figurative and literal monsters in texts such as The Virgin Suicides and Beau is Afraid.


2:00-3:00 Witherspoon Maple

Deconstructing the American narrative of race

Rene A. Pico

This meta-analysis is the interdisciplinary work connecting scientific, historical, and anthropological evidence challenging the social construct of race. As a social construct, race has perpetuated inequalities, established social boundaries, and created the myths of underachievement. Deconstructing the American narrative of race is a significant and complex topic directly related to our role as future professionals and as ordinary citizens. We will discuss the dimensions of this construct and its social implications, especially how we can educate the new generations of teacher candidates, in-service teachers, and teacher educators, and offer strategies for engaging in critical actions, curriculum development, inclusion initiatives, collaborative community projects and outreach, and policy advocacy to foster a more inclusive and equitable society.


“Think it with a man’s brain”: Narration and Gender Identity in Charlotte Brontë’s Fiction

Kristianne Kalata

What can styles of narration teach us about gender identity in fiction and reality? My research approaches this question by way of Charlotte Brontë’s 1849 novel Shirley, set during the Luddite Riots in 1811-12 Yorkshire and published just after Charlotte’s revelation that hers was the identity behind the mysterious authorial pseudonym, Currer Bell. A departure from Brontë’s typical “I” narrator, Shirley marks the author’s first and only complete novel to use third-person omniscient narration. Following poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s endorsement of the androgynous mind and anticipating novelist Virginia Woolf’s theorizing of that concept, Shirley focalizes narration largely in the minds of its female co-protagonists, each of whom resists womanhood: Caroline Helstone wishes she were a man, and Shirley Keeldar identifies with masculine pronouns. While Brontë’s rendering of androgynous thought and behavior is problematic in its inconsistency, it nonetheless underscores the distinction between social and self-perception of gender identity. My presentation explores how this distinction plays out—not only on levels of character and narrator, but also in readers’ responses to the novel in Victorian reviews and 21st-century online communities including goodreads.


2:00-3:00 Witherspoon Lakeview

Experiential Learning through the Westminster Bee Company

Helen Boylan

The Westminster Bee Company is a student-run enterprise with a mission "to provide sustainable, natural, and local honey and bee products from Westminster College's Apiary. This venture and related purchases support students, a hands-on education, and the environment." Students from all majors can participate in this hands-on, interdisciplinary venture that brings together science, entrepreneurship, marketing, sales, and creative media, among other disciplines. Learn how students and faculty collaborate to develop business plans, marketing strategies, and new products.


How did climate change affect religious belief in the 17th century?

Timothy Grieve-Carlson

My research focuses on the ways that environmental phenomena shape religious belief and practice. In my upcoming book American Aurora: Environment and Apocalypse in Early Pennsylvania, I explore the ways that ordinary Christians in Europe responded to climate change during the seventeenth century. This period was the peak of what climate scientists call the Little Ice Age, a period of drastic cooling in the northern hemisphere that destabilized much of the world during the period. Wars, famines, and political chaos was the norm throughout the northern hemisphere as the climate changed. Ordinary Christians noticed that something was off, too. Many of them turned away from their typical orthodox religious beliefs towards more radical forms of religious thought and practice that helped them make sense of the changing cosmos and their place in it.


3:10-4:10 Witherspoon Maple

Assessment of Water Quality at Westminster College: Results from a Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Project

Ann Throckmorton & Undergraduate Co-Author: Jamie Robertson

Safe drinking water is crucial for humans. Although we have technologies to clean and treat our water to remove contaminants, in some cases, they still find their way to our faucets. Many contaminants cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted, so people can be exposed without their knowledge. So, how safe is the water at Westminster College? We tested 35 water sources on campus to determine if there is reason to be concerned about levels of heavy metals in the water (iron, chromium, lead, copper, mercury). Although some individual measurements were above the Maximum Contaminant Levels set by the EPA, none were greatly elevated. We concluded that, overall, levels of the heavy metals that we tested are not high enough to be a concern for those who consume drinking water on Westminster College’s campus. This project illustrates the value of student-faculty collaborative research to address important issues in science and society.


Recovering critical minerals from waste streams.

Pete Smith

Economic progress and corresponding human consumption continue to deplete natural resources reserves through the extraction and processing of critical minerals. Critical minerals are defined in Executive Order 14017 as materials vital to the economic or national security of the U.S., vulnerable to supply chain disruption, and serving an essential function in the manufacture of a product, whose absence would have significant consequences. Removing critical minerals from the earth (mining) also has detrimental effects on the environment and human health. One possible strategy to mitigate the pollution, biodiversity loss, and waste production associated with mining is adopting the principles of a circular economy. A circular economy involves (among other principles) reusing, repairing, and recycling materials and products for as long as possible. The ongoing research in the Smith lab focuses on the novel application of existing and robust chemical processes for recovering critical minerals from current waste streams. The majority of our work involves using emulsion separation technology to recovery lithium from oilfield brine and to separate samarium and cobalt from scrap magnets. The process development and preliminary results will be discussed.