Green Roof Ecology: Connor Long ’19 and Martin Ryan ’19

Martin Ryan ’19 (left) and Connor Long ’19

Anyone who has walked the path between the Post Learning Commons and the Science Center at Saint Joseph’s has likely noticed signs that indicate the latter’s “green roof.” But what really goes on up there? Martin Ryan ’19 and Connor Long ’19 are exploring the answers as part of a project for the Summer Scholars Program. Together, they are analyzing the microbes in the soil of the green roof in search of bacteria and to discover the types of carbon sources they use.

“We both wanted to know more about the bacteria that live in the soil,” says Long, a biology major from Aston, Pennsylvania. “The green roof is a great resource to have on campus for this type of research.”

Long and Ryan collect soil from different areas on the green roof using a soil core sampler and then place the soil into a 50ml tube and fill it with water. After creating a dilution, they place the liquid onto an agar plate — a Petri dish that contains a growth medium — to count the colonies of bacteria within the soil. Finally, they use a pipette to place the solution into a Biolog “EcoPlates.” This tool has 96 wells, with three replicas of 31 different carbon sources and three wells filled with water that serve as the control. Long and Ryan use this to detect carbon: if the carbon solution turns purple upon contact with the soil solution, the bacteria in the solution is using that specific carbon source.

Their mentor for this research is Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D., graduate director and professor of biology, who has research experience in urban ecology. She has previously mentored students through the Summer Scholars Program on the green roof, and says that Long and Martin’s research has practical value for those who want to start green roofs in the Mid-Atlantic states.

“Because green roofs are still new in the United States, there isn’t a lot of information on some aspects of their ecology,” Snetselaar explains. “When our roof was started in 2010, the soil was essentially sterile, so it’s an opportunity to examine the kinds of microbes that colonize in the soil early on.”

By examining the four types of soil plots on the roof, the two scholars’ ultimate goals are to discover a difference between carbon sources, draining systems and whether there are dry or wet spots.

“So far,” says Ryan, a biology major form Webster, New York, “we have noticed that carbohydrates are the primary carbon source being used.”

Both students sought places in the Summer Scholars Program to engage in independent research and to discern their career paths, which include either research or medical school.

“Summer Scholars allowed me to pursue a question in science independently,” says Long. “I’ve become more involved and confident in my research as the weeks have progressed.”

To Ryan, Summer Scholars provided a chance to set himself apart from the rest of his classmates and to answer his own scientific questions.

Snetselaar enjoys working with both of the students, who each took a course in environmental microbiology, initially sparking their interest.

“Connor and Martin have a lot of data that they are working with to present in an understandable way,” says Snetselaar. “They are doing a great job of learning to read the literature in the field and then adapting methods used by other researchers to their project.”

Outside the research lab, Ryan is on the SJU Gaelic Football Club team and plays in intramural sports. He is also a member of Sigma Zeta Honors Society and Alpha Epsilon Delta Honors Society. Long also plays intramural sports and is involved in Sigma Zeta. Both students are on the Dean’s List.

Project Title: Microbial analysis using Biolog EcoPlates™ to Study Microbes Contained in the Soil of Different Plants Growing on the Green Roof

Mentor: Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D., professor of biology

Hometown: Aston, Pennsylvania / Webster, New York

Follow @sjuartssciences @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP

Bringing Mathematics to Life in the Sport of Volleyball: Lauren Hall ’19

Hall

Hall

It’s a game of inches.

The adage has been applied to sports for decades, and it’s true: contests across the globe are decided by a small margin every day. In fact, dozens of math concepts can be applied to any given moment in a sporting event.

Lauren Hall ’19 is hoping to use this to her advantage in developing an engaging math curriculum for high school students and college freshmen.

Hall, a dual mathematics and secondary educations major from Malvern, Pennsylvania, is taking on the project as part of SJU’s Summer Scholars Program. Under the mentorship of Tetyana Berezovski, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics and director of the graduate program in secondary mathematics education, Hall is designing a challenging lesson plan based on the mathematics of volleyball.

