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Exceptional Student Research


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Hood College has a long history and tradition of faculty and student collaborative research. The projects highlighted in stories on the following pages are recent examples of the varied research foci that reach across the disciplines. For some students, the opportunity to engage in research sets the tone and the direction for their academic work and their professional careers.

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As the provost and vice president of academic affairs, I have had the pleasure of seeing the quality of the research projects completed by our students under the direction of our faculty. The result of this type of in-depth examination gives rise to outstanding outcomes. Students find themselves working alongside seasoned faculty researchers, other student researchers or scientists within local research agencies. In many cases, students carve out new areas of exploration under the careful tutelage of a faculty member. There is simply nothing that deepens the understanding of a question better than engaging in research within or outside the laboratory. From the study of Gulag communities in Russia to the excavation of archeological ruins in Turkey to the examination of factors related to Huntington's disease in the laboratory, Hood students throw themselves into the rigor of the research process.

The benefits of these research opportunities are increased understanding and knowledge, experience presenting studies at poster sessions on campus or at regional or national professional meetings and the prestige gained by publishing with faculty members or other mentors. Many students find that their research experiences are pivotal to their acceptance in graduate or professional programs or competitive jobs upon completing their undergraduate degrees. Research experiences are defining experiences for many of our students. We celebrate the wonderful tradition of faculty-student research and as the future unfolds, Hood will continue to develop new opportunities to further research on campus that are examined and analyzed by Hood faculty and students.

Kate Conway-Turner
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

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Secret Cities of Russia Projects For Peace
Student Summer Research Boosting Interest in Science
A study to wag your tail about Exceptional Student Research


Secret Cities of Russia



To say that Professor Len Latkovski and student Maria Gaetskaya have a providential connection that will benefit the research they are conducting this summer might be a severe understatement.

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Latkovski, professor of history, and rising sophomore Gaetskaya, whose native country is Russia, are this summer undertaking what is a first-of-its-kind research project on so-called secret Soviet cities—essentially atomic bomb development sites that were closed to all and disappeared from the Soviet maps until 1990. Latkovski, known by students, alums and colleagues alike to be passionate about his work, has had a keen lifelong interest in Russia and the Soviet Union. So not long after he met Gaetskaya, who has a similarly keen interest in the history of her country, they found that their mutual interest was a bond that led them to this project.

"We have an opportunity to write an original history," Latkovski said of the challenge the two are undertaking. "Right now the Putin regime in Russia is very suspicious about historians writing the truth about certain topics of the Soviet past—about Gulag history especially. People are not free to write about the past."

In Gaetskaya, he has not only a stellar protégé, but also someone who knows the language and culture of Russia and has a connection to the broader story. Gaetskaya's grandfather was arrested as a political prisoner in the 1940s in his native Western Ukraine. He was sent to a Gulag site in the far north of Russia. As part of her work, she is visiting Russia this summer and hopes that she will be able to interview her grandfather about his experiences— something she has never done.

Latkovski said these cities have no detailed written histories—their code names were changed back to their original names after the Cold War ended—and they'll be relying on information they can find online, in declassified U.S. documents, in certain Russian publications since 1991, and that which Gaetskaya can find in archives and libraries in Russia.

She is beyond excited about this opportunity to explore and record this obscure, but important, history of her homeland that has a direct connection to her family.

"In all my years in school in Russia we studied Russian history but we never learned about these places," Gaetskaya said.

The two will focus on what Latkovski believes are the 10 most important sites in the era of the buildup of the massive Soviet nuclear program, which are among many that became "lost" from about 1946 to 1991.

"We will look at the origins, history and how the cities were built by Gulag forced labor, and the military battalions that were in those cities," Latkovski said.

Beyond the research and the book that they will publish, Gaetskaya is finding fulfillment in this project.

"I'm interested in politics and history; I am Russian. I am just amazed about the stereotype and prejudice that still exists," Gaetskaya said. "I think it is something I can change if people learn more about our culture, maybe through the lives of the people living in these cities. I believe it will be a life-changing experience for me."

Assisting Latkovski and Gaetskaya in the summer-long project are Hood senior Kris Fair and James Holl '11.

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Projects For Peace



It's not every college student who is able to indulge in his or her passion, test classroom-based theories in a practical setting and help a community break away from its violent past, all at the same time. But that's exactly what rising seniors Sissi Hamann Türkowsky and Piret Mägi are doing this summer.