“We will take snapshots of game action, particularly passing, and run it through dynamic geometry software to map out angles and distances,” Hall explains. “From there, we can formulate age-appropriate problems for students to solve ­— calculating time, speed, force and so on.”

A member of SJU’s women’s club volleyball team, Hall hopes connecting the sport to math will help students to more readily understand concepts.

“I believe that an interesting, comprehensive and challenging curriculum is paramount to better engaging and enriching students as they progress with mathematics,” she says.

Berezovski praises Hall’s breadth of expertise, saying “Laura’s background in calculus and physics is fundamental for mathematical modeling, and her extensive experience in volleyball form two major domains of knowledge needed for this project.”

Hall has earned a place on the Dean’s List in each of her semesters at Saint Joseph’s. Outside the classroom, she serves as a resident assistant and is a member of Sigma Zeta, the national Science and Mathematics Honor Society. She says that the Summer Scholars Program allows her to work at her own pace.

“The program allows you a more flexible approach to learning,” she says. “If you understand a concept quickly, you can move right on to something more advanced. By the same token, if something takes more time to study, you can do exactly that. Learning is tailored to you as an individual.”

Project Title: Bring Mathematics to Life in the Sport of Volleyball

Mentor: Tetyana Berezowski, Ph.D.

Hometown: Malvern, PA

Follow @sjuartssciences @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP

Humor and Incivility on Social Media: Karleigh Lopez ’20

Karleigh Lopez '20

Karleigh Lopez ’20

When a politician says or does something you don’t like; what do you do? You rush to your favorite social media site armed with your passion and wit, of course! Perhaps you may take a moment before posting: Karleigh Lopez Summer Scholar project, which studies humor and incivility on mass media and their effect on society, might change your mind.

“The public is concerned about social behavior on online platforms,” says Lopez. “Increased political polarization is often associated with incivility, but recent research has shown the problem may be more of a widespread characteristic of our society.”

Lopez, a communication studies major from Shamong, New Jersey, is exploring the role of on social media as a response to significant newsworthy events and the extent to which it is marked by politeness or discourtesy. More specifically, she is exploring the reaction across the political spectrum to President Trump’s (June 1 2017) announcement that the United States’ would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

From about two weeks since the date that it was announced, Lopez and her mentor began to study tweets, using programs like TAGS (Twitter Analytics Google Sheets), Tableau, and NVivo to search positive and negative key terms, such as “amazing,” or “poor.” In addition to looking at reactions from everyday people, Lopez scans celebrity responses and tallies retweets from new sources. She analyzes whether the posts use humor that is merely humorous vs. humor that crossed the line into incivility.

Lopez met her mentor,Ken Weidner, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, while taking LEO 150, Serious Comedy and Social Justice. Her interest in the topic led her to observe the effect of mass media on the political climate in the past year. From there, she created her Summer Scholars project.

“This kind of scholarship is exploratory, so there are many challenges as there are successes,” says Weidner. “Lopez is not discouraged easily, and her perseverance seems endless.”

Lopez hopes to publish her work in an academic journal, or write an op-ed article on her findings. She says that having an opportunity to read about social media, politics and egoism is helping her to understand the political climate and how modern media affects our way of thinking.

“The whole saying, ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ isn’t even a choice nowadays. Everywhere we turn we see potential political conflict,” says Lopez. “Humor gives power to the individual, and it makes the political climate easier to comprehend.”

Lopez is a member of the Honors program and Phi Sigma Phi Honors Fraternity. She is on the SJU cheerleading teaming and is an opinions writer for the student newspaper, The Hawk.

Project Title: Humor and Incivility on Social Media

Mentor: Ken Weidner, Ph.D., assistant professor of management

Hometown: Shamong, New Jersey

Follow @sjuartssciences @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP

Hispanic English Language Learners and Gifted Education: Elaine Estes ’19

Elaine Estes

Estes

Learning isn’t the same for every person; a teacher’s mission is to challenge students while also providing a safe and caring environment where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Elaine Estes’ ’19 Summer Scholar project is focusing on the pathways to and barriers within gifted education for English Language Learners (ELLs), with a special focus on Hispanic ELLs and those within the greater Philadelphia area.

“One thing I’ve learned in my time as an education major and teacher candidate here at SJU is that student experiences and teacher experiences are radically different,” says Estes.

A secondary education and Spanish double major from Oxford, Pennsylvania, who is also a member of the SJU Varsity Cross Country and Track and Field teams, Estes is conducting a literature review of scholarly studies on educational opportunities for gifted and Hispanic ELL students. She is creating a survey for and conducting interviews with local gifted program coordinators or school administrators in the Greater Philadelphia area. She will synthesize this information to develop recommendations for potential pathways for Hispanic ELLs in gifted education.

“English language learners have historically been one of many under-identified and underserved populations in gifted education programs,” says Estes’s Summer Scholar mentor Janine Firmender, Ph.D., assistant professor of education, who researches gifted education and pedagogy. “Elaine’s investigation into the pathways and potential barriers to gifted education services for English language learners is an important step in addressing this need in the field of gifted education.”

Estes is a member of the SJU Varsity Cross Country and Track and Field teams and has earned Dean’s List, Athletic Commissioner’s Honor Roll and A-10 Academic Honor Roll during her time at SJU. She was recently admitted to the University Senate as an at-large Senator for the class of 2019. Additionally, she is a member of the University Singers choral group and the Spanish National Honors Society, Sigma Delta PI.

She plans to use the knowledge she gains from her Summer Scholars research as she works toward becoming a teacher.

“I am interested in ELLs as a minority group, because I have seen through my experiences as a student and as a teacher candidate how they are disadvantaged within the school system,” says Estes. “I hope that my research might have a small impact in improving the educational situation for these students.”

Project Title: Hispanic English Language Learners and Gifted Education

Mentor: Janine Firmender, Ph.D., assistant professor of education

Hometown: Oxford, Pennsylvania

Follow @sjuartssciences & @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP

 

 

Colette Hanlon ’18: The Social Meaning of SNAP Benefits

Colette Hanlon

Hanlon

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been active for more than 50 years, providing aid to families throughout the country. Colette Hanlon’s  Summer Scholars project focuses on the lived experiences of those who grocery shop using SNAP benefits, or food stamps.

Hanlon, a rising senior sociology major and economics minor from Oxnard, California, is working with her mentor, Keith Brown, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, to examine the social meaning of SNAP, mainly, how low-income consumers make decisions regarding healthy eating and food costs and if there are any common themes in purchasing. She will conduct two differently styled interviews with about 50 participants: “shop along” and sit-down interviews.

“The Summer Scholars Program is helping me to apply what I’ve learned in undergraduate work through a practical lens,” says Hanlon. “I’ve always been interested in how people budget their money. This project is giving me the opportunity to discover trends and examine the strengths and weaknesses of the SNAP program.”

Hanlon is working as the project’s coordinator. She has advertised the project to community organizations, such as Philabundance and Coalition Against Hunger, received participant calls, and scheduled, transcribed and conducted interviews for about 50 participants, who each will be interviewed twice. The project also includes Miriam Kahn, a retired anthropology professor at the University of Washington, and Mary Segal, who researched health policy while at Temple University. Kahn and Segal will focus on the program’s health and nutrition aspects.

Brown, whose teaching interests include ethical consumption, culture and economic sociology, says that Hanlon’s project is different than others because most current marketing and consumer behavior research focuses on wealthier consumers. The team will use the data they collect to create memos, which will be sent to community health organizations and grocery stores that seek to better provide access to healthy food for low-income consumers. The team is also planning to publish their research in at least two academic journals, and possibly, a book.

“Colette has an analytical way of looking at social problems, and she is able to work independently,” says Brown. “She has proven to be an invaluable addition to this project; we would not succeed without her.”

Hanlon will continue her research on this project for her honor’s thesis. As a result of her Summer Scholars experience, she is considering a career in research in either economic sociology or behavioral economics.