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Türkowsky and Mägi were recently awarded funding for a prestigious Davis Project for Peace and $10,000 to implement a community- based art project that targets at-risk youths in Lima, Peru.

The Davis Project for Peace is an initiative launched by Kathryn Wasserman Davis, an accomplished internationalist and philanthropist who, on her 100th birthday, committed $1 million for projects that bring new thinking to the prospects of peace. Now in its fifth year, the highly competitive awards fund 100 such projects each year.

Türkowsky and Mägi completed their last two years of high school at United World College schools and earned scholarships to attend Hood, a UWC-partner college. All Hood students are eligible to submit proposals for peace-supporting projects to the Davis Projects for Peace.

"This project combines our academic interests with our commitment to social development and positive change," said Türkowsky, an art history and sociology major. The Peruvian native sees this as an opportunity to combine her two passions: creating art while gaining a better understanding of the problems facing marginal populations and exposing them to ways in which to turn their lives around.

Türkowsky and Mägi believe that this initiative will help former gang members change their reputations within their community and elevate them as role models for their peers who are also trying to build better futures.

"These students have few educational and recreational opportunities," said Mägi, a graphic design major who hails from Estonia. "We hope this project will generate space for positive change, personal expression and dialogue as well as offer me a chance to apply my skills as a designer."

Donald Wright, Ph.D., assistant professor of French and Arabic, thinks there is value in this endeavor not only for the participants, but also for their peers. "Upon their return, students share their experiences with other students, bringing the world and its infinite diversity to our doorstep," he said. "Even students who do not participate become aware of how the world is constantly changing and how it is the responsibility of all of its inhabitants to make it a better place."

Griselda Zuffi, Ph.D., who served as the faculty adviser to Türkowsky and Mägi as they were preparing the proposal, sees this experience as a bridge between academia—what they have learned in the classroom—and its practical application in the community.

"They will be able to observe firsthand the impact of their concept for change," she said. "This hands-on initiative can only serve to enrich their lives and careers. Working in the Peruvian community will be a major departure from their normal environment. I think this experience may change lives."

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Student Summer Research



A Hood College liberal arts education, known for its crossdisciplinary approach, facilitates many opportunities for students to integrate different disciplines within a single project. Thanks to the Summer Science Research Institute, funded by Life Technologies, the Hodson Research Institute and individual faculty research grants, students are doing just that.

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Rising seniors Joshua Haines, Jonathan Butterfield and Troy Hubbard are three of the 20 students, along with 11 faculty members, who are participating in the eight-week SSRI, established in 1996.

Haines, in collaboration with Susan Ensel, Whitaker Professor of Chemistry, is designing a natural products laboratory experience that will be used to introduce honors students to chemical and biological laboratory processes.

As an honors program student who is pursuing a double major in chemistry and math, Haines chose to participate in the SSRI to gain real-world experience and get a feel for what a career in chemistry might be like. "I would like to eventually become an organic chemistry or analytical chemistry researcher," Haines said. "I felt this opportunity would allow me to see whether the job is exactly what I thought it would be."

Haines' project will involve targeting and extracting biologically active plant compounds that may help combat diseases and other maladies in humans. Ensel hopes this assignment will lay the groundwork for a new direction of research at Hood. By the end of the summer they will have developed the first ongoing natural products chemistry project.

Designing the experience and using the model for research are among the benefits of working in Ensel's lab. "Josh will use the skills he has developed to begin searching for a new, medicinally useful compound from a previously uninvestigated species," said Ensel.

Butterfield and Hubbard are conducting research with Dana Lawrence, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, whose work is concentrated on zinc-binding proteins and virus-host cell interactions. "It is an offense (virus) versus defense (host) kind of situation," she said. "The project will help the students understand the structure and function of proteins that are important in this process."

Butterfield hopes to purify a protein called zincfinger antiviral protein, which is known to make the host highly resistant to viruses. This protein has been found to prevent viruses from multiplying in many mammals, including humans.

"This opportunity allows me to see the true amount of work involved in completing an experiment for a problem that has never been solved," Butterfield said.

Hubbard will be working on a protein called MV-LAP, which is derived from the Myxoma virus. MV-LAP helps the virus evade detection by the host's immune system, increasing and prolonging its infectivity. "By creating a fusion protein with the MV-LAP attached, we hope we will be able to effectively isolate the protein," Hubbard explained.

Lawrence believes the team will have a purified protein that can be used for analysis in other labs by the end of the summer.