Project Title: The Social Meaning of SNAP Benefits

Mentor: Keith Brown, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology

Hometown: Oxnard, California

 

Follow @sjuartssciences & @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP

Catholic Themes in Foster Care: Erin Breen ’19

Erin Breen

Breen

Students at Saint Joseph’s are encouraged to form a lifelong commitment to thinking critically, making ethical decisions, pursuing social justice and finding God in all things.  Theology major Erin Breen ’19 of Glenside, Pennsylvania, understood this when she took on her Summer Scholars project, which aims to examine the success of the current foster care system and its educational resources while evaluating its adequacy in terms of Catholic social teaching.

She began her project by looking into the current condition of foster care in the United States by analyzing statistics on foster demographics, parental demographics, school changes, educational outcomes, incarceration rates, average time in care, and average age when the children leave foster care. She is taking this research and connecting it to Catholic Social Teaching, which she will use to analyze whether or not the system is ethical and discover ways to improve it.

“Catholic social teaching places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of education in the broader process of human development and social justice,” says Breen. “It is useful in determining if patterns in statistics reflect a need for change.”

She is working under the guidance of James F. Caccamo, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of theology and religious studies. Caccamo’s work has focused on Catholic social ethics, and he believes that Breen’s project has potential to add to the conversation about foster care and education, especially through the lens of Catholic education.

“The first step for SJU students and faculty to be in solidarity with those who have been marginalized in society is becoming aware of things that are in need of attention and change,” says Caccamo. “Erin’s project is a perfect example of how research can help us in our work to become ‘men and women for and with others.’”

Breen has never before researched foster care to this extent; this project was the perfect opportunity for her to apply what she has learned. “Many of my SJU theology classes have discussed these topics in the abstract,” says Breen. “The Summer Scholars program affords me the opportunity to investigate how ethics and morality affect social structures.”

Breen is also a Kinney SCHOLAR and Writing Center tutor; she participates in Campus Ministry retreats, immersion trips and is part of Christian Life Communities. She will also be a residential assistant in fall 2017.

Project Title: Catholic Social Teaching and the US Foster Care System

Mentor: James F. Caccamo, Ph.D.

Hometown: Glenside, PA

Follow @sjuartssciences & @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP

Gender Norms & Group Dynamics: Amelia Martinie ‘19

Martinie and Conry-Murray

Martinie (left) and Conry-Murray

We know that attention to gender norms start influencing children at a very young age.  Adults often assign colors schemes like pink bedrooms for girls or blue bedrooms for boys, and little boys get toy trucks while girls get baby dolls. But do those norms shape children’s judgments on their peers’ behavior? That’s the question that Summer Scholar Amelia Martinie ’19 is asking as she focuses on her project, “Gender Stereotypes and Their Effect on Children’s Potentials.”

“I chose this topic because I wanted to use research methods to explore peer group interactions as well as gender differences in perception,” says Martinie. “I’ve been interested in conducting research since taking the Research Methods class, so it was a good fit.”

A psychology major with a Spanish minor, Martinie will interview children ages eight and up about how they think about moral and conventional norms in theoretical peer-group interactions at her hometown YMCA in Jennersville, Pennsylvania. She will read stories to them and then ask about certain characters’ actions and how the children feel the characters should act, and why. She hopes to understand how deeply children consider gender norms and whether or not there are gender differences in their reactions.

Martinie says she discovered this line of research after taking the developmental psychology and research methods class with her Summer Scholars mentor, Clare Conry-Murray, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology. Conry-Murray has conducted research based on gendered toys and their effect on children’s perception of gender and its role in peer-interactions. She found that children do not recognize unequal opportunities available to boys and girls.

“Amelia will investigate how group dynamics affect children’s reasoning about challenging group norms,” says Conry-Murray. “If she is able to find support for her hypothesis, it will support the benefits of diversity, especially in children.”

Martinie is interested in continuing her research in SJU’s five-year M.S. program in psychology. She hopes to pursue a career as an experimental psychologist.

“The Summer Scholars program is giving me the chance to conduct my own research in the field of psychology,” says Martinie. “This is my first time doing research on my own so I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

Martinie is a varsity rower, and is a member of Psi Chi, the Psychology Honors Society. She has also earned a spot on the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll all four semesters that she has attended SJU.

Project Title:  Gender Norms and Group Dynamics

Mentor: Clare Conry-Murray, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology

Hometown:  Jennerstown, Pennsylvania

Follow @sjuartssciences @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP

Play it Again: Austin Sbarra ’18

Austin Sbarra

Austin Sbarra

When some of us hear a particular piano piece, even one from the great composers, observations might end with, “Oh, that sounds nice.” Seldom are we able to recall why we liked or disliked what we did. Yet to Austin Sbarra ’18, a music and communications studies double major, a piano piece isn’t just a series of sounds; it’s a challenge, a dare to uncover the elements that produced them and a chance to create something new.

For the SJU Summer Scholar’s program, Sbarra is engaged in a project that revolves around Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8, Op. 13, or “Pathetique.” His goal is to analyze the harmonic and formal structures in the composition to then create a new piece using those elements, while incorporating his own musical interest and influences, mainly jazz artists like Bill Evans.

Sbarra is working under the guidance of Suzanne Sorkin, Ph.D. chair and associate professor of music, theater and film.

“While Austin’s compositional voice is quite different from Beethoven’s,” says Sorkin. “the idea of binding together melodic and rhythmic material through use of a ‘motive,’ or recurring musical phrase, is applicable to a number of different styles including classical and jazz.”

Sbarra, from Bel Air, Maryland, is currently analyzing the introduction and exposition sections of the first movement, which is in a sonata form. He is also currently in the precompositional phase, which involves developing 3 motives, similar to those of Beethoven, for his own composition.

“Creativity can come in more structured forms. In Beethoven’s work, he managed to break classical convention by modulating, or moving keys, while staying within the form,” says Sbarra. “I will be working through 3 motives and try to be creative in using them in different contexts and transpositions, much as I have seen in the Pathetique.”

Sbarra is involved in the SJU jazz band as lead pianist and occasional alto saxophonist, where he is also the president. He holds a student work study position for the Department of Music, Theater and Film and SJU’s Department of Athletic Communications. Additionally, he is a teaching assistant for Sorkin and a Residential Assistant.

“Music is universal in that it spans genres,” says Sbarra. “What holds true for classical composition can also hold true for jazz. In fact, that’s how jazz originally came to be. For me, it becomes a challenge to find the balance between the two genres.”

Project Title: Beethoven as a Blueprint: Using a Theoretical Analysis of a Beethoven Sonata as the Framework for Piano Composition

Mentor: Suzanne Sorkin, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of music, theater and film

Hometown: Bel Air, Maryland

Follow @sjuartssciences @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP

Education, the Equalizer of Opportunity: Alex Velazquez ‘20

Alex Velazquez ‘20

Alex Velazquez ‘20

For Alexander Velazquez ’20, the value of education has always been a topic that resonated. After taking a class at Saint Joseph’s this past fall that focused on public education in America, his interest grew – but he still had many unanswered questions.

“As a low-income student, I feel this overwhelming motivation to do something that could educate people on the growing inequalities in higher education,” says Velazquez.

A risk management & insurance and economics double major, Velazquez decided to embark on a research project through the Summer Scholars program as a way to meet this goal. He is researching how a student’s family income relates to individual college readiness and the overall college admission process with respect to GPA scores and extracurricular activities.

His research aligns with the work of his mentor, Laura Crispin, Ph.D., assistant professor of Economics.

Crispin had previously analyzed trends in outcomes between low-income high school students and their peers with respect to such activities and time allocation. She found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds have less access to extracurricular(s), are more likely to work, and have higher high school dropout rates and lower college attendance and completion rates than their peers.

“Given the recent push toward college attendance, it is important to understand barriers in the pathway to college, specifically for first-generation college-goers and for students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” says Crispin. “Alex’s research focuses directly on these barriers to understand what types of resources are available to students to provide policy suggestions on increasing college readiness for low-income students.”