In addition to participating in the research process, students learn about data analysis and presentation, and present their own data at an on-campus poster session in the fall. Some students will eventually co-author papers based on their research with faculty mentors.

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Boosting Interest in Science



With the help of a major government grant, Hood College faculty members, in collaboration with a local elementary school, will be doing their part this summer to help boost interest and skills in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines among grade school students at a local Frederick County public school.

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Hood education faculty applied for and received an $80,000 Maryland State Department of Education Science, Technology, Engineering and Math grant to train teachers at Monocacy Elementary School and Hood students pursuing education degrees to deliver effective instruction in these subject areas to students in under-represented elementary populations.

Hood is one of seven colleges in Maryland to receive a STEM grant, which is funded by the federal government's "Race to the Top" initiative—part of President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Program. The grants reward states for taking up ambitious changes to improve struggling schools, close the achievement gap, boost graduation rates and improve the teaching profession. These highly competitive grants are normally awarded for innovative projects and programs that enhance student learning in these disciplines.

"We received this grant as a collaborative effort between Hood College and Monocacy Elementary School," said Judy Sherman, Ed.D., assistant professor of education and director of the graduate program in curriculum and instruction. Assisted by Ellen Koitz, Ed.D., associate professor of education, and Casey Day- Kells, instructor in reading, Sherman says the grant will affect both populations. "Its purpose is to work with other colleges in Maryland to design an elementary STEM certification and endorsement program at the undergraduate and graduate levels and to train Monocacy Elementary School teachers to deliver effective STEM instruction," added Paula Gordon, Professional Development School director.

Starting this summer, in four-day workshops, Sherman and Gordon will train Monocacy fourth and fifth grade teachers in STEM curricula, which they will then pilot in their classrooms. Training will continue through the entire 30-month initiative so that all teachers, including the professional support staff, will become competent in delivering authentic STEM instruction. Hood's student interns will also gain valuable experience as they, along with their teacher mentors, receive STEM training and then implement the curricula in the classroom.

Recent studies have identified American students not only as falling behind in those disciplines but also have determined that they are far less interested in those subjects than their international peers. In response to the reports, federal agencies, state governments, corporations and foundations have spent millions of dollars to fund initiatives that will enhance learning in these areas.

Observations and recommendations from the Monocacy staff and interns will be used by the Maryland State Department of Education to formulate statewide standards for elementary STEM certification or endorsement at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

"The Hood student interns will play an instrumental role in this study," said Sherman. "Their feedback, based on their observations and pragmatic research, will be key to the development of criteria and standards for state certification in STEM education. The experience—being on the cutting edge of educational practices, research and curriculum development—will be invaluable."

Sherman and Gordon also have plans to incorporate this training throughout the education curriculum. "In a transdisciplinary approach, STEM courses will be developed and piloted during the next two years, possibly as part of Hood's master's degree in curriculum and instruction program," said Sherman. "STEM curricula will be infused in coursework taken by our education undergraduates as well."

"This action-based research informs instruction and prepares teachers to facilitate the STEM learning," said Gordon. "Our goal is to develop a curriculum that encourages students to be productive participants in the global economy."

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A study to wag your tail about



Given the College's location in the midst of a residential neighborhood, seeing pet owners walking their dogs on campus may not seem like an unusual thing. But watching those dogs head into a classroom in Rosenstock Hall may raise a few eyebrows.

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Since 2008, 465 dogs and their owners have made their way to Shannon Kundey's classroom lab, where she and her students have been studying the social and cognitive abilities of dogs and their interactions with humans.

"If we understand animals, it helps us to understand ourselves and what is unique about humans," said Kundey, assistant professor of psychology. "And it helps participants to appreciate their dogs and the power of their gestures."

Justin Delise '12, one of the students assisting Kundey with her research and a dog lover himself, has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The hands-on research has helped him better relate to the materials presented in his psychology classes. "I find this incredibly useful and fulfilling," he said. "It has been rewarding, intrinsically and academically."

Delise, who transferred to Hood in fall 2010 from Frederick Community College, plans to pursue a doctorate in psychology. Participating in the research, along with co-authorship of published research findings, will give him a distinct advantage when he applies to graduate school.

Meghan Tomlin '11 has experienced firsthand the benefits of being involved with Kundey's research. "Many of the graduate programs to which I applied were impressed not only with the study itself but also that I had done this type of research and presented it in a public forum as an undergraduate," she said. "I am thankful for the enriching experience."

Tomlin will continue to work with Kundey this fall while pursuing a master's degree in clinical psychology with a concentration in counseling. Her goal is to earn a doctorate in counseling psychology and to work with military families.

"It's an incredible opportunity for undergraduates," said Kundey of her collaboration with students. "It allows them to get their feet wet in a safe environment without the competitive nature that is sometimes a part of graduate school."

The results of Kundey's research suggest what many dog owners know, that dogs assess and respond to situations they encounter. "And, more importantly," she said, "it has major applications in the real world." Organizations that employ dogs— police and rescue forces and handicapped training facilities, for example—can use what Kundey has learned to modify dogs' behaviors to better assist them in their jobs. The dogs become more effective workers if their training focuses on their known strengths.

According to Kundey, the project has been well received by the Frederick and Hood communities. She is appreciative of the enthusiastic participation by faculty, staff, students and local pet owners. "Besides," she said, "we have a lot of fun doing it!"

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Exceptional Student Research



Departmental honors papers and projects offer perfect opportunities for students who want greater academic challenges or who want to pursue research on subjects or topics of special interest to them.

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The prestigious and highly selective yearlong program offers undergraduate students with exceptional academic records the chance to engage in intensive research or a special project.

Students who complete departmental honors papers, which are included in the permanent collections of the Beneficial-Hodson Library and Information Technology Center, are designated Christine P. Tischer Scholars in honor of the 1965 alumna who has generously supported the program.

This spring, 20 students presented their research in a special forum, two of whom are highlighted here.

Peter Heiss '11 saw the departmental honors project as an opportunity to further explore a topic in which he has had a longtime interest—the influence of the Spanish guitar in the music of Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti, who is best known for his 555 keyboard sonatas.

Heiss, who majored in music, admits the honors paper was a lot of work and more complicated than he thought it would be.

"This was the longest paper I'd ever written, but was definitely worth it," he said. "I learned about the research process and how to do it successfully. I am better prepared to do this kind of study in the future."

The Rockville, Md., resident attributes his success to the guidance from his adviser, Noel Verzosa, assistant professor of music. "He is a scholar, very knowledgeable," Heiss said. "He pointed me in the right direction."

Verzosa views Heiss' project as a perfect example of how academic and performance talent—a rare combination of two skills that are often considered incompatible by scholars and performers alike—can mutually benefit each other.

"As a performer, Peter hears details and nuances in Scarlatti's music that scholars don't, and as a scholar he can provide historical explanations for these things in a way that most performers can't," Verzosa said. "Peter's greatest strength is his inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity."

Heiss is headed to Shenandoah University this fall to pursue a master's degree in guitar performance. He believes this experience has opened the door for him to continue the study, a task he might not have been willing to undertake had he not had the opportunity to complete a departmental honors paper.

Tsion Hiletework '11 was not sure where she was headed after graduation from Hood, but she knew she wanted to do something important. When she was invited to do a departmental research paper, she jumped at the chance to further explore a topic she had studied in Professor Ann Boyd's class on HIV/AIDS. She was hoping that undertaking this research project might give her a clearer direction about her future.

Hiletework's research focused on how two developing countries—Thailand and South Africa—responded to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the degree to which each country included women in the resolution process and the consequences of those policies, and the dramatically different outcomes.

"While the topic isn't very nice, it was an enlightening and rewarding experience," Hiletework said. "I've never done research of this magnitude before; it was grueling but fascinating."

Paige Eager, associate professor of political science, met Hiletework as a first-year student; she was impressed by her intellectual curiosity, conscientiousness and written and oral skills. She knew the departmental honors paper would be the perfect medium for Hiletework to broaden her research skills, which would better prepare her for the rigors of graduate school.

"The paper was valuable for Tsion because it forced her to take an interdisciplinary approach in examining the sociological, economic, gendered and political responses to the crisis in both countries," said Eager, who served as Hiletework's primary research adviser. "Moreover, her experience taking Ann Boyd's class provided her with the scientific background on the virus as well as the various failed vaccine trials."

Hiletework achieved her goals. She has contributed not only valuable research, but also her experience has given her a direction; she will attend a Public Leadership Education Network conference on women and international policy this summer and American University in the fall to pursue a master's degree in public affairs and international service.

"Knowing that I have taken the time to write about something serious and worthy of attention has made me reflect on myself," said Hiletework. "Going through this process has given me the confidence to do anything."

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