“The answer to the problems in American education policies is not always money; low-income students are in desperate need of adequate primary and secondary education,” says Velazquez.

A 2020 Deans’ Scholarship recipient and member of the SJU Honors Program, Velazquez says that earning the scholarship is one of the reasons he decided to explore this topic.

In addition to gaining a better understanding of the American education system, he hopes the work will help him develop time management skills and a more independent work ethic. He also plans to share his findings with the University community once they are complete.

Velazquez was involved in the SJU Theatre Company as a cast member in the most recent casts of “Carousel” and “Tommy” and participates in SJU’s student theatre company, Followed by a Bear. He is also the student communications chair of the Business Leadership Council and a Hawk Host.

Project Title: The Equalizer of Opportunity: An Examination of Income’s Effect on Education

Mentor: Laura Crispin, Ph.D., assistant professor of Economics

Hometown: Blackwood, New Jersey

Follow @sjuartssciences & @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP

Storytelling and ASD: Nick O’Malley ’19

Nick O’Malley ’19

As a lifeguard on Long Island last summer, aspiring pediatrician Nick O’Malley ’19 made sure to spend extra time helping children with special needs, some of whom had Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This year, he is staying in Philadelphia as a Summer Scholar to begin work on research that aims to discover if TimeSlips, a storytelling therapy developed for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, can lessen anxiety and increase social interaction in children with ASD.

“I always had a passion for helping people with intellectual or physical disabilities,” says the interdisciplinary health services major and varsity rower from Floral Park, New York. “This project is a great way to continue this passion in a manner that might leave lasting results.”

When O’Malley’s advisor Eileen Sullivan, Pharm.D., assistant professor of health services — who has researched the effects of TimeSlips on dementia patients and found that it decreased their agitation and anxiety — told him that another health services professor, Anne Fetherston, Ph.D., would embark on novel research focusing the same therapy on children with ASD, O’Malley jumped at the chance to get involved.

TimeSlips is based in the improvisation, imagination and spontaneity that develop when dementia or Alzheimer’s patients are given a photograph they haven’t seen before — for example, a woman playing a guitar, and then they begin to tell the woman’s story. As the story progresses, anxiety and isolation decrease, and pleasant interaction with caregivers increases. Patients focus on the enjoyment that using their creativity brings, instead of the realization that their memory is failing.

Fetherston, a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D) who has provided interventions based on Applied Behavior Analysis principles to multiple populations, including individuals with autism, became intrigued by Sullivan’s findings and wondered if TimeSlips could produce the same positive results in the autism community.

“People with Alzheimer’s or dementia present with social deficits and behavioral excesses such as anxious and disruptive behaviors,” says Fetherston. “Likewise, individuals with autism have deficits in social skills and often display challenging behaviors, including anxiety-based responses that impede development of social interactions and relationships.  Given that TimeSlips has been effective in ameliorating the problem behaviors of people with Alzheimer’s, we hypothesize that it will be an effective intervention for similar behaviors in people with ASD.”

While O’Malley and Fetherston are still in the early stages of designing the study, which will continue into the academic year, O’Malley says that the project has received approval to involve children with ASD who attend programs at SJU’s Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support.

“Nick is very committed to developing this research,” says Fetherston. “He has been pouring over literature to locate the background information supporting our hypothesis. The development of a line of research is an arduous task and Nick has displayed a strong commitment to making it successful.”

“I’m really lucky to be doing this work,” says O’Malley. “ASD is a huge public health issue, but many doctors don’t know much about it — they usually refer patients to other experts. I have a long road to go before I’m a pediatrician, but in my view, because we don’t have a cure for autism, it’s beneficial for everyone in healthcare to have more awareness about the disorder.”

Project Title: Examining the Effect of TimeSlips Therapy on Anxiety and Social Interaction of Individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

Mentor: Anne Fetherston, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Hometown: Floral Park, New York

Follow @sjuartssciences & @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP